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Monday, December 5, 2011

The Day I Defiled My Coffee Mug; or, Coffee Mug, Forever Unclean

I love Thanksgiving.  It's probably my favorite day of the year, because it's a day dedicated entirely to cooking and eating my favorite foods.  Any meal that requires at least two full days of preparation/cooking is particularly awesome in my world.  So when I promised Husband that we could spend Thanksgiving with his family this year, it was a fairly big deal for me.  I do love his family, though, and I knew it would be fun, but I was essentially sacrificing the one day a year I get to eat my buttery soaked apple-bread stuffing baked in the juices of a turkey's internal cavities.  Simply making it myself and bringing it with us wasn't an option, either, as it not only requires an entire turkey in order to taste perfect, but the Thanksgiving dinner was a two-day, 13.5 total hour drive away.  And we would be taking Husband's brand new (to us) Prius, so space was limited.

Not to mention, Thanksgiving with Husband's family is not a small, intimate affair.  "Husband's Family" denotes extended family, not immediate.  Astoundingly, it's actually only his mom's family.  But she has five siblings, and they are all fairly prolific.  We were looking at upwards of a 52-person gathering (give or take some cousins' boyfriends/girlfriends, etc).  There would be more than enough dishes that no one would miss my stuffing (except me), and there would be little to no possibility of me forging out space in either kitchen (Aunt Mimi has two!) to make my stuffing myself.  So I abandoned the idea of having any of my own traditional foods this year.

About a week before we were supposed to leave, Husband comes home from work and tells me about some nasty gastrointestinal bug going around this year.  He had two soldiers come in with it two days ago, four soldiers yesterday, and an astounding six today, all saying they and their families were "vomiting and shitting uncontrollably."  I laughingly said, "wow, make sure you don't bring that one home!"

Oh, silly, naive Laura.  Did you learn nothing from the movie "Scream?"  If I hadn't said anything, we would have been fine.  That's how movies work.  That's science.

Monday night rolls around, and I get woken up at 1:30am by a hysterical Ant, screaming about how his stomach hurt.  I carried him into the kitchen to try and find some medicine for him, when he suddenly started gagging.

"THROW UP IN HERE!!"  I yelled as I held him hovering over the kitchen sink.  He did!

... Then he did again.

Then he slept for 20 minutes and had to again.

I quickly realized the idea of me running to his room to grab him and running with him to the kitchen to throw up in the sink every 20 minutes was not overly practical.  So we found an old ice cream bucket (currently being used for toy storage), and explained how he could just keep it in his bed and throw up in it when he needed to.

It only took about 6 more times of throwing up every 20 minutes before he figured it out.  Now that's what I call a parenting success.

After about 6 hours of the hysterical screaming followed by bucket-puking every 20 min, it seemed like the worst was finally over.

But at 7:30, Husband (who was up getting ready for work, so he was tending to the current scream-vomit-fit) came into the room and frantically woke me up.

"The diarrhea... it started... I... I don't know what to do."

I don't know why he assumed I would know what to do, any more than he would.  I guess because I have a uterus.  I picked up the coated pants and took them to a toilet to wash them out.  Seeing as how I've never had to deal with an excessive amount of shit in clothing before, I'm not exactly sure how I knew what to do, either.  I guess it is because I have a uterus.

Finally, after that last bout, we got about an hour and a half of sleep.  When we woke up, Ant was feeling much better.  And aside from two more (controlled) episodes of diarrhea in the morning and one isolated vomiting incident Tues evening, he seemed to be completely over it.

So the quandary loomed.  To road trip, or not to road trip.  We were supposed to leave Wednesday afternoon, right after Husband finished a half-day of work.  That would be less than 24-hrs after the last vomiting incident.  But I had made a promise to Husband...

We agreed that if Ant made it through the night without incident, we'd go (against the advice of an experienced mom-friend of mine, who has a family rule of "no traveling within 48 hrs of someone being sick").  Of course, Ant had a great night with no bodily fluid interruptions.

I finished packing and loaded the car while waiting for Husband to get home.  As soon as he did, we piled in and took off.  At best, this drive would take us no less than 10 hours and require at least two stops to deal with kids, food, diapers, etc.

We were making good time and everyone was in good spirits when we decided to stop for dinner (our second stop of the trip already) at a Chili's in Springfield, Missouri.  We'd just passed the halfway point of the drive, and things were going great.

Husband and Ant went ahead and got a table while I stayed back to nurse Sweet D and change her diaper.  We joined them afterwards, and Sweet D was in the happiest mood.  She was playing with everyone, banging (quietly) on the table, making insane-o noises, and generally being hilarious and good-tempered.

Then they brought our food, set it on the table, and abruptly, Sweet D started making strange noises.  I turned to see her vomiting.  Everywhere.  A LOT.  But fortunately, it was all just orange juice and milk.  Hardly vomit at all.  Except that it was coating everything.  The table, the highchair, the floor around her, and, of course, all of her.

All the parents out there know the feeling that ensued: that moment where something truly disgustingly terrible happens and you freeze.  Time stands still as you stare, open-mouthed, at the disaster, and your brain stops working.  After a few slow blinks, your brain can usually snap back on and spring you into action.  But that moment is quintessential parenthood to me.  A huge, embarrassing mess of human excretion, and it's your responsibility.

I grabbed Vomit-D and ran out, practically knocking the waiter over as I shoved past him, yelling over my shoulder, "sorry about the vomit; we'll give you a big tip!!"  Hopefully the 40+% tip Husband left him sufficed.

