This week Devon's returned appetite was enough evidence that he was feeling better. I got up from lunchies to check the clothes in the dryer, returning to find that Devon had finished his plate and was tucking into mine.
In our family we use rear-facing car seats until two years old, but we cheat just a little bit. Our last road trip with the old setup was the three hour round trip to the Orlando airport to say goodbye to Grammy and Grandpa. The way home seemed long to the girls, as it was Devon's first extended car trip in underwear and we had to stop three times for him to choose a tree to pee on. Carrie, especially, amused herself by craning her neck way around so she was facing front, bracing her arm on the window just above where the airbag deploys. Melina shimmied out of her buckles to stand way up in her seat, lap belt across her thighs. Mommy tried to keep up with these shenanigans in the safety mirrors, but there is only so much she could do with her attention on the road. I finally decided the girls were safer facing front and fully buckled rather than rear facing and contorted into unnatural positions to try and face front anyways.
The new car setup is lots of fun for Devon, too, as he gets to sit in the middle with the girls instead of in "the waaaaayyyyyy back". Here he is enjoying the girls' customary foot pose.
Here they are on the way back from an unexpected dinner out.
As it turns out, Devon really needed the girls next to him for moral support the very next day. Around noon I was riding stationary bike in the bedroom when Devon walked in scratching a rash that had developed quickly on his thighs and torso. Since we had been monitoring a high fever he had three days prior I immediately thought he had Roseola and called the doctor. I was annoyed when the nurse said they automatically see children for rashes because they are hard to diagnose. High fever, then red rash. What's so hard about that? I wondered, but still made an appointment for later in the afternoon. I texted a friend of mine whose son also had a fever to be on the lookout for the Roseola rash.
As luck would have it, all three were asleep by two in the afternoon and I was dreading the trip to the doctor with two kids in a double stroller and one on foot. I called the doctor and asked if I could put the appointment off until the next morning, which is what they originally suggested.
Fifteen minutes later, Devon staggered out of the bedroom and into my arms. His face was covered in large red blotches and his eye was swollen shut. This was clearly not Roseola, and he was miserable. I called the doctor again, apologized for earning the title of Most Neurotic Mom, and was told to rush him right in.
I don't believe in lying to children, so when Devon asked "Where are we going to go to?" repeatedly I was cornered into giving him an honest answer. This brought back memories of his ER trip, not a favorite, and he was very upset.
As he cried and I drove, I tried to think of ways to calm him. We said his Bible verses and we prayed that Jesus would make Devon's owies feel better. Then I tried to get the girls involved.
"Melina,tell Devon that it's okay," I asked.
"Id ootay, Dedo," she said, patting him on the knee.
"Carrie, say: 'It's okay, Devon.'" I asked.
Carrie's thumb popped out of her mouth so she could speak. "It okay, Naanaan."
As the girls watched the fish in the waiting room, I tried to get a picture of Devon's "owies." His cheeks were one huge welt. His neck was red and bumpy. Even his ears were red and swollen.
The doctor took one look at him and ruled out Roseola. Nor was he allergic to Sulfa drugs (like Mommy and Daddy), because the course of antibiotics for his infection had ended a week prior. The hives are sign of a severe allergy. She gave him a dose of strong antihistamine and told us to hang out for a while to make sure he would respond. At this point, Mr. Proudly Pottytrained announced "I have to go peepee!!!"
Removing his clothes in the bathroom reveals that Devon is swollen and puffy all over, just like he was in the ER. As it turns out, he probably never had an infection to begin with.
Hanging out in the doctor's office turned out to be an interesting experience. Antihistamines, which make adults drowsy, often have the opposite effect on children. I wish they would have warned me.
"I AM A HUNGRY CATERPILLAR," Devon shouted as I grabbed him to keep him from leaping off the waist-high exam table, over the double stroller, and into the sink.
"TODAY I WILL EAT SEVEN ORANGES AND ONE APPLE AND FIVE STRAWBERRIES AND A PICKLE AND A PIECE OF CHERRY PIE....."
With all this craziness going on around me AND the girls emptying out the book box at our feet I tried to digest this new diagnosis and what our next few months are going to look like. Devon would need to be on high-dose antihistamines for two more days, and then a regular dose for a month. After that, he needs to go off all meds for a week, and then see an allergist for testing. Hopefully that will give us the cause of the attack. In the meantime, I was trained in the use of an epi pen and given a prescription.
Ironically, the next morning I got a text back from my friend, whose son had just gotten the Roseola rash.
The girls have gotten quite an eyeful these past few days. Devon has not been himself, thanks to the meds. This morning he spent twenty minutes excitedly telling us about his new silver car, ten minutes looking for it, and a half-hour crying because he couldn't find it. There was no new silver car. I'm not sure how to even describe the side effects of the meds. Hallucinations? Mood swings? Vivid dreams? Sleep disruption? It's so hard to know what he's going through because he can't tell us.
We feel so very sorry for poor Buddy Boy and hope he feels better soon. Mommy is a bit concerned about what the upheaval will mean for the already complicated logistics of our family. I'm anxious about leaving him with a sitter, wondering if someone could easily miss the signs of another severe attack. Then again I'm equally worried that someone could mistake a normal case of Three-Year-Old-Freak-Out for shortness of breath, stab Devon in the thigh with a shot of epinephrine, and call 911.
We're taking it one day at a time.
Meanwhile, the girls are adding plenty of non-medicated hyperactivity to our lives. We said goodbye to the Gucks when I opened the door one morning to find Melina sitting in the rocking chair looking at a book, sewn-together feet still intact.
"Hi, Mommy!" she said sweetly as my heart hit the floor.
Goodbye to the days of knowing that two out of three of my children are safely in their beds at night. The girls now sleep in onesies, if even that. Carrie usually shimmies out of hers so she can suck her thumb (grrrr) and stick her other thumb in her bellybutton.
On Sunday morning I woke with a start at 7:45, sure that the lateness of the hour meant that the kids were either dead or fishing for alligators in the canal down the street. I found all three kids in their bathroom completely naked, busily brushing their teeth. Devon, the social director, had climbed up on the counter to hand down the brushes and was doling out generous glops of toothpaste whenever someone needed a refill.
My calculations reveal that I've spent, on average, seventeen hours a day this week taking care of at least one child. It's been a long week and the days are unlikely to get shorter anytime soon. I'm mourning the loss of Awanas and TOTS and even Thursday playgroup, which is still running but may as well not be for us because it's moved from our safe and predictable park to decidedly not-Keathley-friendly locations like the beach or the waterslides.
My little-spot-of-pretty-in-my-filthy-house candle has a piece of crayon in it. It's only visible when the candle is lit and the wax is liquid. Not sure what kind of cutesy literary metaphor I could pull out to relate that to my life. Sometimes thinking feels like it takes too much effort.
Tonight it felt so, so good to walk out the door at 6:15 and go to women's group. Even better, all three kids were asleep when I got home two hours later, so I could have a real conversation with my husband, download my pictures, and sit in front of my laptop and write. Usually someone or other gets up two or three times, but not tonight. The girls have been sleeping lightly in the evenings. Often one of them will wake with a start, screaming and clawing at their pj's as if trying to shake off a nightmare. I rush in to check and a little body flies straight up at me, landing near my neck and clinging so tightly I could probably let go. We retrace our steps to the living room chair, rocking gently as she goes instantly back to sleep. I give in to the fatigue that is always there like a jellybean shoved up my nose, settling back into the cushions and closing my eyes. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh.