Sunday, April 28, 2013

...Home of the Brave...

         My God, what an insane week we just had; one that will certainly go down in history, not in a way that a City or Town really wants to be remembered, but even with all the violence and hate, those involved worked hard to come to a dignifying outcome and with so many brave and triumphant moments in between.  I don't think I've ever gone through so many emotions in such a short amount of time.  Those 5 days, my heart really ran the gambit - happy to sad, enthusiasm to despair, good vs evil... and just utter shock.
          Monday (the 15th) was Patriot's Day, the Massachusetts state holiday celebrating Paul Revere's ride and the bravery of the Colonials back in 1776 and also the day that the Boston Marathon is run, but now suddenly historic for a different reason.  I knew I wouldn't be taking the kids into the city to see the race, as I'd done many times myself before having kids, and I didn't get my act together in time to get them to the re-enactment and parade in Lexington and Concord.  Maybe next year, I'd said, and after watching some of the Marathon on TV with my son, Quinn, we ended up doing something mundane like grocery shopping.  We had lunch, went for a walk to enjoy the beautiful sunny 55-degree day, put the twins down for their naps.  Shortly thereafter, at about 3:30 p.m., my phone lit up - emails, texts, phone calls...  The call was my husband calling to make sure we were at home, that I hadn't taken the kids into the City - he said that two bombs had gone off at the Finish Line of the Boston Marathon and it was really bad.  My heart absolutely sank; I wasn't anywhere close to downtown but it just felt so close to home, as I used to work in the city for years, had been to go to the finish line several times, and the Boston area has been my home for 10 years now.  How could this be happening?  The girls were still in bed, and I couldn't resist the urge to turn the TV on to see what was happening.  And it was bad... very bad - videos from the finish line showed an explosion in the crowd, runners falling to the ground, the flags that were waving in the wind burst forward and then lay still against their poles, people covered their ears, then screams of terror and agony.  Police officers, two military men in fatigues, a man in a big cowboy hat, other marathon workers began tearing down a metal barricade with their bare hands to get to the injured spectators behind it, and 12 seconds later, a second bomb went off about 4 blocks away, before the finish line.  I turned a show on for Quinn in the playroom, as I just could not tear myself away from the tv.  Horrible images of blood all over the sidewalk, mangled faces, wheelchairs of people without legs, bodies lying helpless in the street.  Just pure evil and tragedy, three innocent people dead, yet so many amazing people helping complete strangers, rushing them to ambulances and medical tents, using the shirt off the back to make a tourniquet.  And so many unanswered questions - why would someone do this?  who did this and where are they now?  why did the target the innocent spectators and average-time marathoners?  were they done?  I was heartsick, horrified, deeply saddened, but definitely still in shock that this had happened in Boston.
          Tuesday dawned with still no answers.  No suspects and no progress seemed to have been made overnight.  They found pieces of the two bombs, which had been placed in nylon backpacks, in pressure cookers packed with explosives, nails, and bb's.  The lid to one bomb was found on a building's roof.  There were stories of additional bombs that had been found but diffused; I still don't know if those reports were true.  We went to a friend's house in the afternoon for a play date; her husband, who works as a lawyer in the Prudential Center (which overlooks Copley where the bombing took place), was working from home, as he wasn't ready to return to the city yet.  It felt good to talk with them, to compare details and reports we'd heard, to hear her husband's experience having been looking out the window watching when the first explosion happened.  It was scary to hear that there didn't seem to be any more information leading to a motive and there were still no suspects.  I hated the thoughts that this could go unsolved, that the hateful people who did this could get away with it, but surely they'd fled town immediately following the attach and could be long gone by then.  The identities of the three who had been killed were released.  I couldn't bear hearing their stories, learning of the lives they'd led before the attacks which had been taken from them, one victim was an 8-year old boy; I couldn't look at the faces of their families.  We learned that over 150 people had been injured and treated, of which many had limbs blown off on impact or had to have amputations later at the hospitals...  It was all just too painful.
