Love grows up

By Mir
June 11, 2009

So. Um. Yesterday was interesting.

Chickadee spent the afternoon playing at a friend’s house, and when I picked her up, the girls—who had apparently spent the afternoon hiding in Pixie’s room, giggling, as tweens are wont to do—emerged and I actually gasped.

While Chickadee has been rashy for several weeks, now, something happened yesterday. We still have no idea what. But the child who reluctantly emerged to be taken home looked as though she’d been burned over most of her body. The rash had spread to her face. Her arms were lumpy and sandpapery and bright red. There were lesions inside her ears and between her toes. And her hands were covered with tiny blisters, front and back.

I drove home as quickly as was safe and walked into the house and said to Otto, “I am about two seconds from taking this child to the Emergency Room, so either talk me off the ledge and tell me it’s not as bad as I think, or tell me it’s time to go.”

He looked at her and told me to call the doctor before I went.

The doctor directed us to an Urgent Care facility, and we looked up the location online, and programmed it into the GPS, and I drove across town only to discover that that location no longer exists. After a phone call and a reprogramming of the GPS, I headed back across town in the other direction and finally ended up in the right place.

Meanwhile, Chickadee slumped in the back seat, alternately scratching, complaining of being itchy, or generally bemoaning her uncomfortableness. Poor kid.

[Sidebar: You know those times when you fear your kid is really, badly, seriously hurt? And you’re terrified but you have to pretend it’s not so bad so that they don’t freak out? Yesterday was one of those times. I have never seen anything like it in my life. The possibilities running through my mind included all sorts of things, from meningitis to some horrifying ebola-like thing. It was BAD.]

The receptionist gave me some forms and asked me what brought us in. There was a bulb out by the desk, I think, and so it was kind of dark where we were standing. So I had Chickadee put her arm through the little window in response. “OH MY,” said the receptionist. “They’ll be right with you!”

[Note to self: If they cannot fix my child, simply carry her around for better service wherever we go!]

I filled out the forms and turned them in, and then we waited. The tiny television in the corner of the waiting room was showing Rachael Ray’s 30 Minute Meals, and she was preparing “A vegetarian feast!” This was a lucky break; Chickie likes that show, anyway, but the veggie focus piqued her interest and we sat together and watched Ray prepare a chickpea salad, a caprese salad, and a cool veggie fettucini that included “ribbons” of carrots and zucchini. Chickadee let her head rest on my shoulder and rubbed at her arms, trying not to scratch, and murmured, “That pasta looks good. I bet we could make that.” I agreed.

And then… Ray said, “I’m just going to add a little bit of chicken stock to this pot…” and suddenly my daughter was sitting up, incensed, scolding the television.

“Chicken stock? CHICKEN STOCK? What happened to VEGETARIAN FEAST, Rachael? That’s not vegetarian! I’m not coming to YOUR house for dinner, you cheating cheater!”

I tried to muffle my laughter.

“It’s NOT FUNNY, Mom. She goes on and on about this being a good meal to serve to vegetarians, and then she puts CHICKEN STOCK in there? Hey Rachael, ever heard of VEGGIE STOCK? They carry it at the store!”

Is there anything cuter than a self-righteous 11-year-old vegetarian covered in creeping crud? At that moment there sure wasn’t.

Eventually we were taken in, and GUESS WHAT! They still have no idea what it is or why. But they ruled out a couple of scary things, and then gave her the option of a shot in the butt or a week of pills (hooray for the healing power of steroids). Chickadee hates needles, and so immediately opted for the pills. But a few minutes later she said, “Wait, the shot works faster? How much faster?” And the doctor explained that the shot might start working in a few hours, and so she took a deep breath and said she wanted the shot, instead.

Even though she hates needles.

That was a pretty good indication of just how miserable she was feeling.

