ABC’s of Parenting: V is for Vomit

I have to thank Gluestick Mum and her post this week about kids and vomit for this edition of the ABC’s of parenting. Vomit is an immutable fact of the life of a parent. I think we all have our battle stories. Here are three of my best:

Vomit Story, Oldest Sister Version:

It was fourth of July. A picnic with two other families, HEAT, running around like maniacs, and – as it turned out – too much soda. After Oldest finished her meal and downed an entire can of orange pop, she ran off with her little friends to visit the children’s booth set up by our local fire department. The friendly firefighters were giving away stickers, coloring books, and – thank goodness – toy fire helmets. The kids tore back to our picnic blanket with their loot, and immediately upon arrival, Oldest started to turn green. With lightning-fast reflexes only a parent possesses, one of our friends stuck a toy helmet in front of our daughter’s face just in time to catch a hat full of orange puke. Of course, she instantly felt fine. We tossed the helmet in the nearest trash can, and went on enjoying the evening.

Vomit Story, Middle Sister Version:

There were  couple of years when all the kids were quite small that I swear we cleaned up a middle of the night vomit disaster at least once a week. The washing machine was permanently set to “hot water.” We had to invest in new sheet sets just to make sure everyone had clean bedding every night, In the middle of this barf era, Middle Sister “wombinted” (her version of “vomited”) in her bed toward morning, all over her special blanket. There were so many chunks that Husband took the blanket to the back porch and shook them out on the frosty winter grass. We were in the middle of a cold snap – no one would be going out any time soon. Middle Sister, wide awake, followed him to the door and watched. Of course, three days later we had a warm spell and the siblings wanted to go out back to play. Middle Sister went into full hysterics, pulling her brother and sister away from the door. “NO!” she shrieked. “THERE’S WOMBINT OUT THERE!!!” She didn’t go out to the back yard for months.

Vomit Story, The Boy Version:

Also in the midst of the nighttime barf era, The Boy took to vomiting in the middle of the night every single Thursday night. Coincidentally, this child absolutely despised going to our church’s Mother’s Day Out program…and Friday was our kids’ day to go. Didn’t take long to put two and two together. He’d figured out that hurling allowed him to stay home the next day. Don’t ask me how he made it happen – maybe it was some freaky psychosomatic thing. But he got so good at it that the pattern continued through the summer, during the program’s break time. Stubborn much?

The sad thing, in my opinion, is that though giving birth to children automatically requires barf clean-up skills, what we don’t get as parents is the ability to do all those clean-ups without wanting to hurl, ourselves. Cosmically unfair.

But kid barf is an inevitable fact of parental life. Best to have a barf kit permanently placed in the car (brilliant tip from Gluestick Mum), as well as a bucket, Clorox wipes, and extra bed sheets at the ready at all times in each bedroom.



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High Anxiety…

I already knew that I was becoming more introverted with every year. But guess what? I’m discovering that stress and anxiety make the thought of human interaction about as attractive for me as surgery minus the anesthesia.

This week, I’m still reeling from last week’s round of constant illness in our middle daughter AND experiencing paralyzing anxiety in The Husband as he prepares to be off on job training for six weeks. (He’s really looking forward to the training and the work. The preparation to leave may kill us both.)

And in the midst of all this joy, three HUMAN CONTACT TORTURE TECHNIQUES have been thrown at me in one day:
•Dental appointment this afternoon. Should be no big deal, right? Logically it wasn’t a big deal. But having a stranger with surgical gloves WAY UP in my personal space for forty minutes was a big enough deal that this alone would have screwed up my day.
•A reminder mid-morning that I have a meeting tonight at 7:00. I knew about this event at some point – in fact later in the day my iPad gave me a *ding ding!* reminder – but in my mind it was still way in the future. So what that the meeting is with people I truly enjoy and respect – coworkers and former coworkers who I know for a fact would have my back at any time, without me even asking. It still looks like a ruined evening for me because I have to LEAVE THE COMFORT OF MY COCOON.
•And the worst of all, a seemingly innocuous event that has been looming unscheduled for months was foisted on me today: The Husband and I are suddenly scheduled to have dinner with The Boy’s girlfriend’s family Thursday evening. An ENTIRE evening with people who I have met one time, who I know are extremely pleasant. I think I’m going to hurl.

Yeah, I know. It’s all in the attitude. I could look at all this stuff in a positive light:
•Hooray for dental hygiene! And I don’t have to go to the dentist again for six months!
•I get to see awesome people who will make me laugh and make me think. Spending time with them will be healing and restoring! Whoopie!
•I don’t have to cook Thursday night! And I’ll get to know better the family our son spends quite a bit of time with! Yay!

