The Education of Anaphylaxis.

Last week, the kids and I went to Greenville to visit Not-Crazy-Renee. We make it there a couple times a year to see our former neighbors, and to take their Christmas card pictures. My kids love going up there, but Noah especially was excited about this year because he was really looking forward to visiting with Snakey Butters Buttercup, Loulie’s Pet Python. Noah’s love, nay obsession with snakes being new, we haven’t visited our only Reptile-Owning friends since his glorious realization. So he’s been counting down the days for a month.

As if he and Loulie weren’t already precious together… (this shot from 2017 is one of my favorite pictures I’ve ever taken) …

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She was waiting in front of their house for us with a Python wrapped around her ankle.

There are a lot of signs pointing to their future romance, but if they could have a double wedding alongside Loulie’s snake and Noah’s future snake, that would just be fantastic.

joshua and sbb IMG_2512I did not get a picture of Loulie with the snake around her leg, but here’s Joshua demonstrating later in the weekend.

We arrived on Wednesday, got settled in, played with Snakey, and chatted as Renee made us delicious, fresh, hot cookies. I may have eaten three. They were gooey, chocolate chip, cashew butter cookies that melted in your mouth.

The cookies had even won a Major Award – Not a Leg Lamp, but close to it – a spray-painted beer bottle that said “Best Side Dish.”

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I was told, in fact, that according to neighborhood regulations I was somehow supposed to incorporate said beer bottle into their family Christmas photos. I wasn’t so sure about all that. Maybe if the snake was wrapped around the beer bottle? Hm. But the snake looked so much better wrapped around her three-year-old.

Joshua-and-SBB-IMG_7822This would be the Best. Christmas Card. Ever.

Anyway.

We wiled away the afternoon eating cookies and fending off children wanting to eat ALL the cookies.

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As it came to pass, right around bedtime, Noah came and asked if he could have a cookie. That kid is amazing at causing delays to bedtime, but this one might have been his crowning achievement in life.

I asked the question we’d been asking our children all day. “How many cookies have you already had?”

“Zero.”

Oh – I hadn’t noticed that Noah had been so overwhelmed with his love for Snakey that he’d missed The Cookie Train.

Close to bedtime though it was, I said sure – have a cookie. Why not. We’re on vacation.

As he took his first bite, he started gagging and coughing.

I said “Did you BREATHE the cookie or eat it?”

“I didn’t breathe it, Mom.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yes.”

He disappeared for a few minutes (later he admitted that he snuck off to throw the rest of the cookie away because it tasted terrible to him), then came back and sat down beside me, rather disturbed. “I feel like I need to sneeze but I can’t quit coughing.”

That’s weird.

This was the moment I first wondered if he was having an allergic reaction. No one has ever been seriously allergic to something in our family, so I’d never seen it before.

Then his voice started fading, he got hoarse, and gagged a couple times. Then his lips started swelling on one side.

Okay. This is an allergic reaction. He had never had cashews before that I was aware of (he’s a the most unadventurous eater), so I was positive that it was the cashew butter in the cookies.

Pass the Benadryl, please!

I was texting with a Pediatrist friend, Adolfo, at this point, along with another friend, Ashley, whose kid has allergies.

The Benadryl immediately made his lip swelling go down, and Noah kept insisting that he felt fine, his voice was getting better, and he didn’t need to cough anymore.

But he needed to go to the bathroom.

I waited anxiously outside the bathroom door…and when he came out, he was rubbing his eyes, saying they itched. They were bloodshot and swelling.

That, combined with the sudden need to go to the bathroom and accompanying the stomachache constituted enough systems involved in the reaction – he was in for a visit to the ER. Doctor Adolfo declared it. It was time…for The Shot.

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I told Ali goodnight and not to worry, and packed her brother off for the ten minute drive to the Children’s ER. He said he was hot when we left the house, but was shaking when we got to the ER. As we went through security and the security guard extra thoroughly scanned Noah with his wand (8 year old boys are a clear and present danger to society), I looked at Noah in the light for the first time in fifteen minutes. His face was now swollen, splotchy, and covered in hives.

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Thankfully, the word “anaphylaxis” gets you a room really quickly at a Children’s emergency room.

The newbie resident came in, checked Noah out, lifted his shirt to find out that Noah was now covered in red swelling hives,

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then announced casually, “Well, I think we’ll observe him for a while, maybe give him some Zyrtec later…”

Dear Newbie. Have you ever had a rotation in a children’s ER before??

