Ollie’s surprise trip to the emergency room

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So, Ollie was climbing a tree at school and a piece of bark apparently flew into his eye. His teacher took him to the nurse, who flushed it with a few drops of saline. They thought he was better, so they sent him back to class, but in a little while his teacher brought him back to the nurse. Something was obviously still bothering his eye, so at that point the nurse gave us a call. Sara walked all three kids to the ER and I came home from work, got the car, and met them over there.

By the time they managed to get it all out, that poor boy had something poking his eyeball for over 5 hours. Naturally he picked up a corneal scratch somewhere along the way as well.

If you know me at all, you know that I absolutely cannot stand eye things. Evelyn and I had to face the wall while they were poking and prodding him in there (They flipped his eyelid over on a stick!! It was ghastly.), so I guess it was lucky it was Oliver, since he’s the one who likes to chase me around the house touching his eyeball just to squick me out.

The roughest part was after they finally removed whatever was in his eye and decided to rinse it with AN ENTIRE LITER OF SALINE. I mean, think of how much water is in a liter, and then imagine them dripping the entire thing DIRECTLY ONTO YOUR EYEBALL. It took a long time, and it was rough, but Ollie took it like a champ. We realized later that the reason so many people came into the room was because they had anticipated having to hold him down for it. It was that bad. But Ollie did great: it was obviously terrible, but he didn’t struggle, didn’t cry, and even joked with the nurse. He did hold my hand and sometimes shudder all over his body, but overall, he was very, very brave.

That’s Ollie for you.

Of course it was pouring rain and we got soaked to the bone running to the car (and Ollie’s umbrella turned inside out), so we were tired, wet, and freezing cold. Ollie couldn’t buckle his seat belt because his fingers were so stiff with cold. This was a rough night, man.

Afterwards Ollie chose a celebratory dinner of Five Guys and M&Ms for dessert (we denied his original request for “Valentine chocolate” for dinner and “more chocolate” for dessert).

“I don’t want to touch my eyeball anymore,” he said in a subdued voice after we finally got him into bed. So at least some good will come from all of this!

Now we have to put some kind of horrible, antibiotic eye goop in his eye 4 times a day. I watched Sara do it the first time, and it gave me the heebie jeebies just watching from across the room.

I already told her I’m waking her up in the morning to do it.

What I did with my summer vacation, Part 2: Acadia

I was pretty excited to go to Maine. I’m not exactly sure why that is, since pretty much all I know about Maine is what I’ve read in Stephen King books. Wait, I think we just nailed why I wanted to go to Maine. In any case, I’d never been and it seemed as good of a place as any.

Ollie wanted to try lobster SO BAD. It was all he could talk to leading up to the trip. I don’t know why it captured his imagination so much, but for him Maine = Lobster. Therefore, as soon as we got a chance, we stopped for a lobster roll.

eating lobster

If you’re going to do it, do it right, and we had heard that Red’s Eats was the place to go. However, after eating there I have to say, don’t waste your time. The line was long (as expected), but it seemed unnecessarily so. I’m a guy who stands in long lines to get good food relatively frequently; I’ve stood in much, MUCH longer lines, but they moved 10 times as fast. Despite them bringing us watermelon slices and umbrellas in the rain (which were pretty nice touches), they didn’t seem to be making any attempt to move the line along. Consequently, our average-sized line took about 2 hours and 20 minutes!!! I guess it is in their best interest to keep a line going. The food wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t life changing either, and after waiting with two small hungry kids for 2 1/2 hours, it would have needed to be.

The worst part was that Oliver discovered he didn’t like lobster after all! He wanted to so badly, so he kept trying, but he clearly was not enjoying it. In fact, at one point Sara and I were worried he was having an allergic reaction or something! But no, he just kept shoving it in his mouth even though he didn’t like it.

