The Five Stages of a Household Stomach Flu Epidemic

It only takes eight simple words to send me into a panic. Though I may appear calm on the surface - calmer than usual, even - inside, my brain is in a frantic tailspin. Because those eight words can be the harbinger of a mother's nightmare: "I feel like I'm going to throw up."

Yes, the stomach virus. It's never a good time for anyone. But if you have multiple kids, especially those under the magic getting-to-the-toilet-on-time age, it's a whole new level of hell. There's no telling when - or who - it's going to strike next. And it could be you. Which would mean the worst-case scenario: having to clean up someone else's barf while holding your own back. Because let's face facts ... it's not like we get time off for being sick.

Having a household-wide stomach virus is a truly traumatic experience. And at about one-thirty this morning, as I was scrubbing a three-foot path of undigested ham out of my carpet, I reflected upon how closely my experiences with this type of situation match the five stages of grief.

Stage one: denial. When the first child is stricken, the logical part of my brain tries very hard to override the panic. "It was probably just something he ate," I chirp lightly. "Sometimes our stomachs just disagree with us. Nothing to worry about. See? Everyone is fine." My we're-all-okay look is a little too forced, my smile just a little too wide, my optimism a little too ... well, optimistic. It's like if I say "it's nothing" with enough force, it might be true. It's nothing! Really!

Stage two: anger. Inevitably, though - usually around the kid's second trip to the toilet, or when diarrhea shows up to the party - I stop trying to deny there's a problem, and start getting pissed. I think about all the work involved. All the laundry. All the disgusting cleanup. All the nights of half-sleep, where I'm poised to spring out of bed at the first sound of anything remotely juicy. All the edginess of not knowing who'll be the next victim. All the marinating in germs for a few days while my kids fall prey to it one by one, like dominoes. All the Lysol-spraying, bleaching, washing until my hands are raw. And all for what? So I can get sick myself? IT'S NOT FREAKING FAIR, DAMN IT.

Stage three: bargaining. Since I have literally zero desire to do any of the aforementioned things (I mean, I don't even like laundry on a regular day), I start pleading to the cosmos. Please just let it be confined to this one kid. Please don't let it spread. Please let this little Clorox wipe kill every single germ. I promise I'll volunteer more. I promise I'll keep my house cleaner. I promise I'll stop dropping the f-bomb ... for the most part. I start disinfecting like crazy in a futile attempt to head off the virus. Look! I beg. I'm getting the bathroom really super clean! That should be enough to stop it, right? RIGHT? Pleeeeaaaase!

Stage four: depression. Eventually I realize that my bargaining never works. Because by this time, more than one of my kids has gotten sick, and I'm up to my elbows in soiled bedding and my hands feel like rooster feet from washing and sanitizing. I have calluses on my knees from scrubbing various surfaces. I have run out of paper towels like twice because kids have a knack for taking the two tablespoons of dinner they ate and magically turning it into gallons of vomit. I spray the Lysol with a heavy hand, even though all hope of it preventing anything has faded away. I slog through the mire of laundry and Pepto-Bismol, hair-stroking and back-rubbing, exhausted. I can practically feel my own immune system being overthrown by the very bacteria I've been relentlessly battling.

Stage five: acceptance. After a couple of seemingly-endless days and nights, there's a light at the end of the tunnel. The first kid to get it is over it, and the last kid to get it is feeling better enough to start whining. But as always, the damage control has taken a toll on me, and I feel the first rumblings of an unhappy stomach. Instead of trying to deny it, though, I just use the last hours of my relative wellness to make arrangements so that things don't go all to hell while my head is in the toilet. No use fighting it any more. I may feel like crap, but at least I'll get a few hours to lay in bed. And if I'm lucky I might lose a couple of pounds in the process.

... Yay?

PS - Today is the official launch of the book I'm so proud to be featured in - Scary Mommy's Guide to Surviving the Holidays! It's only $2.99 so go download it here for a good laugh!

Candy Crushed

It's nice when your kids get older and more self-sufficient. They can wipe their own butts. Take their own baths. Tie their own shoes. Each of these is a milestone.

But something else happens when your kids get older. They get sneakier.

Which is why I didn't get to pilfer much of their Halloween candy this year. Oh, the tragedy!

