Last Saturday, my oldest son came down with a stomach virus that only lasted a couple hours. On Tuesday, the middle one had it; he bounced back quickly too. On Thursday, the youngest was a bit off–not much appetite, a few bad diapers–that whole thing.
Friday morning, the boys were acting normal — pounding on each other, asking for snacks immediately after leaving the breakfast table, arguing over who got to be Leonardo and who had to be Donatello…
I hurried them over to story time at our local library so they’d
leave me alone for a few minutes experience the joy of a fun and educational morning.
The place was packed. There must have been thirty people crammed onto the alphabet rug. The boys danced along to “Hot Potato” and listened intently to the tale of Robbie the Robot as I whisper-chatted with a friend in the back row.
The boys asked to eat lunch at Subway, and I agreed because
then I wouldn’t have to make lunch they cooperated so beautifully at story time. Miles didn’t eat his food, but I figured it was just because he’s not much of a sandwich guy.
Ohh, no. His issue was not with ham and cheese on wheat.
Toward the end of our meal, he threw up on the booth, floor, our jackets, and inside the shoe Gray had kicked off under the table.
Guys, it was the Friday lunch rush. There were people sitting in booths, lined up at the counter, pulling into the parking lot. And there I was, frozen on a bench of horrifying funk, clutching a sad, filthy toddler while Gray cry-yelled at Miles for barfing in his shoe.
What was I going to DO?
How was I going to get these kids out of there and get HOME?
How did Miles fit all of THAT in THERE?
Then — THEN, I realized that even though I was alone, I wasn’t alone-alone, because do you know who I spotted one booth over?
KATHY was one booth over.
I swear to you, if you have to be dripping with barf at Subway during the lunch rush, wondering how you’re going to get your kids home, and you can choose anyone to be in the next booth, every last one of you is gonna choose Kathy.
First of all, she has seven kids. Seven! Can you imagine the cubic volume of messes she has managed over the years?
Aaand, she’s a pastor’s wife. AND the most patient, graceful, unshakeable person you’ll ever meet. And definitely not afraid of a little upchuck. Or a lot, in this case.
From thin air, she produced a four-inch stack of napkins and fired them at me before she and her teenage son shuffled my (shoeless) older two out to the van. I buckled in the sick one, and Kathy waited by my car while I ran back in and asked the girl behind the counter for an industrial roll of paper towel and trash bags for our soiled clothes.
The clerk told me she would clean it up, and I said no way– I wasn’t making her do THAT.
And do you know what she said, bless her sweet, young heart?
I’m an early childhood education student and I really don’t mind.
Wait, KATHY is here, AND an early childhood student who doesn’t mind cleaning up my kid’s vomit is working behind the counter?
Sweet Jesus in heaven, this is one twisted but still kind of beautiful love song you’re singin’ me.
I crawled under the booth and wiped up the major yuck, then the clerk came behind me with a mop and sanitizer as I breezed out the door yelling “Thank-you-thank-you-thank-you!”
I would have hugged her if I didn’t have chunks on the front of my shirt. And behind my left ear.
I got the boys home and into the tub, sprayed myself with disinfectant, put Miles down for a nap, turned on Netflix for the other two, tore apart the already-frozen pukey carseat without uttering a single curse word, held my breath as I shook the bag o’ rancid gunge into the washer, got the boys a snack (Already? Whaaaa?), swallowed a bunch of probiotics, ran out to the garage to clean the van seat, and restarted the washer for the second cleaning before Miles stirred once.
I spent the afternoon and the next couple days hunkered down, snuggling with the boys, watching Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs on repeat. Chad was out of town; I felt cooped up and lonely. It’s hard when your kids are sick, and harder when no other adults are around because they don’t dare set foot in your house without a proper HAZMAT suit. There’s no one to roll your eyes with, or to chuckle at you as you pantomime gagging yourself with the nozzle of the toilet bowl cleaner. And it’s pretty easy to feel sorry for yourself when your own stomach is in knots and you haven’t showered or slept well in days.
In the middle of the pity, I made some quasi-genuine attempts to improve my spirits. I tried being thankful that I didn’t have a ton of extra stuff going on this week so I could take care of my sick babies, and that I wasn’t commode-cuddling myself when the boys needed me.
I was glad Miles got sick on a tile floor at Subway and not down some other kid’s back at story time. Or frankly, at home on the carpet. That I was just a few minutes from home when the dam burst.
That, by no mistake, Kathy chose Subway on Friday, and Saint Jude’s twice-removed niece was working behind the counter.
Most of all, though, I gave thanks that even when I felt alone, I wasn’t.
Chad arrived home from his retreat late Sunday night. On Monday morning, he stayed home and spent time with kids so I could write a bit and fold eleventy-hundred loads of laundry. The sun was bright outside my bedroom window, the snow melting from my neighbor’s roof, dripping steadily to the ground.
I was a pot of coffee in, showered, slippered feet on Earth again. The boys were feeling better, and I finally had my bearings after a dizzying week.
So, last night, when Chad and I crawled into bed and switched off the lamp, we were not expecting to hear the second-worst sound of all sounds: vomiting child.
After bathing Reed, changing sheets, and tucking him back into bed, a screech came from Miles’s bedroom, followed by the first-worst sound of all sounds: another vomiting child.
