It’s hard to believe, but it’s been 4 weeks since James was born. In some ways it’s been easier than I had expected. Lucy and Will have been incredibly helpful and I’ve been able to mostly go with the flow rather than have a lot of, well, expectations of how it would all play out. So, for example, these days the first thing on the morning agenda after getting the kids to school (which, to be honest, Kelley is still handling more often than not) and James fed is to somehow manage to get some more sleep. So far, James has been mostly cooperative as he tends to fall asleep after nursing. That usually brings us to around 10:30 or 11, which is when I get to eat.

Unfortunately, in order to eat it generally means I need to transfer James off of my lap, the options being the car seat, the swing, or the boppy lounger. Depending on which one I choose, I’ve generally got about 10 minutes before he wakes up crying. Although I’m not sure if this is an entirely good thing, with #3, it is a little easier to ignore the crying, at least for a few minutes. During minute one, I have to admit that there is a bit of frustration — and, yes, guilt about the ignoring — on my part. Once I’ve got some food in me, though, I can move on to minutes two and three where I remind myself that I don’t really have anything to do each day other than to take care of James. Since that mostly entails feeding him, letting him sleep and changing his diapers, well, that’s pretty doable. The fact that I can watch tv or read during some of that certainly doesn’t hurt.

Not that it’s always smooth sailing — things are seeming a lot easier as I write this since James is happily sleeping in my lap at the moment. Still, I feel like I have much more realistic ideas about how this all works this time around; it definitely makes a difference.

(And I will be sure to read this myself in a few hours when James is fussing and Lucy and Will are fighting and I am starving because I haven’t eaten a decent meal in an entire day. For now, however, I will happily stay in my state of denial. Um, I mean serenity.)

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So there we were in the bathroom tonight, me putting the toothpaste on Will’s toothbrush as he was talking about the plastic boat he saw under the big table in his room.

“Oh, [????],” he said, “I didn’t know I had three boats.”

“What did you just say?” I asked.

Silence, of course.

“Did you just say ‘shoot’?” I said, hopeful.

Guilt all over his face, he looked at me. Then he shook his head.

“You didn’t just say ‘shoot’?” Doesn’t hurt to give him another chance, right?

No, he shook his head again.

“So you really said, ‘shit’?” I asked.

Taking the toothbrush from me, he started brushing his teeth. He nodded.

Mommy, I blame this on you.

Had to share this morning’s conversation with Lucy and Will:

As we were getting ready to leave for school, Lucy mentioned that she was sad because her best friend (Lydia) had a new best friend (Hannah), and that even though they were all sitting in the same group at school, it was ending up being not fun at all because Lydia and Hannah always chose each other for partners and not Lucy. Ugh. If there’s anything that I have absolutely no answers for, it’s that.

I also happen to know that there’s pretty much nothing to say to make her feel better. So what I said was: I know how sad it makes you. It’s an awful feeling. And sometimes it has something to do with you, and other times it doesn’t, so the important thing is how you handle it.

Then I found myself telling her how I had this friend who was following, like, 54 of the 52 people following her on Twitter. Who was one of the two she wasn’t following? Yep, me. “But,” I told Lucy, trying to get back to a point that would actually make sense to her, “even though it made me sad, I know she’s still my friend and I’ll just make sure to be the best friend I can be to her anyway.”

It did seem to help a little. And then Will chimed in, saying to Lucy, “Did you tell her? I would just tell her that she’s making me sad. Antonio’s my friend and he doesn’t make me sad.”

Lucy, of course, glared at him. Sympathy, Will. Sympathy, not solutions.

“Antonio will always be my friend,” Will continued, oblivious. “Ezra’s my friend, too.” Ezra, i.e., Lydia’s brother. “Ezra will always be my friend.”

Since this didn’t help things at all, I ended up spending the next several minutes trying to make Lucy feel better. As we were leaving the house, Will, exasperated, just said to me, “Why don’t you just tell her to be happy? Why do you need to say all the other things?”

Lucy, being more Lucy-like, rolled her eyes. “It doesn’t work like that. You can’t just make something happen. If you wanted John McCain to be president, you can’t just go up to Barack Obama and say, You’re not president any more. Things don’t work that way.”

Will looked at Lucy then looked at me. He looked at where Kelley’s car would have been if Kelley hadn’t had to leave for NY an hour before. Even at six, he knew enough to realize there was just too much estrogen involved for him to get any further. “I’m out of this,” he said, holding up his hands and shaking his head. And then he played with his cars.

