Poor Li’l Penny

Happy (?) Monday, folks!

The end of last week turned out to be a bit of a doozy — our precious little Penny got hit with her first bout of real sickness! Sure, she’s been congested before, been a li’l less spunky than usual, that sort of thing, but this was the real deal. We’re talking fever, chills, sweats, loss of appetite, total exhaustion… the works. It was tough for all of us — toughest for her to get through, I’m sure, but it was also admittedly hard on Sean and me to watch, witness, and only be able to do so much. ūüôĀ

It all started on Wednesday — she slept in pretty late (and, in retrospect, she had actually been sleeping a lot the day or so before as well so she was probably trying to fight something off before we noticed). But she was still her happy little self throughout most of the morning and drank like 5 ounces of milk (I normally nurse her first thing, but actually had to pump and give her a bottle that morning since she slept later than me!) so I had no reason to think anything was wrong.

 
While I worked, she spent time with our nanny and her daughter, enjoying the beautiful weather outside (and giving me serious FOMO when I was stuck inside working), but she started getting increasingly more fussy as the day went on. She’s generally a very chill, happy girl, so fussing for no reason is very out of character for her. She also didn’t seem to want to eat or drink much, and kept tugging at her ears. The ear-pulling is something that she often does when she’s tired, but combined with her lack of appetite and increasing irritability, I started to worry.

Then, around 3 PM I was coming out of a meeting when I got a text from our nanny saying that Penny felt warm, so she took her temperature and it was over 100 degrees. I called our pediatrician and described what was going on, and they asked me to come in for a last-minute appointment, so off we went!

The doctor checked her out and eliminated both the flu and an ear infection — which was good news! But on the flipside, the bad news was that she was definitely sick and there wasn’t really much he could do, either. We’d just need to “let her be sick” for a little while. Which is definitely a lot harder than it sounds when you have a sad baby who can’t communicate what’s hurting or how you can help. The doctor told us to keep an eye on her temperature, that her not wanting to eat was very normal (which of course, did not stop me from fretting about it constantly), to monitor her wet diapers (also warning us that there would probably be slightly fewer than normal), and that things might get worse before they got better, but to call back if we were concerned.

I was hoping that another night of solid rest would help her kick this thing, but alas, it seems that Wednesday afternoon really was just the beginning of her being sick.

I slept in the nursery that night so I could keep an eye on her, and her temperature actually spiked up to 102 overnight! I kept her home from daycare on Thursday and tried my best to make her feel loved, comfortable, and cared for. I gave her some Tylenol sparingly (I’m always so torn about whether doing so is good because it makes her so much more comfortable and brings her fever down, or if it inhibits her ability to fight off the illness) and we spent most of the day doing this:

 
With her also sleeping a TON (she seriously slept like 12 straight hours overnight and SIX more hours during the day!) and me trying to get her to nurse and drink milk. She pretty much refused all bottles, but did nurse for short bursts on-and-off throughout the day, so that made me feel a little better that she hopefully wasn’t getting dehydrated (and I can’t lie, I kind of loved all the snuggles… which in turn made me feel guilty for liking it since she felt so crummy, but that’s #momguilt for ya…)

Her fever finally broke Friday morning, and her mood seemed to immediately improve, although she was still feeling puny and continued being very sleepy through Saturday. I am counting my blessings that she was still sleeping so well overnight, despite being sick, since I feel like all that sleep was crucial to her recovery, and I understand that many kiddos have a hard time sleeping when they’re feeling bad. So far, Penny doesn’t seem to be one of them!

Thankfully, when she woke Sunday morning (after sleeping for a whopping THIRTEEN HOURS!!) she finally seemed like she was back to her old self: happy and hungry! Hooray!

 
So, hey, we survived our baby girl’s first bout of true illness and all came out the other side. Although, who knows, underneath all this purple hair dye I may have just sprouted a few grey hairs from the experience. And, yes, I know full-well that this absolutely will not be the last time that I have to watch my poor baby be sick, but there’s just something about that first time, y’know?

