Matt's first words when he came home from work yesterday were, "What happened in here?!" and, "Kathy! Where are you?!"
"I'm on the couch. I can't get up. I'm sorry," I croaked back. But a small part of me was thinking, "Just in case you ever wondered what I do all day...today I didn't do it."
The kitchen floor was covered in a mixture of Chex and Perky's Crunchy Rice cereals. The table, counters, and sink were littered with dirty dishes and open packages of tortilla chips, salsa, lunch meat, sunflower seeds, and banana chips. There was peanut butter on almost every surface imaginable. So for further clarification I added, "The kids fed themselves today. Can you tell?"
Matt was surprisingly sympathetic after picking his way through the kitchen and finding me on my deathbed, green with nausea. He poured me a glass of lemon-lime soda and asked how I was feeling.
"Not too terrible, unless I try to get up," I answered.
Emma had fallen to the 24 hour stomach flu one week earlier, probably a nice little perk of her attending preschool. After we all stayed healthy for the following five days, I breathed a premature sigh of relief. Then it began. Thursday evening I began to feel nauseous and Elijah started to have diarrhea. Friday morning I couldn't get out of bed. Every time I attempted to sit up the room spun, and I was overtaken by such nausea and lightheadedness that I was afraid I might black out.
I called the girls into my room and explained that they were going to have to be the mommies that day. I could nurse Elijah while lying in bed, and we closed the baby gate at the top of the stairs so he could crawl in between the kids' room and mine. Hannah watched Elijah while Naomi fixed the morning juices and pills for the kids. "Alright," I thought, "we can do this."
Then Elijah had a diarrhea blowout and I had no choice but to attempt to sit up and change him. It was all I could do to get him wiped up and in a fresh diaper before I collapsed back in bed. The girls had to find him clothes and get him dressed and carry the poop-covered jammies down to the bathtub, where they lay all day long.
Around noon I managed to carry Elijah down the stairs and collapse on the couch. Naomi and Hannah got him into his highchair and fed him some rice chex and pieces of lunch meat and fruit. I lay on the couch semi-conscious, with the room swirling around me, wondering what the kitchen must look like, but I never made it in to see. Matt had the pleasure of seeing it first.
"What is that awful smell in the bathroom?!" he called to me.
"Mommy! My tummy hurts!" Hannah called to me. "It hurts so, so, so bad! I just can't cry any more!" Matt got her a bowl and sent her to bed.
"Next I'm going to just blow the house up," he mused, "and put us all out of our misery."
Around 6:00pm I stumbled back up the stairs to lay in my bed too. Not long after that I heard splattering noises coming from the kids' bedroom and all I could do was call for Matt. Hannah had forgotten her bowl and decided instead to vomit all over her blankets, her pillows, and her stuffed animal collection. I felt truly sorry for Matt at this point, and I would have helped him if I could have, but that would have involved me staying vertical and conscious for more than 30 seconds, which was impossible. So I lay in my bed instead and was actually pretty impressed with how well he handled it all. He put Hannah in a warm bath, stripped the bedding, threw her pillow in the trash, ran two loads of laundry, and only gagged twice.
"Did you wash her blankets on gentle?" I asked later.
"No," he answered with a look that said 'Are you kidding me?' "I washed them on Ultra-Clean!"
This morning my nausea had finally subsided, but I felt very weak and dehydrated after nursing a 10 month old for 36 hours while taking in only sips of fluid. After a glass of lemon-lime soda I felt strong enough to clean up the kitchen and make an enormous pot of homemade chicken noodle soup. Between 10am and 3pm I ate five bowls and felt much stronger again, which is good, because I still faced a mountain of laundry, including the diarrhea-laden pajamas that Matt had been so kind as to throw into the basement without even rinsing. I guess nobody's perfect.
Today Naomi and Toby have acquired the runs and Matt has begun running a low-grade fever, which means I'm back in command of this sinking ship. I'm guessing we won't be attending church tomorrow. Tonight I'm tucking everyone into bed with a bowl and a roll of paper towels. I need my sleep to face tomorrow.