            On Wednesday, I decided that we would get out and enjoy the beautiful day we'd been given.  No hiding and being fearful for us.  I dressed the kids warmly, packed snacks, and whisked them off to Drumlin Farm.  We had a great time - the kids love the Farm, and it was sunny and warm, a perfectly blue sky, lots of baby animals and old favorites to see, too.  We left in time for a picnic lunch at home.  Just simple, pure fun, for the kids and for me, too.  I checked the news in the evening, only to find that there wasn't really anything new, and I felt like as more time passed since the attacks, it seemed like they would never catch the hateful maniac who did this horrible thing.  I had to leave it alone, try to get some distance, and cautiously try to move on. 
             On Thursday morning, a small sense of security was beginning to re-emerge.  We were headed for another play date, this time back to our old "hometown" of Watertown, with our best friends who we'd met during birthing class with our oldest children; Quinn, Peter, Maddie, and Finnoula.  I lived in Watertown for 8 years - my husband and I settled there in August 2002 when we moved to the Boston area; we rented for 3 years, and then owned a condo for 5 years right in the heart of Watertown Square.  I love Watertown; the feel of community, the proximity and ease of getting down into Boston, the restaurants and shops and playgrounds and amenities - we gladly would have stayed in Watertown except that housing prices are very expensive, and we just couldn't find a single family house with a yard and enough space for our family as it was growing exponentially, at the time.  Having walked Quinn around the Town in his little stroller for the first two years of his life, I know Watertown like the back of my hand, there are few streets that I haven't been down there, and it's just a comforting and familiar place for us - we still make the 25 minute drive every Sunday to attend our same church there, where we used to walk to from our condo, where all three of our children were baptized.
         We met these three other families at Isis Maternity while pregnant with our oldests, and though Peter's family and mine have moved a little farther away now, everytime we get back together, it is always like we've never been apart.  The kids fall into a comfortable pattern of play, and the younger siblings - my girls, Peter's sister Sara, and littlests, Juliet and Ewan - are the next wave of fun.  They want to be just like the big kids, and it's so heartwarming to see them all getting along together and having simple, joyful fun (even despite any hiccup that might happen, as with all child's play, it's not the end of the world).  And it's always great to talk with the other Mom's, who I feel like I can share anything with; we are just comfortable and open with each other, and I feel so at ease being with these friends.  We've shared so much together, from our birth stories with all of our children, parenting stresses and concerns from newborn Day 1, miscarriages, personal feelings, family stories and secrets, supporting one another as women and mothers, and so so SO much laughter.  That morning, we, of course, talked about the marathon bombings, where we'd each been when we'd found out, any breaking news we'd heard, but so many other topics came up, the conversation just flowed like it always does.  But all good play dates have to come to an end, so around 11:30, we packed up and headed home, taking a short drive around my old stomping grounds on our way.  We had another play date in Sudbury in the afternoon, with the friends we'd seen on Tuesday afternoon, whose husband was still working from home, not wanting to deal with the chaos and crime scene in the city.  I watched the news that evening, while making dinner, because the authorities finally had a break - after reviewing 10's of 1000's of videos and photographs, they found the two bombing suspects.  The two men, one wearing a black hat and sunglasses, followed by a second man, wearing a white hat backwards, big noses, both carrying nylon backpacks, turned the corner according to a store's surveillance camera.  Other photos showed them dropping the bags at the two locations, the man with the white hat was also pictured minutes after the blasts making a cellphone call, as though he had waited to watch the misery.  My mind was racing, my heart pounding - just seeing these men, knowing that they had worked together to erase lives and purposely cause death and pain to as many people as possible.  It was so disturbing and sickening to think of how they had selected where to place the bags (beforehand? or did they decide once they saw who was standing where?), they targeted the poor Richard's family and other bystanders, they knew exactly who was about to be intentionally harmed by those bombs... Contrary to my usual nighttime routine, I went to bed around 11 p.m., which is early for me, just feeling mentally and emotionally drained, exhausted from several nights of nightmare-interrupted sleep.  I tried to block the thoughts from my mind, and get some rest.