Now let’s just hope she doesn’t pass her illness right back to her dad and me (my guess is that we gave her the sickness that we got hit with a couple weeks ago ::sniff::) and that the cycle of sickness ends here. I mean, hey, a girl can dream, right?

From Harry Potter to Harry Powell

So, last I left you, I had just finished detailing my¬†massively amazing Harry Potter World vacation (with Disney and a cruise and Sean’s birthday and other stuff thrown in there, too). Of course, since it’s been a couple of weeks since returning from said vacation, there are other things to catch you up on as well!

So, let’s talk the last day of vacation and the days that came directly after, shall we? Having just finished an epic, practically tailor-made-for-Gretchen vacation, you’d think that I would be flying high on good feelings and vacation happiness for quiiiiite a long time. My internal happiness meter was damn near bursting on that last day in Florida! So what happened next?

Murphy’s Law. That’s what.

See, on our last day in sunny Orlando, as I lounged around in my new Hufflepuff robes in our hotel room, I received a text from my parents. My dog¬†Harry wasn’t¬†feeling too well, they said. Turns out that he got his little paws on¬†a cooked pork bone (cooked bones of any kind are big no-nos for your dogs, FYI, because of their compromised hardness and potential to splinter) and completely obliterated it.

Now, I’ve been a dog owner for a fairly significant portion of my life, so I’m no stranger to my dogs eating stuff they ain’t supposed to. There was Daxter’s Fizzing Whizbee betrayal of 2012 (which somewhat ironically also happened¬†right after I had returned from Harry¬†Potter World, hmmm…) and the sugar-free gum incident of 2013 (xylitol, a main ingredient in sugar-free gum, is extremely toxic to animals), not to mention all the half-eaten sandwiches and leftover chicken wings that Harry has pilfered from coffee tables in days past. You know,¬†just to name a few.

All of these previous incidents ended up having¬†relatively little impact, thankfully. We got the dogs’ stomachs pumped after the sugar-free gum thing just to be safe, but otherwise all other bad-dog situations luckily passed without incident. So when my parents explained what had happened and that he had thrown up a couple of times, I honestly didn’t think¬†too much of it… until I Facetimed with them later that morning and saw what was going on for myself.

Most vets will tell you that the #1 way to tell if something is wrong with your pet is if there are any sudden changes in personality or energy level. Harry, despite his years, is quite a spry little guy. He’s always excited to see you, he’s always a little TOO excited to see other dogs, he loves to go outside and play and snuggle and, well, you get the picture.

Happy Harry, pre-incident.

So when Harry, whom I had been separated from for a week, didn’t even seem to register the sound of my voice, I started to get¬†worried. He was thoroughly down and¬†listless, I could observe that much through the Facetime screen alone. He was completely uninterested in food and water, and he¬†didn’t even flinch when¬†my dad tempted him with the question, “Outside?” which is usually a foolproof way to trick him into coming to you getting him to move his tookus. That’s really when the panic set in.

I told my family to go ahead and take him to the vet, and they immediately went to work on the most imminent¬†issues. Namely, the fact that he was majorly¬†dehydrated from vomiting without taking in any additional water. The vet did a stomach x-ray to see the cause of the problem, and identified one large¬†piece of bone that was¬†stuck in his stomach (it actually ended up being two pieces.) If it¬†didn’t pass on its¬†own, Harry would need a procedure — either via endoscopy or surgery — to remove it. And that’s pretty much when the tears began.

Over the next several hours I would reach¬†a level of hysteria that caused me to cry¬†all the way through the movie John Wick, which Sean and I had tickets to go see before we left town. (In retrospect, John Wick is¬†a TERRIBLE MOVIE to watch while your dog is in the hospital, since the basic premise involves mobsters killing an ex-hitman’s dog at the beginning of the movie.) Now, I know that to some of you, incessant, unstoppable tears seems like a bit of an overreaction to your dog getting sick, but let’s look at the facts, shall we?

