On Playing the Hand You’re Dealt

Jan 27

5367688821_1d2e0cbc19_bThe kids and I headed to Florida with my parents last week to spend time together and to escape the arctic chill of the Northeast. Ahh, the best laid plans…

The first night there, my daughter – usually a champion sleeper – was up several times, needy and uncomfortable. The next morning we all headed off to a small theme park, hoping to ease our way into our trip. Yeah, not so much.

While playing at the playground there, my older son fell several feet from the top of the monkey bars onto his left arm. Despite my initial fears that he had dislocated his shoulder and some lingering pain in his jaw and elbow, he rallied enough to walk through the park and even “wrestle” an alligator. My daughter became more and more fussy throughout the day, though, culminating in a whinefest at dinner that was only briefly halted by an infusion of chocolate peanut butter ice cream. My mom and I tried to cheer each other up just before bedtime with a sunny, “Well, at least we didn’t have to bring anybody to the hospital!”

Famous last words.

We were there, in the ER, two sleepless nights later, after my daughter’s runny nose and cough deteriorated into non-stop eye rubbing and that tell-tale bark known to all parents of croupy babies. “An ear infection, pink eye, and croup,” the nice ┬ádoctor told us and then sent us on our way with enough prescriptions to open our own pharmacy.

I was the next to fall, followed by the boys, followed by my dad. By the time my husband arrived on Monday evening, our condo was littered with cough drop wrappers, purloined boxes of tissues, and half-drunk cups of water.

We spent the rest of our time in Florida doing small, quiet things – learning to play the card game “War” with Grandma, sitting on the porch, eating more ice cream, playing chess. Our week did not go the way that we’d planned. We didn’t make it to Legoland or the Kennedy Space Center. We didn’t frolic in the enveloping warmth of the sun. We did what we needed to do not to feel worse than we already did and even had some fun while doing it.

During our week away, I exchanged messages with Elizabeth, no stranger to vacation illness, and Allison and Denise, both of whom were having weeks much worse than my own. Parenting, Denise reminded me, is not for the faint of heart. No, it is not. And nor is life.

We’re doing better for the most part, thanks to time and sleep and the power of saline rinses and modern pharmaceuticals. And maybe we’ll even do better next year. Maybe our best laid plans will come to fruition.

But maybe not. And that’s okay. It has to be. There’s no counting on it. And the best we can do is to make the best of the hand we’re dealt – whether that’s Legoland or an ace in War.

What’s the best family vacation you’ve ever been on? Any vacation horror stories to share?

Image: Sick Baby by danibabii08 via Flickr under a Craetive Commons license.

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

slamdunks January 27, 2014 at 9:16 am

Oh gosh sorry to hear about all the pitfalls with your trip. I hope you are able to use your War skills to defeat others.

Most of our bad trips revolve around the drive to or from. We take an annual Outer Banks trip and it is a very long drive with kids from the NE. I remember one year driving back, we hit every traffic issue imaginable and it translated into like a 13+ hour drive with three small kids. I would tell you more, but I think I have blocked many of the specifics from my memory.


Kristen January 27, 2014 at 3:13 pm

That’s probably for the best. ;)


Melissa January 27, 2014 at 10:21 am

That sounds like a vacation we would have. We were lucky this last trip. Daphne had a stomach bug the day after we arrived and got over it before getting to know a Brazilian hospital. L got it the day we got back. Currently, I am nursing a sinus infection. Ready for spring.


Kristen January 27, 2014 at 3:15 pm

I have a sinus infection too! Wish we lived just a bit closer so we could hole up together, watch bad movies, and feel sorry for ourselves. Hope you get better soon! xo


Jessica Smock January 27, 2014 at 10:24 am

Yikes. We don’t have too many vacation horror stories since we haven’t done too many trips with our two year old yet. Well, actually, we did stay in a motel on a lake with the rest of my family (mom, sister and her family, brother and his family) while my son had a horrible stomach virus. Since then, we’ve gone nowhere. But we are going to Florida ourselves in March to stay with my husband’s parents… My main fears are about sleeping arrangements — there will be no crib and he’s too big for a packnplay and has never slept in a regular bed.


Kristen January 27, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Ahh, this is a dilemma I know well. Might I recommend a mattress (or even a “nest” of folded up blankets and quilts) on the floor? There may be some initial tendency to want to roam from bed, but at least you don’t have to worry about him falling out of bed and getting hurt – that’s what we’ve done with my kids at that stage at least. Good luck!


Elizabeth Grant Thomas January 29, 2014 at 10:23 pm

Jessica, I don’t know you, but I know your dilemma! I might recommend one of these, given your situation: http://www.amazon.com/PeaPod-Plus-Travel-Twilight-Kidco/dp/B00BWIPD42/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1391052075&sr=8-1&keywords=tent+kidco My daughter has slept in one when we’ve traveled since she’s an infant, and we’ve been really pleased with it. It’s her “home away from home,” the one consistent thing we carry through each of our travel experiences. You might try having your son sleep in it for his naps in the week before you leave to get accustomed to it. My daughter is 3.5 yo and still fits easily in it. We will probably use it for several more years. Good luck!


Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri January 27, 2014 at 11:18 am

Oh, Kristen, I am so sorry. It does sound like you made the best of this situation.

My daughter had a stomach virus that decided to hit while we were on the beach. My husband took off with the room key for a jog on the beach, while I tried to shuffle my daughter back to the lobby with obvious signs of distress running down her leg. I know I looked as if I was a crazy mom, wrapping her with beach towels to cover up what was obviously happening. Stomach bug cleared up on the day we left for home.


