Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Here’s the true story of our trip to San Jose.
It was a last minute trip. I didn’t find out Tim needed to travel for Google training until our moving day, Oct 4. It wasn’t good timing – I was emotional about the move, our house was cold(er), he was sick, and it was not a great surprise. He has never traveled a single day for work, so maybe I’m spoiled, but I do rely on him to be home at night. So we decided the kids and I would go with.
California! A vacation after the hard work of moving! We hardly did any prep for the trip, just kept aside some shorts for the kids and found all our stray bottles of Dramamine. Motion sickness happens for me in pregnancy, and has plagued Linnea on long car rides. We were going to be prepared. Ahem.
We packed, we drove to the airport, and everything was fine. Our flight was during Peter’s nap and he fell asleep in my arms on the plane. He seemed warm and a little off, lethargic or something, and I worried he was getting sick. But nothing happened. We had plans to visit friends in the Bay Area for dinner and loaded up the rental car and headed their way. But just as we were popping the chicken nuggets and french fries en route – we had pretty much missed lunch – Peter started throwing up in the car.
Bummer. So he was getting sick.
It is such a heart-wrenching thing to watch your child vomit helplessly from the front of a car. He’s strapped in, miserable, and alone back there. We pulled over on the highway and I stripped him down while Tim cleaned the car seat with baby wipes. Poor buddy didn’t cry or anything – that is, until I told him he couldn’t have any more chicken nuggets – and I’ve been a parent long enough to know to travel with a change of clothes. So we got him strapped in again and headed back on the road. I felt bad about potentially bringing germs into our friends’ home, but really he had no other symptoms, and they were so welcoming and understanding. Our mini reunion with them over delicious dinner and great conversation was a great end to the long day of travel and unexpected sickness.
Then, the rest of the trip happened. It all goes downhill from here.
Tim was excited to start at Google, and because he wanted to be on time and stuff, took the rental car that first day. It was sunny and there was a playground at the massive apartment community where we were staying, so we walked around, played, hit up Starbucks, and came back to the apt for lunch. Then it was naptime. We have almost always gotten Peter to nap with motion. For about a year he slept in his stroller (this was from about 9 months on, once he stopped nursing to sleep at naptime, until this past summer), and that was awesome. Now, we drive him 10-20 minutes and bring him inside, lay him in his crib, and he’ll sleep about 2 hours. I usually have to wake him up so he doesn’t mess up his bedtime. IT IS AWESOME. LINNEA DID NOT DO THIS. Anyway, no car.
I figured I’d be flexible, it was a surprise weird week after all, and try to get him down in the pack ‘n play at naptime, like he goes to bed in his crib at night. A half hour of screaming and crying later, I gave up. I may have tried walking him around in the stroller too, but it had been so long since we’d done that, he screamed even harder. That meant that for the second day of our trip he had basically no nap – which I define as 0-30 minutes of sleep. The rest of the afternoon he was tired, irritable, and running into things. I don’t know what it was about that apartment, but the walls and furniture seemed to jump up and hit him. He literally had a line running from forehead down to cheek that week because he ran into the corner of a wall. It was bizarre.
We were all a little stir crazy by dinnertime. I think I tried a movie on my laptop but it didn’t really work. We are not used to a small apartment with no toys – I thought we’d be going places and doing things (therefore I brought next to nothing to entertain them), but we were out in the land of 6 lane thoroughfares, palm trees, tech companies and vacant lots. Nothing to walk to, except that same playground. And I was too pooped to attempt that twice in one day. I think that night Tim may have gotten my first “why did we ever come here?!” sentiment. (Sorry, honey.)
Tuesday was looking better. We had the car again and were going to meet the same friends at a park a ways north, and then go out for lunch. I was a bit worried about the car, in case there was a bug traveling around, with vomiting symptoms aggravated by driving, but both kids were fine. I thought we were in the clear.
The park and the lunch place – which was actually one of those family fun center type places with arcade games and a gym and an under 5 area with a huge inflatable slide – was awesome. We all had a great time. It actually felt like a vacation. We have missed these friends who left the area for a year to be with extended family. I was in pretty high spirits as we were driving back to the apt at Peter’s nap time, just praying he’d actually fall asleep this time.
He fell asleep on the highway. I thought we were golden.
