I'm going to tell you a story. No, you read that wrong. I know it's Christmastime, so it's an understandable mistake. Take out any image you had of a storybook and an armchair by a yule log. This is more of a Liam-Neeson-as-Santa type story, so read it in that headspace: I'm going to tell you a story. It's the story of Christmas 2016 for The Wahl family.
First of all, we've been fighting a bed bug infestation for a while now. For you to appreciate the instant horror I felt two weeks ago when we saw yet another bed bug lurking on a pillow: our little home has undergone two professional bed bug treatments, averaging $1500 each, over the last two years, and both have failed. Every time we see one of their nasty faces we have to make a choice about every item we own: treat or toss?
And this time 'round, we were merciless. We culled our possessions by half, easily. Half our store of kid's clothing sizes yet to come. Half our current clothing and spare bedding. Half our stuffed animals, half our toys. ALL MY BOOKS, Y'ALL. ( #NeverNotCrying ) Basically, we cut down until each room in our home could be treated (and by treated I mean emptying the contents into the dryer and then spraying liberally around furniture and baseboards with alcohol before promptly evacuating) in about half an hour. This gets us in a place where we can treat the whole house in a weekend. I figure we'll just do this once a month until the end of time. They'll observe me in the insane asylum, perfectly normal for three weeks and then tearing everything in sight to pieces on the fourth with a manic tick and a murderous gleam in my eye. So, two weeks out from Christmas, we have thrown away half our belongings. But it's okay. We're all together and we're all alive.
A week from Christmas, I see a bug. Treatment mode goes live. I do all our laundry again. The 'fold' pile covers the dining room table and reaches to the chandelier, but we somehow manage to get it all processed. The trouble is, we can't treat the Christmas tree. So, much to the dismay of four little faces (especially my Jack Attack, who has just had his Christmas-themed birthday party and who generally thinks Christmas is just for him), we open presents early and we toss out the tree. But it's okay. We have a Christmas Eve planned at Great Granny's. It'll still be festive. We're alive and we're together.
|Do you love anything as much as he loves Christmas? I don't love anything a 'demon possession' amount....|
Tuesday before Christmas, the baby gets a fever. In my mamaheart I felt the ominous foreboding of an impending stomach storm. And indeed, early Tuesday morning, we are awoken by our lovely Penelope, standing in our doorway with hot red cheeks and a sour expression. An expression which, once she was all snuggled in our bed next to her Daddy, turns into lots and lots of vomit. An impressive amount of vomit. Like, more than should have fit in her body. It was not science. Rug, pillows, comforter, pajamas. Into the washer. But it's okay. We've got a little time. Surely she'll be better by Christmas Eve. Of course I knew better. Any mother of four who watches her children share cups and fists and tickles and burps who thinks only one will get sick is deluding herself. And I was. I was deluding myself so hard. They next day, another child fell victim to the bug. I cleaned more pillows and blankets and pouty faces. My favorite *psychotic laugh* is when the puke trails down their little chests and pours into their diapers. Penny got pale and was throwing up the tiniest sips of water, so I took her to the ER for fluids. Her chest x ray looked good, her tests came back fine, and her little body was somewhat cooled, so they sent us home. I thanked baby Jesus repeatedly that she did not vomit in the van. #blessed David joins in on the puke party on Thursday, and John and I are starting to slide each other dreadful side-eyes. We're not going to make it to Great Granny's Christmas Eve thing. Christmas is literally cancelled. But it's okay. We're all alive and we're all together.
|Zippy kept waking up and checking on her. #squee|
Christmas Eve was a beautiful day. The children had rallied to a status of playing almost normally, with occasional trips to the toilet for pukes. 70% actually made it to the porcelain destination. Many naps were had. We went outside so our pale and lifeless bodies could feel the sun. Then John and I, after getting them all tucked into bed, decided to watch a movie. Something to cheer. John hadn't seen 'Love Actually' so we netflixed it up. Y'all it was so much fun. A lovely date in the war zone of bodily fluids that is our home under siege of illness. I felt calm the next morning, if sleep deprived. Maybe I won't need to be committed after all. John and I declared a 'No Grump Pact', and I decided to give my hard-working husband the very best Christmas gift: a nap. I figured he and Charlie could get in a good one while I tried to get some of the neglected cleaning done, and then when he got up I could get some rest. Alas, it was not meant to be. When he woke up, the virus woke up with him. All my bright shiny new inner peace vanished in a puff of smoke. You see, I've done the math. It'll take him all of Monday (which he has off of work) and maybe part of Tuesday to get well. Which puts me...all alone in the week when I'll get it, with the post-sick, can't-wait-to-do-all-the-things children. *throws pity party* But it's okay. We're all still alive. We're all still together. Deep breath.