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UM, NO.

I said in my most humble voice, “All of these hives came on since we got to the hospital. Isn’t there anything we can do for him now?”

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Meanwhile Noah is violently shaking, freezing cold, and itchy all over.

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Resident was clearly offended at me questioning his Medical Qualifications.

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Doc Casual mumbled something and left the room.

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A few minutes later he was back, this time with his “supervisor” (aren’t they called Attendings? It felt very factory-like for him to introduce me to his supervisor), who immediately said “Actually, this kid needs an injection of epinephrine. Then we will need to observe him for four hours to make sure he doesn’t need more.”

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That’s better.

A few minutes after the shot, he quit shaking. And started talking. His EpiHappiness was off the charts. He spent the next three hours jabbering continuously as his hives faded slowly, starting around his injection site and radiating outward.

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“I can’t believe I get to stay up so late. Thanks for bringing me to the ER. Look at these superheroes on the wall! Thanks for staying with me. This is a fun TV show! I don’t think I like Cashews. That shot wasn’t so bad! Once Ali got a shot she didn’t even feel. I can’t believe a cookie sent me to the emergency room! Not everyone can say that, huh??”

Finally I said, “So is the emergency room fun?”

“Well I’m getting to drink GATORADE and eat GOLDFISH and watch TV and play IPAD WAAAAAY after my bedtime so yeah I’d say this is really really fun!!!”

Of course, he finally got sleepy about half an hour before it was our turn to be sent home. He fell asleep at 1:15am.

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At 1:45am, the original resident came in and told us we could go home. I roused Noah and he returned to his EpiHappyChattiness.

“Thanks for taking me to the ER, mom. Thanks for staying with me, Mom. And hey – I’m really glad I didn’t eat a cookie until bedtime because that way I got to play with my friends until it was time for them to go to bed!”

Definitely his best bedtime stall ever.

His swelling took a couple days to go down fully, and he and I spent a day walking around Greenville as complete zombies.

And of course, Noah also made sure to spend lots of time with his Personal Emotional Support Therapy Snake to help recover from his adventures. 
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So, I get it. You would think that five children playing with a Python for three days would be the danger.

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But no – Snakey Butters Buttercup was the perfect hostess. In this story, it was the Gourmet, Prize-Winning Cookies that were the real predator.

Epilogue: We’re doing all the things now – toting EpiPens, prepping for allergy testing, reading labels…all the things. And as Noah sees it, this is the Best News Ever because it means that he can continue being a picky eater. Chicken fingers and fries it is – from here to forever. 

The Summer Ticket.

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Summer began this year before I completely realized what was happening. Usually the first day of summer is a day of huge fanfare and excitement (me celebrating raucously because I don’t have to teach my children anything of great import for a couple months), but this year it was sandwiched between mine and Chris’ anniversary trip, our last field trip, and the kids going to day camp for a week. So it took me a few weeks before I was able to slow down, breathe in, and recognize the glories of summer.

The kids, in the meantime, asked “When are we going to have our first of summer clock tower meeting?”

It’s amazing how quickly they can turn a one-time thing into a guilt-wracking tradition.

I didn’t have any great ideas or incentives for this summer – despite my attempting to employ my brain on the topic. Chris had suggested a few summer guidelines, but nothing worthy of a grand clock tower meeting.

Finally, it was at lunch with Not-Crazy-Renee where I was given THE brilliant idea of summer. I was bemoaning how many questions my kids ask every day (the recurring torture of my life) and how many of them are TOTALLY UNNECESSARY.

She suggested the most fantastic idea ever concocted.

“Why don’t you give them tickets for the number of questions they can ask a day?”

TICKETS.

MY KIDS LOVE TICKETS.

It was so staggering that I reached for my phone that very second to order tickets on two-day Prime shipping. But then caught myself because we were at Olexa’s and people do NOT order tickets while eating quiche at Olexa’s.

(I learned via self-imposed torture about what people do and do not do in the palace that is Olexa’s on my last visit. Four and a half years ago.)

But I remembered to order my tickets that night. When they came in, I quickly hid them from my kids because the mind-blowing sight of rolls of tickets would create SUCH A BARRAGE of questions that I might have to hop a flight to Brazil just to survive. (At least Brazilian kid’s questions are in Portuguese.)