It turns out that Maine is nearly impossible to navigate. There are very few “real” roads, but the state is covered with little private drives with street signs. So the real roads are camouflaged and easy to miss. Furthermore, the highways are VERY poorly marked, informing you your turn is coming up, but not actually posted at the turn. Some highways we went on never listed the highway number for the few miles that we were on them. The street signs usually only show you the intersecting street, but are missing the crossbeam that tells you what street you are on.

All of this came to a head when we were arriving at our first campsite in the kind of dark you can’t get in Chicago and the kind of fog you can only get in Maine. And all the while, while straining your eyes to see, sign after sign warning you of the dangers of moose, who apparently streak across the road at a moment’s notice, like some kind of deadly game of Frogger. (Side note, despite all of their moose crossing warnings and moose memorabilia for sale, I never once saw an actual moose! I was pretty disappointed.)

You know, one thing that we didn’t really think about when we booked this trip was that there were a lot of one-night stays at a lot of cabins. We’d get in late, sleep, then pack up and take off the next morning. The problem is that at each stop you basically have to unpack the entire car, get out all the clothes and shower stuff and sheets and pillows, make the beds, unmake them the next morning, drive with wet towels on top of things, etc. This was all a *lot* of work! But we had miles to cover, so we didn’t have much of a choice.

We did make one quick stop a the LL Bean “flagship” store. Totally lame, don’t waste your time. Sure it’s big, but so is the Internet, and there wasn’t anything I couldn’t see on their website. Not a single thing we looked at was discounted or on sale. There was a giant boot to take your picture with, as long as you didn’t mind a sign or three shouting at you not to climb on it.

Finally we made it to Acadia National Park, where we could unpack a little bit, since we were actually staying for 3 nights. Luxury.

We pulled into the KOA just after sunset and were told that we had no reservation. After some momentary panic, we discovered that there are 2 KOAs within a mile of each other, and we were apparently at the wrong one. ::Whew!::

Finally, we made it into the park. A little driving, a little exploring, and story time with the park ranger. I get the impression that her audiences are usually…not so enthusiastic about stories. The other 4 or 5 kids there were just as interested as Evie and Ollie and probably would have went on listening all day. She seemed somewhat happy to oblige them.

Eventually we did make it over to the most excellent Jordan Pond House for lunch. This place was really cool. They have outdoor seating on these wooden tables. I don’t know how to describe it exactly, other than to say it seemed very fancy and made me feel like I was having tea on a Sunday afternoon at La Grand Jatte. Mostly they serve these amazing popovers, like warm hollow biscuits the size of my two fists. They were great with butter or jam, and we devoured them like wolves (wolves who eat popovers instead of red-cloaked children). I had a very rich lobster stew and the kids had fancy hot chocolates.

Afterwards, we decided to do the nature walk and, as pretty much always happens, accidentally found ourselves hiking around the lake. It was actually a really nice hike and Evie made the entire ~3 1/2 miles on her own (Oliver had to be carried for a significant portion), but we were a little stressed out because we had already purchased tickets for a whale watching tour that evening. Luckily we made it around with basically no time to spare, and found parking in Bar Harbor (no small matter) in time to make the boat.

We did in fact get to see two big humpback whales pretty close up. Not to perpetuate stereotypical humpback gender roles here, but their names happened to be Sword and Victim (guess which one was a man and which was a woman).

Whale Tail

Humpback Whale

The experience was pretty awesome, and only marred by one thing: the terrible, awful, no good, very bad, seasickness.

Oh my goodness. I’ve been on boats before, even on the ocean, but I don’t think I’ve experienced anything quite like this. The sea was particularly choppy (4 – 6 foot swells), and the boat was particularly fast (~30 knots). Furthermore, we were making a beeline for deep ocean where the whales were and not really making any attempt to lessen the impact of the waves. The feeling was exactly the same as a roller coaster, with my stomach dropping out on me and then suddenly slamming back into place as we went up the next wave.