And then. Then, Linnea said she had to go to the bathroom. I was on some California highway following my GPS with obviously no way of taking her into a gas station without waking Peter up. If you hadn’t noticed, nap time is pretty important to me. I don’t really mean this, because I LOVE being a mom and really cherish my days with my kids, but nap time is a little like panning for gold – it is the sweet shining nugget of rest and relief in the middle of a day stuck in the dirt. Some days really do feel like that. Most do not. But, truly, we all need a break. And at this age, Peter truly does need a nap. So I protect them whenever I can, of course allowing for flexibility because yes, we do have a life. Anyway, after two days missing it, I really hoped he could have a nap. We would just sit ourselves in the car with the A/C and allow him an hour. But now Linnea had to pee.
I tried to think quickly and then decided we’d just pull over. I got off at the next exit and to my delight, it looked like a sleepy country road through some farms with lots of trees. All I needed was a wide enough shoulder to pull over on. At first, I tried a cul-de-sac, but walking around on the asphalt, as nonchalantly as you please, was a flock of turkeys. That’s right. Gobble gobble. The were wandering all over the road and obviously trying to find something to eat, like chickens scratching in a barnyard. Linnea seemed a bit distressed and pressed for time, so I considered stopping there, but I had a vision of them flapping over to us and my trying to shield her from pecking beaks and wagging wattles while she squatted – not exactly mom of the year material. We turned back to the main road and I looked for another place.
We pulled over again and I had resigned myself to using a fair number of baby wipes to, well, replace a bathroom. She seemed sick to her stomach, not just filled up on fluids. But you know what, poop is a part of my everyday life. Now, don’t read it like that – I assume it’s part of everybody’s. I mean, seeing it, cleaning up after somebody. I have little kids. No skin off my teeth. So out came the pack of baby wipes and I had her squat next to the car. Thankfully, Peter was still asleep. But again we had a problem. She couldn’t go. Again I had a vision – this time of a REAL emergency 4.5 seconds down the road and needing to pull over again to finish the job. But what could I do. We got back in the car, and I just tried to stay positive, though it was obvious she wasn’t feeling well.
We were back on the highway when Linnea started crying. Her tummy hurt. Oh geez, I’m thinking, starting to panic. We HAVE to keep driving. I think I told her, Linnea, I’m so sorry, I’ll try to drive smoothly, but there’s nothing really I can do. We have to drive home. If you get sick, I’ll clean you up.
Very reassuring to my four-year-old, I’m sure. And then she started vomiting.
Chunks of hot dog and french fry were all over the car – all over her, her car seat, and the floor. It just kept coming. Again that feeling of heart-wrenching pity at not being able to do anything about it, not even hold her hair.
Was she sick? Had she gotten something Peter had? (And would I? And Tim? Happy first week of work, darling.)
Was it these roads? They were GARBAGE. Bumpiest roads I’ve ever driven in my life (that is, consistently bumpy, like nobody bothered to repave them in the last 100 years). We were in a low Corolla and they were used to a minivan. Who knew what the problem could be.
Again I found an exit and some kind person tailed me off it, with Linnea still vomiting. Her whole lunch and then some. It was pitiful to see. I found a parking lot next to some fast food Mediterranean place and got out the baby wipes again.
This time it was really nasty. And it was really sad stripping her down in the bright sunlight of the parking lot to clean the sticky vomit off her chest and legs. I had an enormous pile of wipes and chunks going and just added her clothes too it. I kept telling her, I’m so sorry, Linnea, and she didn’t really seem sick, but now – yes, I have a limit – now I was starting to be grossed out.
I thought of Peter’s clothes, still in the McDonald’s bag in the trunk, that needed to be washed from his carsick/who-knows-what-sick episode two days prior. And now hers, so much worse. Washing them out in the apartment toilet or tub. Blech. It was getting to be too much. The car seat was slick and slimy and I couldn’t get all the chunks of hot dog off the floor.
And then Peter woke up screaming.
I kind of lost my sense of judgment then. I sorrily but necessarily forced my nearly naked daughter back into her smelly, slimy car seat while I ran the pile of nasty wipes and clothes to the trash can in front of the restaurant. I considered calling Tim, but what would I tell him? I needed to just do what I needed to do. And in that moment, I decided that what I DIDN’T need to do was clean a second set of nasty clothes with chunks of vomited hot dog and french fry on them. It was understandable; I had reached my limit. It was a cute outfit, it was too bad… but into the trash they went.
Peter was still screaming when I got back into the car and I remember not being particularly patient with him. I said something pretty unreasonable like, “Buddy, I’m sorry you got woken up early from your nap, but Linnea is sick and we are driving back and there is nothing I can do for you.” Needless to say, I was frazzled.
