From Grandmother's House We Go
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The trip to Youngstown, OH had been good.  

We were up to visit my mother-in-law in her 1940s built house, in an age when they were apparently unaware of floor insulation. My two oldest daughters, Rylee and Oliva, ages 12 and 9, are asleep in the downstairs bedroom. My youngest daughter, Lylah, age 4, is asleep in the bedroom across the hall amidst a sea of about 852 stuffed animals. My wife, Morgan, and I are sleeping upstairs in a queen-sized bed, which sounds nice until you realize that I am 6’5” and my wife, who is 5’2”,  believes that she should squeeze as tightly against me as humanly possible in order to leave half of the bed space unattended. The baby is asleep in a crib down by the foot of our bed. It is going on 6:30 a.m. and all is dark, calm and quiet.

I whisper to myself, “what is that?”

Then I realize what it is. Oh sweet Jesus, it’s the sound of nothing. The beautiful, glorious sound of nothing.

I lay there unmoving, experiencing intense joy at the lack of noise. A single tear slides down my cheek and I’m sure this is what heaven must be like. I have to pee, but trying to get from the bed to the bathroom causes me as much consternation as planning D-Day must have caused Eisenhower. Let’s start with the bed. The slightest of movements sets loose squeaks and rumbles that seem to reverberate throughout all of space and time. If I did manage to successfully get out of bed without waking up the baby, a veritable cacophonous minefield awaits to thwart all of my hopes and dreams.

I attempted such a maneuver the night before. Moving with the dexterity of a cat, I take two steps in quick succession. I stop to glance at the baby.


“Good….gooooooood”, I think to myself in emulation of Emperor Palpatine. “I got this.”

I take another step, and my heart jumps into my throat.


Baby still asleep.

Another step, another loud creak. The baby turns over and makes a whining noise.


Another step, and it sounds like I’m a tornado siren blaring out its warning that an F-5 tornado is approaching so GO FIND SHELTER NOW! The baby jolts upright in confusion. I stand perfectly still, afraid to even breathe. Maybe this kid is like the T-Rex in Jurassic Park and can’t see me if I don’t move. After a few minutes he lays back down, and I decide to both breathe and take another step toward the door.

Creak. Creak. Creeeeeaaaaaaaak.

The baby sits up and cries. Dejected, I head into the bathroom aware that the entire household is going to be awakened because I am incapable of going two hours without peeing. Such is life with a prostate.

So on this glorious morning I lay there, the pain from having to pee clearly being trumped by the sweet sound of nothing. I relax, attempting to fall back to sleep.

Right as I was sliding back into slumber, the day began as it does every other day – my youngest child and only boy, Sam, screaming a banshee level shrill, awakening me out of the bucolic splendor of my dreams and into the real world, rife with responsibilities and other items that make sitting around, doing nothing in particular, seem as impossible a task as journeying to the moon via bicycle.  But hey, I am working on my mindfulness, and I am indeed happy that all six of us are together on our visit to Grandma Marilynne’s house.  

The wife takes the boy downstairs to feed him, because when he’s eating that means he’s not screaming. Therefore we feed him as often as possible. I change into my finest traveling clothes and catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror.

“What a beautiful pair of dress sweats”, I say in admiration. “The finest dress sweats on the market!”

In case, dear reader, you are wondering if I was being facetious, the radiant glow from my smiling face would have convinced you that I was, in fact, not.

I pack our belongings with the requisite disbelief at how much crap we brought with us and head downstairs to the delightful aroma of the glory that is Dunkin Donuts.  The children have beat me to the table and are eating ravenously whilst simultaneously eyeing the remaining donuts in the box. I can see that there may be a war for the last chocolate donut brewing; a war in which blood will be spilled. Being the peacekeeper that I am, I decide to settle the debate by eating it myself. I can see the rage in their frosting covered faces, so I do what I thought best.

“Holy crap, this is the best donut I’ve ever had! Can you believe this? Oh man, you should taste this. And before you ask, no, you cannot have a bite.”

I turn toward the coffee, feeling pride in starting off with another great day of parenting. The children reach for more donuts and all is well with the world. Ahh yes, eat up children, for this is indeed a treat!  

It is only later that I realize how faulty my plan of encouraging their eating is.  

The children finish their breakfast, change out of their pajamas, and bring their bags to the staging area by the front door. There have not been any tears from any of the girls this morning, and I am basking in the glow of the respite from dealing with all of their emotions. I pat them on their heads like the Grinch petting his dog Max, then they all skip off to use the restroom one last time before we go. Sam is done eating and has commenced the screaming. It’s the soundtrack of my life. I secure open the screen door and begin the task of placing all of our belongings into one cramped space. The packing was done in expert fashion, of course – after all, my Tetris skills are quite extraordinary – and the only thing left to do is pack the children!  Oh wait, they have to pee again….

NOW it’s time to pack the children!  In no time at all we will all be in the van merrily beginning our *three hour ride home.  (*note – three hour ride timeframe refers to when I’m traveling alone, ne’er stopping for such idle things as “using the restroom” or taking action on such feelings as “I’m hungry”.  Ride time with children is equivalent to age in dog years vs. human years.)

