The Forgotten Gift by Susan Nelson

Susan Nelson

Susan Nelson

One of the most acute losses in my life was that of my sister-in-law, Susan. Married to my brother, Elden, this woman was kind and somewhat soft-spoken, but with a fighter’s spirit and love enough to fill one thousand universes. Susan fought breast cancer for years and years, finally succumbing to it in August of 2009.

My sisters and I would take turns being with Elden and Susan’s family, to help with their four kids and care-taking of Susan’s needs. My sister Kellene did the lion’s share of helping.  I always wished I had even one-tenth of Kellene’s intuition and ability to help. Still, on one of my visits, Susan gave me a manuscript to read, and very shyly asked if I would look it over. I began reading it next to her, while she slept. After an hour or so, I moved from her room into the Family Room, and sunk into a corner on the couch. I realized I was straining to read it and looked out the window, surprised that the sun was on its way down. Hours had passed, and I was absolutely wrapped up in this story.

I woke Susan to talk to her about it. It was so well written, and I could hear her voice clear as a bell in it. Susan sat up as much as she could, and we started talking about the characters, who they were based on, and some of the references. It was a treat to talk to the author while reading her story. Even more so because this was one of our longest conversations, with Susan’s energy at an all-time high for that trip. She loved this story. She really loved talking about it. I really loved reading it.

I finished the manuscript and praised it over and over to her. She insisted it wasn’t finished and I told her I thought it was. I felt the ending was exactly as it should be, leaving me wanting more but feeling resolved. She let me put a copy of it on my computer so I could read it with Roan when he got a bit older.

I had one more visit with Susan, one more collection of days spent with her, but I do feel that the talks we had about her book were some of the last real conversations we had. Our  last days together were some of the hardest I’ve spent. I watched my brother and his children lose their wife and mother. I was there to witness them saying good-bye to her, and had no way of helping, no way of changing or buffering what was inevitable.

Available on Amazon

Available on Amazon

And now it is almost four years later, and my brother has found a way to publish this story that meant so much to Susan. The book is a wonderful read on its own, it is one I would recommend even without such a personal connection. But with the added love I have for the author, I now ask that anyone who enjoys a good read go here to buy a copy of “The Forgotten Gift”, an interrupted novel by Susan Nelson.

My brother, Elden, best describes what the sales of this book will mean to his family on his site, Fat Cyclist:

Where the Money’s Going

Last July, I was kind of at the end of my rope. My 17-year-old son — already prone to depression — had been really struggling since his mom’s illness and death.

Finally, I had found a program that was really helping, but my insurance company  was actively fighting me on whether they should have to cover his treatment. Eventually, they did cover his treatment, up to a point.

Then they stopped. And now that’s thousands and thousands of dollars we need to come up with, both for the treatment he’s had and the treatment he continues to receive.

By the way, my son is now doing great. He’s back at school full-time, and is headed off tomorrow to participate in an academic decathlon. Also, he and I are training together to run in a five-mile race next weekend.

I have to say, I think Susan would be really pleased at the idea of her novel covering the treatment that has done her son so much good.

Susan, Elden and their eldest son.

Susan, Elden and their eldest son.

Read the rest of his entry here. And by all means please pass this story on. My sister-in-law has an amazing legacy left for her children. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised in her name towards fighting cancer. Her personal battle has inspired many. And now her creative and magical side gets to shine, through this story. This is the Susan who I remember. Not the fighter or the iconic cancer-battling poster child , but the woman who was still so child-like and smiling. The woman whose eyes actually sparkled when she listened to Green Day and played Snowboard Supercross. This woman who loved being a mother more than anything, and whose children clamored to hear her read to them and tell stories. The fiction she spins is beautiful and easy to get lost in. The reality behind it is that you get to help her family by enjoying it. Click here.

