As parents, we hope that we will always have the appropriate answer at the right time. We want to be there for our kids, always striving to maintain "hero" status, able to resolve all conflicts, fix all broken toys, answer all questions and dry all tears. Sometimes, we fall short.
Sometimes, in the heat of the moment we forget ourselves, and only do the best we can, with what we have on hand, and hope to pick up the pieces when things calm down. Last night was one of those times. I didn't know it before (who ever does?) but it was the perfect storm of heat, ice cream, water, dehydration and a cough. Only now, 16 hours later, do I think I have most of it figured out. But I still feel guilty about how some of it when down.
My weekly basketball game in the Burbank league played out as usual at 4 p.m. in an incredibly hot gym. Rob and the girls came because the team and families were planning to go out to dinner afterward. They sat with me for about 15 minutes before game time and Rob had enough. He decided to take them to find some ice cream, anything to cool off and escape the sauna in the gym. I played, we won and my family returned towards the end to take me to dinner. B ran up and down the court one or two times and Kensi wandered around a bit as well.
Dinner was at a burger joint, nothing too out of the ordinary. Kensi did not seem too interested in the food or juice and mostly sat in her chair. Brooklyn ate everything. As we were finishing up, Rob said his stomach was bothering him. A short while later, we made a brief stop just a few minutes from dinner because his stomach was still bothering him. Back on the road and believing all was right with the world, we headed home, air conditioning blasting.
Trouble started about 2/3 of the way home, when B started to quietly cry in the back seat. Asking what was wrong, we learned that she was hot. We didn't understand because we were both a little chilly in the front seat. We adjusted the air and she started to cool off. She asked to take her shoes off and I said "no," since we weren't that far from home.
Just off the freeway and heading to our neighborhood, B make a strange noise. Rob turned and looked (I was driving) to find that she had started to throw up. She caught some of it in her hands. I think at one point, she may have even asked "what do I do?" (Just a warning, the faint of heart or queasy of stomach may want to skip down a few lines, or turn away for a few minutes.) Driving and not being able to see what was going on behind me, my first thought was to keep driving and drive faster. We weren't that far from home. I heard another wave of cookies being tossed, but having witnessed B get sick a few times before, I thought it might just be more sound than substance.
Kensi had started to cry shortly after B got sick, whether from the smell or because B was crying, I don't know. Skipping the red lights at the left turns, I kept going straight, thinking only to keep the car in motion. I knew I had to make a left at some point, but kept hoping that the light would be green when I got there. A few minutes of crying, a few green lights (but no left turns) later and Kensi started to cough, and then - projectile vomit.
I now had two little ones in the back seat, crying and throwing up. It was a scene straight out of Poltergeist, the only thing missing was the spinning heads. (Do I have the right movie image?) Worried that Kensi would choke on something, because of the angle of her car seat or because she wouldn't understand or know to spit, I decided to pull into the parking lot of a park and get her calmed down. As I then realized, you never realize what you might need in an emergency situation, until there is one.
When the girls were babies, I always had extra clothes, burp cloths and wipes handy. As they got older, I stopped carrying so much around, and even now, as Kensi gets close to age 2, I have stripped down the diaper bag and pretty much just have diapers and wipes. (Hey, my camera has to go somewhere, right?) Normally, this would not be a problem, but when you have a daughter that managed to drink several bottles of water in the course of the afternoon, and had lunch and dinner and ice cream, and more water.... and then threw it all up, you find yourself wishing for a clean shirt and a towel or two... or three.
After those few moments of panic, my brain finally kicked back in. I remembered the wipes in the diaper bag and we started to use those to clean the girls hands and faces up. Brooklyn still literally had hands and a lap full of "yuck" and so as Rob opened her door, he had her turn and try to dump everything out as she hopped out. Remembering my towel and extra shirt in my gym bag, I directed Rob to those to help B clean up. I also got her out of her dirty shirt and put her into my old jersey. He moved her booster seat only to find a pool (yes, a pool) of liquid sitting on the seat. (Thank goodness for leather seats!) Kensi had not stopped crying since B first got sick and just continued to cry and hiccup while I tried to clean her up.
Once we got them as clean as we could, we drove the last 5 minutes home, finally having to make that left turn and Rob begging me to run the light (I didn't.) We stripped them down in the service porch and filled the tubs. While washing Kensi off, I started to rethink my actions and immediately felt guilty (see title above.) It seems to me that the smart thing to do when B started to get sick would have been to pull over and open her door and let her get sick outside of the car. Unfortunately, caught up in the moment, the "smart" thing did not occur to me and my little girl was sitting there holding her.. o.k., well, you get the picture. I still feel guilty, even this morning for not thinking to pull over. Strangely, just before she went to sleep, B apologized to me for getting sick in my car. Just about broke my heart.
So, my penance... Kensi decided that last night would be a perfect time to not want to go to sleep. We weren't sure if she got sick because she had some of the ice cream that Rob and B had (if that is what caused B to get sick) or because she smelled B's mess, or if she got sick for some other reason. Regardless of her reasoning, she was inconsolable. Rob and I tag-teamed for several hours, trying to get her to relax and go to sleep. She seemed fine when we let her sit on the couch with us, or in the recliner, or wander around my office - but the minute we tried to put her down to sleep, she would cry. At some point after 1 a.m., that switched to her sleeping, but waking up and crying when she saw that we were out of the room. Around 1:30 a.m., I thought I had her down and started to creep out. I made it 1/2 way down the hall before she started up again. I then dozed off sitting next to her crib until she finally fell asleep around 2 this morning.
Up again at 8 and crying, we decided to take her to the doctor. Turns out, she may have croup, which the doctor said would explain the weird hiccuping sound when she cries and the barking cough. Doc also said that the crying leads to coughing and sometimes leads to throwing up, which may be what caused her to get sick last night.
As I said, it was a perfect storm of way too much coincidence and weird stuff that ended with the car seat and booster seat covers in the washer, girls in the tub, Rob and I in the shower and my car badly in need of a shampoo and wash. (It doesn't help that it's about 90 outside again today and my car is currently sitting in the sun baking while I'm at the office.)
Just when we think we've got it all figured out, just when we think that as parents, we are doing a pretty good job and things are going pretty smoothly, those crazy kids throw us a curve ball or two, just to keep us on our toes. From now on, barf bags in the back seat and a roll of paper towels hidden somewhere in the car. I'll have to work on the guilt I feel for not pulling over, but a few hugs from my girls should be a step in the right direction. Until the next small disaster hits...