*****

Been absolutely crazed lately — three major work projects (6-month; 1-year; and 2-year projects) culminating during the same three week period that also had the Gala (last weekend) and Jess’ shower (this weekend). Oh, and everyone getting sick, etc., etc. I say that all just so everyone knows that yes, I owe everyone emails or calls on just about everything — and I owe a resolution to that last post. (Sorry to leave you hanging.)

So, the big update: Will’s not allergic to peanuts. He still can’t have other kinds of nuts — I’m particularly concerned about almonds — but PB&J sandwiches have come back to the household. Of course, in the last two weeks he’s visited the dentist (he might need to have a crown — have you ever heard of a 6-year-old with a crown?), the eye doctor (he needs glasses), the neurologist (the tics just keep on coming), and the walk-in clinic at his pediatrician’s twice, thanks to his croup coming back (a week after Lucy’s came and went). So, well, yes we need to get him back to the allergist, but the poor kid hears the word ‘appointment’ and practically has a panic attack. We need to call, but he needs a break.

At 8 a.m. this morning, with our 2 tablespoons of peanut butter in hand, Kelley, Will and I presented ourselves at the Children’s Hospital Allergy department so that Will could do his Food Challenge.

What’s a ‘food challenge,’ you might ask? Well, it’s when you take the thing that you’ve spent over a year avoiding due to its potential to cause the death of your child and, yes, you feed it to him.

Now, of course, the reason you do this at the hospital is so that, should that worst-case scenario seem imminent, there are presumably enough qualified medical personnel on hand to bring him back to life. Still, as he sat there, looking suspiciously at the nurse who’d just given him the spoonful of peanut butter and telling her that he wasn’t supposed to eat it, I had to use every bone in my body to resist telling him to drop it and run.

“It’s o.k., Will,” I said instead. “That’s why we’re here. To have you eat peanut butter.”

Since that night a year ago November we’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what caused him to have such a ‘sudden and severe’ (the clinical terms, apparently) reaction on the side of the highway. There was no x-ray taken in the emergency room so no one was able to tell whether the top of his throat was closed (which would indicate anaphylaxis, i.e., what happens when you eat something you’re severely allergic to), the bottom of his throat was closed (which would indicate a severe case of croup or, alternatively, an asthma attack), or, simply, if he’d swallowed something and was choking on it.

The fact that he’d been asleep for three hours prior to suddenly waking up coughing pointed away from the choking idea, whereas the fact that his inhaler only seemed to make things worse made it seem like asthma wasn’t a factor either. In nearly a third of fatal anaphylactic shock cases, we were told, the case is never determined. Since Kelley had eaten a bag of nuts in the car two hours before the reaction occurred, however, it sounded like that could be the culprit.

When something like this happens, of course, the heavy artillery comes out. We carry EpiPens wherever we go. We read labels for hidden dangers. We know the doctor’s office phone number better than the phone numbers of most of our family. We also go to the doctor on a nearly monthly basis, whether for asthma check-ups or further allergy tests.

Over the past year Will has had skin tests to see what he might be allergic to. (Just about everything, apparently, although some things more severely than others.) With the peanut test being inconclusive, he had a second test (negative), and then a full-on blood test (negative). With food alergies, though, as anyone who has dealt with one knows, two negatives don’t necessarily make a negative. In order to be completely sure, you need to actually eat the food.

To be honest, I was less nervous about it I thought I’d be. Considering that, as we were in the height of the aftermath I wanted to just go and sit in the parking lot of the Emergency Room and have him eat a PB&J sandwich so that we could know once and for all, well, it was kind of nice to know that for once I seemed to be in synch with the world of science. It was kind of like getting the EpiPens — a calming of the nerves, so to speak.

And, after sitting there this morning for three hours in the safety of the nurses and doctors who work at one of the best children’s hospitals in the world, I was feeling all good and proud of myself that we’d made it through. He ate one spoonful of peanut butter, and then another. No swelling, no hives, no death. Thank you, God.

So I wasn’t at all prepared for the nurse to tell us as part of our discharge, “As you know, the reaction can take place up to 24 hours after exposure.”

