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Sick & the Single Parent

Photograph by Getty Images

I have this theory about husbands and sick kids. It came to me about 10 years ago when I was awash in toddler stomach content and fecal matter as my husband Jeff was jetting across Europe. And I was entrenched in rotavirus.

It goes like this: As soon as my husband shuts the front door to begin a long business trip, a cosmic switch flicks somewhere in the recesses of the dark and unknown universe, sending out an ethereal message that zooms through the stratosphere, gaining velocity as it catapults down to Earth, zeroing in on my house, eventually striking, entering through my chimney, bringing illness and/or broken major appliances in its wake.

More simply put, immediately after that door shuts, one of my kids spikes a fever, projectile vomits, falls down a flight of stairs (maybe all three ... possibly at the same time), and the washing machine quits.

I say "theory," but it is actually a fact.

As Jeff walked out the door a few weeks ago, I was battening the proverbial hatches, waiting for the shit storm to bear down upon us. What would it be this time? Chicken pox? Stomach virus? Febrile seizures? I pictured myself a baseball catcher, squatting behind home plate, glove in one hand, punching my fist into it, as if to say, “Game ON!”

RELATED: 10 Icky Kid Illnesses

Monday and Tuesday nights passed without incident. When Wednesday rolled by just as innocuously, I began to wonder, "Was it possible that we could escape calamity this time?"

Of course not, silly!

Thursday dinner: I had just made an awesome looking Szechuan shrimp and scallop stir-fry in a spicy brown sauce—the whole nine yards—loads of fresh veggies, plump shrimp and sweet scallops with a side of basmati rice and just a drip of soy sauce. It was heaven on a plate. The four girls and I sat down to eat (the little ones had sausages, peas and carrot sticks rather than our peppery Asian delight). Halfway through our yummy meal and pleasant conversation, Mimi projectile vomited across the table and onto me (strategically also hitting my beautiful plate of Szechuan shrimp and scallops.) As I sat there steeping in vomit, the initial shock was followed by a sigh, as I made a game plan.

Then I jumped into action. Get Mimi hosed off, myself wiped down, the plates scrapped and rinsed in the sink, the big girls settled, the lights off and house closed up, my bed laid with dozens of towels and lined with barf bowls, and all of us up into bed before Mimi blew again. We were in for a llllllonnnnnnggggggg night.

To date, this was the grossest mothering experience I have had.

I won’t go into the details, except to say that at one point, half asleep and trying to guide the direction of Mimi’s projection, I was caught with an eyeful of barf and woke up the next morning with a nasty case of pink eye. To date, this was the grossest mothering experience I have had.

Yet, the part of this story that I was most unhappy about was that I would miss a much anticipated luncheon at my friend Fusako’s house. Fusako is without question the most gracious, generous hostess and friend. An invitation to lunch at her house means an all-out Japanese feast: handmade sushi, homemade water dumplings, fresh salads, delicious noodle dishes, special rice dishes, beautiful fruits, sparkling waters and tasty wines.

RELATED: My Baby's First Gourmet Meal

So I cannot convey to you my joy when, at about 2 in the afternoon, the doorbell rang and there stood Fancy. Fancy is also an incredibly gracious friend. She, Fusako and I know each other because our children are school friends. There stood petite Fancy holding a huge bag. She handed it to me and said, “We knew that you would miss the food at Fusako’s and wanted to bring it to you. How‘s Mimi feeling?”

I almost cried. Not because of this overwhelming act of kindness (and to be sure, it was unbelievable), but because I would get to gorge myself on Fusako’s cooking after all! Within the huge bag was packed: Five types of sushi, three types of tiny, gorgeous sandwiches, pesto chicken and tomato salad, fabulously fresh fruit salad, ginger-squash soup and meticulously homemade gyoza dumplings.

Between my oldest daughter, Claire and I, that gorgeous feast was gone within 45 minutes.

So, in the end, good friends and great food prevailed. Hear that rotavirus? You can suck it! Although you put up a good fight, you didn’t ruin this lady’s luncheon. While you may have cosmic theory on your side I've must have good karma, bitch.

Shanghai Shrimp and Broccoli


1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

Black pepper

1/2 pound raw, peeled, cleaned shrimp

1/2 pound sea scallops (or just 1 pound shrimp)


2 tablespoons ginger root, minced

2 tablespoons garlic, minced or pressed

1 to 2 small bird’s eye chili peppers, seeds discarded, chopped very fine

2 tablespoons corn starch

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons sake or dry sherry

1/2 cup chicken broth

3 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon sesame oil

Toasted sesame seeds


1. Cut broccoli into slices or small florets and set aside. Mix together marinade ingredients, add seafood to it, toss to coat, cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.

2. Chop up the ginger, garlic and chilis very small. Set aside. Shake the soy sauce, sake (or sherry), chicken broth and sugar together in a jar.

3. When ready to stir-fry: Allow the wok to become very hot, setting it over high heat. Pour in the vegetable oil, and as soon as it is quivering and very hot, toss in the ginger, garlic and chili mix, and stir-fry for just a moment or two. Then add the shrimp (with the marinade) and the broccoli, and continue to cook for about 2 minutes. Shake up the sauce in the jar and add it in. Bring to a strong simmer until it is just glossy and shrimp are firm and pink. Sprinkle with sesame seeds (if using). Serve with rice at once.

Serves 4

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