Strawberries fix (almost) everything

Hey, let’s talk about the kid who still likes me!

So I may have mentioned that we suspected Monkey had another sinus infection. It was a kind of deja vu to last year’s pre-surgical carnival of Angry Monkey; his behavior has been steadily deteriorating for a month, and all the while he insists he feels FINE he is FINE it’s just that everyone else is STUPID and MEAN and why are you LOOKING AT HIM? Things at school have been rough, and I’ve been back in that place where I say, “He’s sick. This isn’t him. Please be patient, we’re working on it.” And whether it’s reality or not, it feels like even the wonderful Hippie School teachers are not quite believing me, and in the meantime, I’m slipping the kid Advil every morning and on the phone with the ENT’s office, begging them to find him an appointment, a cancellation, ANYTHING, please.

I’ve realized our pediatrician is fairly useless when it comes to Monkey’s ninja sinuses, so that’s why I was waiting for the ENT appointment. I gritted my teeth and waited and finally yesterday was his appointment.

Which is probably why Monkey popped out of bed all smiles and hugs, declaring that he slept great and he felt wonderful. Of course.

Well, far be it from me to complain about him being a good mood, particularly when Hurricane Chickadee has been wreaking havoc and leaving bodies strewn in her path lately. I may have even had a little chuckle to myself, thinking about how I’d take him in and say, “Remember how last year you said after his surgery that that would fix all his problems? I don’t think it did.” And then the doctor would check him out and say, “He’s fine, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Maybe allergies?” And then the good doctor would give me That Look, the one I’ve been getting a lot, lately, when I offer up that no, really, this kid does not say I DON’T FEEL WELL, so it’s like a real-life game of Clue to figure out what’s going on with him.

Yeah, that would be super. I just love a chance to look like a neurotic mother with Munchausen’s By Proxy!

Anyway, I quickly realized that happiness is not to be wasted, regardless of what might be in store later on. I had about a million things to do yesterday, but I’d already planned to have Monkey home for the day, and his appointment wasn’t until the afternoon. Shortly after breakfast I dug out our U-Pick buckets from a nearby farm and walked up to where Monkey was reading on the couch, shaking the buckets like castanets. “Who wants to go pick strawberries?”

“MEEEEEEEEE!” he shouted with delight. “Thank you, Mom!!” He scrambled up the stairs to get dressed, and I marveled once more at how the smallest things can make him so happy.

We headed out to the car and Monkey automatically went to the back door. “Come sit up front with me, baby,” I said. He’s only recently started sitting in front, and he forgets he’s allowed to. The long drive out to the farm was a lively one, Monkey regaling me with tales of Minecraft and Yu-Gi-Oh, and me pretending I couldn’t remember how to find the farm. (This is completely plausible, as I can get lost almost anywhere. I did know where we were going, though. It was just fun to listen to his helpful suggestions. “Maybe you should use the GPS? Maybe you should stop and ask for directions? Maybe you should ask a doctor if the map parts of your brain are missing?”)

It wasn’t crowded, and we happily set out to find a good couple of rows for picking. At first we continued chatting, but then Monkey became absorbed in the hunt for the perfect berries, and he moved down the row a ways and we each picked in companionable silence.

It was quiet for a while, and then two mothers with four small children in tow showed up and started picking near us. All four kids had pretentious yuppie names that you could just tell were spelled with an abundance of Ys, and the lone girlchild spent the entire outing agitating to go to Chuck E. Cheese afterward. The three boys alternated stomping on the plants, tormenting each other, and running away. The mothers discussed their upcoming tropical vacations and completely ignored the children until they became so rotten that they needed to be summoned by their full names, loudly, and threats such as “I am going to WEAR YOUR BOTTOM OUT” became necessary.

So that was… interesting.

I concentrated on my picking, and glanced over at Monkey, occasionally. I remembered taking him blueberry picking for the first time ever, when he was maybe 4 or 5. We went with friends, and he was completely enamored of the process, bringing me every single berry for admiration as he went along. Now he was a good 100 feet away, busy with the work of finding the best fruit, wearing a new pair of sneakers that fit me as well as him.

Eventually he trotted back towards me with a full bucket. “How’s this?” he asked, grinning widely.

“Nice work, buddy,” I said. “Looks like you’re almost done.” We finished up side-by-side, finding the last few berries we needed to heap both buckets up as full as we could.

The cacophony of the small children continued, and Monkey looked at them, then turned back to me. “I don’t think those kids are even picking,” he said. “Also they seem kind of wild.”