            Friday morning, I drifted awake as Quinn climbed into my bed around 6 a.m.  Doug was already in the bathroom getting ready for work.  Shortly thereafter, I heard him talking to someone, his voice echoed on the bathroom walls... or was he talking to one of the girls?  No, he came into our room and said that our friend Shaun had just called (a guy who lives by texts and email and tweets, but does not talk on the phone) - they were on lock-down in their condo in Waltham, the town just west of Watertown, where I'd just been the day before.  I set Quinn up with some Lego's on our bedroom floor, the girls were still sleeping, and I rushed downstairs and turned on the TV.  Sure enough, there had been a lot of activity and developments overnight.  The photos released the night before had panned out, and the white hat suspect was caught on a 7-11 store camera in Cambridge, wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt but the same brown curly hair and big nose.  They had names for the two suspects now, Tamerlan and Dzhohar Tsarnaev, 26 and 19 year old brothers, originally from Chechnya; they knew where they lived in an apartment in Cambridge, were piecing together their lives since coming to the US around 2000.  After the 7-11 visit, they murdered Officer Sean Collier, an MIT Police officer, then hijacked a black SUV and raced westward, ending up in Watertown, of all places, where police recognized the vehicle and the newest photo.  A high-speed chase ensued, during which the suspects were throwing explosives, including another pressure cooker, out at the police cars following them, they were cornered and a massive gunfight broke out, seriously injuring public transit officer Richard Donohue, and critically wounding the 26 year old suspect (who later died at the hospital); the younger one then jumped into the SUV, backed over his brother to get away, but then ended up fleeing on foot, supposedly wearing a suicide vest and carrying a bag of guns and explosives.  The Watertown police managed to determine a 20-block perimeter of where the suspect could have ended up before the sun came up.  They issued a multi-town lockdown - the entire city of Boston, Watertown, Belmont, Waltham, and a couple of other towns - every person was to lock their doors, draw their blinds, and stay inside until further notice.  Most people in the 20-block area were evacuated, though as I watched throughout the morning, there were many close calls and suspicious houses being searched, as the authorities went door to door, searching homes and yards, trying to locate the hiding suspect who was considered armed and very dangerous.  I was just in disbelief that this was all happening in my old town of Watertown, where I'd just been the day before, with my kids, playing out in the open at a playground we'd been to a million times.  And here now, in our old town was a major crime scene only a mile or so from our old condo, with news stations broadcasting from places I knew well and had frequented in my time living there - houses we'd looked at buying, stores I went to all the time, my old mechanic, the sandwich shop and carwash, the Target and Friendly's that I'd just been by the day before, the street I used to cut down, the bus line I lived on for many years as a commuter.  This was my town and these were my people - normal, middle-class, hardworking and proud, ethnically diverse, with loving families, hearts of gold...  And I was suddenly very concerned about my new town, my current location - what if the suspect had gotten away and wasn't in Watertown at all?  What if he fled west and could be closer than that, and desperate to get away?  And why hadn't they left town yet?  They'd spent the days since their heinous attack trying to get back to normal themselves; the younger one in the white cap had attended his college classes, went to a party in his dorm, went to the gym.  The older one had a wife and two-year old daughter.  How were all those regular people they'd encountered in the past days any different from the ones they'd just mutilated in the city?  Had they been planning more attacks?  Is that why they left their apartment with bags of guns and explosives on Thursday night?  Was younger brother following his brother along or was he just as corrupt as big brother?
         I took a break from the TV to get the kids outside in our yard Friday morning - it was 70 and mostly sunny, just too irresistible to stay inside hiding in uncertainty and fear.  I was definitely watchful and on edge the entire time though, watching the fences on all sides of our yard, half-expecting someone to jump over them at any time, but I felt a little better that neighbors were out front of their houses, riding bikes in the street.  I checked the news in the playroom while Quinn was upstairs, and then had it on and off when my friend Joanne brought her two 5-year olds over to play.  We talked at length about the bombings, new reports from the day, things she had read (she always seems to be better informed than me!)...  After dinner, our neighbors came over to watch as the news unfolded, or didn't unfold - we didn't know what the case would be and what the night would hold.  My in-laws arrived and we put Quinn to bed, and finally, I poured myself into the breaking news, the tv reports, the state police scanner online.
