The Joke’s on the Jack-o-lantern

It was a long weekend. Fun for the most part, but Sunday was the longest day I’ve had in a while.

We’d gone out to our cabin for the weekend. Fresh air. Fun. Manual labor. It’s typically a good time had by all. Saturday, my youngest son and I were outside, dragging downed trees from the woods to use in a bonfire. Amazing what kind of manual labor children (okay, adults too) will volunteer for when there’s even the slightest chance of smores on the horizon. After we’d pulled a few trees around, my little guy asked if he could go inside and lay down. Yep, that would be your first red flag.

My husband and I and our 9-year-old finished up outside as the other kids played a vicious game of Alaska Edition Monopoly inside. After a while, it was time to walk two houses down to our neighbors’ house for dinner. My daughter said, “Mom, he’s not feeling good. He’s breathing really fast and he feels warm.” Red flag #2. We thought maybe he was just warm from his nap. We went to our friends’ place for dinner. He didn’t want to eat. He said his stomach hurt. Red flag #3. He laid down on the couch and watched a movie. He did eat an otter pop and later, after seeing his brother and sister enjoying one, requested an ice cream sandwich. At this point, it appeared he was on the mend.  We went home and tucked the kids into bed. I tried to simultaneously sleep with one eye open and get as much good sleep as I could get in, knowing we were headed for a long night.

Hours later, I heard him coughing and then crying for me. I scooped him up and carried him downstairs. He felt hot and he was very tired. We tried to go back to sleep. Tried. Little moans would sneak out of him as he snuggled into my chest. His little 4-year-old body was working hard to fend off whatever nasty bugs were inside him. His sister, armed with a comic book and a headlamp, sat next to us on the couch, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

When it was finally morning, we attempted to cat-nap on the couch while everyone else got on with the day. Our neighbor offered a thermometer and after seeing the reading – 103 – we decided to pack up early and head home.

All the kids were excited to go to the Harvest Festival at our church. They’d been looking forward to costumes and candy all week long. My husband and the two big kids got ready while our youngest slept on the couch. They were about to leave without us when he suddenly woke up. (Suddenly = big brother and sister loudly getting ready while complaining to me that not waking him and telling him where they were going was equal to lying to him and then, using our own mantra against us, saying, “we don’t lie in this house.”) He wanted to know what was happening and he said he really wanted to go. We decided we’d drive there, grab him some candy and then go home.

We loaded up into the car and were on the exit ramp to the church when, “Mommy, my tummy hurts!” suddenly changed to a splashing sound, followed by the “EWWW!!!” of his 12-year-old sister, who was sitting next to him, squarely in the splash zone. I’d been talking on the phone with my dad at that exact moment, so I’m pretty sure the end of the conversation sounded a lot like this, “Honey, it’s okay. OH! Um, Dad? Dad! I gotta go. Oh, honey…”

Now let me pause for a moment to better describe this scene to you. My husband was at the wheel of what I jokingly refer to as his “creeper van.” (It has tinted windows and you probably wouldn’t be surprised at all if he rolled down his window and offered you candy…) We are dressed as a couple of hippies. No, really. Rose colored glasses and everything. I had a bandana on, clip-on peace symbol earings and a peace necklace. The kids were holding their jack-o-lanterns in their laps, ready to get their costumes on and get some candy. As I spun around to check on my preschooler and contain the damage, I had a flash of realization as to what this might look like for anyone driving by at that exact moment, especially if it were a police officer.

jackolantern barf

When I had turned around in my seat, leaning over the headrest to tend to him, I saw he’d already covered his coat, pajama pants and boots. I grabbed the first thing I could reach – my husband’s fleece – and shoved it under his target. (Sorry, honey.) When I realized that wasn’t going to contain it (it’s amazing how much can come up considering the small size and his stomach and the little he’d actually eaten), I grabbed the jack-o-lantern candy pail from his hands and placed it under his mouth. This was definitely more trick than treat.

At this point, we turned the van around and started to head home. Our 12 and 9-year-old instantly started getting upset, not because they were near a small vomiting child or because they were concerned for his wellbeing. No, they were mad they wouldn’t be attending the Harvest Festival. My daughter, being the oldest of the three, took it better than the 9-year-old. I imagine it’s because after many years of being the big sister, she’s used to some calamity bringing an end to the planned-for-fun. But, the 9-year-old… for him this was heartbreaking. We started giving him the speech about having some compassion for his little brother and then I stopped mid-sentence, picked up the phone and called grandma. She came to the house, picked up the two big kids and saved the day. She even delivered dinner later.

At bed time last night, my daughter turned to me and said she was sorry I didn’t get to volunteer at the church. It was very sweet.  Moments after that very kind exchange, I crawled directly into bed, waking just a few hours later to repeat the prior night all over again. His temp was back to 103. I tried giving him something to bring the fever down, which he instantly threw back up. It was another long night.

Now he sleeps. So far, his fever is somewhat down. We have a doctor’s appointment in just shy of two hours. He’ll probably be running through the pediatrician’s office, acting like nothing’s wrong with him. And that will be just fine by me. Considering he’s moaning again on the couch. Gotta run and find my jack-o-lantern…





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