This month we went down to Brussels on one of our regular visits and specifically to show off the new baby. Daniël had been a bit “off” for a few days: a little temperature off and on, grumpy, not much appetite and aches and pains. On the other hand he was still alert and eating and drinking enough, so we did not worry much and drove down all the same.
It did not start off well. Through one thing and another we started off too late and Daniël cried most of the way and would not eat or drink, so we arrived in a sorry state. We also departed (morons) without putting Matthijs on the toilet (=emergency pee stop) and resolutely drove past the most convenient petrol stations until the petrol tank was pretty much empty and therefore had to make a big detour to find petrol. All in all a pretty dreadful journey. Daniel not eating at all worried us: he is normally such a determined eater that it immediately makes think that he is really unwell if he is off his food.
My mother welcomed us with a nice hot meal and things immediately looked up, but during the meal we noticed that Daniël had a really stiff neck. Given that we already though he had a touch of ‘flu and that he had been turning away from lights and putting his head under pillows we were immediately afraid that it was meningitis. We double checked the symptoms on the web and ran a couple of tests but they were inconclusive so we sped off to the local hospital, leaving my mother and brother to cope with Matthijs and Falco.
Marjolein was a bit nonplussed at the hospital (St Luc) because it was entirely French speaking and her French is pretty rusty. Fortunately, or unfortunately, they took our concerns very seriously and immediately did a blood test, though they thought it was probably a virus and not a bacterial infection. Poor Daniël got a drip hung in his arm straight away because he had had diarrhoeea for a while and was not drinking much.
After that we had to wait an hour for the results of the blood test, which only showed that there was some kind of infection present, so they gave him a paracetemol to see if his fever would drop and his neck would loosen up. If it did, then we could take him home. Through all this Daniël was brave and (relatively) uncomplaining and eventually fell asleep on a stretcher. After an hour his temperature was still high and his neck was still stiff, so they were not able to exclude it being early symptoms of bacterial meningitis. Which meant that the poor soul had to have a spinal tap. The creepy pictures show him festooned in electrodes to monitor his vital signs during the procedure.
He was moved to another room with lots of bright lights and equipment and hooked up to a stack of monitors and given a local anesthetic. They had to muster four nurses to hold him still during the tap because he struggled fiercely, shouting “No! Stop!” despite the drugs. It is not much fun seeing people sticking needles into your child’s spine, even for the very best of reasons, and I must admit it cheered me slightly that he was sticking up for himself. Even under those strange and threatening circumstances he was angry rather than frightened and I was proud of my brave little boy.
After that it was wait, wait, wait again for the lab results to come back, and we had to keep Daniël lying down – if you stand up after a spinal tap it gives you a bad headache apparently. By then he was wide awake and interested in everything, but very thirsty. He was not allowed to drink, but fortunately a kind nurse gave him a wet cloth to suck. Daniël seems to have a feel for machinery and he applied this to the task of pulling apart the tubes and electrodes by tugging on their connectors, so we had a busy time.
About two o’ clock in the morning they were able to tell us that is was definately not bacterial meningitis. Thank goodness. It was a virus of some kind, but no kind of threat, so we could have gone home, but Daniël needed to stay in for observation, so I stayed with him and Marjolein struggled back to my mother’s house through the unfamiliar Brussels streets. There she spent some hours on night feeds and I got almost no sleep: Daniël was still trying to disconnect himself and nurses kept coming in to check on him.
The next morning we were absolutely and completely wrecked and traveled home in a daze. None of the children were any the worse for the experience and they all slept like logs (though somewhat wriggly ones as you can see), even Falco. Dear Falco chose to sleep all through the next two nights, which saved our lives.
This month Matthijs went to stay with his (Dutch) grandmother for the first time. He left on Tuesday afternoon and came back on Wednesday evening. We rather expected that he would wear her to a shred, but they both survived pretty well, though she was pretty tired at the end of it. He made her laugh because he told her that she was a very sweet grandma because she let him have sweeties very often, whearas mummy was a bit strict and always made him wait until sweetie time (about 1630). She told him that she quite understood that mummy did not want children asking for sweeties all day and asked him what he would do if he were a daddy. After some thought he declared that he would also make them wait until sweetie time because he “didn’t want whiny children”.
This month I finally took the side-wheels of Matthijs’ bicycle. He asked me to do so himself, prompted by the fact that his schoolfriend Damien no longer uses them. He got the hang of it very quickly and is now able to ride very competently..
Daniël is improving his drawing skills. He has developed a proper pen-hold (not the typical toddler fist) and spends a lot of time drawing genuinely circular and neatly closed circles (sur-kuw!) and triangles (tra-guw!). He also identified anything remotely circular or ovoid as a circle: toiler roll, spoon etc. He is also a whiz with colours and goes to the toilet all by himself semi-reliably. He has become too dignified to use the special small-bum seat on the toilet and does scary acrobatics to perch himself above the bowl. Stubborn? Well mayby a little…
Daniëls language is progressing fast, though a little unevenly: he makes 3-plus word sentences in both English and Dutch but many of his words are undiscernable. Occasionally his pronunciation if excellent, but those are the cases in which he is more parroting than sentence-building.
Both the boys are very, very nice to Falco. Matthijs is particularly charming, telling all who will listen that he has a “sweet little baby brother” and singing long elaborate lullabies along the lines of “Falco you are so sweet, the clouds think you are sweet and the trees think you are sweet…you have lovely eyes and a lovely nose and…”. It is not just for the performance and parent-influencing kicks: he does it when I am well out of sight too. He said that we must hide Falco if thieves come to steal everything and that nobody is allowed to take him away, though some people can borrow him for a bit!
The bathroom is finally pretty much ready, aside from a few little touches. In June it was still a bomb-site. We are gradually getting our house back and must now start to tidy things up a again. Hopefully we will be sorted out in time for Christmas.
We are not quite finished fixing things up though: we still need to strip the old paste-board insulation off the inside of the roof and create a new “diy-area” to replace that which gave way to the central heating.
On the 26th of October the “Butterfly Garden” playschool (sounds better in Dutch: Vlindertuin) celebrated it’s 20th anniversary with an open house with lot of things to eat and drink, a clown, a punch-and-judy and an impressively patient man from the music school who had them all boinging, thumping and jingling for all they were worth. I made the boys butterfly hats as they were supposed to look butterfly-ish. Marjolein and I both independantly and not very charitably concluded that Daniël was more of a caterpillar type, but there is a limit to what Pappa can whip up with coloured paper at the last minute. The beasts had a whale of time and eat all kinds of unhealthy things and got their faces painted: Matthijs wanted to be a tiger and Daniël was a bear.