Um, come again? “24 hours?” No. Suffice it to say that I didn’t know that. I didn’t know that at all. Even me, who worries about everything in the world, thought that all I needed to be concerned about was the 6-7 hours after he ate it. After all, that was the time period everyone seemed concerned with when they were trying to figure out what could have cause him to nearly stop breathing that night.

Still reeling from the fact that they were sending us back into the non-medically-trained-staff world of our daily lives, I almost missed the part where she said, “And we’d like him to eat 2 tablespoons of peanut butter each day for the next three days. Oh, and you shouldn’t do it before sending him off to school because you want to be in a position where you can watch him for the signs for at least half an hour afterwards. Be sure to have the EpiPen with you at all times. Bye, now.”

O.k. So maybe she wasn’t quite that flip. Actually, she was kind of great — both throughout the morning and at the end of it, taking the time to deal with my sudden inability to leave the protected womb of that hospital room and answering all my questions with confidence and reassurance. Still, I am now sitting here on my couch, TV off as I listen for him to suddenly wake up coughing like on that night a year and a half ago.

I look at the list of the symptoms we’re supposed to be watching for:

* Anxiety

His or mine?

* Itchy Skin

The kid has the driest skin ever. I’ve never known his skin not to be itchy.

* Throat Tightness

For a year I’ve been asking him if his throat is o.k. The more I do, the more anxious he gets. (Which means that I have no idea if the bullet point #1 anxiety, should it occur, is anaphylaxis-related or mommy-induced.)

* Hives

No way in hell he’s getting a bath until this testing period is over. I don’t care if he’s so dirty that he looks like Pigpen. I am simply not capable of thinking clearly enough to make the distinction between hives caused by his dry skin reacting to the bath and hives caused by peanut butter. I pick the free pass on that one.

* Facial and/or Lip Swelling

I guarantee you that if you look at your kid to see if his lips are swollen (and therefore indicating that a potentially fatal reaction is about to occur) you will see a set of lips that are swollen. And, by the way, allowing him to have a Pixie Stik as a treat after dinner is a very bad idea. Sour/sugary abrasive dusty candy does not a non-swollen set of lips make.

* Vomiting/Diarrhea

* Stomach Cramps

Well, yes. These are kind of obvious. But when you’ve spent the last month trying to avoid getting the stomach bug that various friends and family members are getting, how the hell are you supposed to know if it’s just a case of bad timing?

* Coughing

* Sneezing

He has a cold. ‘Nuff said.

There are a few more items on the ‘Watch For’ list, “fainting” and “loss of consciousness” among them. I figure that if those happen, I’m pretty clear on the need to dial 911. Then again, he’s now asleep in bed. Kind of hard to determine whether someone’s lost consciousness when they’re already out cold.

The rule of thumb, apparently, is that if two ‘systems’ are affected simultaneously — i.e., if he’s vomiting at the same time he’s got hives — then it’s an anaphylactic reaction. Although he’s coughed throughout the day, sneezed quite a bit, and been itching his skin for hours (“But it’s just normal itching, Mommy”), I’m fairly certain he isn’t experiencing anaphylaxis. Yet. And I am desperately trying to believe the words that our asthma case manager said to me the week after this happened — despite the dark, despite the highway driving, despite the fact that you’d heard him cough on countless occasions before: “You knew.”

We knew that the cough was different that time. We knew something was wrong enough that we pulled off onto the side of the highway. We knew something was wrong enough that we called an ambulance to meet us on the Mass Pike at midnight on the Saturday night after Thanksgiving.

On the Monday morning after this all happened, we sent Will to school with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It wasn’t even a full 48 hours later, and at that point, no one had indicated that this could have been an allergic reaction. At that point, no one had yet mentioned that he was about this close to dying that night. At that point, I hadn’t yet had my near-nervous breakdown in the parking lot of his school when I left him in that room and realized that one of these days, I could be saying good-bye to him for the last time.

He didn’t die on that day, though, nor did he have a reaction of any kind that anyone can remember. So tonight, as I am sitting here and straining to hear any signs of distress, I will cling to that. He’s eaten peanut butter without any reaction. He’s had test upon test to bring us to this point. And, according to the discharge paperwork, he ‘was able to complete this challenge,’ which means that, according to all that is known, he ‘has likely outgrown the food allergy.’

But oh, how these next four days are going to suck.

A few weeks ago, a terrible thing happened: we gave Will a stack of books before checking for dead flies.