There was a time in my life when I would have gone all Pollyanna and bent over backwards to see everything with those rose-tinted glasses.

Today is not that time.


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Thoughts for the mom who sat in front of me yesterday

Dear Mommy,
I’m sorry I don’t remember your name – I know we’ve met before. And I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to speak to you yesterday. I would have liked to tell you that watching you with your 14-month-old daughter made my day.

What I do know is that you’re in church with your little girl a lot of Sundays, on your own. You keep her happily occupied, and I can see that you love having that time with her. I also see some other things.

Like the fact that you hastily pulled your hair back into a pony tail so you could get yourself to church on time. I think there wasn’t time for makeup yesterday, either. Yet your adorable daughter was dressed to the nines, with her hair perfectly gathered into a bow.

I saw your attention constantly pulled between keeping your daughter happy and participating in the worship service. And I understood when attention to your little girl won out.

I watched you fuss over your little darling. Getting something out of her eye. Keeping her from eating floor Cheerios. Making sure she only ate one at a time. Handing her a tippy cup when one got stuck in her throat. Giving her toy after toy after toy. Kissing her often and whispering into her ear.

I saw myself in you, in those blessed and blissful days of being the mother of one daughter. Completely wrapped up in the joy of being her mama.

Thank you for reminding me. And for clearly enjoying your little girl as much as I enjoyed mine.



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And now for something completely different…

…an afternoon at a local theater watching a live simulcast of the final performance of “Monty Python Live (Mostly).” There were no men with stoats through their heads. No men with three buttocks. But I haven’t laughed so hard in ages.

So what was there to laugh at? Many favorite sketches. Singing along with “The Philosopher Song.” The gents going out of their way to make each other laugh in the middle of a line. New twists on old material. And a few brilliant cameos.

We could, of course, have said just about every line right along with them. We probably introduced our kids to Python humor before it was really age-appropriate (if there is an age for which it’s appropriate), so they’re right in there with us on the quoting. For the most part we restrained ourselves. But it didn’t really matter, because we were among our own kind…when one of the pre-show trivia questions was about which protest organization the title character joined in “Life of Brian,” one of our fellow Python-ites in the crowd shouted out, “Splitters!”

One interesting thing that hit me as we were wiping away tears following the Michaelangelo sketch followed by “Every Sperm is Sacred:” I’m guessing a lot of this stuff plays a whole lot better in London than in the Midwest of the U.S. People around here think Ferris Bueller is funny. Bad words, blue humor, full frontal nudity, and irreverence? Not so much. Trouble is, sheep are very dim.

imageAnd as the five guys left who are not “ex-people” took their final bow, it occurred to me just how much joy they’ve brought me and everyone else who loves them. Of course, they’ve offended a lot of people too…which just makes them all the funnier. But think of all the laughter they’ve contributed to the balance of happiness here on this earth (which is, of course, revolving at 900 miles an hour… ). If I’m really down, a few Python sketches on YouTube have me laughing before the funny stuff even starts. That, and always looking on the bright side of life. What an amazing legacy.

They mean to take Wimbledon…


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Cabin cooking

One of the things I enjoy about our cabin trips is the novelty of cooking away from home. It helps that there’s not much else going on, so meals become a big event each day, and everyone’s involved in some way.

We’ve got a few favorites we make on every trip – to suggest we skip them would bring on mutiny. One of our must-haves is a dutch oven recipe – I learned the joys of dutch oven cooking when we were still tent camping and had no kitchen. Dutch oven meals are simple to prepare and cook very quickly. We came to love this particular recipe so much we still make it even now that we have a kitchen in the cabin:

Pot of Gold
1 1/2 lb browned ground beef
1 large can diced tomatoes
1 can Campbell’s golden mushroom soup
2 16-oz can Veg-All (this is the ONLY time I ever buy this distinctly odd melange of canned vegetables)
1 onion, diced
salt and pepper to taste
2 cans refrigerated biscuits (ten biscuits per can)
block of sharp cheddar (AND a small chunk of Monterey Jack)

Before preparing the food, start a charcoal fire with about 30 pieces of charcoal. While the fire is starting, do the following:

Line the dutch oven with aluminum foil. Place a dutch oven liner atop the foil – this extra protection keeps the food from touching the iron of the oven, so clean up is TONS easier.