 

 

Friday Night Party

Friday night, and the bass is turned up loud. Old school speakers thumping House, heavily influenced from Chicago, and the crowd is jumping. Literally, jumping. As a siren squeals in the song, voices start mimicking the sound and it’s almost too much….until the breakdown. All eyes turn towards the disco ball in the corner, reflecting a clean white light and creating irresistible reflective bubbles all around the dark room. A sweet-faced boy with killer moves and an obviously cared-about look smiles at me and offers me a lollipop. It’s my third of the night, but I take it anyway. After all, it’s the weekend. And I wouldn’t want to turn him down.

Casa Call Club on a Friday night.

Casa Call Club on a Friday night.

Two more boys, shirtless, run around maniacally chasing each other. Laughing and dancing, like they’ve been waiting for this night all week. Without a thought as to who is watching them, they sing along with the song, “I Love Yoooooooo”, louder and louder. They don’t stop until one falls down clutching his belly from laughing too hard and rolling around on the cushions on the floor. Also, he is wearing no pants. Neither is the other boy for that matter. There is a lollipop stuck to the cheek of his bum.

On the list. Knows the DJ.

On the list. Knows the DJ.

A handsome man stands next to me in the doorway where I’ve been watching the party with a beer in my hand. He clicks my drink with his, throws his arm around my shoulder and whispers into my ear, “Did you ever imagine? When we met that this would happen?”

Masking tape streamers. Dad's fun idea/safety hazard.

Masking tape streamers. Dad’s fun idea/safety hazard.

Nope I didn’t. When I met him in a nightclub fourteen years ago, I had no idea we could create this chaotic hysterical awesome party family together. Our Friday nights are spent in much the same atmosphere they were back then. Music, dancing, celebrating the end of the week. The nights end earlier, with less regret but usually more broken things and bubble bath water splashed everywhere. I feel bad for anyone who feels that having a family is boring or holds them back. The family is the party. Masking tape streamers, an awesome playlist, and kids who can step one two – coolest Friday nights on Earth.

Done Breastfeeding

If you don’t want to talk about my breasts, you’ve come to the wrong post, buddy.

My sons have all been natural-born suckers. Through no valiant or hyper-vigilant effort of my own, I have been a breastfeeder for the masses, or so it seems. I mean, breastfeeding two kids at once for two years? Massive. But it really hasn’t felt hard or difficult or anything other than normal. Feeding Roan was the same way. He was happy to breastfeed or bottle feed or just eat. And he drifted between all three mediums until he decided not to, and that was that. Around age two years and a few months, he was done breastfeeding and told me so.

Smitty and Shepz have been champion breastfeeders. And until one week ago today, I was still breastfeeding them at night, right before bed. It was easy and sweet, a chance for the three of us to cuddle up and be quiet. They would always hold hands, and Smitty would do a bit of intermittent verbal free association during the process, kind of giving an overview of how his day played out for him. “Smishie fall down. Roro School. Sheppy not share. Mama hide. Fast car. Special Snack.” Sort of an end-of-day highlight reel, in-between gulps of milk.

It would seem that I’m one of those ladies who really really really believes in breastfeeding for ages but I’m not. It’s just been the easiest thing for me and my boys, the right way for us to go about what we do. But I figured out that now we’re at a stage where it’s just going to be harder and harder to take it away and I’m thinking these two are not going to call it off anytime soon. So. I decided to break it off, quick and clean last Friday night when Roan and I spent the night away. That was the first night they went to bed without me.

It went smoothly, couldn’t have been better. But the next night when I was back, but not offering it up? Not as smooth. I had a big plan as I often times do. Just replace the breastfeeding session with a reading session. Something they love and can look forward to. Something special and cozy, filled with love and attention. And with Anson, Roan, Smitty, Shepz and me piled on the bed reading Goodnight Moon and The Big Red Barn, I thought about how easy this transition is. Until we put them to bed and they were all, “What. The. What?”

