Farewell Pox

Mini Minx’s face is a little less spotty every day, but the deep pock mark on her left buttock where her nappy rubbed off a seriously big, infected one a little more obvious…

Bugger off chicken pox!

She caught chicken pox from her sisters the Friday before last. It was a bit of a relief to see her first pox appear – big one on her neck was The Master Spot – after spending a fortnight on nightly spot-watch (I tell you, me and The Boss had nightly discussions about it as in-depth as any held by Brian Cox and Dara O’Briain). Still, I had a sinking heart that my bright, bouncy baby would soon be as laid-low as poor Maxi was. I restocked the cupboards with Calpol and Calprofen, said goodbye to even 4 hrs broken sleep a night, and waited for the worst.

And it just didn’t happen. She breezed through it, thankfully, bar half a day of un-Mini tetchiness. Using anecdata of 3 (yeah, fantastically valid evidence pool…) all aged 2 years apart, I can say:

  • the girls got spottier the younger they were;
  • they were iller the older they were;
  • their fevers were higher and lasted longer the older they were;
  • they got more secondary infections the older they were (0, 1 and 2 per minx).

I say all this tongue-in-cheek because I’m not even suggesting that this will be the case for any other child. Anyway, I am so relieved that chicken pox has been and gone in our household, never to return! Horrible, nasty, medieval illness. Maxi still isn’t 100%, 3.5 weeks after falling ill with it. Midi and Mini just enjoy picking off the scabs and race to see how many they can do before I grab their little fingers…. And it remains to be seen if their creamy faces will be blemished with pits. If they are, I’ll feel a pang for sure, but would never say a thing to them for fear of passing on my current, surprising and over the top concern for their appearance. I still can’t put my finger on why I feel like this, as I’m not normally a person who cares about physical appearances (evidence: how I present myself in public at all times). Maybe it’s because some horrible uncontrollable illness might detract from what I perceive to be my babies’ perfection? I’m very bothered that I’m bothered about it, at all – I mean, in the greater scheme of things, who cares about a few tiny pits? Good grief, they’re healthy! I’m not normally this shallow and vacuous. But I know someone who is…

Oh crap, you don’t think vanity is contagious, do you? Break out the face masks!

Slowly Back Into a Routine

After my last post about Maxi and Midi Minx suffering from chicken pox, a very lovely GP friend messaged me to give me some top tips* to help Midi wee without screaming, and incredibly subtly and caringly gave me a nudge to get her to the GP’s. So we did, straight away that morning. And I’m glad.

*In case anyone else has a littlie with stingy bits, either get them to wee in the bath, or pour some warm water from a big pot over their genitals while they wee. It helps a lot. And don’t dry with toilet roll or a towel – use a hairdryer on low.

In Scotland you can’t just go wandering into a walk-in centre at the weekend. Unless it’s a blazing emergency you have to phone NHS24; one of their nurse practitioners phones you back within 3 hrs to triage you; they then contact the out-of-hours doctor, who will also call you back within 3 hrs with an appointment. So there’s a lot of hanging around trying to keep the phone line clear for call-backs… Still, Midi eventually got to see a really sympathetic doctor who diagnosed infected spots and possibly a UTI. He really sympathised with how painful it must be for her.

So Midi’s been on antibiotics since Saturday, too. In the fridge, her medicine has her name in enormous, sleep-deprived-parent-proof big letters (she’s allergic to her sister’s antibiotics). However, today (Weds) she’s entirely back to herself again, albeit still with lots of pox scabs. Brilliant! What a relief. She’s maybe not *quite* so energetic and tires a bit more easily, but otherwise I have my boisterous little Midi back again. And so does the nursery. Bet they’re glad… If she could just stop coming into my bed every morning around 3 and/or stop thrashing around I’d be even happier. And far less grumpy in the mornings.

Maxi still has a terrible cough, but she’s been improving every day. She went back to school yesterday, but needed to sit in the big double buggy to get home – she’s still very pale, but the whole day at school and walking up the hill just wiped her out, and she turned a bluey-white. I wasn’t too impressed that she’d only eaten a single bite out of her cheese sandwich for lunch, so have been quietly concentrating on cooking up tasty, calorie-laden meals: pork carry (like a curry but not spicy or hot) last night with loads of butter, coconut milk and double cream; fudge cheesecake tonight (easy-peasy instructions below); chocolate biscuit alongside her fruit for her play-piece today. Poor little mite.

I think she looked even more pathetic yesterday than normal – she stood shivering in her new black pinafore (her legs have taken a stretch and the only pinafores/skirts I can get that come down to her knees are ones a few sizes too big), with her white skin, dull eyes and big brown under-eye circles and a wan little smile. And her little wrists poked out the bottom of the school cardigan I’d not noticed that she’d drastically grown out of. Doh! Guess what purchase I made this morning?!