Sunday night, we went to The Clock Tower – right at sunset for optimal meeting magic.

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We sat down and went through all the boring stuff first. Summer bedtimes, amount of shows/iPad that could be enjoyed per day, what must be completed before shows/iPad were watched…

Then Chris unzipped the high-security bag and pulled out the most glorious roll of tickets our kids had ever seen up close and in person.

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They were both immediately bewitched. Ali was probably in the middle of asking a question about the tickets when I snapped this picture.

We carefully explained to them that all questions aren’t bad. But most of the questions they asked were completely unnecessary, and many of the questions they asked they already knew the answer.

They would get 15 tickets per day. They would have to give me a ticket every time they asked me one of these unnecessary questions which included but was not limited to questions starting with…

“When can we?”
”How many days until?”
”Can I have?”
”Will you buy me?”
”When will we?”

When they saved up 20 tickets, if such a miracle could be accomplished, they could trade them in for a prize.

They both loved this plan. Plus, tickets. Tickets are marvelous. Tickets make all of life more fun.

The ticketing plan began on Monday morning. Chris sat the tickets up on an easel in the kitchen and it was the children’s responsibility to get their own tickets each morning.

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Ali was a quick and determined learner. Halfway through Monday she said, in awe, “I’m realizing HOW MANY questions I ask you that I already know the answer to! I’ve caught myself so many times.” She managed to slide through Monday and Tuesday while only giving me two tickets per day.

Noah soon realized how challenging this game would be for him, and began planning ahead for his next infractions.

<Silly question>
”Bring me a ticket!”
”I’ll go ahead and bring you two – one for next time.”

<Silly question, silly question>
”Bring me two tickets!”
”I’ll go ahead and bring you four.”

Noah was out of tickets at 2:20pm on the first day. At which point I realized that I hadn’t exactly figured out what to do when that occurred. Did subsequent questions count against tomorrow’s tickets? Do I not speak to said child for the rest of the day? Perhaps Duct Tape could be in order…?

I kept count of his overage for the day – he got to negative 11 tickets by bedtime. Chris the Merciful Summer Consultant declared that “Ticket Mercies should be new every morning – he gets 15 tomorrow morning.”

And so he did.

When I woke up Tuesday morning, I rolled over to see two tickets lying next to me in the bed. I squinted, confused for a moment. Ah yes, I vaguely remembered Noah coming into my room before I was awake to ask me questions.

But despite the early start, he made his 15 tickets last until 4:40pm on the second day, and I noticed a significant amount of silence and a lovely peace about him. He was clearly trying his best to not let all of those questions come tumbling out of his mouth.

By Wednesday, Noah ended the day having performed a miracle true enough to warrant sainthood in the Catholic Church. He had five tickets left over.

My summer is going to be amazing.

Not-Crazy-Renee and the Big, Big Favor.

As all good adventures do, it all started out with a text. A text from Not-Crazy-Renee, specifically…right before she headed out of town for the holidays.

Renee Text Snake

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Explanatory Footnotes for this text:

1. SBB refers to Snaky Butters Buttercup, Renee’s five-year-old’s pet Ball Python, who has grown a good deal since I last shared photographs of her.
2. She wouldn’t starve. Snakes eat once a week but she sometimes gets a two-for-one week when Renee misses a week. This was just discussed in the last Not-Crazy-Renee post.
3. Another neighbor’s chicken did indeed pass on to the wild eternal yonder (via a black trash bag) while I was on chicken duty. No one has trusted me with anything larger than Fuzzy the Betta Fish since.

So although I knew I didn’t have to feed a Python, by myself, with no instruction booklet, I’m always down for an adventure.

But this one worried me more than most.

I admit it: I was a more than a little nervous about my ability to not botch this up.

I mean, I like Snakey Butters Buttercup a good deal, and I’ve held her once and seen her fed twice, so obvs I’m an expert.

But what if the unexpected happened?

What if, when I pulled the top off, she took advantage of my newb status and suddenly leapt out of the cage and sprinted under a heavy piece of furniture?

Or what if she choked on the mouse?

I mean, what all could go wrong while I was alone in the house with a python, a mouse, two cats, and my children?

But despite my misgivings, I added Snaky Butters to my color-coded to-do list.

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…and I asked Siri to remind me about meal procurement.

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And so we went to the pet store – not a place I frequent often, due to my anti-pet status.

