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Where the Laughing Is

alex and julia on the tractor

I was originally looking for an old post I wrote years ago that featured a little Julia, wearing fairy wings, baking cookies.  I’d written it in poem form, a sort of “Night Before Christmas” thing.  I was going to post that.  But I got distracted by other posts from those same years, when my kids were little and I wrote a lot more.

Anyway, one post led to another, and so instead of the sweet cookie-baking fairy post, I’m going to share a different one with you.  Lucky you – it features both my kids being sick! 

It’s a long post, with a kind of “will it never end???” feel to it at times (much like this deceptively short intro) – which is pretty much how it felt as I went through it all.  Only it’s funny to me now, from many years later.  It’s a bit graphic and gross, but so is life, right?

~~~

March 02, 2009

File Under "The Joys of Motherhood"

WARNING:  THE FOLLOWING POST MAY CONTAIN TOPICS OR GRAPHIC DESCRIPTIONS THAT WILL FRIGHTEN, DISGUST OR PERHAPS HORRIFY SOME PEOPLE.  PLEASE USE DISCRETION WHEN CHOOSING WHETHER OR NOT TO CONTINUE.

Several nights ago I went to bed at about 10:30 or so.  Eight minutes later (because I looked at the clock) I heard Julia wailing from the kids’ bedroom.  Not whining, mind you.  Wailing.  So I got out of bed faster than I would have if it was just whining, walked down the short hallway to the other bedroom, opened the door, and cringed.

She was kneeling on her bed, facing the pillow, and it was quite obvious from the smell that she had vomited.  The other clue was the Laura Petrie "Oh Rob!"-style quavering cry of "I FROWED UP!"

I ushered her into the bathroom, loathe to touch her because it was dark and I didn’t know what part of her had come in contact with the "frow-up."  She continued to wail, mouth open, eyes squinty, without pausing for breath.  I herded her toward the toilet, lifted the seat, and told her if she had to throw up again, do it IN THERE.  Which she did.

While she wailed and hurled, I marched myself (muttering and complaining to myself all the while) back into the bedroom, flicked on the light (Alex didn’t even wake up) and surveyed the damage.

Ugh.

I removed the rail thingy that keeps her (usually) from falling out of the bed and started stripping the sheets, rolling them up with a pillow, the mattress pad, and her beloved pink elephant, Pinky, who was not just pink at this point, but kind of orangy, with dots of yellow.  That would be the corn.  (Sorry.)  There was a lot of corn, I discovered later.  They must have had that with lunch at daycare.  Lots and lots of corn. 

I went back to check on Julia.  She was pretty well done and just stood there, rather icky, still wailing.  I said mothery things like "shhhh…" and "it’s okay, it’s O.  Kay." to her, which didn’t really do much but they sounded better than "WHYYYYYYYY?" and "OHMYGODTHESMELL!"  I cleaned her up and we trooped downstairs.  I brought the big mass of bedding along with me.  Might as well start washing it.

Julia sat on the couch.  She’d stopped wailing, but was still whimpery, which was understandable, of course.  Fortunately, it was quieter.  I had her scoot over while I put down a towel for her to sit on, another towel on the floor just in case, and snuggled with her under a blanket while we watched cooking shows. 

"Mommy, can I have some juice?"

And thus began the rest of the night.  I foolishly let her have some apple juice.  I don’t know why.  I blame tiredness.  I blame wishful thinking.  But whatever.  I let her have a few sips, and just like the sun, it came right back up. 

"Run!  Run!"  And she scampered upstairs, miraculously reaching the toilet before anything else bad could happen.  I told her to stay there (she was wailing again) while I went downstairs and cleaned up the latest mess.  A blanket and a towel.  I replaced them and this time got one of her plastic rectangular toy bins to use as a couch-side bucket.  Then I went back up and soothed her and cleaned her up.  I had her rinse her mouth out with some water and then brought her back downstairs again.

An hour later or something she was thirsty again.  I told her no apple juice this time.  But she could have a TEENY TINY sip of water.

Well, to cut this recap shorter than the hours and hours it stretched over, a couple sips resulted in another round of retching – fortunately INTO the perky pink plastic bin. 

And again, later.

In between all that excitement we dozed on the couch or watched bits and pieces of food tv.  I had weird dreams in between, too.  But finally her vomiting was finished.  All that was left was the washing up of all the blankets and towels and bedding that had been affected.

