My Eyes

I recently had a routine physical examination with Dr. Owen Uhl. As he was peering into my (dark brown) eyes with his toy ophthalmoscope he said, “Hmm. They’re a little bit chocolate-y. But that’s OK.”

“In nothing do men more nearly approach the gods than in giving health to men.” —Cicero

She’s Fine

I try very hard not to overreact to medical issues with my children. In fact, I usually under-react. Twice now, during well-child exams, the pediatrician has discovered ear infections. Cue the oh-so-that’s-why-he-has-been-so-cranky-and-tugging-his-ear-and-this-cold-never-seems-to-go-away-I’m-a-terrible-mom response. I will never be one of those mothers insisting on antibiotics unless absolutely necessary (largely because I’ve now had c-diff for a year and a half thanks to antibiotics I was given for a cough). I often take the “let’s give it one more day” approach before asking the nurse on the phone “do you think we really need to come in?”. And my last post, the one in which I talk about taking Owen in because he was having trouble breathing? The pediatrician said it was “probably” OK I didn’t take him to the ER the night before leaving me to believe I “probably” should have.

For a month, Sophie has had small bruises running up and down her spine. Her shins are always bruised. She’s active. She wrestles with her brothers. She falls and bumps into things and apparently has no sense of spatial relationships when doing somersaults in our crowded living room. But the bruises on her spine did give me pause. I would wonder how they got there and then I would explain them away in my head, thinking about the time she slid down the steps or the side of the bed.

And then last night I found myself up with her from about 3am on. She had a fever. She couldn’t sleep. I gave her Children’s Advil. We watched the Sprout channel. I noted the dark circles under her eyes and thought about how tired she always seemed. I made her oatmeal at 5am.

At 8:30am I called the school to say that Sophie couldn’t come—she had a fever. The kids and I watched our morning show. We played Set Junior. We had a hat party, cleaned the playroom, did chalk drawings, dressed up stuffed animals, had lunch. Sophie seemed fine.

She was curled up on the couch, eating popcorn and watching a movie, her dress bunched up around her when I noticed the bruises again on her bare back.

I don’t know why I did it, but I did.

I Googled “child bruising spine fever.”

Two seconds later I found myself on The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s home page.

I messaged Andy. “Just call,” he wrote. “Better now while they’re actually open.” (When I do finally cave and call the doctor, it’s usually nights/weekends, which I’m sure our pediatrician loves.)

So I called. And they asked if I could come in at 4:30pm. It was 3:45pm. Now, looking back, I’m sure they gave me that time because that was the last appointment time before they closed for the day but after spending five seconds on The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s home page I was sure they gave me that time because they needed to see her right away and that I was going down in the record books as the worst mom ever for not taking her in a month earlier when I first noticed the bruising.

Andy must have sensed my underlying panic, because he met me there.

We waited a long time.

The pediatrician looked at her spine. He noticed two very, very small bruises near the bottom but said the other discoloration was the result of some big vein that runs along the spinal cord and a shadow. He noted the dark circles under eyes and asked her if she was tired. She gave a very dramatic yawn and fell back on the examining table, as if going to sleep (yes, we’ve entered that stage now). He felt her belly and checked her lymph nodes and listened to her lungs and noted her temperature and looked for other bruising (there was none besides the usual shin bruises) and noted her excellent weight gain. And then he checked her ears.

She had a g** d*** ear infection.

Of course. I mean, she did tell us last night her ear was “hiccuping.”


Not only am I the mom who consistently doesn’t take her children to the doctor when she should for ailments that require antibiotics to cure, I’m also the mom who when she does take her children to the doctor is convinced her children have cancer.

I can only imagine what’s being written about me in my children’s charts.

“If you treat a sick child like an adult and a sick adult like a child, everything usually works out pretty well.” —Ruth Carlisle


I don’t know what’s worse. Using my legs and arms to pin Owen against myself, a nebulizer mask over his mouth and nose while he thrashes and screams, feeling him soften every few moments only to say, muffled and between sobs, “all done, Mommy, all done.”

Or looking at the look James gives me at the doctor’s office while I’m doing this to Owen—watching James cry and scream from across the room, not understanding that what I’m doing to Owen doesn’t hurt and is, in the long run, going to make him feel much, much better.

Our entire family got hit with a cold this past weekend. Colds always land in James’s chest and he had already done the doctor’s visit with the nebulizer treatment and the every-four-hours at-home albuterol treatment. He’s on day three of steroids. This has become the norm for James. He’s calm with masks over his face now. He inhales the medicine, knowing it’s helping him breathe, feel better.

But Owen. This is all new to Owen. Andy and I averaged about two hours of sleep each last night, staying up with him, watching the retraction in his chest, listening to the wheezing, calling the doctor on call, sharing James’s albuterol with him, debating the ER.

So tired. Everyone is so tired.

Owen had to have two 10-minute nebulizer treatments at the pediatrician’s office today. Ten minutes is a long time when you’re pinning a 2-year-old down and when the 2-year-old’s brother, full of steroids and lacking sleep, is beside himself with worry for his twin brother.

When it was all over, I asked James if he wanted to hug Owen. James said, between tears, “yes.”

Oh my heart.

Of course Owen, furious at the world, refused to accept James’s hug and pushed him away.


Even on the bad days, the really bad days, there are moments—these small and beautiful moments.

Slow inhale.

Slow exhale.


We’re all breathing.

“There’s no other love like the love for a brother. There’s no other love like the love from a brother.” —Terri Guillemets