Friday, April 2, 2010

Spring: Officially Broken In (the finale)

I was jumpy.  Like a battle weary soldier who expects another attack at any moment.  Every ten minutes I took the temperature of the situation.  "How's everybody doing?  Logan?  Good?  Griffin?  Emily?  Everybody good?  Okay.  Just checking."

Ten minutes later, "Griffin, Logan, Emily?  Everybody still doing alright?  Okay.  Good."

Ten minutes after that, "Everybody still feeling alright?  Logan?  Griffin?  Emily!"  Catching her reflection in the riewview mirror, I saw her holding the licorice bucket, which I, by the grace of Heaven, had left accidentally near her.  "Ems.  Why are you holding that bucket?  Are you feeling sick?"

"No," she meekly answered.

"But...why are you holding that bucket?"  I was confused.  "Are you going to throw up?"

"No," she quietly answered again.


Griffin piped up, "She already did."

"What?!  Emily!  Why didn't you say anything?!"  She is the first stealth puker I have ever encountered.  I hadn't heard a thing.  "Mercy!  You have got to tell me when you feel sick, honey," I said as I again pulled over.  I opened her door.  "Watch out Griff," I instructed as I popped his seat forward.  "Here, honey.  Hand me that.  You can't have a bucket of vomit on your lap all the way home."  Without a word, she shyly handed it over.  I dumped it and cleaned it out.  Wet wipes have won my heart forever. "Do you want to get out?  Walk around for a little bit?  Get some fresh air?" 

"No," she quietly replied.

"Okay, no.  You  need to get out and get some air.  C'mon.  Walk around a little bit."  Griffin gladly bounded out to join her.  After a few minutes I asked, "Okay, Ems.  You feeling a little better?"

She nodded.

"Alright then.  Let's get back in the car.  You want to sit up front?"

She shook her head.

"Okay, no.  I shouldn't have phrased that in the form of a question.  You need to sit up front.  Okay?  Okay.  Logan, honey?  Move.  Emily needs to sit there."

We made the necessary seating adjustments and were off once again.  For the next ten miles I ruminated over the oddities of the whole situation.  Finally I couldn't take it anymore.  "Emily.  Emily," I repeated as I pulled the earphone out of her ear.  "Am I scarey?"

She just looked at me with her big eyes.

"I mean are you afraid I'm going to get mad?  Like, 'Arrrrrrrgh!'" I said growling at her.

She giggled and shook her head.

"You know I love you, right?"

She nodded.

"You know that if anything happened to your mommy or daddy I would take care of you like one of my own babies, right?"

She nodded.

"Okay then, you need to talk to me.  I know you get shy around everybody else, but I've known you since you were born, and I think I've seen you almost every day since.  If there is a problem, you've got to tell me.  Maybe you don't talk to everybody else, but you talk to me, okay?"

She nodded.

"Nope.  I'm waiting for words here.  You are actually going to have to say some words."


"Okay!  We're going to shake on it, right?  We have a deal, right?  From here on out."

As I reached over, took her hand, and shook it hard, she responded with a simple, "Okay."  She put her earphone back in, and I quietly shook my head.  Sometimes dealing with children is like unwrapping an inigma inside a conundrum.

It was only a few miles before the sites of Mesa began springing up around us.  In that time I reflected over the events of the last few days.  Looking at it with my adult brain, I considered the possibility that we may have been better off staying at home.  Perhaps we had bitten off more than we could chew here.

As we pulled into our subdivision (and never had it looked so good to me) I turned off the sound, flipped up the TV and said, "Okay, guys.  On a scale of 1-10, how much fun did you have on your vacation?"

"A 10!" Logan enthusiastically yelled.

I admit, I was shocked.  I was leaning toward a 4.

"An 11!" Griffin cheered.

"A 9," Emily added.

"Did you miss your mom a little bit?" I questioned.


"Yeah.  I get that.  But if your mom had to work anyway and you could have been at home or the cabin, which would it be?"

"The cabin!" she smiled.

And that's when I knew with certainty that children and adults do not see the world in the same way.  Not at all.  And that's a great thing.  Because while I take away some battle scars from this trip, they are simply taking away great memories.  And that makes it all worth it.  Every little bit.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Spring: Officially Broken In (part 3)

The stop seemed to do Lincoln some good, and he was more content as we began driving again. I was just starting to breathe easier when I heard Logan from the back, "Mom. I don't feel good."

"Oh, no. Okay. Come on up front. Look at the road. Griffin, hand me that tub. Take deep breaths honey."

She fought off the nausea, and it wasn't too long before she reported that she felt better, but then she said, "Uh, Mom?  Emily's trying to talk to you?" referring to her best friend that was riding along with us.

"What?" I couldn't hear her clearly.

"Emily is trying to talk to you."

"Oh, sorry, Em. What did you say?" I heard only muffled phrases from the far back seat. "What?"

This time I heard her loud and clear: "I just threw up."

"What?!"  No warning.  No I-don't-feel-good.  Just threw up?  "Oh, my goodness., just a minute, and I'll find a place to pull off." I figured I'd better let Jen know in the car ahead and called her. "Hey, Jen. Yeah, I'm going to have to pull over. Em just threw up," I said scanning the roadside for a possible stop.

"Oh, no. Is it bad?" she questioned.

"I don't know. I can't see back there."

"Well, do you want me to stop?"