I choked on a small giggle. “Not everyone is so lucky to have a hard working picking partner,” I answered, fluffing his hair.

We picked up our bounty and headed back to the stand at the front to pay. I gave the money to Monkey.

“We have two gently rounded full buckets,” he said to the cashier, echoing what we’d been told to do on the way in, “and we brought our own buckets, so I believe that’s $10 each? Here’s $20. And thank you, your strawberries are delicious.”

The cashier smiled at him, thanked us for coming, and told us to enjoy. We walked back to the car, carefully set the buckets in a cooler, and headed homeward.

I checked my watch. “We have time before your appointment,” I told him. “Would you like to go out to lunch?” He nodded and bounced a little in his seat. “Tacos?” He cheered.

At our favorite Mexican hole-in-the-wall he continued his happy chatter, pausing only to stuff a couple of fish tacos into his mouth. I marveled, again, at this seemingly miraculous recovery, given how lethargic and cranky he’s been lately.

We had just enough time to go home and put the berries in the fridge before we had to go to his appointment.

At the ENT’s office, the staff all remembered him, and clucked and fussed over how much taller he is than when they last saw him. He smiled and chatted with them, and suffered through the taking of his vitals (no fever, good blood pressure) with good cheer. Once we were seated in the exam room, he commenced twirling around in his chair until the doctor arrived.

When the doc entered the room, he shook my hand and then Monkey’s, and asked Monkey, “So what’s going on?”

Monkey’s face fell for the first time all day. “I don’t know,” he said. “Mom says I don’t feel good?” (Fortunately, this doctor speaks Aspie, and did not immediately call DFCS to report me. Ha.)

I explained the mood shift, the obvious congestion, the persistent cough that seems to indicate endless post-nasal drip. We went over the medications he’s taking (our family is singlehandedly keeping the makers of Allegra and Flonase in business, I think), and the doctor checked his chart to remind himself of how long Monkey’s had his ear tubes. Then he said, “Okay, big guy, let’s have a look!”

He looked in his throat, his nose, and his ears. He listened to his chest with a stethoscope. And then he said to Monkey, “Well, I’m with your mom. I think you don’t feel so good.”

And that, Readers, is how we followed a jubilant morning of berry picking and a delightful lunch date by being informed that Monkey’s tubes have apparently been extruded (that sounds like fresh linguini should be flowing from his ears, I think) to where they are no longer functional, but they haven’t fallen out yet. So my darling boy has not just a raging sinus infection, but also a double ear infection!

Because of course he does. (Come see the amazing Aspie boy! Sick as a dog, with no recognition of such and no fever! He’s MAGIC!)

He also had another one of those fancy check-the-ear-membrane-functionality tests, which concluded that he can’t hear a damn thing. “His hearing is severely compromised at this point,” said the good doc.

“What?” said Monkey, trying not to grin.

“But his sense of humor is still intact,” the doctor noted.

Monkey wins a triple-course of Zithromax, after which we return to the ENT for a full complement of testing, at which time we’ll determine if he needs more surgery. I didn’t dare ask if we were just talking about a new set of tubes or if we were talking about possibly Roto-Rootering out his sinuses some more, because I was too busy wallowing in the whole “My kid is sick as a dog and it took me weeks to figure it out” guilt thing.

We swung by the pharmacy for his meds, then went home. “I’m sorry you haven’t been feeling good, sweetie,” I said once we got there.

“Don’t be sorry, I’m fine,” he said. “Can I have some strawberries? And then can I play Minecraft?”

I said yes to both, of course.


  1. Jen

    Monkey is such a good kid, and you are a fantastic mom. C’mon, cut yourself a break! You spent half that month in the hospital with the other kid! ;) And if new tubes and a full-blown roto-rootering helps, well, find the kid a Roto-Rooter t-shirt. ;)
    That said, yeah, this all sucks. :/

  2. Kelly

    So hard! We just went months with bad sleep for our youngest only to realize her reflux was bothering her – we could’ve all been sleeping for months!! Poor thing.

    I love that your doc gets monkey.

  3. Mama Bear

    Mir, all I have to say is Thank God for observant mothers like you. You make light of what you did, but just think if it had gotten much farther. Poor Monkey! Don’t belittle yourself. You are a wonderful, observant mother! As for the teen thing, wish I could give you a magic pill for that, too. Just remember to keep your sense of humor. I have an idea! Maybe a little hearing loss for you is in order, just a small (pseudo) ear infection that doesn’t let you hear the things you don’t want to hear.