1. I am a crazy dog lady whose pups are her children. Let’s just get that out of the way.

2. At 10 1/2, Harry is no longer what I think anyone could consider a spring chicken. Plus, he was really, really sick. He was so sick that my vet couldn’t even¬†give me reassurances that he would make it at first. Worst. Feeling. Ever.

3. I was out of town, out of state, and getting a lot of my information secondhand from multiple sources. Not being able to be there in person made things 1,000x more stressful!

4. And let’s face it. Even without life-threatening illnesses, my natural¬†state at any given point in time hovers somewhere between a 6 and a 9¬†on the emotional spectrum. I just have a lot of feelings, ok?

Harry was still very dehydrated at the vet, with regular bouts of, well, let’s just say stuff was coming out both ends, and he was in a lot of pain. Since any kind of invasive procedure¬†would have been risky given his state, they wanted to wait and see if there was a chance Harry could pass the larger bone pieces out on his own. Thus, Harry definitely needed to stay overnight, and I was given the option of leaving him at my regular vet’s office or having him¬†transferred to a 24-hour emergency pet hospital.

Because my vet doesn’t have overnight staff, this was a no-brainer for me. But it also meant that¬†essentially from the time we got out of the movie until we boarded our plane, I was on my phone making arrangements¬†for Harry’s transfer, including getting all my payment information and pet insurance forms to the hospital.

Harry ended up needing to be hospitalized for four days, and during that time we did ultimately decide to move forward with the endoscopic procedure to try and remove the bone once his condition stabilized.

Thankfully, it worked! He was discharged 24 hours after the procedure was complete, and when I picked him up from the hospital I could already see a marked difference. That said, he had definitely gone through a lot, so his recovery was of the slow-and-steady sort, with lots and lots of various meds to give him. He also was still very iffy about eating and drinking, so we had some good bonding as I handfed him all of his meals.

I can officially report that he seems to be 100% back to his jolly old self, and the only real reminders of this horrible experience are his single shaved poodle leg (where the put his IV) and my credit card bill.

Speaking of which… I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again now, and I’ll keep saying it from now until eternity: If you are a pet owner, you NEED to have pet insurance. Thanks to my policy with¬†Embrace Pet Insurance, I should be getting about¬†80% back¬†of all Harry’s expenses. Without pet insurance, this “little” incident would have set me back almost $4,000. And between both of my accident- and illness-prone dogs, we’re talking tens of thousands of¬†overall savings in their lifetimes. Just think on that.

So yes, unfortunately my magical vacation¬†did have a bit of a sour note to¬†it towards the end, but the most important thing is that the Harry Powell train is back in business! Also, I¬†learned a lot about what 12-straight hours of crying does to my body, so I guess that’s good to know? I’m not really sure what’s going to happen when I have human kids one day…

Whirlwind Week

Oh what a week, what a week, what a mighty fine week!

When I last left you, I was on my way to not-quite-sunny-but-wonderfully-temperate San Francisco for a week of Yelptastic shenanigans with the other 150+ Community Managers from ’round the globe. We called it #CMWeek14 and, as you can imagine, it was just as awesome as you’d think.

 

1. Goodies from the hotel welcome bag; 2. Beer + dark chocolate sea salt popsicle at the welcome party

There was a lot of learning, waaaaayyyy too much eating, a decent amount of me trying not to be the awkward “new kid” in front of so many seasoned Yelp vets (obviously I failed at that one, ahaha), and just generally a whole lot of good times.

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1. Sushiritto: IT EXISTS; 2. Personalized latte from the Yelp barista

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I am extremely blessed to have this job. I mean, to not only be able to do things that I love everyday, but to work with such amazing, talented, creative, and awe-inspiring individuals to boot? Those of you who are Yelp Elite Squad members in other states (maybe even countries?) know exactly what I’m talking about.


My Regional Team: NC, DC, MD, PA, and VA in the hooooouse!

