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Weekend snapshots

2009 November 1
by Rachel Turiel

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(Snapshots? Really more like a 200-page photo album your aunt Flo drops on your lap from her vacation to play the slots in Ely, NV)

Trying to figure out Daylight Savings

Me: Okay. So, when the kids wake up at their normal time (6:00 am) on Sunday, it’ll now be 5:00 am? And if we want to keep them from getting up at 5:00 am the next morning we have to keep them up until their usual bedtime (8:00 pm), which will really be 9:00 pm?

Dan: So they go to bed an hour later and wake up an hour earlier? That’s fucking great. I love this country.

The H1N1 Clinic

I’ve been on the fence about injecting my children with a vial of pharmaceutical fluid that people regard as either the devil in liquid form, or the savior of Flu Season.

This is how the last 2 months have gone: Someone on Facebook will share a link to that doctor swearing he wouldn’t give the H1N1 vaccine to his own children because it’s untested, potentially dangerous and the swine flu isn’t unusually deadly. And 15 Facebook friends will “like” this and 20 more will thank the poster for spreading the “real truth” and I’ll nod from my computer screen, that’s right, no nasty, untested chemicals in my kids’ bodies. Then my parents will mention that TEN more kids died in the past week from the virus, bringing the total to 114. And 2/3 of those children had underlying health conditions, like their grandson Col, who carries the awful-sounding diagnosis “chronic lung disease.” And I’ll feel like one of the kids’ dump trucks just spit a load of gravel right inside my chest and I’ll realize I have to get Col the shot. Then an e-mail will circulate about the doctor (an infectious disease expert!) who states that the H1N1 vaccine—totally untested and riddled with mercury—is more deadly than the swine flu itself! My God, I can’t vaccinate my kids!

And then, just last week, a little truth tapped me on the shoulder. Ahem, it said, you really don’t have the luxury to be debating this vaccine given Col’s chronic lung disease.

And so we hauled the kids to the free H1N1 vaccine clinic on Halloween. Despite feeling like I was bringing pigs to the slaughterhouse, Col and Rose cheerily drew pumpkins with the free paper and crayons at the waiting tables. Col bravely reassured himself that the shot would be just a sting and Rosie busied herself trying to track down the little bags of crackers other children left in crumbs on tables. The whole scene seemed like a perfect breeding ground for the swine flu itself. They called our number and it was like winning something, or finally going to pick up your pizza. They called our number! We signed forms, confirmed that Col would get the preservative-free shot, and shuffled towards the doctors and nurses and their assembly line of vials and needles and wailing children and shushing mothers. And even after all that resolve and bravery, three out of four of us cried. Col cried because he saw that gleaming 1 ½ inch-long needle sailing towards his arm, and then he felt it. I cried because I still had misgivings about the vaccine and because it reminded me that we travel a different road than I ever imagined, one marked with the sign: “Caution: Chronic lung disease here.” We’re not the parents who get to engage in philosophical or theoretical debates over the dangers of antibiotics, inhaled and oral steroids, or vaccines. We’ve needed all of those drugs, many times. And Rosie cried because enough of the rest of us were crying that it seemed like a good idea. And then we all went home and took a nap.

Elephants and Unicorns and Buckets of Candy

Can we all agree that we sort of hate Halloween? First there’s the whole costume thing. Col wanted to be an Indian, which made sense in a storybook sort of way, which is to say we read a lot of Indian legends and our house is filled with traditionally tanned buckskins, homemade bows and drums.

(The other day after reading “Cheyenne Again” Col asked “did we used to be Indians?” “No honey, we were never Indians.” “Oh. Did we used to be white people?” This from the tow headed boy with skin so pale you can see a map of veins across his forehead).

But there’s the whole cultural sensitivity thing, and it just didn’t seem right. I said he could wear his buckskin cape and I’d make him a sash strung with feathers, crabapples and autumn leaves and he could be the Spirit of Autumn. He liked this idea until my friend Natalie brought over a unicorn costume for Rose, all sparkly horn and snow-white fur, wispy pink mane and iridescent silver wings. Col said ever so gently “Mama, I don’t want to be the Spirit of Autumn, I want to be the unicorn.” Which was fine because it was October 30th and 20 degrees outside and I didn’t really feel like picking crabapples and spending the evening stringing them onto dental floss. So poor, terribly disenfranchised Rose got cheated out of the unicorn costume but made a lovely elephant.