We took turns on kid duty and clean-up duty alll night long and into the morning — toting laundry baskets to the basement, steadying buckets, rubbing backs, reassuring.
The sun is not shining this morning. In fact, we’re under a winter weather advisory. After a measly hour of sleep, I drove through snow to the gym and taught yoga class to the one person who showed up today.
Back at home, I return to an odor that could not be masked by all the old lady perfume in the YMCA locker room. There’s a soaking pail of nasty jammies in my shower. My three-year-old is asleep on the couch, slender arm cradling a barf bucket.
I hand Chad an Americano from the drive-through coffee shop, and he inhales deeply, closes his eyes with the first sip.
I’ve got a sore neck, a wretched headache and a twitchy eye, but still, I ache with tenderness for these boys, for the ways they need my love and care.
It’s a grim scene here this morning, but we’ll be okay in a day or two –I’m sure of it. I sit on the couch beside Reed, reach out to his ashy cheek. He does not stir beneath my touch.
I drink my coffee with my hand resting on his knee, offer a quiet prayer of healing before heading to the kitchen to peel an orange and crack some eggs, dropping them one by one into the sizzling iron pan.
16 thoughts on “Regurgitation and Redemption: More than Just a Puke Post”
Good luck! I hope your kids feel better soon
I think you have found a certain beauty in life that lies in its visceral, ugly moments. Your last few poetic sentences inspired me to find a poem for you…entitled “Vomit.” Enjoy.
Am I the only one that appreciates the act of vomiting?
It is the one action where your body is cleansing itself,
And at the same time you would rather be dead.
It is beautiful,
The weird texture of slightly processed food that passed back from where it came,
The sound of purging oneself
But in the end, everything is better than where it started
And balance is restored.
-Mary G (hellopoetry.com)
Oh, there is nothing worse than sick babies! I laughed while reading this, but also felt your pain. So glad your husband made it home to help with round two! And so glad you were blessed with such amazing people in your moment of public, puking kid crisis. Here’s to a healthy weekend!
Here, here! It has been a doozy of a week, but there are blessings to be found, even in the middle of the mess. Thanks for laughing along with me, and feeling my pain too! 🙂
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I hate that I laughed out loud at your misery while reading this post – but it’s all your fault! You are the one who writes so wittily, who makes lemons into laughable lemonade, and who captures us all with your glass-half-full optimism that seems completely implausible amid puke in a Subway. This line, “Sweet Jesus in heaven, this is one twisted but still kind of beautiful love song you’re singin’ me” caused me to chuckle loud enough for a student walking by in the hallway during my prep hour to cock her head and raise her eyebrow at me in concern. I hope you all continue to heal, but in the case that you don’t, can you write about THAT, too?
Oh, Kendalynn, I love that — isn’t all of life laughable lemonade? Thanks for coming along for the (messy) ride and appreciating my implausible optimism. Cuz, really, what else can I DO?! 😛
Mother-hood with grace. (This story sticks in my mind…a certain math teacher who taught across the hall from me came in haggard and worn one morning. Their household had a bout of up-chucks going on and one of the largest, textured explosions landed down the side of the bed by the wall. Beyond cleaning the child, bedding, wall, he spent the wee hours of the morning trying to pick and clean the finn-tube heating ducts where it lodged…as it warmed and penetrated the air all over again.)
Ohhh, Nancy! This is a wonderfully terrible story, and even better when one is familiar with the “certain math teacher!” Thanks for reading, and for the chuckle too!
How I love you, my fellow sojourner! I observed a unique display of patience and grace at Subway! Unfortunately, rarely seen today as too many of us are more concerned that our lives are being inconvenienced by our little people, than taking even THESE moments to shape them by our example. I mourned the fact that I had to go back to work and not be there for you longer…
Ohhh, Kathy, getting us out to the car was a tremendous help! Thank you AGAIN!
When Chad and I were laughing/cringing about this story, he made a great point that when something gross/embarrassing/traumatizing like this happens in public, there is so much RELIEF in seeing a friend or familiar face nearby. I’m not sure poor Micah would agree, but I sure felt blessed that you two weren’t next door at Dairy Queen for lunch! 😛
Thanks for the hundreds of ways you encourage me in this walk.
Love you heaps! Stacy
God bless you, there’s not much more I hate than the puke. Hope they all feel better! And stay away from me…… 🙂
Amen to that! We’re slightly improved this morning, and plan on staying in quarantine for a bit — say until the Memorial Day parade 😉 Thanks for reading, fellow momma! Cheers, Stacy
I’m 62, and gratefully past barfing kids ( mine are 33 & 35) and grands (12 & 14) but what struck a chord with me was your remark about your love for them and your thankfulness for their need for your love & care. I miss that! Than you for your beautiful blog.
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There’s something about being needed by vulnerable little beings that just intensifies a mother’s love, isn’t there? When my poor Miles was getting sick, I just rubbed his back and said, “I know, baby, I know.” When he finished, he rested his head on my chest and said, “I know. I know.” Sweet boy.
Thank you so much for reading and for the uplifting words. I appreciate your comment and hope you’ll visit me again!
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Pretty damn good writing for feeling so awful. IMPRESSIVE. “…swallowed a bunch of probiotics, ran out to the garage to clean the van seat.” Love that. 🙂 Feel better!
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Ohh, thank you. It has been a doozy of a week, and I appreciate the kind encouragement more than ever! Warm regards, Stacy