This happened about 15 years ago. My best friend has 5 children. When our families get together, it is a lot of people. The online group of homeschooling moms we are a part of knew of our plans to take this trip. When they asked how it went, this is what we posted, though names have been altered to protect the guilty:
The Cast of Characters
T.: Best friend of 20+ years.
T’s children: ML (12-13 yo girl), AL (11 yo girl), DJ (9-10 boy), CE (6 yo girl), DL (5 yo boy)
My children: DD1 (13), DD2 (11), DS1 (10), DD3 (6), DS2 (3), DS3 (1)
My now deceased Boxer
Her now deceased hyper Lab
My poor abused Smurfmobile (blue 15 passenger van)
T. and I met when our Navy families were stationed in CT. together. We both transferred a few times since that meeting and lost touch. Eventually, we both received orders to CT again, but neither of us knew it. She had an urge to look for me on the basis that Navy families tend to travel in small circles, and she was correct. I arrived home one day to find her message on my answering machine, and we picked up our friendship where we left off.
For quite a while she’d been talking about taking me to the White Mountains in Hew Hampshire to camp. This was about a four-hour drive from where we lived. Having six children, ages 1-13 made me a bit hesitant to even try. She was a much braver soul than I was, since she had 5 under 13 and was all for going.
One week, while both our husbands were out on their assigned submarines for weeks, she had the bright idea to talk me into a day trip to “test the waters”. Both of us figured what could be the harm in that? Drive up there, check out the area, she could show me the local campgrounds and sights.
Planning for 2 adults, 11 children and 2 dogs takes a bit of time, but we formulated a game plan and set a date. Extra clothes, diapers, water/food for the dogs, leashes, bags and paper towels for car sickness (mainly for my boys), coolers for food/drinks, cash needed, and everything else that goes into a day long adventure with our troops was listed, packed and checked off.
Since I had the largest vehicle, we loaded ourselves and belongings into it and set out after a head count. We always did a head count even when leaving our own homes. We decided whatever seats the kids picked would be theirs for the rest of the day. It was just easier. The seating arrangement was:
Back 4 seater bench: The older 4 girls
Third 3 seater bench: DJ and DS1
Second 3 seater bench: CE and DD3 (both of whom have the same first name. T. admits she stole mine. Their birthdays are one month apart. Her daughter is older.)
First 3 seater bench: DS2, DS3 and DL
Co-pilot/Navigator was T. I was the pilot.
The dogs laid wherever they found room on the floor.
We had brought a nice picnic lunch, we walked some trails, saw very pretty waterfalls and checked out some possible campsites. The trip was going well until little things, by themselves, aren’t too bad, but one on top of the other start getting to you.
A few highlights:
We stopped at a rest area for a bathroom break, and I was shocked to discover pit toilets. DD3 was super petite for her age due to a nasty vaccine reaction. The toilet opening, when compared to her, was HUGE. She was terrified of falling in and, honestly, so was I. Any time we stopped, and it was a pit toilet, I sat on it with her to keep her safe. Of course, that’s assuming I could talk her on it to begin with.
ML left her wallet on a bathroom sink in a rest room at the trail head to Glen Ellis Falls. She realized this after we had already reached Conway. Her dependents military I.D. was in it. It’s a pain to replace. We had no other choice, but to turn around and go back for it. Thankfully, it was on the sink where she’d left it which surprised us all.
DL, who T. says was in his “bratty stage”, decided to run towards the edge of a hiking trail mainly because T. told him not to, and he was in an ornery mood. There wasn’t a railing, and the side of the trail was a steep sudden drop. T. was running after him, yelling at him to stop. I had my two youngest in hand, so all I could do was try to grab DL as he ran by. I missed. The older kids, who realized the danger, tried to catch him.
My heart was pounding as I thought, Dear Lord, he’s going to go over. He’s going to fall and there isn’t a thing I can do about it. My heart stopped as he hit the edge. You know, that feeling you get as you see something horrible about to happen? We all felt it. His brother streaked past me. He was running hellbent for leather and managed to catch DL’s shirt, yanking him backwards on to the trail.
T. has a very relaxed parenting style to the point her kids walk all over her. I’d never really heard her raise her voice to her kids, but she definitely raised it once her heart started beating again. We decided we were done trail walking and went back to the car.
By now the younger ones were whining due to it being nap time. The others kids picked it up and began whining as well. T. and I both hate whining. I mean, we seriously hate it. We began making comments like, “You want some cheese with that whine?” and “Oh, no. Shall we call the whaaambulance?” We are such sympathetic moms.
We both agreed we would do one more stop, then we were done for the day. We figured the kids would all sleep on the way back, but we’d have to stop and get something for dinner. DJ and DS1 decided they were bored, and it was time to annoy the 4 teenish girls behind them. T. and I were frequently yelling, “Boys, cut it out!” “DJ/DS1, enough already!” This, of course, kept the younger three from napping, and they began whining even more.
Thinking back on it, we both agreed the dogs were the most well-behaved. The youngest two girls were a close second.
