Remember when I said I wasn't going anywhere ever again? Would it kill you people to hold me to my word? Ritu goes to this same conference every year. It alternates between the east and west coasts and is generally held at a fabulous resort. When we were first married, it was our big vacation each year. We were poor and the room was paid for by his work and we could go and hopefully some nice attending physicians would buy us dinner now and then. Over time, we started taking the kids with us. The last time we went, Juliana was 11 months old and the conference was in Florida. We went from the conference to Disney World. While in Orlando, Juliana came down with rotovirus and vomited and had diarrhea until it was necessary to take her to the emergency department for IV rehydration. The Happiest Place on Earth, my ass. Not surprisingly, that trip ranks as Worst Vacation Ever. But there are lessons I should've learned from it. Lessons I seem hell bent on ignoring.
We tried to go to this conference again 2 years ago. Ritu was going to be gone nearly 10 days and we planned to fly down for a long weekend in Tucson with him. The day he left, a huge winter storm hit Portland and snowed us in for 5 days. We never made our flight and we literally didn't leave the house (except to slide down the sidewalk to a neighbor's house) from Monday after school until Friday at noon. I was so out of parenting by the end of that week that I let my kids--ages 3 1/2 and 6 1/2 at that time--watch the DVD of Lord of the Rings. (I remember some poor man brought his daughter around selling Girl Scout cookies and I blathered at him incessantly, desperate to talk to another grown up.)
Fast forward 2 years. The conference is again in Tucson and we again have our plan to spend that long weekend with Ritu. I already chronicled Juliana's well-timed stomach flu. What I didn't mention was how Sunday night, the night before Ritu left town, I started with this localized itching. It went from the right side of my nose, across my cheek andupwards over the top of my head. Bascially the entire upper right quadrant of my face and head. It lasted for days, but there was no sign of a rash or other dermatitis. Antihistamines didn't help, nor did any topical cream. By Thursday, I was ready to claw off my own skin. It was starting to burn a bit at that point. I talked to my mom and Ritu and they both suggested that perhaps I had.....wait for it.....shingles.
By Thursday night, Juliana had recovered from what seemed to have been a 24 hour stomach bug. She went to school for a special art project with the morning class and, thanks to much sacrifice on my mother's part, I was able to run to the doctor hours before our flight left. She agreed with the diagnosis, although I didn't have any blisters yet, and prescribed me an antiviral and a painkiller.
Having aborted the trip last time, I was determined to get there. I'd had 5 days of single parenting, a sick child, and now shingles. I needed some sun and some R&R. Our flight was a bit delayed, but we got to Tucson uneventfully. By the time we got to the hotel, Juliana was sobbing because she was so tired. We all went to sleep and awoke after midnight to the sound of Juliana barfing. She managed to stay asleep through that episode, but when she threw up again at 4 AM, we all were awakened. She asked me why I hadn't packed the bucket, just in case. I got smart and put the hotel ice bucket next to her, just in case.
Next day, Ritu was tied up with the conference til 3:30. Juliana wouldn't eat breakfast and was generally puny. I was starting to feel painful raised bumps on my forehead. After exploring a little, we mostly stayed in the hotel room. Ritu came to check on us at lunchtime. We were all in the bed reading or watching TV. He came back 3 1/2 hours later and we were in the exact same spots. Speaking of spots, mine were now extending down through my eyebrow to the bridge of my nose and into my hair in a line to the top of my head.
Sunday morning it was David's turn to complain of a stomach ache. Spent the morning in the hotel room again. We planned to watch the Steeler game, but the hotel satellite lost the CBS signal. Every other channel worked, but CBS. Don't even TRY to tell me God wasn't punishing me for taking this trip. Ritu was finally done with the conference and we decided to drive out to the Desert Museum. We made arrangements for his brother (bless his soul!) to text us with scoring updates. This was my first visit to Arizona and the landscape was fascinating. As I looked around Tucson, various words pushed to the forefront of my consciousness. Words like "jutting" and "nestled". Words like "windswept" and "prickly". Speaking of prickly, the shingles were really starting to hurt. My face and head felt like somebody had slapped me about 200 times in a row. The pain wasn't unbearable, but it was a constant and relentless feeling of burning and prickling with some sharp searing pains thrown in for fun. It felt just like Harry Potter's scar.
By Sunday night I'd had enough. We paid the ticket change fee and came home on Monday, a day early. Juliana dropped 4 pounds from being sick and when she got off the plane, Ritu overheard one of the stewardesses remark, "That little girl is so skinny!" Thanks, lady. We've got her in supermodel boot camp.
Coming home was the best thing we could've done. With a few days of small frequent meals, Juliana looks much better and happily went back to school yesterday. I continue to feel Lord Voldemort's anger and my shingles have turned red and look like they may become pus-filled. Now I just have to wait the 2-5 weeks for them to crust over and fall off.
Note to self: Just stay the fuck home.