Meanwhile, Back On the Home Front…

I had all but decided not to bother blogging about our week at home whilst Jay was in China, but his teaser on an earlier entry has left me no choice but to give an account. Plus I have had several inquiries from folks who are curious about my experiences during the China week. This then is an attempt to satisfy those curiosities!

Firstly however, I would like to politely disagree with Jay’s assessment of who had the harder week. Though ours was certainly momentous and hard in many ways, I do not believe he had the easier of the two times given he was in a foreign land, eating foreign duck feet, etc. When I think of my poor sick husband, thousands of miles away from home, sick and alone in his hotel room, worrying that he had come down with SARS and would not be able to leave China! Now that is stress!! I on the other hand had the support and presence of family and friends close at hand during our various little experiences. And even more importantly, despite the hardships during our week, I felt an overall sense of peace about everything, which in light of what happened, is quite amazing and none other than a tremendous blessing from the hand of God.

But, having made these disclaimors I will now attempt to greatly try your patience as I recount in detail the events of our week! To start things off nice and easy, I made the decision to go on a 240 mile road trip that we might attend our new niece’s baptism in Minco, OK. It seemed a grand undertaking (at least to me) to drive three kids by myself up to attend the church service early Sunday morning but we were really excited about seeing Charis baptized and the kids were ready to go and very thrilled at the prospect of visiting with their cousins. Though we had little sleep the night before on account of wakeups and power outages, I did get a couple solid hours and we had a fairly uneventful drive up except for bad storms the first hour. We arrived 45 minutes before the service began so we had time to change, and enjoy a small snack. Everyone that is except Abigail, who began telling me that she wasn’t feeling well, and judging by her refusal to eat food I guessed she was right. But on to church we went.

Now, you must understand that for 4 days prior to us going to Minco, I talked in great detail with the two older children about our trip, why we were going, what was going to happen and that we would see Charis baptized during church, etc. I felt it was critical, especially for Jonathan, to have much mental preparation and guidance about the significance of the baptism that was to take place and accordingly, how he was to behave in worship given he is 2 years old and a healthy active little boy. To the children’s credit, and much to my relief, they behaved absolutely beautifully during the worship service and were very interested and happy to see Baby Charis baptized.

As is our custom, at the start of the sermon I took Jonathan back to join the younger crowd in the nursery. When I came back to sit with Abigail she was quite obviously feeling worse. So we left the service and went back to Uncle Mark and Aunt Jennifer’s house where she began throwing up within a minute. Providential timing on the whole thing, at least we didn’t have a “puke in the pew”. As you might well imagine, the following three hours were a bit interesting as I fretted over her being ill while we were far from home without our Jay, and in the home of a newborn no less who was now exposed (in addition to all the children in the church) to our little bug. While the baptismal luncheon and festivities happened over at the fellowship hall, I stayed at the house with our three, Abigail lay on the couch, and I fed the boys in the kitchen. Dad Horne brought me a sandwich (a very good sandwich I thought at the time!) and ended up coming back soon after he ate to lend moral support.

We soon made the decision to not have me drive home alone with a potentially throwing up child and it was clear we shouldn’t stay any longer than we had to in Minco. So Jay’s Dad graciously offered to and ended up driving us home in our van. I am so thankful he came with us; the trip home was mostly smooth, he was excellent company and most wonderfully, Abigail didn’t get sick again.

Once home it became obvious that Jonathan wasn’t feeling great either; his fever went over 102 and he complained of tummy pain. I was envisioning another experience like what we had here in December and was understandably dreading such a thing, but waited to see what would happen.

All of us were planning to be at our church’s VBS program beginning early Monday morning, and I was on the schedule to teach the PreK class. Given the illness at home I called in my regrets and turned my attention to the sick ward here.

Both older children slept decently on Sunday night and no one else threw up, for which I was most thankful. On Monday, they were still running fevers and we had a basically low-key day around the house. But Nicolas’ behavior was now troubling me. He had had no signs of illness Saturday before our trip, yet as I tended to Abigail on Sunday in Oklahoma, I noticed he was unusually crabby. He fussed continually at both meals. Well, crabbiness turned into inconsolability and he slept very little Sunday night and basically cried all day Monday, refused food and fought sleep. Guessing something was quite wrong, I took him to the pediatrician, who diagnosed him with hand/foot/mouth illness. This is a virus which manifests itself with fever, irritability and spots, usually found on the hands, feet, and inside the mouth, hence the name. In addition to spots on his arms, legs, hands, feet and bottom, there were little sores inside N’s mouth and back of his tongue which caused pain and made eating and sleeping difficult. From his behavior I’m guessing the pain must’ve really bothered him as he’d never been this cranky with previous illnesses and even serious ear infections. He started running a high fever Monday afternoon which continued on through the week.

