the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Paying for all the hard partying but without the hard partying

Yet again both of my children had some sort of bug over the weekend, Leta’s much less severe than Marlo’s, so we spent our entire Saturday huddled in the living room next to a puke bowl. Marlo is a strange patient, which is neither good nor bad, just odd. She’ll writhe and move endlessly, thumping her leg or foot to distract her from pain and then fall limp and completely still for hours on end. She was moaning about her tummy, turning over and then climbing into and out of my arms when suddenly she passed out. Mid-moan. Just, boom. Her legs were draped over my lap and I texted my mom, “Mid-yelling that her tummy hurts Marlo fell asleep. I’d check her breathing but she’s snoring. And loudly chewing on air.”


Earlier she had complained of having a “horrible hat nake.” When I asked if she meant a headache she got very frustrated that I was more concerned with WORDS than ILLNESS and yelled, “YES! I HAVE A HORRIBLE HEADACHE NECK!”

Leta and I were nice enough to check on each other’s headache necks for the rest of the day.

“How’s your headache neck?” she’d ask.

“It’s a lot better than when it was a hat nake,” I’d answer. “If it turns into a nat hake headneck I’ll let you know.”

(This reminds me: Marlo loves having “pall nellish” on her toenails. Please do not correct her. I’d like this one to stick around for awhile.)

That was the last thing Marlo would say for over six hours which is yet another one of her weird traits when she’s sick. She’ll go hours without talking. This is a mixed blessing. Listening to a child give a running (and usually wailing) commentary on every ache in their body can be challenging, kind of like standing right next to a car alarm that cannot be shut off. But as a parent this is something you signed up for. When you lose your hearing the doctor is going to look at your chart and say, “It says here you willingly went off of birth control so, I’m sorry, I legally cannot treat you.”

Marlo’s silence, however, can be just as difficult because I have to guess what’s going on. Where is she hurting? No answer. Is she hungry? No answer. Thirsty? No answer. Does she want me to rub her tummy? Complete silence. So in our ongoing quest to be the most kind and sensitive caregivers, Leta and I regarded this as a challenge: who could get her to talk first.

Let me back up a second and relate a breakfast conversation we had last week:

Leta: “Mom, I really want a mermaid barbie for Christmas.”

Me: “I know. It’s at the top of your list in all capital letters. You make me proud.”

Leta: “Marlo, what do you want for Christmas?”

Marlo: “PUPPIES!”

Leta: “But you already have, like, all the stuffed puppies in the world.”

Marlo: “No, REAL puppies!”

Me: “You want living, breathing, pooping, nocturnal baby canines?”

Marlo: “YESTH!”

Me: “Leta, how do we break it to her gently that Christmas morning is going to suck?”

Marlo refuses to add anything to her list. She wants puppies. And I should have thought about that conversation when trying to break her silence but, of course, I tried the old favorites BUTT and FART and BOOGER. Leta tried asking her about school and friends with no success either. We were about to give up when Leta asked, “Do you want real or stuffed puppies for Christmas?”

Marlo didn’t say anything, she just shot Leta the most wicked WE HAVE BEEN OVER THIS HOW MANY TIMES glare and actual lasers came out of her eyes. Physical recognition. It wasn’t verbal, but Marlo responded! Leta won.

It wasn’t until after a Marlo vomited two tons of bile that she actually said anything. And yet again another chapter from The Glaring Differences Between My Two Children: Marlo’s head was hovering over the bowl, yellow bile shooting out of her mouth and nose while Leta stood two feet away SCREAMING HER HEAD OFF. The whole ordeal was far more terrifying for Leta which, yeah. I can understand. No one likes that scene in The Exorcist.

But after I wiped Marlo’s mouth clean and nestled her comfortably back onto the couch, she blinked a couple of times and then held her finger in the air to indicate that Her Highness would be taking the time to make an announcement.

“Mom,” she said calmly. “That tasted like barf water.”

How does one know what barf water tastes like, I wonder.

“It did?” I asked almost coming apart at the seams with jubilation. SHE SPOKE! SHE SPOKE! And the first word out of her mouth was MOM and not PUPPY or DORA or BIEBER.

“Yeah,” she answered. “Did you see how much I puked-ed? I puked-ed a lot.”

She did. A lot. And I promised her that when she was feeling better we’d celebrate with some pall nellish.

  • Yoga Mom

    2013/12/09 at 3:26 pm

    I love this. Well, I don’t love that she was sick, but I love how you capture these uncomfortable, unfun moments, that often end up to be the ones we remember. So, why do we spend all this money on circuses and broadways shows, when get our little one to speak is more fun.

  • americanrecluse

    2013/12/09 at 3:31 pm

    Ewwwww! I hope everyone’s feeling better soon!

  • allconsuming

    2013/12/09 at 4:00 pm

    Grover wants a trumpet. Christmas is going to suck.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2013/12/09 at 4:02 pm

    Oh, hell no. No portable musical instruments. Unless it’s a white noise machine.

