You know that kind of sick, right? The kind where your sinuses go all Chinese-manufacturing-plant-hyperdrive and even when trying to sleep you’re nonstop sniffling and wiping and trying to plug up the river of snot pouring out of your head until you finally go, “Oh, fuck it all,” and just let the mucous avalanche form a giant puddle on your pillow, within which you will alternate between sleep and panicked moments of wakefulness brought on by the sensation that you are downing in your own yick?
Yeah. I’m totally there.
I’ve named The Sick. It’s really just good manners, if you think about it – I mean, it’s been here for nearly a week already and we’re engaged in a hands-on sort of battle… it’s a “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” sort of thing. The Sick’s name is Ursula.
Ursula is one nasty bitch. Not only does she spend the nights trying to suffocate me in my own mucous, she also claimed a major victory in her war on my system: my voice. (You totally read that in the voice of Ursula from The Little Mermaid, don’t play like you didn’t.) She took my vocal cords hostage starting two days ago, ironically after my throat stopped feeling like I’d been drinking gallons of battery acid. What was an irritating hoarseness turned squeaky, then breathy, and then… gone. Preserved in a seashell that Ursula will use to trap into marriage the prince that I was destined to wed, I presume.
The one difference between me and Ursula’s usual hapless victim – aside from me not being a mermaid or having red hair or being 16 or having King Triton for a dad or being a cartoon – is that all Ariel had to do with no voice was attract the interest of that absolute dolt Prince Eric. Whereas I, on the other hand, have to use my great, voiceless presence to corral two children and two – yes, two, due to a pre-Christmas adoption – dogs. One of whom is a 12 week old puppy who doesn’t know his own name, which wouldn’t be quite so bad if it wasn’t that he’s tiny – 1.5 pounds, according to the emergency vet we had to run him to after he swallowed a marble (my guess is that the .5 pound is marble) – and every now and again we lose him a little.
My Isabel is 9 and, by nature, all sweetness and light. She feels very bad for me.
My Aidan is 5. He does not feel very bad for me. He thinks mute Mommy is hilarious. He’s used to verbose Mommy, who delivers long lectures and makes him think about what he did and use “feeling words” to talk about how it made other people (read: his sister, who is usually holding a bruised body part and crying) feel. But post-Ursula Mommy can do none of that. Instead, this Mommy wags her finger and tries to make angry faces (also hilarious) and uses a complex system of hand claps, snaps and air waves to convey what went wrong, why it was a poor choice, how it affected the other people in the family, and what the consequences will be if the behavior continues. It looks something like this:
*Finger point-head shake-grimace-wave wave wave-point-pleading hands-fingerwag fingerwag-stomp-hands on hips*
It didn’t take long at all for Aidan to discover that laughter, in response to this very carefully constructed lecture, has the delightful ability to turn mute, hand-waving Mommy into frantic, squeaking, own-face-pulling-off Mommy.
Which is even more hilarious.
Taking my woes to Facebook, my brilliant friend Nella offered a revelation, in the form of an airhorn app for my iPhone. Maybe I could “pioneer a new behavior modification technique,” she joked.
That’s genius, I thought.
Unfortunately, the makers of the airhorn app have different standards for “loud” than I do. I’m assuming they don’t have children. The airhorn had the unhappy effect of making marble-eating, no-name-knowing puppy run into a corner squealing like a stuck pig, but on the kids it got nothing more than a raised eyebrow and the request that I “do that somewhere else.”
I made it through the rest of yesterday clapping and waving, and occasionally blowing the sissy little airhorn for no good reason other than that I could. I’d given up on finding a voice substitute.
Then last night happened. Last night, with the puppy that cried incessantly from midnight on, and the little boy who climbed in bed with me and coughed in my ear and breathed like an aquarium filter (he’s got The Sick, too) and groped at me all night. And the standing outside in sub-zero temperatures at 2 am waiting for whining puppy to poop, wheezing while snot poured down my face and my bangs stuck out of my forehead like the Statue of Liberty’s crown (the result of nighttime sick sweats and I-don’t-care-how-I-look-right-now headband wearing), only to have the little marble eater poop immediately upon being put back into his crate.
The Sick + The Tired. There isn’t an air horn on the planet more terrifying than sick, overtired Mommy. With or without a voice.
At 6 am, I still had no voice.
At 7:30 am, no voice.
But at 9 am, when I needed it the most, my body got in its first blow against evil Ursula. There was chaos and fighting and a dog peeing on the floor and something inside my brain snapped. Without even stopping to consider whether or not my voice would work, I stood in the middle of the war zone and bellowed, “EVERYBODY STOOOOPPPPPPP!”
And the sound that came out of my mouth was so shocking that even the mid-squat puppy froze into a fantastic stillness. It was the sound of James Earl Jones hollering from inside a cement mixer on a gravel road in a hailstorm. Suddenly mute Mommy had become Wild Thing Mommy, and I roared my terrible roar and it was not at all hilarious.
For ten seconds.
Then the moment was gone, and the kids were hysterical, and I was deflated and left with the hopeless realization that I never controlled the chaos even before I sounded Barry White. But at least now I’ll be able to take perverse pleasure in confusing the hell out of people on the telephone and in Tim Horton’s drive-through.
And now I have to go blow my nose. Again.