And there was a bit of crying and I felt sad. I felt really sad. They haven’t cried when going to bed for over a year. I thought about how lame it was for me to stop, because really it wasn’t putting me out at all, and they liked it and what was the downside again? Hmmmmmm. But I am a woman of strong intent and even when logic fails if I’ve made a decision I stick with it. This is why I ran several businesses successfully which should absolutely not have succeeded. Because I’m stubborn like whoa.

So the next night was better and the night after that the best. They’re into the new groove, it’s a good routine we have now. I now remember that I stopped because I cannot breastfeed them forever, I stopped because at some point I have to. They even joke about not nursing, asking for it and then quickly saying, “Noooooo!” in a funny joking way, like they had asked me to travel to the moon with no pants on, and obviously they would wear pants because the moon is cold.

I suppose there are upsides to this now. I can spend nights away, babysitters can come and put these boys to bed. But just as I miss those quiet times from years ago with Roan cuddled up tight in my arms, I already miss these two bigger and bigger boys sandwiching me and holding hands. Parenthood is a funny thing. It’s the best the worst the happiest and the saddest. And the fastest. That’s the hardest part. Too fast.

The Easiest Best Vacation Ever

Spa Castle (Image from website)

Spa Castle (Image from website)

Roan and I just got back from a high-priority, top-secret get away with our buddies Jen + Issey. (Ro forbade me from talking about it before it happened, believing it would jinx the likelihood of it actually happening.) After Anson got home from an exotic working vacation in freezing cold Minneapolis, my eldest and I flew out the front door and into our friend’s car, headed for paradise in a borough called Queens.

Sauna Alley (image from website)

Sauna Alley (image from website)

Since Mid-Winter recess was shortened from five days to two, courtesy of Hurricane Sandy, (kids in NYC missed a week of school during the storm and its aftermath. Had to make up for it somewhere.) I knew we had to smash an insane amount of good times in. So we charted a course for Spa Castle. This is a Korean spa, with five stories, and 100,000 square feet of  ”luxurious serenity”. The place is absolutely awesome and also hysterical. There are bade pools outside, and saunas everywhere. Roan’s favorite is the Ice Sauna, mine the lay-down-and-die sauna (I can’t remember it’s name.) It’s clean, everyone has to wear a uniform so there’s not a ton of hoochie-mama stuff hanging around to embarrass my young-but-old child, and mostly, it just feels like you’re nowhere near NYC. Roan + Issey especially enjoy the Korean cuisine, going totally native and ordering…wait for it…cheese fries. heh. Well, no matter. It comes down to this: anyplace that has a sleeping room is cool in my book.

My favorite pool.

My favorite pool.

A person who is especially good at relaxing can spend an entire day at Spa Castle. And my boy and our buddies? We are champion relaxers. However, there was more sport relaxing on our agenda.  After Spa Castle, we headed over to Hotel de Pointe, which is about a half-mile away from the spa.

Balloons. Fireplace. Buddies.

Balloons. Fireplace. Buddies.

Staying in the theme of Korean-based surroundings, this hotel is super modern and has an amazing AMAZING Asian American buffet. Now. Roan + Issey briefly visited the dinner food, but mostly they were paying attention (read: 4 visits) to the chocolate fountain and cotton candy machine. I couldn’t stop eating the Sushi because you know, it’s a buffet. And you’re supposed to eat a lot. I did my best but am certain that if Anson were there, it would have been a better showing. There’s such things as octopus and a myriad of meats I could never eat. All stuff that makes Anson’s eyes dance in little spirals. He’s a competitive eater. I’m nowhere near his league.

White leather helps everyone feel super sophisticated.

White leather helps everyone feel super sophisticated.

However, I am a champion Karaoke participator, and the hotel has private Karaoke rooms, which Jen + I forced our bashful children into. After a good 1/2 hour of the moms raising the roof, belting out everything from Nicki Minaj to Lady Gaga, the kids took over and THAT was a treat. Karaoke: it’s what brings out the rockstar in all of us (Pro-tip: No one can resist singing to Katy Perry.)

