I love spending time with family. It's probably one of the most important and valuable things in my life aside from spending time with God. If it's possible, Colin loves it even more and of course our kids love it too. We have so many fond memories with family playing, laughing, celebrating, talking, reminiscing even mourning and weeping. Those moments are priceless and lately have been few and far between because we live so far away.
However, the distance we have to travel makes it a challenge for our family especially during the cold and flu season. In the three years that we've lived in California we've traveled home about 5 times. Of those 5 times we got pretty sick 3 of those trips. Christmas 2008 - we all got the stomach flu (except 9 week old Micah). I will forever have memories of nursing in a hotel room at 3am while puking into a garbage can (yes, I said "while"). That flu spread like wild fire throughout the ENTIRE extended family... it was terrible. At the end of that trip Micah came down with croup. I remember the panic I felt as he coughed and tried to breath worried that I had no idea where the closest urgent care was as we were driving the 4 hours from L.A. to our house. Easter 2009 - Micah (6 months old) came down with croup and a pretty bad case of hand, foot and mouth disease that took several weeks after our trip to recover from.
The third trip was only a couple of days ago and we are still trying to recuperate from it all. I'm distanced enough now from the most traumatic parts that I feel objective enough to write about it, but it hasn't been too long that I can't remember the details. So, I've decided to give you a glimpse into why travel and I have such a love/hate relationship by recalling each day of our travel adventures.
The Planning Phase
I love my husband's anticipation for the future. For example, it's not unusual that we get done with a really good lunch and he says, "what's for supper." I take it as a compliment that he looks forward to my cooking. It's the same with travel for him. We get done with one trip and he's already planning the next. I, however, need time to recuperate from the most recent trip (regardless if we all got sick or not) before I can even think about doing it again. I've equated traveling (especially over the holiday season and with young children) as "tax season" for Moms.
The conversation usually starts with a very ambitious Colin who wants to see every possible family member we can at or around Christmas whatever that means as far as expense, flying and driving and I think we should just stay home and play it "safe." Weeks and months pass with discussions and research into airline prices, work vacation available, etc.
This year I really was dead set on not traveling during the cold and flu season, but then the "that means we won't see family for almost a year" card was played due to the fact that our little girl is due to be born around the Easter holiday knocking that off of the possibility of traveling to family then. So, we made the compromise to travel shortly AFTER the crazy holiday season which would hopefully reduce our risk for illness and most certainly cut our costs in airfare.
As the travel time draws closer and the last trip gets farther away we all, including myself, are excited about our trip. Jackson and I did school lessons about snow in anticipation for playing in the snow. Every time we skyped with Grandma and Papa the excitement in them and us grew stronger. The cousins can't wait to play with each other and both Jackson and Micah ask on a regular basis when they get to go to Iowa.
Day 1 - Wednesday
I do my usual house cleaning before we leave for a trip. It creates a little chaos, but I'm always so glad when I get home to a clean house after a busy trip. I also have a prenatal checkup just before we leave. We've made lists and packed reasonably since although we are allowed 8 pieces of check luggage and 4 carry-ons we only have 4 hands to hold it all (we've resigned to the cart rentals at the airport). I must say that we've perfected the packing.
We've planned when is the perfect time to leave for my grandparent's so that we don't hit too much traffic. The planned 3 hour drive is usually 4 hours due to traffic, but the boys are in good spirits with lots of anticipation, snacks and a portable DVD player in the back seat with all three of us (both Jackson and I get car sickness, so it's only out of necessity that I have to sit in the back of a Sudan wedged between two car seats ... 7 months pregnant mind you... a mini-van will be a must with #3) arriving at my grandparent's house just in time for bed.
Day 2 - Thursday
Colin and I wake up around 5:30am (an hour later than we had planned) and scramble to shower and get everything packed up and the boys ready to fly out of L.A. Luckily we've found that the car rental place will drive us straight to the terminal dropping our luggage off at curb-side check in making checking in a whole lot easier for a family with little ones.
