Given the past couple of days I spent with Benjamin, I was easy on myself when I wrote up my to-do list last night. I had to get the garbage and recycling to the curb. I had to do some laundry. Those were the only two things I was going to make myself do . I added "keep calm, carry on" just to remind myself to not freak out when things got frustrating. Go big or go home, right?
Then just as I was getting ready to get into bed Benjamin started crying in his room.
"Maybe he'll stop," I wished aloud. And he did!
I peeked in to check on him and found him fast asleep on the middle of his floor. He must have fallen out of bed and then, lacking the alertness needed to climb back in bed instinctively crawled around until he found something soft to curl up on. Those pillows are there to break his fall should he ever happen to fall out of bed (hardwood floors have their downsides). To my knowledge, last night was the first night he used them.
I picked him up and tucked him back into bed and then went to bed myself only to be awoken a few hours later by Rachel, who stumbled into our room and leaned in the doorway, panting.
"I don't feel good!" she complained. "My stomach hurts."
"Do you need to throw up?" I asked.
"No," she said.
"Go to the bathroom and then go back to bed," I said.
I woke Andrew up to check on her further. I would have done it myself but for some reason Benjamin was in bed with us already and was using my stomach as his pillow.
Andrew put her back to bed, telling me that she just went to the bathroom and went back to bed. No throwing up. But we decided we'd play things by ear in the morning.
It was nearly light when Miriam ran into our room.
"I threw up all over my bed, Mom!" she cried. "But I can't find it. It's clear and it's everywhere! Everywhere it's wet it's just throw up! It's not pee or water! It came right out of my mouth! I couldn't stop it! I don't feel good! My tummy hurts!"
Benjamin wasn't completely on top of me anymore so I slipped out of bed and—like any good mother—got a towel out of the linen closet, laid it over the mess, and helped Miriam back into bed.
"What time are you getting up?" I asked Andrew.
"8:00," he said. "I told Rachel she could be a car rider this morning since she was up so late in the night and because we didn't know how she was..."
His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of Rachel thundering down the bunk bed stairs, flying into the bathroom, and violently vomiting in the toilet.
"...feeling," Andrew finished.
"I guess she's not going to school today," I said.
Andrew got up with the girls while I helped Benjamin sleep a little longer. He emptied Miriam's throw up bowl and started a show for the girls to watch while he got ready for the day.
"Hey, sickos," I said when Benjamin and I woke up and came out of the bedroom.
They both moaned at me from the couch.
"Miriam beat you, Rachel," I said. "She threw up first! Lucky girl!"
"No, she didn't," Rachel said. "I threw up in the middle of the night!"
"You did?" I asked. "I thought I asked you if you needed to throw up and you said you didn't."
"I didn't—because I already did!" she explained.
"Where?" I asked.
"In my throw up bowl," she replied.
She still sleeps with one of those on a regular basis. That's tip #1—if you hear the stomach flu is going around (or if your child is simply prone to throwing up as mine is) always keep a receptacle nearby. Rachel sleeps with a throw up bowl at the foot of her bed. Always.
"And where is your throw up bowl now?" I asked.
"In my bed," she said.
"Your throw up bowl is just sitting in your bed...and has been since you went back to bed last night?"
"Did you empty it?" I asked.
"Nope," she shrugged honestly.
"Gross!" I chided. "What if it spilled? Ew. Why didn't you tell us you threw up?"
"You didn't ask."
"I asked if you needed to throw up!"
"That's not the same thing."
For some children there is always a loophole. I'll keep that in mind the next time I'm trying to discern whether or not one of my children has the stomach flu in the middle of the night.
Rachel was disappointed about having to miss school because today was her class's valentine exchanged (since Valentine's Day was a snow day). I asked her if she wanted Andrew to drop her valentines off at school on his way to campus but she said she left them "in a special place" at school and assured me Mrs. M knew where.
So Andrew wished me luck and headed to campus, slightly worried because he was feeling queasy but couldn't tell if it was because he was genuinely sick or because he'd been dealing with throw up all morning. (SPOILER: He was genuinely sick).
The kids spent the morning watching television and eating oyster crackers. Saltines are a rather traditional upset-tummy food but—here's tip #2—I prefer serving oyster crackers to my little sickies because they're bite-sized and leave far fewer crumbs.