That following morning, Friday, she was okay, though I kept a tight rein on what she could and couldn’t eat.  Alex went to school as usual, and mid-day, Bill headed off to go skiing with three of his friends for the weekend.  A trip they’d been planning far in advance.  I dozed on the couch with Julia, hoping the weekend wouldn’t include more digestion-related adventures.

That night at some point Julia crawled into my bed and slept the rest of the night there.  I woke up around five thirty or so.  And suddenly there was a scary sound.  Kind of like the "pbthththt" kind of sound…only…more liquidy.  And then Julia said "I haf to go to the baffroom."  She scurried off and moments later I heard it.  That word.

"Mo-mmmmmmmy!"

Oh no.

"I need help!"

"What’s the matter, Julia?"  (maybe the toilet paper roll needs to be replaced…)

"I’m doing DIARRHEA!"

And it’s five-freaking-thirty in the morning. 

And sure enough, she WAS doing diarrhea.  She’s a smart one, that little girl.  Poor thing.  Soon she was wailing, much like the night of the vomit, only instead of just an open-mouthed wail it kind of morphed into "Mahhhhh-mmmmeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"

Over and over and over.

Her underwear was…icky.  There were multiple flushings of the toilet.  And – oh no.  Something occurred to me.  I went back into my bedroom, and…yep.  I stripped the sheets.  Remember that "pbthththt" sound?  Yeah.  That.

Anyway, I cleaned her up, brought her downstairs to watch cartoons, and sulked.  I felt HUGELY sorry for myself, and I wallowed in it like a pig in…well, in Julia’s princess underwear, I guess.

But then – she was fine for the rest of the day.  HOORAY!  My mood improved.

I let the kids stay up late to watch the Backyardigans and the Wonder Pets on Noggin, then tucked them in and went to bed as well. 

Fast forward.  It’s oh, FIVE THIRTY again.  Sunday morning.  Julia is in my bed – don’t know when she made that happen – and is lying perpendicular to me, her feet dangerously near my face.  I was lying there with my arms up in some sort of guarding pose.  And then she just woke up, announced "I haf to go to the baffroom." and off she went.

You know the movie "Groundhog Day?" 

Once again.  From the bathroom.  "Maaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhmmmmmmmmmmmeeeeeeeeee!"

I helped.  I flushed.  I tossed her underwear once again into the shower and ran it.  She cried and cried "Maaaahhhhhmmmmmeeeeeeeeee!" because it was icky and scary and out of her control and her delicate little nether regions hurt from it all.

Somehow it didn’t upset me that time around.  I was kind of numb and resigned to it.  Bill was having his skiiing weekend with his buddies, and I was having…this.  Okay.  I read the fine print.  I signed up for this.  I am indentured.

The rest of the day?  She was fine.

Bill returned home late afternoon – he’d had a great weekend and was worn out and sore and tired and glad to be home.  He’d brought the kids each a stuffed animal (dog for Julia, shark for Alex) and some nice locally-made (Berkshires) chocolate for me.  I fed the kids.  I took a long bath.  Bill put the kids to bed.  We watched some horrible "When Wild Animals Attack People" kind of thing on the Discovery Channel or Animal Planet or something and then went to bed.  I think I fell asleep around ten.

At midnight, or somewhere near there, I was woken up by sounds of one or both of my children in some sort of distress AND by Bill, who does not waken gently in the middle of the night, sitting bolt upright in bed and practically yelling "Whassat!?  The kids!  I think one of the kids just thew up!"  He was oozing urgency but not actually going anywhere, so I kind of snarled "OKAY!" and slid out of bed.  This can’t be happening.

But oh, it was.  And was it ever.

(This would be a good time to maybe refill your beverage or run to the bathroom or stretch or something at this point.)

As I rounded the foot of our bed, a child hurried into the room.  And it was Alex.  And he said "Mom, I threw up."  And he started to sort of…urp at that point and I spun him around and sort of shoved him out of the room probably saying something useful like "OUT!" and he threw up.  Right there on the floor in front of the bathroom door. 

There was a lot of it. 

Unlike Julia’s contribution from a few nights before, which was a kind of orangy background with many many large kernels of corn in it, this was a pale pink dotted with white. 

I told you it might get graphic.

Anyway.  Much of this initial burst of activity is a blur – I don’t know exactly which came first, but here goes.

Alex, as I said, tossed his cookies right there on the floor just outside the bathroom.  I ordered him into the bathroom – he wasn’t finished, probably – and told him if he had to throw up again, throw up in the toilet.  At the same time, I think, I heard, from their bedroom (the door was nearly closed) this – a thud.  And then a loud wailing cry.

