September, 2017 Archive

That One Virus

by Alison Friedman in Marvelous Madelyn, The Sick

Since we are the world’s okayest parents, we took Madelyn to see “Hamilton” with a fever. It wasn’t super high. It was one of those 99ish fevers that probably meant she just overdid it at school. Or maybe the fever was the pupu platter before the main entree of an oncoming cold. At intermission, I was already thinking about my game plan for the inevitable snotty noses and complaints of plugged ears. After all, Arielle had just finished her cold (thanks, preschool!) and it was pretty much the one-month mark of school, so a cold for Madelyn was not exactly surprising.

After we got home from the Great Tow Yard Midnight Adventure of 2017, we put Madelyn to bed and hoped for the best. You see, we had the day off from school and wanted to enjoy one last family day at Disneyland before our annual passes expire in October. We decided we’d play Disneyland by ear: if she woke up totally fine, we’d go. If she woke up kind of OK, we’d drug her and go. And if she was legit sick, we wouldn’t go.

She woke up totally fine. We went.

I brought the Advil and Tylenol with me just in case that random fever turned into anything else. And twice, we literally bumped into my friend, who’s a nurse and the wife of one of our pediatricians, so really, the healthy vibes were on our side. The Disney day would be perfect.

And it almost was except for those times that Madelyn spiked another random fever. That’s when I patted myself on the back for being at Disneyland and administering Advil. Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too? Once she had the fever reducer and pain reliever in her system, within 20 minutes she was back to her ol’ self.

Arielle might have been judging me for choosing to bring her sick sister to Disneyland. But I didn’t KNOW she was sick yet, AR. I. ELLE. OKAAAAY???

By the end of the day, though, she was a disaster. At first I assumed it was due to exhaustion from the late night at “Hamilton” only 24 hours before, but as time went on, it was clear she was achey and had chills. She was miserable as we were leaving Disneyland, and I’ve never wished so badly for a cold to just start already!

Friday morning, it was very clear that she would have to miss school and that fever persisted. She turned her nose up to juice and popsicles and applesauce, and she just wanted to sleep. She had no energy whatsoever, and began to look as sick as she felt. Her eyes became puffy and by Friday night, I was icing her eyelids to bring down the swelling, but they didn’t budge. I knew we’d be making a visit to the pediatrician on Saturday morning. Because these things always happen over a weekend. Of course.

She woke me during the night with complaints of aches and chills again. It seemed like the meds would work great until they didn’t. Spoiler alert: this pattern continued for six nights and counting. And still, no signs of a cold.

We shuffled ourselves into the doctor’s office on Saturday morning and we ruled out some things that had popped up in my rabbit hole of Google searches. Of course her eyes were not as puffy, so we looked like morons, but isn’t that how it always works? It was not even a full three days of a fever, so we agreed that a virus needs a bit more time to do its thing. He even ordered a strep test, but that came back negative. I was hoping it was positive so we’d have an obvious plan of action, but we decided together that if by Monday, she still had a fever, we would come back for some blood work.

Well, you know where this is going.

Monday, I called her out of school again to give her another day to rest and just in case her temperature spiked. Sure enough, by mid-day, she was back up into the 100s, so we enjoyed an end of day visit with another one of the awesome docs in the group. The doctor agreed that a cold would’ve been obvious by now; her ears looked clear; and five days of fever was a little on the long side for flu. Since she agreed with our equally wonderful Saturday doc, she was about to apologize to me for the drama of inevitable lab work she was going to order if the last straw idea turned out to be negative.

After a tiny finger prick, a little rectangle that looked like an at-home pregnancy test from the dollar store was used to read a drop of Madelyn’s blood. The doctor said that it takes about ten minutes to get a read, so we should just wait a bit in the room and then we’d have an answer. However, before that little test was even walked out the door, the tester started to show two positive lines, but not for a pregnancy… for mono!

I was shocked. When both doctors first mentioned the long shot of mono, but kind of dismissed it, I also didn’t consider it to be a possibility since Madelyn hasn’t been getting friendly at fraternity parties.

That I know of.

You know, she may have mono, but she could still be a hair model.

