Saturday, February 2, 2008

"Wet Clean Up in Aisle 16."

(I apologize in advance for the graphic nature of this posting. I also apologize for the length of this posting... but it's a good story, in its own very gross way.)

On Wednesday afternoon, the boys and I headed out for a major trip to the grocery store: time to stock up on the necessities. Robb was traveling for the fourth week in a row, and we were on a countdown until he would be home again. In the meantime, we needed to fill the cupboards.

I had filled the cart to its capacity, and I was on the final stretch. I needed to visit the baby aisle, and then I needed to make the inevitable "one more round" to get the things I always forget the first time through.

As I pondered the baby foods, trying to choose the best ones for my littlest man, Tuck threw up. Again and again. Everywhere. A LOT. I mean, a LOT.

I had tucked my coat in the little space underneath, for temporary ease of coat-free shopping, and his throw-up was filling his lap, his coat, his seat and seeping between the bars of the cart and down onto my coat. I'm telling you: there was A LOT.

What do you do in a moment like that? I really, truly wanted to say to the people strolling by at the end of the aisle, "Excuse me, can you help me?? Please? Can you help?!" But what can they do?
If I am being totally honest, I really want someone else to be The Mom for a moment. It's not that I don't want my kids, it's just that I don't want that to be My Mess to clean up and deal with. There was just far more to clean up than my baby wipes could handle.

Well, one thing was for sure: this grocery shopping adventure was officially over. Yes, I still needed baby food, and more importantly, those few other items - mandatory items. Things that completed the recipes I planned to make for my family this week. I needed them. And yet, clearly, we could not continue shopping.

I lifted Tucker out of his seat, and I cleaned off his hands, face, and shoes. I pushed my very heavy cart with one hand, and I held his hand with the other... only to remember that Tucker's legs stop working when his pants are wet. He walks like Frankenstein. His knees do not bend, and his feet operate as though he is wearing cement shoes. It is not a good plan. And yet, what could I do? Put him back in the vomit seat?

Actually, that's exactly what I did. He couldn't walk, I couldn't carry him, and our only remaining choice was for me to put him back in the cart. Poor guy.

We headed straight to the checkout stand. The communication henceforth went something like this:

"Hello, ma'am. Did you find everything?"

"Well, mostly, yes. I'm sorry to tell you, though, my little boy just threw up all over the baby food aisle."

"Oh... oh, yes." He just looked at Tucker, who appeared to have indeed thrown up, or else I had poured cottage cheese all over him without buying it first. "I'm so sorry to hear that."

"Yes, I'm sorry, too. Very, very sorry."

"One moment, Ma'am." He picked up his telephone, and he pressed the Top Secret Code for making Public Announcements. "Can I get a wet clean up in Aisle 16? Wet clean up in aisle 16."

I was tempted to encourage him to call the HazMat team. Seriously. They had no idea how very wet or how very much this clean up would entail.

The kind young man, Ryan, began unloading the cart, scanning my items, one at a time. As I watched, it brought back memories of sweeter times in the last hour: when I bought a slice of apple pie that I planned to indulge in after my children went to bed, and when I chose some heart-shaped Valentine cookie dough that Tuck and I will tear apart and bake together, creating memories and a blog post, all at the same time.

But all of that was lost in the fact that my son had gotten sick: very sick.

The grocery bagger, a girl named Carly, with very black hair and very blue eyeliner, said, "Ma'am, is there anything else I can get for you? Anything left on your list?"

My goodness, yes. Yes, there is. That darling girl went to the far corners of the store to find cream of chicken soup, french fried onions, and baby wipes. Now that is above and beyond the call of duty.

Meanwhile, Ryan, stayed to the task at hand. It was only while I was sorting through my coupons that I heard him say, "Oh. Oh, my."

I looked up to see his hand covered in cottage cheese... you know what I mean. I didn't realize it, but while Tucker's throw-up was pouring down onto my coat, it was of course pouring over some of the groceries, too.

Oh, yuck. I said, "Oh, my goodness. That's awful. This is awful. I'm so sorry. Oh, my gosh, this is so awful." I asked him to hand me a plastic bag, and I would take care of the food my son had thrown up on. After all, his mother should be the one to handle the dirty work, and believe me: even I didn't want to do the dirty work.

Ryan was so professional. "Ma'am, I'll just get you a new one. You shouldn't have to take this home. We'll get you a new one. What is this, chunky blue cheese dressing?"

I couldn't help it - I laughed. "Ironically, yes. It's chunky. Blue Cheese."

And off he went, to wash his hands, and to replace the dressing. Who can do without Marzetti's Blue Cheese? Not me, apparently.

Let me just toss this in for your mental picture: Tucker felt just fine, for the moment. What had upset his tummy so badly was now out of his system, and he was ready to ride the Penny Horse. So he was signing horse with all he was worth, and saying, "Nay? Nay? Nay? Nay?"