  • Joanna Sequeira

    2013/12/09 at 4:13 pm

    My son said “ha, ha, ha” instead of “ho, ho, ho” for three years…nobody (and I mean NOBODY) was allowed to correct him. Hope everyone is on the mend.

  • Debra

    2013/12/09 at 4:23 pm

    pall nelish for horrible hat nakes prevents barf water, or so I’ve heard.

  • Breanne

    2013/12/09 at 4:30 pm

    I said pol nailish… probably until 3rd grade. Also, Lake Ha-Toe. There’s hope for Marlo. 🙂

  • Jen Wilson

    2013/12/09 at 4:36 pm

    My middle child is also silent when she’s got the pukes. It’s how we know she’s sick. Nothing good happens when she is quiet.

    And kid-speak is the best, is it not?

  • Elizabeth B

    2013/12/09 at 4:47 pm

    Kids made up or mangled words are the best. Once when my son was feeling sick he said his neck felt like a rock-snake. Over 20 years later we all still say “my neck feels like a rock-snake” when we’re sick.

  • Heather Piper

    2013/12/09 at 4:59 pm

    Mine call our great state, “Yew Nork.”

  • Stacy

    2013/12/09 at 5:11 pm

    My daughter, who is now 22, also called nail polish, pall nelish! We still laugh about it today!

  • SmithShack71

    2013/12/09 at 6:18 pm

    I’m 42. I have a 10 year old girl, and a 14 year old sister. Those two are like sisters. When my daughter was really little she pronounced yogurt her own way. More like yogrit. She loved yogrit. One day my little sister decided to correct her on how to say it. (I wasn’t there to stop it!) Afterwards, my little sister cried and cried… “She’ll never say yogrit again! Why did I tell her how to say it?!” My heart broke for the loss of the word, and for my little sister being so upset about it.
    My girl is a live wire all the time. Quiet when she’s sick. Hate that. I hope you all to be well.

  • megative

    2013/12/09 at 6:26 pm

    Awww. My 4 year old calls it “toenailish”, and she refuses to wear any “toenailish” on her fingernails, just her toes 🙂

  • kiwi

    2013/12/09 at 6:46 pm

    Ha! My almost 4 year old calls nail polish ‘Paint Nolish’…

  • Susan LaPooh

    2013/12/09 at 7:10 pm

    Oh my goodness I am laughing out loud! I so miss those days with my girls.

  • PhotoCoyote

    2013/12/09 at 7:23 pm

    I’m reminded of when my 4 kids and I all had the stomach flu at the
    same time. I’ve never been more thankful for the god-given gift of toilets, and the fact that we had TWO of them in our house….. Also, my daughter used to refer to my contact lenses as “tohn-licks” No matter how many times I’d ask if she could say “con-tacts,” she’d smile proudly and say, “Yes! Tohn-licks!” So, two decades later, guess what *I* still call my contacts. Heh. Kids are so awesome 🙂 I hope your girls are feeling much better now. I’m so glad they have such a good mom to take care of them.

  • MarilynInTheUK

    2013/12/09 at 7:26 pm

    It’s horrible to see Marlo like that.It’s fitting that the photo is monochrome. Hope all are well soon and that no-one else is struck down. 🙂

  • Pixie Schultz

    2013/12/09 at 7:34 pm

    Poor little girls! Hope everyone feels better soon!

  • Teal

    2013/12/09 at 7:46 pm

    Many years ago we had a “chicken pox Christmas,” in which all three of us were sick with them at the same time over break. Good times, those were.

    This blog entry also reminded me of the time my dad was praying before dinner, and instead of saying the customary “Dear Lord…” he instead said “Dear LERD…” We still laugh about it after almost 20 years!

  • joanlvh

    2013/12/09 at 8:22 pm

    you just get better, such a funny post and congrats on being such a good sport/mom

  • Susan

    2013/12/10 at 3:40 am

    How you keep a straight face with your girls is beyond me. I was the worse mother ever; when I thought it was funny, I laughed. Still not forgiven for much of it.

  • Sue

    2013/12/10 at 6:23 am

    I had forgotten all about this (so thanks for the reminder!) For several years, my daughter called it “toe nailish” when you put it on your toes, but nail polish when it went on your fingers. They’re funny little beasts sometimes. Hope yours are on the mend.

  • Heidi

    2013/12/10 at 9:57 am

    It sucks big time your girls were sick. But the plus side is collecting little nugget stories like these that make it bearable. Man, your girls are awesome. Barf water and all. I hope you are all on the mend soon.

  • Amy G

    2013/12/10 at 11:22 am

    Hope you all feel better soon.

  • Jennifer

    2013/12/10 at 1:23 pm

    My 4 year old once threw up in the car listening to her favorite Elton John song “The Jet and the Benny.” Now she thinks Elton is the bringer of the flu and has outlawed all his music.

  • Beth

    2013/12/10 at 4:24 pm

    My daughter likes pepperoni on her pizza but she hates antelopies.

  • Marcy

    2013/12/12 at 6:52 am

    Our 8 year old daughter just came in with a last minute addition of a bearded dragon! A real live bearded dragon! Because our dog, cat , Betta, and 11 chickens are not enough.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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