Eventually, we decided it was time to head back. By now T. and I were on the more cranky side of things. Overall, it had been a good day, but the whining and fighting was starting to get on our nerves. We stopped at a fast food place. As I was getting DS2 and DS3 out of the van, DS3 threw up. This was very normal for them on long car rides especially if they became hungry. I was actually surprised no one had done it yet.
I cleaned him up, changed his clothes, and we went inside. T. asked if he was okay, and I said he was car sick. He just needed to eat. After ordering, T. went to find tables for us all. I started to follow her after I finished ordering.
As DS2 and I drew near a table filled with teen girls, he promptly threw up on the floor. They gave the typical teen girl response: lots of high-pitched noises. I thought, yay, great, both are carsick.
We decided discretion was the better part of valor and informed the kids we would be eating in the car. I cleaned DS2 up in the bathroom. By the time we made it out to the van, he threw up again. T. asked if I was sure he was car sick. I said I was positive. Thus began our nightmare trip home.
Let me say T. doesn’t handle vomit well and that is an understatement. I can clean it up and eat food at the same time. Yes, I am that talented. I gave both my car sick ones a tiny bit of their food to see how they did with it. Normally, when they get car sick, we stop for a bit and let their stomachs settle down. DS3 did fine with his food. DS2 threw it back up.
I was in denial and refused to believe it was anything other than car sickness. T. got aggravated with me for denying it. I became aggravated with her for questioning my diagnosis.
In the end, we were both right. DS3 was car sick. DS2 had a stomach bug. In order for me to take care of him, T. had to drive. She had never driven a 15 passenger before. She literally drove with her head out the window half the time, so she wouldn’t throw up. I felt so bad for her, but there was nothing either of us could do. She dealt with it in true military wife fashion: you do what you have to do to deal with the situation.
Every 15 minutes or so, DS2 would lose it. Remember, this is a 4 hour drive one way. We’d have to find a spot to clean him up, clean the van up, and let people out to get air so no one else would add to the mess. This made the drive home VERY long. After the first hour, everyone was getting super cranky.
After stopping for the umpteenth time, listening to the older kids complaining about it, T. and I were getting to the end of our ropes and about to strangle someone with them. I had gone through all my extra clothes, the paper towel roll I keep in the van, the plastic bags were used up, and we just wanted to get home. Of course, there was the added bit of info that everyone in the van was now exposed to this virus.
Now, to add to this scenario, I will mention that DL was a spoiled brat. He would hit T. repeatedly, yell “NO!” at the top of his lungs if he didn’t want to do something, etc. He tried to hit me one day. I grabbed his hand and said, “If you slap my face, I will slap yours back.” He never tried again, because he knew I would. T. had a cow over me saying that, but I didn’t care. People need to learn when they hit, they will most likely be hit back.
Anyhow, we are trying to get everyone back into the van. Everyone is very grumpy and we just want to get home. DL decides he isn’t getting back into the van. I really didn’t blame him, but no one was in the mood for it. T. goes to grab him and this boy starts running around the van to keep away from her. I’m yelling at him. The other kids are yelling at him. T. is yelling at him. He just keeps running with her chasing him.
She finally catches him, and it takes both of us to get him back into the vehicle. She and I jump into the van, shut the doors and we hear, “I AM NOT STAYING IN HERE!” as DL heads for the side door. I lost it. Yes, I did. Totally. I grabbed his arm and informed him that if he did not sit down, I was sending him through the nearest window. Aren’t I sweet? My reaction was based on his overall behavior for the entire time I’ve known him and not just the trip. He looked at his mom and was quite shocked when she said, “And I will HELP HER!”
Under normal circumstances, T. would’ve lit into me over my threat. That she backed me up told me exactly how stressed she was. Thankfully, he realized he’d pushed too far, shut up and sat down. He behaved very well for the rest of the trip.
The four-hour drive took over 6. We were almost home when DS2 threw up again. I just closed my eyes. T. sighed and looked for a place to pull over as we hear one of the kids yell, “Ewww! He threw up on the dog!”
T. and I yelled simultaneously, “WHICH DOG?!” I knew I was bathing whichever one it was.
It was my Boxer. I know T. gave a huge sigh of relief.
The boys, in their infinite wisdom, said, “Oh, cool. Come here Boxer!”
T. and I, again thinking alike, yelled, “NOOO!”
What does a wet dog do when it stands?
What happens when said dog does it in an enclosed space?
What do 4 preteen/teen girls do when said dog does it?
Yes, my dog stood up to obey the boys and promptly shook – HARD. Vomit flew all over the back of the van, the seats, and the girls which, of course, prompted them to start shrieking at the top of their lungs. Which, of course, caused the boys to die laughing. Chaos ensued.
I think T. and I were ready for drinks at that point… a lot of drinks… maybe even the whole bar.
We finally made it home. After staying up all night with my poor son, bathing the dog, and getting a nap, I was able to start laughing at this while making DS1 help me use toothpicks to clean puke out of my van speakers as his punishment for calling the dog.
Btw, we did eventually take that weekend camping trip. It went off without a hitch – other than my tent flooding.