Vomit roulette and other travel fun

Whoever said  ‘getting there is half the fun’ clearly never traveled with small children.

From the terrible cold-sweat feeling of trying to silence an irate toddler on a packed plane, to the panicked horror of hearing your retching child*, travel can be rough! (* The panicked horror of recognition is not a problem the first time it happens because the first time, you just think it’s a cough. You have no idea what is coming. That time, you just end up queasy and dazed, outside a Tim Hortons, trying to clean up with a golf towel and some bottled water, thinking about selling your car but knowing that no one in their right mind would ever buy it now.)

I’ve survived these and worse and I have learned to be prepared. Over-prepared and then even more prepared than that.

But no matter how prepared you are,when you’re going traveling with the family, something is going to take you by surprise and probably not in a good way. You have to go with it and try your best to make it fun. Here are a few of the ways we try to stay cheerful:

Vomit Roulette

For car trips, my husband and I lay odds with each other on where, when and from whom car sickness will erupt. This makes the whole ride a little more interesting and, if the worst happens, at least someone gets to be right. If it doesn’t, we are perfectly happy to be wrong. For example: on our last long car trip – Christmas trek from Toronto to Ottawa (normally a four and a half hour drive that took eight and a half!!) – I predicted that the puker would be Eloise, before Whitby. My husband called Hazel in Belleville. I ‘won’. So at least I had that.

I Spy

Great for cars, trains or airports, a little game of ‘I Spy’ can kill as much as fifteen minutes and can be played pretty much anywhere. If you decide to start a game of ‘I spy’, I strongly recommend setting the rules to exclude other people to avoid shouted clues like: “I spy with my little eye…..A WITCH-LADY WITH A SCARY MOUSTACHE” (hint: she is always sitting immediately beside or across from you ). ‘I Spy’ will distract them, but by round three, a tantrum may start to feel appealing.

Is that a statue or a real kid?

Good for rest stops or waiting at the airport, this game is all about making your kids stand still (and silent) while you try to figure out if they are a statue or a real kid. I learned about this one from my sister. The big plus with this one is the silence and it never fails to make them laugh. The drawback is that you have to participate like crazy (repeatedly asking, “HEY! Is that a STATUE? or is that a REAL KID?” and poking at them etc) or the game will fizzle.

Hop on the spot

This is a decent time killer but louder than ‘Is that a statue or a real kid?’. The trick here is to find a corner (anywhere off the main path as far from others as you can manage at whatever airport, train station or rest stop that has become your temporary hell) and throw down a challenge. Start by creating a boundary and make a contest. Who can hop on one foot longest? Can you do 20 jumping jacks? How about jumping straight up and down? etc. Do this until they are complaining about being tired then offer a prize and do it some more. They will be worn out which is what you want for the next portion or your trip. There is no downside to this one unless you have a sore loser. In which case, be sure to have everyone win a category.

The main thing is to remember that you will get to your destination eventually and hope that no one wins at Vomit Roulette.

The flush of new friendship

Striking new friendships in mid-adulthood can be sort of awkward – kind of like dating – and each interaction will either be the last or lead to the next, slightly more meaningful interaction.

A couple of months ago, the combined forces of a lengthy plane delay (nine hours stuck in Tampa airport!) and our children, caused us to meet a very nice family. The shared situation and the fun our kids had playing for at least five of those nine long hours opened a window to a possible new friendship.

We kept in touch when we were back in Toronto.

They came to our house for muffins. It went well.

A few weeks later, they invited us for an early dinner. We accepted.

It seemed like we were well on our way to making new family friends!

On the evening of the dinner, we arrived at their beautiful home about twenty minutes late (aka about as close to on time as we get). The children all ran off to play right away, leaving the adults in the kitchen to chat.

It was going well. The conversation was just starting to flow with a brief exchange about our mayor, Rob Ford (in Toronto right now, “Can you believe he [insert crazy-deed-of-the-week]??” is the conversational equivalent of: ‘Hi. How are you?’; and “Who on earth voted for that guy?” is like saying: ‘Fine, thanks. How are you?’) Right as we were about to all agree that Rob Ford is definitely unbelievable  (Translation for rest of world: ‘Nice weather we’re having!’) our two year old waddled into the kitchen with a diaper that was ready to explode.

I scooped the kid up, and grabbed my supplies.

I asked if there was a plastic bag I could have to dispose of and seal the load-bearing dipe but our hostess insisted that I must just bring it back and pop it into her compost bin. In the kitchen. Under the sink. Where we were all standing and eating hors d’oeuvres. I headed to the powder room with my smelly spawn.

My daughter instantly tensed up in the tight quarters of a two-piece washroom (unfortunately, we do not have a powder room or any washroom conveniently located on our ground floor, and being in diapers, she has zero appreciation for such things anyway) and refused to lie down with her head under the sink.

“Fine,” I said. “We’ll do this standing up.”

And with the  toilet poking into my back, I wrestled her out of the dirty diaper and into a clean one. It was going well but the used diaper was extremely full. Really, really, really full.

I thought about how I might wrap it in a way that would  somehow make it appropriate to place it in the middle of a dinner party. Nothing reasonable came to mind. I decided that it would be best (for everyone!) to flush the contents first.

I emptied the diaper into the toilet then wrapped it into a tight, tidy ball for the green bin, feeling sure I had done the right thing.

Until I flushed.

The water splashed around but not everything disappeared and the water didn’t really go down.


“Poo!” shouted my daughter.

I flushed again and the water rose higher to just an inch below the rim.

Crap! Crap!! Crap!!!

I admit that a few crazy thoughts went through my head including:

  • leaving and never looking back (I would take the kid and just walk out the door, the rest of our family would catch up with us eventually at home)
  • closing the lid and hoping that it wouldn’t be discovered for a few days
  • flushing again and hoping for the best despite the odds
  • starting a small fire that could adequately distract from the situation.

But realistically none of the ‘solutions’ would work:

  • I would have to live with an angry family
  • our hosts would almost certainly know it was us that had left the ‘gift’ in their toilet
  • another flush would ratchet this problem up to disaster level almost instantly
  • no matches.

I called out to my husband, Michael, who is great with this sort of thing (his ability to handle gross situations is a quality that I could never have known he possessed or imagined how much I would value prior to having children). He recognized my emergency tone and came right away.

“Can you secretly ransack this house and sneak us a plunger?” I asked through the cracked open door while simultaneously thwarting my toddler’s attempts to re-flush and flood the entire ground floor.  She was getting a little crusty about being trapped in the washroom with me.

“What?” He looked confused.

Our child, never one to miss an opportunity, pushed her way through the open bathroom door, tights still around her ankles, and tottered towards the kitchen and our hosts.

“We need a plunger,” I repeated, opening the door the rest of the way so he could see for himself.

“Shit!” he said, stating the obvious. “Okay, I’ll be right back.” He headed for the kitchen where he (to my horror even though realistically there was no way we were going to be able to locate a plunger without them knowing and they had to have  already figured out that something was wrong) requested a plunger.

Unpleasantly shocked or not, they were quick to provide the necessary equipment and Michael de-clogged the toilet.

It felt longer but we had been there all of twenty-five minutes at this point. Dinner was in another twenty and we were all back in the kitchen again trying to move forward with the evening.

I don’t think that there is ever a time in a relationship (any kind of relationship) when it is ideal to clog someone’s toilet and doing so on your third ‘date’ probably does not bode well for the future. But we actually had a nice time and shit really does happen and maybe we will see them again.

You never know.