"No, not today. Sorry, Buddy. No horse today. You're sick." And all the mothers in the store rejoiced over my good judgment, since I did not choose to put my son in his wet, vomit-soaked pants on the horse. Not even for a penny.

Finally, finally, it was time to go.

Tuck and some groceries were in one cart, and Tyler (who was blissfully behaved and showing no signs of illness) sat in his carseat along with the rest of my groceries in a second cart. Carly offered to help me to my car, and I took her up on it before she could come to her senses.

She said, "How about if I take the cart with the baby, and you take the one with the... the sick little guy?"


She began to push Tyler's cart - which struck fear in his heart. He realized instantly that someone other than Mommy was pushing him out of the store, and he was terrified. He began screaming - the kind of wail that makes mothers everywhere turn and look, signaling clearly that a child is in danger. (I am very thankful that he has this awareness, since I would want him to respond exactly that way if he ever needed to... but let's not go there. I can feel nightmares stirring at the very thought of it. Back to the throw-up.) We had to stop everything so I could show him that I was right here, right beside him, going out the door to take him home. Bless his sweet heart... I do love that boy. I love them both... have I mentioned that?

After Carly loaded my groceries, and after I loaded my children (one wet with tears, the other wet with, well, you know), we drove the four minutes to the house. I carried the children in the house, got Tucker out of his wet clothes, and began carrying food into the kitchen.

But then he threw up again. And again. And again. And I cleaned him up. Again, and again.

I was able to put the cold things away between his episodes, but everything else stayed strewn about the kitchen, because Tucker couldn't stop throwing up. This continued for six hours.

(Please remember, if only for sympathy: Robb was traveling. For the fourth week in a row. I was at my limit.)

My mom came over for moral and physical support, and there are truly not enough words to express how deeply thankful I was. She held Tyler, played with him, fed him his bottle, and put him to bed, all while I held Tucker, keeping the trash can and the wash cloth close by.

At the appropriate time, Tyler went right to sleep, and Mom and I agreed that things seemed pretty well under control. She could go on home.

We settled in for the night, and Tucker kept throwing up. Every 15 minutes, almost like clockwork. Since there was no way I could risk putting him in his bed, Tuck and I had a sleepover in the living room. He slept on a makeshift bed on the floor, complete with his comforter and a sheet (to be replaced as needed), and I slept on the couch right beside him. As he got sick throughout the night, I changed his jammies and his sheets, until we had accumulated quite a pile of laundry in the corner of the living room.

It was quite a night.

Finally, Tucker's body calmed down, and he fell asleep. And so did I.

Until 3:30 in the morning... when I got sick. Oh, my goodness, did I get sick. I will spare you the details (unlike I have throughout the rest of this story). But I will say this: I was sicker than I have ever been since we got married. Crazy sick.

At 5:00 AM, I had to call for reinforcements: Mom. She came back, ever ready to help, even before the sun came up.

I'm telling you: when I'm sick, there's just nobody like my mom. She stayed for the duration, leaving for only a few hours when she needed to teach a class at the seminary.
(Tucker, by the way, was completely healed by morning, and ready to hit the ground running. I was definitely thankful that he stopped throwing up, but c’mon… couldn’t he give me just one day of snuggling and downtime?)

Mom was absolutely phenomenal. She took care of me and my children, right down to bathing Tucker and Tyler so they didn’t smell like throw-up when their daddy came home from his business trip. She stayed until Robb came home, at 8:30 that night. She gave him the report, and then she went off duty. Unbelievable. I love you, Mom.

That was Wednesday, and today is Saturday…and that, incidentally, is why I haven’t posted a single thing in four days.

It all started at the grocery store.


Sherie said...

Oh, Tricia I'm not sure there is anything worse than a little one throwing up everywhere--especially when everywhere is outside of your home, in public, without necessities to clean it up!! Cyleigh said, "That's so sad", and Caytlin said, "I feel so sorry for them". We hope you are all feeling much, much better.

Alli Dunham said...

Oh my. I am so glad your mom was available for reinforcement. It took all I had (plus a husband with common sense) to not allow myself to come to the rescue. I so desperately wanted to come help you...but alas, I did not want a sick 3-month-old or 5-year-old. And I'm sure your mom would prefer I not call in sick on my first day back after a 3 month maternity leave. Way to go Polly and Robb!

my3boys said...

Oh. My. Goodness.

Janet Worley said...


Thanks for the humorous way that you write. I needed it. But seriously the Taco recipe right underneath.


hdmt704 said...

Hi Tricia! My mom told me this story when I called her to lament about Ollie's first vomiting experience. I realize now that I was lucky I was at home when it hit!