While Maxi was off school, she fretted about missing out. As she seems to be able to read anything I can give her, I wasn’t concerned about her missing 3 whole days. But to keep her happy, I got her to read a few books to me, then played ‘shops’. Unusually for me, I had a stack of change, probably left over from my last craft fair. So she set up shop and I faffed about on the laptop till she was ready. “OK Mummy, you can come and buy now! Cakes or a healthy option!”

I turned round to find that she’d cleared the floor and set up 2 little chairs either corner of a little table. On it, she’d displayed a wooden cake stand and cakes. On the sofa she’d displayed all the toy vegetables and fruit she could find quite artfully in a big basket, and on the other sofa seat she’d laid out all Mini’s wooden toy sandwich-making kit. She was wearing an apron, had tied her Rapunzel-hair back and had made a suitable ambience by playing the sole soothing song from Midi’s toy keyboard. I was genuinely open-mouthed as my wee 5 year old deftly made up a ham sandwich to order, made up prices for that and the cherry cake, and totalled them. She even tactfully turned around so she could do some counting privately on her fingers!

So we had a lot of fun me buying up all the cakes, her pricing them, taking my money from me and either demanding more or giving me my correct change. I’d discussed with her that we weren’t just playing: we were practising adding, subtracting and coin recognition, so it was bona-fide schoolwork (hehehehe, any excuse for a wee play!) I have to say I don’t know who had more fun: her or me. I was seriously impressed with how well she could manipulate the numbers in her head, and how quickly she cottoned-on to maybe more complex adding (I showed her how subtracting 20 from 70 was similar to subtracting 2 from 7). I’m sure I couldn’t do all this at 5. And I definitely didn’t sit in a doctor’s surgery reading all the signs aloud and talking about what the tricky words must mean (eg ‘accompanied’ and ‘medical practice’). I can’t praise her teachers enough, really!

Mini has cut 2 more teeth this week (lower outer incisors) and with them grown a few notches in tantrums. She can now say ‘keys’, tell me when she’s pooed (huge wail of Pooooooooooo!!), and as well as loving her little toddler books about colours, can now point to my head and say, ‘blue!’ (booooooo). Aye, I now have blue hair. I’ll do a wee post with pics when I next get a chance 😉 She’s also now 2 stone in weight*, so I guess I finally need to turn her baby car seat around so she’s facing forwards, as it’s a 13kg weight limit for rear-facing. Bah! She’s growing up to be a big girl far too fast! (Yeah, I know – she is a big girl. She’s the exact age Maxi was when Midi was born, and that seemed so grown-up at the time).

*I should have guessed; since she was born our combined weight has remained static, give or take 2lb. I’ve slowly lost as she’s slowly gained.

Me – I’m just enjoying getting back into a bit of a daily routine and getting out the house 3 times a day. I hate sitting indoors and really missed 6 brisk 15 minute walks a day. But I guess I’ll be moaning about it again soon enough!

Fudge Cheesecake

It’s instructions rather than a recipe, because it’s just too simple!

homemade fudge cheesecake

3 slices gone before I even got to take a photo!

200g chocolate digestives
70g butter
300g soft cheese, like Philadelphia. None of the low fat rubbish, go for the fully-leaded, full fat
397g tin of condensed milk (ditto – got to be full fat or it’ll go thin and insipid)
packet of fudge chunks. Or chop up some fudge. 

Bash the chocolate biscuits in a bowl with the end of a rolling pin till they’re all crumbs. Melt the butter and stir into the biscuit crumbs. Press into the bottom of a lined 20cm cake tin. Whisk up the condensed milk and soft cheese till it’s very thick and creamy. Stir in the fudge chunks. Spoon into the cake tin. Chill for a few hours. Eat. (double cream sloshed over the top entirely mandatory optional)

Spot the Spot

Maxi and Midi Minx didn’t make it into school/nursery this week, and I was right about Maxi being ill with more than chicken pox.

I took Maxi to the GP after pre-warning the receptionist about the girls being contagious (whilst sympathetic, she was like “Well, we only have one waiting room” and seemed quite happy for the girls to go ambling in. So we did). He pronounced Maxi to have ‘a very bad chest infection’ that had settled deep in her lungs. Apparently she was very brave, as it must hurt. (It does – she’s been on constant Calprofen and Calpol for a week, now). He asked if it would be ok to treat it with antibiotics (“I’d really like to treat this with antibiotics – would that be ok?”) Dear goodness, man, get some drugs into my baby and make her well again! Now! I’m downright frightened by this wet cough that drains all the energy from her, the recurring fevers, and the speed of her breathing and heart rate. I’m *this* close to taking her to A&E to get checked over. I know she’s not ill enough to warrant that, but this level of poorly-ness is waaaaaaay beyond my short experience of parenting.

