A Boy and His Bits

I’ve been meaning to post something for a while but, well, let me put it this way. My mother came to visit and after a few days she asked, “Have you ever heard of Folie à Deux?” For those of you not versed in foreign terms for extremely rare psychiatric conditions, she was referring to a syndrome in which two normally sane individuals become psychotic when together. And she was referring to Eva and Zoe. So I’ve been busy.


I am now going to tell you a tale about Otto’s scrotum. Yes, I know that one day he will likely read this and get very angry with me. But I’ll simply explain to him that by sharing his story, he might save a testicle. Which is a worthy cause, don’t you think?

So last weekend, I opened the baby’s diaper to discover that his right scrotum was very swollen. Which was a bit of a shock, to say the least. But he didn’t seem bothered at all. No crying, no vomiting (other than the usual), nothing out of the ordinary. Except for what was inside his pants. Dr. Zibners ran through her quick list of things that make a baby’s scrotum blow up while Mommy freaked out a bit. And together we decided to practice what’s called “watchful waiting,” meaning we’d just observe over the course of the day. But by that evening it was bigger. So Dr. Zibners removed herself from the case and Mommy called our pediatrician. After talking about how well Otto was otherwise, we decided that it was most likely a fluid collection (hydrocele) and he could see the surgeons on Monday.

Except on Sunday it looked worse. And Otto started to cry.

I called the pediatrician back and within an hour I was at the hospital. 30 minutes later the pediatric surgeon was examining him. An hour after than I was holding my baby while the pediatric anesthesiologist gave him an injection to put him to sleep. And then the surgeon went on a little trip known as a “scrotal exploration.” It sounds terribly exotic, doesn’t it?

Of course, I was terrified. Worst case scenario was that I had missed a twisted testicle, called a torsion. If a testicle twists on it’s blood supply, there is a very short (6 to 8 hours) window to return the blood flow before the testicle dies and has to be removed. This can cause impressive redness and swelling but usually children are extremely uncomfortable as the condition is (usually) very painful. If I had missed that, well, I guess we’d be back to a conversation about my psychotic 4 year-olds, wouldn’t we?

Next worst? An incarcerated hernia, meaning bowel had slipped down into the scrotum and gotten stuck. If not returned to the belly, it can also lose blood flow and part of the intestine then dies and needs to be removed. Again, not good.

The only good part of this whole day was that their father was left at home with the girls. It’s good for him to see what’s that’s like sometimes, don’t you think?

About 90 minutes after I had left Otto in the operating room, I picked him back up in recovery. He was completely drunk after his Michael Jackson style nap and was a sobbing mess. But mostly fine. And the best news?

Epididymitis. An infection of the epididymis, which is a little sac connected to the testicle that helps with sperm maturation one day far, far in the future. The surgeon had cleaned out the infection and even brought me pictures she’d taken during surgery to show me how healthy the testicle was and how angry his epididymis was. (I wasn’t allowed to take them home and hang them on the fridge though. Big bummer.)

So there you go. Otto’s got a little row of stitches in his scrotum but doesn’t seem to mind very much. He’s on antibiotics for a week. And he’ll need an ultrasound of his kidneys to make sure there was no reason for the infection other than plain old bad luck.

And the lesson here? If you open your kid’s diaper and his scrotum looks really weird, call your doctor. And if your baby is screaming and you don’t know why, or your son is walking around like he’s been on a horse for 3 days and refuses to explain himself, take a look down there. Sometimes an ultrasound of the testicles is enough, sometimes the surgeon needs to take a look just to be certain. But either way, it’s his testicle, people. His testicle.


Dr. Zibners’ Thumb Sucking Cure!

Google “stop thumb sucking” and you’ll find a myriad of tips and tricks that range from sticker charts to nasty tasting nail polish. Yet I’ve always been of the opinion that nothing shy of actually cutting off a child’s thumb is guaranteed to work. If a kid wants to suck his thumb—which is developmentally appropriate in early infancy and flat out weird in adolescence—he’s going to find a way. Until now. Because I’m here to tell you that I have solved the riddle. Dr. Zibners is about to tell you the one sure way to stop your baby from sucking his thumb.

Make him fat. So fat that his arm doesn’t fully bend. So fat, he can’t actually get his thumb to his mouth. Continue reading…

Time Flies

Greetings from the depths of parenting 3 children under the age of 4! Oh wait, scratch that. As of today, I have 2 children under the age of 4. Because on this day in 2009, little Eva was born. If you’ve been around that long, you might remember this post. You might also laugh at how rudimentary my blogging skills were. Then again, you might tear up with nostalgia, reflecting on those days when I could blog weekly, sometimes even 2 or 3 times a week. Ah, the good old days.

