Over the weekend, my oldest nephew came to Tampa to play in the American Invitational Youth Football Championships. Yes, that is quite a mouthful. It’s a pretty big deal, and he comes down every year. It really is a shame that I am only an hour and fifteen minutes away in Orlando and had not taken advantage of the opportunity to see him play before. This weekend, we made up our minds to change that. I was nervous about packing all the children into the van and riding for any extended period of time, but I pushed all doubts to the back of my mind and proceeded with preparations. When you have four children, trip preparations are an absolute necessity for even when the shortest of distances. Portable DVD players and handheld game systems were charged, snacks were packed, and everyone took part in the standard bathroom rotation before leaving out.
Before we even made it to the corner of our street, Thing One complained about being hungry. Breakfast of pancakes and eggs had been served only two hours prior, but I guess road trips just bring that out of some folks. I passed out Luna bars and water, which was rationed out in disposable cups. I did NOT trust those kids with full bottles of water, because I don’t do the whole “peeing on the side of the road” thing. After a few minutes, everyone was set up with handheld games and seemed content. We sat back and let the GPS lead the way. Well, I sat back because that’s what I do best. My husband kept his eyes on the road while sipping on an energy drink. I kept my eyes on a vampire thriller, courtesy of my Kindle.
An hour into the trip, Little Lineback started coughing. He was a little congested, so I gave him a dose of medication that I brought along. You can never be too prepared when taking children outside of the city limits. He sat quietly for a few minutes, and then complained that his stomach was upset. “I think I need to throw up,” he informed my husband and me. I grabbed an empty cup and twisted around in my seat so I could hold it in front of him. Right on cue, he vomited into it. Twice. “It’s going to overflow!” My oldest son yelled from the back seat, as vomit ran over the edge of the cup, and down my hand. I handed the cup to my husband, whose gag reflex was immediately triggered. Thankfully, it subsided. He held the cup as far from his face as possible, and cracked the windows. I grabbed another cup and held it in front of Little Linebacker, who filled it to the brim. Since my husband’s other hand was busy steering the car, I held on to the second cup. “Recalculating,” the GPS shouted obnoxiously. In the midst of all the excitement, we apparently missed our exit. Thankfully, we were able to get off at the next one without going too far out of the way.
We pulled into the nearest gas station to dump the vomit filled cups. Little Linebacker’s color came back into his face, and he appeared to be feeling better. My husband and I rinsed our hands with bottled water, and cleaned up with antibacterial gel as a precaution. Finally, we were ready to see the game.
Thankfully, there weren’t a ton of people at the field when we arrived. We found a nice spot on the bleachers in the shade, and I spotted my nephew right away. The game started, and my responsibilities as Restroom Guide and Lunch Distributor caused me to miss a few plays. My oldest son walked across the field on a dare from my husband and stood by the team during a timeout. I don’t know if I was horrified or shocked by his boldness. I yelled at him to come back, and was rewarded with a devious smile. The team coach inched toward him, but I think he was afraid to actually say something. Maybe the sight of me gesturing from across the field as though I were having a conniption made him nervous. The rest of the children present sat and watched the game as though they had good sense. Of course mine would be the ones to behave like circus animals.
I stink terribly at photography. Either that or I have a really crappy camera. I am pretty sure my lack of skill is to blame for the crooked pictures taken at the game. I did manage to get a few good ones, though. After the game was over, my nephew had a few minutes to hang out with us before he had to get back on the bus. It was the first time I had seen him in a couple of years, and it was nice to see how much he had grown with regards to both physical stature and maturity. That really warmed my heart. He sure wasn’t the same little stinker I remember.
Since we were in the Tampa area, we stopped over to see one of my best friends. We went to school together, and have known each other for over 20 years. Don’t even think of asking how old we were when we met. I will not disclose my age here. Anyhow, we stopped at her apartment (which by the way, is in the cutest neighborhood I have ever seen). I was hesitant to bring my children into her dwelling, but she assured me that it was okay. Thing One immediately began a round of jumping jacks, because she couldn’t think of a more appropriate activity for a second floor apartment. I should have left her alone though, because curiosity got the best of her once physical exertion was no longer a distraction. She wouldn’t stop touching things, and I knew it was only a matter of time before I had to replace something that had been broken.
“Where are your kids?” Thing One asked BFF, noticing that the apartment was empty save our large crew. “I don’t have any,” BFF responded. “What about your husband?” my nosy child pressed on. “I don’t have a husband either,” BFF said, putting together a square photo box that Thing One managed to disassemble in a matter of seconds. “So you’re lonely?” she asked, her voice full of concern. Neither BFF or I knew how to answer that one without delving into a conversation that would only prompt more questions. My daughter’s brain-to–mouth filter deteriorated quickly as soon as she learned to talk, making for plenty of awkward moments.
We headed back to Orlando that night having learned a valuable lesson: a bucket is the most vital component to any road trip involving children.