Our days pretty much consisted of nonstop sessions, group lunches and dinners, and then me being dragged into the party hardy fray after all of that. Don’t get me wrong, it was a BLAST, but I rarely go that hard on my own turf, let alone with a wonky time difference thrown into the mix. The night we took over a karaoke bar was 100% worth it alone, but believe you me, I suffered afterwards.

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In fact, it seems like the second I set foot back on northern Virginia soil, my body was like, “BWAHAHAHA. AND NOW I SHALL HAVE MY REVENGE.” I got sick, and I got sick harrrrrd. Maybe it’s just the symptoms of CM week withdrawal, but it feels more like bubonic plague.

Of course, the train never stops rolling these days, so I didn’t let a little thing like being on my deathbed stop me from pulling off another swell Yelp Elite Event! On Sunday, just two days after I got back from SF, was Yelp’s Social Petworking!



Since having Daxter at an event has pretty much been my goal from the very beginning, it wasn’t too hard for me to rally for this one. That said, I’ve pretty much spent every other moment — both waking and sleeping — in bed, trying to shake this dang plague.

And why is it so important that I will myself back to health? Because tomorrow I’m off AGAIN! This time, it’s back to Macon, GA for my niece Mia’s FIRST BIRTHDAY! (Do you guys remember when SHE WAS BORN?! Yeah, an entire YEAR HAS PASSED SINCE THEN. Crazy.)

Life, man! It’s happening! Oy!

Anyway, that brings you all back up to speed, and with this next trip being hopefully a little less pedal-to-the-medal (I can’t imagine Mia wanting to go balls to the wall on her first birthday, but you never know…) I’ll be able to get back into the groove with blogging, eating, weight loss, and all that good stuff.

On a related note, I gave up potatoes for Lent this year, so let’s see how that goes, shall we?

F U (with an L in the middle)

For those of you who are longtime readers, it comes as no surprise to know that I have a pretty crap immune system. Yes, my ONE flaw in what is an otherwise PERFECT physical specimen (lololololol) is that I get sick. A lot. Lots of 24-hour bugs, stomach viruses, general ickiness… you know the drill. And for the most part, I’ve learned to cope with the fact that 90% of my PTO hours are going to end up being spent as sick leave and it’s nothing that a lot of sleep, some green tea, and a USDA-certified crapload of drugs won’t fix. That said, I still tend to complain a lot when I’m sick because, well, being sick sucks!

However.

I can now tell you this much: after what I have been experiencing over the past 4 days, I really have no license to complain ever again. (That’s not to say that I won’t, just that I really shouldn’t, haha.) I cannot even remember the last time I was this sick for this long. It brings the whole concept of “being sick sucks) to a whole new level. This is misery at it’s finest.

Yep, I’m like 99.8% sure I have the flu. For the first time since I was probably in high school, maybe even before that. And you can blame it on me not getting the flu shot (I never do), or pushing the elevator buttons with my fingers instead of my elbows, or not using enough Purell, or maybe using too much Purell, but the bottom line remains the same: the flu is an a-hole.

Day 1 started out with a sore throat and a dry cough, both of which were uncomfortable but didn’t really seem to be too much a cause for alarm. I had a really hard time getting to sleep that night, so I figured it was a symptom of that. However, quickly upon returning home from work, things took a rapid turn for the worst. Suddenly, I had a headache, my throat was just getting worse and worse, and I felt exhausted and generally awful. And it just kept going downhill from there.

We’ll fast-forward through the weekend, which is pretty boring to talk about anyway since I spent roughly 20 out of 24 hours each day in bed. Some of the super exciting things that happened included the time(s) I started bawling because it hurt so badly each time I coughed, and also when I walked down to the basement then back up to my room and nothing–NOTHING, not my first 5K, my 15K, or my relay race across Eastern Massachussetts–has ever been so exhausting as climbing that last flight of stairs. I had to sit down before I could even reach my bed, just to catch my breath. AWFUL.

