Eric’s grandfather recently turned 80. We attended his birthday party a few weeks ago in our home state. It was our first (whole) family road trip from Michigan since last October when we first came to look at the area. It was Eric’s first trip back this year. We were excited to see the people we miss so much.
Our travel day finally arrived. I loaded the van and headed to pick up Eric from work. It was a 45 minute drive that I mistakenly thought would take us closer to our destination. Come to find out, geography is not my friend. As for a sense of direction, God must have left that out of my genetic DNA for laughs.
“That’s fine,” I thought. “An extra 45 minutes of the trip is not a big deal.” I had to preach this to myself for, you see, when I was a kid road trips were not designed to be leisurely. We would wake up in the wee hours of the morning to begin our trips. The motto was to get to the destination with few stops and as quickly as legally possible. I like that mentality. It pairs so well with my obsessive “get-it-DONE” nature. Eric is quite the opposite. His easy-going attitude on the road is good for us.
Determined to be carefree, I told Eric that I was happy to drive the first half. Per tradition since our honeymoon road trip, there was a five pound bag of gummy bears for all to share. It came in handy, too, as we hit construction and sat in traffic for hours. Three hours, to be exact. Not that I was watching the clock.
“Calm down,” he urged. I was calm, thank you very much! My white knuckles and death grip on the steering wheel gave me away. Eric kept urging me to pull over somewhere so he could drive. Never! My prideful stubbornness can know no bounds.
It was dinner time and the kids were hungry but, good gravy, I was not about to pull over. We had lost enough time (which is hilarious in hindsight considering we had no where to be that evening but bed). We would eat when we were through the worst of the traffic. “Just give them more gummy bears to hold them over,” I told Eric. Oh, foolish Mommy.
We finally (finally!) broke free of the sea of cars and started moving. We exited to find a McDonalds that an interstate sign promised. It lied. Screaming with vexation internally, I turned the van back towards the interstate and found a Steak-n-Shake.
Not willing for the kids to see my petty grievances, I calmly said, “Boys, you have been so patient and so good that I think you deserve a milkshake with dinner!” What a wonderful reward, right?
We still had four hours ahead of us. We ordered to go and Eric took the wheel. As we drove on, I happened to glance back at Jack-Jack just in time to see a stream of vomit flowing over his front. With the moves of a ninja, I vaulted to the back seat just in time to catch round two with my cupped hands. Anything to save what was left of the car seat seemed worth it at the time.
By God’s grace, we “just so happened” to be at an exit and, within minutes, were parked at the side of a gas station. Poor Jack-Jack had added a hamburger, fries, a cup of water, and an entire chocolate shake to his gummy bear filled belly.
This is not an example of wise parenting.
With Jack-Jack feeling “MUCH better,” we stripped him down and changed his clothes before I took the car seat out.
As I stared at the miniature lake of gummy bear and milkshake that had once been a seat, the horror mounted. As as on our anniversary dinner, I did not want to adult. Throwing the whole car seat in the dumpster wasn’t an option (though I did seriously consider it briefly because it seemed rational enough).
It was our first vomit-in-a-car-seat experience. In fact, it was the first vomit episode on a road trip. Those of you who are far more experienced in these two arenas may scoff and laugh. It’s okay. I’m a total vomit wimp who keeps being forced to act like a big girl.
I had to make myself laugh in that moment because I truly wanted to burst into tears and cry, “I wanna go hooooooooome!!!”
Thankfully, we had an empty trash bag to store soiled material and discovered yet another use for baby wipes.
Back on the road again, we continued our increasingly long trek. Our six hour drive stretched into nine hours, but we made it to our destination safely!
The trip home would prove to be much better. Our new road trip rules might have helped: “Gummy bears in moderation and no milkshakes allowed!”