Rough Patch

It's been a rough few weeks in the Warner/Fleishman household. The kids are fine, but not great. We are exhausted. We had a lovely Christmas week with Lynn's folks and brother in town, and with my folks visiting the day after Christmas. But Rex is going through separation anxiety, and thus couldn't easily be handed off to relatives, meaning Lynn or I had to be on top of him. He was also clearly slightly ill, as was Ben, but not very ill. He had some crazy nights, including being wide awake from 10 pm to 1 am a couple nights ago. Then last night, slept 6.30 pm to 6 am. Go figure.

Lynn took Ben into the doctor today with Rex in tow, because Ben is a bit out of sorts--it's so easy to tell when he's sick. He was complaining about his ear and tugging at his cheek below it. The doctor checks out Ben, and he's fine; no ear inflammation, no pus, nothing. She looks at Rex, who was given a once-over about 10 days ago, and says, okay, this guy has an ear infection. He's been started on antibiotics, and I expect we'll be bringing Ben back in next week for the same. (I don't mind a doctor's office that doesn't push antibiotics. Ben has no fever and no presentable symptoms. So we'll just wait; it may clear itself up, which is not uncommon, too.)

We're very lucky, we know. The stomach virus that threw us for a loop a few weeks ago was the first we'd had; friends have had a dozen with kids the same ages. The ear infection is probably the first; friends have had a dozen or more with some kids by Ben's age. And so on.

But we're a bit tired and cranky, so I sound whiny.

The good news is that Ben and Rex are handsome and can be in a good mood, and they try so hard a lot of time, even when feeling poorly, to be happy. That's a good trait, unless you mask all your symptoms! They're sleeping now, and we're hoping for a good night.

Meanwhile, here's a nice candid snapped while I was setting up the camera on a tripod for a family photo.

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That's my mom, Rex, Lynn, Michael Warner in the back row; my dad, Diane Warner, Ben, Steve Warner in the front row.

Laid Low, Lynn?

Lynn's strength has started to ebb, she has a chill, she feels a bit...unwell. She may be the latest victim in our household to succumb to the dread stomach virus. Rex is still not feeling himself, although he's overall better. Ben is much happier and healthier, and I'm not up to snuff but neither down for the count.

My stomach still doesn't want to hear about pizza, a turkey sandwich, a slice of cucumber, or such. A pancake? Sure. English muffin? You bet. Anything more complicated? No--thank you! It's not that I feel unwell at the thought, it's just I know that my tum-tum wouldn't handle it. I'm working my way up from a certain category of carbs and will eventually resume my normal eating schedule.

Lynn is asleep as of nearly an hour ago, and I'm hoping that she doesn't get the full-blown version of this. She's behind the curve in terms of symptoms she's experiencing matching what we other three got, so she may either have had early immune response that's attacking the virus, or got a mutated or weakened form through exposure to all of us.

She's been just amazing, working full on since Sunday night when I dropped out of the running to keep us all going. I was very excited on Tuesday when I was able to run the dishwasher, take care of Rex singlehandedly again, and handle Ben's trip into and from childcare. That seemed like big steps.

Update: Lynn got something like 11 hours sleep last night, is somewhat functional this morning, and we're still crossing our fingers. She's not hungry, I'm getting there, and Rex has had a lot of upset, even though he's keeping down all his kibble now.

Cantabs Can Tabs

Okay, nobody except an obscurantist like me would write a headline like that. Those matriculated at or graduated from Harvard University are called Cantabs, derived from Cambridge, where fair Harvard is located, which in England was once known by the Latin Cantabrigia. Hence, Cantabrigians (the residents) or Cantabs for short. Tabs in this context is an ironic twist on the notion of a bar bill, like the massive tuition/room/board fee is akin to an $8 well drink.

Anyhoo, Harvard has opted to rejigger its financial aid in a way that would have once saved my family literally tens of thousands of dollars had I gone there rather than to my alma mater, Yale. Instead of complicated formulas involving loans, home equity, and other factors, Harvard is using a simple formula to handle the $45,620 cost of room and board (07-08 year).

Families with incomes under $60,000 pay nothing: no loans, no bursary (student work requirement), nothing. From $60,000 to $120,000, it's a sliding scale from 0 up to 10 percent of income per year. from $120,000 to $180,000, it's a flat 10 percent. For families that make over $200,000 a year, financial aid isn't out of the question when extenuating circumstances are involved, too, such as multiple siblings attending university at the same time.

Fundamentally, this levels the playing field for access by the smartest kids to one of the most elite institutions. Harvard had already set a threshold of zero fees for families making up to $60,000 per year and reduced fees up to $80,000, and they saw a rapid jump by 33 percent over three years of matriculating students in those income ranges.

More than half of current students will pay less as a result--which still tells you something about the demographics of the college.

