Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Birthdays and Bedpans, Part 2

It's Caillou playing hockey for the Penguins. Any comparisons to Sidney Crosby will be summarily rejected.
Warning: The following can get a bit graphic. If you get queasy at the sight of synonyms and euphemisms for "puke," divert your eyes. Also, Part One is here.

We had gone 36 hours without anyone else in the family succumbing to the bug or whatever it was that knocked me down for about 48 hours earlier this week, though to be fair, the word "bug" wouldn't seem to do it justice. "Stomach-eating viral infestation from Hell" sounds more accurate. It lasted too long and involved too much lingering "general malaise" for it to be just bad food, so we were leaning toward it being the rare virus that comes in and strikes just one lucky person and leaves the rest of the family intact. I don't know what kind of virus you would call that, but I'm sure Dr. Nancy Snyderman knows. Our own medical diagnoses complete, we were able to concentrate less on illnesses then and more on our son's 4th birthday.

6:30 PM
I got home from work later than I wanted, which meant that we needed to jam in a dinner out, opening presents, and cake and ice cream all before bed. I'm thinking most parents have their kids in pajamas by 6:30, but not us. Our kids never go to bed before 9 o'clock anyway, because we're terrible parents.

I changed out of my work clothes but could only find a pair of jeans...not the optimal dress for the current weather, 97 and hazy (in other words, standard USA summer weather) but since we were going to just sit in air-conditioned comfort and were pressed for time, jeans it was.

But because the birthday boy has been waiting since March to open presents and has openly wept on recent occasions when there has been no mail specifically with his name on it, he was hungrier to tear into some wrapping paper than to tear into some food. Which was understandable since he never eats anything anyway. So we waited and watched him stoically open his presents (no 4-year-old in history has ever showed less emotion on his birthday; I wasn't sure if he was opening presents or watching Schindler's List) while our stomachs rumbled.

When it's your birthday in our house, you choose the restaurant where we eat, and nobody is allowed to throw a fit, especially the parents. We were not surprised, then, to hear that on this special night we would be eating at Friendly's for perhaps the fifth or sixth time in the last 30 days, but we were surprised at the reason why:

"They'll sing to me there."

We have a six-year-old daughter who dances on stage in front of hundreds of people, but our son, when he's at his most comfortable, usually stares into his feet when he talks to people. So who volunteers to be serenaded by high-school and college-age servers and hosts in front of an entire room of people? We couldn't believe it. And after pointing out that virtually ALL other places in the area will sing to you, that you don't HAVE to pick Friendly's, he stood his ground. It's his birthday.

We noticed that the parking lot was relatively empty. On the way inside, we threw out several theories why...we were there later than usual, too hot even for ice cream, it wasn't the same since the original Friendly's burned to the ground after a lit cigarette started a fire in the adjacent flower bed. An exiting patron had the answer..."AC ain't workin in there, awful hot." We stopped in the entry way, holding our diaper bag and our booster seat and our toddler, and I flashed my standard "My balls are sweating profusely just thinking about this," look, but all I got back was an "It's his birthday" counter. So we entered the conservatory dining room and of course were seated next to the kitchen.

Fanning ourselves with menus and wet napkins, we let the server know that we had a birthday celebrant among the 14 or so people in the house, and if they didn't mind coming over and doing their thing in this oppressive heat, we'd appreciate it. They did, and our son was overjoyed. I think. He had the same reaction as he did when he opened his gifts, which is the same reaction good players have when they hold a losing poker hand. So we have no idea if he enjoyed it or not. My daughter was mortified. In either case, there was an echo in the restaurant as they were chanting something in military cadence.

Of course, by Federal mandate every Friendly's party must order at least one ice cream treat, and so we sat and tolerated watching the two boys struggle to stay in front of two melting vats of ice cream by eating it with their hands. (If you are lactose intolerant and OCD, it would have been your worst nightmare.) As it got more apparent nobody was going to finish their ice cream before smearing it all over their hands and the table, we abruptly picked up and left, which started an epic temper tantrum with the 1-year-old.

Nobody working at Friendly's that night has kids, we think, because in the middle of our emergency evacuation when we were offered balloons. Never, ever offer balloons to parents who have the "we gotta get outta here" look. For some reason we stopped to accept them, perhaps to quell the temper tantrum, perhaps to avoid two more.

Once we got outside, all three balloons fell off their sticks (why sticks? Is this 1945?) and so we chased those down while we held the diaper bag and the booster seat and the toddler, then get all that stuff into the trunk, except the toddler, maybe. Daddy's starting to get a little impatient, and the sweat is pouring into previously unreached areas.