Now, in most households, you wouldn’t expect this to be something you’d need to do. Will, however, is petrified by (of?) flies. Over the fall, our house seemed to be invaded by big, fat flies, making their presence known. Every night before bed we did a fly check and kill; God forbid you went anywhere without a fly swatter within range. Even now, I quake as I realize I have no idea where one is. I still shiver at the memory of the bloodcurdling scream from when that slight buzz was heard.

So, now that you know the history, it might not surprise you that, on that fateful night, when Will turned his head to the stack of books that has become in his mind one of the things that makes all the world right, the sight of a dead fly on Fizz the Fire Truck’s book binding shook him to his core. Since that night, we’ve had to inspect each book before putting it on the bed. He refuses to go near the trash can where the dead fly was disposed of. And, each night since then, I’ve had to come up with the three things he can think about so he won’t be scared.

Despite all this, I had no idea what the root of the fear actually was. This conversation from earlier this evening shed some light on the subject. It started with the requisite, “Mommy, are there any dead flies on the books?”

“There aren’t any dead flies on the books,” I answered, trying to keep the impatience out of my voice. “Besides,” I said, “they’re dead. They can’t do anything to you.”

After looking at me for a good, long moment, Will said, “But what if they turn into zombies?”

“They won’t turn into zombies,” I answered, silently cursing Fahad and Antonio, the two boys in his class that keep talking about zombies and beasties. “That doesn’t happen.”

Undeterred, Will said, “But dead people do.”

“Do what?” I asked, not sure where he was going with this.

“Turn into zombies,” he replied.

“No,” I said. “That doesn’t happen either.” (Being the Buffy fan that I am, I did knock on wood.)

“What about baby Jesus?” he asked, taking things down an entirely different road.

“What do you mean baby Jesus?” I said, trying to hide my surprise. I mean, I know this kid has a lot of things running through his head, but this isn’t exactly something I would have come up with, even with my own overactive imagination.

Solemnly, he said, “Baby Jesus came back to life.”

And here’s where you need a little background. Over the Christmas vacation, we had quite a conversation on our way to NYC, during which the subject of Baby Jesus came up. (One of these days, I’ll try to get that conversation down as well. It was a good one. Trust me.) Needless to say, there was some talk about that third day.

Ummm… “Baby Jesus is different. He was very special. When he came back to life it was good; he watches over people. He didn’t turn into a zombie.”

“Don’t say that word,” Will said.

“Zombie?” I foolishly repeated.

“I SAID DON’T SAY THAT WORD!!!!!!”

“O.k., o.k.” Dumb mommy. That’s, like, one of the first things you’re supposed to learn in Mommy School. I must have missed that class. “Pretend I didn’t say it.”

“I don’t want to talk about this any more,” he said. “What else should I think about? And don’t say anything about the thing happening tomorrow.”

Almost making the same mistake again, I said, “You mean-”

“I SAID DON’T SAY IT!!!”

Sigh. Right. “Then think about Jasper, Sour Patch Kids Watermelon, and opening the presents from your birthday party.”

“What else?”

Ugh. More than three things? “I can’t think of anything else. After that, just count to 1500.”

“I can’t count to 1500. I don’t know anything past 9 billion.”

Oh, my God. Do not laugh. Do not even crack a smile. That might have been the only lesson I did learn, but at least I’ve got that one down. “1500 is less than 9 billion.”

He looked at me suspiciously. I saw my opening. “Good night, Will. I love you.”

“Me too, Mommy. Good night.”

I finally posted the pictures from Milliepalooza (i.e., Camilla’s 30th birthday celebration) to Flickr and Facebook. I’m pretty sure that, even if you don’t have a Flickr account you can just click on the photo to the right and you’ll be able to see all 115 of ’em. (I’m limited to 60 on Facebook. It’s probably better that they make me narrow it down — the ones there are the best, but there are still some more good ones on Flickr.)

I’m trying to clean out the memory card of my digital camera before Jaime and Dan’s wedding — I have a feeling I’ll be taking a picture or two. I still have about a billion photos to post (o.k., only about 1500) before my card is down to 0, but that’s a bit unlikely considering getting these up took the entire day. I’m aiming to get up the pictures from NYC up this week, too. If I accomplish that, I’ll be a happy camper.

The second child really does get the short end of the stick, doesn’t he? (I hear Jessica yelling: Hell, yeah!)

