Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts

Thursday, November 19, 2020

The family's first COVID test

 Zoltan complained about his throat feeling weird on Sunday. On Monday morning he had a bit of a fever, lots of sneezing, and congestion. Absolutely positive it was a cold, I checked the Alberta health care system's advice and discovered the fever puts him in the category of a core COVID symptom. He could quarantine for 10 days + feeling better, or have a COVID test + feeling better, before being allowed to return to school. We chose the test.

The system found a testing location relatively close by (in an old Greyhound bus terminal!) and there were plenty of open slots. I chose a time that had more openings, figuring fewer people would be showing up then. It was a very orderly process. When we walked in, we sanitized, were given disposable masks to put on, then sanitized our hands again before being sent to the intake area. The lines moves quickly for the number of people. At what was once a ticket counter I provided Zoltan's health info and received some paperwork, then we got into the next line. He ended up with a back-of-the-throat swab as opposed to a up-the-nose one, which probably felt better. We were advised the text informing us of his results were processed through an automated system and could some through in the middle of the night. Well warned.

Of course by the next day his temperature never rises to "fever" level and he's basically bouncing off the walls in perfect runny nose, coughing health. Waiting for the results. 

The next morning I come down to a text on my phone "URGENT from AHS." My heart was pounding as I had never even considered he'd actually have COVID but URGENT sounded, well, urgent. Nope. It was negative.

Still kept him home that day due to lots of Kleenex and coughing. More bouncing off the walls, decided keeping him home was a bad idea. Sent him to school the next day with a box of Kleenex and a bag of cough drops.

Friday, May 8, 2020


We were lucky enough to get a spot in one of the two community gardens we applied to. Then, after we got that notification Terry found a few spots in the back yard where he thought we could grow a thing or two (it is so shady back there we wrote it off at first).  On Canada's version of Craigslist - called Kijiji - there are often pallets available in peoples' yards for free. It is an entirely contactless experience, if also sometimes a disappointing experience when someone else grabbed the best wood just before you get there. Terry picked up a few and made this awesome planter, which will eventually be mounted into the fence! We're planning a row of lettuce, a row of various herbs, and a row of spinach because one of the children will actually eat spinach (as opposed to chard or kale) ... as long as we refer to it as lettuce. The sacrifices we make for our children's health.

The community garden had a socially distanced tour Saturday morning and Terry went, as this is definitely more his thing than mine and we had a hunch there would be some good tips shared and local gardening in general and the mechanics of this community garden in particular. He came home as close to elated as his stoic self ever is.

After dinner the whole family went down to be introduced to our garden bed - they are all raised beds and each is named for a flower, ours is Aster. Terry and I measured and planned and planted the few cold-weather direct-sow seeds we had - radishes, beets, snow peas, and lettuces. The kids played in the adjacent field, creating some kind of disk golf game that involved their fleeces as "home bases" and Alex's shoes as markers of where the disk last landed.

Look at Terry's super fancy "saddlebag" system for his bike!  He designed it himself, and the buckets handily hold garden tools, seeds, and as necessary - dirt.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

I thought I was a "6 months of winter" person. Turns out I'm a "5 months of winter" person

It has snowed nearly every day during the last two weeks. Without the office to go to providing an incentive to leave the house, the daily walks are getting a bit sluggish. Once I force myself outside I'm glad to have gone, but that first step is very, very hard. The super cold, brightly sunny days of deep winter are gone and in this uncertain time the color of the day, ever day, is gray.  This photo was the world outside my front door yesterday. Today there has been melt so the dominant colors are brown and gray. No worries, snow is expected this afternoon.

One day this week I did not leave the house at all and Terry only left it to go to the garage to tell Alex lunch was ready - she was practicing fencing with a duffel bag Terry stuffed and rigged up in the garage for her. Zoltan has gone out there a few times to use the bag as a punching bag.  This weekend we will probably watch some Learn to Box videos so nobody gets injured. Going to Canadian Tire to buy an actual punching bag and sets of gloves for the family seems simultaneously inappropriately frivolous, and also somewhat life-saving. No decision has yet been made, no trip to Canadian Tire yet planned.

We got the good news that we were able to score a garden plot at the local community association. So far gardening hasn't been cancelled, and it seems really clear that schedules can be developed to make sure it doesn't get too crowded that I am cautiously optimistic we'll be able to garden this summer. The earliest planting date is end of May, so we have plenty of time to plan and dream of the day we can walk without hesitation into Home Depot and get bags of fertilizer and plants to grow (not knowing if we'd get a plot, we started nothing indoors). It may be a year of lettuce and radishes otherwise!