One of the more interesting parts of this announcement is how little, relative to the size and growth of Harvard's endowment, that this change represents. The institution now subsidizes tuition to the tune of $98 million per year; the added aid will move that figure up $22m to $120m. Harvard's endowment is $35 billion, and it increased 23 percent over the last year. Which means that the difference in cost was a day's worth of increased endowment including inflation in the last yearr.

As someone with two children who would start college about 14 years from now, I have a little less trepidation about the cost. If Harvard has stepped up to the plate, stating as one reason their desire to offer an education that to the majority of Americans (90 percent in this case) would be comparable to fees paid at top state schools, then other colleges with hefty endowments will be sure to follow. There's also a great fundraising pitch to be made here: If you haven't given before, here's a reason to open your wallets--set up a special fund to underwrite this at [your institution's name here].

I was a grateful and huge recipient of financial aid at Yale. We always had food on the table, and owned a house, but times were rough when I started school. My folks worked awfully hard, and I worked jobs whenever I was home for spring break (two weeks at Yale), winter break, and over the summer, as well as varying term-time jobs. Tuition, room, and board totaled over $100,000 for my four years (86-90), and I left with $15,000 in loans that I paid back in under 10 years. My family had  to contribute even with our low income, although my dad's business picked up during my time at school, so it wasn't the same load each year.

Still, even inflation adjusted, I would have gotten a free ride and no loans at Harvard, and it would have affected my choice of schools to apply to. Given that I was accepted at every school I applied to, and I did quite like Boston and Cambridge when I'd visited it, I always had my heart set on Yale. But in the same circumstances, I think Harvard would have won. And I expect a lot of other students and parents will make the same decision.

Time to step up to the plate, Ivies.

Worst. Cold. Ever. (Virus, Actually)

I become the third member of the family to be struck low, but briefly, by the vomiting virus. Ben got it on Friday, Rex last night at 9, me last night at 11. Lynn, so far, demonstrates the superior genetics that led me to marry her through a painstaking assay that took me 15 years. (Don't tell her that part.)

About 14 hours later, I am not dead--"I feel happy!"--but not quite living, either.

Upset, Upset

Warning: Explicit descriptions of toddler bodily functions follows.

Ben had his first ever bout of vomiting last night. We have friends for whom every cold seems to be accompanied by piles and piles of vomit. He was perfectly fine before bed, and hours later woke up wailing. Lynn went in and found he had thrown up all over his bed. He seemed otherwise fine, so we got him changed, stripped sheets, cleaned up, spent some time with him, took his temperature, back to bed.

A few minutes later, another bout. And then another. We are running out of sheets. "Friends," meaning his stuffed animals, are in short supply due to them being covered in you know what. Meanwhile, Rex has been awake for most of this (about 90 minutes), Lynn has tried nursing him to no real avail, and so, because he seems otherwise healthy, he gets ignored and goes back to sleep for the rest of the night (sleeping on his stomach without real complaint, which was got him mad last night and the night before).

Eventually, we get an inflatable bed set up in Ben's room, and Lynn opts to sleep in there. I go back into our bedroom to monitor Rex. A few minutes later, Ben has another bout, but nothing's coming up. He's in pain during each episode. It's 1 am. Lynn opts for the ER (ED, really) at Children's Hospital, which seems like a good choice given the pain issue. One of our toddler health books seems to suggest that it could be appendicitis (remote chance), but there's no fever. There's just no sense in not getting him evaluated.

I go to sleep with my iPhone under Lynn's pillow set to vibrate, so Lynn can text message me about what's going on. Several times overnight, she messages me or I her, me holding the phone under the covers to keep the light from waking up Rex. They return about 4.50 am. All is well. Probably something viral. Ben hasn't had an episode of feeling like throwing up since about 2 am. Rex wakes at 5.30. The day begins...

Later in the day...Ben seems fine. He woke at around 8 am, fairly happy. Wasn't excited (in fact downright miserable) at being told he couldn't drink milk until tomorrow and had to eat bland food. But Jello makes everyone happy! Lots of JELLO™ Brand Gelatin, as the words of the song go, which I don't think I ever knew until I was singing it to Ben this morning.

Our household does a funny dance most mornings, since Rex still wakes up early. This morning, he was up at 5.30, I kept him occupied for 30 minutes while the acid-reducing drug he has to take twice a day settled in, woke Lynn up (one hour's sleep for her), went back to bed, Lynn brought Rex in for his morning nap at 6.30 (he hadn't slept enough last night), Rex and I slept til 8.30, Lynn and Ben slept til 8, and then Lynn went back to sleep at 9. She slept two hours, the boys and I played. Ben and Rex ate. Good times. Ben down for an early nap (due to no real sleep) at 11.30, Lynn up, Rex down at noon. Both boys sleeping...

We're a bit tired in the house, but not miserable.