Anyway, that brings us to today. And thankfully my throat feels marginally better, though whenever I open my mouth I still sound like a 100-year-old smoker who is also a frog. I’m still exhausted (getting my own cereal from the kitchen felt like completing a half-marathon) and generally feeling poopy, but hopefully things have taken a turn upwards again. And since I’m now realizing that this entire post has essentially just turned into one whinefest and nobody likes to read that, I offer my apologies. Nobody really enjoys attending pity-parties so I’ll cut myself off for now. Thanks for letting me vent. ūüôā

Ending on a positive note, the giveaway for one of FIVE signed copies of my book, Terra, is still going strong, so head on over and get your entries in now! Winners will be drawn randomly on Wednesday!

Pesto Presto

No, my friends. Today’s Friday does not include anything of the fashion persuasion. Though I know how much you were looking forward to me regaling you with my take on sick fashion (which primarily consists of rants against why having to wear a bra sucks so much), I wore pretty much nothing but popsicle-themed PJ-shorts and Hello Kitty t-shirts for the past 3 days. So you’re outta luck.

Instead, I bring you more food! Funny how when I’m stuck at home with nothing to do but whine and sneeze, suddenly all my posts are about cooking again, eh? On today’s menu… pesto!

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I mentioned on Wednesday that I had picked up a GINORMOUS bunch of basil at the Farmer’s Market over the weekend, and unfortunately it was started to turn pretty quickly (as fresh herbs tend to do). Having already exhausted my creativity in the form of caprese salad and tomato basil soup, there was really only one other way I could think of to use up the rest of the basil before it went totally south: the magic that is pesto!

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I’ve made pesto maybe twice before in my life, so I am definitely no pro. I am a true aficionado, however, of EATING the stuff. I loooooove pesto. It’s so, so, so delicious. And for perhaps the first time ever, I just happened to have all the necessary ingredients at home. So there wasn’t even any need for me to go out and infect any of the poor checkout clerks at Giant. Not to mention, my sister also happened to send me a recipe for pesto salmon earlier that very day. Fate, I tell you! Fate!

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For those of you who have never made pesto before, it’s really quite simple. It’s typically made with pine nuts, but raw walnuts or pecans can be used as a substitute. I had the latter on hand, so that’s what I went with. The other ingredients are as follows:

Fresh basil (duh)
Pecans
Garlic
Parmesan reggiano cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Lemon/lime juice
Salt & pepper

Just toss it all into a food processor (or high speed blender) and go nuts! I don’t have exact measured amounts for you, since I’m a wing-it-in-the-kitch kinda cook, but in my experience the ratio kind of goes like this:

A CRAP TON OF BASIL: smaller amounts of everything else

Hahahahahaha.

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Eventually, with a little tweaking (a little more basil here, a little more oil there, etc, etc), you end up with something that looks moderately passable:

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Then, you spoon it over whatever pesto-carrier you choose (while I would have loved to try the salmon recipe my sister sent me, I opted for the much easier whole wheat pasta option instead):

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And no, your eyes do not deceive about that side dish.

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My beloved roasted brussels sprouts are BACK IN BUSINESS! Huzzah!

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I topped it with a few pieces of leftover chicken from a couple of nights ago, and voila! Now your only job will be to fend off hungry beggars at the feast…

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Mooches.

I was noting as I was nomming gleefully on my meal that pesto pasta is MUCH more filling to me than pasta with marinara. I don’t know if I just wasn’t as hungry, but one portion of pasta (which is usually not enough for me) topped with some pesto totally did me in. I wonder if it’s because of the higher fat content of the pesto (due to the olive oil). Either way, I ended up totally satisfied AND have enough leftovers for lunch today.

On the sickness front: I am back at work today but still relatively miserable. I sneezed approximately 7,000 times on my drive in this AM. Luckily, it’s Friday and it’s DC so there’s basically nobody here today to see my watery-eyed, sniffling, sad-looking self. Here’s hoping that this weekend will finally drive me back over the edge into full health mode!