  4. amy

    Don’t beat yourself up! Kids are great at covering up true illness, it seems. Small injustices, oh dear, right?? Haha. My daughter used to get sinus colds and then she would ‘recover’. I’d take her somewhere and she’d suddenly be violently sick. Ear infection. SIGH. She did this for almost a year straight, cold after cold. I felt like the worst mother in the world.

  5. Fran

    I can relate…when our son was 17, it took a pass out face plant in his plate of spaghetti for me to believe he might indeed have mono. At least he was able to tell me he didn’t feel well. Seriously you will pick up the clues sooner next time…kids…they are like pancakes. Once you get the hang of them you run out of batter/they grow up…;-D You are doing great!

  6. amanda

    I’m going through something similar with my almost-5 year old son. He will be doing fine, and then slowly his behavior will deteriorate to the point that I just don’t even recognize my son in there sometimes- he flies into fits of rage, hitting and screaming. Then, he will randomly inform me that his ear sort of hurts and lo and behold he has a raging ear infection or two- this has been going on for at least a couple of years, maybe longer. The giant pediatric practice we see gave me the run around for months on an ENT consult until I raised hell. I took him to the ENT two weeks ago, who said, well one more ear infection and then maybe we’ll do something. He got another ear infection the very next week and now is schedule for tubes and adenoid removal next week. I hope that this is the key to fixing him, but your experience makes me wonder.
    Good luck to both of you, and I hope that the antibiotics bring Monkey some much needed relief.

  7. Mandy

    What Jen said…. Ditto.

    Also, how cool of you and Monkey to have a Mama/ Monkey date before his appt.

  8. Rita

    Mir, thank you so much for sharing this! My kid is 7. Diagnosed with SID at the age of 3, and I suspect we’ll eventually head down the path of an asperger’s diagnosis. My boy also NEVER COMPLAINS when he is sick and I have always felt so dang guilty when I finally FINALLY wise up to the fact that he is not well.

    What is it with these quirky kids? Sheesh!

  9. Megan


    Isn’t mum guilt the best?

    It’s like you’re asked to play An Amazing Fabulous Game Show where you’re presented with two identical looking children with no symptoms and then asked to guess which one is sick. If you guess right your prize is several days of worry eased with slight relief. If you guess wrong, too bad, so sorry, but your take home prize is a HEAPING amount of remorse over not being omniscient.

    It’s possible I know this because my particular stoic walked around with a broken arm for TWO DAYS before being taken in for x-rays. I think the guilt might reduce itself to a dull ache by the time she’s 30…

  10. Brigitte

    Ha, Megan, that’s like our neighbor’s kid who finished a basketball game with a broken leg bone, having no idea it was broken!

    Mine gets sinus infections/coughs/double ear infections, and never complains either. She’s just grumpy, and I don’t know anything’s wrong until she coughs so hard she throws up. Argh.

  11. Damsel

    Ohhh, Monkey. I’m praying you are better soon!

    I’m with you, Mir, on the mom-guilt. Thanks to the Army, I brought my children to the other side of the world where we only get to see an ENT every six months or so. (No permanent one on staff at our base due to low demand.) We get new tubes, and possibly tonsil and adenoid removal, for at least one child at the end of the month. Possibly for the other one, as well.

    Hmmm… two kids, same surgery, same day. OR two kids, same surgery, 48 hours apart.


  12. Arnebya

    It would be so much easier if each child came out wearing a fanny pack containing a manual. A book of the baby, all about THAT PARTICULAR SPECIAL baby. Chapter 2 for one might be “Your kid won’t know he’s sick” whereas chapter 2 for mine might be “How to talk to your 11-year-old about her breasts being bigger than yours.”

  13. Heidi

    Mir, I need to tell you what a gift your blog is to me. Over the past month, I’ve read all of your archives (I’ve been reading Want Not for a couple of years–how did I miss the fact that you had this blog too???), and your sense of humor not only got me through spring break, but your writing about Monkey is unspeakably helpful to me as I tread a much similar path with my own 7-year-old Aspergian (not a word? It should be). I know you’ve been there a million times with the whole “no symptoms recognizable to others, but I just KNOW something’s wrong” deal … but doesn’t it feel reassuring every time to have confirmation that your mama sixth sense is right?

  14. Sara

    Poor Monkey. Poor Mir. I can attest first hand that fresh picked strawberries are a balm for what’s ailing you. Hope equilibrium is restored, pronto!