Ollie was the only one of us who had never been on the ocean, but we figured we were more or less okay, so he would be too. Not so. He got green around the gills right away, curled up in a ball and said, “My tummy hurts”. We asked him if he was hungry, thinking maybe it might calm his stomach, but as soon as he got some food in his mouth he started gagging. Sara grabbed him to run outside, but it was nearly impossible to walk, the chop was so bad. They did make it in time, and the fresh air revived him just a tad, enough that he didn’t throw up. However a few seconds later, Evie and I had to run for the door ourselves. Evie was saying, “Go on the other side, I don’t want to see Ollie throw up!” worried that might be the thing to put her over. I understood exactly how she felt. Sara, on the other hand, has a stomach of iron and never felt the least bit of discomfort.

So none of us actually lost it, but based on the smell alone, I would say a non-trivial percentage of the boat was not so lucky. Every few minutes I would get a fresh whiff. Luckily our stomachs had a chance to calm down a little bit when we we stopped to see the whales, and the ride home was much smoother. Still, we didn’t dare go back inside. I was pretty miserable, and based on how Ollie looked, he was feeling worse than me.

On a somewhat crazy impulse, we decided to keep the kids up even later and keep the party rolling. Sara had seen mention of a “Stars Over Sand Beach” program that evening. I have always been into astronomy, but this was honestly a highlight of the trip. Just to lay there in the sand with the waves crashing behind us and see the stars like they can never been seen in Chicago. We had a little picnic, and Ollie fell asleep listening to stories of constellations and stars. I saw satellites, several shooting stars, and the double grand finale of seeing both the International Space Station, and an iridium flare. It was pretty cool, and well worth keeping the kids up so late.

The following day, we did a little “tide-pooling”, which I have to say was better than I expected it to be. At low tide, a giant sandbar appears, connecting Bar Harbor to Bar Island (creative namers, those Mainers) and trapping any sea creatures unlucky enough to be in the area at the time in little pools. We had a blast running from pool to pool, overturning rocks and picking up seaweed, discovering the little beasties. One of the better things we did in Acadia, and totally free!

Starfish

We also got a chance to explore Bar Harbor a little bit. There are a lot of restaurants and things, but mostly just tourist type shops and absolutely NO parking! I wasn’t opposed to buying some souvenir junk, but we just didn’t quite find the *right* souvenir junk (though we did buy Ollie a “Maine” sweatshirt that’s pretty cute).

We also managed to solidify what would become the major theme of the trip: ice cream.

eating ice cream

eating ice cream

We started our little ice cream odyssey in Buffalo, but in this case it was Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream, which was fabulous. (Actually, we went there once the first day in Bar Harbor, so this was the second time.) They had “The Dude” White Russian flavored ice cream! Awesome. Ollie got the butterbeer, and I think that was the best one I tried (unfortunately, nobody tried the “celery and raisin”).

Of course, it couldn’t be all fun and games: our next stop was at the emergency room.

When we were in Buffalo, 4 kids were playing on one of those free-standing hammocks, which is sort of a recipe for disaster, but I was holding it so it wouldn’t tip. However, it became necessary to pull Evie aside and give her a little talk about being nice, which meant my back was to the thing when it flipped. Jackson and Elliot both took headers into the dirt, but Oliver was the lucky one who landed on the crossbar. Even the sound of his head hitting it was enough to make me wince, but he was basically okay. When he stopped crying we put some ice on it, and it didn’t even bleed.  His ear turned a lovely purple, but wasn’t too much the worse for the wear. He basically forgot about it.

Fast forward 3 days and suddenly he started complaining his ear was hurting. That’s when we took a good look at it and realized it was about 3 or 4 times the size of the other ear. This wouldn’t have been bothersome at all if it happened the day of, but it had never swollen at the time, and it seemed strange it suddenly would out of nowhere. To compound things, our Internet connection was extremely spotty, and we got stuck on a Google image search for cauliflower ear (do yourself a favor and don’t click on that link). So every time we glanced at the computer, we had to contemplate horrible things that can happen to damaged ears.