Truthfully I did, but realistically, what could they do?  Moral support at best, right?  "No. That's okay. We'll be fine." I felt brave just saying it. I spotted a little grassy outturn and slowly pulled over as I hung up. "Okay. Don't worry, Em. Everything is going to be fine. Just let me get back there," I said as I stepped out of the van. Walking around, I pulled open the opposite door, and said, "Alright, kids. Get out so I can get back there. I pulled the seat forward, and my bravery fled.

She was covered in vomit. How a child can throw up that much so silently is still beyond my comprehension. It was all down her shirt. Some of it was still cupped in her hand. It was covering her blanket, pooling between her legs and all over the floor. At that moment I looked up and saw Erin, in the third car, blow past us.

"There they go," I said to no one in particular, but watching their vehicle disappear into the distance I knew with a certainty that comes in specific moments of motherhood that I was indeed the mom.  You know how I knew?  No one else was going to clean up this mess.  No matter how gross is was.

I looked into Emily's eyes, those big, imploring eyes, and said--both to her and to me-- "Aw, honey.  It's going to be just fine.  Don't you worry."  But as I looked for any useful items in the car, I realized just how unprepared I was.  I had wet wipes.  That's it.  "You know what?  We are going to have you cleaned up in a jiff.  I have got to have a plastic bag in here somewhere...don't I?  Don't I?" I said as I looked under seats, in the glove compartment, in the stowaway bin, in the door pockets...nada.  "My kingdom for a plastic bag!"

"Mom.  The baby's crying."

"Yes, Logan.  Thank you.  I am well aware of that."  How could I not be?  Every time a car whizzed past, he screamed with fright.  There were a lot of cars.  The noise, the smell, it was all a little too much.  "Okay.  Okay." I just had to figure out what to do.  I pulled the baby out of his carseat.  "Logan, you watch the baby way over here," I said, plopping him in a patch of grass far away from the road.  "You keep him here and don't let him anywhere near the street.  Can you do that?"  She assured me that she could.  "Okay.  Now there has got to be something useful back here," I stated assuredly as I opened the trunk.  Rummaging through the box of food I had brought to the cabin, I found a package of hotdog buns.  "Okay.  This will work," I declared flinging hotdog buns over my shoulder.

"Mom!  What are you doing?" Griffin demanded.  "Why are you throwing those away?"

"Because I need the bag, son."  As if wasted food was my biggest problem.

"But--but--I could have eaten those."

I stared at him incredulously.  "You want a hotdog bun?"


"Right now?"


I snorted derisively.  Spotting one bun lodged in the twiggy branches of a stubby tree, I said, "There's one in that tree.  Do you want that one?"


Shaking my head in disbelief was the only argument I could muster.  "Fine.  You want to eat a hotdog bun out of tree?  Fine by me," I said as I dislodged it and handed it to him.  "Go to it.  And leave me alone for a minute," I added.

Griffin was busy munching on stale bread; the baby and Logan were busy inspecting wildflowers and blades of grass; time to get to work.  "Okay, Em.  Why don't we get rid of that blanket first..." I removed it gingerly and tossed it outside.  "Alrighty.  Hmmm...where to begin?" I started dabbing at her with the wet wipes.  They seemed incredibly small.  A thousand wetwipes later, we had her cleaned up well enough to get her out of the vehicle.  "Okay.  You stand right there for a minute, and I'm going to find you some other clothes.  You'll feel a lot better in no time," I added as I unpacked the trunk.  Of course her bag had to be at the bottom.  I couldn't help but wonder at the sight we must have been making.  Kids everywhere.  Bags everywhere.  Other travelers must have talked about us for at least two miles.

Having finally found another change of clothes, I said, "Okay, sweetie.  Let's just get these dirty clothes off of you.  Careful now.  Let's try not to get it in your hair."  I cleaned her up as best as I could.  The person who invented wet wipes deserves a Nobel Peace Prize.

"Hey.  That's better.  Right, Em?"  She nodded.  "Well, you go over there with Logan while I take care of the rest of this, okay?"  She ran off and I stared into the backseat of hell and tried to think of anything else.  That's the key when dealing with vomit.  You just can't think about it.  Taking a deep breath of fresh air, I cowgirled up.  "Okay.  Let's go," I said to no one but myself.

After cleaning off the blaket as well as I could, I put it and the dirty clothes in the hotdog bag.  I pulled out the booster seat and the floor mat, and was thrilled to discover that none had gotten in the carpet.  I wiped down the leather seats (which have been worth every penny, I might add) and the wall, and then finding a water bottle half-full, used the rest of its contents as sparingly as possible to clean both the booster and floor mat.  It was at this point, while on my hands and knees cleaning out the grooves of my all-weather car mat with a wet wipe that I noticed the girls had wandered away leaving my baby to crawl dangerously toward the street.

"Logan!" I scolded as I picked up baby Licoln.  "You are supposed to be watching him!"

"Why do I have to do everything?!" she whined.

(I'll let the irony of that statement just settle for a moment.)

"I tell you what," I barked. "I'll trade you!  I'll watch the baby and you can come and clean up vomit.  Okay?  How does that sound?"  On the Richter Scale of Irritation I was at a 9.0.

She was silent.

"Alright,"  I said through clenched teeth.  "You keep him with you and don't take your eyes off of him.  I am almost done."

I finished as best as I could, repacked the car and called the kids.  "Alright kids.  Let's get going.  Back in the car.  Emily?  Do you want to ride in front?"

"No," she responded quietly.

"Okay, but let's put you right in the middle so you can see the road, alright?  How does that sound."

And we were off.  Again.  Almost home.

...but I forgot.  Almost only counts in hand grenades and horseshoes.

(to be continued...)