If only you could hear me sing...

If only you could hear me sing…

A good night’s sleep (obviously after staying up late and eating snacks from the Asian market downstairs) and we hit the breakfast buffet. Roan pretended to be a kid who is allowed to drink coffee and I decided to play along. He took maybe one sip and sat and stirred the cup in between bagels and croissants and toast and cereal and sausage. We all ate breakfast while still in our PJ’s and stared at the amazing view that is NYC.

Rooftop patio. Windy but alluring.

Rooftop patio. Windy but alluring.

Breakfast. Prop coffee.

Breakfast. Prop coffee.

This overnight vacation was amazing for us. No babies and no distractions. Just a sweet little pocket of quiet and indulgent time. Roan keeps talking about it like it was a dream, or something that happened ten years ago. He misses it already. Little does he know that mama has found a new favorite thing to do with her biggest boy. We will revisit this “vacation”. Proof that sometimes the simple and easy get away is more than enough. Travel time approx 15 minutes, by car. Memories seared for a lifetime. That’s the goods.

One More Reason I am Screwed

 

Winter love

Winter love

Anson left town early this morning. He said goodbye to Roan and me at 5 AM, and as Roan moved into my bed, shed a few tears and cuddled up under the blankets with me for another hour we even fell asleep before it was time to start the real morning. A few pop-tarts, a prepared lunch and two cups of coffee later, all the boys were set and happy, dressed and warm. Roan went off to school and I endeavored to create the cleanest home possible.

There’s just a thing in me that loves to clean when Anson leaves. Probably part coping mechanism and part busy work, I change all the bedding, clean all the bathrooms, mop the floors and wipe the surfaces. It’s usually a treacherous trick to do it when Smitty + Shepz are around because they love to “help”. Obviously because they are two, the most alluring job has something to do with the toilet, the blue stuff and a stick to stir it around. But today I found myself on a lucky streak with them both mesmerized by Toy Story on the TV, nestled into the couch.

Eyes on two at a time

Eyes on two at a time

Because I was going to have the vacuum on, I deadbolted the front and back door. I didn’t want them learning how to open doors and travel into Mother Brooklyn’s arms at the exact moment I was vacuuming their room, now, right? I was feeling confident that they’d be safe for the 5 minutes it would take me to get the downstairs floors finished. So finish I did, then flew up the stairs to check on them.

And there was only one. Sheppard was sitting on the couch, with Roan’s shoes on, a Batman mask, a diaper and nothing else. That’s normal. But Smitty? No Smitty. I walked into the kitchen. No Smitty. The bathroom, no Smitty. Down the stairs no Smitty, Roan’s room no Smitty, my room no Smitty, the twins’ room, no Smitty their closet no Smitty. Bathroom again, no. Stairs again, (but faster), no. Other bathroom no. Kitchen, no! Family room no, no no no no anywhere. I checked the door to make sure it was still locked though I could see the deadbolt was still thrown. It made no sense. This boy was gone. I couldn’t hear him, and Sheppard was laughing at me saying “Where’s Smith?!?!” like it was a game. Soon I was interjecting many of these: @$# @#$% @$#%, and that game just got funnier for Shepz.

There is usually either mischief or sadness.

There is usually either mischief or sadness.

So. A few things ran through my head. Someone has obviously climbed through the window, taken Smith, and left. I am going to have to call someone for help soon. Or could I just wait…? For him to show up? No! He’s two! I am the dumbest mother in the world. How can I lose my child in my home while the doors are locked? This doesn’t make sense. Check all the cabinets. Maybe he climbed up and into one? In desperation, I finally asked Sheppard slowly and deliberately, “Where. Is. Smith?”

To which he answered, “Poop.”

And then finally, I heard a tiny whisper from downstairs. One that said, “Mama. No. Mama. No.”