         We watched the live feed on TV, of the barricades up and down Mt. Auburn St, blocks from our old condo.  We saw the replay of events from the afternoon - the lock-down had been lifted for areas outside the 20-block perimeter;  homeowner David Henneberry who lives just outside the perimeter went out to his yard to check things out, saw blood on his boat, lifted the tarp, and sure enough, there was a bleeding man inside with dark, curly hair; he alerted the police immediately, and shortly thereafter, around 7 p.m., a solid 10 minutes gunfire ensued.  I cannot imagine being that homeowner, gingerly walking his yard after a day on lock-down, only to find blood, and then having the courage to investigate further when a murderer is on the loose!  We all owe him a huge thank you, he is a true hero!
           After the 7 p.m. showering of gunfire, we heard reports of police trying to determine if the suspect was still armed, whether he was wearing a suicide vest, whether they could work out a surrender, how injured was he.  The police scanner seemed to have information sooner, and around 9:30 p.m., we heard "captured! got him!" and minutes later, the television echoed that report.  The final suspect in the Boston Bombing was finally in custody, after a massive manhunt.  I think we all clapped in the room, and smiled profusely.  It was just such a major relief, and I felt so much pride in the cities and towns and all the work they did to catch this guy.  I can only imagine how much intelligence went into it, so many things that happened behind the scenes, that the public wasn't aware of.  We continued to watch on TV as the streets of Watertown filled with the residents who had been on lock-down all day, who had been peeping out their windows and watching on TV as things unfolded only streets away.  We saw three girls we know from church, people cheering and clapping and saluting the police officers in the area.  I was filled with pride at their efforts, of the community I saw before me, remembering that we had once been a part of that same town.  It was amazing how just that same morning I was so thankful that my children and I didn't live there anymore, and now, at the end of the day and the end of this wild week, I wished that we could be there to be part of the community, with those people.  I was so relieved that the hunt was over, although I knew that the work was far from over.  Hopefully the emotional rollercoaster is over now and my blood pressure - everyone's for that matter - can go back to normal, and justice can be served.  I hope "he" cooperates to make up for the all that wrong doing, even if only in a tiny way.  I hope it helps those affected most to heal.

             Over the past couple weeks, I've really come to find a sense of pride in living here in the Boston area, and just a renewed feeling of patriotism as an American.  I will always be a Pennsylvanian at Heart, but I have to admit that this is a good place to live, too.  The strong history, the good people willing to take a stand and help complete strangers in need...  I like to think that the same can be true for any place in the United States, and we can see that is true when these sad tragedies that take us by surprise.  I remember hearing the "Star Spangled Banner" from such a young age, learning the words dutifully, singing it in school, before football games in high school, at professional sporting events now.  It wasn't really until this week, thinking about the meaning of the words during memorials for those lost and injured in the Boston Marathon Bombings, that it really hit me how meaningful the words are that Francis Scott Key chose back in 1814 - "the land of the free and the home of the brave"...   Patriot's Day will have a new meaning for me now based on the tragedy and the triumph of 2013.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Boston, You're my (current) home

      Holy Shit, what just happened here today?  It was a beautiful sunny day, mid-50's but warm.  It was Patriot's Day, the Massachusetts state holiday commemorating the bravery exhibited by the colonials back in 1776, which coincides with a big Red Sox game in the morning and the running of the Boston Marathon. 
      Back before having kids, I would often watch some of the race, walking across the Common (park) from my downtown office, and another year, we went to the Red Sox game, and then ran over to Copley Square on Boylston St to watch some of the runners cross the finish line.  This year, I forgot it was even Patriot's Day until this morning.  I probably wouldn't have carted my three kids all the way to the city to watch the race, and I didn't realize about the parades and reenactments closer-by in Concord until it was too late.  However, given the tragedy that took place, I thank my lucky stars that we weren't anywhere by at home.
