Friday, April 27, 2012

Eddie Izzard Saved Lucy's Life

Last week I Heimlich'd a diamante heart out of Lucy and she started breathing again.

I couldn't write about it for a while, because it was so shocking and surreal and such an incredibly close call. We'd just come home from work/school/preschool. The 45 minute loop from my office to their respective schools to home is hard to do at the end of a long day. I love picking them up, learning about their day, who pushed who (Lucy) and how baby zebras can tell their Moms by their stripes (Anna). It's a long drive though and it quickly devolves into hungry tired whining. And that's just from me.

As soon as we walk in the door I make them a quick snack, turn on the TV and head upstairs for 15 minutes of decompression. I've found this works wonders for my blood pressure and my parenting.

But parenting is a full time job, and last Tuesday, 10 minutes into my zen time I hear Anna screaming "Mom, Mom, Lucy's choking". I could tell by her tone of voice that something was really wrong, and by the time I'd flown down the stairs I could see that it was serious. Lucy was bright red and gagging, saliva filling her mouth, clutching at her neck. It was horrific. Anna was terrified, she shot upstairs crying "I can't see this". I started thumping Lucy on the back but it didn't seem to be doing any good. I couldn't get at the object because it was too far down her throat. She was going more of a purple colour, and was making sporadic small choking gasps, so my rational mind knew that some air was getting in, but I couldn't think of stopping what I was doing to get on the phone to call 911. I couldn't just leave her there to struggle. I had a flashback to some first aid classes I'd done in the sixth form at school, and then Eddie Izzard leapt to mind with his Heimlich maneuver. Lucy's stomach was going rigid, and it was hard to get sufficient resistance because she's only three, but eventually by holding her against my leg I could push hard enough up on her stomach to help. I'm not sure if it was the Heimlich, Lucy's own body finally kicking in a defence mechanism or what, but she finally heaved up the piece of jewelry and it went skidding across the kitchen floor.

Two minutes later, after I'd hugged and cleaned her up, she wanted to watch Yo Gabba Gabba. Anna and I were still shaking, hearts like hummingbirds, and then LK walked in and the front door took one look at us and said "what the hell just happened?"

Of course he suggested I could have picked her up by her ankles and shaken her, but it's amazing how the that kind of clarity of thinking doesn't strike you in an emergency.

This is what was actually going through my head during those nightmare three to five minutes:

  •  This cannot be happening. 
  • At what point do I call an ambulance? 
  • Her stomach is rigid, oh shit that's not good. 
  • This cannot be happening. 
  • Breathe, Lucy breathe. 
  • We have a $4,000 deductible. How much is an ambulance. 
  • Please no, please no, please no 
  • Oh God, what should I do? 
  • Think! 
  • Heimlich - it's a maneuver! 
Here's the Eddie Izzard link that shot in to my brain during those critical three minutes:

I think maybe it's time to take a first aid refresher course, because it's very clear that these things can come at you from nowhere, and there's no guarantee Eddie Izzard has covered that particularly medical emergency.

I had really thought we were past the choking stage, with a six year old and a three year old, but apparently not. The girls had been playing nicely together. Lucy was pretending to be a dog, and was feigning biting Anna's necklace. The quarter sized diamante heart attached to Anna's chain pulled off in Lucy's mouth and must have fallen straight to the back of her throat. It's that bizarre and that easy. We went from a normal evening to Lucy fighting for every breath in two minutes.

Thanks Eddie.

Monday, April 23, 2012

You Can't Get There From Here

It took six flights to get us to and from England:

Santa Barbara to Phoenix
Phoenix to Philadelphia
Philadelphia to Manchester

The first time I saw that itinerary I thought Expedia was having a laugh. Who flies to the UK via Phoenix and Philly, except people who can only fly through cities beginning with P?

To say I was dreading the flights would be a massive understatement. Last time we flew home, two years ago, we also had six flights. But then we also had an Icelandic volcano and a one year old lap child to contend with. Both equally volatile. As we finally began our descent over Ireland I remember thinking 'I don't care if we die. I'm so tired right now that at least we'd die together and this hell will be over'. Lucy had refused to sleep for the entire 24 HOURS of traveling and she wouldn't sit still for a nano-second. LK now swears he is the only man alive to have walked the length of the entire f*@king Atlantic Ocean.

