Warning: this is not my usual post. It’s long and anti-climactic. I typed it up mainly to share the story of our trip with our family. Then, I thought, “Perhaps others will get some joy from our misery.”
So, here you go, world. Grab yourself a cup of coffee, sit back, and have a good laugh at our misery. This is the story of our recent trip to College Station.
Day 1. Friday. We arrived in College Station and spent the day hanging out and catching up with Mary. Later that night, all the girls headed out to Midnight Yell. I stayed behind at the hotel with the boys. At about 1am, I woke up to the always-jarring sound of the cry of our two-year-old. I looked over as his cry transformed into projectile vomit. All over his bed. All over his pillow. All over the floor. All over him. All over pretty much everything in a 5 foot splash zone. Fantastic. I had just finished cleaning up when Careese arrived. Judging by the look on her face, the aromatic mix of musty hotel room and death slapped her as she opened the door. “Hmmmm…so, how’d everything go here?” she said as she glanced at the repulsive mountain of sheets, laundry, and towels.
“Could’ve been better.” I replied.
Day 2. Saturday. Happily, our two-year-old seemed to be feeling better. We spent the day supporting the local economy. You’re welcome, College Station. That night, three of us joined Mary in the student section at the game (A&M vs. Auburn). Fittingly, our Aggie offense metaphorically vomited all over the field. Thanks, Jake Spavital.
Despite the horrible performance, we really enjoyed the game. New Kyle Field is absolutely amazing. Afterwards, the girls dropped me off at our hotel before they headed back to Mary’s house to do cooler stuff than me (“cooler stuff” ended up being watching and singing along to Disney’s Mulan with a bunch of college kids. Well played, Mary’s college friends.). Late that night, one of our eight-year-olds informed us that his stomach was hurting. Uh oh. We positioned him within a few steps of the bathroom and handed him a small trash can.
“Please do your best to throw up in the toilet. If you don’t think that you can make it to the toilet in time, try your best to use this trash can. Do you understand?” we pleaded.
“Yes.” he said.
“If you feel like you’re going to throw up, what should you do?” we asked.
“Go to the potty or use the trash can.” he answered.
“Perfect.” we replied.
One minute later, our queasy little blonde volcano erupted. Those of you with kids know where his vomit went. Not in the toilet. Not in the trash can. Everywhere else.
Fantastic. After we’d cleaned and comforted him, we put on our game faces. As a parent, there are moments in life when you toss aside your need for sleep, your dignity, your pride, and your sense of self-worth in order to bare-handedly clean the unholy mess of junk that was just created by your offspring. This was one of those moments. After the deed was done, we tried to get some sleep. It wasn’t to be. Twas a night filled with more eight-year-old vomit with a side of vomit from our 6 week old (fortunately, our littlest human only spewed once and has been ok since.)
So little sleep. So many showers. So much collateral damage.
Day 3. Sunday. We were exhausted, but those of us who hadn’t contracted the plague dragged ourselves to church. Church and lunch thereafter went well (Fuego rules, by the way). We were still exhausted, but we were now 12 hours vomit-free and feeling more optimistic about the prospect of our survival. Mary’s awesome roommate had volunteered to go over to campus with us and take family pictures; so, off we went. Despite the unusual crankiness of our kids (I’m sure due to stomach issues and prolonged exposure to the angst-infused cloud of stank in our hotel room), we had a good time roaming the A&M campus for an hour or two and taking tons of pictures (Thanks, Abbey!).
After pictures, we said our good-byes to Mary before dropping her off for her Country Western dancing class. Then, we headed out for a quick dinner with her roommate before heading out of town.
Things went downhill for the Wood family from there.
We were enjoying our dinner when, you guessed it, more vomit. Our other eight-year-old utterly desecrated a solid 6 square foot area of our dining establishment. We, again, rolled up our sleeves and tossed aside our dignity. My wife informed an employee what had happened and asked for some cleaning supplies.
“Ew, gross! That’s disgusting.” the employee said as she turned her back and walked off.
Thanks for your help, lady. Fortunately, another employee overheard the conversation and ran to grab a mop. After everything was cleaned up, we hung our heads in shame and departed the restaurant.
We had made plans to stay the night at a friend’s house in Dallas. Our kids, who are fantastic little travelers, said that they were all feeling well enough to try to make the three hour drive there. So, off we went. Good-bye, College Station.
Fifteen minutes into the drive, our nine-year-old informed us that her tummy didn’t feel well. Uh oh. We stopped for a minute on the side of the road. Once the nausea had subsided and she gave us the “all clear”, we handed her a paper bag (just-in-case) and continued on.
Two minutes later: BLLLLAAAAAARRRGGGGGGHHH. The only item in our van within spit-shot of her mouth that remained dry was the inside of her “just-in-case” paper bag. Fantastic. We drove as quickly as we could to the nearest gas station and sped into one of the only parking spots available. To our right and left were a gang of chain-smoking, skull-tattooed, unkempt-bearded, cussing, angry-looking bikers. They looked pretty gnarly, but I wasn’t too afraid of them. For one thing, I saw one of the dudes pull a Hello Kitty jacket out of his biker satchel and put it on underneath his black leather jacket (Yes, that’s an actual thing that happened. The dude was getting cold, I guess.). I don’t have any facts to back up this assumption, but I’m betting that Hello Kitty is in the top 3 least-worn brands of thugs and/or robbers.