We decided to take some pictures of Ollie’s ear and email them to our pediatrician. We found a coffee shop in town and sent them. She called us back almost immediately and told us to go to the emergency room. Basically the theory was that it could be an infection, and if it was, the ear is a difficult thing to treat so the sooner we started treating it, the better.

Luckily for us, it ended up being nothing. Apparently it was just some kind of weird residual swelling. The emergency room was absolutely lovely, fast and efficient with friendly people. We didn’t even have time to get a game of Old Maid in. And when Evie and Ollie blew the complimentary bubbles all over the floor and made a slippery disaster zone in the lobby, they just called for maintenance and didn’t say an unkind word.

The whole thing took maybe an hour, and basically didn’t disrupt our schedule. We were off to Thurston’s Lobster Pound for our first in-the-shell lobster of the trip.

Cracking Lobster Claw

Now, I have to say, I had really been looking forward to cracking open some lobster. However, it’s pretty expensive, and honestly after my first two lobster meals, I was already kind of lobstered out. On the other hand, I came to eat a lobster, and that’s what I was going to do. And I must say, this lobster was by far the best one that I had. It was fun too, picking it out from the big bins and seeing it waving around. Oliver still talks about how it splashed him with his tail.

And after all that, we still made it to Bass Harbor Lighthouse by sunset.

Maine Lighthouse

And thus ends the Acadia portion of the trip.

I do have one more story to relate on the way out. As we were driving out of Bar Harbor, Sara saw a yarn shop, so of course we had to stop. Evie decided to buy her very own knitting needles there, with her OWN MONEY. I mention this because she cried later to think that people wouldn’t know that she spent her own money on them, so I told her I would do what I could. So now you know. They have little cat heads on the ends.

That’s not the end, though, since the best part of the trip was yet to come in part 3…

I must have accidentally angered the forest gods

We have just not been able to make it up to The Haven this year. We knew there weren’t a lot of opportunities to go, but it seems like every time we have a chance, something just seems to come up. And of course, the one time we did make it up was an unmitigated disaster. I’m starting to suspect supernatural influence.

We were all set to go up and meet my sister on Saturday morning. Giant pile of camping gear in the living room, house cleaned, kids excited, the whole nine. Sara and I had stayed up late getting everything ready, so we had only just fallen asleep when suddenly the bedroom door banged open.

There stood one very panicked 5 year old, clutching her throat, unable to breath.

As with any emergency in the middle of the night, my body was operating well ahead of my brain. Right away I knew what was the matter, but for some reason I just could not communicate this to Sara. My sister had terrible asthma as a kid, and waking up in the night unable to breath was, unfortunately, not an uncommon occurrence for her. This just snapped me back there right away. So finally Sara was able to piece together my incoherent panic-babbling (something about shouting “Rachael!” and forcing Evie to lock eyes with me and slow her breathing), and grab Evie’s inhaler.

Poor Evie was a wreck, coughing and crying, which was only making it worse. Luckily for us, our daughter is so amazingly mature for her age, and she managed to understand what I was saying to her, think through the situation, and calm down enough to get it a little under control. We got a couple of breathing treatments in her, and though her breathing still sounded like a freight train, she was so exhausted that she wanted to go back to sleep.

We put her in bed with Sara, but I was too agitated to go back to sleep. It really pains me to think that I cursed my daughter with asthma. So I was alternately pacing around in the hallway, listening to her wheeze through the closed bedroom door, and looking up “What to do when asthma attacks!” websites, when I just couldn’t take it anymore. I went back into the bedroom.

“Do you think she’s okay? Is there something else we should be doing?”
“I don’t know, should we give her another dose of the inhaler?”

Even with the extra dosage from the inhaler she just didn’t seem to be getting any better, but she didn’t seem to be getting any worse either, so I went out again. I think that was about the time that she threw up all over herself. This poor girl, she was really trying to hold it together, and we were trying to help her hold it together, because we knew if she didn’t stay calm it could get bad again really quick.