Anyway, I’m surfacing long enough to wish my most wonderful baby a very happy 4th birthday. Eva is a joy and a delight in every way. Even when she is refusing to walk and insists on being carried. Or like this morning at breakfast when she decided to eat a bowl of Nutella with her fingers while simultaneously decorating the table with chocolate swirls. Of course, this was right after she got a pen and decorated her entire leg. I only discovered that trick after I found Zoe, who, not to be outdone, was locked in another room, drawing our entire family on her leg. Curiously, Otto is always represented by a circular blob. Which, to be fair, is pretty accurate. The kid’s so fat he can barely move. Oh, I digress.

So back to the point. And yes, I have one. They do grow up. And as with most things you learn as a parent, you and your child often have very different desires. Does she want to empty an entire tube of toothpaste into the sink or pour a container of bubbles onto the floor? Well, yes she does. And does she want to grow up? Oh most definitely. But me? No, I prefer the toothpaste in the tube and the bubbles, well, outside. And as for little Eva growing up? It’s inevitable. And in some ways it’s desired. But it’s sometimes hard to watch. Because it’s permanent. Those early years are so fleeting and all you have left is memories and (with any luck) photos to remind you of how tiny, how helpless, how perfect a baby you once had.

It’s got me so traumatized that I actually had a nervous breakdown the other night. Yes. I was on  my way to book group (not that I have time to read, but no one seems to mind) and I realized that Eva’s wubbie was missing. As in WUBBIE. The pink little blanket with a cat head that she has slept with every single night since she was old enough to have a wubbie in her crib. Every single night since she was a baby. And wubbie was no where to be found.

I literally fell apart. I started by calmly asking Eva where wubbie had gone. Then I searched all 5 floors of my house while my taxi was waiting outside. Now sweating and huffing, I resorted to screaming. And finally I turned to my babysitter and started sobbing.

“She can’t sleep without wubbie! She hasn’t gone a single night without wubbie in over 3 years! I can’t leave. I just can’t!” I cried, my whole face bright red and very hot. (I was acutely aware that I looked and sounded like an idiot.)

Fortunately, we have a babysitter who is more emotionally balanced than this old coot. She just patted me on the shoulder and said, “It’s okay. Wubbie is just as much a part of you as it is Eva. You’ve grown up with wubbie too.” And then she literally shoved me out the door and told me that Eva would be fine.

Which she was. She easily substituted another soft blankie from her baby days and went to sleep without a peep. Wubbie, naturally, resurfaced the next morning, inside a pillowcase. And as for me, once I got over the embarrassment, I had to admit that our sitter was right. In my mind, Eva going to bed without wubbie was somehow like the death of her childhood. I realize that is ridiculous. But let’s not kid ourselves that I fell apart because we couldn’t find a pink blanket at bedtime. I fell apart because my baby is growing up.

But, hey. That’s life. And what a gorgeous little girl she is growing into. Happy Birthday, Evi.

My Baby’s Brilliant Production

A few years back I realized I’d reached what was probably the pinnacle of my professional career. Yes, the day you can Google, “Poo” and “Zibners,” and get a solid hit, well, that’s the day you’ve really arrived. I’m apparently the “Go To Gal” when you’re writing an article on the color of bowel movements. Anyway, since I’m an expert and all, you might be shocked to know that we’ve got a poop color mystery going on at our house and I’m not entirely sure I know the answer. Yes. Shocking. Continue reading…

To Swaddle or Not to Swaddle…

When I was a resident, I prided myself on being able to free-style wrap the tightest swaddle you’ve ever seen that actually left most of the chest exposed so I could monitor a baby’s breathing. Once the girls were born, I was less worried about their transition from fish to mammal and more worried about my ability to sleep, so I became an expert of sorts on the various swaddle blankets available for purchase. The really good ones had some combination of Velcro and straps and kept the girls from accidentally whacking themselves in the face and waking up. It had to be snug enough not to come loose but not so snug that they couldn’t breathe. There is also a soothing element to being swaddled, which is known to help calm fussy babies. Zoe was flat out colicky and sometimes a swaddle was enough, sometimes she needed a vacuum cleaner blaring away. But Eva was just a tad “precious” and really responded to a soft, fuzzy hug. Continue reading…

How to Bribe a Child/ Gardening Tips From Dr. Zibners

When it comes to getting my girls to do what I ask, I would like to tell you that we use mutual respect, kindness and love as our primary means of interaction. Of course this would be a lie. I do respect how awesome they are at manipulating me. And they are really sweet little girls, too, playing so nicely together with Mommy’s makeup. And of course, I love the way they giggle hysterically when they think they’ve pulled one over on me. But none of that keeps our home or our lives in order, does it?

When it comes to disciplining children, it’s a no brainer that a hands-off, psychological warfare method is the preferred means of teaching our children right and wrong. And of course we do the time out thing. Not the one Supernanny taught us but a more straightforward count down followed by 3 minutes removed from the action. It works fairly well and it’s clear the girls have the concept. Eva burst into tears last week because “I told her THREE times not to do it Mommy! Make her stop!” But what about those little moments that aren’t really “naughty” so much as they are “annoying?” Or when they get older? I can’t really see forcing a teenager onto the naughty step, can you?