I’ll have you know, part of the reason that I didn’t give Will nearly as much air time as Lucy re. first day things was because we were spending quite a bit of time in the doctor’s office with him, dealing with all sorts of fun (not) tests for various blood diseases, coughs, hives, etc. As of now, all appears to be as well as could be. The blood disease (yes, the bad blood diseases that start with “L”) appears to have been nothing but a virus that gave the doctor some weird readings. We still have to go back for a follow-up test, but no one appears to be worried. Well, no one who actually knows what they’re talking about — I, of course, am still quaking.

Just when that was coming closer to being a memory, he got some cold that was characterized by awful coughing. Although it never sounded croupy, it did bring to mind the night of the ambulance meeting us on the side of the road. Joy. And then when things were finally settling down again, he got hives. Now, for most people, this evokes an ‘eh’ reaction, shoulder shrug included. Since the last time someone mentioned ‘hives’ in the context of Will it was the doctor saying that if hives occur use the EpiPen immediately, however, it wasn’t so much of a shrug as a Oh-my-God-call-the-doctor-now! (Uh, yes, once again that was from me. Kelley did agree that a phone call was in order, but I don’t think that his heart was racing a million miles per minute.)

Again, as of the last report (Monday night’s visit to Robin, his asthma case manager), it seems as though the hives could just have been the end of the same virus that gave him the three days in a row of unexplained 103 degree fever, thus having us end up in the Hematology Lab at Children’s. Which, as crazy as it seems, is a good thing.

So you see? Will was very much in my mind for the last month. I just haven’t had a chance to write about his first day (o.k., month) of school. Which I will now do.

As you will see, he was eager to get there. He and Lucy had their matching uniforms, matching lunchboxes, and, surprisingly, matching smiles.

My lunchbox is bigger than yours.

My lunchbox is bigger than yours.

Lunchboxes, uniforms, smiles - check.

Lunchboxes, uniforms, smiles - check.

Sitting on the front step and laughing.

Sitting on the front step and laughing.

Everyone was in such a good mood, in fact, that we were able to get a whole series of pictures of them doing silly things. Now why, I ask you, is it impossible to get them to follow directions like, “Don’t hit each other in the head with books because you will end up in the hospital,” but when you say, “Stand on one foot and cluck like a chicken,” they go along without hesitation? Sigh.

...and cluck like a chicken.

...and cluck like a chicken.

...stand on one foot...

...stand on one foot...

Turn to the right...

Turn to the right...

Everyone went to the school together, with Lucy explaining to Will how the kindergartners would sit outside in front of the school and wait until the whole class was there, then they’d say goodbye to all the parents and go inside together as a class. (Sound familiar? Like the way Conn separates the freshmen from their parents during Orientation weekend?) Since Lucy wanted to get to before-school, we were the first ones there. Luckily, the teachers came out almost immediately, so Will got some one-on-one time (or, rather four-on-one, since there were the teachers of both classes plus their aides, and they were all sufficiently fawning over his adorableness). Then all the rest of the class came.

The K2 Class

The K2 Class

As these things go, no one really did much talking to each other. They all just kind of sat there. Surprisingly, there weren’t any tears — or, make that, none of the kids were crying at least. I know I wasn’t the only mom whose eyes were a bit dewey as our, sniff, babies went off to kindergarten. I wasn’t quite as bad as I was on Lucy’s first day of kindergarten, but yes, I was a little emotional.

When, after he came home, I asked him if he had made any new friends. His finger went up as he said, “One. Giancarlos asked me to be his friend.” Apparently, it’s kind of like going steady. A declaration actually has to be made. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a pin involved. Happily, though, in talking to his teacher in the weeks since then, although they do appear to focus on one-on-one interactions, they appear to rotate quite easily and all the kids in the class have become (unofficially) friends. The boys, at least. Yesterday Will did inform me that Ashanti and, well, I don’t remember but one of the other girls, had asked him to chase them around the playground but he said no. Why? I asked. He looked at me as though I was an idiot. “Because that’s stupid.” Well, yes. Interesting to see that from the boy’s perspective.

I promise I will try and be a little more timely. If you’d like to see more pictures from Will’s first day of school, you can see it at: http://tinyurl.com/4ew874 (there are even more on Flickr). You might be seeing some more pictures from me because I’m trying to clear out the camera before Jaime and Dan’s wedding next week.