Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Joys of Parenting

It started Thursday night. I've been fighting off the same chest cold that sent Calista to the doctor's office New Year’s Day, so before I went to bed, I took a couple NyQuil to help me sleep. About 1:00 am, I woke out of a drug-fogged sleep to find our four-year-old son Caedmon crawling into our bed. That wasn't unprecedented, but it's not normal either. I was groggy enough that I decided to cut him some slack, so I put up with him squirming and kicking me for 15 minutes or so before finally deciding that no, he had to go back to his own bed. So I picked him up and carried him back to his room. I was setting him down into his bunk bed when I noticed a strong sour smell in the air, and simultaneously felt my hands plunge into a wet, sticky substance covering his blankets. My brain took a few seconds to put it all together and draw some conclusions. Then I sighed and picked him up and carried him back into our room. We made a bed for him on the floor, got a bowl from the kitchen, and put him down, hoping that would be the end of it.

About 20 minutes later, we were awoken again, to the sound of Caedmon gagging. Most of it made it in the bowl, but by no means all of it. More cleanup and consoling. Then something like sleep, more gagging, more cleanup, more consoling. This repeated itself all night long, every 20 minutes or so, until about 5:00 am, when Caedmon finally managed to get to sleep and stay asleep. About the same time, I removed myself to the couch downstairs, and got an hour or so of rest.

When we woke up, we let Caedmon continue to sleep in our bed, and Galena began cleaning his room. Our one-year-old daughter Calista wasn't making any noise, so we let her sleep, while I tried to entertain our two-year-old son, Brendan. By 8:30 or so, though, Galena decided that she really needed to check on Calista. When she opened the door, she got a full whiff: turns out Calista had been having the same troubles, but had suffered them all in complete silence. (We even had the baby monitor on!) So her crib, her blankets, and her hair was encrusted with not-quite-dried puke. Calista herself was surprisingly calm about the whole thing, and gave us a big grin as we gingerly tried to extract her from the Crib of Dried Vomit.

After that, Friday and Friday night passed more-or-less without event. On Saturday morning, we thought we'd seen the worst of it, and since the kids were begging to go outside and play in the snow, we got them dressed and spent some time outdoors. (Caedmon discovered that it's painfully tricky to ride your bike in the snow; Brendan and Calista discovered, once again, that your hands get cold and hurt when you play in the snow and refuse to wear gloves.)

But Saturday afternoon, Calista started having a variety of diarrhea episodes, including at least one "Level 3 Containment Failure" (I'll leave the exact definition of that to your imagination). And then Galena started looking green around the gills. And then she threw up. And then the other end as well. Rinse and repeat.

So Galena took herself to bed, while I did my best to entertain the kids. Caedmon and Calista were definitely feeling better, but were still a little stunned after their run-in with the Stomach Bug That's Going Around. Brendan seemed to have a stainless steel immune system, however, and wasn't going to let anything slow him down. (And you have to remember, through all this, that I've got a cold too, and periodically feel like I'm about to hack up a lung.) When evening rolled around, I finally got the kids fed and down to bed, and all seemed quiet. So I checked in with Galena, who was still in bed, and then left for Bellevue, for a movie night with some friends that had been long planned (and for which I was supposed to supply the movie).

I got a call from a groggy-sounding Galena around 8:30. "Brendan just threw up," she said, sounding on the verge of tears. "Can you come home?" By 9:00 pm or so, I was thus available to make myself the target for Brendan's third heave of the evening. After several more abortive attempts to get Brendan to sleep, I gave up, and for an hour or two, he sat on my lap with a bowl in his hands. We passed the time by watching extreme skiing videos off of YouTube (at Brendan's request). We'd pause the video - or sometimes not - whenever Brendan started heaving, then I'd wipe his mouth, and we'd start watching the video again. It was oddly bonding. By midnight, the worst had passed, and I put him to bed.

I should note that during all this, my side of the bed had gotten nailed with at least one round, so I elected to spend the rest of the night in the guest bed in the library. Galena's side was relatively clean, and more than that, she was too tired to care.

I got up around 7:30 this morning to find Brendan and Caedmon in great spirits: they weren't up to the Running and Chasing Game, precisely, but they were quarreling normally and demanding books and juice and videos. But by 9:00 am, when Calista still hadn't made any noise, I decided to check on her. Turns out that (once again) she'd been having the same trouble as everyone else, but (also once again) hadn't complained to let anyone know about it. The carpet around her crib, her bedding, her hair, and the outside of her pajamas were covered with one particularly noxious substance; the inside of her pajamas, and most of her body, was covered with a different one, surprisingly similar in texture and smell, and equally objectionable. Even after I gave Calista a shower, Galena was still combing unidentified chunks out of her hair.

That brings us up to the present. I'm the only one who hasn't gotten the bug yet, but I can feel it circling warily at a distance, like a pack of wolves preparing for the attack. We've basically decided that all the normal household rules and routines are out the window. The kids are watching videos and drinking juice and eating pretty much whenever and whatever they want. Galena informs me that Calista has just fallen asleep in the hallway. Brendan and Caedmon have scattered a box of paper clips around my office, and I can barely bring myself to care. Civilization and discipline has given way to raw survival.

Wish us luck.

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