Usually I confiscate it after Halloween night, putting it somewhere they can't reach. Then I dole it out here and there when they pester me too much ask nicely. All the while, I'm taking a little off the top - an Almond Joy here, a KitKat there, a Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkin or two ( ... or six). I'm in control of the candy, is my point. I can get my chocolate fix, the kids don't eat all the candy in one sitting and get cavities and stuff. It's a total win-win.*

*For me.

But this year something changed. Because I keep finding wrappers around that I know I didn't dish out - the "premium" stuff that normally I would have eaten myself. Then the other day, when I dipped my hand into the candy bucket for some chocolate, I was shocked to find only mini-bags of pretzels and a few random Smarties and some individually-wrapped LifeSavers ... you know, the last-resort stuff that no one wants to eat. This indicates to me that at some point in the recent past, my kids probably devised a plot to distract me while someone nimble climbed up to the top of the refrigerator and quickly skimmed all the really good goodies.

It was further confirmed when I was cleaning off my nine-year-old's desk and found this:

A sucker. Hidden inside the front panel of his printer. Not that a sucker is "the good stuff," exactly, but I have a feeling it's just the last of a sizable hoard that was once stashed there.

Next year I'm raiding the bucket early and amassing my own stash and hiding it separately. Or maybe I'll just go on a diet and not eat any Halloween candy.

Heh! Who am I kidding? Time to start scouting for good hiding places. I have a whole year.

How to Make Thanksgiving AWESOME

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, y'all. I can already taste the gravy. And I'm dusting off my stretchiest yoga pants in anticipation. (Let's both pretend I don't wear them on the regular, mmkay?)

As holidays go, this one is right up my sodium-and-cholesterol-loving alley. There's no annoying "Turkey on the Shelf" to re-position every damn day. No pressure to shower anyone with expensive gifts to show them how much you love them. No waiting in line at the mall for hours to get your kid's picture taken with the beloved holiday mascot, only to have him flip you off. Not that I'd know anything about that ...

Oh wait, I guess I do. Heh.

Anyway, Thanksgiving is all about the three F-words I love most: food, family, and friends. (What? You expected a different F-word? Ahhhh, you know me too well.) It's a time for stuffing your face with all the deliciousness your yoga pants can accommodate, with people whose company you can mostly tolerate enjoy. And then digesting a little bit and doing it all again.

But for some families, there will be nothing special on their Thanksgiving table. Because have you priced a turkey lately? They're expensive. And when you're searching your couch cushions and your cup holders for enough change to buy your kids a gallon of milk, or giving plasma to make ends meet, a turkey - let alone all its trimmings and side dishes - just isn't an option.

This holiday dilemma hits particularly close to home for me. My parents divorced when I was nine, and my mom went back to school and worked two part-time jobs to support us. We had a roof over our heads, but that was about it. I vividly recall the shame of accepting food bank handouts, and being one of the "free lunch" kids at school. The sting when one of my closest friends told me she wasn't allowed to spend the night any more because we never had enough to eat. The grateful excitement at finding a box of groceries anonymously left on our doorstep, immediately overtaken by a hot flush of embarrassment.

If it was a bad experience for me, though, I can only imagine what it must have been like for my mom. She worked so hard to provide, yet fell short, through no fault of her own. What must it have felt like to struggle constantly despite her best efforts? To send her child to bed hungry? To lay awake at night, trying to choose between groceries or electricity? Now that I'm a mother myself, it's a heartbreaking scenario, one I'm grateful that I only have to imagine living through with my own kids.

So this year I'm a proud part of something that can help families in need - a project that puts an amazing Thanksgiving dinner on the table for people who otherwise would have nothing. It's the Scary Mommy Thanksgiving Project, it's in its third year, and so far this season has raised almost $75,000 and helped nearly 1500 families.

The not-so-good news? There are almost 700 families still waiting for help. And we only have five days left to do something. And that's where you guys come in.

If you're able to spare a few dollars to make this Thanksgiving a precious memory for someone, you can donate here. Fifty bucks feeds an entire family, but you can give whatever amount you'd like - it'll be paired with other donations. Whether you chip in or not, we need your help in spreading the word to people who can; friends, family members, co-workers. (And if you know of a business that wants to do some good, corporate donations are welcomed!)