Benjamin wasn't sick in the morning and didn't agree that a handful of oyster crackers constituted breakfast (but he wouldn't sit at the table for a proper breakfast either because cartoons) so while I was stripping Miriam's bed down he decided to feed himself. Tip #3 is to not be afraid to let people fend for themselves if they're feeling up to it. You probably have your hands full of other things.
It was such a gorgeous day outside that I felt it would be a shame to miss it. Besides, I didn't want to be cooped up inside the house with all those sick kids all day. We brought the sick bed outside. Fresh air does a body good—that's tip #4. Sit by an open window or venture outside with a blanket and pillow.
I served the kids lunch—oyster crackers and banana slices (we're living large)—on the deck. Miriam got sick in the middle of lunch and lost it all over the deck. I just got a pitcher of water and rinsed it away. Easiest clean up ever. Tip #5: Try to keep vomit on easy to clean surfaces. We've been known to rush vomiting children from carpet to tile in the blink of an eye (have I mentioned Rachel has a wonky esophagus and threw up all the time when she was little?). I think I had a love affair with our hardwood floors today.
After getting sick at lunch, Miriam was ready for a nap so I tucked her in with her favourite blanket (fresh from the dryer), a water bottle (gotta stay hydrated), and a throw up bowl (naturally). You might notice that her hair is beautifully done. This is because the first or second time she threw up today (I can't remember which) she got throw up all over her hair so after she had a shower I braided it for her. That's tip #6: keep your hair up, if possible. You won't always have a spare hand to hold your hair back (or hold your daughter's hair back).
Rachel was feeling better this afternoon so she played outside with Benjamin while I hung up the laundry. She even put actual clothes on (she was too hot in her pyjamas—it was nearly 70°F today).
Benjamin was rocking his shorts and boots and car shirt. I'm not sure even he knew which part of his outfit was most important. Through all the chaos of the day he managed to not have a single pee-pee accident (though he did poop his pants—twice). Here's a bonus tip for you: don't start potty training the day before your family gets the stomach flu. It doesn't get a number because I don't think there's really a magic way to know beforehand whether your family is going to succumb to the porcelain throne or not. If it's possible to avoid over-scheduling yourself like that, though, I'd recommend it.
For some reason hanging the laundry out to dry puts me in a good mood, especially on days like today. The weather was perfection today; warm, breezy, mellow sunshine, clouds drifting lazily through the sky. Spring is certainly rolling in.
I was in the middle of throwing a sheet over the line when we heard a tremendous BOOM! Rachel screamed, abandoned Benjamin, who she'd been pushing on the swing, and ran over and clung to my leg.
"It's alright," I soothed. "It sounds like the transformer blew again. It's a good thing I decided to dry the laundry outside today!"
And that's tip #7: Hang your throw up laundry out in the sun to dry. Not only will it put you in a good mood (or maybe that's just me) but if the power goes out you'll still have clean, dry sheets to switch out for the drenched ones when someone inevitably misses the throw up bucket. And, sunshine is just as effective as bleach at killing germs (according to Phillip Tierno, a professor of microbiology and pathology at NYU's School of Medicine). I don't like using bleach so this is good news for me. (Water treatment plants use UV rays to clean our drinking water—and I've known that for years because I toured one such plant with my science class in grade nine—but it's good to know it works for laundry as well).
We played outside for a little while longer after I got the laundry put up. Rachel took a turn with the camera. I look super glamorous because I spent my morning scrubbing vomit off random surfaces. That always gives me that "put together" look.
Here's Rachel giving Benjamin a few pushes:
And here's Benjamin driving the car-car:
He probably would have stayed up there all day but I cruelly insisted it was time for a nap. Miriam was still sleeping so if I could just get him to go down for a nap I could take one, too! Rachel wasn't in a mood for napping but she's always happy to sit and read a book in a quiet house.
I got Benjamin settled. Then I played a couple rounds of Ziggity with Rachel before sending her off to read. That was the pivotal mistake of my day.
Tip #8: When the power is out and all the little people who require either you or the television to be happy are sleeping, for goodness' sake—take a nap! You've been cleaning up bodily fluids all day (and were up with all three kids before it was light outside). You deserve a break.
I don't regret the one-on-one time I spent with Rachel, but I do wish that Miriam hadn't bounded out of her bedroom the minute I'd retreated into mine.
"I feel much better!" she chirped.
