I guess Job wasn’t a redhead…

SO, you may be wondering where I’ve been…

Or not. I mean, you absolutely may not have noticed that I haven’t blogged in nearly 2 1/2 months. It’s not like a blog prolifically anyway. But if you did notice, I can explain myself.

To make a long and complicated story unjustly short: about the time I started thinking up a new post (which I still hope to eventually write), my brother-in-law was admitted to the hospital and was told he probably had lymphoma. Over a few weeks’ time, an inconclusive biopsy result led to a splenectomy, then a few emergency surgeries and various extremely serious complications. He’s still in the hospital, and we’re still waiting on his biopsy results, as well as trying to learn the fall-out of all the complications that have arisen.

At the beginning of this time, my older sister (the one who made him my brother-in-law) and their three little boys came to stay at our house. We, I am very happy to say, still have them with us, and those little hooligans are changing my life and heart every day. We’re having tons of fun adventures now that a few grueling moments are fading away.

But in order for you to be able to appreciate the fun adventures, I’ma relate some of the grueling moments for you. (You can thank me later. Or not. Skip over this part if you want. Whatever.)

One fateful afternoon, my dad took the boys out for a little drive. And the middle nephew threw up in the car.

A lot.

(No, seriously, guys, his car seat smelled for days).

Well, I imagine at least that it smelled for days. It definitely smelled the next day, when one of my younger sisters and I did some epic maneuvering and wedged all three nephew-car-seats into my 4Runner for some time out of the house.

(I’d like to note by the time we had wedged said seats in, we climbed into the front seats feeling very triumphant at our brilliant success, stuck the key in, started the car…then looked at each other blankly trying to recall our intended destination. After several minutes of playing Tetris with toddler boosting devices, within seconds I gained some profound insights into the life of moms-with-toddlers. Ya’ll are freakishly amazing. Just sayin’.)

Anyway.

Middle nephew seemed fairly fine by this point. I mean, yeah, he threw up the afternoon before. Oh, yeah, and the evening before.

At dinner.

In my hands.

Awesome.

But really, by the next day, toddler-Tetris day, he seemed totally chill and non-vomity.

So away we went.

To McDonald’s.

I hate McDonald’s.

But whatever, kids like that stuff, right? And the sister I was with liked it, and I figured, golly gee, surely I can find ONE THING on the menu that doesn’t LOOK like processed chicken guts to eat.

Mehhh…not so much. Approximately two bites later I was done, and the rest of the afternoon tried to pep-talk myself into thinking the queasy feeling in my stomach was nothing more than a mental reaction to eating McDonald’s food…and by food I mean whatever it actually is they give you to eat there.

Anyway.

By bedtime there was no more pep-talking. I was straight-up nauseated. And by midnight, I was doin’ what Middle Nephew had been doin’ about 24 hours earlier.

(As an aside, this is why I don’t know whether or not his car seat actually smelled for days, because a day later I was myself bed-ridden. Probably did smell though.)

Anyway.

And then another sister caught the sickness.

And Oldest Nephew.

And then ANOTHER sister caught it. (What? I have a lot of them).

Turns out we had discovered some kind of epic-ly horrific little bug that caused about 12 hours of flu-ish-ness, then 12 hours of fever that left your body feeling like you let yourself get sunburned and then scrubbed off with sandpaper, (cool, right?) and then about two days of aches, fatigue and a vague queasiness.

I know, you’re wishing you had discovered this epic super-bug yourself because it sounds totally legendary, no? Well, sorry to disappoint, but I think we definitely discovered it. We even named it: The Plague.

Sounds official, right?

Anyway.

Multiple family members being stricken by this new edition of the plague led to my beleaguered (perfect word, look it up) older sister having to stay with our aunt and uncle. She couldn’t be around us sickos, including her precious babies, because her husband was in the ICU and if she got sick, there would be no one to go keep the doctors in line (and believe you me, they needed line-keeping). So my amazing sis kept up with her baby boys via FaceTime (thank you, Apple iPads), kept working her actual day job, AND basically kept her husband alive by marshalling the smart-but-renegade medical profession into the closest semblance of order ever achieved by large masses of M.D.s.

Meanwhile, in case you’re interested, my mom had a respiratory infection.

No, really. She did. I’m not this imaginative, I could not possibly be making this up.

During this time, I had a thought.

(Me having a thought at this time is more impressive than you might think. The Plague had got me pretty good.)

Here it is:

Job (ya know, Bible dude) was probably not a redhead.

See, the intro to the book of Job in the NAB states:

Job, an oriental chieftain, pious and upright, richly endowed in his own person and in domestic prosperity, suffers a sudden and complete reversal of fortune. 
(No kidding.)
He loses his property and his children; a loathsome disease afflicts his body; and sorrow oppresses his soul. Nevertheless, Job does not complain against God. 
(I don’t think I had actually complained by this point…)
When some friends visit him to condole with him, Job protests his innocence and does not understand why he is afflicted. He curses the day of his birth and longs for death to bring an end to his sufferings.

“Curses the day of his birth”? “Longs for death”? Uhh…I can definitely understand having that totally legit reaction. But it was not my reaction.

As I dragged myself around the house on day 3 of The Plague to wash dishes, switch laundry, and make bottles (don’t get some heroic idea of me in yo head here: everybody else was at work, sicker than me, or equally sick, ya do whatcha gotta do), I had an overwhelming desire in my head. Much stronger than you might have imagined, considering the over-all weakness of my state.

“If I were to see the devil right now,” I thought calmly, “There is a particular finger of my hand with which I would wish to salute him.”