Mix the beef, tomatoes, Veg-All, soup, onion, and salt/pepper in the oven. Open the cans of biscuits and smash each biscuit flat. Cut the cheese into cubes. Place a cube of cheese on each biscuit, fold the biscuit over, and press the edges together. Why the one Monterey Jack chunk? Long ago we decided to make one “dumpling” with a piece of white cheese – whoever gets it in their bowl is the winner…but we’ve never managed to remember to bring a prize along, so it’s a fairly hollow victory.

imagePlace the biscuit/cheese dumplings on top of the beef mixture, then cover it with the oven lid. Scatter the charcoal briquettes over the cooking surface, and set aside 15 briquettes. Place the dutch oven onto half the coals, then place the 15 briquettes you’ve set aside onto the lid. Hint: Use tongs.

Cook for 20 minutes. Use the tongs to scoot the briquettes off the lid. Carefully remove the lid (hint: use a seriously good oven mitt), making sure the ash left on top will blow AWAY from you and NOT into the food.

Remove the oven from the fire and serve. Makes 6-ish servings.



Our other cabin meals were awesome, as well. The first morning we had french toast and strawberries, with Canadian bacon on the side.


The plan for the next morning was scrambled eggs, muffins, and sausage…but SOMEONE decided the fridge wasn’t cool enough, turned the dial too far,

It was deliciously cool in the morning while we waited for the muffins to bake - hoodies required.

It was deliciously cool in the morning while we waited for the muffins to bake – hoodies required.

and in the morning we had two dozen FROZEN eggs. Frozen eggs are weird, and certainly not useable.

And of course we have S’mores every night. The Husband is a stickler for marshmallow roasting perfection – no singed of fiery marshmallows for him. We like to have variety in the chocolate portion – we’ve done the typical milk chocolate, but we also use dark or bittersweet chocolate, red pepper dark chocolate, and sea salt caramel chocolate. Gourmet S’mores!



Oh, here’s something we do NOT eat – these nightmare-inducing crappie that swarm the marina where we buy firewood. Nasty.



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Happy not-really-an-ending

Our three darlings early this morning, at the farmer's market bread tent where each of them has worked at some point in their high school/college years. A lovely finale to a lovely week.

Our three darlings early this morning, at the farmer’s market bread tent where each of them has worked at some point in their high school/college years. A lovely finale to a lovely week.

The week of vacation time with all three kids and Husband was all too short and we had to take Oldest to the airport this afternoon, and I was choking back tears the whole way and feeling sick to my stomach because I’ll miss her so much and the end of vacation means having to get back to real life so I was feeling huge anxiety but then after we pulled away from the airport Oldest texted us that she’d volunteered to get bumped from her flight so that in effect the airline paid her to have a visit home PLUS gave her a voucher for a free flight for anyone she likes so I’m making plans to go out by myself to see her sometime in October (her birthday month) and so I’m feeling much better and it’s a much happier ending than I was expecting.



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Love bittersweet chocolate. Not so sure about bittersweet vacations.

Our time at the cabin this week was, by turns, both an excellent getaway and a cause for anxiety.

Cabin background: The state of Kansas has a bunch of reservoirs built by the Corps of Engineers. Several of them are easy driving distance from home, and those “lakes” are where we’ve camped since the kids were in grade school. We LOVED our tent camping…but found that every time we went we managed to pick the one weekend of the summer when it stormed like crazy. Guess what? Rain and tent camping don’t mix. More often than not we had to bug out early when we saw lightning on the horizon. Luckily, about the time Oldest went off to college, someone in Kansas had a brainwave: convicts were enlisted to build cabins at all the state reservoirs. With a sad, backward glance we said goodbye to our beloved tents in favor of cabin trips.

One of my favorite things about cabin trips: moving in and stocking the kitchen

One of my favorite things about cabin trips: moving in and stocking the kitchen

The switch turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to our camping experience. Never again was a vacation cut short due to rain – we were snug and happy inside our little homes away from home (or sitting on the covered porches, watching the rain fall). Not to mention that the cabins have electricity and air conditioning, bathrooms, kitchens stocked with equipment and dishes, and BEDS. Pretty much perfect. So our cabin days are filled with games, cooking, music, movies, laughter, fishing, swimming, and memory-making. No wifi. Not even data service on our phones, so certain member(s) of our family can’t goof off online at will. This year the mood for the family was just a little different:

•Oldest is only with us for this week, rather than the six weeks or more she used to have at home in the summer when she was in undergrad, so the time with her was more precious.

•Middle is seriously struggling with her G.I. problems, and was in the midst of recovering from a med that turned out to give her serious stomach pains, so there was great concern about her at all times.

•The Husband kept having to run to the nearest “town” AKA “wide spot in the road with a convenience store and gas station” to check his phone in case of news about recent job interviews. One such run gave us news we’re not entirely sure we’re excited about: He was offered a solid, good-paying job…which will require him to leave soon for six weeks of training, followed by over-the-road work that will have him home only one day each week. Relief mixed with concern.

