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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Vomit Bowls

We have this set of bowls. They come in three sizes, and are silver metal. They are scratched and dented and dull from the use and love they've received over the past 12 years. 

These bowls are used for all kinds of memory-making. We mix ooshy, gushy meatloaf in these bowls with our hands and squeal with the grossness of this sensory-rich activity. We put on the aprons and chef hats that Nana and Papu gave us one year for Christmas and bake Christmas cookies. We mix pancake batter to pour into Star Wars-shaped molds. We make Ooblegh in the bowls (what our kids call a "lol-squid"- corn starch and water. Not a liquid. Not a solid. Oodles of fun.). We take these bowls out to the backyard to make bubble juice in the summer. Or fill them with pudding to paint our bodies with on the patio. Held with tiny hands, sloshing from side to side, these bowls have also been known to make their way out to the sandbox so kids can make "sand poop." So many memories.

These bowls are also our family's Vomit Bowls. During Ella's latest round of throw up this weekend, I was thinking about how many experiences this set of bowls have been involved in with our family. And how we probably shouldn't throw up in the same bowls that we mix birthday cakes in. Maybe it's time for a separate set of cooking mixing bowls.

When one of us needs to throw up, I run for these bowls. There's a small bowl, a medium, and a large. I quickly do my Mama Triage Assessment. How large is the thrower upper? How much throw up is likely to come out of this person? Where is this person throwing up? Do we have to fit this bowl with this person in a car seat, or a bed, or on a lap while sitting on the toilet? What size of bowl can this person hold if I need to run for a towel to mop up escaped vomit, or a wash cloth to cool a head? What sized bowl is this person likely to hit, how good is their aim? Do they need the biggest bowl because they aim with their vomit about as well as they aim their pee into the toilet? 

"GET THE BOWL!" is a cry rarely heard in our home, because we haven't had that many vomit illnesses. We're more of a respiratory/asthma/ear infection family. So when the cry goes out, we spring into action. We RUN. Vomit is serious business at our house. It's so nice that our kids are now usually able to sense when vomit is going to happen, and can aim pretty well into whatever sized bowl Mama has deemed appropriate. There have been many times when the kids were younger that I've had to clean vomit chunks out of precious blankies, sheets, teddies. Sometimes it's been so bad, I just can't do it. I give the wad of soiled stuff to Alex and just say "Deal with it. I just can't anymore." Then you know it's really serious. 

Ella started throwing up Sunday at 3 am, and didn't stop until I took her to the ER at 1 pm later that day. She was severely dehydrated by that point, despite our best efforts at keeping her sipping water. She just couldn't keep anything down. She had a fever, and was just a shadow of herself. There was a fireman getting clinical hours who was assigned to us along with our nurse. He did Ella's initial assessment and asked if anyone else in our family was sick. I said Aidan just had had Fifth's disease. He said "Remind me what that is?" Hm. I think you need more hours in the clinic. He even had kids! Maybe it's just that my kids catch every kind of exotic-sounding illness that wings its way past them, but don't most parents know about Fifth's disease? As my mom reported at Thanksgiving, it got its name because it's the 5th most common childhood illness. (Thanks, Mom! I really didn't know that! Now I sound so knowledgeable when I spout out that information!) So shouldn't someone in the medical field know what the 5th most common childhood illness is? 

Anyway. Blood tests were done at the ER. Ella got an IV. She had a fever and a red throat. After some fluids, she actually started peeing again, and thought it was hilarious that she had to pee in a cup. And let me tell ya, it's a lot trickier to pee in a cup if you're a girl. Boys have it so easy. 

Ella had a terrible 6 hours at the hospital. I had a hard time sitting there, letting the nurse and the fireman do what they had to do to Ella, when I knew that if I just knew how to be a nurse I would be doing it much better than they were. I wanted to rip the needles out of their hands and yell "Just let me do it!" But instead I held Ella's head and her hand and made her look away from what the nurse was doing to her, while the saddest tears rolled down her cheeks. I wanted to catch the tears and stuff them back in her tear ducts. "Don't waste those tears!" I've said more than once in the past few days. Don't get dehydrated again! Stop crying! It's heartbreaking when your small, fragile child is so sick she can't even cry or fight normally. It made my heart break into a million pieces. I hate it when I can't fix Stuff for my kids.

