By 5:15 the kids and I were in the playroom. I made a pallet for Garrett on the floor; tried to steal his pillow any second he wasn't using it; played referee to keep the peace between siblings; and was about to lose my mind with every possible electronic sound playing at its loudest volume. Damn you, Fisher Price and VTech, et al. and all of your battery operated toys! Within the hour I was clawed in the face, nearly hit in the head with a plastic hammer, was blockading the door to keep the kids and noise confined to one room, had tamed numerous tantrums, and caught more puke. Twice.
By 7:30 my brother was out the door to the airport to catch a plane for a work trip. Lucky dog. My niece and sister in law were awake and I was ready for some cartoons and coffee. By 8:30 Katharine was on my lap and in my face. And then she bumped my coffee with her flailing feet. Most of the weekend she'd been super cranky, clingy, and fussy, and I'd finally had it. I flew off the couch so fast and declared, "That's it! We're out of here! I'm done!" I whizzed around the house like a bat out of hell, throwing all of our belongings in bags, packing the car, saying quick (guilt-ridden) good byes, and hit the the road by 8:45. My sister in law has every right to think I'm nuts. I couldn't take it anymore. We needed to be back in our own house; I had to get a sick kid home; and for the love of the Toddler Gods my daughter needed to sleep and STOP CRYING. And so began the 6 hours and 15 minute journey home.
Stop 1 was for coffee and bagels. Stop 2 was for a potty break. Stop 3 was for lunch. Stop 4 was to administer a quick dose of medicine. Stop 5 was one for the books.
But go back to Stop 3 for a minute. Garrett had improved considerably! He even gave me the thumbs up from the back seat and proudly declared, "Mom, I feel so much better!" So far he'd kept down a bagel, grapes, and some pretzels. At lunch he requested pizza. Despite tossing his cookies so many times already, the kid had not lost his appetite. But then he only ate a bite or two. And before I could finish my sandwich, he was laying his head on the [sticky, nasty gas station] table. And then the sense of urgency appeared on his face and the four of us hustled to the bathroom. Let it be known that there is no stronger a bonding experience than waiting it out in the family bathroom at a gas station with all of my kids while the eldest lets everything come out of the other end. And the smell, oh my gosh the smell.
Next stop, HOME! Or so we thought. Within a few minutes the kids were sleeping, but then Garrett started getting restless and whimpering and fussing that his head hurt. I encouraged him to drink some water since he must be dehydrated from the day's events. The pain intensified and in my pitiful effort to make him feel better I dug out some Tylenol from the diaper bag and stopped for the 4th time. I didn't even have cup or syringe with which to measure it, so I eyeballed it in the cap and played it safe by giving him less instead of more. Valiant effort until I saw that it expired last year. #1 mom right here. Five minutes farther down the road and he started screaming, "It's coming!" I changed lanes as fast as possible and pulled over as soon as I could for stop #5. We're on 95 North, Dear Lord keep us safe. Even if I'd been able to get us to the side of the road in a blink of an eye it wouldn't have been fast enough. There was puke e v e r y w h e r e. And more was coming. The stench was foul. Gavin started gagging. I started crying. Katharine started fussing. And poor Garrett was covered in tears, snot, and vomit. I panicked: do I call my parents who are on the road 45 minutes behind me?!?! Do I call Joe?!?! Do I drive to a store?!?! Deep breath. No. I got this.
I hauled Garrett out of the car and stripped him down. The weeds were up to his thighs. I wiped him down with a towel and baby wipes and did my best to mask the eye-watering smell with scented hand sanitizer. He got dressed and waited in the front seat. Before addressing the car, I gave Gavin a quick wipe down too because he had Garrett's insides running down his legs into his shoes. That's brotherly love right there. Then I assessed the regurgitated chunks that lie in my van and car seat and watched vomit run down the cushions and nearby library books. A hundred wipes and a roll of paper towels later, I had three plastic grocery bags tied tight, towels on the floor and strategically placed in Garrett's seat, and the windows rolled down for maximum ventilation for the remainder of our drive.
So maybe Garrett was onto something when he mentioned it was going to be a rough day. His body was telling him something. We indeed made it home in one piece and the silver lining is that my car got a complete interior detailing. It is in these rough moments that I quickly find perspective and wonder how single parents do it; how parents with chronically sick children do it. How lucky are we in the first place to be driving a nice car; to have money to stop and get what we need when we need it; to have spent a weekend with family; and to arrive home to a very willing and helpful husband who got things back in order before the sun was down. Perspective. And car deodorizer.
It could have been much worse.