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This was the first Halloween that Rose was a legitimate person, rather than a sack of baby being toted around on my back. She wobbled her little elephant-self up to strangers’ doors and demanded “Can you give me some candy? Put it right here. In my hand.” Meanwhile, us parents took in our own sugar smugly in the form of beer while we shook our heads at this wholesale permissiveness of high fructose corn syrup hedonism aimed at kids. And maybe that’s just how we Americans do holidays – in a frenzy of consumption. But so much candy an hour before bed? (Some of it so freaky I didn’t even put it in my compost – hello, laffy taffy?)  But the kids were so giddy and someone kept handing me beer and the whole thing melted into this one night where kids spin themselves into magical creatures and the boundaries of personal property are broken down by dragons skittering across lawns and driveways, and we trust our neighbors, who give their evening to sharing treats with children. Right there. In their hand.

Hike

And then Sunday, we went on a gorgeous November hike, far away from vaccine-delivering needles and mini-Snickers bars.

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6 Responses leave one →
  1. Peggy permalink
    November 2, 2009

    Fantastic! I love it. We too are in debate over the vaccine – and decided against it. They are only offering the nasal spray type, and we’ve heard that gives you a higher chance of actually getting the flu – but who did we “hear” that from? I can’t remember anymore….but we decided against mostly b/c our children don’t have any underlying health conditions. So we are crossing our fingers – probably with a lot of other people.
    Sounds like you had a fun Halloween – fun that the girls (Rose and Riley) are “real” people now and can really participate – it was so much fun to see Riley out there. After each house she ran up to us screaming with delight about that particular piece of candy she got- and made sure that we both looked at it and oohed and aahed. She was always 2-3 steps behind Charlie and his friend, but was sure to say “thank you” to each person. It was really cute.
    And although Daylight Savings is annoying when it comes to children and sleep- I’m just glad to not hear my alarm go off and think that it’s still the middle of the night b/c it’s so dark out! Problem is, it’s only getting darker for another 7 weeks….

  2. Ryan permalink
    November 2, 2009

    We took our kids to get the vaccine too. A little solidarity, for what it’s worth. While I am quite sure that the vaccine is not 100% safe and effective, I also know that no vaccine is 100% safe and effective. I also know, and forgive me if it’s just not OK to speak in these terms then we’re talking about human being – our babies, that vaccines have done far more “good” than “bad”, by many, many orders of magnitude. You’ve done the best you can to protect your children given the information, and misinformation, that was available to you.

    Never mind the uncertainties, you are a good mom, just as good as any other mom out there, including those who have the luxury of deciding, based on the information and misinformation available to them, that the H1N1 vaccine isn’t a good idea for their kids.

    I wish it were simpler, but the only simpler version I can imagine is one where a vaccine is simply not available. There’s no discussion. No horror stories of what can happen to kids who get the vaccine. No horror stories of the kids who got sick and died yet might not have had they gotten the vaccine. You get sick or you don’t. You get better or you don’t. I don’t really want simple if that’s what simple is.

  3. November 2, 2009

    I hear ya. On all of it. Leo’s been labeled asthmatic at his pediatrician’s because of a nasty bout of RSV two years ago. I’m thinking if we skip the shot all winter we’ll be looking at this sky waiting for lightening to strike …
    Re: Halloween. It’s becoming the new Christmas. Parents going to extraordinary lengths to fulfill the capricious whims of their children. Despite having a lion costume provided for him by his grandma, Leo wanted to be a monster truck. So Josh spent the better part of a day converting Rex’s walker into a fairly plausible monster truck. Then Leo didn’t want to wear it because the wheels didn’t turn. As a last ditch effort, Josh suggested ripping off the wheels and, since it still had headlights, that sounded acceptable to Leo, though to the casual observer, it appeared more like a spaceship than a monstor truck. But he was happy so so were we.

  4. Ellen permalink
    November 2, 2009

    Loved the juxtaposition of the three activities (vaccination (preceded by so much soul searching), Halloween, and the hike. The hike makes it all worth it.

    Hope everyone has handled the vaccine well. As some other commenter has said, you guys ARE good parents…always putting the kids’ needs first and, most of all, attending to and enjoying each moment with them (or at least most moments).

  5. November 2, 2009

    Awe Sweetie, I know it’s difficult for you but do any of us really travel the road we imagined?

    And I’m such a bad mom, Shayden wasn’t really into dressing up for Halloween, so we just didn’t do anything – I figured it couldn’t hurt keeping that craziness away from him for one more year. But then I look at your adorable little elephant and unicorn and wonder if I am denying him something.

  6. November 2, 2010

    Col! Don’t ever come to Los Angeles. The air here gives people asthma as a welcome mat.

    My sister managed to get the ol’ H1N1 up in Alaska last year (when this was written, no less!). She has been in the hospital for salmonella before, but said that the ol’ “swine flu” made her shift from thinking she was going to die to wishing for death. She swore next time, she’d just get the damned shot.

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