But eventually, Ella started humming softly to herself. And then she started wiggling her foot in time to her made-up song. My baby was coming back to life.

At one point the nurse was scoffing in disbelief at Ella because she had the IV in and the "hard part was over," but Ella was crying because the tape used to hold the IV in place was pulling at her hand. As calmly as possible, I explained that Ella has Sensory Processing Disorder. Bandaids are one of her triggers that cause intense, excruciating pain to her. And anxiety. This is also why she didn't want to eat her popsicle (Too cold. Too red. Too drippy.). Not all kids like popsicles, shouldn't a nurse know that? She acted like Ella was from Neptune because she wouldn't eat a popsicle. When I told the nurse that Ella won't drink Pedialite, she kept saying they have different flavors…yeah. I know. But she eats and drinks a limited amount of things, and Pedialite is on the NO GO list. Sorry. What other ideas do you have? Instead of fighting me about how I must be wrong about my child that I have known for 5 years, and you have known for 5 hours, maybe just move on and see if you could help me find solutions. How about that.

The doctor eventually said Ella was clear to go home. With anti-nausea medicine in one hand and the Small Vomit Bowl, a sippy cup, my coat, my phone, discharge papers, my purse, and my daughter wrapped in a blanket in the other hand, we made our way out into the winter night. Ella couldn't put her coat on because she had bandaid-wrapped cotton balls on the places she had gotten her blood drawn and her IV. That arm was immobilized. When she has bandaids on, it's the equivalent of a cast on a limb for other people. Makes life interesting. 

On the way home, Ella held her Small Vomit Bowl on her lap and moaned softly from the pain in her tummy. She is the bravest, strongest, sweetest sick person in the world. While this sick, she has gotten off her station on the couch and helped various brothers find their shoes, or their coats, or picked up a mess that they refused to pick up. All without me noticing until it was too late, otherwise I would have relegated her back to her couch. Can you believe it? While this sick, hardly able to move, she has gotten up to hug my legs while I'm carrying a basket of laundry and tell me she loves me. This child is an angel. Pure and simple. That's the only explanation.

Yesterday morning, Jonah woke up sick. Very sore throat, fever, nausea. "GET THE BOWL" was heard ringing through the house. He didn't end up throwing up, but the Medium Vomit Bowl was taken with us when we brought Ella and Jonah to the doctor. The doctor tested for strep, and low and behold, they both have it! Now, why didn't they test Ella at the ER? I don't know. She spent 24 hours more than necessary in agony because they didn't test for strep at the ER. I thought about asking for them to do that test, but there was so much going on, I just forgot about it. *sigh* Why does a Mama have to be in charge of everything? Can't a doctor think about something like that so Mama doesn't have to think about everything?

We took our Small and Medium Vomit Bowls home, on the laps of sick kiddos in carseats. We got them medicine to make them feel better. I got them loads of Gatorade, and juices, and Pedialite in every flavor- just in case Ella agreed to tolerate one of them. However, Ella has informed me that the Gatorade tastes gross. She will gag if she has to drink ANY of the Pedialite. And she doesn't want and juice. 


So water it is. Ella and Jonah are irritated with me because I keep harping on them to drink every 10 minutes. I'm not going back to the ER for more IV's! I have to hold Ella down to get her antibiotics in her twice a day. The kids didn't want any of the foods The Kitchen was offering yesterday. It's hard to be sick. Whatever it takes, we'll nurse them back to health. The Vomit Bowls are never far away.

I think I'm going to buy new bowls, just for kitchen activities. I thoroughly wash and disinfect the Vomit Bowls before they move back to being cooking bowls, but now that it's been made public that we use the same bowls for both activities, I'm worried friends and family won't accept our delicious cakes, cookies, and meatloaf anymore. Never fear, I will get new bowls. 

I laid in bed last night thinking about my dear Vomit Bowls. I am so thankful for them. They have contributed to so much comfort in our family. Baked goods, vomiting, sand play…where would we be without the luxury of these bowls? There is something strangely reassuring about running for one of these sturdy, cold bowls when my child is sick. Something calming about holding their hair back while they throw up, knowing the Vomit Bowl will be there for us. Sturdy. Constant. Tangible. Real. Thank you, Vomit Bowls. You make being sick a little easier.