Ultimately, we opted to take her to the emergency room. Sara took her and I stayed home with Ollie. “Start kicking the seat if you can’t breath,” she told Evie. You never really know if you’re doing the right thing, going to the emergency room. Am I overreacting? Well, apparently not, based on the alarm generated by Evie’s entrance and speed at which they got to work on her. So I guess we did the right thing after all.

It turns out that Evie had croup, so it wasn’t even asthma related (which explains why the inhaler wasn’t helping). However, that croup is no joke, and it can be fatal. It was pretty scary for us, so I can only imagine how scary it was for Evie; waking up and being unable to breath, having no idea what is going on or how to stop it. And then, despite all of that, to have the wherewithal (as a 5 year old!) to be able to calm down and work through it.

Anyway, this is just a long way to say we didn’t exactly make it up to go camping the next morning. Sara and Evie were at the ER until about 4:30 in the morning, and we certainly didn’t want to risk a recurrence when we were out in the woods somewhere.

Evie was pretty much okay, other than she didn’t really want to go to sleep Saturday night in case it happened again (and who could blame her on that score?). Her other big concern was that she completely lost her voice in all of this, and of course she had an audition for a part in The Little Mermaid yesterday. Fortunately, her voice was more or less back, and she performed her audition piece successfully.

I’m sure they get their share of precocious little girls, but man-oh-man would I have loved to see their faces when Evie performed. I admit to being a little biased, but I think she might have blown a couple of people’s hair back when she really opened up. Anyway, as should be no surprise if you’ve watched that video, she will be playing the role of Ursula, the Sea Witch.

Maybe she can use her Sea Witch powers to commune with the Haven spirits and figure out what I did to offend them so badly that they’ll stop at nothing to keep us away…

Ollie Bites the Big One

Oliver has now had his first injury requiring a trip to the hospital.

Last Wednesday, Oliver was running in the park and tripped over his own feet, falling just so that his chin slammed into a bench, causing him to bite deeply into his lower lip.

Now I wasn’t there, so I’m telling all of this second hand. As you can imagine, a deep lip wound bleeds like a gusher. By the time Sara got to him, his hands were covered with blood. He calmed down pretty quickly, but he wanted to be held. When Sara managed to get a look at it, she was pretty sure it would need stitches. Unfortunately, they were about a mile from the hospital with no car. At least Sara was with a co-worker, so she didn’t have to deal with this all by herself. Sara called me at work, so I left for home, but by the time I got there most of the excitement had died down.

The good news is that Sara has the hospital connections, so we actually avoided a trip to the emergency room. Sara planned to go to the ER, but she wanted her boss to take a look at it first, to get a second opinion. I felt like it was definitely worth having him take a look. A trip to the ER would have been very painful, slow, and expensive and having to sit and wait and have his wound poked and prodded, not to mention having his blood pressure and temperature taken, etc. would most likely be a lot more traumatic for Oliver than the actual stitches.

They managed to have several doctors look at it. It was sort of a borderline case; it wasn’t too deep, but it was right on the lip line. One doctor said, “20 years ago I would have said stitches for sure, but these days I’m not so sure.” Finally, Sara’s boss and one of the doctors applied liquid stitches in his office. For Oliver’s part, he was content to let whomever do whatever they wanted to his lip. He never cried after the initial injury and sat still and quiet while they stretched his lips and applied the glue.

The liquid stitches were kind of gross. They’d probably be okay on your arm or something, but between the glue starting to peel off and bits of food getting caught up into it, it kind of seemed worse than having nothing at all.

When Sara called, my first thought was, “How is Evie taking it?” She worries about Oliver so much, and is so protective over him, and is so sensitive about him getting hurt, that I know she would be absolutely freaked out. She certainly was. Afterwards, she made a card for Sara’s boss that said, “Thank you for saving Oliver’s life.”

Anyway, now the glue is mostly off and everything looks a lot better. I’m not sure if he’ll have a very noticeable scar or not, but it’s definitely going to heal. Unfortunately, it hasn’t stopped him from running face first into everything he can find like a human bowling ball.