      At 2:50 p.m., as hundreds of runners were crossing and nearing the finish line on Boylston St in Copley, two explosions rocked the spectating crowds.  Three lives were lost, over a hundred wounded, peoples limbs were lost, and thankfully, two additional bombs were found and dismantled before they could do any damage...  It's just crazy to me that this could have happened, that a race that many were running to raise awareness for a cause and money for a charity, could be a target.  What possible motive could there be for such a hateful and meaningless act?  What more did they mean to do that didn't actually happen?  Could it happen another day?  I hope to God that they find out who did this and can figure out their motives, but holy shit, it has been a crazy day trying to grasp that it even took place.  I gave up trying to keep the television off, to keep Quinn away from the news, but I knew of so many people that were either running the marathon, spectating, had gone to the baseball game, having been down there doing all those same things myself (minus the crazy running part)... I just had to know what was happening down there.
      I know that I may often come across anti-Boston, but that is more out of missing my home state of Pennsylvania.  But I really do like the city of Boston (not everything about it, still hate that crazy accent and rude people, but overall!).  There is so much history everywhere you look, it's actually a fairly navigable city, and even though getting into the city can be a pain, I loved when my office was downtown, and I'd take the bus and train into the city.  It is always bustling, and there's so much to do at any given moment.  So many museums, the Boston Common and Public Garden is beautiful anytime of year, so many shops and restaurants, and action.  I look forward to taking the kids into the city for different occasions - riding the swan boats and seeing the Make Way for Duckling statues in the spring, going to a Red Sox game, meeting Bobby Flay at the Copley mall in a couple weeks, hitting the USS Constitution (if it's ever docked when we get there!), ice skating at the frog pond, walking the Freedom Trail and seeing the Old North Church...
      It's a shame that so much promise can be shifted by one act of hate, that so much beauty can be marred by one act of violence.  Will it keep me from taking the kids into the city in a couple weeks to meet my culinary hero, Bobby Flay?  I don't know, but I'll have to give it some serious thought before then, and at this very moment, I'm very scared to think of taking them down there (and straight into Copley, the current crime scene).  What would I ever do if were in that same situation?  I'd like to think that we'd be lucky and would make it through alive, but you can't ever know for sure, and I'd never be able to live with myself if something happened to one of my babies.  A parent is not supposed to outlive their child, it's against all of nature.  One of the victims today was an 8 year old boy, and his family won't get to take him home alive.  I cannot even imagine that pain and suffering.
      I can only hope that justice is served, that the guilty parties can truly pay for what they've done.  I hope the city can be put back together, and that the spirit of the city can survive, that the camaraderie can carry it through to another day.  There are so many songs and stories about Bostonian pride, and it's a day like today that makes me just have to give in and show some of that pride, too.  While I really am a Pennsylvanian at heart, I have to make a little room for Boston in there.  As the song says, "Boston, you're my home"!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Wrath of Streptococcus

     Who knew strep throat could be a full body experience?  I had no idea, I barely remember the last time I had strep throat - high school maybe? - but on Monday morning, my journey began.
      I woke up Monday morning with a scratchy, raw throat, the kind that is brewing under the surface with the promise of lots of pain to follow.  Sierra, the oldest twin, had come down with a fever and scarlet rash last week, which was then diagnosed as strep throat (her antibiotics almost immediately took care of her symptoms luckily), so I just knew that it was my turn.  I'd escaped so many of their illnesses this winter, having only come down with one short-lived cold myself the entire season, but the misery of strep throat, I knew, loved company.
       Driving Quinn to school, the body chills and aches started, a sure sign that a fever was coming, too.  I dropped him off and since I still haven't found myself a good primary care physician, I immediately drove to the MinuteClinic at CVS in the next town north of us.  I winced at the stiff cool breeze as I loaded the twins into the double stroller, piling in their snacks and books to keep them busy.  Luckily I was the first patient of the day, the girls ogling the Nurse's every move on their Mommy; taking my temp, swabbing the back of my throat, the heartbeat clip on my finger, taking my blood pressure (always very low, 102/64 today), checking for swollen glands under my chin...  Shockingly, the strep test came back "negative", but they would still send it out to a lab, and we'd get those results the following day.  Guess my gut had been wrong, though I knew my throat would not be.