Anyway, now the local (very lovely) pharmacist is happy that we’re keeping him in business. Mini’s still spot-free, but the sound of her cough sounds ominous, so I suspect she’ll be in for some amoxicillin too, next week.

Midi’s been picking at her pox scabs, increasing the chances of her scarring, which is bringing out the sexist in me. I’m downright horrified that her beautiful, peachy, glowy, absolutely perfect skin might have pox pits in it. It really shouldn’t matter to me or anyone else. But it does. I think it’s because her skin is/was flawless. I think it’s also because deep down I do believe people react differently to a person based on their physical appearance. Damn.

Poor Midi is also having a terrible time with chicken pox scabs, well, sores really, on her vulva. The sound of her screaming in pain when she wees is heart-breaking. I wish I knew whether to leave it a day or drag her straight to the GP again. As Maxi could barely get off the sofa (I tired her out with a half-hour sit down activity) I’ve taken the option of leave-it-another-day-and-hope-for-the-best. God, I hope I’ve done the right thing!

So, what tired Maxi out? Well, all 3 kids are definitely my daughters, inheriting my downright greed. So their favourite CBeebies programme is I Can Cook. As Maxi’s barely eaten since 28th Dec (today is 6th Jan), I was determined to get some food down her little (coughed raw) throat. Cooking up delicious-smelling favourites that waft their heady, comforting aromas round the house hasn’t worked. Perhaps making it herself might? Oh yes! Ching-ching! I fed her tiny little bites on the sofa and she managed maybe 5 tablespoons of food as well as 4 big beakers of fluid all day and declared it all ‘delicious’. Hooray! I’ll add the recipe at the end in case I need to remember my cunning trick to make the kids eat again.

The cheese, however, gave her nightmares again. About 2200hrs Maxi woke her sisters up with some terrible wailing. When I went up to comfort her, she insisted that she couldn’t tell me about her nightmare because it would hurt my feelings. After a bit of persuasion, she admitted, “A horrible magician turned you into a pillow. Waaaaaa!” I tried not to giggle and failed dismally.

The Boss and I were discussing how much our eldest babies are suffering from chicken pox. A couple of years ago we’d briefly considered knowingly exposing the girls to chicken pox sufferers to get it out the way when they were young, in the hope that they would get a milder illness than if they were older when contracting it. I decided not to, because ultimately I couldn’t willingly cause my children to suffer, not matter how mildly. Well, seeing how ill they are now, at only 3 and 5, I made the right decision not to get involved in chicken pox parties. This illness just seems so… medieval in how much it’s flattened my energetic, exuberant daughters. I’m scared now about how ill my poor little one year old will be. I have my fingers crossed.
Anyway, here’s that recipe (went beautifully with home-made flaky pastry and chicken & pea pie!)

Feta Stuffed Peppers

8 mini sweet peppers
feta stuffed peppersa block of feta cheese
ground pepper
2 garlic cloves
dried herbs (Italian seasoning, oregano, whatever you have handy)

1. Divide the peppers meticulously between your minxes. Ensure they have the same number, the same colours and the same sizes. Or they’ll fight and bicker.

2. Get them to pop a pepper with their dexterous, little fingers – poke the stem down into the pepper, then shake out all the seeds and stem. Let the little blighters shake it over the floor if they like, they’re easy to sweep up. Easier than mushed up feta, anyway…

3. Chop up half a block of feta each in a bowl. Really attack it with a little knife. Add a pinch of herbs and a few grinds of pepper. Crush a little clove of garlic in, and mix, mix, mix!

4. Stuff the peppers with the cheese mix. If there’s any left, it goes really nicely in mushroom cups, too.

5. Bake at 200degC or so for about 30 mins till hot right through, the pepper-skins are slightly charred and any cheese that’s escaped is bubbly and brown.

Spotty Party

spotty party food

Are you seeing spots before your eyes...?

Today me and The Boss threw a spotty party for the minxes: spotty cup cake cases; cupcakes with white icing and either red cherry tops or pink smartie spots; cheese sandwiches cut out into spotty circles (as well as the other usual stuff: jelly, breadsticks, veg sticks, hummus, milk). The kids wore all the spotty clothes they could find. Why? Two out of 3 minxes have chicken pox…

The party was to make up for the girls missing their best friend’s birthday party today that they’ve been looking forward to for months. I realised how awful they felt when neither protested when I broke the news 2 days ago that they’d probably still be too ill to go. Still, they perked up a bit at our little party. The Boss even made up a Pass The Parcel with 10 layers of paper and their favourite party tunes on the iPod. Putting a smartie in each layer was a very cunning way of getting some calories in poorly little girls, too!

