** This is a column which involves a lot of vomiting and contains mental images you may find disturbing.**
If you are reading this, you'll no doubt be well aware that there are some decidedly unglamorous aspects of parenting.
I do love my children, but however tender all the poo/sick/snot moments have been in terms of illustrating a mother's unconditional love for her child, I'd very happily banish them from my memory for all eternity.
That said, I can't help find it amusing, the girls' fascination with unpleasant bodily functions – not to mention their ability to remain completely and utterly unmoved by the grossest of sights.
To explain (stop reading now, it's your last chance) we've just recently had our first (unfairly early, I felt) dose of the vomiting virus. It began with Ruby, early one morning last week. Ru was balancing upside down on the sofa (as you do), in a sort of wobbly, half-supported head stand, when she started gagging.
Neither Dan nor I felt that 'upside down' was the best position for Ruby to be assuming when she was about to vomit, so we both ran to her. Dan got there first (I was running as fast as I could, honest), and rushed her to the loo.
She suddenly seemed perfectly fine – and I concluded it must have just been her upside-downness combined with her consistently elevated snot levels that had caused the odd noise. So, lulled into a false sense of security, I made breakfast, and Ruby ate a large plate of scrambled eggs.
That was when, having been armed with the sloppiest of ammunition, the Vom Bug attacked.
We managed to get Ru to the loo on time for the first round of puking and, a second later, her sister Ava was there, elbowing her way past her dad.
"What's happened to Ruby?!" she said excitedly.
"She's ill," I said. "Looks like she'll be staying with me today."
"Aw. Can I stay with you as well?"
Ruby had stopped hurling, so I lined my bed with towels and popped her in there, looking as grey as a November sky.
"I'm going to get Ruby a BOWL, Mummy!"
Ava legged it downstairs and came back up, grinning from ear to ear, with a nice, porcelain bowl which I usually use to serve roast potatoes. She was keen on showing her sister how helpful she'd been, so she shoved it into Ru's face and accidentally clocked her on the nose.
Tears. Nose rubbing. Mummy kisses.
"Here you are, Ruby!" Ava said, when Ru had quieted down again. "You can be sick in here!"
Ruby looked glum, and grey-green.
"Go on! Go on, Ru! Do you think you can be sick?!"
I felt I had to step in.
"Ava, when you're feeling really sick, the last thing you really want is to have people talking to you about being sick. So, maybe we could just put a film on for Ruby to keep her distracted? She's got her bowl here if she needs it."
Ava looked mightily disappointed, and did actually lean over and hold Ruby's hair back briefly, just in case Ru could manage even a little bit of sick. Which she couldn't.
Exactly three days later, it was Ava's turn. She woke at 2am, feeling very poorly, so she came into bed with me. I laid down towels on the pillow, fetched a (less decorative) bowl, and laid awake next to her while she vomited, half asleep, every 30 minutes or so.
At 6am, when Ruby woke up to the sound of Ava being sick, she ran in at the sort of speed she usually only reserves for birthdays and Christmas morning,
"What's Ava DOING, Mummy?!" she squealed.
"Ava is poorly, Ru, like you were the other day."
"Ooooh!" Ruby said. And she crept closer to Ava's poor, purple, retching face.
I pulled her back.
"Now, Ru, let's give Ava some space shall we?" I said, as Ruby attempted to helpfully remove Ava's bowl a fraction too soon.
As it was a weekend, we were destined for a sofa day, all three of us (Dan had gone off to some party, the VIRTUAL-Gallery-120938%