* Note, Terry had nothing to do with this photo and probably disapproves of it.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Kids and COVID-19 new normal

The kids and I started our isolations at the same time and we're finishing our third week at home together.  We do get outside most days; during the first couple of weeks the many scavenger hunts offered online were a great way to give them something to do while outside. The first week of isolation, when all this seemed a bit of a lark and tempers were even, Zoltan even taught Alex some soccer and Alex taught Zoltan some fencing.

The kids wear street clothes about once a week. Normally they just go from pajamas to pajamas - usually daily but let's be real, sometimes it's every other day.

Last week was "disastrous spring break." Trapped in the house with working parents and no set schedule resulted in more yelling, screaming, stomping and hitting than usual. It took until the middle of this week to have our first day without fighting.  It was also Wednesday of this week when their teachers sent out the first assignments for them to do. The schools have been wonderfully reasonable - Zoltan will have about 5 hours of assigned work per week and Alex will have about 10 hours - the difference between elementary and middle school. The daily schedules we set for them when this all began, and what we're roughly keeping, include:
  • 1/2 hour daily for math - Khan Academy or whatever the teachers send home
  • 1 hour for social studies/writing - any English Language Arts schoolwork or doing the curriculum that came with their U.S. History in a Box sets, there are a lot of "read this and write a paragraph on it" type exercises
  • 1 hour daily for programming - we got them each Raspberry Pies last year and a growing stash of Python books and figured it can't hurt to let them play with coding each day
  • 15 minutes of music practice - Alex plays trumpet in the school band and Zoltan started piano lessons last fall. There is some computer program her school uses where she can play the music and it tracks whether her notes are correct and whether the timing is too fast/slow or OK. He is continuing his lessons via Skype. This is one of those "thank goodness for technology" moments.
  • Two 15-minute "chores" sessions - the kids do a large chunk of the dishes and laundry these days
  • Two "be outside" and/or "be active" sessions
  • Lunch and two snacks
  • 1 hour of "science" which has been either (1) doing some of the science kits their wonderful aunt got them for Christmas, (2) baking, or (3) watching documentaries. Nova has 47 seasons!  We started with episodes on things we knew they were doing in science class, like the outer planets for Zoltan, but now we're pretty loosey-goosey.
  • There are also blocks of time for reading, for doing "maker space" (projects, some examples have been Lego building or writing and recording poems they have been sending out to the extended family), and a daily period that will become their "catch up on whatever assigned schoolwork they didn't manage to finish during the allotted times". 
There's a lot out there on the web about letting the kids be kids and not having any schedules, routines, or expectations. We tried that during spring break. If that kind of thing works for others, awesome!  Did not work for us. Some kids need to know what to expect, what comes next, and find comfort in the stability of a schedule. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Corona in Alberta

COVID-19 has not made the same deep inroads within Alberta that it has in other places. We have been watching the rest of the world, making plans, stocking up on food and books and waiting for The News. Kids' spring break was supposed to be at the end of the week and of all the places in the world we could have planned to visit for the very first time ... Seattle. So we cancel those plans and instead think about where else in the neighborhood we want to hike. Outdoors is pretty good for social distancing and keeping sanity.

My home office in DC is down to skeleton crew and I started teleworking this week. It's a little funny because of course I telework every day, but from an office rather than my house.

The kids' school was finally cancelled Sunday afternoon, along with all other schools in Alberta, so together with my telework we need a plan to keep the kids from fighting outside the door to the study between 7:30am-4:00pm.We've put together a schedule that includes everything from Khan Academy math to practicing their instruments to doing chores, getting outside, and reading. And a documentary every day - it's TV time, so they are pretty happy about it. Day one went spectacularly well, and I was reminded of how much my children crave structure and predictability (some experts will say all children need this, some parents will argue not their kids). In any case, Alberta Board of Education is doing a rollout of how learning is going to go for the next three months that starts with high school, then middle, then elementary last. Alex got some assignments when she went to school to clean out her locker - all students has certain days and times to go, based on their last names, to avoid a crowd. We're heard essentially bupkis for Zoltan but he's still in elementary and Khan Academy has 5th grade math all ready for him.

On day 3 of learning from home, the kids baked chocolate crinkle cookies for "science".

We are so incredibly fortunate. We can telework, and if we can't we have leave, and if we run out we have savings. We are healthy and secure in our jobs. Our kids are old enough to not need our constant supervision so we can actually work while working from home. We have internet, heat, clean water - and sufficient toilet paper for about a month - and we can easily get outside even if we can't get near other people.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Third time's a charm? Three strikes you're out? Bad luck comes in threes?