I flew down the stairs and called for Smitty to hear, “Mama. No!” again. In Roan’s room, in Roan’s closet, hidden under a pile of clothes . Sheesh. He was hiding from me. And Sheppard wasn’t wrong. He was pooping. And he wanted privacy. He really wanted to poop in his diaper, in his brother’s closet, under a pile of clothes, without his mother witnessing it.

Imagine if he knew I was sharing this with the world.

Probably for the best if Roan doesn't hear about this story. I believe the smell will be gone by the time he gets home.

Probably for the best if Roan doesn’t hear about this story. I believe the smell will be gone by the time he gets home.

Anyway. It’s interesting how long it takes my heart to go back to normal. I felt literally like I had run ten miles. The boys have no idea how their little impish senses of humor are going to age their mother. I am just saying this – from now on there will be stakes and leashes every time I leave the room. Or perhaps I will just continue to be at the mercy of two devilish saucy children. Heh, who am I fooling? Make that three. I am screwed.

 

New Pistols New Project

Oh man, this feels good to me.

So welcome to the new Pistols + Popcorn. Naked and unbranded, no agenda and not trying to climb any high heights. Most likely I will reach new lows but heh, it’s all sport, right? I was ready for a change and this’ll do. Hope you like it too.

**************************

Roan and I just got home from the Project Runway season finale taping at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. This is our third time going, and has become somewhat of a tradition for us. We love going. I’m not sure what it does for my son, but I revel in walking on the razor’s edge of embarrassing him. As my Roan gets older, he gets a little more worried about what I’m going to say. In public. Out loud. At Fashion Week. 

So knowing this and seeing the slightest bit of mistrust in his face as we are surrounded by fabulous people everywhere, I whisper in his ear, “I think now would be a good time to talk about the changes that are going to happen with your body. I think we should have a little discussion about puberty.”

And I can pretty much guarantee that no one ever has rolled their eyes that far into the back of their head and lived to tell, no one except Roan Call. It’s not that I like to see him suffer. Mostly I like to see him laugh in spite of his overwhelming instinct to “shhhhsh!!” me. And then, I whisper, as the Pièce de résistance: ”Pooooooo-berrrrrrrr-tyyyyyy

Thassrite, Poo-berty.

I had a teacher, around 7th or 8th grade who had the enormous misfortune of teaching my class a chapter on reproduction. It wouldn’t have been so tragic had he been able to pronounce puberty correctly, but alas, he could not. Puberty was “Poo-berty” and each utterance was met with giggles and snickers and snorts. I mean, maybe he was a tomato to-mahto kind of guy and just couldn’t be bothered to care how it should be pronounced. But forever and ever and ever if I have to talk about puberty it will be a joke. Shout out to you, Mr. Marty!

Mondo + Roan

Mondo + Roan

I’ve told Roan that story, and as you’ve probably guessed, my child will forever and ever think of puberty as poo-berty, and as somewhat of a joke. But this kind of dialogue works for him because he’s not really into the gravitas of a heart-to-heart love blossoms and so does your body kind of discovery discussion with his mother. So we joke, and he has the facts, and lives in fear of me breaking it all down for him in front of Heidi Klum and Michael Kors.

But I did not. We spoke not of puberty but of fashion, and Roan will still hold my hand during the show. He had his picture taken with his favorite Project Runway winner of all time, Mondo. He had his favorite collection and I had mine. We are beginning to have different aesthetics in fashion, which probably means he is no longer my little shadow.

Roan + Kooan

Roan + Kooan

As we exited the show, a photographer touched Roan on the shoulder and asked if he could take his picture. Of course, Roan agreed to it and struck a perfect pose. Then another photographer joined, and soon there was a group taking pictures of my boy. I’m not sure who they thought he was or if they just enjoyed his awesome Jeremy Scott wing shoes. But Roan moved on from the crowd without even mentioning it. That’s his style, really. Always amazed by the world but rarely overeager to talk about it. A passing mention, or sometimes a little chat if it pushes bedtime. His life leaves me feeling slightly envious. It’s all open to him, this world. I want to live like he does. Humble and confident, excited but not anxious. If I could be him, (minus the mother who likes to wind him up) that would be my perfect life. Luckily he agrees to take me along. Though if I keep up with the poo-berty talk that good luck might end.