9:00 PM
We live only 10 minutes from the Friendly's, but that was plenty of time for the 1-year-old to fall asleep, so we joyfully dumped him in his crib when we got home, despite his desperate need for a power-wash, maybe stopping to take his shoes off. We still had cake to get to, so we lit the candles, turned out the lights, sang Happy Birthday, watched him blow out his candles, cheered, realized we forgot to hit Record on the video camera, then did it all over again but with 67% less enthusiasm. It has to be close to midnight by now.

Everyone passed on cake at that point because all anyone wanted to do was go to bed. As you can tell from the photo, this cake could be used to stop flooding. At least six inches high and wide enough to feature Caillou playing hockey for the mid-1990s era Pittsburgh Penguins. Don't ask. It's his birthday.

10:00 PM
It wasn't actually midnight but at this point who even notices. Even the kid who earlier opened all his presents wanted to go to bed instead of playing with them. Except for the batting tee and real aluminum bat; he wanted to use those things in the living room, within reach of some important knick-knacks. But mostly he wanted to go to bed, so he did, along with his sister. One of the more painless bedtimes, but considering all we had been through, the path there was arduous.

At last it was time to reflect on the day that was...chaos at work, chaos at home, chaos in the sweatshop restaurant, more chaos at home. Time to watch the least chaotic sport on TV...baseball, just to settle the nerves.

10:45 PM
Until there was crying. There might not be any crying in baseball (though tell that to Pirates fans the last 20 years) but there was crying in puking, as a certain six-year-old managed to throw up all over her bed and on her bedroom carpet, a messy trail covering a single flip-flop as she gamely tried to get near a toilet.

No problem...we'll just get this cleaned up and strip the bed and put some new sheets on, and you'll be as good as new. We may tend to fly off the handle and lose our tempers as parents at times, but there is always a soft spot when one of your progeny has just vomited all over her things. On top of feeling physically bad, now she feels regret for messing stuff up. And the taste is horrible. I always feel really bad when a little kid throws up.

As we were just finishing patting ourselves on the back for the efficiency and compassion with which we handled that situation, we heard some more footsteps struggling down the hall, and some coughing, and...oh shit, we didn't give her a garbage can, did we?

This time she got closer to her ultimate destination, stopping a stride short of the bowl before re-launching. Really? Just one more step and you had it...but compassion, yes! We still showed close to 97% of the compassion we did the first time. After her second bout with this, though, our daughter did request a sleeping mate. (There's a moment of truth for a parent, who among you will volunteer to sleep next to a spewing machine?) My wife came up with the best solution of both worlds; she would sleep on the couch and let out daughter sleep on the air mattress next to her.

Really there was an ulterior motive here. I think she did this less for our daughter and more because she gets tired of the now 4-year-old twisting her hair and kneeing her in the kidneys all night, so a night on the couch next to a sick kid is preferable.

Somehow unable to sleep after all that, I turn on the NFL Network. As much as I love football, the NFL Network has some pretty terrible programming, and not much of it. Can only watch the Walter Payton thing so many times.

2:56 AM
I'm awakened by the bed shaking, and my bedmate shaking, followed by a BLLLLLLLAAAAAAAACCCH cough cough couuuuugh three inches from my head. Victim number two has been identified, and I fly out of there like he's an axe murderer. Where's that garbage can? Where's the toilet? Is he done yet? Where is the backup to the backup set of sheets? My wife is awakened by the chaos and affords our son the same comfort we afforded our daughter (the first time) while I dry heave in the bathroom sink. She does not offer to sleep with him, however.

"I frue up a yil' bit," he declared when asked the mostly rhetorical "What happened?" question. Still very stoic, businesslike, matter-of-fact. No panic, no fear. Everybody pukes. Most impressive is that he turned down a drink of water after his ordeal. But this is no big deal. I fetch him a new pair of pajamas for the rest of the night, and he points out that "they don't match."

"Put them on, anyway." Three sets of pajamas and two sets of bed clothes later, we may be finally ready to...

6:02 AM
Beep, beep, beep, slap.

6:11 AM
Beep, beep, beep, slap.

6:20 AM
Beep, beep, beep, slap.

6:29 AM
Beep, beep, beep, crash landing into the far corner.

The show must go on.

His sister made the 4's herself! Including the backward one. Reversals are ok through second grade, from what I understand.

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