In the nearly 20 years Terry and I have been together prior to Calgary I can think of five ER visits: each of Alex's broken arms, when Zoltan "broke his head wide open" (needed one stitch), when Terry rolled the tractor over his foot, and when baby Alex had a fever and I foolishly went against every instinct to just wait another day.

We arrived in late July. We had our third ER trip recently. Dayenu! (Enough!)

Trip #1: our third day at post. We had gone to Shakespeare in the Park and after the performance Zoltan fell off the stage while playing around. He refused to put any weight on his foot for 2 days, we finally decided to get that checked out.
Diagnosis: Dramatic license

Trip #2: Zoltan is sort of, a little bit, run over by a car when on his way home from piano practice. In an abundance of caution, the driver called the police and ambulance, and the paramedic (when I arrived on the scene) convinced me to let them ambulance take him to the hospital to get checked out.
Diagnosis: Overabundance of caution, but we couldn't have lived with ourselves if he had internal bleeding and we hadn't gotten it checked out.

Trip #3: Terry was cutting our new ice skate guards down to the right size and his hand slipped on the boxcutter blade. We first thought it was simply a bad cut that would need stitches then realized he couldn't move part of his finger.
Diagnosis: sliced tendon. Needed surgery and will have a splint for up to 2 months.

In hindsight, only one of those visits actually needed to happen. Feel free to ask us about how "awful" Canada's "socialized medicine" is (hint: we feel so fortunate to have gone through all this here.) 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Fig Newtons vs. Bark Thins

Bark Thins Snacking Chocolate Dark Chocolate Almond with Sea Salt 4.7 ozEspecially because of Alex's milk problems, we have all become very dedicated label readers. Usually, finding something my kids will eat that is safe for Alex is the limit of my capabilities; worrying about chemicals, sugar, and other signs of (un-)healthfulness take a back seat. (And, a lot of non-dairy foods like cheeses and yogurts that replace dairy depend on various kids of additives/chemicals).

Today when I got home from the grocery store we were looking at the labels for the Fig Newtons I'd bought and the Bark Thins we had in the house.

Can you guess which one was better?

The Bark Thins had all recognizable, easy to pronounce ingredients. Less sugar, more protein. More fat, but looking at the ingredients it must be the butter and/or the almonds, neither of which worry us especially in terms of the kids (i.e. nuts are healthy and the kids are skinny anyway).

Monday, March 21, 2016


We finally headed south as a family for the long weekend over Women's Day. Although Terry and I had both gotten to Almaty for work, nobody had gotten any leisure time there and the kids had never been.  We got to the hotel, checked in, and headed out for lunch. Zoltan pitched a fit which earned him a nap while Alex and I enjoyed the warm weather and playground only a few minutes' walk from the hotel. When she got bored I decided to check out the Ramstore (everything is better in Almaty). We soon learned one similarity between the former and current capital - some looong blocks that make destinations seem only a few minutes away on a map, but are actually a kilometer or more. We spent shockingly little time in the store, and had many rest stops on the way home. Recognizing Alex was likely exhausted from the trek, we decided to take advantage of the hotel pool - it was one of the main reasons we'd chosen the hotel. By the time we'd gotten showered and changed it was dinner time, then we were all pooped out from the early day and all the activity - even though we hadn't seen any of the sights yet.

The next morning we woke raring to go.  We walked to the cable car to Kok-Tobe. Unbeknownst to us, its repairs had only been completed the week before and it had only just re-opened. The cable car ride was a blast, as we knew it would be.  The brass Beatles statues up on the top, the majestic mountains as backdrop, and the unfortunate view of smog climbing up the mountain were all noteworthy.  We stopped for a snack, gave the kids some time on the amusement rides, and checked out the very sad small zoo (there were domesticated animals and birds who seemed to be doing just fine but a few of the traditionally wild animals really seemed to want to go home). Lunch at cafe Nedelka, which had been recommended to us, was nice although Terry kept arguing to stop at the "real American diner" next door instead - they had free coffee all day (presumably they meant refills) so it must have been legit. We then hopped a taxi to what we thought was the Mega that housed a science museum (like in St Petersburg, I assume) but it was the wrong Mega and by then we were all tired and grumpy and it was time to go back for a rest.  Dinner was at VietCafe and very tasty - definitely hit all the right spots!

When we got back to the hotel we noticed Alex was warm. I chalked it up to being run all around all day and made everyone promise to sleep as late as possible the next day.

