30 May, 2008

Shouting from the rooftops

This blog seems to have turned into a bad news gazette lately. So I thought I'd buck the trend and write about something pleasant for a change.

Back in March I visited a holistic doctor for a general tune-up. I wasn't sick, but wasn't feeling 100%, either. She told me that I am allergic / sensitive to a wide array of substances and suggested some radical diet changes. The first couple of months were difficult and discouraging, but I've stuck with it, and you know what???


This has been a proverbial silver bullet because it's taken care of digestive issues, minor skin problems, headaches and energy fluctuations that I've been chalking up to hypoglycemia. I still don't metabolize sugar very well, but the dips I have now are much milder. I think that they've just been exacerbated all this time by caffeine and a sensitivity to cow's milk.

I've always been suspicious about those celebrities who go on radical diets and then swear they've got loads of energy and bound out of bed at 5am to go running. OK, so that's still a bit far-fetched for my situation, but I do notice a definite difference and I'm thrilled! This reformed milkaholic will be staying off the wagon for the forseeable future!

26 May, 2008

(Near) Disasters R Us

What is up with us lately? We seem to have some seriously shitty Karma to work through.

A couple of weeks ago B was swimming at our hotel in Cairo when I noticed this suspicious Lyme-like rash. Luckily I had the presence of mind to take this picture.

When we got back home I took S & B to the pediatrician for a post-dysentery check-up, and while there I mentioned the rash. Apparently the bullseye-shaped rash, the hallmark of Lyme disease, grows bigger with time. It already seemed bigger to me, but just to be doubly sure we marked the edges last Friday with a permanent marker. And my, how it's grown.


The pediatrician said to come in for a blood test, but it's changed enough by now that he said that's not even necessary anymore. There's no mistaking it: B has lyme disease.

He wrote a prescription for amoxycillin for 10 days. LUCKILY I'd done some research this morning and had read that children should take antibiotics for up to 30 days. I asked him about it, and he went and dug out his books and, sure enough, it's a longer cure.

I think I might need a double scotch on the rocks this evening.

23 May, 2008

Birthday traditions

Some people celebrate their birthdays with a big party for friends and family. Others bake special cakes or plan trips to faraway places.

I tend to mark the occasion with unmitigated disaster. In 2006 an already bad day was topped when a falling branch met my windshield at high speeds. My birthday last year saw the expensive culmination of a losing battle with my internet provider.

And this year? Well, it was no exception. It started out wonderfully: a delicious surprise breakfast and an 11k hike in the Schwarzwald. Everything was going along smoothly until yesterday evening. D the wonderdog is limping again. It's only been two and a half months since the operation-- she's finally fit again and we had so hoped that all of the problems were behind us. This morning when she woke up she was completely lame.

I'm going to keep her crated for the next couple of days and hope it blows over, but I've got a very bad feeling about this. The vet assured us that once the bone splinter was removed that she would be good as new. We were so relieved to have been able to finally close that chapter, but today she's worse than I've ever seen her before.

I'm trying not to think about the consequences all too much...

22 May, 2008

2 more photo souveniers

And then he fell off.
Thanks, I think I'll pass.

20 May, 2008

Garbage City, Cairo

OK, OK, now that I've gotten the amoebic toxicity levels of frustration and disappointment out of my system I wanted to tell you about some of the amazing things we were able to see while we were in Cairo.

Our kids have been very interested in poverty lately. We often tell them how fortunate they are to be living in a wealthy country and to be in possession of "favorable" passports, but it's always been a very abstract concept for them.

They've been saving their allowance for the last five weeks to "give to poor people in Egypt". I was humbled and a bit overwhelmed by their generosity. Really wanted to do something special since they'd gone to so much trouble, so I called a contact of M's who is the MD for Chrysler in Egypt. On Tuesday he arranged for a driver to take us out to "Garbage City", the central collection point for Cairo's garbage. Inhabitants live among the refuse and eke out a living sorting and selling much of what they recover.

I was completely floored by what we saw: narrow streets teeming with people and absolutely full of garbage. I'd expected everyone to seem depressed or beaten down, but they were lively and busy and paid us no attention whatsoever. They even looked surprisingly clean, given the conditions they were living in.

We stayed in the car and didn't get to take any pictures inside the city itself, but I did find this fascinating video on YouTube. (We were actually able to go in the underground church he talks about.)

Welcome to my nightmare

Thanks so much for your nice comments! We are, in fact, feeling much better. I've made an appointment for the kids with the pediatrician for later on this week for a full checkup. Since we don't actually know what we had there's no way to know if they might have a parasite that could rear it's ugly head again later.

The whole incident was very scary. I've always been pretty relaxed about food when I travel. M and I were laughing at the irony yesterday: we traveled illness-free for a week on a safari through Tanzania and ate chicken that was kept for days on end in a cooler filled with water. It was cooked by the time we ate it, of course, but still! I guess that time we just got lucky with the Russian roulette.

This time we didn't.

And what made the whole ordeal even scarier was that we have no idea what it was that made us sick. We were staying in a good hotel which was supposedly taking precautions for foreign guests and their sensitive stomachs. We only ate out twice, and then, as recommended, at busy restaurants where high turnover supposedly ensured that the food was fresh. We only drank bottled water and didn't use ice in juices.