As if you needed more incentive, there's a little extra way you can help out this year AND give yourself (or your loved ones) a gift, too: Scary Mommy's Guide to Surviving the Holidays. It's an e-book that's both hilarious and helpful, packed with funny stories, tips, recipes, and gift ideas, written by some of your favorite Scary Mommy contributors. I'm in there with "Ten Ways to Ensure a Memorable Thanksgiving." (#9: Purposely forget the napkins. When someone asks for one, lick your thumb and say, "Oh, who needs those? Mom spit cleans anything.") The book is only $2.99 (find out more about it and the links to order here) and officially releases on November 17th, but you can pre-order right now. The best part, besides laughing off some holiday stress? All of the contributors are donating our proceeds to the Scary Mommy Thanksgiving Project - which means you can do good just by loading this bit of comedic gold onto your e-reader.

For the cost of a few holiday specialty coffees or one of those weird light-up reindeer for your front yard, you can ease the mind and soothe the heart of a fellow mom by gifting a peaceful, bountiful Thanksgiving for her family. (Re-read that in one of those "save the children commercial voices" if it helps.) Because no one should have to worry about putting their kids to bed hungry, especially on a day that's centered around eating.

... And because everyone should have a chance to test the max capacity of their stretchy pants.

The Secondhand Cookie

This is gonna make me sound like someone who pops Geritol, swills Metamucil, and walked "uphill both ways" to school every day, but I've got to say it: they don't make Halloween costumes like they used to.

Last year, we bought Cameron a Sonic the Hedgehog costume at Walmart. We took it out of the package long enough for him to wear it to the fall festival at his school. Before we even got there, it was ripped in two places. Yeah, I know: it's a clear-cut case of "you get what you pay for," but still ... it's not like I sent him out to play football in it or something. It isn't unreasonable to expect that your kid's costume will last longer than a few hours.

Especially when you have an everlasting Cookie Monster costume to prove that some costumes do in fact have a long ... long ... long life. With no end in sight!

Let me explain.

When our oldest son Colin was really little, we purchased said Cookie Monster costume for like twenty bucks (also at Walmart). He wore it for two Halloweens.

And then we handed it down to Cameron, who wore it for two Halloweens.

And then we handed it down to Coby, who wore it for two Halloweens.

And then we handed it down to Corbin, who just this Halloween wore it ... for its eighth year.

I'm telling you what, folks: that is a sturdy costume. Its ruggedness is even more impressive when I tell you that in between Halloweens, it lives in our dress-up box and is regularly worn all year-round. I'd estimate someone puts it on at least once a week. See? Here's Coby using it as dinner attire.

It has been tossed around, slept in, made gummy with candy residue, and washed a million times because it was funky from frequent use. Yet there isn't a rip, stain, hole, or bald patch to be found. In fact, despite the regular beating it takes, all I have to do every Halloween is brush the nappiness out of it a little bit.

Nick thoroughly enjoys a good photo-bombing.

Yeah, it takes a few minutes and afterward my brush is loaded with blue fuzz, but it's a small price to pay for a costume that has brought not hours, not days, but literally years of enjoyment to all four of my kids.

Did I mention it's also plushy and warm? And that because it's just a loose vest-thing with no legs, it takes forever for them to outgrow it? (Like, my fourth-grader can still put it on. Not that he'd be caught dead in it, but still.) And that it always gets TONS of comments about how flipping adorable it is? Yeah. Halloween costume perfection.

Just out of curiosity, I searched the Internet for it so I could put a link in this post in case you too need a costume that you can hand down to your great-great-great-grandchildren. Problem is, it was seriously hard to find. A couple places have it listed, but it's mysteriously "out of stock." I did locate it here for like $23 bucks. (As I recall, there was a very similarly-styled Elmo costume being sold at the same time - so if you can track down one of those, I'm sure it will be just as durable.)

I bet it's a conspiracy. I bet the manufacturer thought, "Hmmm, if we keep making these costumes so easy to hand down, we're never going to sell any." So instead, they started making costumes so flimsy that it takes mere hours to destroy them, thus ensuring that we have to fork over another bazillion bucks for Halloween costumes next year. And the year after that. And the year after that.

At least we've gotten our money's worth - and more - outta this one!


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