Me: Oh yeah buddy. What’s wrong?
Z: The sick is all stuck in my head and I haven’t been able to get it out.
Me: Really? That sounds bad.
Z: Yeah, it’s been stuck in there all the time.
Me: Oh, I’m sorry buddy. In your head? What’s been stuck in your head? The sick feeling?
Z: Yeah, the coughs and the boogies and the popcorn sneezes.
Me: Popcorn sneezes? What are those?
Z: They’re the popcorn sneezes in my nose.
Me: You have popcorn sneezes in your nose? Are they sneezes that pop like popcorn?
Z: No. they’re the popcorn I put in my nose.
Me: You put popcorn in your nose?
Up until this point, I was really just playing along, doing the your-feelings-are-important listening thing that proves I’m an awesome mom who has skimmed a few books. But after Zee’s last matter of fact statement, overlaid with the knowledge that he had popcorn while watching a movie the previous night with his daddy who promptly fell asleep, and that only a few short weeks ago we were battling the you-don’t-put-small-toys-in-your-nose addiction he had developed, I started to take the conversation more seriously.
Me: Tell me about the popcorn in your nose, Zee.
Z: I put it in my noses (pointing to both nostrils).
Me: When did you put the popcorn in your nose?
Z: During the movie.
Me: Last night?
Me: Was it one kernel or two? Did it come back out?
Z: No, it was a popcorn seed.
Me: Did the popcorn seed come back out?
Z: No, it’s still in there. It wouldn’t come out.
While waiting for all my Facebook friend mom experts to offer me sage advice, and have a good belly laugh, I left a voicemail with his doctor. Between the two sources, over the next few hours, I tried approximately 75% of what was suggested to get the popcorn kernel out of Zee’s nose:
- Sniffing increasingly spicier forms of pepper to sneeze it out—he didn’t even sneeze at first, but I did, repeatedly. Then with one delayed sneeze from Zee, I excitedly ran around the corner to see the famed popcorn seed. Me: Did it come out? Z: No.
- Making him blow his nose while holding one nostril closed, snot-rocket style—I think he sucked in harder than he blew out, so nothing.
- Shining a variety of lights (knuckle light, headlamp, bumblebee flashlight) into his nose while he wore sunglasses to see if I could actually see anything—3-year-old nostrils are tiny! I couldn’t see anything, which was good because I really don’t think he would have sat still for a delicate tweezer extraction at this point. After the first pepper sniffing incident, he was leary of all things mommy and avoided me unless I had a really good bribe.
- And finally, the infant boogie sucker, which I was convinced would work because it was my mom’s idea and she has been on a hot streak with genius mom-advice lately—the streak is over.
So we kept our 7:20am doctor appointment for the next morning, paid $25 for the doctor to not see anything either, although I definitely trust his tools more than mine, and came home with the same conclusions I had drawn yesterday verified: it’s either passed into his stomach or still there, and if it’s there it will either break down without us ever knowing or we will see a foul discharge and smell something even worse coming out of his nose at some point in the future. At least waiting a day to take Zee to the doctor meant I got to toast this popcorn sneezing fiasco before my husband even got home from work. (Sometimes it's just necessary.)
All and all, it’s a better diagnosis than when I was his age and put a pearl in my nostril. I have vivid memories of a team of 5 doctors and nurses holding down my thrashing limbs and head while a sixth extracted it. For the record, I was totally cool putting the pearl in and out of my nose repeatedly for a small audience of daycare friends, at least until it didn’t come back out. I wonder if that’s how a blossoming performer’s dreams are killed, and if the doctors offered it to my parents to keep, and if Zee will ever put anything in his nose again. Probably.