  15. liz

    No guilt!!! You are a terrific mom detective! Call his teachers right away and let them know he’s had a raging double ear infection for the last few weeks and that’s why he’s been a bear.

  16. Brigitte

    . . . and wait . . strawberries already!? You pesky Southerners. ;-)
    We have to wait a couple more months for that particular balm!

  17. Meredith

    I also have children that can have an ear infection or strep and not have a fever. Just had to take my youngest to the ER in the middle of the night for what I knew was a ear infection (oh, my the screaming from that child just would not stop). The ER doc wrote it off as swimmer’s ear, gave us drops and sent us home, where her ear promptly started leaking fluid and blood. Yeah, not swimmer’s ear. Her pediatrician was just as disgusted with the ER doc’s diagnosis as I was.

  18. Betsy

    Get well soon, Monkey!

  19. alihua

    Maybe it’s a boy thing? Mine came up to me about a year ago and said his ear was “itching and buzzing” but “no, mom, it doesn’t hurt”. After two days of itching complaints, I take him in to the pediatrician who tells me that that my lovely’s DOUBLE ear infection should have had him howling in pain based on the way it looked.

    He would not give me one of his fancy ear thingies so I could look at his ears myself in the future. Apprently, they frown on moms trying to diagnose their kid’s ear itches at home.

  20. M&Co.

    My BoyChild is like that. Only in addition to not knowing that he’s sick, he never knows when he’s hungry. I’ve often thought my life is like real life Clue.

  21. Andrea

    You make me cry every time you write about Monkey! My own Superman is so much like him in so many ways, but I’m still trying to figure out how to Mom him the right way. Sometimes it seems like there are so many ‘trouble spots’ that we’ll never get anywhere. You & Monkey are inspirational for me. Thank you for sharing!!

  22. Genevieve

    No need for guilt, Mir, you’re doing amazing by figuring it out when you all you get are subtle signals! (Heck, I have trouble figuring out when I’m really sick sometimes — not ear infections, but there’s other stuff it’s taken me ages to realize were small symptoms slowly getting bigger until I realized I needed a doctor appt.)

    And the map part of your brain isn’t missing, it’s just very small. It’s the back of the hippocampus. (Seriously. For years and years I said my lack of directional sense was clearly genetic and that some day science would discover that it was a certain part of the brain I was deficient in. And then they did. They discovered that London cabbies, who have to pass very complicated navigation tests to get their job, had larger posterior hippocampuses than other people. But also, that part can grow — the ones who’d been on the job for years had even larger ones than new cabbies.)

  23. Frank

    Sorry about Monkey not feeling well.. my son is like that, too. But it would appear that the ENT guy is a keeper; if for nothing else than his apparent good rapport with Monkey.

  24. Fabs

    Wow, that is astonishing! Hope he gets better and doesn’t have to have surgery.

  25. Another Dawn

    It doesn’t feel right to say this, but I’m so glad Monkey really was sick when you got to the doctor’s office. You know what I mean. I’ve been there with the disappearing symptoms.

    Fingers crossed the Zithromax does the trick. Poor kid. But great diagnosing, Mom! And excellent ENT, too.

  26. Katie in MA

    You know what else fixed (almost) everything? Homemade strawberry margaritas! I hear they work wonders on guilt. ;-)

  27. Lauren

    It sounds to me like you were really intuitive and attentive to the symptoms that indicated he needed medical treatment. My daughter (much younger!) had tubes put in and she didn’t get all feverish either, so it was a bit of a mothering mindread to figure out when she had an infection. I’m glad you guys figured this out!

  28. Lori

    I love Monkey!

  29. BethRD

    I think I’ve told this story before, but my pain tolerance is pretty good, and my mom had this experience a bunch of times in my childhood. I would mention to her something like, “Um, Mom? I think my ear maybe kind of hurts?” and she’d take me to the doctor and it would turn out that my eardrums were glowing a radioactive red and threatening to implode and take my brain with them. They would always ask her in shocked tones how long this had been going on, and my mom would protest that I had mentioned it about two hours ago, to no avail.

    My ‘quirky’ son got his father’s pain tolerance, so he’s happy to tell us when he’s sick (at great and pathetic length) but he’s another one who doesn’t recognize he’s hungry, he just suddenly gets all teary and droopy and unable to cope. I’m sure I sound like the root cause of the obesity epidemic when I do this, but whenever he gets mysteriously upset, I always ask if he’s hungry before delving deeper, and it’s usually yes.

