Raising My Twins

It's what's on my mind.

My Rough Weekend (That Kept Giving)

DISCLAIMER: This is an account of our family getting sick, so don’t read it if this will bother you. Remember, this blog is first and foremost for my distant family to keep up with our goings on, so that will hopefully answer your question, “Why would she write about that?!”

The four of us in tent Sunday morning.

The weekend before last we had planned to drive 4 1/2 hours down to Pismo Beach with the twins to visit my husband’s dad, camp on the beach and ride “quads”—4-wheeled motorcycles. It was only to be one overnight because of the difficulty of wrangling twin toddlers.

My husband’s two boys are in town for a month-and-a-half summer vacation—they are staying with Grandma—and it occurred to me that this was just the type of thing the boys would like, so we invited them to come along too.

Friday night, the boys went to dinner with their grandparents at a Hometown Buffet and Brian and I made jokes about food poisoning (we will NOT eat there), which later did not seem so funny. The boys came over to spend the night, and in the morning we learned that the oldest boy had gotten sick overnight.

My first thought was to take them back to the grandparents, so he could be comfortable and not in the car (!) for half a day, but hubby was anxious to leave town and didn’t seem to welcome the detour, so he just asked the kid if he was okay, and the kid—not wanting to miss out—said yes.

Well he was not okay. He ended up vomiting in the back seat in spite of our regular inquiries about his state of queasiness, missing the bag we had equipped him with. We stopped at a quick mart and he helped clean up the backseat with lots of cleaning spray and paper towels.

We got to Pismo and the weather was not ideal—it was incredibly windy, which meant incredibly sandy. The sand was whipping into our faces already. Well we put the girls in their pods in Grandpa’s RV and Brian went for a ride with his dad.

The play tent before I packed it up. See all the sand?

Rachel’s nap did not take, and I ended up setting up a little dome tent on the lee side of the RV and trying to play with her in there. It was rather ridiculous and I found myself chuckling when every swirling gust of wind outside sent a shower of sand through the tent’s air vents. I made Rachel a peanut butter and jam sandwich, and never has the term been so appropriate. She ate some anyway, my little superstar.

When the guys returned, Chris said we should really get out of there. The wind was not expected to die down until late that evening, so he called a local campground and got a spot. We packed quick and got over there.

Opening up our old tent revealed that we had forgotten to set it up for clean up after last summer’s rainy departure from the twins’ club’s camp trip. Major oops. Ugh, moldy tent. Not recoverable. A quick trip into town had us set up with a Coleman Instant Tent (link to a similar model—ours must be an older one) which we had wanted anyway. (Did we sabotage our old, 90-pole tent unconsciously on purpose?) This new tent really does set up in one minute! Love it.

Tent set up, things got a bit easier. Toddlers were allowed to run around in there and play on the air mattress. We had dinner and shortly went to bed.

Middle of the night, other big kid is wretching…in camp. Dad went to help him. He was very sick but was able to crawl back in tent maybe an hour and a half later.

At this point, I started to really be anxious. I had that hot pins and needles sensation around my head that signals physical symptoms from anxiety. I know that fears and negative feelings are much worse at night for me, so I tried to breathe through it, but I couldn’t help feeling that my own little family unit was in danger. I’m talking about the deep-seated sense of “get away from the sick people” that helped humankind live through plagues and epidemics in our history.

Now, I’m well aware that given the modern context this sounds a little irrational, but as I said, anxiety is always worse for me at night and also—it should be said—my 2-year-olds had never had a vomiting virus. I admit I was devising escape plans to remove the girls from the influence of what was clearly a communicable illness.

In the end, I had to accept that there was nothing to do but try our best to stay sanitary and wait it out. I also accepted that the upcoming days were most likely going to be filled with sick babies and probably a sick me and a sick Dad too, and I just hoped fervently that we would at least end up sick with decent spacing so I could care for us.

The next day, Sunday, we had to contain the babies in the tent all morning while we packed up camp because there were toxic sick spots all over camp. This was irritating, but I tried my best to be sympathetic rather than selfish.

Rachel at a fun moment with Dad on her little three-wheeler.

Later on down at the beach, I got to go out for one very fun ride with hubby on the quads, and after that we got out of town.

We stopped for dinner and everyone was able to eat well except me…I wasn’t super hungry and I figured that was probably ominous, but whatever. I just longed for home.

At about 7pm, Rachel had fallen asleep in her car seat as that was her usual bedtime, but woke up with a violent bout of vomiting. This mommy was pretty distraught…I was leaning over the seat (hubby trying to pull over) just wishing I could, like, hold her together. Watching her spew like that kind of felt like watching her come apart. She was crying from pain and confusion—it was her first experience of this sort.

15 minutes later, car seat and baby cleaned up. And back in the damn car for another hour and a half to home. I was stressed and little despairing. I was so sad I couldn’t hold my little girl while she felt rotten. And both my girls were going down for sure now.

Back at home, when Rachel was sick a second time (I watched her turn whitish green this time) the bathroom was occupied. At this point I was not a picture of calm. I verbally, loudly ejected a boy out of bathroom and told him to get his dad, where he reported, “She’s swearing a lot.”