       So, I winced again at the breeze as I reloaded the twins back into the van, and since it was apparantly just a virus, I figured I'd better get some necessities from the store since I could just feel I'd be in no shape to do it again soon.  We hit the post office, texted my husband 'my turn to be sick', and then my head started swimming the whole way through the grocery store; I picked up whatever I saw and thought we could use, apples, baby carrots, cinnamin swirl bread for the girls...  I even bought Ibuprofin, and I do not take pills, I just never do, not for allergies, not for headaches, nothing.  I firmly believe that my body can heal most anything, but I had to give in to this particular evil within. We stopped back at school and picked Quinn up, and upon arriving home with all three ducks in a row, all hell broke loose within my body.  
       My throat was completely blocked, that full, blubbery pain in the back where you feel like you're gagging, and you just can't swallow and each time you try to swallow, a horrible pain shoots out.  I also knew I had a fever; I was shivering and trembling, so so cold, like I was standing outside in subzero temperatures, yet sweating bullets at the same time, all while making the kids lunch, anything I could throw on a plate to fill their little bellies before I could put two of them down for naps and only have one left up to neglect.  I knew my afternoon would involve me and the couch, and if the girls were napping, at least I could keep Quinn occupied in other ways while I melted into the cushions.
       I apologized to the kids that Mommy wasn't being much fun just then.  I told them that Mommy was really very sick, but that I just needed to lay and I'd be better and able to play again soon.  I got the girls layed down for naps, comfy clothes on for myself, and directed Quinn to the armchair with his VTech Learning Tablet to babysit him while I layed on the couch next to his chair.  And oh my God, it all hurt.  I'd taken the ibuprofin but it was not doing anything.  Every single bone in my body hurt, I'm guessing all my joints were inflammed.  My skull ached, my neck and every vertebrae in my back was on fire, my knees and legs and pelvis were killing me, and yet I couldn't stop shivering despite the heavy down blanket I was covered up with.  It's the kind of cold that starts from the inside, radiating from my bone marrow, stretching out from within, spreading up and down my skin.  I know people say some pain is like being hit by a truck, and I can totally understand that - but it's not like the aftermath of being hit, it's that moment of impact when you can just feel your body shattering and the pain is numbing and you can't hear anything because your ears are smothered by the sounds of an explosion. 
        Of course the girls didn't nap that day - why would they?  Of all days that I just needed them to nap and be indisposed for a little while, where they'd be safe and happy and resting peacefully?  Not Monday, my worst Monday ever.  I'd dozed for maybe 25 minutes on the couch before I had to give in to the calling for Mommy, and I knew that I really shouldn't let Quinn veg-out on his tablet for much longer anyway.  It was an absolutely beautiful day - sunny and almost 70, one of our first spring-like days after a very long, snowy winter.  I managed to cut up some apples and grab a box of Angry Birds (graham crackers), somehow managed to get Quinn's and the girls jackets and shoes on which is a daunting task even on the best day.
        The kids were overjoyed to be outside in the nice weather.  They flew like little birds from the backdoor, cheering and smiling, their arms in the air, the warm breeze rustling their soft hair feathers.  Within minutes they had their jackets off, like pink and orange and bright blue leaves decorating the ground in the yard.  I grabbed my hat and winter coat, and sat on the back deck stairs, still freezing even in the warm air - okay, "sat" is a graceful to describe me, I was slumped like a slug across the two steps between the patio and the deck, but the sun was warm on my black yoga pants and the patio was warm on my legs, and truthfully, unless one of the kids was in danger, I couldn't have moved even if I'd wanted to. 