I stepped over the chunky puddle, pushed open the door and there, in the darkness, stood Julia, wailing and miserable.

"I FALLED DOWN IN THE FROW-UP!"

As she said it I just wanted to cry, but I also knew that at some point I would laugh about it.  Just not right at that moment.

Anyway, I hollered to Alex to stay put, I switched on the light to their room, herded Julia out and then NOOOOOOOOOo – she walked right through Alex’s giant chunky puddle in the hall.  I yelled "Julia stop!  You’re stepping in it!"  and she immediately froze in place (in it) and wailed louder and refused to take another step.  I’m telling her "go IN THE BATHROOM" but no, all she could do was stand and wail.  I had to sort of leap over the puddle and then reach across the muck and swing her up and into the bathroom. 

Her hair, people.  her long, long hair.  It was…dotted…with…chunks.

I think it was around this point that I looked over to see how Alex was doing and noticed that – being the novice upchucker that he is – Alex hadn’t lifted the seat first before making his recent deposits.  The stuff was ALL OVER the seat AND it had splashed off the seat and out sideways onto the walls and the floor.  I lifted the toilet seat and said nothing to Alex because there was no point and he was already miserable.  And drooling.  I wiped his face off and then turned on the shower and got Julia to stop wailing for a moment, took off her underwear and convinced her to go into the shower.  "I DON’T WANNA TAKE A SHOWER!"  "Julia there’s THROW-UP IN YOUR HAIR FROM WHEN YOU FELL DOWN!  YOU HAVE TO TAKE A SHOWER!"  So in she went for a minute and then, well, all that running water – "I HAFTA GO TO THE BAFFROOM!"  So out she came, I cleaned off the seat, let her have at it, flushed, waited for that toilet to stop running, then started the shower again and she went back in and stayed put while I went to see how much ick awaited me in their bedroom.

Ick

From the mess, I was able to reconstruct the events.  Alex had initially thrown up in his bed.  (I stripped that, rolled up all the sheets, pillows and the little rug beside his bed in a big, big ball.)  Next, he had climbed out of bed, made it to the end of the bed and then threw up again.  (On the hardwood floor.  BIIIIIIG splash.)  Then he came out of the room, closed the door mostly (thus rendering it dark) and proceeded to puke in the hall and then all over the toilet.  Meanwhile, awakedned by all the chaos, Julia had climbed out of her bed in the dark and made her way toward the door, slipped on the mess on the floor and went down on her butt.  And her hair. 

I mopped up the floor in their room and started collecting towels in a garbage bag.  I also cleaned the HORRIBLY YUCKY floor outside the bathroom.  And the little footprints of it in the bathroom.  And all around the toilet.  And Alex.  And then I dried off Julia.  And then I sent them down to the basement, where all the cool sick people hang.

All this insanity (and it truly felt like something out of "What’s Up Doc?" – probably the scene where the hotel room is on fire and everyone’s coming in and going out and Eunice yells at the room service guy "FOOD?  I DON"T WANT FOOD!" and Judy Maxwell appears, towel-clad, in the broken window and says "Why, Miss Burns!  Don’t you know the meaning of propriety?"

It kind of felt like that.  Only smellier.

So anyway.  Now we’re all downstairs.  Sick Alex.  Nurturing Mommy.  And Happy To Be Awake In The Middle Of The Night Julia.

I set up the towels and the slop bucket for Alex and instructed him to aim for the bucket if he felt at all like he might throw up again.  I tucked him in with a blanket at one end of the couch, Julia planted herself at the other end, and I sat in the middle, wondering if I could doze upright.

Julia fell asleep pretty quickly.  I’d suggested to her that she go sleep in her own bed, but that wasn’t acceptable ("I can’t sleep in my room BY MYSELF!") and so I just gave in quickly and quietly and let her stay.  She fell asleep and stayed asleep til morning.

Alex, on the other hand, wasn’t used to this sort of thing, so he was wide-eyed and showed no sign of sleeping.  I kept telling him to shut his eyes and try to sleep – but to lie facing the bucket, just in case.  I’m sure that "just in case" didn’t help.  But I couldn’t stop saying it.  Or the "try to sleep" thing.  Wastes of breath, both phrases.

I moved over to the chair, propped my feet up on the ottoman and snuggled under a blanket.  At some point – maybe it was during Iron Chef, maybe it was some time later – Alex looked troubled and grabbed for the bucket (actually a green, rectangular toy bin.  Empty.) and, well, used it quite successfully.  I let him heave a few times while still on the couch, but then I sent him upstairs to finish things up in the bathroom, just in case he had any more gallons of the stuff waiting in the wings.  He got a little bit on one blanket, but otherwise he was very tidy.