Burning It Down

So. I started thinking about shutting Pistols + Popcorn down. Nothing has happened that I’m unhappy with, but there are a few things that bug me. Mostly all the PR pitches I get. Now, I could come across as self-important by saying that – I mean it comes across as sort of…”Oh, look at me I’m so important that all these companies want to partner up with me! ME! Yes, M-E!”

"Hey Pistols? Yeh, it's Popcorn..."

"Oi! I told you not to call me here!"

But it’s not like that. I know that all the corporations in the world have figured out that word-of-mouth is the best bet for their advertising dollar, and what’s more word-of-mouth than a Mommy Blog? Trusted and true. So they go after us, even if their product has nothing to do with our audience. It’s obvious that they don’t read the blog, most of the time, and then this sort of yucky “We LOVE what you do you will LOVE what we do and your readers will be GRATEFUL for the introduction” type of thing I keep getting. That’s probably why it grosses me out. I just don’t want to use my sons and our stories to sell stuff. That’s not why you stick with me, that’s not what you’re here for. And that’s definitely not why I’m here. Each email I get asking me to do it makes me a little more aware of all the advertising happening here, on the sidelines, and I’m just not down with it anymore.

What will we do without the millions of dollars of revenue she made?

I want to keep writing, and I want to keep it real. So I’m turning this into a commerce-free site, starting next week. I’m going to redesign this site (and when I say “I’m going to” obviously I mean “Anson is going to”) and reclaim all the real estate that has belonged to advertisers and big ultra-business. I’m burning it down to the ground where it’s just me and mine. And all of my readers are invited to hang with us, here in the ashes.

I suppose we will live off of juice sippy cups and love

I think I’m going to enjoy this place a lot more. Hopefully you will too. I will not accept anything to review, unless it’s a service actually provided by a friend, or a reader. Someone who really actually is invested here and wants to share something with me. And something I would actually talk about with friends. So pardon the quiet for just a little while, and come back in a few. Hopefully you’ll like what you see.

Picture Story

Smith likes Seaweed

Sheppard really likes...

...MEAT

Smith doesn't mind the snow

As long as mama keeps a warm lap close by

Roan continues his creative artistic streak

He can make art from anything

They cooperate

Share

And have good oral hygiene

It's a circus here, pretty much 24/7

Which leaves me today, with very little time to write.

Acupuncture and Back Pain

As shocking as it may seem, being in a sort of smallish body and building two babies at once took a toll on what used to be a pretty strong structure. I’ve always thought I was tonka tough. But two little bouncy boy babies have brought me d-o-w-n. I’m finally admitting defeat, and tapping out.

Fortunately, tapping out in this case just means I’m going to try to take care of myself rather than ignore the constant thud of pain in my back. Way back, around two years ago I was told by the surgeon who was fixing my umbilical hernia (another twin-pregnancy smackdown) that I was going to have back problems. My thoughts were as follows:

  1. Clearly he has no idea who he’s talking to.
  2. Back pain is for the same type of people who actually get sick.
  3. If my back hurts there’s always Ibuprofen.

And while I’ve been laying on my back, on the floor, faced with the multitude of marbles and books that have collected under the couch and TV stand over the past two days I have finally had to admit: he could be right. My back not only hurts, but it is a problem. I did nothing weird to tweak it out, simply putting Smitty’s shoes on, bent over in half. While holding Sheppard. As I’ve done seven thousand times before. But that was that and now I cannot even really stand up straight without some real driving effort.

My name is Jodi, and I have a problem with my back. (I also was forced to admit I was sick not more than a few weeks back. Apparently this is a “learning” year for me. YAY!)