Nursemaid’s Elbow

On Saturday the weather was beautiful and Sara got the idea to go to a state park that was not too far away and go hiking. The first part of the day went really well, but around 11 or so we were walking and it was getting a little muddy. Evie wanted to walk, but whenever we came to a muddy part, Sara and I would lift her up by her arms until we were past the muddy part. On this particular one, Evie started to cry a little bit. You can probably see where this is going. She never really cried full out, she was just sort of whining a lot. It was around time for her nap, so we thought maybe she was just tired, although she did seem like she was fussier than usual. She fell asleep on Sara’s shoulder on the way back to the car, but she seemed to be sleeping very lightly and if we tried to shift her she’d wake up and cry. Finally we got back to the car and she slept most of the way home.

When she woke up she complained that her arm hurt and she kept it close to her body, refusing to use it for anything. We talked to our doctor and she told us to take her to the emergency room, making this our 3rd trip in under 6 months. It turns out that she had a dislocated ligament in her elbow, a very common ailment known as Nursemaid’s Elbow. The name apparently comes from having a nursemaid jerk your kid around by their arms, or in this case, swinging your kid up by the arms. The doctor said a lot of kids even do it to themselves. The thing is, this just happened to my boss and his daughter a few weeks ago, so it was the first thing that came to our minds. The bad news is that now that it has happened once, it is that much more likely to happen again. But she will eventually grow out of it.

So, as if hiking a couple of miles in the morning wasn’t enough for one day, we ended up spending a total of about 3 1/2 hours at the emergency room, even though it took literally about 2 seconds to fix. It was amazing, the doctor just rotated her arm a certain way and the pain seemed to go away instantly. In about 5 minutes she was acting like nothing was wrong at all, using the arm like normal. Because we thought we’d be leaving soon I didn’t go put more money in the meter, but a trauma came in to the ER and the resulting ticket means the trip to the emergency room cost $50 more than it should have. (Side note, wow have traffic tickets changed! When I got home I was able to look up pictures online of my car and the expired meter.)

Did I mention that in the middle of all of this, she apparently got two more teeth? And don’t get me started about how she is not even 2 and she seems like she is already giving up on naps. Oh well, another day, another person saying Evie looks like Shilo Pitt.

I don’t know how many times Sara or I said, “What a day!” and that was even before the power went out to our entire block. Luckily we had *just* finished our movie and we were getting ready for bed, so it wasn’t too disruptive. Plus I got to smugly use the flashlight I keep next to the bed. Sara makes fun of me for it and I’ve never had a chance to use it until now.

All’s well that ends well, I guess.

On Sunday we went to the museum. We were getting ready to go and Evie ran out into the main entry hall, with me following behind. There was an old car on display and she must have decided she wanted a closer look because she ran head first into the plexiglass around it, hard enough to knock herself on her butt. She wasn’t too hurt, just a little dazed and confused. I think even after she hit it she didn’t see it and she wasn’t sure what happened. Sara and I felt bad for her, but we just could not stop laughing about it.

She says so many cute things during the day, that I can hardly remember them all, much less put them all here.  Like when she says something like, “Can we have ice cream? Maybe, we’ll see.” Or when you ask her something and she says, “Ack-shoo-all-y…”

Evie was eating some Cheerios when she suddenly indicated one of them and said, “It’s waiting.” “What is it waiting for?” asked Sara. “Evie’s mouth. After this one and this one.”

There has been an ongoing issue with the fact that Evie has blue eyes, but she wants to have brown eyes like her mommy. The other day she said, “Mommy has brown eyes” so I said, “What color eyes does Evie have?” “I forget,” said Evie. “You have blue eyes,” I said, forgetting her displeasure with them. “I forget,” she said again. “I’m reminding you,” I said. “You have blue eyes.” “I forget,” she said menacingly. I said, “It’s okay that you forgot, because I’m telling you you have blue eyes.” “I FORGET!” yelled Evie. I guess we all have things we are trying to forget.