The first leg of the trip is so short that we don't even take toys out of the toy bag. After a very short lay over we start our longer flight to Omaha. Colin and I divide and conquer now that both boys are required to have a ticket. Our ritual is to wipe down everything the boys will touch with a anti-bacterial wipe and make sure the vents our closed to help cut down on exposure to germs. For the most part the boys handle the trip very well. After we land we get our luggage and Colin gets the rental car.
Jackson is chomping at the bit to play in the snow and I let him for a little bit until we have to get into the car and drive another 4 hours to Grandma and Papa's in winter weather (luckily for us the weather was perfect).
We arrive at their house by bedtime, but to the kids it still feels two hours earlier so we let them stay up about an hour later so that they can enjoy a little bit of family time before we rush them off to their beds giving us time to get beds made and suitcases in their places for the week.
Day 3 - Friday
The day is spent rediscovering toys in Grandma and Papa's basement, playing with cousins and catching up with the whole family. We just hang around the house and visit and eat good food, decorate cookies, laugh and just enjoy being with each other.
We also got the cousin Christmas picture taken ... I'll have to get a digital copy from my sister-in-law to post because it turned out SO ADORABLE.
Jackson finally gets to experience what it's like to get bundled up to go out and play in the snow. He so desperately wanted to make a snowman and couldn't understand why it being too cold made it an impossible feat. (I wish I had pictures to post, but those are all on my sister-in-law's camera, so I'll have to get them from her and post them on a later date.)
That night at around 11pm Micah wakes up sick and I move to the basement couch and leave Colin in the bedroom the three of us were sharing to take care of him so I can get some sleep. Colin was up with him about every 2 hours.
Day 4 - Saturday
We have our family "Christmas Morning" but let Micah and Colin sleep in as long as they can warning everyone in the house (which was a total of 8 adults and 6 kids) that the stomach flu has hit the household and beware.
Despite the sickness we still enjoy opening presents and celebrating the gift of Jesus.
Micah only eats cheerios, but is still able to play and seems as though it may have been only a short bout of the flu. However, I am overly conscious of the toys that are shared and hands and toys put in mouths and become a bit of a germ Nazi to most of the kids while playing.
That night Micah wakes up in full force sickness and Colin is up again about every 2 to 3 hours and I'm on the couch.
Day 5 - Sunday
Colin and Micah stay home from church, but the rest of us enjoy worship and fellowship together. There is nothing like worshiping with family. It feels like a little taste of heaven to me. We had a relaxing Sunday and Colin was able to take a good nap to help catch up from his lack of sleep.
Micah seems to be doing better during the day, but doesn't eat much and is not his usual self.
Jackson wakes up at 11pm in full force sickness.
I move back in the room with Micah and Colin sets up camp out in the basement family room next to Jackson to be with him. He's again up every 2 - 3 hours.
Micah starts a fever and a cough and I'm up with him about every 3 hours.
Day 6 - Monday
The other brothers hope to get a head start so they can avoid the winter storm on it's way. The cousins have to say their tearful goodbyes and the troupes load up in their vehicles filled to the brim.
Orin gets sick on the way home.
Thatcher gets sick that night at home (he's scheduled for a major surgery the next day so I'm sure my sister-in-law was a tad bit anxious to say the least).
Jackson and Micah are so sick that we have to follow them around the house with buckets ... no joke. We gave up on doing laundry right away knowing that we'd have a pile to do at the end of the day.
We watch quite a few movies!! Almost all day in fact ... with a short break to explore Grandma's attic though.
The fever comes and goes for the both of them during the day and at night, but Jackson makes it through most of the night resting soundly. Micah was up about every 4 hours. Colin still slept with Jackson and I with Micah.
