Christmas Day and things are sunnier

I just wanted to write a quick post to let you all know that Wally is doing better.  We spent most of yesterday in the ER at Children’s National Medical Center where the care was good and Wally submitted bravely to his IV and choked down barium four ways.  

The net result is that he’s healthy by all measures except for the vomiting, which has diminished in the last 24 hours.  His organs are fine (ultrasound), his blood chemistry is good, and his chewing and swallowing are more or less normal (barium test).  Our best guess as to why his throwing up has surged in the last two weeks is that he’s had the stomach flu a lot longer than the rest of us (we were all better in a couple days).  It’s a mystery but one we can tolerate for now.

And all told Christmas Eve in the ER is not as bad as it sounds, especially when the results come back good.  Caroline and I enjoyed the chance to spend some relatively quiet time together and between visits from the hospital staff it was kind of cozy to sit the three of us on the bed, munching goldfish crackers and reading books.  

So, thank you everyone who expressed concern for Wally.  I imagine I’ll write more about this once we get back to Ann Arbor and continue trying to figure out what’s going on.  But for now, Merry Christmas.

Clouds over Christmas

On Saturday morning we set out for Virginia under inauspicious skies: For the last week all for of us had had the stomach flu; more troubling, Wally’s underlying health concerns- his weight, his frequent vomiting- had worsened nearly to the point of crisis. On Friday night, our bags packed, the boys asleep, Caroline and I leaned against each other on the couch and concluded that this easily had been one of the four worst weeks in the last six years.

So when we did finally head east, there was good reason to hope that things would only get better from there. Two days in Virginia, though, and that has not been the case. Wally, though clear of the stomach flu, is continuing to vomit at an alarming rate (two or three times a day) for no discernible reason. He’s dropped a pound in the last week. Folds of loose skin bunch on top of his hands. When he’s not being sick he’s downright Dickensian, cheerful and energetic, tragically happy amid it all.

Needles to say, Christmas will have a different ring to it this year. For a month we’ve been emailing with Caroline’s family about the fun things we’ll do this week- s’mores, a trip to the zoo, decorating the tree- but now with a trip to the ER planned for later this morning (to make sure nothing is acutely wrong with Wally, not because he seems in immediate danger), the idea of revelry seems as distant as summer.

I’ve thought about this post off an on for the last 24 hours. Often I try to abstract an insight from the events of our everyday lives. It seems off to do that here, both because the story hasn’t been told yet and because I don’t have much depth of perspective on what’s happening to Wally right now. But if there is one thought, it’s this: approaching a heavily choreographed holiday, I’ve stopped expecting the next few days to look or feel any particular way.

A new job, a debut ranking, and a scurvy dog of a son

IMG_3385Things have been quiet here lately due to a tryout I’ve been doing with the Boston Globe to write the paper’s “Brainiac” ideas blog. For the last two weeks I’ve been contributing posts over there on everything from a 90-year-old mathematician who has toiled at a proof for 50 years, to a pair of headphones that makes you sit still while you listen, to the use of unarmed drones to fight rhino poachers.

I’ve enjoyed the writing and on Friday I was offered the job!  I’ll be contributing twice daily posts to the Brainiac blog, with the best of those posts running as a column in the Sunday Ideas section. Currently I’m stuffing my RSS reader with websites to mine for story ideas, and I’ll repeat here a call I expect to be making nonstop in the coming weeks: Please send me names of any blogs or websites you enjoy (anything trafficking in news, ideas, interesting stories, in the arts, sciences, humanities) and keep me in mind next time you come across a good story (or are a part of one!).

Getting the Brainiac job made for a great weekend and then this morning, more good news: Growing Sideways has debuted on Babble’s annual list of the Top-50 Dad Blogs. We come in at #49 which I actually think is ideal: lots of room to move up, plus motivation to write well and not get dropped from the list next year.  And I really like their description of the blog: “On his Growing Sideways blog, the freelance writer, who lives with his wife and two young sons in Ann Arbor, Michigan, excels at taking a typical moment from family life and coaxing many possible meanings from it, chewing it over and viewing it from different perspectives.”

I don’t expect the Brainiac job to get in the way of posting on Growing Sideways, especially once I get my feet under me.  And in that spirit, a few words about Jay.

He has been obsessed with pirates going back at least a month. It stems from a video rented from the library and watched nearly daily (until we traced that video to Jay’s newfound fear of the dark and swapped it out for more Blues Clues).

The first thing Jay learned about pirates is that they’re bad.  For a week straight in mid-November he asked me, over and over again, usually while I was trying to get his toothbrush into his mouth, “What else is mean about pirates?” I always answered with things like, “Pirates don’t brush their teeth” and “Pirates aren’t very nice to their brothers” and “Pirates never say please.”

Of course, that backfired when two weeks later Jay announced, “I am a pirate.”  I’ve tried to walk back some of the things I’ve told him- “Actually, pirates love putting their pajamas on”- but he’s not having it. The best we’ve been able to do is form a pirate family that includes Jay, Wally, and Caroline.  Among this group of pirate kin, Caroline has managed to convince Jay that traits like loyalty and following directions are important.

I, however, have been cast alternately as “the police,” “a bandit,” or part of “another pirate family” which means I get challenged with a wooden-block-cum-sword and chased away every time I try to approach the playroom.  All told, I don’t mind it so much.