And this is where I steal a page from Dr. Phil. (I know, TV is amazing, isn’t it?) Years and years ago I was watching an episode where he suggested knowing your child’s “currency.” What he meant is if your kid loves his half hour on the computer every day, then that is what you threaten to take away if he doesn’t comply. After all, there’s no point in threatening to take away her math homework if she doesn’t chew with her mouth closed, is there? That’s like giving up green beans for Lent. Big whoop.

The problem is finding your child’s currency. With Zoe it’s relatively easy. The kid wants positive reinforcement, my iPad, and chocolate, not necessarily in that order. But bribing your child with sweets is not recommended by most medical professionals. And then there is a kid like Eva, who really lives on her own planet and can’t be touched by the threats of a mere mortal like her mother.

But here we are in Germany, stuck in an immigration hot mess. We’ve rented a house near a lake and it’s lovely. However, the pollen count is ridiculous. And there is a washing machine but no dryer. Seriously. Pause here for a moment to imagine me in the yard, Vaseline smeared across my nose to prevent the influx of plant life, a basket of wash on her hip, clothespins hanging from her pocket. Three small children screaming intermittently for my attention. And the local train passes 10 yards from our front door every 15 minutes.

I mean, we are in a hot mess.

I do not have a lot of patience right now. Which is why I’m delighted to report that I’ve discovered Eva’s currency! Yes, it’s true. The secret to Eva walking nicely on the sidewalk all the way to the park, finishing her lunch while sitting on her bottom, and not pulling down all the wash that her mother just hung. Are you ready? Don’t judge me. We’re practically living like Little House on the Prairie here. It’s not that much of a leap of the imagination. And it’s not like I let her do it out in public. Only in the backyard. Okay. Here we go.

“Eva! Get up and walk right now! I’m serious. No joke. Come on, run home quickly and pick out which tree you want to tinkle on. Good girl!”

So, how am I doing? Can anyone top that? The yard looks amazing, by the way.

Polio? Pneumococcus? Pretzel? Anyone?

Greetings from Bavaria! Turns out our family hit a little immigration glitch that will prevent us from bringing Otto home to London quite yet. Instead we are experiencing a series of “impromptu summer family holidays” that currently have us visiting the grandparents in Germany. The girls think it’s awesome. Their mother wants us to get out of here before they start thinking that much sausage at any given meal is a good thing. And poor Otto is just minding his own business, drinking and growing. I’m waiting every day for his first social smile. After all, he is 8 weeks old and it’s about time we got some “give” around here instead of this endless stream of “take.” So far my efforts have been fruitless, but I’m sure it’s in there. Any second now, buddy. And being 8 weeks old means he’s already had his first set of shots.  Which his Mommy forced on him before flying to Germany after a “give and take” conversation with our pediatrician in New York. Continue reading…

What Doesn’t Kill Us…

From the depths of parenting 3 children under the age of 4 comes the voice of a slightly deranged woman…

Okay, that’s kind of an exaggeration. But I have had a few moments since Otto’s arrival where I’ve thought, “Oh my. My. My. My.” Like when 4 Tic Tac boxes went flying across the room and bounced off the UV filter net that I had fortunately just stretched over Otto’s stroller. Or when Eva’s foot came daringly close to his head when her Mommy was supposed to be pay attention to her, not feeding the baby. Or when I actually forgot there was a baby and started to walk out the front door with the girls. (I did remember and anyway, there was another adult still in the apartment. Don’t look at me like that.) Suffice to say, I’m still getting my bearings as a mother of 3. Continue reading…

From the Depths of Silence…

…comes great news! I must apologize for the last several weeks of total quiet. Please don’t take it personally. It was me, not you. And hopefully you’ll forgive me when I explain where I’ve been.

It is with great joy and deep gratitude that we announce a new member of our family. Otto is Eva and Zoe’s new brother. He’s a gorgeous little boy with a big smile (okay, gas) and has both incredible aim and timing (as judged by my piles of laundry). To quote Zoe, “We are very, very lucky.” She’s been saying that lot. She’s also been making comments about teeny tiny penises, but we’ll ignore those and stick with how lucky we are. Continue reading…

Doctor Mommy Goes To School

Over here in England, children are shoveled out the door at the ripe old age of 2.5 and sent off to school. That might seem a tad young for us Americans, who are used to lolling around the house until 3 or 4, eh? But when in Rome and all that. So the girls have been in 5 day-a-week nursery since September. And they love it. They love the teachers. They love the routine. They love the class goldfish. They love the other parents coming in to read at story time. But what they don’t love, apparently, is their own mother coming to visit. My intentions were good, believe me. But by the end of it, Zoe was lying on the floor of the classroom, sobbing her eyes out. Not exactly the reaction I was hoping for, was it? Continue reading…