The walk from the living room to the front door plays out slowly in my mind’s eye.  The four year old, Lylah, turning to take step, looks eerily like Neil Armstrong bobbing along the surface of the moon. I stop to smile, thinking to myself how cute she looks with her curly blonde hair and freckled cheeks - and that’s when her body begins to rebel.  

Like Regan from The Exorcist, the raging torrent of vomit spews forth, covering clothes and floor alike in a truly magnificent display of how disgusting the human body can be. Hey look, chocolate donut!

Well crap.

Poor Lylah is, of course, crying. Grandma steps in to help with Lylah. She takes off her shoes, cleans her up and takes her away to get a change of clothes.  These would be the same shoes that I purchased the day before which are now covered in puke. They had a good run. It’s up to me to clean up the surrounding area which was struck by the wrath of the vomit. Devoid of a hazmat suit, I pull my shirt over my nose and start wiping. It’s quite pungent. It’s moments like these I think to when people ask, “can you ever imagine your life without kids?”

Morgan comes over after I’m done cleaning up the mess, and I think that her timing seems quite convenient.

“What do we do now? Are we still going to try and drive all the way home?”

“Let’s see how Lylah is doing.”

The report from grandma is that Lylah is feeling better now. As Lylah herself assures us she feels ok, we decide on an action plan – get a puke bucket, complete with several bags, and let’s do the damn thing.  The plan is executed, and I strap Lylah into her car seat with 12 year old Rylee in the back beside her assisting, like the Vanna White of this dangerous puking game.

Since I made it all the way through Cub Scouts as a kid, I know a thing or two about taking the time to properly plan for all situations. So with Lylah in the back seat, I hand her the puke bucket and begin her training.

“Ok sweetie, if you feel like you need to puke, here is your bucket, ok? Make sure you use the bucket.”

“Ok daddy.”

“Seriously though...use the bucket.”

"I know daddy, you just said that.”

“Here, let’s practice. Show me how you would do it! Oh perfect, great job sweetie.”

Feeling good about myself, I head inside to grab a Coke for the trip. From the kitchen I think I hear the faint sounds of screaming. Running back out front, I discover that my long, national nightmare is far from over. There sits Lylah, with puke on her shirt and on her carseat. She is crying.

“Rylee, what happened? You were supposed to hold the bucket!”

“I did! She said she was going to be sick and I held the bucket up and she started puking and freaked out and pushed it away!”

Just...why. Why, God?

Defeated, I get Lylah out and send her off to get changed again. I pull out the car seat which I must now clean. I laugh out loud in spite of myself, and can vividly understand that I am in fact losing my sanity. After twenty-three minutes, the car seat is clean and Lylah is standing in an oversized tee-shirt diligently holding her puke bucket. I put a towel down on her car seat and buckle her in...again.

“Lylah, if you are going to be sick, you MUST use the puke bucket. Let’s practice again. Very good. You aren’t going to freak out this time, are you? You will be a good girl and puke in the bucket? Ok, I know that you will. Make daddy proud!”

Hours past our estimated time of departure, we are finally heading out along the interstate, the lingering smell of vomit filling our nostrils. We are cruising and around 45 minutes into the trip when all of a sudden I hear the undeniable sound of puking in progress. Panicked, I’m imagining what horrors must lay beyond the middle row. To my great delight, however, Lylah is puking in the bucket! Egads!

“Lylah, you’re such a good girl! You got it in the bucket!”

She smiles brightly, as she knows this ranks among one of her greatest feats in her young life. Everyone in the car cheers. We stop to deposit the contents of the bucket in a trash can at a local Wendy’s, and as I’m walking back to the car I’m confused about why my family is exiting.

“We have to pee.”

After all of this time, it still catches me off guard. I close my eyes and sigh.

After a few hours we are arriving at the north end of Columbus, a mere 20 minutes from being home. Lylah puked in the bucket again, but all seems well, considering. By this time it’s dark outside, and all of the children are sleeping. Then out of the darkness, it comes - the sound. Puking has resumed.

“Oh no, is Lylah getting sick again?”

Morgan turns around to see what’s going on. I glance in the rearview mirror and see Rylee holding a bucket up to her face.

“Is that Rylee puking? Rylee, what’s going on?”

“I don’t know, I woke up and it was just so hot and I had to puke.”

“This is why I store puke buckets in front of every child’s seat, babe.” Morgan says. I’ve never been more in love with my wife than this moment.

We pull into our driveway with cranky, sleepy, sick children, and two buckets full of puke to empty. As I’m putting the key into the door, I see Olivia running into the yard. Without a bucket, she made a dash for grass. Down goes child number three. Although she’s crying, I’m quite happy that she didn’t puke either on herself or in the car.

“Make sure to grab her bucket to put beside her bed tonight.”

The living room is the centralized location as two girls sleep in the basement while the other rooms are down the hall. With the children in bed we settle in on the couch in the living room in order to be available for them during the night. I realize that I’m hungry.

“Hey, do we have any groceries for breakfast in the morning?”

“No, we don’t, I cleaned out the refrigerator before we left.  You will have to run out and grab something.”

“Ok, well I guess I’ll get Dunkin Donuts.”

She wasn’t amused.

Next: Holy Hell

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