He calmed down relatively quickly and a small part of my hoped he would go back to sleep, when Linnea started vomiting again. This time it was all bile, the foamy yellow fluid running down her bare chest. My eyes watered and I tried to call encouragement over my shoulder while I navigated the unfamiliar roads back to the apartment. When we arrived I put her in the stroller and covered her with a sweater while I carried Peter on my hip and went up the elevator, then down the long, long hallway to our door. I put her in the bath, and honestly have no idea what I did with Peter during that time. My surprised memory tells me he laid quietly on the couch under a blanket. But that amazing act of obedience did not take place before Linnea, who as always been particularly resilient, told me, “Mommy, remember, THAT BAG has my clothes in it. Don’t throw it out. Wouldn’t that be sad?” And she smiled, indicating the McDonald’s bag from the trunk that had PETER’S clothes in it.
Lamely, I replied, Yeah, that would be sad. Yep, that’s the one with clothes.
I bathed her and inwardly berated myself. Linnea is four years old! Not two! How in the world did I think she wouldn’t miss an outfit? Why in the world did I throw it in the GARBAGE?! I pictured myself calling Tim and him coming home early from work to take the car on a secret mission to find the unnamed restaurant on a road I did not know, near a highway I did know, to find a pair of barfed-on clothes in an outdoor trash can. I texted him but he didn’t reply. I got Linnea dressed and laid down in bed, did something with Peter, and imagined myself telling Linnea what I had done.
No. I just couldn’t do it. And I wouldn’t lie to my daughter.
So I did what any reasonable parent would do. I started searching online for a “mediterranean restaurant” near hwy XXX. I called them on the phone.
“Hi, are you the mediterranean restaurant near highway XXX?”
“Okay, this is a bit weird, but my daughter was car sick and I cleaned her up in your parking lot. I accidentally threw her soiled clothes in the trash can outside your restaurant. Do you know how often the trash is emptied?”
The guy didn’t skip a beat. It has occurred to me now that he may have watched the whole thing.
“Well, I think it’s every morning. But don’t quote me. Hang on, I’ll go check for you.”
And to my amazement he put me on hold, to ostensibly poke his head down in the trash can and see if Linnea’s cute clothes were in there. He came back on the line. “In the McDonald’s bag? Yep, they’re still in there.”
“Okay, uh, thanks.”
And then, I did what any reasonable parent would do, and to preserve the happiness of my sweet daughter, put her and Peter back in the car to go retrieve the vomited upon and thrown away clothes.
I didn’t tell her where we were going, just that it was an important errand that couldn’t wait. Inwardly I reasoned that if she threw up again (God forbid!), I would be a man, er, mom, about it, and gamely wash the second soiled outfit. I could do that much for her. And oh did I pray and pray that she would be fine in the car. It was only 6.5 miles.
But it was now rush hour. And apparently 6.5 miles was enough to unsettle her stomach. She threw up again.
We reached the parking lot and I once again cleaned up poor Linnea with some baby wipes. I wondered what was worse, throwing away my daughter’s clothes or forcing her to get car sick again to retrieve them. But here we were. With Linnea sufficiently cleaned up (and the car seat looking beyond repair), I marched over the the trash can. I peered inside. Of course, it had been an hour or two and there was other people’s trash in there now. But I just saw the edge of it – the McDonald’s bag. And then… the flowered shirt. I reached in with my hand inside a plastic grocery bag I’d brought for this purpose, and pulled up the wad of clothing and baby cleaning wipes. I tried to dump off the excess trash but at that point, everyone inside the restaurant had a front row seat to my dumpster diving, and I wanted to hurry things along. So I stuffed the shirt and shorts in my bag and went back to the car.
I confessed to Linnea what I had grabbed. I tried to word it to hurt her the least – Yes, I had knowingly thrown away her clothes, and it was a mistake – and not lie. But we had them now and I was sorry and we were going back to the apartment, where I would wash them and make them good as new. She made the car ride back without throwing up again, and once again I changed her and maybe bathed her too. Then I finally heard back from Tim in response to my text message. And I felt no love for Silicon Valley.
The rest of the story is just the denouement. We didn’t go anywhere the next day. Thursday I gave them dramamine, and we drove to the downtown children’s museum, which was great. We flew home without incident. Peter did get one nap. And I’ll never be taking my kids to Google training again!
Friday, November 1, 2013