Lori has to go in for surgery tomorrow — carpal tunnel; nothing Earth shaking — so it goes without saying that something would happen to keep her from getting a good night’s sleep. That something would be our daughter Madison. It’s not that Mad did anything wrong, but wouldn’t you know it, she threw up again!

“Again” means that she’s been sick for a couple of days and she graced us with an eruption this morning too, right in the thick of trying to get out the door. Tonight’s presentation wasn’t anything worse than any other kid has bestowed upon a just-showered parent. But wouldn’t you guess that right at midnight, while she was laying with Mommy, she decided it was as good a time as any. It was gross and a pain in the butt — and stopped me from writing this for about 7 minutes.

That was all it took for our two-person team to strip the kid, wipe her down a little, juggle her into the bathtub, strip the bed, wipe it down, bag the dirty clothes and blankets, redress the bed with fresh, non-puky-smelling linens, dry the kid, brush her hair and teeth, spray the room with some Crisp Linen scent Lysol, and put the kid back in with mom (no lesson learned). We’ve become pros; what with me having six kids, including the three that Lori and I have together. But we realized tonight that, for us this was low — very low in fact — on the Gross-O-Mometer. No, I would have to say that two summers ago on a visit to the Golden Corral in Saratoga, NY we reached Critical Mass, and fortunately had finished our meal.

It was the five of us along with Kaleigh’s friend Isabel and my son Raymond, all sharing a long table in the back of the buffet restaurant. Mad was in a high chair and Nolan was still in a baby carrier. Like I said, we were finished eating and it was time to clean everyone up.

Like many parents comfortable with their status as parents, one tends to ‘smell’ the children before leaving any previous activity — the park, the zoo, after touring the White House. You’ve/We’ve all come to learn that it’s far better to smell it and clean it now, than be stuck with it on a long stretch of road in a tight-for-space mini-van. Madison smelled and it was my turn. Lori was nice enough to lift her out of her high chair — property of said Golden Corral — and hand her over to me on her other side.

Her lift wasn’t enough, and it wouldn’t have mattered anyhow. It was painfully obvious that Madison had taken care of the day’s business right there in that full-to-capacity restaurant and had polished off a little for the next day to boot. She was covered from shoe to shirt in a brown substance that I was sure the good folks at Golden Corral had not displayed in any one those chafing dishes. I would have liked to have blamed the mess on a diaper malfunction, but I am more inclined to think that Madison was just, well — let’s call it ‘thorough’. Lucky me.

I raced her to the rest room conveniently placed on the farthest wall of the restaurant — again, the full-to-capacity restaurant. Dodging people, plates and poop, I was a fashionably styled broken-field runner; the two-year-old was dangling like a football between my out-stretched hands while the diaper bag hung elegantly over my shoulder. I was never tackled and no one — I mean no one — tried to interfere with my journey to that coveted end zone. And I had them clearing the full-to-capacity rest room in short order as well.

Madison was screaming; she wanted to be clean. My blood pressure was skyrocketing; I wanted to be invisible. And the wipe container was disappointing; I wanted it to be full. I tried — oh how I tried — to keep from smearing poop on the changing table. I didn’t. And I tried to get her clean with what little wipes we thought we’d need for the day. I didn’t. And the little boy who was upset that the little girl was being changed in the men’s room was no little helper, I might add. This one definitely took longer than seven minutes, and when Ray poked his head in to exclaim, “Dad, you should see the high chair!”, I could have crawled under the sink, through the wall and out into the hotel parking lot on the other side. Thanks son.

Madison somehow came clean, was redressed and had stopped crying, but I’ve repressed that short section of my memory. They say you can do that. I reluctantly strolled back to the table and what was left of my pride hid from the ogling crowd. Lori was cleaning the new, brownish racing stripe from the front of her shirt and I asked her where the high chair had run off to. Yeah, I was curious. She told me that the very gracious and polite waitress had taken it to the back to wash it. I’m sure she meant “burn”. I’d end up leaving her an extra $5.

Once we had the kids clean, gathered up and straightened out, we headed back toward the entrance/exit (why do they put these things so far away when you’re in a hurry). We piled in the van and made like bandits getting out of that parking lot. But it was not far enough for my liking as Lori insisted we stop at the Wal*Mart directly across the street; now we needed wipes.