The Day the Isoms Exploded

Yesterday marked the anniversary of the most cataclysmic event of my entire parenting life.

Before I disclose the graphic details I'd like to note that my children have publicly vomited on more occasions than I can count. There is nothing extraordinary about any of the other isolated incidents. We have dotted both Alliance and Lincoln landscapes with countless puddles of yuck. Consequently, I self-profess myself to be a vomit veteran. Ate your French fries too quickly and forgot to chew? No problem. Let's toss up a few unfolded menus to curtain the episode and whisk away the evidence with a few napkins before the other patrons even know what happened. Yes, we're that smooth. I've learned that the key to vomiting under the radar is not to overreact. If mama is calm, the elderly couple splitting the sub sandwich next to you is calm and completely oblivious to what caused the odor. I confess my children have christianed the Alliance theater on three occasions plus Old Chicago, Coldstone Creamery, Applebee's, the Lincoln YMCA, Madonna Proactive, and a half dozen parking lots and sidewalks across the Midwest. I preface the following story with these statistics simply to illustrate the magnitude of the July 3, 2014 crisis.

It was a typical muggy Lincoln summer day. No breeze. 97 degrees. The weight of the humidity was heavy and hardly bearable for 4th of July shopping. In Lincoln you can't purchase fireworks until the day before the 4th. That means my four children, a neighborhood friend of Evy's, and I were among the masses pouring into the fireworks tents to load up on sparklers and smoke bombs. We strategically selected a tent that was rumored to have the best deals and coupons galore. It was crowded. It was like Black Friday, but instead of winter coats, people were wearing baseball uniforms and flip flops. As our second July 4th alone, I was still getting the hang of what to buy. I picked over the selections with careful consideration asking myself which fireworks are least likely to blow off fingers and cause permanent hearing loss. In no time, the children threw caution to the wind and every time I turned around they were stuffing surprises in my basket... things frog shaped, alien shaped, tombstone shaped. None of it mattered anymore. It became a free for all and the mental calculator in my head was fried.

When the basket was finally toppled over we found our place in the long checkout line, and when I say long, I mean the line that stretched from one end of the tent and coiled two-thirds the way around. It was long. People were serious. It was hot.

So there we were 45 minutes later about five customers away from checkout. The children's enthusiasm had faded. There was a distinct contrast between the children standing in line completely still with their spirits broken as compared to the new children running into the tent seduced by the bright packaging and the shopping extravaganza to come. The parents standing in line were edgy, non-conversational and on their last nerve. The parents walking into the tent were newbies. You could see joy in their eyes. You could see the small child living inside of them glowing when beholding the mountains of fireworks. That glow would soon fade. I knew it. Everyone standing in that line knew it. It was like watching a cruel experiment in slow motion. My eyes locked with other parents in line and without even having to say a word we told each other "We've got this. Almost there. We're going to make it out of here alive."

It was at this point when Brady tugged on my shirt and told me he didn't feel well. I recognized that pasty white look. I could see the urgency in his expression. I told Evy and her friend Kennedy to remain in line with Ty and Elly while I briskly walked Brady out to the parking lot just in time. I felt this sense of relief knowing that we exited so responsibly before disaster hit among the crowd of people under that tent. Relief. Very proud, cocky relief. I actually felt a bit like a hero to tell you the truth. I was rubbing Brady's back as he was hunched over in the shade of the minivan when Kennedy came running out to the parking lot screaming that Elly just threw up all over the place in line. Kennedy, herself, was covered with vomit from Elly's projectile episode. So there you have it... SYNCHRONIZED PUKING. Who would have ever thought it was even possible to have two children simultaneously puking in public. I was clearly outnumbered. I was humbled. I was no hero.

I hustled in the tent and the trapped stench hit me like a brick wall. There was Elly sitting on the pavement, spaghetti noodles everywhere, Lincolnites horrified holding their own children back from stepping in it. Muffled beneath their shirts pulled up over their noses, a few of them offered to help. I know they didn't mean it. "No, I've got this. No worries," I said. But wait, there are no menus. There are no napkins. There are no empty appetizer plates to catch the disaster. I used my last wet wipe on Brady in the parking lot. I approached the two clerks checking customers out at the registers. They had no paper towels. There were no orange cones. There was no kitty litter. They had no solutions and nor did they even care to address the crisis. I don't blame them. The pressure to solve the situation weighed heavily on my shoulders. Seventy-five people already angry from the heat and the wait were depending on me to clean up the mess before their own children slip and slided through it. Seventy-five people completely disgusted were waiting on me to dissipate the stench that was trapped beneath that tent ceiling. The only resolve I had was to grab plastic grocery sacks to wipe off Elly and to attempt to clean the pavement. How is it possible for a four year old to produce this much product? For the love of God how did it reach that far?The plastic did a suitable job of smearing the mess, and with enough determination, I was able to pick up every noodle. It was awful. I picked up projectile-vomited noodles with number four plastic on my hands and knees. Have you wrapped your minds around this yet? One hundred and fifty eyes were staring down at me, some with pity but most with the shear terror that their own children were going to contract a holiday stomach virus. All I can say to you 75 strangers is this... "I'm genuinely sorry and I hope we never, ever meet again."

After the last noodle, it happened to be our turn to check out, and why not. We had waited that long. We endured that much. Let's do this. Let's get our fireworks and go home. Holding Elly on my hip, both of us covered with the sour odor of vomit, I paid for our purchase and walked out of there $300 poorer, dehydrated, stinky, and humiliated.

We loaded up in the trusty minivan. Everyone was buckled in. The van was silent. Five children sat there in complete silence. Have you ever sat with five conscious children in silence? It's against human nature. I kicked on the AC, leaned back in the driver's seat and took a deep breath. Before I could even exhale, I heard the violent explosion of vomit splash everywhere behind me. Poor Elly. The kids were screaming. The silence was broken. There was no way I was going to reenter that fireworks tent to get more plastic bags. I rolled down the windows and put the van in drive. We were going home... wet, smelly, defeated. The kids looked like fish gasping for oxygen in the breeze that sucked in the windows going down Nebraska Highway, but we made it home.

I close with this. As I listen to the firecrackers crackling outside right now, I'm not reminded of our great nation's freedom. I wish I was. I wish the booms and bangs energized me to be more patriotic and to make a red, white and blue fruit salad, but instead, I'm reminded of the day the Isom's exploded in the Raquetball Club parking lot. I'm reminded of the day I was defeated by a bad case of noodles.

May history not repeat itself this time and may you have a Happy 4th of July.

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