Kristen January 27, 2014 at 3:20 pm

Oh goodness, that sounds just awful. What is it about travel and illness, I wonder? Maybe we should never leave home again. ;)


Christie January 27, 2014 at 2:20 pm

It’s so hard when the illness strikes and there is not one thing you can do. I really stink at making the best of things. I mean, I really stink at it. LIfe gives me chances to get better t it. THanks, life.


Kristen January 27, 2014 at 3:22 pm

Life gives us plenty of opportunities to work on this, huh? In my case, practice has not nearly made perfect – not that I’m hoping for more opportunities to practice…


Privilege of Parenting January 27, 2014 at 9:01 pm

Healing Wishes for all you guys


Kristen January 28, 2014 at 2:51 pm

Thanks so much. The good news is that the kids are doing much better. The bad news is that I’m not. But I’ll catch up with them soon. xo


Amanda January 28, 2014 at 3:09 pm

Oh, friend, so sorry. The family sick is a bit like the flower in the vase, petals fluttering down, no matter how you water it or baby it.

Hoping you all feel better!


Kristen January 29, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Thank you, dear one. xo


lisa January 28, 2014 at 3:47 pm

Oh, poor babies…..one and all! At least you had some bonding time with family. :-) Perhaps a trip back over spring break would be needed? I remember suffering through a family vacay with a throat so sore I could only eat soup. And the youngest ended up with strep on another trip. Hubby drove 12 hours with food poisoning [in the back seat with a bucket]. Guess it’s contagious!


Kristen January 29, 2014 at 1:32 pm

My vote for the worst scenario is food poisoning on a road trip. We shared a stomach virus right before Thanksgiving, but it was short-lived and we had it in the comfort of our own four walls, none of which was moving at the time! :)


rebecca@altaredspaces.com January 28, 2014 at 6:52 pm

One time we rented a “ski cabin” for spring break. The week before our departure I tore my ACL and was on crutches. “That’s OK, the troops can ski and I’ll read the day away. ” Except that, just like you, they began to fall sick.

We ate store bough cookie dough and bought a book telling us how to play card games. It’s when I learned the card game GOLF. I haven’t played since.


Kristen January 29, 2014 at 1:33 pm

Ahh, the best laid plans… ;)


Jack January 28, 2014 at 9:05 pm

When my son was 18 months old we flew from LA to Toronto for a wedding. The day of the wedding he woke up at about 4 am and was inconsolable for a while.

If memory serves it turned out it was a mix of a cold and stomach thing. Anyway, I ended up going to the wedding myself while my wife stayed with our son back at the hotel.

I don’t remember exactly what floor we were on, 14 or 15 I think. But what I do know is that when I got back from this incredible wedding my wife was less than thrilled.

Apparently the fire alarm went off while I was at the wedding so she carried our son and one bag down to the ground floor and then when they received the all clear had to walk up six flights before the elevators started working again.

Good times.


Kristen January 29, 2014 at 1:35 pm

I think I have a pretty good idea of what the expression on your wife’s face must have been when you got back to the hotel. (And I’m pretty sure it’s one you haven’t since forgotten!) ;)


Corinne January 29, 2014 at 9:10 am

This winter has been so tough for so many people sickness wise! I’m so sorry it hit while you guys were out of town! We’ve been fairly lucky in terms of traveling and having sickness at bay… but I did travel to my parents when I was very newly pregnant with my first, and that was probably the hardest traveling I have done. Morning sickness and airplanes and adjusting to a different climate (MA to FL) were all challenging!


Kristen January 29, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Flying while pregnant isn’t for the faint of heart. My husband and I once saw a pregnant woman boarding our flight with two young kids (I’d say four and under) in tow – and she was carrying a flat-screen TV as her carry-on. She seemed totally non-plussed, but I was exhausted just looking at her!


Elizabeth Grant Thomas January 29, 2014 at 5:26 pm

Kristen, I am so glad you’re back home. I thought of you all last week. I hope everyone is feeling better FINALLY?! And, thank you for reminding me of my own harrowing experience with travel and illness. It was kind of fascinating for me to read in the context of the past year I had. It leads me to believe that it took the events of the past summer to REALLY learn the lesson. Here’s to making the most of things.


Kristen February 3, 2014 at 2:56 pm

Almost totally better. My cold has now lasted for two weeks, but I think it’s finally loosening its grip! xo


denise January 30, 2014 at 9:18 am

Thank goodness we all have each to remember that we’re going through it, together. These times of sickness and injury can feel so isolating but just knowing we’re all in brings warm light to the corners of worry and angst.

Sending many healing thoughts your way, dear friend. xoxoxo


Kristen February 3, 2014 at 2:56 pm

And the same to you and yours. Hope everyone is well – and locomoting on their own – soon! xo


pamela January 30, 2014 at 10:29 am

Oh my goodness! I always worry about this while on a trip, and while this has never happened (yet) I have a great example of how to proceed. Not many could have handled this as gracefully. While I am sure you will never remember this as a highlight family vacation, I bet there are highlights to this trip you will never forget.


Kristen February 3, 2014 at 2:58 pm

The kids, of course, are already talking about when we’ll be going back. What a blessing it is to have a short memory for sad times and not to be so committed to a version of how things are “supposed” to be! xo


Nina January 30, 2014 at 10:58 pm

Oh no! I saw on Twitter that it wasn’t a good week.

We are such ungraceful travelers, which has turned me into the biggest homebody. We rarely go anywhere. I’m not kidding!


Kristen February 3, 2014 at 2:59 pm

I tend to be a homebody too. And I fear that our experience on this trip just might keep me home for good! ;)


Tiffany February 2, 2014 at 8:46 am

I’m so sorry that happened!


Kristen February 3, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Thank you, sweet friend. xo


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