         I layed there watching them, through tears (from the fever, not from crying), as they were jubilently swinging on the swingset, pushing toys around the deck, playing bus stop with the wagon, eating their snacks from colored bowls on the deck, giving me a teasing look as they threatened to go up two many rungs on the ladder or attempt the slide on their own.  I would call out safety instructions every now and then - 'don't go any higher', 'don't walk in front of the moving swing'...- and apologies - 'sorry Mommy can't push you on the swing today', 'sorry I can't play tag'.  Thankfully, Doug got home at 5 that night, which is early for him, and he took them for a walk, the girls in the wagon and a bike ride for Quinn, while I somehow mustered the energy to boil and bake something for dinner.  Then I layed down on the couch and mentally and physically checked out.
        In my fevery dreams, I tossed and turned and could hear things taking place around me - the kids got home from their walk and ate dinner, Doug gave Sierra her amoxicillin, he spent a long time doing dishes after dinner while the kids ran around the house, jumping on me and eventually playing in their book room.  He wrangled the girls to bed and bathed Quinn, and at some point, he came back to see what I needed.  My temp was 102, my body was still aching and my joints burning, I wasn't hungry, my throat raw, but I ate some apple slices to take more ibuprofin, and it must have done some good because I actually fell asleep.  I vaguely remember walking up the stairs to my own bed, bringing an extra blanket to cover up my freezing body.
         Tuesday morning dawned just the same as the night had been.  I gagged on the giant lump in my throat, which only made it hurt worse, and I pulled on a cardigan sweater over my pajamas, as if a very uncool tribute to Kurt Cobain, and went downstairs and prepared the kids breakfasts slower than a snails pace.  I laid my greasy head on the table while they ate, since I had no bowl of my own, telling them again that "Mommy is still really very sick, I'm sorry I'm not talking very much".  Lots of television ensued that morning, as I layed on the couch under my down-blanket cocoon, coming out more frequently than I really wanted to but I had to get them snacks or diaper changes or other things.  I took them down to the playroom, and I layed at the bottom of the steps so they couldn't get past me if I happened to close my eyes for a minute; surely I'd feel them crawl over top of me, right?  I prepared lunch very slowly, again, just putting together things with very little preparation involved that could still pass as a meal.  I found I could still do some things as long as I moved slowly and if I whispered the word of what I needed to get (cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese; grapes grapes grapes grapes), so I wouldn't forget what they needed before I got there to retrieve it.  I can only imagine how crazy I must have seemed, but luckily the kids aren't old enough to know what crazy is, or to be alarmed by it.
         I got the girls down for a nap and halleluh, both girls slept that day!  I succumbed to Quinn's repeated requests for a tv show (I'm sure he sensed my state), and he layed on the couch with me, under his own little blanket, as I dozed in and out during that wonderful 30-minute reprieve.  I heard my phone ringing it's vibration on the counter, but I was powerless to answer it.  After a little while, I heard Kelsey wake up, so I grabbed my phone on my way out from picking her up.  The kids sat on the couch watching yet another show (sorry little brains, I'll make it up to you somehow).  Under my downy shield, I listened to a voice mail - CVS got my strep test back from the lab and it was "positive"!  'Thank God', I thought!  At least it was something treatable and not a wait-it-out kind of sickness anymore. 
        Sierra awoke moments later, so I let her join in the show while I slowly prepared snacks for the car.  I left the girls in their regular shirts and sleeping pants, and put the girls dress shoes on them because the slip-on option was much more appealing than tie laces or even zipper boots, even if they looked like the cutest little clowns you ever did see.  Quinn was excited that he didn't have to wear shoes in the car.  And off to the drive-thru cvs pharmacy we went.  I was so dizzy, my head was swimming, but I had to get those pills, though I probably had no business operating a motor vehicle that day.  I picked up my penicillin and drove home, resuming my place on the ground/steps in the back yard so the kids could play (yes, I made Quinn get shoes after all).  I had put a frozen pizza in the oven for dinner, which I served with baby carrots.  Cardboard Dinner served everyone (hey, they were organic carrots though!).  Doug came home at 6 and took over again. 