I did a slow walk around the store, looking for mice, while the children fawned over the adorable bunnies and gorgeous parakeets and in general upped their desire for pets by tenfold.

I walked to the counter, picked the guy with tattoos and gauged earrings (because he wouldn’t be grossed out by the fact that I was buying something alive that would soon be dead), and told him I needed one adult mouse.

He started toward the back of the store, and I followed.

“What do you need it for?”

“A snake. My neighbor’s. I’m feeding her while she’s out of town. Because I’m the best neighbor.”

He looked at me with distrust in his eyes.

“Do you even know how?”, he said rather condescendingly.

“I’ve watched twice. I’m going to call and let her walk me through it.”

“Do you know how to stun the mouse first?”

“Yes.”

“You really should do it OUR way. You just put the mouse in a plastic bag THWAP it on the counter. And why does she feed the snake LIVE mice anyway? You know she can get them frozen.”

“Yeah, she tried that first. It didn’t go well.”

“I bet she just likes watching the snake eat live food. Most people do.” He waggled his eyebrows menacingly, implying that Not-Crazy-Renee has a sadistic streak.

We walked into a tiny closet that smelled of a twenty year collection of artisan mouse pee. As I choked and stumbled out the door, he asked “Do you want to pick out which mouse you want?”

“No. I just need a mouse.”

He reached in and grabbed a mouse by the tail as it wriggled, desperately trying to reunite with its family of 47. “If you want to really impress your neighbor, I can give you some tips about how to swap her snake over to frozen mice.”

“She’s really good at googling. I’ll let her do that if she wants to.”

He plopped the mouse in a flimsy box and headed back up front. “Okay…are you sure? My snakes used to eat live, but I’ve successfully moved them ALL to frozen…”

“I’m good. I promise,” I said as I quietly wondered how many, exactly, “ALL” meant.

“Frozen is cheaper….” He rang me up. “That’ll be $2.71.”

I think Renee can handle $2.71 per week of snake food.

We got out to the car and I realized that I didn’t have a secure place to store my wiggly, squeaky, rocking-the-paper-thin-box snake food on the way home. I didn’t trust the mouse (after all, they sometimes chew through their containment), and I didn’t want to put it in the seat next to me and then stop quickly and propel the box to the floor, setting the food free in a moving vehicle.

So I did the most logical thing: I handed a live mouse-in-distress to my five-year-old.

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“Hold the box carefully. Don’t put your fingers in the air holes. Do NOT open the top.”

“Okay mom.”

On the way home, I listened to Noah and Ali’s running commentary on the new friend.

Noah: “His name is Dunlop.”

Ali: “If I were to make a movie about Dunlop, it would be titled ‘Dead Ahead’.”

Noah: “Dunlop smells like shrimp. Want to smell him through the hole? Ack! He keeps nosing me through the hole!!”

We pulled up into Renee’s driveway and I sighed with relief – we did not have a runaway situation.

I put Dunlop on the table and watched as he nosed his last airhole.

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It’s the Circle of Life, Dunlop. The Circle of Life.

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I put Renee on speakerphone, and I started rehearsing what I knew.

“Okay. I know I have to stun Dunlop, but first, I need to put SBB in her feeding box, right? How do I get this lid off?”

“Loosen the strap. If she’s under her rock, lift it straight up. Then find the metal hook in the windowsill, and lift her into the box with it. Did you find the hook?”

“I’ve already gotten her into the box.”

“Whoa. You’re quick.”

The hardest part was transferring Dunlop. He did NOT want to leave his cozy new home.

His tail snagged.

Then his little foot snagged.

The cat was waiting right under my feet to take care of any escaped snake food.

Finally, Dunlop was transferred, then stunned.

“Did he faint, Mom?”, Ali asked, intently attempting to understand all the steps of her first feeding.

“Yup. So he won’t bite Snaky Butters.”

I dropped the mouse in and Snaky immediately began constricting.

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“It’s almost like they’re hugging!! ….. Why is she hugging him so LONG?”, Noah asked, quickly growing bored with the process.

Noah moved on to the kid’s riding toys, but Ali watched as Snaky arduously worked the apparently largish mouse down the hatch.

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And then we were done.

And I immediately knew I had solidified myself as THE Number One Neighbor in The United States of America.

I’ll be waiting by the mailbox for my official commendation from The White House.