Two years and two iphones later, and things were a different story. Lucy was enthusiastic and sweet on the (short) SB to Phoenix leg. She was relatively easily entertained or asleep on the (longer) Phoenix to Philly leg. By the time we were about to board our (loooong) flight from Philly to Manchester she took one look at the aeroplane gangway and said "hmmm, not so much really". In actuality she said 'I wan go hooome' and envisioning how popular we would be carrying a screaming, tantrum-throwing 3 year old on to a trans-Atlantic flight, LK and I immediately went in to Defcom Delta 'persuade this child she wants to fly mode.'

In the end Anna cracked it with 'doesn't this flight have TVs for every person'? Lucy shifted her gaze to her sister. "And don't you get to pick whatever you want to watch?" Lucy's eyes pleaded with us for agreement. When we said that yes - all international flights have headrest TVs she was racing down that gangplank like she might miss all the fun.

That was it. They watched TV, they ate, they slept. This lifestyle may be giving all American children type 2 diabetes, but it makes them AMAZING international travelers.

When we finally got off in Manchester, surrounding (no doubt relieved) passengers complimented us on our 'angelic' children. No-one was as surprised as we were.

Of course, if you yourself are finding it hard to while away the time on a long haul flight, let me suggest this from

Airplane Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style

Click on the link for more photos. Absolute bloody genius.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Climate Change

This is the weather in Santa Barbara a couple of days before we flew off to England:

As you can see in the following photo, all was not quite what it seemed. It was a freak snowfall, and only on the top of the mountains overlooking SB - and even though my girls are wearing quite a fine array of Old Navy fleece, they are in fact gloveless and completely unprepared for real snow.

Here I am herding them towards a patch of snow, iphone in hand, desperate for that 2012 Christmas photo...

Anna said "I've never seen snow in the wild before!" and Lucy looked at her reddened frosty hands and couldn't understand why it hurt so much. We don't have gloves in California.

Here are the snowmen we built.

Not everything in California is bigger.

So yes, even though it had snowed on the mountains a few days prior to our England trip, I did make a facetious comment on Facebook about the incongruity of packing for vacation and taking the sunscreen and sunglasses out of my handbag. Turns out I was very wrong on that score. A chorus of disapproving Brits gave me a virtual smackdown citing unprecedented March weather; t-shirts and temperatures higher than Mexico. Having just been on the receiving end of a big storm system that came up to California from Mexico (producing the snow), I was understandably cautious. There's California 'warm' (bikini and flip flops at work) and then North Yorkshire 'warm' (take off one layer of fleece - leave the remaining six).

In the end they were right. It was gorgeous and we were unbelievably lucky. Here are Anna and Lucy fishing in the River Wharfe in March one week after the Santa Barbara snow photos were taken:

I had to keep looking at the leafless trees to remind myself that it was indeed March and spring had not yet sprung. It felt like England was trying to woo us back. She was putting on a spectacular show; daffodils, lambs, blue skies, Cadbury's Easter eggs, pub gardens and pints. When the sun is shining, nothing can beat the beauty of North Yorkshire. (When the sun in shining.....)

I bought the girls cheap bamboo fishing nets, the kind I played with when I was their age. I thought they would have fun fruitlessly chasing minnows.

Anna caught seven trout.

OK, they were tiny, but still. The girl is a phenomenon. The first time she went fishing with her grandfather in Santa Barbara she caught (and ate) a massive Halibut. 

Five minutes after this photo was taken both girls were down to their knickers so they could wade deeper in to the river. Later that day in her journal Anna wrote 'the river was cold, or at least my toes thought so'. 

Anna declared she could "fish and fish until the day is done" she was enjoying herself so much, so of course Lucy, my little contrarian, decided fishing was for the birds and instead she wanted to cross the river and 'pet a sheep'. 

We weren't about to tell her that sheep aren't the most cheerfully petable creatures - but there was an ice-cream van parked across the way, and it had been years since I'd had a 99 (an ice-cream with a chocolate flake stuck in it), so we headed that way. Lucy took one look at her 99 and wailed "someone put a stick in mine!"

We hadn't been on holiday for two years. Not even a weekend away. I'd forgotten what a difference taking a break from things can make. We packed a lot in, but it's true, a change is as good as a rest. I feel recharged. Positive. Hopeful. Who knows, maybe I'll even write a little more frequently.

I've already booked our next holiday. I think you should too. Tell your boss I said so.