The next morning she was clearly ill.  I was grateful that we always travel with children's Motrin (They can now manage the chewable kind! This is huge!) Zoltan was perfectly healthy though, and bouncing off the walls, so I took him to the little playground at the hotel.  Then the bigger playground he missed the first day when he was napping.  Then the hotel pool.  Lunch, a short nap in an effort to keep everyone else healthy, then it was time to head toward the airport (or so we thought).  The traffic Terry and I were used to was non-existent (it was a holiday not a work day) and there was no line anywhere at the airport. We left the hotel a solid hour, hour and a half earlier than needed. Hurrah for the tablets!

The trip home was relatively noneventful. The next day Alex and I went to the embassy doc and learned she had strep throat. That was way less fun, and meant our Women's Day was spent in the apartment reading, watching TV and playing games. Inside. Not bad, but not what we had planned.

* note: if Terry ever looks at the photos we took there he may post a few. Check back someday!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Lesser known milestones

In child raising there are the obvious milestones we celebrate as they inch closer towards independence:  when they can walk, dress themselves, use the potty themselves, strap their own seat belts, read.  Then there are the lesser-considered: when they move from bath to shower, then to shower on their own, when they can be trusted to get themselves from the bus up the driveway and into the apartment building by themselves.  We recently hit upon another one - when they can take tablet medicine rather than liquid. It had only really become relevant to us in terms of travel, but wow it has really opened things up for us! Throwing  Zantac into the bag rather than the liquid ranitidine syrup, or chewable ibuprofen rather than liquid ... it is no less of a milestone and one we greatly celebrate.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

... but there's a secondary argument

... there is such a thing as too polluted.  We have days here where the pollution may not be China-bad (although we'd never know, there's no monitors in the city) but bad enough to see and to smell and to require any time outdoors kept to the bare minimum.

Shout out to the air purifiers and the Wii.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Winter Holiday: The sick

In packing for the trip, we realized we hadn't traveled anywhere particularly challenging with the kids until now. Most of our travels had centered around western Europe - reasonable as we lived there between Malta and Russia - and even our first trips from Kazakhstan were Spain and England.  We decided to pack a slightly more detailed medicine chest for this trip "just in case."  Pedialyte now makes a powder packet that can be dissolved in any glass of clean water and this became a critical item on the third day, which began sometime after midnight to the sounds of Zoltan not quite making it out of bed before puking.

The good news was that we had planned for our third day to be a relax-at-the-pool day anyway, figuring two jam-packed temple days in the near-equatorial heat would be enough of a start to the holiday, so in a sense nothing major changed in our plans. The nausea passed through the entire family to varying degrees of severity (only the kids puked though) and was largely gone by the next morning. Conveniently, bananas, toast, and rice figured largely in the hotel's breakfast repertoire and were nibbled throughout the day, while Pedialyte was sipped.

As usual, I was least affected, so the chores of buying more water, finding the pharmacy to see about other relevant medicines, and having the pre-tour conversation with the next day's tour guide fell to me.

As travel illnesses go, this was close to the best possible situation.

Saturday, October 3, 2015


Back when Zoltan was in sadik last year, Sensei Talgat came every week to teach karate to the kids. A friend of ours also brought her son to the studio where he taught for additional lessons. Before we went home for the summer we brought Zoltan there, once for a lesson and once to test for his orange belt.

He is a completely different child on the mat. He is focused, hardworking, serious.  Today the kids went together for the first time, Alex in her white belt and with two friends who are also giving it a go; Zoltan was especially proud to be the interpreter and, as a more senior student, to help out.

The lesson is in late afternoon, so by the time they were done with the rigorous workout (I wanted to jump into class!) they were exhausted and starving. They ate dinner with practically no complaint - a rarity, especially for a new dish.  We're all loving karate!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Thank you internet

Because of the internet, and the ridiculously low (comparative) cost of nuts in central Asia, I have started making cashew milk rather than worry about shipping in enough boxes of rice milk, and expiration dates, and nobody even likes it all that much anyway.

Because of cashew nut milk becoming a regular staple, and doing some experimenting with the recipe (more sweet vs. more savory), I have come up with a version of the milk that I decided would be a good cow's milk substitute for Alex's favorite, birthday-request dinner - that she hasn't tasted in two years.

It turned out delicious.  I have a very happy little girl who will scarf this down tomorrow night while the rest of us eat enchiladas smothered in cheese.