  30. Angela

    Poor Monkey, glad the ENT figured him out! When my husband was a kid he would go and hide out in his room if there was something wrong with him, say, a broken bone, because he didn’t want to go to the doctor. He is very active and broke MANY bones as a child (and several just since I’ve met him!) He would walk into the house, say nothing to anyone, and just go lay in bed, then when his mom came in to ask what was wrong he’d deny everything! Like you, after a while she came to recognize the pattern. Once he walked around for days with a broken arm, not telling anyone, then when they finally figured it out it had begun to knit incorrectly and had to be RE-BROKEN in order to fix it. Ouch! I think that finally “broke” him of that habit! Ha. It must run in the family though, because his sister’s youngest also doen’t feel pain. He broke his foot and arm one time and had no complaints at all. Then, with TWO casts, he was jumping on the bed, fell off and broke the other foot! Still he said he wasn’t hurt. Crazy!

  31. Heather

    I’m really glad your ENT doesn’t have his head up his posterior. w

  32. Tricia

    Mir, can you be my mom please? Or can you start a new section of your blog where you give parenting tips? Those of us with slightly younger kids would certainly benefit. =)

    And… hopefully Monkey will continue thinking he’s fine and you will start agreeing with him soon. Ah, the powers of Zithromax.

  33. Angela

    On the bright side having your sinuses and tubes done at the same time is all kinda of fun because you both talk and hear funny…Oh and if you’re not an adult I’d imagine you get spoiled rotten! You gotta love those times the doctor actually sees what you think is happening…I’m a big fan of those “see I’m totally not crazy moments!”

  34. Bryn, Isle of Anglesey, UK

    “Maybe you should ask a doctor if the map parts of your brain are missing?”


    1) My keyboard does not like being sprayed with beer, even if I am choking with laughter…
    2) My dear wife, who is also “directionally challenged”, has proven gleefully willing & able to cause me a degree of pain & suffering while I am disabled by the aforementioned choking… perhaps I should not have wondered aloud about asking our doctor for a second opinion on Monkeys diagnosis re. ladies & maps..

    /ducks, and dives for cover under nearest large rock…/

    All the best to you all, especially Monkey.

  35. addy

    “mommy I got helicopters in my ears” ya try to figure that one out…… ear infection, pressure built up, unable to hear anything. That was some fun times there. You are doing great. Hope he is well soon.

  36. kim

    Gees, Mir, ease up on yourself? You DID figure it out. You DO know your kids. You are going through an incredibly difficult time.
    Eat a fee more strawberries, you’ll feel better.

  37. RuthWells

    Poor, sweet Monkey boy. May the cure be swift and not involve roto-routers of any kind.

  38. elz

    Em had to go in on Thursday to get her tube removed. The tube that was inserted when she was a toddler. Because, of course it was still in her ear. The other one fell out?? And, of course it was in that one place that they couldn’t reach in office. Sigh…no strawberries, just chocolate here. Hope everything clears up quickly.

  39. Amy

    Good thing he has a mama who can feel his illness for him. Hopefully he’ll figure out how to tell when he’s sick by the time he’s an adult! I guess the cues that we neurotypical folks use may not work for him–is he starting to put together yet that Angry and Cranky=Sick?

  40. Daisy

    In Group Facilitation Training, we learned about hearing what people were feeling rather than what they were saying. I was good at it. Must be that Mother of an Aspie training.

  41. Cele

    The only time I can tell Burp doesn’t feel good is when you can see the fever burning in his cheeks, or he puts himself to bed. I think he has only once ever said his throat was “itchy” or that he had a head ache. Gosh how the heck do you tell?

  42. Reb

    you know, if someone was acting miserable and insisting they felt fine, I wouldn’t know where to start. I’m impressed you worked it out!

  43. Bryan

    As far as i’m concerned, the only symptom for an ear infection is spewing pea green soup & spinning your head around. Kids who run fevers and complain are just making it easy for the moms who aren’t as intuitive as you and I are.

  44. mamaspeak

    My youngest has officially been diagnosed w/sensory defensiveness. It runs in the family. My brother walked around for half the day at school w/a broken arm bc he didn’t want to miss recess. After recess he told the teacher it “kinda hurt,” since it was broken so that you could see part of it up against the skin, the teacher bet it did hurt. My kids both do this w/ear infections. I’m sure they’ve had several, but all that have been diagnosis have been when we’ve been at the dr for something else, like a flu shot. So yeah, “how long has your kids ears been hurting” and my “not at all” make for some special looks at the dr office.
    Hopeful, he’s gonna get much better. For all of you.

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