So here’s what we know: mono symptoms can last around ten days in kids, which typically just include fever/aches/chills and perhaps some swelling, which explains Madelyn’s eyes. Thankfully, there’s no major swelling in her lymph nodes or abdomen, which is good news for her liver and spleen. Apparently, mono is a lot easier to power through as a kid. I asked about the contagious factor because Madelyn also lives with a very cuddly little sister, and the doctor surprised me and said, “Even better! The sooner they get it over with, the easier it will be.” But also, it’s not super likely that Arielle will get it, and mono is transferred via saliva.

So how did Madelyn get mono? We’ll never know. Stuff like that drives me crazy. I would pay so much money to find out the exact moment and specific saliva molecule that infected my daughter, but science isn’t that good. I did learn that incubation is four to seven weeks, which means it all went down sometime in July or August, and we’re just only seeing symptoms now. The only thing to do is keep her comfortable which includes fluids and fever reducers. She’s also taking over Bryan’s iPad, watching TV shows and taking photos.

Animal face filters: the ultimate cure for the mono blues.

Her favorite new thing to do, though, is sending me texts. While we are in the same house. This is what happens when they learn to read and write; they can then communicate like adults. It’s maddening. She also became demanding when, due to user error, the apps or Netflix would poop out.

Here are a few examples of texts along with my most inner thoughts to her messages. This is a great reminder to never give her a bell to ring from bed.

She’s cleared to be out in the world: school, extra-curriculars, meals. She just hasn’t left the house much mostly because she has no energy. I’m hoping that after missing six days of school and resting at home, she’s almost at the end of this. My heart can’t take it anymore. And there’s also not enough coffee in the world to get me through the day since the nightly wake-up calls — literally — are so difficult and sad and exhausting. It’s like having a newborn again, and there’s a reason why we stopped after two: I’m a wimpy mama!

I will say, though, that other than mono lasting so damn long, it’s not as difficult or as annoying as taking care of a child with a cold or any other upper respiratory tract infection. At least there’s no snot or plugged ears or constant coughing all day without much relief. When she spikes a fever, it’s upsetting and dramatic, but it’s also very temporary. But it’s not, well, messy, per se. So, silver lining?

Madelyn will take all the healing vibes she can get as we get her through this totally random bout of mono. We can’t wait until she can come back to school and return to dance as soon as she feels up to it. And when she’s in college and her friends are down with a case of this virus, she’ll know just how to take care of them: with patience, binge watching television, and a lot of humor.

In the Room Where It Happens with Madelyn

by Alison Friedman in Marvelous Madelyn

It didn’t take long after “Hamilton” hit the stage at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York that both Madelyn and I were hooked on the music. She was about 4 years old when she caught the bug and seeing her little tushie bop up and down to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s rhythmic story telling of our founding fathers was pretty much the cutest thing ever. I never expected her to understand the show at a young age, but she once asked about certain characters or plot points and songs, and she organically discovered this chapter in our nation’s history that was filled with more juiciness than a telenovela. Little by little, she began to comprehend this period in time (“You mean, Hamilton and Burr are older than my GRANDparents?!”) and found interest in the roots of our country.

When we visited Washington, D.C. in April, I’m pretty sure she’s the only kid whose eyes lit up over the sight of The Treasury Building because we told her that that site was all due to A. Ham. Most kids get pumped about space shuttles in museums or seeing where the POTUS lives. Nope. Madelyn likes the building that employed our country’s first Secretary of the Treasury.

Feeling the ten dolla founding fatha vibe in America’s capital.

So when we had the opportunity to buy tickets for the “Hamilton” tour in Los Angeles, it was a no brainer that we would spend 20 Hamiltons on a ticket so she could go.

Our countdown was long and tantalizing. We prepared by brushing up on lyrics and going over plot points. We watched the PBS documentary that I recommend everyone watch, whether you’re seeing “Hamilton” or not, but especially if you’re seeing “Hamilton.” The cramming sessions for “Hamilton” were not dissimilar from what I imagine the training to be that athletes go through before traveling to the Olympics. Instead of Beijing, all we had to brave was the 101 freeway and then the magical night would be upon us.