Back in the car, I got Sweet D changed into comfy pjs and back in her seat, complete with a bib in an attempt to catch future vomit-attacks (of which there were graciously few).  Husband and Ant finished their dinners and brought mine in a carry-out box.

Husband joked as I opened my food that he wasn't sure if his stomach hurt from eating quickly, being overwhelmed by the public vomiting, or if he was getting sick, too.  Suddenly the smell of my favorite Chili's food (Buffalo Ranch Chicken Sandwich) started my stomach turning, too.  Surely it was just stress.

I opted not to eat, regardless.  And less than 40 minutes later, I had my answer.

"Okay, I need you to pull over.  Now.  Now.  NOW!"

I undid my seat belt and scrambled to lean out of the car, which is wonderfully low to the ground, thank you, Toyota.  After a few minutes of puking, I felt a bit better.  We drove for another 20 minutes before it happened again.  And again.  And again.

Shortly before the sixth time, we passed a State Trooper vehicle that had just finished pulling someone over. "Oh good, he's probably going to meet us the next time I have to throw up."

Less than a minute later, there I was, seat belt still on, leaning out the side of the car, puking my guts out, when the red and blue lights started flashing behind us.  The cop cautiously approached my side and asked if everything was alright.  We explained the situation, and he laughed at me.  Then he told me we still had at least three hours of driving left to do.  And reminded me that the worst roads were yet to come (Northeast Arkansas has some of the most beautiful, winding, hilly roads I've ever seen - with little to no shoulder room).

The cop, laughing, left me to hang out of the car and feel like death (he did offer to call an ambulance, if I needed one, though).  And off we went again.  For another 20 minute drive before frantically pulling over.

It continued like this until we got into Arkansas.  With the hilly, winding, forest roads.  With no shoulders.  When I felt the urge coming on again, I hollered for Husband to pull over.  But on two-lane roads with steep drop-offs immediately off the road and sharp turns only 20-feet ahead, there is little to no room to pull over for your wife to vomit out the side of the car.  The only option was the intermittent driveways.  But they weren't conveniently located every time I had to throw up.  And I didn't want to throw up all over the inside of Husband's brand new car.  I only had one other option, rolling around by my feet.

I'm so sorry, my beautiful coffee mug.

For the rest of the drive, I had to throw up into my coffee mug while Husband frantically searched for a driveway for me to puke on.

At one point, I sent a text to my friend, professing my dutiful obedience to all her family rules in the future.  If only I'd listened to her, I could be at home, throwing up in my own toilet.  Not on every driveway between Mammoth Springs and Jonesboro.

We finally made it to his parents in right around 12.5 hours.  The exact same drive only takes his dad about 8 hours.  We had to pull over 14 times for me to throw up.  But miraculously, the diarrhea held off until we were out of the car.  Praise the Lord.  (I later learned the same fortune did not grace one of Husband's cousins, who also had the same bug the weekend before Thanksgiving - but he fiance cleaned the car for her, because he's a wonderful man who clearly loves her.  I can confidently say, Husband would not have done the same for me.)

After a terrible night of little to no sleep, and lots of quality time with the toilet, it was suddenly Thanksgiving. And we had about three hours to get ready to drive down to the big family hoopla in Little Rock (another 2.5 hour drive).  I decided I shouldn't go.  Husband swore I wouldn't be contagious anymore, but the thought of being trapped away from a bed and a bathroom again was enough to make me cry.

At the last minute, I changed my mind.  I'd suffered through the whole drive down here, I didn't want it all to be for nothing when I was already this close.  So off we went again.  Miraculously, I slept the whole way.

I was glad to be there, even if I felt pretty miserable.  It was wonderful to see everyone again, and the kids definitely had fun.  The food all smelled delicious... but I was in no mood to eat.  I ended up eating half a piece of pumpkin pie.  Not exactly the Thanksgiving meal I'd anticipated.

Shortly before we left, Sweet D needed her diaper changed.  After getting her in a clean diaper, I realized she still smelled funky.  Or rather, her clothes did.  Because the diarrhea finally caught up with her.  And I'd been holding her most of the time.

I changed her into warm pjs (again), but the smell was still all over me.  Time to go. When you're covered in baby diarrhea, it's usually time to leave the party.

The rest of the weekend was fabulously uneventful.  Husband did a fabulous job driving the entire time there and back, and he (somehow) managed to not ever get sick.  The ride home was full of a lot of screaming and being sick of the car, with multiple stops to try and keep us all sane (including short visits with both my mom and my college German professor), but we made it.  Sometime after midnight.

Ant, who never falls asleep in the car, fell asleep for the last 20 minutes of the trip.  When the car came to a stop at home, he woke up and started screaming.  We couldn't get him to stop.  He walked inside, took his shoes up, went upstairs, we brushed his teeth, put him in pjs, got him in bed - all while he screamed like a lunatic.  Finally, after 45 minutes, he fell asleep.  We still have no idea what he was doing.

The next morning I unpacked all the bags and started laundry.  Our vomit, diarrhea, and germ filled clothes.  One load in, I turned the dryer on.  It clanged around, smelled like smoke, and stopped working.  Great.  Now, over a week later, I'm still waiting on the replacement part to come in and the repairman to come back.  We made a make-shift room dryer out of extra shower rods in the kids' bathroom, combined with a space heater, the bathroom fan, and a lot of hangers.

And now, the plan is to head up to South Dakota on Wednesday afternoon for the weekend.  Because, evidently, I haven't yet learned that I should give road-tripping a break for a while.  Hopefully our clothes all dry before then and Husband doesn't bring home any more terrible germs.  Wish us luck.

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