No, really. I thought that exact thing. I wasn’t mad at God. I wasn’t cursing the day of my birth. I wasn’t even particularly discouraged. Frustrated, sure. Admittedly, I was vaguely annoyed with the devil for raking my family over the coals and I felt like telling him where he could take his self and his nonsense…until I realized that would be kinda pointless since he’s stuck there anyway.

See, this is my typical response: there are a few of my gal pals you could ask for confirmation of this, but when stuff like this happens to them, I remind them of a phrase I got from a priest’s blog (he’s a lovely priest and very solid, so I feel justified in using it): illegitimi non carborundum. Which, according to Wikipedia, is a mock-Latin aphorism meaning ‘Don’t let the bastards grind you down.'” 

Now THAT is more my style.

I still felt that same way at week’s end when, just as the Plague-stricken half of the family were beginning to recover, the plumbing in the house backed up and sent dirty water gushing across our pantry floor.

I looked across the kitchen at my dad after we had used nearly enough towels to mop up Clear Lake and said drily, “Even the house is throwing up.”

That statement became a big Facebook sensation, for the record.

Within days, four more of my peeps came down with our little super-bug (I know, such a tenacious little monster, that Plague). I was still not discouraged. Worn out, yeah, but definitely still feeling middle-finger-y in the general direction of the devil.

Then, we thought one of my sisters was catching The Plague a SECOND time. As in, EVERYBODY had gotten sick (except the one sister who NEVER gets sick) and then recovered. So I had JUST carried a fearsome array of bleach-y, sanitizing chemicals into the bathroom we’d delegated to sickos, when I stepped out for a moment, and she rushed in…to throw up.

I literally sunk down on my knees, put my head on the floor, and listened to my poor sister be very, very sick. Again.

I sat there feeling pretty dang miserable and exhausted for about three seconds.

Then I felt a few gentle little pats on my head.

I looked up and saw Middle Nephew staring at me with his huge blue eyes. He’s about 20 months old, but he doesn’t believe in speaking a whole lot, so for a while he just stared wordlessly.

“Dee Dee?” he squeaked. (He just named me that. It’s pretty much the best thing ever, and my heart just turns into a puddle every time he says it.)

“Yes, baby?”

He scootched over and wiggled into my arms, pointing imperiously at the bookshelf.

“Weed?”

Sigh.

“Okay, I’ll read.”

So, we start reading his little “Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes” Sesame Street book.

Now, it’s important to know, this outrageously cute child could not keep his nose and toes straight. You ask him to show you nose or toes and no telling which one you get.

Then, we get to the toes page, and he has an epiphany.

He smacked his little palm on the page and says, huge eyes even huger, “TOES.”

“Yeah, those are his toes. And these are your toes, and these are my toes.”

We’ve done this before, ya know?

But this time was different.

“TOES,” he says, awestruck, grabbing his own little toesies. Then, he jumped up, raced down my leg to my foot, stuck his little one against mine, and shrieked triumphantly: “TOES!!”

You ever seen that Helen Keller movie, The Miracle Worker? There’s this moment where Helen suddenly understands the sign language and races around signing everything. That’s exactly what happened to Middle Nephew. He was SO excited.

He suddenly understood toes.

And, just like that, I got my fight back. On the outside, I’m squeaking and giggling about toes with this awesomely brilliant little boy, and on the inside I was all miss sassy pants: “Look at this, devil – look at us. The baby knows his toes. We are ok. You. Cannot. Keep. Us. Down.”

So in the past few weeks, I have learned a few things. Things which probably any mother could have told me if I had known to ask, and which I will possibly have to learn again when I have my own kids. But for now, here it is:

  1. People are amazing. The food they bring you week after week, the prayers they say, the encouragement they give, the cards they send…amazing.
  2. If you’re going to throw up a lot, it’s at least nice to know you’re still in the family you’d pick to be throwing up with, if anybody had asked you about that ahead of time.
  3. NEVER clean up The Plague with the green container of Clorox wipes. The smells don’t blend well. *gag*
  4. ALWAYS use the yellow container of Clorox wipes. Lemony-bleach scent covers a multitude of germs and…well, ya know.
  5. You cannot actually wash your hands off, after all.
  6. You CAN wash your hands dry. At which point if you hate lotion, it suddenly becomes your new best friend.
  7. If your nephew who doesn’t speak much gives you a name, that is your name. Forget anything anybody ever called you before. A 20-month-old voice saying something which is meant to address your own specific person is the Most Beautiful Sound Ever.
  8. There are a freakish amount of Goldfish flavors. I mean, a LOT of different ones, y’all.
  9. You will instantly stop missing your former single’s social life of evenings out at nice restaurants if you can hand a toddler a blackberry on a nature walk and see his little face light up, then bring him home streaked in purple juice. Forget the fancy food. Blackberries for babies brings a lot more joy.
  10. If your nephew plops down in the middle of a gravel path on your nature walk, that is ok. Just plop down and enjoy the Goldfish. He probably will not want to do this in about 10 years, so enjoy it.
  11. If The Bastard is trying to getcha down…read a book to a toddler. Things will get worked out. God likes you reading books to toddlers even in moments of crisis plus, He can handle the devil better than you anyway.
  12. Toddlers are one of God’s best ideas, they can really teach you a lot. 
Maybe not brilliant, but there it is – my life lessons for the past few weeks. I know a lot of you have been praying for us, and some of you are the ones who’ve brought us food…thank you. You’re blessing and encouraging us.
“Let God be the air in which your heart breathes at ease.”
– St. Francis de Sales
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