Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The Vomit Comet

The three golden rules of parenting as I see them:

1.  Never underestimate your children and their abilities.
2.  Always have a back up plan.
3.  Never have fewer buckets than you have children.

I think, after our long ride south, that rule number three is now officially rule number one.  We got off on a nice smooth start early Friday morning.  So early, that the pharmacy had not yet opened.  I had planned on going out the night before and picking up some children's chewable Gravol (for motion sickness) but I was so busy with other things that I decided to wait.  The oldest had a spell of motion sickness when he was about four or five.  It only ever seemed to happen when he was with his Mom, but I figured better safe than sorry.  No big deal, we aren't in desperate need or anything and we want to get going so lets just head out.

The 401 was beautifully clear.  The kids were enjoying their special toy organizers, chattering amongst them selves.  Except Daisy.  She was really quiet.  Probably tired I thought to myself as I peered out the window.

Then it happened.  I heard a little cough from the back seat.  Then another.  Then, all of a sudden, I hear "BLLLLLLAHHHHHHHG"

Oh no.  Oh crap.  OH GROSS!

It's everywhere.  It's all over Daisy.  On the chair.  On the carpet.  On my arm.  EW!  I know barf can travel great distances, but ON MY ARM?  Really?  Oh dear me. I would use the actual words that came to mind during the incident but since Owen likes to peruse my blog with his hyperlexic eyes I will refrain.  Oh pass me the pail I was so smart to pack (ok so maybe I should not have packed it in the very back of the van but I did pack it) before she blows again!

I'm reaching back for the pail and it happens again!  Brain and sensory system is in overload.  Barf is everywhere.  And she hits my arm A SECOND TIME?!?  Get me out of the car!  I can't do this!  I can't cope!  Open a window!  I need a shower and full decontamination STAT! Wait, is that an exit ramp I see?  Quick!  No time to lose!

We veer off the 401 and stop at the Coboug Walmart.  I don't think I've ever been so happy to see a Walmart in my life.  We tag team, Jon tries his best to clean the car seat and floor while I walk Daisy, who is completely covered in barf, into the Walmart washroom.  She has a bath in the sink.  I throw out her clothes- it will be three days until I get to a washing machine, and there is no way I'm putting that stink back in the car.  Quick change of clothes.  I had no idea that vomit on skin burns so much.  Thankfully their pharmacy has opened.  Gravol purchased, and for the first time in my life I popped something out of the package and gave it to my kid before paying for it.  Stain and odour remover would be a good idea too.  Taking no chances, we load her back in, and she continues the journey with a pail wedged into her car seat.
The Vomit Emergency Box

We made the Hamilton bridge before the smell got to me.  Oh my.  Hand me the second bucket I packed.  And maybe I should take a bit of Gravol too.  How many more hours do we have to do today?  Do you think I can scrub the car seat in the hotel shower?

Some tips we learned on the road.  Pre-line your buckets with a garbage bag and two folded paper towels to soak up any fluid.  It's way easier to find a garbage to drop it in than it is to find a sink to rinse it out, not to mention how difficult it is for a kid on motion sickness medicine to balance a bucket of liquid on their lap.  Enzyme based Pet Stain and Odour remover from the pet store is a must have.  It can be a bit pricey, but far less expensive than shampooing your car seats and carpets.  Baby wipes are helpful for short term clean ups in between bathrooms on the road.  The dish soap I packed to wash their juice cups with was very much appreciated when it came to cleaning the splash zones.  A couple of old towels can be laid over seats (or kids) to protect them from the mess.  I say old because you may need to throw them out if you are days away from a washing machine.  At home I use an ugly flannel backed - vinyl front table cloth to protect the couch or bed but I did not think to pack it for the trip.

We will always travel with motion sickness tabs, not so full bellies, and a Sea-Band as well.  Actually, as far as effectiveness, the band worked as well as the tablets did, and allowed her to stay awake for most of the trip home.  It was a good drive home, and since there were no uncontrolled bouts of vomiting we have officially changed the family van's name from "The Vomit Comet" to "The Party Bus".

Daisy Sporting her Sea-Band

Sensory Smart Travel

"How long will it take us to drive there?"  I asked.

"Google says it will take about 26 hours."  Jon replied.

"You're kidding me, right?"  I asked, the panic setting in.  "Trapped in a car for 26 hours with our three monsters?!?  There is no way they can sit for that long.  It won't happen.  Maybe we should re-think this."
Relaxed and Sleepy Little Girl

I knew there was no way that we would cancel the trip since the deposit was already paid and I had three bright little faces staring at pictures of palm trees and sandy beaches.  We have all been longing for a taste of summer.  And we all really needed a break.  I could not let my anxiety take over.  So I set out to make the best of it, and  I was not disappointed in the end result.  With a little bit of planning and a trip to the dollar store, our travel time was an incredibly enjoyable experience.  Sure, there were bumps along the way, like motion sickness and feeding difficulties, but we coped.  No, wait.  We didn't just cope, we thrived!

First things first.  How would I keep things calm but exciting enough that I won't hear the dreaded phrase "I'm B-O-R-E-D?"  All of our kids have sensory issues.  There is not a single "normal" one in the bunch.  Here is where balance becomes important.  We don't want over-stimulation, but we don't want under- stimulation either.  Both situations can easily lead to all three kids being in meltdown mode.  As a Mom I have also come to understand the risk of the trickle down effect!

I started by scouring the local dollar store for three hanging shoe organizers.  They are way less expensive than purchasing the organizers that are made specifically for vans.  They also have great pocket sizes and I figured that I could re-use them when I got home for organizing the hats and mittens for the kids.  Hung on the back of the chair in front of them they kept everything needed in arms reach, which definitely made my life a little easier.  I packed a separate box in the back of the van with a small selection of toys from home, and one surprise toy for each day of the drive.  The must-have choices for our kids were: an MP3 player loaded with their favourite songs and kid-safe headphones (I can only listen to "Dynamite" by Taio Cruz so many times before wanting to stab my eyeballs out with a dull fork), a puppet, sunglasses, Lego, and a sensory challenging toy.   One pocket held a drink, another pocket had a piece of fruit, and there was always one pocket with a bland snack like soda crackers.  At the end of each day I would rotate the toys and puppets and put fresh snacks in the pockets so that it appeared fresh and new the next day.

Toys to go!

One of the most important parts of our journey was remembering to incorporate sensory regulating activities whenever we made a pit stop.  We did not plan our trip around where or when we would stop- there were no deadlines other than making it to the vacation rental by Sunday evening.  The unpredictable nature of our family makes flying by the seat of your pants the only way to do anything.  We stopped regularly for potty breaks and quick play sessions.  I think that the smartest sensory regulating things that I packed were the bubbles.  Five minutes of blowing bubbles (very sensory regulating) and watching them running around trying to catch them was a memory I will cherish forever.  We had so much fun during the play session that we put the camera down and as a result we only have a few shots.  We also managed to find a number of pit stops that were surrounded by lovely hills- so we encouraged all of the kids to run up and down them as many times as they could.  It made for great "heavy work" and was a great sensory challenge for Owen.

Bubbles Bubbles and MORE Bubbles!
 As soon as we hit weather that was above freezing we aimed for lunch in the great outdoors!  Another great stop that won't soon be forgotten.  It's not every year that we get to picnic in the month of February!

Have you travelled great distances by car with little ones in tow?  How did you manage?  What worked for you?