          By Wednesday morning, I was still in pain, achy from another sleepless night and the inflammation, but Quinn was now complaining of a sore throat.  We thought it might have just been an act, because he was still chasing his sisters around, playing, jumping off the couch, doing his usual routine, but we decided I'd better take him into the doctor.  Doug stayed for a little while that morning to help with the kids so I could shower, and he set the appointment for 10 a.m.  We left at the same time, him to the office and me making another shaky drive with three precious cargos in the car to get to the pediatricians.  Quinn was positive for strep (brave little guy didn't even flinch when they swabbed his throat), so they tested Kelsey, too - also positive.  I'd had three doses of penicillin by them and an ibuprofin that morning, so my bones weren't quite as painful and my fever was coming down so the shivering was at a lull, but my head was still throbbing and I was barely holding it together mentally, just enough to function.
         We drove to the Rite Aid pharmacy, and went next door the grocery store to buy more popcicles and milk.  The girls were being rambuncious in the double stroller, squealing and trying to grab their brother, making it hard to steer, and when Quinn wasn't playing "can't touch me" with the girls, he was running up and down the aisles (some show of sickness...).  My head was pounding and my vision was all shaky because I was dizzy, my field of vision bounced and rattled with every step I took.  My neck hurt, but cracking it only made the dizziness worse.  We went down the bread aisle, Quinn skipping ahead of me and step-dancing, when my ears picked up the sounds of the terrible Muzak that was playing overhead, a provocative techno beat and strange raspy vocals talking about "we don't have to rush tonight, baby, let's take our time tonight" or something along those lines, and in my head I'm thinking how that's highly inappropriate for a grocery store on a Wednesday morning, and it's so incredibly loud and pulsing.  The girls are hanging out of the stroller, my arm is breaking under the weight of the gallon and a half of milk, Quinn's dancing and probably drawing attention to the odd music, and I notice an old woman in the aisle with me, and I'm sure she's embarassed by the song (assuming her hearing aid is turned up to hear it).  I catch a wave of dizzy and try to head us up the aisle toward the checkout, and two more elderly folks turn the corner, and in my head, I imagine they're hearing the song, too.  As we turn out into the main aisle, there are 5 more white-haired people, and I'm surrounded and can't help but smile because I'm completely lost in my head, feeling like I'm having some kind of strange drug-induced trip, but it's only penicillin, and listen to those horribly sexy words being blatantly sung loudly to all these old people.  I actually laughed out loud, it was too much for my fragile mind to handle, too funny not to recognize, and we pushed our way to the self-checkout because I just need to get the hell out of there.  We paid, and I gulped in warm, moist air as we leave the store, to pick up the kids' medicines.  The same song is playing in Rite Aid, but it's much quieter and there aren't any old people, and I just feel sick to my stomach.  All I can think is, 'What was all that?'
         At any rate, we got back to the comfort of our own home, and I'm putting the kids lunches together with a little more ease this time.  I was surprised that both Quinn and Kelsey had come down with it; yes, I know it's highly contagious, but they'd been acting perfectly fine, hadn't had any symptoms.  If their poor little throats felt anything like mine did, or if their little bodies were just as achy as mine, I felt so bad that I hadn't noticed, or worse, that they'd caught it from me and there I'd been lost in my own feelings of illness to consider this.  I don't know if it was the timing of the penicillin and that maybe it was finally doing it's job, or the fact that I realized that my babies were sick, but I was suddenly able to put my own sickness aside to focus of their needs.  I started Quinn and Kelsey's doses of amoxicillin, continued Sierra's rounds, seeing all our medicines lined up at dosing time was quite a sight.  I read them books despite my raspy, still sore throat, cuddled with them, tried to cook them healthy, less-shortcut meals, focused and tried to spend time just playing whatever they wanted to play.  It was actually really nice to just BE with them for a change, instead of worrying about all the other things on my "To-Do" list that I knew I had no hope of doing (like painting, building shelves, etc) since I wasn't fully recovered myself.
          By Saturday, everyone is mostly back to normal, other than needing to continue the meds even though the kids think they're feeling better already.  10 days it will be, not a day less - I'm not taking the chance that this horrible round of strep comes back.  I'm in no hurry to ever feel that way again!  So thankful that it is all over now...  Fingers crossed we've met our quota on sicknesses for this winter season.  Bring on spring!