So she got the shot and she cried and cried, and I stroked her hair and reminded her that when you already feel crummy, anything is enough to push you over the edge into feeling worse, and the shot really wasn’t so bad, and I was so proud of her for making the grown-up choice of what was best for her health, even though she really hadn’t wanted to do it. She continued to sniffle. Until I asked to check the rash on her belly… and blew a raspberry on her belly button. Then she stopped crying and giggled—a little girl once more—and the crisis was past.

Times like this, the juxtaposition of young woman she’s becoming and little girl she still is strikes me in a way that’s almost painful. But I suspect she’s going to be just fine.

(Just don’t slip any chicken broth into her food. Seriously. She will cut you.)

Happy Love Thursday, everyone. May the ever-changing children in your life keep growing up to be folks you genuinely LIKE… but not too fast.


  1. Jen

    Ah dear. I hope you can figure out this environmental night mare soon. I’m guessing Pixie had a bunch of scented chemicals in the place?

    But you guys are an awesome family, even covered in crud…

  2. Megan

    Chickie has ALL my sympathy. Child 2 and I are violently, horribly allergic to poison oak and guess what grew in wild profusion all over the outdoors where we lived for three years? Yup. I actually lost three whole days – three days I can’t remember at all because of an itch. I hope the sacrifice was worth it and the darn steroids kick in very, very fast.

    At least fast enough to help make ribbony veggie fettuccine with proper, real, vegetarian stock.

  3. Pepper

    I hope she starts feeling better very soon, or at the very list that they figure out whats going on!
    I did the same thing when Rachel put the chicken stock in her dish, I almost went through the TV and Im not a vegetarian !

  4. paige


    We’ve only had one episode that bad with my sensitive-skinned, eczema-covered darlings and it was scary. Also frustrating since we never pinned down what caused that level of reaction.

    I hope you get some answers soon! What an awful way to spend a summer day!

  5. Aimee

    Oh, poor Chickadee! That just sucks. I so hope that the shot (brave girl!) helps and that she feels better soon.

    Rachael Ray better watch her back.

  6. Kath

    Poor Chickadee … itchy rash is the worst – I’m glad she chose the shot.
    And don’t you love on this love thursday that she was so in tune and smart that she picked up on the chicken stock???
    Happy Love Thursday, Mir!

  7. RuthWells

    No fair making me cry. My baby is about to graduate from elementary school and I’m preparing to be a bit of a mess about it.

  8. RuthWells

    And of course, hoping for a speedy recover for Chickie.

  9. Katie in MA

    Only you could turns something as icky as an emergent case of the creeping crud into something sentimental and beautiful. Your kids are so very lucky to have you as a mom – especially on days like yesterday.

    Keeping Chickie in my thoughts – hope they find an answer FAST for her!

  10. Jean

    I am so sorry for chickie…my heart is breaking for her!

  11. Leslie

    How is she doing today?

    I’d write a letter to Rachel Ray about that. I bet Chickadee could write a good letter!

  12. Denise

    How funny you should comment about children growing up to be folks you genuinely like….on any given day I was prone to tell my children (now 27 & 29) that I will always LOVE you, but I don’t particularly LIKE you right now–lol!! Fortunately, both the kiddos have grown up to be folks that I not only like and love, but people that I admire. And no matter what you wish, it does happen way too quickly! Another beautiful post–hope Chickadee feels better soon!!

  13. Debbi

    Hugs to both you and Chickadee. I really hope she is feeling better and that you start to get some answers.

  14. Kelly

    Hugs to you both.

    Maybe it’ll make her feel better to write hate mail to Rachel Ray. :)

  15. StephLove

    Poor Chickadee! How is she now?

    I agree R.R. was a cheating cheater, at least in this instance.

  16. Ann from Minnesota

    I hope your next update tells us that Chickadee is clearing up fast! We are semi-fans of Rachael Ray, but yeah – what is up with the chicken stock? She should know better! Also – she keeps talking about her “healthful” meals, yet keeps making half pound burgers as big as her head and loading everything in cheese. Hope the EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) is working overtime keeping her arteries from clogging up!

