This week Tess started throwing up.
Throwing up a lot.
She has gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, or just reflux we call it.
But she rarely hurls.
I found it in her pack-and-play on Monday morning when I woke her up, a neat little pile buried under her cheek.
It didn't really smell, but I still felt like a huge dick for not finding it during the night.
I cleaned her up, and she spent the next four days getting sick, off and on.
She'd seem fine, go for twenty-four hours of regular eating, and be good to go, and then her school would call me to come pick her up.
On this week's show: how it is with an ailing Tess. She's non-verbal, non-ambulatory, and sick as a dog.
On Monday, I had no idea how long this would go.
I tried to be zen about it, went back to a piece I wrote for Playground Dad a year ago called So Your Kid Is Sick -- Three Rules to Make It Suck Less.
But I had no clue that this sickness would last the whole week, that I'd be stuck inside the house, on extended lockdown.
No clue that the same bug would take down my wife.
Also no clue that sometimes Tess would shout to demand food at mealtimes, just like always, then puke it up afterwards.
I mean, come on.
I know she lives to eat, but does she not feel nausea?
Contrast with Dana, who's 8 and typical. Once he got the bug, he was so nauseous he declined all food.
Here is what sick Tess looks like. She's remarkably similar to healthy Tess. Cheerful. Vocal. Except just before she's gonna toss her cookies. She gets this momentary look of alarm, almost like, "Did I leave the oven on?" Then a burp that I can only describe as seismic. When those two things happen, I have about twenty seconds to scoop up her little 40-pound ass and sprint to the toilet, or sink, or whatever sort of receptacle is closest.
I know what you're thinking: why didn't I just have a bucket next to her?
Well, she faked me out a bunch. Went for a full day in the clear. That night, just before bed, right about the time my wife and I are breathing a sigh of relief that she's better, outta nowhere she hurls. Everything she'd eaten that day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Practically undigested, like she was saving it for us.
Here's another highlight. We have a dog, and at one point the boy was sick, lying on the couch, threatening to throw up, Tess was throwing up, and then the freaking dog, the dog, also started throwing up. At the same time. He's making gagging sounds, and then, when I call him to get him to go outside to get sick, he runs away, so he can get into the next room and throw up there.
So I've got two kinds of chunder -- dog and kid -- in my carpet.
I just read Jenny Offill's (awf-ILL) excellent but heartbreaking novel Department of Speculation, and I totally, totally sympathize with the part where the main character, known as the wife, talks about getting her daughter a puppy and that, though her daughter's thrilled, the puppy "does the final work of unhinging the wife."
You ever get that feeling?
Like, if one more thing happens, you know it's gonna send you over the edge, and then it does happen.
Another example: after days of lockdown I'm running on fumes, and Tess is gnawing on our wooden kitchen table, literally, like with her teeth, getting splinters in her mouth every time I try to do something like sip from my coffee or answer the phone. And I'm just saying to myself, if I can just make it to 5pm, or this certain event, like a babysitter coming so I can have a much-needed date night with my wife, then I can take a break. But then, the sitter cancels. She's got the flu. So no break. And my table looks like we have a pet woodchuck.
Do you ever think, what if someone came in here right now? What if someone not from my family, walked into my house, without warning, and saw all this? Could I possibly be a worse parent than I appear to be at this exact moment? Could it be any clearer that I have lost control, that the wheels are off?
I can be in two places at once, but not three.
It wouldn't be so bad if I could work out.
But I can't. I did something galactically dumb, a couple days after Christmas: I tore my ACL at this trampoline center that just opened near my house.
As you may know, being at home can make you insane. And for me, running, and workouts in general, have been the antidote. Without them, I am losing my shit. I'm unhinged.
While this was all happening with Tess, and I couldn't leave the house, I did a few workouts in the basement -- just simple things with situps and dumbbells. Honestly, it kind of sucked. It was one of those workouts where you stop every few minutes and say, what am I doing? But it was better than nothing.
My father-in-law, Don, lives about five minutes from us. He's fond of saying to my wife: you have no idea what you can handle. Meaning: you're way stronger than you think. If I believe something's about to break me, I'm probably underestimating myself. And Don's right. While I did a lawwwwt of swearing during this quarantine, it didn't break me. I'm not unhinged.
And you know, I got to see a rare side of Tess, while she was under the weather. She was a little klingon, glued to my hip. That's a change. I haven't seen that from her in months. Most times she does the dead-weight thing when I try to pick her up.
I'm not whining. Really. My wife is around a lot, and she cuts me loose to get out, go to the gym, whatever I need. She's awesome. I can't imagine being a single parent.
I'm grateful that this sickness ends, you know? Maybe you're out there and your kid throws up every day, or has a feeding tube. Fact is, T can feed herself, even with a fork now. Her reflux is minimal. She's good. So I'm good.
And finally, I made it through this stir-crazy week.
I'm working on getting better at asking for help when I need it, so
Many thanks to my dear friend Tracy, for saving my bacon big time, hanging out with the kids for a couple hours while I got an MRI on my busted knee.
Also thanks to Tyson at Crossfit Beacon for giving me a list of knee-friendly workouts. Tyson, hope the clavicle's healing.
Also also, thanks and a big shout out to another Tracy, Tracy Wilks. I recently wrote on my blog, the story of how we learned that Tess has cortical visual impairment, and Tracy Wilks tweeted me that she plans to share my story with parents of her students with CVI. Which made my day to hear that. The story I told was about how a lot of people, including Tess's eye doctor, thought we were nuts for saying she couldn't see, and I also talked about how we were vindicated and thankful when we learned that CVI is real, it's a thing, and there are experts, and support networks, and parents out there, like Tracy, who are connecting all of us. So thanks to Tracy, I hope it helps people, especially anybody who was ever made to feel like they were nuts.
And a big NO thanks to our insurance company, that patch of ice next to my mailbox, ESPN3 for blacking out Syracuse basketball games, and the flu, or whatever the hell this bug is, making the rounds up here in Maine.