Madelyn studies up with her fellow Hamilfans. I’ve often found her reading the book and memorizing names of actors and song titles.

But, here’s where I have to rewind. Our pre-“Hamilton” one-week countdown game was strong. Every morning, Madelyn would announce how many sleeps were left until September 20th. When she finally woke up on “Hamilton” Day, we celebrated that we were mere hours away from a life changing theater experience. Bryan and I had already entered the realm of Life After “Hamilton” since we had seen it together a few weeks before, and even though I knew what was to come, I was so excited all over again because it meant watching Madelyn watch “Hamilton.” I took her to school and kissed her goodbye and told her that at pickup, we’d jet home and get ready to go to the show with Bryan and my mom.

At 2:35, I awaited Madelyn at her classroom door and expected her to burst out of the room like the Act II hurricane that Alexander sings about. Instead, she dragged her feet and had her head down and she looked sad. At first I assumed she had a bad day and I was ready to go all Aaron Burr and challenge any kid who bothered her to a duel. But the teacher guided her out toward me and mentioned she was not as vivacious in class as she normally is and to check her out when we got home. I did the tried and true, highly advanced and clinical lips-to-keppie temp test, and I felt like I was going to throw up.

Madelyn had a fever.

My brain went through a hamster wheel of “what comes next?” and the only solution that didn’t end up in heartbreak was to drug her up and take her to “Hamilton” anyway. And that’s exactly what we did. At home, she took a shot of Advil, got cleaned up, and I reminded her of other times that people she knows had to man up and work through sickness: My dad was hospitalized for pneumonia days before his wedding day; Bryan went to a Dodgers game as a kid with the flu and faked being healthy so he wouldn’t have to miss it; My dad drove me to Santa Monica for a job interview after I graduated college because I had mono and couldn’t miss it, so I popped an Advil in the car and an hour later, there I was dripping in sweat with my makeup running down my face and my hair frizzing as my fever broke while telling the SVP of Marketing for Nickelodeon why she should hire me (I didn’t get the job). These stories only made Madelyn cry. But I told her all she had to do was sit in her seat and soak up the brilliance of “Hamilton” and she’d be in bed before 11:30.

Thankfully, just like it did for me on the way to Santa Monica, Madelyn’s fever broke and she was mostly fine as we got to the theatre. Since my mom was with us, she suggested we use her handicap parking plaque so that we could get super easy street parking that would let us get in and out of the area quickly after the show and, bonus!, we wouldn’t have to pay for parking at the meter. And since we got to Hollywood pretty early, we had no problem finding a spot, pulled up to the curb, and strolled over to dinner with time to spare before the show.

Ninety minutes til curtain and this girl was all smiles and excitement thanks to a little Advil and adrenaline.

I was very close to stopping traffic so we could have an unobstructed photo with the theatre but then that would make me as crazy as the rest of Hollywood.

Mimi saw the original Broadway cast of Hamilton, but something tells me she was just as excited to see the tour with Madelyn in the audience with her.

We took lots of pictures and pumped ourselves up for what it would be like to finally see “Hamilton” together. I had picked out a cute dress for her to wear for the occasion, but she insisted on wearing her show shirt over her dress, and despite the fashion crime, I couldn’t tell her not to. She was so proud to be flaunting the logo shirt around the lobby and house of the Pantages. She was definitely one of the youngest audience members, if not the youngest, and she even struck up a conversation with a lady in the lobby about the show and her love for musical theatre.


Not sure what I was holding onto tighter — temporary healthy Madelyn or the golden tickets to grant us access to this musical theatre game changer.

The lobby of the Pantages never fails to amaze and awe.

Playbills in hand! We were just steps away from the room where it happens!

From the first note of the show to the last, we held hands and squeezed fingers during our favorite parts. I checked in on her face every few minutes and while she didn’t have a giant smile wiped from cheek to cheek, I noticed instead how intently she was paying attention and soaking it all in. “Hamilton” is not a show you go into blindly; there are so many words and so much story that moves along. If you zone out, you miss it. It’s not a musical for the lazy theater goer. It makes you think and it keeps you listening. I’m so glad Madelyn was on that journey and giving it her all.