(I’ll post pics in a later revision to this post – I’m typing it on a very ancient desktop with sticky slow keys and no way to upload photos – the laptop adapter went Phhzzzzt)

I first heard from Midi that one of her nursery friends was off school in the last week before Christmas with chicken pox, but hoped it wasn’t so (she has a newborn baby brother, but hopefully the little mite will still have some immunity gained from his mummy). Anyway, when Maxi started spiking a fever and looking pale on 28th December, I assumed it was over-excitement from another birthday party she’d been to and loved. But chicken pox was in my suspicions. I had it at 15 and remember the headache I got was so excruciatingly painful that I bashed my head on a wall a few times to try to relieve the pressure pain. So, I kind of hoped it was – better to get it over with young – but still dreaded my little girls getting any illness at all.

On 29th, Maxi was white as a sheet, feverish most of the day and very, very subdued; Midi bounced off fewer walls than usual, too. I gave them a day of CBeebies (there’s only so much cake you can bake in a week!!) and checked for spots. Midi had a blister under her right armpit and Maxi had a little blister at the nape of her neck. Hmmmm…

On 30th, Maxi was still poorly and transparent-looking, but had 9 red spots. Bingo! I may not have spent 6 years studying medicine, but I sure recognised the blister spots. I made up Maxi a ‘nest’ of duvet and pillows on the sofa, constantly urged fluids on her, doped the poor child up on Calprofen, and nipped down the pharmacy for anti-histamine, calamine lotion and calamine cream. Alas they didn’t come in a paint pot with a brush – well, if all 3 are ill at the same time, we’re going to need a lot of the stuff…

Maxi’s feverish rants were quite impressive. On 31st she cuddled into my legs in bed and started accusing me of not eating enough cake. Ever since I started walking her to school I’d stopped being nice to cuddle. First my tummy, then my boobies, now my legs. In fact, my legs were hard and bony and tasted terrible. Taste?! Let me feel your forehead… Sizzle… yep, break out more Calprofen and Calpol!

chicken pox spots

Can you see the dot-to-dot picture?

On 31st Midi’s spots started popping out. By 1st, Maxi had maybe 30-40 spots total whereas poor Midi had that many around one ear alone. Mini merrily ran riot, oblivious to what lies in store for her, just gleeful that she can play with her sisters’ new toys pretty much unhindered.

I’ve not been all that concerned about Maxi’s appetite loss, other than to keep providing tempting food. So I’ve been driving The Boss mad with cooking up loads of stodge: macaroni cheese, sausages, steak pie with home-made rough puff pastry, strawberry milk jelly. Craving spicy curries but warming to the theme, he even tried making her baked camembert with breadsticks and broccoli (Maxi’s favourite meal at 18 months). But she’s only eaten a little cow shape of pastry, a banana, a spoonful of milk jelly and half a cupcake over the past 6 days (28th to 3rd). As she’s had around 500 pints of milk, water and apple juice (and even a wee bit of hot chocolate), I’m reasonably happy to leave her to it and not pressurise her to eat. Even though she’s nearly blue-ish white with terrible brown circles under her eyes, and has no energy to even sit up. I just get frantic when my babies don’t drink fluid, but that’s another story.

Poor Maxi has a sore chest and stomach from all the wet coughing and a thick yellow coating on her tongue – no wonder everything tastes awful to her! My gut tells me there’s something else going on, so although the NHS24 nurse said it was fine over the phone, if she’s no better tomorrow I’m bundling her down to the GP’s. I promise to phone ahead and warn them that though she’s no longer infectious (last new spots were on 2nd), her sister(s) undoubtedly are!

Midi’s appetite has been fine, but the spots are driving her bonkers. She has uncountable hundreds. The clusters round and inside her ears and her genitals hurt and itch terribly despite the Calprofen, calamine and anti-histamine. Her hair looks more like Doc Brown’s from Back to the Future than usual, because she scratches at her scalp all night.

I’ve knitted all the girls a pair of long socks each, but there’s no way I’m letting wool near all that itchy skin! It was a knitting marathon. Midi’s not impressed that I took a break from knitting her a jumper to do it. “Why you not knit my dj-schumpa??” she accuses every day. Harsh taskmaster that she is!

So, counting days on my fingers a lot like I counted them when I got pregnant with each minx: if Maxi was infectious 2 days before her spots appeared, then Mini was exposed to chicken pox on 28th at the latest. It takes 10-21 days to appear, so Mini will be infectious 2 days before her spots appear, ie from 5th till 16th Jan. Oh boy – that’s a long time to keep her away from people! I hope her spots come up pretty fast and the wee soul gets it over and done with. I hope she has the spots of Maxi and the general illness of Midi. Please God, not the other way round!

In other news, Mini cut her 11th tooth finally, yesterday: lower outer right incisor. Hooray!