  17. KSM

    I’m sure that the 85,000 doctors have thought of this, but my mom and I both break out into a rash when we are in the sun for too long. My mom is more sensitive than I am – I have to be in hardcore sun for a long period of time, at the beach, and she can get it more easily – but it sounds very similar to what Chickie has if I get it really bad. Just a thought!

  18. Scottsdale Girl

    Lord I am glad my phobia is in regards to LEECHES. Not much chance of having to “face my fear” here in the Sonoran Desert.

    Brave Chickie. :)

  19. Tammy

    Oh no! I can’t even imagine having to embark on the road to finding out what she is allergic to. Good luck!

  20. liz

    Seems to me Chickie has a future as a cook show hostess for hypoallergenic, vegetarian cuisine.

  21. exile on mom street

    Oh, poor Chickie! And poor Chickie’s Mama!

    She got a steroid shot and you got an IV of pomegranate martinis, right?!? If not you totally should have.

  22. Nelson's Mama

    Megan brought up what I started to comment on after your recent camping trip.

    As a child I was allergic to poison oak and poison ivy – I didn’t have to touch it or even have to be that close to it to break out in horrid welts all over my body.

    But the worst times would be if I was around a fireplace or campfire where wood, that had previously had poison oak on it was burned. Also, if someone cleared or mowed areas of poison oak, even several houses away, I would get a terrible breakout. I was a regular at the doctor’s office – even in the winter.

    I eventually outgrew my sensitivity to poison oak/ivy…now I’m like most everyone else. If I touch it, or walk through it accidently, I’ll wind up with a mild case, but not the between the fingers/toes, weepy, oozy, drive you insane, all-over-the-body stuff of my childhood.

  23. el-e-e

    Man. Every TIME you bring the tears! (Well done!) The raspberry moment was just gorgeous and bittersweet. Love to you! Hope it all gets solved SOON, brave little Chickie.

  24. Mandee

    Poor thing. I started breaking out in hives my second year of law school and they would not go away for love or money. Not nearly as bad as poor Chickie’s creeping crud, but I was pretty miserable. Especially when the magic cocktail to give me itch relief was a double dose of daily antihistamine and 30 mgs of prednisone. When I wasn’t asleep, I was a really hungry, mean person. They never did determine the cause (other than a weakened autoimmune system), but things let up after a six month course of the angry-sleepy drugs. Here’s hoping she gets some relief very soon.

  25. Rebecca

    I can’t tell you how much I want you guys to solve this mystery. For you and Chickadee, but also because I’m going through something very similar with my two year old. And the doctors are all kind of like “eh, it’s eczema” but none of the treatments work and we can’t find out the cause. All that to say I know how gut wrenching this is and hope it clears up for our kids SOON!

  26. Jen

    I have those same conversations with Rachel Ray and other Food Network people. How hard is it to understand that chicken broth is not a vegetarian item?! I normally turn the channel when I see those “vegetarian” shows, it irritates me so much that they usually screw it up. (I can always go look up the recipes online later!)

    I made the choice to go vegetarian when I was 14, and have been one for 17 years now. A lot of people still treat it like its a phase I’ll grow out of. I applaud how supportive you’ve been of your Chickadee in this decision she’s made – my parents were not at all supportive when I made the choice. Amusingly enough, 17 years later, both of them are now vegetarian, and my mom is vegan!

    I hope they can figure out what is making your little Chickadee (ok, not so little. My son is the same age, and I am trying to make myself believe that he is not growing up as fast as he is)feel so terrible, and get her better soon.

  27. Suzy

    What a brave girl! And so awesome for going veggie. I love that!

    I had a recent experience with my 6-year-old son, sudden hives all over his body for no apparent reason. His face swelled up like he’d been beaten. Immediate trip to the ER, lots of steroids, and in a day it was completely gone. Wish I knew what caused the allegeric reaction!

    I hope they figure out what’s wrong soon!