•The Boy was a joy from beginning to end, especially when I compare him to his pre-college summer. In hindsight I see that last summer our son was anticipating the move from home – and both itching to be gone AND nervous about leaving. His attitude a year ago was often negative and unhelpful. He holed himself up in his bunk to tinker with his brand-new Mac book. This year? He jumped in to assist with any task that needed doing and joyfully joined in with family games. Such a change.

•And me? I experienced relaxation and rejuvenation, mixed thoroughly with intense concern about Middle Sister’s health and nerves about The Husband’s job offer. On the whole the R&R was winning…until I made the mistake of checking my work email on a trip into “town.” What possessed me to do it I do not know, but it was a mistake. In the space of thirty seconds I saw two emails from my direct supervisor asking me to take on two very large projects that – at least at first glance – hold absolutely no interest for me at all. More on that some other time. But YUCK. Full-blown anxiety kicked in immediately. Lesson learned, though. I’ve refused to open my work email since that day this week.

But I’m choosing to focus on the laughter, the peace, the happy times. Here’s a photo précis of the good times. First, shenanigans involving the interesting gaps between walls and ceilings, found througout the cabin: image

A cryptic warning for the opposing side in a battle that involved tossing projectiles through that gap.

A cryptic warning for the opposing side in a battle that involved tossing projectiles through the bedroom gap.


image                 image

And other miscellaneous hijinks:

The Vera Bradley section of the cabin

The Vera Bradley section of the cabin

image image image   Next time: Some of the great camping meals we enjoyed this week.


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Avian atrocities


News flash from my back yard: The ugly cowbirds that were hanging out back there a few weeks ago successfully murdered the eggs of our lovely cardinals and replaced them with their own eggs (I read up on it – that’s what they do). Today we’ve been seeing our beautiful cardinals feeding weird-looking juvenile cowbirds. An interesting nature lesson, but it’s extremely distressing. A tragedy of monumental proportions.

Middle Sister is trying to put a better spin on it. She suggests that perhaps the cardinals are wise to the deception, but are of a kind and generous nature and have chosen to raise these orphans rather than putting them out on the streets.

I’m afraid I can’t quite believe this explanation.

I’m trying really hard not to think of a human analogy for this evil bird behavior, but I have a feeling something will come to me in the middle of the night…


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Take a walk on the wild side.

imageI’m livin’ on the edge today, my friends.

I’m going on our camping adventure WITHOUT MAKING A LIST.

For someone who makes lists even for things to do on her day off, this is huge.

Anyone out there remember on “Seinfeld” when George discovered that his life completely turned around when he stopped following his instincts and instead did exactly the opposite of what his gut told him? I’m giving it a try.

I’ll also be putting on makeup for the cabin adventure – totally counterintuitive.

The weather is even cooperating with this venture. Instead of the 100 degree Fahrenheit temps we’re used to in July, there’s a cold front moving in and we should be wearing hoodies by tomorrow morning.

I’ll let you know how it goes.


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Right in the middle.

Having written an ode to our youngest the other day, I felt it only fitting to follow up with love-fests for our two girls, as well. Even in the world of blogging, this mom is wary of showing favoritism…

So today we have the many joys of Middle Sister.

Middle has been a fascinating, unique conundrum since day 1. A deep thinker. An old soul. A square peg in a round hole (in a good way). Perhaps a little too much like her mother in her extreme introvert-ish and introspective tendencies. A voracious reader. A writer.

Middle was the girl who chose to play with the outcast in the class, every day at recess. Even when obnoxious peers taunted her about having a “weird boyfriend.” She’s the one who was called on by teachers and school counselors to be a special friend to a classmate who was struggling.  She’s the one who became a mentor to a special needs student in her freshman year of high school. She’s the one who fights ferociously for anyone she perceives to be downtrodden or marginalized.

She’s volatile, mercurial, at the beck and call of her emotions. And therefore deeply empathetic to the emotions of others. She has a piercing and irreverent sense of humor, and is a master of sarcasm.

The LanishShe’s got a killer intellect, and is a perfectionist at her schoolwork. For fun she reads Homer, Wilde, and Shelley. A perfectionist as well in her craft of classical voice, her playlist is populated with arias of sopranos she strives to emulate.

This beautiful, blue-eyed young lady with the adorable chin dimple certainly wins the prize for “most photogenic” - she’s never taken a bad photo.


And she’s the one who chose to live at home during her college years. What a wonderful housemate she’s turned out to be.

Our gorgeous, unique, younger daughter.


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