Christmas dinner! I can at least make something resembling a comforting meal. We got chicken fingers and potatoes, and I've been plotting to make buttery delicious mashed potatoes. As fate would have it, we were newly out of milk. WHO WAS DRINKING IT WHILE SICK??? mmmmmmkkkkkkkk *deeper breath* We're all alive. We're in this together. It's okay. I make sweet potato fries instead, which is a favorite. It's warm. It's comforting. It's on the table. We sit. Penny runs to the bathroom. I don't think I'll ever forget the long, almost pornographically wistful side-eye I gave my untouched plate as I followed her to the toilet. Goodbye, warm food. *whispers* I'll miss you. She makes it. Victory! She wipes herself...and drops the toilet paper on her leg. If you don't know, this incites a panic that PEOPLE WHO ARE ACTUALLY ON FIRE DO NOT EXHIBIT, and causes immediate hearing loss to all adjacent players, whether friend or foe. *even deeper breaths* I move her to the living room, where more wipes are. I kneel down to clean her bottom. My knees are immediately soaked in liquid. David has been sicknapping and hasn't walked the dog, which becomes apparent with the look of intense guilt Zippy is giving me. I get her clean. I change pants. I return in time for Charlie to need "MOE FOO! MOE FOO!" I cut him up more chicken and refill his fries. I sit down. My food doesn't even has residual heat. I might as well have taken it out of the refrigerator. But it's okay. We have food. We're all together. We're alive.
Bedtime comes. Charlie requires extra snuggles, but they're all in bed. They're all asleep. I sit down at my desk and listen, in case the vomit fountains activate. I just sit there, staring into the darkness. I've got nothing left. For the love of all things good and holy, if they'll just stay asleep, I'll be okay. Half an hour passes. I think it's safe. I tell John goodnight and retreat to the sofa, because I could have reheated my dinner off his aura of fever heat. My restless mind starts to let go. My eyes close. It'll be alright. We made it through the day alive and together.
THUD. I'm up! Which one is it? It's the last survivor: Jack. But he's not throwing up. That's too mainstream. The thud was the sound of his nighttime pull-up (still occasionally wets at night) hitting the floor in his doorway. There is poop, a steady trail of poop, from the pool on his mattress, across his room, into the hall, and all the way to the bathroom. WHAT WOULD POSSES HIM TO TAKE IT OFF THERE? I assure him I'm not mad. I get him into the shower. I proceed to the clean-up deed, which must be achieved in silence because, thanks to the bed bugs eating the boys' bunk bed, Charlie sleeps on his little mattress two feet from him. Now, I thought I fed him sweet potato fries and a little chicken. But apparently not. I can only assume he has consumed large quantities of superglue steeped in polyjuice potion, because this stuff is STUCK to the floor and smells like a rodent died inside Jack and liquefied in his stomach acid. Aiming very, very carefully around the general splatter, I get on my knees to scrub. Progress is being made when I KID YOU NOT, the dog strolls up behind me and pees on the floor. And pees and pees and pees. It's running toward the rug. I jump up to throw a towel on it, and I step right into a wayward pool of poop. Barefoot, man. Just cold foot skin right on slippery gray butt product. I mop, with hot water, mercifully strong-smelling soap and my own tears. I hear the shower turn off and wrap my boy in a towel, both out of love and desperation for him to warm before he shivers up any vomit. But there's an...aroma. THE BOY DID NOT USE SOAP. It's fine. He's newly seven. It's two in the morning. Understandable? I send him back and throw that towel in the washer with the sewer blanket load. The sofa is readied, the boy is dried and re-diapered. I even managed a little tiny cup of water and a forehead kiss.
And now I'm sitting here in the dark, listening. Listening for the sounds of upchuck and listening to my own stomach gurgle ominously. And y'all, I USED THE LAST OF THE COFFEE YESTERDAY.