And that was the extent of it for him.  I gave him a bit of water to clean his mouth out with, but told him he couldn’t have any more except MAYBE a tiny sip, because it would make him throw up again.  And that may sound like propaganda designed by a lazy mother, but no, I was quite postitive that anything touching the stomach lining would immediately bring about another volcanic eruption.  I would have bet on it.

At some point Alex fell asleep, and once I could hear him breathing evenly, I felt safe to let myself doze off too.  I think it was after 2:30 or so.  I shut my eyes and dozed.

At about 3:00, the STUPID *()&*&%%^#%$#$*&(&( alarm system went off.  THREE IN THE MORNING!  It was some "loss of frequency" signal that I would have to deal with during normal DAYLIGHT hours when it was safe to call the guy who installed it.  I hit the reset button and silenced the awful thing, went back downstairs and tried do doze again.

Around half an hour or less later the phone rang.  It was the company that monitors the alarm.  They were calling to let me know they’d received a report of loss of ferquecy signal.  Thanks awfully.  I received it too.  Goodnight.

At four I gave up on sleep and switched the tv over to the weather channel to see how the Major Winter Storm was doing, and then to the news channels to see if they’d started announcing school closings yet.  Not many.  I wasn’t going to send Alex in to school anyway, but I was also looking to see if the school Bill works at was closing.  After 5:00, when the local news came on, they closings had been updated and yippee, all schools that affected my family were closed.  I changed the channel to Noggin and went upstairs to attempt to sleep in my own bed.

A little before six, the town my husband teaches in called (yes, the whole town called; they’re very involved) to announce that there would be no school.  Got it.  Thanks.

Within the half hour, the phone rang again.  Alex’s school was closed, too.  Really.  Thanks.

So where are we?  Six-thirtyish?  Those calls were followed, roughly every twenty to thirty minutes, by my children.  "Mommy, can we play?"  "WAAAAAAAAAH!!!ALEXDOESN’TWANTTOPLAYWITHMEEEEEEEEE!" (Well he’s not feeling well, Julia, he doesn’t want to play at all) and Julia again wanting to climb in bed with us where it was warm – fortunately it was nowhere near five thirty so there was no danger of the whole diarrhea event taking place again.  I said sure, you can climb in, just be quiet because i’m very, very tired.  So she chattered away happily until Bill finally got up with her and brought her downstairs. 

After that I think I slept for a good, solid 45 minutes or so.  Ah, refreshing.  Bill had made coffee – he’d dropped off a cup on my nightstand.  I brought that down with me to reheat it and to see how Alex was doing.  And I regaled my sister and my mother with the events of the night, thus doing my share of providing laughter and entertainment to my little corner of the world.  Or something like that.

I had a nap later in the afternoon, which was mostly nice except for the times I was awakened by various goings-on in the house.  But still – I was sleeping in my own bed, and nobody was throwing up.

Alex has spent most of the day on the couch.  Bill spent two and a half hours shoveling our driveway, our front walk, and the elderly couple across the street’s driveway.  We and our friends across the street (next door to the elderly couple) are going to go in together on a snowblower because we’re all sick of shoveling.  Okay, I didn’t shovel this time around.  And I was so tired – just mentally fried and foggy and idiotic – that while Bill was out there grimly shoveling up the heavy, sticky wet snow I had worried myself into believing that I should be out there too, that staying up all night with sick kids was no excuse, and that Bill was probably cursing me for the lazy good-fer-nothing, couch-sitting, candy-eating oaf that I was.

Except, of course, that that wasn’t the case at all.  He’d told our friend across the street, K., who was also shoveling and helped out with the elderly couple’s front walk while Bill did the driveway, that "Jayne was up all night with the kids, so (he) was doing the shoveling."  And he went on (in our kitchen, while idiotic tears of fatigue were rolling down my cheeks) to say that both jobs were horrible.  Mine was yuckier and his was physically harder, but both were unpleasant.  And I felt much better.  And ridiculous.

So here we are, it’s nearly 7 pm now.  The kids have had their baths and I’ll be bringing them to bed soon.  Not sure yet if Alex is going to school tomorrow or not.  I’ll figure that out in the morning.  He’s downstairs watching some animal show with Bill.

At the moment, Julia is sitting on the floor making strange constipated/growling sounds at me, wearing two sets of pink plastic princess shoes – one set on her feet, the other on her hands.  Apparently she is a "My Pretty Pony" with a serious bowel obstruction.

All’s right with my world.

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