The fun of having twins is illustrated by this story: I’m helping a girl vomit and trying to clean her up, but also trying to stretch and bend my eyes around the corner to see that second girl is not playing in the vomit left behind. Ugh. Fortunately Audrey was quietly playing with a toy across the room and made no moves toward the mess.

Rachel back in bed. Boys picked up by their Auntie and taken back to Grandma’s. Lots of messes cleaned and laundry hot-washed. (See here for cleaning tips for the norovirus). Dad and I afraid to go to sleep because we were waiting for the inevitable next round from Rachel. When it came around 1am we were still up and we both held her and comforted her while she was sick in a lined wastebasket we had brought into her room. Dad was really very comforting…he told her she was okay over and over and encouraged her to “get it all up.” I was warmed to see this for the first time. And Rachel was really calmed by it.

The next day I felt much more calm. I knew the rest of us were still at risk but we were HOME. So much better to deal with sickness at home. I had just put the girls down for a nap at noon when Audrey sat up, crying. This could only be one thing, but it was so imminent I felt I could not move her for fear of making her feel worse, or even feel pain if I touched her tummy. So she was sick in the crib. I got her all cleaned up and scoured the crib while she slept in the pack-n-play. There was another incident—easily contained—in there, and one more later. And that was the worst part for Audrey.

1am. My turn. I’ll spare you those details, but I will say the misery of this illness is profound. Interestingly, I had noticed that each case was almost exactly 17 hours from onset to onset, except mine (11 hours) and that the vomiting only lasted for 6 hours each person. What I could not know until it was my turn is that the next 24 hours are absolutely rough. B had to work and so I was alone with the girls and I had to just rot their little brains with TV all day because I literally could not function. I struggled mightily through diaper changes, and threw crackers and breakfast bars—total junk food!—on the table to feed them. This is utterly unlike me but I really couldn’t do better. Not that day.

And there ends the saga, pretty much. Thankfully, Big B was lucky to escape the bug. Now, what was it? We at first thought—naturally—that it was food poisoning. When second kid got it, we weren’t sure any more. But it was. It’s both food poisoning and contagious stomach bug. It’s the norovirus—the one that infects hundreds of cruise ship passengers at times. Hand sanitizers and Lysol don’t kill viruses, which left us vulnerable in the car. Bleach is the ticket. And when you can’t bleach, such as doing laundry? Lots of baking soda and vinegar in the wash. Here are more tips to sanitize for norovirus if it comes your way.

My house and car are cleaner than they’ve ever been now.


Traveling With Two Toddlers

We just got back from Southern California where we watched our lovely nieces graduate high school and middle school. It was a great trip and one we wouldn’t have missed for anything, but the girls being just two years old makes traveling 500 miles a special challenge.

I made a pretty brilliant plan for the trip down, if I don’t say so myself. We would start at the girls’ regular bed time of 7pm and drive past the midpoint to the top of the Grapevine in 5 hours, stay overnight, have breakfast in the morning, drive 3o minutes to a MyGym (indoor playground) for a toddler class and play time, then power down the last 2 hours of freeway, hopefully with sleeping toddlers.

As I anticipated, the toddlers did not like sleeping in the car seats, which is why this overnight plan was made. Just like big humans, our toddlers prefer to be unfettered and free to toss and turn while sleeping (unlike when they were babies and traveled pretty easily even for long distances). So we had a short initial stretch when two babies were sleeping, then Audrey was uncomfortable and loud about it, then Rachel. Eventually both passed out, exhausted and angry. An hour later we reached our stopping point.

Transferring babies into their pods after we move our own stuff in is relatively easy. One parent stays in the car while the other goes in, checks the room and unloads baby tents. Then back to the car where each parent tries to unbuckle and lift a sleeping girl and move her without waking her. Usually somebody wakes up. But our girls are not too hard to coax back to sleep. As long as we get settled and turn off lights soon after they are deposited in their pods, all is usually well.

In this case, Audrey woke briefly for the transfer, then happily and immediately cozied down in her tent pod and closed her eyes. Rachel watched us quietly organizing for a bit, then I moved her into my eye line to sleep, as she seemed to need a little extra reassurance. All was well.

The morning plan went off with just one hitch: a diaper blowout of epic proportions that had us washing laundry in the bathtub. Minus one pillow, we hit Denny’s for breakfast and then hit the road. The play gym was a really fun time for the girls and with that stop we were half an hour further south by nap time. The car naps didn’t last more than an hour, but the girls missing some sleep is better than the girls missing all sleep. And they tolerated being in the car seats for the last hour pretty well.

The way home has Coalinga as the most “convenient” stopping point, if you want to get 5 hours up the road. It’s not a lovely place, unless you are a tiny flying pest or a stinky cow pie scent molecule, in which case it is the place to be. In any case, we didn’t do so well with our overnight here. The place was sweltering and the air conditioning in our hotel room was woefully inadequate, taking 2 hours to cool to what I’d call “marginally comfortable”. Rachel would not settle down until I gave her ice water, but eventually we all cooled off and slept enough to drive the final 3 hours home.

Glad to be home! And the trip was more than just the drive, of course. It was a wonderful family celebration of milestones and we have so many happy memories and pictures.

With this new, more comfortable plan of action for traveling these familiar 500 miles, perhaps we can visit our SoCal family more often this summer.

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