Day 7 - Tuesday
We call friends in Omaha to cancel our get together due to the boys being sick. We also call the airline to see if we can get a flight for 48 hours later, but they informed us that that would cost us at total of $1600!! YIKES!! If we rescheduled for a week later it'd cost us $800 ... so we opted to fly with two very sick boys.
We pack up our stuff at a leisurely pace. Jackson takes voluntary naps on the couch throughout the morning, but is able to keep down some bananas and toast. Micah finally goes down with a fight for about an hour allowing us to pack the car.
We drive 4 hours to Omaha in a little more questionable weather this time only stopping once for McDonald's for Colin and I. However, we attempt to give the boys a little bit of chicken nuggets. Jackson does okay, but Micah ... not so much. I'll spare you the gruesomeness and just say I'm glad it hadn't been in his stomach for too long because it didn't have an awful smell yet.
We were going to stay with friends in Omaha, but we decide to spare them and their family this illness by getting a hotel room close by.
Colin was gracious enough to still let me go visit with my girlfriends and put the boys to bed by himself. It was such a gift to be able to catch up with women that I love so dearly.
However, by the time I get back to the hotel at 11pm Colin is sick too... and I was so looking forward to being able to finally sleep in the same bed with him. Luckily all three of my boys sleep through the night although I'm pretty sure they ALL have fevers.
I spend most of the night praying that I won't get sick and keenly aware of the boys ability to wake at any moment sick as dogs.
Day 8 - Wednesday
Thatcher and Lilly have their scheduled surgery ... I pray for them lots! And their little brother Tucker comes down with the flu. Both of their grandma's were able to come to the rescue and help with the three kids all in need of special attention in one way or another. Papa was left behind at his house having finally caught the flu himself.
We booked a later flight out, so we were able to sleep in a little. Jackson and Micah are actually playful, but by the time we check out all 3 boys were pretty exhausted.
We make it through check-in and security discovering that our flight is delayed by about a half hour. The attendant at the check-in counter warns us that we most likely won't make our connecting flight to L.A. out of Denver, but that they've reserved us seats on the next flight out 3 HOURS LATER!!!
Man was I praying!!!! PLEASE LORD LET US MAKE THAT FLIGHT!! I did not want to be stuck in an airport for 3 HOURS with 3 sick boys.
Colin found a bench to sleep under and I occupied the boys. So far no throwing up, but we'd been alternating Ibuprofen and Tylenol with Micah every 3 hours because he was visibly uncomfortable and still had a fever.
I talk to the lady at the ticket counter to see if we can arrange to have the first or second row of seats (it's first come first serve on Southwest) due to the fact that we have so many sick people traveling in our group and that we'd need to rush in order to make our connecting flight ... uh ... no ... they were NOT helpful AT ALL! GRRRRR!
Fortunately the flight arrivs a little earlier than they thought and they hold the L.A. plane for us in Denver. Good thing too because I am surprised that the flight even took off looking out the window. I bet our 3 hours would have been much longer. Once our plane is de-iced and in the air I am much calmer.
Micah sleeps on me most of the way. Jackson plays so nicely by himself close by Colin who was able to sleep some more. The flight was pretty empty and I am glad for that because on the descent Micah finally loses it and we are changing his clothes and wiping down his seat as we land.
Unfortunately the car rental place doesn't pick up at the terminal so we have to haul all of our luggage to a bus stop and wait for the rental bus to pick us up. It takes a little longer than usual. We get our car and get situated. Only to get on the interstate and "crawl" the 4 hours towards home.
Jackson gets sick, but I'm pretty sure it is just motion sickness.
Eventually we drive through a fast food place trying to find the most mild food on the menu for the boys (Jack In the Box has a rice bowl and were able to put the rice and toppings in two separate containers).
By this time Colin feels more rested and can stomach more subtantial food, but decides not to have his normal coffee or Dr. Pepper and that says a lot for him.
We arrive home at around 10pm, but it feels like midnight to us. Jackson is delighted to be in his own bed and Micah goes down for the night with a pretty empty tummy, but we were still giving him medicine which he threw up later that night.