"Oh, man," I sighed. "I was just going to take a nap."
"That's okay!" she offered eagerly, "Can I watch a show?"
"The power's out," I informed her. "Is there something else you'd like to do instead?"
"I can colour!" she said. "You can still take a nap. I'll just colour."
"Sounds good," I said.
I helped her arrange a colouring station and then headed off to my bedroom again. I was halfway to the door when I heard, "Momma! Momma!"
Benjamin had just woken up. He'd only been asleep for a half hour...maybe. That was not a long enough nap for a day like today so I convinced him to extend his nap with me in my bed. He was more than happy with this arrangement and quickly fell back asleep.
When we woke up, Miriam, Benjamin, and I headed outside to get the laundry off the line.
Miriam and Benjamin did some swinging together.
Rachel, meanwhile, was curled up on the couch, feeling miserable again.
Daddy came home soon after we came inside. He stumbled through the door and into the bedroom where he collapsed on the bed and went to sleep with his shoes one. He'd gotten sick multiple times at school and—fun fact!—he is the noisiest thrower-upper ever so not only was he terribly ill, he was also terribly embarrassed.
Incidentally an international delegation of sorts had a meeting in the room adjacent to the bathroom so every time Andrew went in there to puke all he could imagine was the reaction of this committee to hearing his gagging, coughing, and sputtering.
He came home early today (and that was probably a very good thing). Sadly, all I did was ignore him. I didn't coddle him one bit because Benjamin started throwing up soon after Andrew made it home.
That poor boy had no idea what was happening. He was snuggling on my lap when he looked up at me with terrified eyes. Then he opened his mouth and started gagging. I quickly turned him away from me and held him over the floor (three cheers for hardwood!) where he quickly emptied the contents of his stomach.
I was so glad I'd kept him on the stomach-bug diet, along with everybody else!
He might have started later in the day but he was going for the gold—he managed to throw up five times between 5:00 and 8:00. He threw up by my rocking chair, by the dishwasher, by the table, in the hallway, and (drumroll) in the throw up bucket (I was ready for him once).
He was one miserable boy!
He's understandably terrible at getting to a proper vomit receptacle (the toilet is ideal, but since he couldn't be depended upon to throw up in the bowl he was holding, I certainly couldn't expect him to jog to the toilet when his stomach started churning) since he's still a baby, so I put out some drop cloths for him. That's tip #9: spread drop cloths on any surface you don't particularly want to scrub vomit off of (hint: this is everywhere).
I used a couple of old fleece blankets—one to cover the couch and one on the carpet in front of him (we have an area rug in our living room)—but I've also used old towels. Anything you can just pick up and throw directly into the washing machine is ideal. Bonus tip #2: Following a stomach-bug diet helps eliminate any chunk or colour that might be in your vomit/that you might not want in your washing machine. My mom always called it the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast).
Miriam and I had toast for dinner. She was feeling perky.
Everyone else was either napping (Rachel had retired to her bed after we came inside because we were "being so loud!") or lying on the couch in agony, too sick to eat.
We spent the evening watching more Daniel Tiger (I think we went through the entire show today—perhaps more than once) and then Cars 2 (because Benjamin didn't want to lie on the couch anymore but I didn't want him running around the house (because did you see how many places he threw up?!) and I knew he'd sit still for cars (cars! cars! cars! cars!)).
While the kids were snuggled up, rotting their brains with far too much screen time, I ran around the house disinfecting everything. I cleaned both the bathrooms and the kitchen quite thoroughly, as well as all the door knobs and light switches in the house. Unless I'm stricken with this illness before then, I'll probably end up doing the same thing tomorrow.
When I finished cleaning, I sat on the couch and snuggled my poor, sick children.
That's tip #10: Things are crazy when you're trying to control the bodily fluids forcefully expelling themselves from three (+/- some number) tiny bodies, but take some time to sit and comfort those little ones in between washing loads of vomit encrusted laundry and disinfecting the floor. They're extra cuddly when they're sick.
Miriam, Rachel, and Andrew have quarantined themselves in the bedroom, where they can sleep with the bathroom light on—a beacon of hope, constantly guiding them to the toilet ("You can make it!" the light says. "I'm here for you!").
I'll be sleeping on the couch, listening for Benjamin.
With any luck we'll all be well in the morning, but if not I'll follow the advice I gave myself last night: keep calm and carry on!