I didn't thing this would turn into a tale. It started innocently enough.
I had just finished putting Beckett to bed and headed downstairs to clean up the kitchen while Joel said prayers with Eli and tucked him in. In the bottom of the dish sat two pink shrimp and lonely slice of chicken & spinach sausage. The remains of a pasta dish. Not enough to save, but silly to throw away. So I ate them. And Joel appeared in the kitchen.
"Hey, Eli wants you to come up and say goodnight."
After a quick rinse, I tucked the bowl into the top of the dishwasher, happily heading upstairs to leave the rest of clean-up to Joel.
Eli and I have a little routine. I lay down next to him, he scoots over, then tells me, "Mama, I made room. Get under the blanket so you will be warm." Then he wiggles his little feet under my leg and we chat for a few minutes. Then I tell him, "I love you very much, and you are my favorite Eli in the whole world, and I will see you in the morni-" which he quickly interrupts to say, "One more minute," and I say, "Okay," and we lay there quietly for a minute. I kiss him on the forehead one last time and say, "Sweet dreams buddy" as I walk to the door.
This particular night seemed now different than any other. As I lay down next to him, I could hear him sniff, and then pause. "Mama, you stink. What is that smell?"
For a moment, I was shocked. Huh? I know that 3 year olds can be painfully honest, but I couldn't place the source of offense that was causing such a strong and instant reaction. Then I remembered. The shrimp. I explained that I'd just eaten some shrimp and a piece of sausage before I came upstairs.
"But it is smelling Mama. Oh, it is AWFUL!" He was covering his nose.
I tried holding back the laughter, knowing that if he got a reaction, sleep was nowhere near.
"You ate a sausage? And a shrimp? But why did you do that?"
"Don't worry honey, it will go away," I reassured him, and then waited, letting the quiet settle back in.
"Mama, you can go downstairs now. It is smelling in here."
Again, trying to keep the laughter contained, I told him good night and shut the door.
Eli appeared in the family room. He knows he's not supposed to get out of bed, so he had one of those cautious little grins on his face. Joel took him back to bed.
We heard the faint sound of a doorknob turning on the baby monitor. Then silence. Maybe he went back to bed. Minutes later, he appeared again in the living room. This time, with his bike helmet on.
"Mama, it's stuck. I can't get my helmet off."
We're holding our breath to keep the laughter in. Eli was not fooled. Joel took the helmet off, then carried him back to bed.
Eli, downstairs again, declaring that he is not tired. Joel took him back to bed, where Eli then told him, "Mama ate shrimp, and it made her mouth sick."
He was up again. Bike helmet on, and stuck, again. It's still funny, but we decide on a more firm approach.
Joel returns. Apparently, Eli told him that I made his room smell. We debated and discussed which approach to take with this.
Eli's back. Suddenly, I had an idea. I told Joel that I would get this one, and we sent Eli upstairs to his bed. I brushed my teeth and swished a quick dose of Listerine. I walked into Eli's room.
"No Mama, please don't come in here."
"It's okay honey, the shrimp is all gone."
I lay next to him and could tell by his rigid body that he did not trust me one bit at first. Then he realized, the smell really was gone. His breathing slowed. He grew drowsy.
"Sweet dreams buddy."
"Good night, Mama."
I left Eli's room, and we didn't hear from him the rest of the night.