Day 9 - Thursday
Colin goes in late to work.
The boys wake up in good spirits and play while I unpack until about 10:30am when Micah is feverish and only wants to be held. Colin comes home around 11:30 and picks up Jackson so they can go see the rocket launch and really to give Micah and I some down time. Then Colin works the rest of the day from home.
From about 11:30 until 4pm Micah sleeps on and off on my chest and does not want to be put down. He has a mild fever, but I don't want to upset his tummy by giving him more medicine. He threw up his lunch by this point and is not even really interested in water.
I call my girlfriend, Marie, who is a pediatrician in Omaha to ask her advice. Seeing as Micah's fever was going on day 5 she advices me to make an appointment with our pediatrician suspecting that he may have a bacterial ear infection. When they call back to set up the appointment I expressed my concern about giving him pain medicine and they suggested a suppository of acetametaphin. NOT my first choice of a solution, but Colin got some and luckily we have a good friend who has to do suppositories for one of her children on a regular basis, so she was able to give us good advice.
Poor Jackson is feeling the fact that I can't spend time with just him and although he got special time with Colin he has an emotional meltdown at bedtime wanting me to put him to bed. Fortunately Micah is exhausted and goes down quickly so I can spend time reading with Jackson.
Micah sleeps SO much better and we end up giving him one more suppository in the night.
Day 10 - Friday
Micah wakes up fever free and in much better spirits and even keeps breakfast down. We are off to the doctor's and Colin works from home with Jackson. The doctor confirms that Micah has an ear infection and perscribes an antibiotic.
We get it filled as soon as we're back in town and I give it to Micah at lunch only to have him throw it up 5 minutes later. I call Marie once again and she says it's fine to give him another dose. He keeps that one down.
The boys take great naps, but they are not all that interested in supper and Micah tosses most of it anyway. Poor Colin cleans that one up because it didn't make it into the bucket we've been following Micah around with and I put the boys in a bath for almost an hour.
We... I decide to spare Micah another suppository and see how he makes it through the night, but he doesn't make it past 11pm without tossing his cookies in bed and we have to change him and his sheets. We give him a suppository and he sleeps much better. Finally we're connecting that dots that his ears hurt and cause him to have coughing fits which trigger is gauge reflex and ... well you know the rest.
Day 11 - Saturday (Today)
I give Micah his antibiotics on an empty stomach and rock with him in his room for 20 minutes to be sure that they actually absorb before we attempt breakfast.
Jackson and Colin are back to normal.
We decide to feed Micah smaller amounts of food every hour rather than smaller meals every 4 hours and we continue to give him suppositories during the day and into the evening.
So far Micah's kept everything in his stomach. He has moments of being weepy especially when I wouldn't allow him to be over indulgent on certain foods, but I can tell he's feeling better.
We've got 3 more days of the antibiotic, so now I'm just praying that it works. If we don't see any imporvement tomorrow or if he regresses I think we'll be back at the doctor's on Monday.
So our one week trip turned into just about a two week ordeal. It's no fun to be sick in your own home, it's even worse in someone elses' home, but it is by far the PITS to be sick in a hotel room and/or airplane and/or traveling long distance in a car. I wouldn't recommend it to ANYONE!
BUT, we survived! Colin and I are slowly catching up on sleep and our boys are starting to act like the boys we knew before they got sick. Laundry is folded but not put away, I was able to buy a few groceries, but not with much planning for meals (Colin has been amazing and dealing with most of that) and the clean house we came home to is in disarray. BUT my boys are feeling better ... FINALLY!
Can you see the dicotomy? The joy in the pictures and stories I've posted, but the exhaustion and anxiety present too? Can you understand why it's so hard for me to want to travel, but miss my family so much that I do it anyway? Perhaps not, but at least I was able to get this all off of my chest.
So, don't ask me about when I'll be traveling next ... at least not for a few months.