Despite these precautions, however, M and S got sick, then B 12 hours later, and then, after playing Florence Nightengale around the clock, I eventually succumbed.

Once we'd recuperated enough to keep anything down we were too weak to take the hour drive into the center of Cairo to forage for food, but were also too afraid to eat much of anything in the hotel. It was a nightmare. Literally, because I'm still waking up every night in a panic after dreams that the kids are eating bad produce or are playing in dirty water.

On the 15th S was terribly ill and I called for a doctor. He came and inspected S, B and M and, without explaining what he thought they had, he wrote out two long lists for medications. When I, as a lowly female, asked what each of them were for, he got angry. And when I mentioned that I didn't need a fever reliever because I had Ibuprofen with me he got up and stormed out of the hotel room and didn't return. (!!!) (How dare I question his authority, no matter how politely!)

Someone from the hotel went out and bought the medicines for us, but I had no idea how much to give, because the dosages he'd written were vague (1 big spoon??) and differed wildly from the amounts given in the package inserts. Luckily M had his Blackberry with him so we were able to email with my dad and my Grandfather, who is a GP, for advice. (THANKS AGAIN, GUYS!)

We had a very scary moment with S later on that evening. He had a high fever but was feeling too nauseous to take children's ibuprofen or any of the anti-microbial medicines. He was very weak and seemed to be getting worse, so M and I picked him up and put him in the shower to bring down his temperature. After that he started feeling well enough to take the ibuprofen and when that kicked in we could move on to the other medicine. If that hadn't worked the next step was definitely the hospital.

Oh, and the icing on the cake was that the bathtub leaked. Every time you took a shower water would stream out from underneath the tub onto the floor of the bathroom. So every time we bathed or used it to bring down various fevers the flooded bathroom became like an ice rink. At one point S needed to vomit, jumped up from his bed in a panic, raced to the bathroom, wiped out and skidded into a wall. It was just such a nightmare!

And I haven't even gotten to the insects yet. The ones that feasted on the kids and had S waking up one night screaming because he thought that he'd been stung by a wasp.

Let's just say that this travel experience was less than optimal.

We did have a chance the first few days to see some interesting sights. I'll blog some more about those tomorrow...

19 May, 2008

Snapshots from the front

Pyramid 1
Pyramid 2
Spent some time riding on camels
Spent more time riding the porcelain dromedary
The Nile: Due to the wonders of modern technology, Cairo hasn't flooded in more than 30 yearsThe Hotel Bathtub: Despite the wonders of modern technology the deluge was regular and relentless
Heiroglyphics 1
Heiroglyphics 2

Back from Cairo...

Which would you guys like to hear about first: the sights or the dysentery?

09 May, 2008

and yet...

My uncle died of ALS last week.
...and yet tomorrow we will attend M's grandmother's 98th birthday party.

M's cousin is responding well to his chemotherapy.
...and yet my aunt is having a relapse of systemic Lupus and is suffering terribly.

Of their own volition my sons have saved up 5 weeks worth of their allowance to give to poor people in Egypt next week.
...and yet today one was needlessly cruel to the other.

The tooth fairy didn't show up last night when B left a tooth under his pillow.
...and yet we have full faith that she will visit this evening while he is sleeping and restore balance to life's yin and yang.

05 May, 2008

We're staying but I hope the hobo moves on...

We're back and had a really nice long weekend away.

It seems that M's nefarious employer will let us stay put (for now), which relieves an enormous amount of stress that's been building for me over the last couple of weeks.

The kids had fun digging through a treasury of old children's books that Oma has been saving all these years. They're all classics, including this one about a lovable hobo and all of his wacky hyjinx.

This guy may be a beloved character in Dutch children's literature, but I don't think I'd want to be caught alone in a room with him. Especially since he seems to be "buffing his lampshade" in public...

01 May, 2008

it was like, totally insane

Oh my god, you guys. the drive? was. horrendous. and I've reverted to adolescent gibberish because I haven't yet fully recovered. The first two hours? we drove 100 km. in total. The next hour and 15 minutes? 25 km. There was traffic. There were accidents. there was construction. and then? then it started to rain. buckets full.

And suddenly, in the midst of all the chaos? one of the little people in the back seat decides to see what would happen if he pulled one of the live wires out of the screen for our portable DVD player and touch it to the jack for the headphones. The DVD player died a sudden, cataclysmic death. Luckily the boy was unscathed, but we still had 497 km to go.

We got here just before midnight-- the normal 5 1/2 hour drive had grown an extra set of limbs and had extended its ugly self past the 9 1/2 hour marker. *shudder*

Against all odds, however, I have not had to be sedated or committed. I'm sitting here with homemade brownies and a cup of coffee. we visited a great local museum today and I'm about to go out and walk the dog along the dikes. Coincidentally, M's flight back home on Saturday is with KLM, so he'll be able to go AWOL during the layover in Amsterdam and drive back home with us on Sunday.

I'm hoping my next post will buck the recent trend and won't feature disaster as a central theme!!! (knocking on wood and spitting over my shoulder)