  28. Heather

    I love her reaction to Rachel Ray…and I hope she feels better soon!!

  29. Nana

    Didn’t she recently get her ears pierced. This happened to my sister years ago after she had her ears pierced. They say hers is a nickel allergy but she can’t wear any type of metal now. She has the red, itchy, scaliness mostly on her mostly now – sometimes worse than others but has a special medicine that the pharmacist makes up to put on them and that helps. Sometimes they crack and bleed and it’s very painful at those times. She can’t wear any jewelry now and, if by chance she wears earrings (clip-ons now) or a necklace for a short time for a fancy event, she always breaks out on her neck, earrings, wherever the metal has touched. Just saying, this could be related to the ear piercing.

  30. Gaylin

    Organic apple cider vinegar in a warm bath, soak for a good 20 mins and shower off. I get monster hives myself and as home cures go this one is huge relief.

    My heart goes out to Chickadee, glad she has good parents who take care of things right away. Hope you figure out what the allergy is.

  31. erin

    Didn’t she just start some new meds prescribed by the dermatologist? Maybe she’s allergic to the meds and they made the rash situation worse? Or maybe not. I’m no doctor, so I should probably keep my $.02 to myself. :)

    I hope she’s feeling better soon!

  32. pharmgirl

    Soooo…what does her friend have lots of that you have a little of?

    It sounds like her immune system just blasted off

    bless her little heart, I hope those steroids kick in STAT!

  33. Crisanne

    Prayers for difinitive answers for Chickadee…a curious case indeed! Once again, I wish my husband was a dermatologist instead of an anesthesiologist…

  34. PandaWriter

    Since when girls girls get together to giggle, they tend to sprawl on beds or carpets, there’s a chance that her friend’s bedspread could have detergent and fabric softener residue on it. Or any carpet cleaner/deodorizer residue that might have been used on the carpet. If Chickadee is super sensitive to that stuff, and was wearing short sleeves and shorts it could have been enough to set off the welts.

    Sounds so uncomfortable! Hope she feels better soon.

  35. Kimmers

    My skin freaks out at the slightest provocation too, and the last time I tried to get allergy testing done the doctor said he “wouldn’t bother” because he had “no idea what to test for”. Ummmm. So the solution is to be hivey every other day??? Just PICK A FEW ITEMS and TEST FOR THEM. Lather, rinse repeat! Sigh. Someday I will have this out, probably with a new doctor… in the meantime, big hugs to poor Chickadee!

  36. stacey

    Poor girl. When I was 8 or 9 I started having rashes like that. It looked a lot like poison ivy, all oozy and blistery. I found out I was allergic to vinegar. I couldn’t have mayo, mustard, pickles, ketchup. In addition to the vinegar I was allergic to cheese, mold, mildew, trees, and grass. I was also allergic to detergents. She has to have an allergy of some kind. I hope you find out soon.

  37. Alison

    Oh no–that sounds miserable. I hope the steroids work quickly and the doctors can figure out what she’s allergic to.

  38. Karen

    Wow, I’m sorry you had one of those so scared for you child kind of nights. Ugh, those are the worst. Sounds like you held it together really well for her, and yay for Rachel Ray for distracting her, and rising her ire with the chicken stock. At least it got her thinking about other things!

  39. Mamacita

    Ah, Mir, your little girl is growing up, and she’s doing a lovely job of it, too.

  40. alice

    Many good, non-itchy thoughts to Chickie. Hopefully steroids, Benadryl (or whatever else is currently prescribed) and time will help her feel less crappy.

    Finally, as one vegetarian to another, I am WITH her on the chicken broth thing. WTF?

  41. JennSpastic

    This made me all warm and fuzzy inside. My baby is almost 5 months old and getting bigger every day. Part of me is excited for the walking and talking. But then, after the walking and talking is the walking out and talking back- or so I hear. Perhaps I won’t turn my boy into a crazy person and he can learn to make good choices like your girl?