Also, even if Hello Kitty jackets are a ruse that gnarly bikers use to lull their victims into a false sense of security, it’s not like we had anything of value on us.
“Sure, take our ebola-covered Mickey Mouse DVDs, Mr. Hard Core Biker Guys and Gals. While you’re at it, go ahead and take our vomit van. Resale value is a solid $8 at this point. You’re welcome.”
Anyhow, we salvaged what items we could by rinsing them off and shoving them into trash bags (shout-out to Sanjay, the empathetic gas station worker: thanks for the bags, kind sir.). We threw away the rest. Mid-way through our roadside hazmat clean-up, my wife took off running into the bathroom. The vomit demons had taken her. Much to her credit, she made it to a toilet. Our “missing the toilet or anything else that might be easy to clean up” streak came to an end. I love her.
Back on the road. At this point our van smelled, well, worse than anything you can possibly imagine. We passed out bags to everyone in preparation for the inevitable. We made it another 10 minutes. BLUGHHAAARRRBBBLLLL! Down went our eleven-year-old. She made it all in her bag. Our “vomit somewhere that is contained and easy to clean up” batting average was improving. We were now somewhere around .200 for the trip. Hooray! We stopped at the nearest place with a bathroom, threw up a few more times, and hopped back in the vomit mobile for the remainder of our fun-filled adventure to Dallas. At this point, one of us had the thought, “Oh no! What if we contaminated Mary? She has a test tomorrow!” We shot her a quick text to fill her in on our rapid demise and see how she was doing. She replied that she was praying for us and was ok at the moment. Phew.
About twenty minutes later, the violent and unforgiving plague took down our ten-year-old. We were dropping like flies. She, too, successfully used her bag. Moral victory.
Another gas station. Another clean-up. Then, we got back on the road. Eight of us had now gone down. I, Mary, and my six-year-old were the only three left standing. Solidarity, Mary and son.
A few minutes later, we got a text from Mary containing this emoticon: 😲. Down she went. And then there were two.
Not long after that, I began to feel the drums of war raging in my own stomach. My time had come. The end was nigh. We pulled over at the next gas station. By this time, the kids knew the drill. Wash up, discard the barf bags, prepare new barf bags, hydrate, and pray. I turned over driving duties to Careese. She was and will continue to be the strongest of us. On a bright note, we were all becoming quite proficient at hitting our barf bag targets. I applauded our kids accordingly. We were now a couple hours into our drive to Dallas and we weren’t even half way there. We called to cancel our plans to stay at our friends house in Dallas, citing the inevitable doom that would befall them, their household, and all things they hold dear. Then, we all loaded back into the van. “Gas station break #87,462 is over kids. Everyone back to the vomit comet!”
After discussing a number of less-than-ideal hotel options, we decided to see if we could make it to the south side of Dallas. We figured, worst case scenario, we could find some tiny motel if our plight continued to worsen. Or, we’d all die together on the side of the road after contaminating and subsequently ending the world as we know it—like patient 0 in World War Z.
We carried on, frequently stopping to discard barf bags, clean up, rehydrate, and pull ourselves together. Our kids and their mommy had amazingly good attitudes, considering the circumstances. I felt more like this:
We all just wanted to make it to Dallas.
Blessedly, one by one, our kids started falling asleep and the vomiting diminished.
At last, sometime late night (or very early morning), we arrived at a lovely Holiday Inn Express south of DFW. I walked in and saw lots of “pardon our mess, we’re under construction” signs. I thought to myself, “Well, if you weren’t already, you’re about to be.” We carried everyone up to our rooms, put everyone in bed, then crashed.
Day 4. Monday. It was a day of miracles. Miracle #1: we all slept until at least 8 am. This was a miracle for a lot of reasons—not the least of which is the fact that, as parents of 8, this NEVER happens. Not when everyone is healthy and put to bed in their own beds. Not when we say things like, “Do not come to our bed tonight unless it is an emergency. We have to get some sleep!” NEVER happens.
Miracle #2: some of us were able to eat breakfast. After breakfast, we all took showers. Three hours of showers later (not that much of an exaggeration), we all hopped in the van for the remaining drive back to Amarillo. You would think that a night of airing out in the breeze would make the van smell better. You would be wrong. But, then came miracle #3: no one vomited on the way home. No, none of us felt great; but, the vomit streak had apparently come to an end. After a few short, non-vomit-related, stops, we arrived in Amarillo. We all rejoiced and said a prayer as we pulled into the driveway. We were survivors.
And that, my friends, is the story of our trip to College Station. Yes, our Aggies got destroyed by Auburn. Yes, our hotel room, van, and a number of tiny bathrooms got destroyed by us. Yes, there’s probably one of those “Do not serve these people” pictures of us up at the Econolodge in College Station. Sorry, Econolodge. Yes, we probably ruined Mary’s nice friends’ dreams of having a large family. No, we were neither physically nor emotionally able to fully appreciate the greatness of Freebirds, Blue Baker, or Fuego.
But, we are all survivors.
What’s the moral of this story? Well, here are a few:
- There is apparently something magical about staying at Holiday Inn Express.
- If you own a car detailing business, wear gloves. Also, upcharge for vomit vans. Also, wear a mask. Also, don’t be afraid to exercise your right to refuse service to anyone.
- If the Wood family says, “Hey, we’ve got an extra seat in our van if you want a ride to [insert name of place].”, you should probably say, “No.”