On Tuesday we all stayed home with our various ailments in order to keep our germs to ourselves. But by Wednesday morning everyone except Nicolas was in good enough shape to allow us out into polite society so off the three of us went to VBS. Many thanks to Grammy and Grandy Horne who kept our little sicky Nicky! We thoroughly enjoyed our morning at SonHarvest County Fair. Abigail and Jonathan were tired afterward, still probably fighting some residual effect of fevers, but it was good to get out of the house and see other people.

I figured the worst of the illness was behind us now so I asked Grammy Horne to stay with the three kids Wednesday evening while I trotted off to music practice at church. Given what the pediatrician told me about hand/foot/mouth, I’d expected for Nicolas to continue with fever a couple days past Monday and then start to mend. Unfortunately after VBS on Wednesday he took a turn for the worse: his fever spiked up over 103, and he began vomiting up any food or liquid we gave him. This continued on through the evening; he was so uncomfortable that he wouldn’t even sleep in his crib for more than about 1/2 hour at a time. Grammy Horne was our angel of mercy that day and she came over to stay at the house in the afternoon so I could actually take a nap given I’d gotten very little (read “2-4 hours per night”) of that blessed thing called sleep since Jay had left due to the sick kids. That two hour nap however, made a huge contribution toward giving me the energy to press on despite the continued lack of sleep (thanks, Mom!). When I returned home Wed night after practice, she’d managed to help Nicolas fall asleep on a makeshift bed of sorts in the middle of our living room. He was comfortable and sleeping so I saw no reason to move him. After she went home I made myself a little bed out there next to him and kept vigil during the night. Nicolas would wake every 30 to 45 minutes and cry, but he settled quickly each time with my help and we each took lots of short naps.

By Thursday morning Nicolas had kept down no food or drink (except for a bit of Tylenol) for 24 hours. This was distressing to me given how little he is. I had no trouble agreeing to Jay’s Mom’s offer to take Abigail and Jonathan to VBS while I saw to getting Nicolas into the doctor again. This time it was a bit more difficult as practically every pediatrician associated with our practice was out of town. We did get in after a very long wait and the office staff was understandably quite concerned with the amount of weight and fluids Nicolas had lost since Monday’s visit. He was diagnosed with an ear infection which explained the high fever. Since he couldn’t keep down an oral antibiotic he was given a strong shot of antibiotics to help start clearing the infection. Then the pediatrician administered a suppository in an effort to put an end to the vomiting, but she very firmly told me that if this did not work, our next step would be to go to the hospital where Nicolas would be put on IV’s to get fluids in him.

I took Nicolas home and we prayed that he would be able to take in fluids by mouth. This prayer was answered positively and we were so grateful when little by little Nicolas took an ounce of pedialyte and then another, and then another….

On Friday, Grammy again stayed with Nicolas (thank you!) so the rest of us could go to VBS where I actually got to teach my little PreK class for a 2nd day! I think “my” students were rather confused about my role in the week’s activities given my rather spotty attendance!! It was a good day and that night we were delighted by Abigail’s and Jonathan’s participation in their VBS closing program; what fun to watch them sing and dance! Nicolas was feeling considerably better by then so he went along for the festivities and thoroughly enjoyed all the music. The week finished out more quietly than it had begun and as you might imagine we were so excited to welcome Jay back home on Saturday evening!

Several other interesting things happened during the week but they pale in comparison to the above-mentioned, so I will spare you the little details about dishwashers leaking, credit cards being denied at Target, etc etc. I think if someone had told me in advance all that would go on in the week during Jay’s absence, I would’ve considered resigning my position here, but actually in retrospect it’s been very good for me. It’s usually so easy for me to call on Jay when things are tough, not that this is bad, but after what has happened I feel much more confident overall now about coping in his absence. I had so many offers and instances of help from family and friends who were there to support me and I felt very grateful for such tangible expressions of love. In one day alone five friends called me to see if they could bring me groceries or run any other errands to help me!! Thanks to all of you. Your kindness and support were a great encouragement to us.

Finally, I believe that God’s grace was very evident during the week as I really felt tremendous peace despite thinking that it was all very strange and hard in some ways to have this much stuff happen while Jay was away. So I am very thankful for that peace as I recognize that, knowing me, I should have fallen to pieces and become a basket case at least once or twice! I guess that is a description of a peace that passes understanding. It is definitely hard being a single parent though and Jay and I have discussed that hopefully this experience will give us greater compassion for moms or dads in that situation, whether it be temporary or permanent. We are newly inspired to lend more support to friends while their husbands/wives are away for a time. This is something we’ve tried to do on and off the past few years and I’m realizing it is a very good thing to offer a helping hand in these situations, and something we need to a lot more of. Just one way we can hopefully help one another out…

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