So. After admitting that my “ignore this” approach was going nowhere, and taking several fistfuls of ibuprofen which wasn’t even coming close to touching the pain, I made an appointment with an acupuncturist. I have more than a few friends whom I respect that have said this is something that has helped. And in my vulnerable state of only being able to lie down flat, I kind of admitted defeat.

So here’s the spoiler: I’m not sure if I’m into it or not. The session was great: the acupuncturist (is that what they’re called?) was empathetic and warm and attentive. I absolutely felt something during my time there – kind of like a river of pain moving from needle to needle, and then finally disappearing. I particularly enjoyed the sensation of a heat lamp on my back while lying there for around 30 minutes, alone, with needles everywhere, listening to a white noise machine giving me ocean waves simulation. I did love that. And walking home, I felt totally zen’d out. I felt better, for sure. But my caveman skeptical brain wonders if it’s just the actual laying down still for an hour that helped, the psychological boost of actually being proactive against this, time passing, or a combination of everything that was effective.

So I’m going to try more. They suggested that I combine some chiropractic care with acupuncture and I feel like I probably should. I’m trying to place my doubting brain aside and put a little bit of faith in people who spend their lives helping to fix up broken bodies like mine. I figure I’ll follow their plan for one month – maybe two acupuncture sessions and two chiropractic sessions, and if things go well I’ll continue. If they’re not, then I’ll go back to my ignoring this problem solution which is not actually helpful, but is totally free and takes up pretty much no time.

How to Survive a Throwing Up Toddler

Bath #2,456,354 during the sickness. Don't forget how good a bath feels when you're down!

Despite the wealth of writing material born from surviving not one, but two (!) vomiting toddlers at once, I’d prefer not to have to experience it again. However, I have also been baptized by fire (uh, and vomit), and feel like I’ve learned a trick or two. Here’s hoping someone finds this while combing the internet at 3 AM, as I was, trying to see if there is any good way to get through this experience:

Get A Bowl, Make it Be Friends With the Vomiter

I thought possibly Smitty + Shep were too young to understand that throwing up in a bowl is way more awesome than on the carpet, or couch. They totally got it! At age two, these guys learned to let me know when they were going to throw up, and took a great amount of pride in hitting the bowl.

It began with Shep. He threw up on the floor a few times before we got organized enough to read his signs. But sure enough, if he pointed to his mouth or tummy and said, “Ouch” we had T-minus 3 seconds to get it to him. But that was usually enough. And if he was given lots of praise and reassured while getting it in the bowl, it actually seemed less traumatic.

More importantly, Smith took note. After mocking his twin brother over and over, with pantomimes of throwing up complete with wrenching sounds, it was his turn. Smith had a different warning. If he coughed, that was it. One cough, maybe two and he was ready to roll. They each knew that the plastic bowl was the place to hit, and they each started asking for the bowl when they felt it coming on.

I believe that with more hard work and practice, these two toddlers will be ready to join a fraternity by age six due to their throwing up prowess alone. That’s probably not funny. However if you’re reading this at 3 AM your “what’s funny” bar may be a bit lower so I’m leaving it.

Buy A Snow Cone/Shave Ice Machine

Years ago Anson and Roan bought some cheap snow-cone machine that takes up way way way too much space in our Brooklyn apartment’s valuable cabinet real estate. But it has proven its worth time and again during illnesses. The worst feeling in the world is that one where you cannot keep even a drop of water down, but you are so wickedly thirsty that you drink anyway. As a mom, I know that I cannot let my toddler chug down anything at all, because it dehydrates him even more when he throws it back up. But it’s also incredibly hard to ignore his begging for water.