  42. SD's Husband

    YOU have a good home and this is a prime example. All the reasons to be thankful for.

    Hopefully, though, this won’t leak to the press. If she starts kicking ass in gym class next fall, she’s going to need a good agent and a trusted lawyer.

  43. stephani

    Hi Mir, long time reader, first time commenting: She was actually really justified in crying more after the shot. I know from experience that Steroid shots sting and burn like the devil, and my dermatologist warned me that sometimes people pass out or throw up after the shots. They do work the best for getting rid of the scaly itchy nasties though! Love your writing, and hope the meds work and she feels better soon.

  44. Burgh Baby

    I have a tendency to want to cut people who put chicken stock in my food, too. Tell Chickie I’ll be more than happy to help, and hopefully she feels better soon.

  45. Nancy R

    If she wasn’t making independent decisions about her eating I’d say she needs lima beans like Camilla Cream in A Bad Case of Stripes.

    I hope the shot works so she can appreciate her choice!

  46. Amelia

    my daughter’s eczema flares up immediately if she comes in contact with anything acrylic — rugs, clothing, bedding. either they didn’t test for that allergy or she didn’t respond, but she is definitely allergic. i’m sure you’ve already wracked your brain (and, i hope, come up with some answers), but i thought i’d mention it in case.

    (and also? my child is still a toddler, and my exhusband refuses to believe me when i tell him she reacts to certain foods/items. so if it didn’t show up in her allergy test? he exposes her to it. so she comes back from every visitation all itchy and red. i’m telling you this because i know that it IS terribly frustrating not to have answers, and you are not alone out there. that’s why we’re all offering suggestions…we want to help. i hope it reconciles quickly.)

  47. elizabeth

    love and prayers.

  48. Mom2trplts

    Your sidebar about fears was so true. In the car after my son had put his arm through a window I saw all the blood and worried so much about the scarring: on the way to the ER with my daughter complaining of neck pain with a 105 degree fever, I’m resolved to a diagnosis of meningitis. So I’m making some jokes about stories or situations they can smile about while inside I’m dying of fear. Where’s the Oscar for Best Mom Under Pressure?

  49. mom, again

    oh, I had something similiar at about that age. like Chickie, they didn’t know what caused it. But, while at the doc, they realized the cold air conditioned air was helping it. So, since my school was air conditioned and I wasn’t contagious, I could go to school! It was humiliating. So much so, I was sure the beginning of your story was going to be about the other girls giggling and pointing AT HER in her rashy, itchy misery. I’m glad she got the shot. I had benedryl lotion, all that pinkness on top of the rash!

    1974 feels like yesterday.

  50. Amy-Go

    This is what happens every time Sammy eats a nut. Or goes near a dog. he calls it “the itchy bumps.” Benadryl helps…but doesn’t fix it. Let me know if the steroid shot does, will you? Because a four-year-old covered in creeping crud is NOT CUTE…even if he’s scolding meat-eaters at the time. just sayin’.

  51. Half Assed Kitchen

    Poor baby. There is almost nothing worse than the itch. I feel for her. I really do.

  52. Stephanie

    Oh god! Something similar happened to Sydney, once. She got a rash which progressed, thoughout the day until it was so bad that her feet were swollen and purple! I rushed her to the doctor (we had JUST moved to Florida, so I didn’t really *have* a doctor, yet). I really thought she was going to die. The nurse kept giving me these “looks” that I read as…”this is bad…really, really, bad”. BUT, luckily, when the doctor saw her, she said it was some sort of allergic reaction and told me to give her benedryl and stop using scented laundry detergent.

    To this DAY, we still don’t know what caused the rash (and it was NOT the detergent, because I began using our “regular” stuff, several months later and she has not had a second “incident”.

    All that is to say that I SO understand how you were feeling and how scared you were. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.

    I hope you get all this sorted out, soon.

  53. JoAnne

    “(Just don’t slip any chicken broth into her food. Seriously. She will cut you.)”

    Funniest Line Ever!

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