The show got out late and Madelyn definitely looked tired. I’d like to think it was the tour of the Revolutionary War that tired her out, but I’m sure her little virus was keeping her down. I threw out the possibility of going to the stage door because WHEN IN ROME HOLLYWOOD, and she didn’t hate the idea. My mom and Bryan thought I was a little nuts for suggesting it, but I thought she’d really get the experience of a lifetime by meeting the actors and contributing to her overall theater geek-ness. After all, it was at the same stage door that I met Lin-Manuel Miranda after “In the Heights.” Full circle.

So we went, because we are adventurous and also enjoy self torture. We found a spot right up against the barricades and not too long after, cast members started trickling out. They were all so kind and gracious. Each one commented on how cute Madelyn was and thought it was adorable that a six-year-old was stage dooring. It made my heart burst to hear her address each actor by their name and thank them for their performance. Then she would tell them what she liked about their character in the show. She totally made up her own little formula for conversation and nailed it.

The first principal to come out was the understudy for Lafayette/Jefferson, Desmond Nunn, whose portrayal was full of all the swagger and sass!

Joshua Henry’s Aaron Burr was absolutely magical. He rocked the role flawlessly. A class act and a phenomenal actor.

Mathenee Treco portrayed Mulligan/Madison as passionate and loyal. He’s a delight on stage!

Raven Thomas, the understudy for Eliza and her stage husband, Michael Luwyoe who played Alexander Hamilton himself. Raven’s Eliza was sweet and comforting.
I liked Michael’s Ham performance better the second time around. His Act II scenes (a little heavier) were super strong! And at the stage door, both were so kind and attentive when they didn’t have to be.

…and then there’s the king himself! Rory O’Malley made my cheeks hurt from smiling so big! He’s perfect and absolutely comedy genius. This was definitely my biggest fan girl moment at the stage door, as I’ve followed his career for a long time. He’s just the best.

After about 45 minutes at the stage door, we began a 5-minute walk back to the car. We told Madelyn she could just conk out in the backseat and go right to sleep when we got home. She shuffled along as we crossed Hollywood Boulevard and walked up Vine. And we continued walking. And walking. And walking.

At one point, I said that my contacts must be fuzzy because I couldn’t see our car, which is my brand new black Honda Pilot. Then my mom pointed out that the spot we were standing in was where our car was parked. And as we looked up and down the street, we were not seeing my car. Anywhere.

My heart began to race as I realized my car had been stolen. I started thinking about all the items in my car — the strollers, the car seats, Madelyn’s ballet bag with her shoes, some of Arielle’s toys. We began to panic and I immediately felt violated. I blurted out “Oh my gosh! What do we do?! My car’s gone! Someone stole my car! Do we call 911?” and as we all tried to wrap our heads around it, Madelyn burst into tears — I literally saw the buckets of tears catapult from her eyes — and in the most devastated wail similar to “Stellllaaaaaa” from “A Streetcar Named Desire,” Madelyn said, “BUT MY BALLET BAG!” More Irma and Harvey-like tears.

And then, like a rational person, Bryan looked up at the sign. Right above our heads, and apparently, above our car that used to be there, there is a sign that says after 6:00 p.m., it’s a tow-away zone and handicap placards are not exempt. While Madelyn was still burying her head in my mom’s body over our unstolen vehicle, Bryan and I began to laugh — and then scratch our heads — and then laugh again over the fact that our car had been towed and we were standing on a deserted Hollywood street with a sick child at almost midnight.

After calling the information line to learn where my car had gone to jail, we took an Uber to the tow yard and with our tails between our legs, paid bail at 12:30 a.m., and made our way home.

Bryan pays bail for the car; Madelyn wanders around in delirium; and I take photos because I do inappropriate things during stressful times.

While it was far from being an inexpensive night (we could’ve bought another ticket and a half with the tow money), I’ve never felt richer experiencing “Hamilton” with Madelyn and going on an adventure in and out of the theatre. Plus, life lessons are much more fun to learn when you can laugh at yourself.

And what did Madelyn think of the actual show? It blew her away.