This machine is better than a blender, because it doesn’t crunch up the ice into chunks, it literally shaves it. So just a few slivers of shaved ice, slowly melting in their mouths seems to trick the body into hanging onto it, and quenches their thirst *just* enough to feel like they are not being tortured. Once they’ve held enough shaved ice pieces down over a few hours, you can even give them a treat and pour Pedialyte over it which helps them hydrate even more. And it resembles a really crappy tasting snow cone.

I can’t seem to find a link for the machine we have (we just bought it at a CVS), but literally it wasn’t more than $20. It is awesome for the sick kiddos. And sick husband. And sick me.

Remember How You Love to Cuddle? Now Is the Time.

Smith started throwing up at around 1 AM. After enduring what I believed was the worst of it, he finally fell asleep in my arms. I wanted to put him in his bed, but was worried that he would throw up in it (again). So Anson tucked me in on the couch, sitting up, with Smitty held upright against my chest. Rocking back and forth, I sang to him for about two hours, keeping a plastic bowl in one hand, and his head secure against my body in the other. For me, (and there’s probably some science to back this up but I just cannot be bothered to Google it) I always feel less queasy if I am upright. Laying down often times causes the world to spin. I assume it’s the same for my two-year-old.

So though I would love to be in bed, asleep, from the hours of 1 AM – 3 AM, it was worth it to me to hold my little pukey boy for a few hours, affording him the time to rest while being held. If nothing else, it was a stolen few hours of extra-sweet hugging time from a baby that desperately wanted and needed his mom. I’m so down with that.

Movies Were Made for Times Like These

I don’t think this even needs to be said, but just in case: during sick times, all TV and Movie and Screen rules are thrown out the window. Essentially, if anyone is sick and conscious, a movie is being played for them. Smitty + Shep love a loop of their three favorites (The Incredibles, Monsters Inc., and various Scooby Doo episodes), but whatever works. I read to them too, if they want, but mostly a little nest on the couch, a movie, and lots of reassurance is the order of the day. Don’t even try to be that guy who doesn’t let their kids watch TV. Don’t be that guy.

Medicine Works

I know we’re a nation of over-prescribed pill-poppers, but there are a few things that really do help. Our doctor prescribed an anti-nausea medication that worked really well with Shep and sort of well with Smitty. Smith had a hard time keeping anything at all down, including the medicine (Ondansetron) so we were caught in a little bit of a catch-22 with him. Still, once we got it in him, it helped. This is especially important to me with him because he just doesn’t have a ton of weight available to lose. That kid needs to keep down everything he can. If you have a toddler who is repeatedly throwing up, get on the phone with your pediatrician and have them call it in. It helps.

Get A Good Thermometer

This is sort of a note to myself. I don’t have a good thermometer, so I rely on my intuition. I can tell if my boys have a fever or not, but I’m not great at precisely nailing their temperature. I haven’t found a good answer for toddlers. They’re too old for rectal (and frankly I just cannot do that to them when they’re already feeling awful), but they cannot handle the under-the-tongue kind either.

I’m open to suggestions on this one – anyone have a good recommend? Every time I call the pediatrician, they ask what the boys’ temperature is, and I’m always, “….heh…well…probably over 101….” I’d like to have a better answer.

Most Importantly: Remember It Will All Be Over Soon

It’s so hard to not be able to fix it when our kids are struggling. It’s tempting to feel a little distraught and overreact to what is probably a very normal and non-threatening illness. These things usually work themselves out in less than 24 hours. Remember that. If the night is seeming long and your child is having a hard time, just remember that this is something that we all go through. It is also something that strangely, kids look back upon fondly. Roan still talks about nights I’ve stayed up with him, and the action of putting a blanket over him, even in times of perfect health, is reassuring to him. Kids love to be taken care of, especially when they really need it. Trust your instincts, take a rest when you need it, and buy some bleach for cleaning. As my friend Kara texted to me, “One of the nice things about bleach is that it burns right through your sense of smell and the stench of vomit is at bay for a while.”

She’s not wrong.

Any tips from you? I have a feeling I will be revisiting this over and over and over.