Monday, January 5, 2015

New Year Resolutions

I don't usually do resolutions. Sometimes I plan guidelines, the last two years I have participated in the "One Little Word" phenomenon. Like the rest of the world, my good January intentions usually fall apart well before the spring thaw.

This year I am getting a little slower, creakier, and stiffer. Starting my foreign service career did not remove the mental-logistical responsibilities for my other full time job of taking care of the house and family although of course most of the physical responsibilities have fallen to others. In shorthand, my concentration and focus aren't what they were. I need to change something about my life, but something that is relatively quick to do, easy to remember, and benefits my body and mind.

Experts say we're more likely to follow through on goals we make public.  My goal for this year is to do one Sun Salutation every single day.  If I'm still doing it, I'll report back on the progress (if any) on the first of each month. I have some high hopes but for now I'm just going to keep it real.


(note, this photo is NOT ME.  But I hope to down dog like this by the end of the year)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The one where we mess up pretty big

With care and attention, Alex has been healthy and medicine-free for about six months.

And then we moved to another country.

We thought we were still being diligent. We kept her away from known dangers, and even read the labels on the chocolate bars (thank you Kazakhstan for having so much delicious non-milk chocolate!!) Without our stuff to make it, though, we had to buy our bread from the store. And this was our ruin.

We tried a few different types of loaves and found a good sandwich bread, and then we found this bread.  I have been told it is actually Uzbek or Tajik, but anyway it is in our grocery store and delicious. The week we discovered it we ate 4-5 loaves in the week.

I have had no confirmation about this but I suspect the bread is made with milk. In retrospect, the taste and consistency definitely point to milk in the recipe. I also only now remember that we had to read labels carefully in the USA because so many brands of bread had milk.

Alex has been coughing for a week, and I had a massive dairy reaction last week as well.  She's been back on medicine and the coughing doesn't seem to be quieting down as quickly as usual but Terry tells me I'm misremembering. I hate when I'm an idiot.

Disclaimer: I am also working with Alex's school to check out the lunch menu to be sure there wasn't anything verboten there, but I don't dine there and I also had a big reaction. The bread is the only thing that didn't either have a label or was clearly safe like fresh fruit. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The travails of two working parents

Yesterday I got a phone call from Zoltan's preschool. His eye was red and swollen, he might have conjunctivitis, someone needs to come get him.  I call Terry. "But I am about to go into a meeting."  "But I need to go to class, there's a zero absence policy and I test in 2 days." Long pause.

We agree that he'll go get her, but he's in Virginia and needs to get the shuttle back to DC to metro home. I go back to work (well, studying, but that's my job right now). Then it's time for class. An hour after our last conversation my phone rings. "I'm stuck in traffic on 395." @$(%@!*$)%)(*

So I got to discover how not exactly 100% attendance is required, because, obviously, there are certain exceptions. We're lucky I took the car, because it would have been a lot longer to get there otherwise.

And of course by the time I get there, the area around his eye is a tiny bit swollen but otherwise fine. Not red, not gooky. He must have gotten something in it, and after it was flushed out it took a bit of time to heal from it. But as I was there, I took him home. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

USA vs. Russia

When we were researching St Petersburg before moving to post, we read one random piece of advice to the effect that it's better to buy your laundry detergent in Russia rather than bring a favorite brand, because only Russian detergent can get rid of Russian strength dirt and grime.  This put firmly into our minds the idea of "extra strength" Russian dirt and grime, and by corollary, Russian germs.

Fast forward to now. Last month Alex has her very first ever tummy bug. This week she couldn't enjoy the two snow days with her 102 fever, headache and exhaustion. Again, very first time to be sick like this. She's 6 years old.

I say American germs win. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Gratitude #22

22. Today I am grateful for naps. I don't know how 10-20 minutes of sleep during the day can make a person feel like they got an extra 1, 2 or even 3 hours' sleep the night before - the math doesn't seem to compute properly. And yet, it works.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Gratitude #15

15. Today I am thankful for my good health. Especially in the last year, every member of my immediate family suffered or even still suffers from various mild-to-serious problems with their health. Even my blood is cleaner than it should be for my eating habits and level of activity (just had my first real "checkup" in 7 years - it always got pushed to the side while we were overseas).

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Gratitude #13

13. Today I am grateful for the glimpses I occasionally get of the good people the kids will turn out to be. Terry was sick on the couch last night. Zoltan lovingly drew two blankets over him, then brought out a magazine (Hi-5) and his (Zoltan's) second favorite lovey - the most favorite stays in bed or he'd have brought that one. Then he kissed Terry on the forehead. It made my heart grow three sizes bigger.