Cheer competition in Branson, Missouri. There’s so many fun and exciting (expensive) things to do there, Mom! Sounds fun, right? Sure. Let’s do it.
Now picture a 4 hour drive with a sickly 14 year old, a farting 11 year old, a comedian 10 year old who is “just joking” about everything, and my 3.5 month old angel baby that absolutely HATES his car seat. Still sound fun? Sure. Let’s do it.
First off, I DO NOT travel well. And by travel, I mean PREPARE to travel. It takes me hours to pack, y’all. HOURS. How fun does making sure 3 kids, myself and an infant, have every little thing we need for a weekend away from home. It ain’t easy. And it sure ain’t fun. I stressssssss the bleep out in situations like these. Just ask my husband! He’s learned to keep a large distance from me when we’re packing… as have my children. And the dog.
But, it eventuallllllly gets done. Car packed, baby fed and changed, snacks and pillows in assigned seats, let’s roll. Four miles down the road baby is screaming… and it’s gonna be a long ride, kids. We made it 2.5 hours before having to stop and get the baby out for a stroll around the parking lot. He just.needed.a.break.mom.
Upon our arrival at our GRAND ($400/weekend) hotel, I ascertain that this is no Great Wolf Lodge, as the photos online so connivingly portrayed. Who can I talk to about the false advertisement that suckered me in?! You drive up to the doors. They’re on the outside of the building, folks. Classy! I sport a smile and rattle our key, not swipe a card, in the door with the big, green 3-2-2 on it. Smells good. Looks ghetto fab. Classic Super 8 double with a tiny tub and toilet, rusted sinks, and the kind of carpet that feels damp under your bare feet. Bed bugs check before one single thing leaves the car, and we’re good. I’ve heard “ARE WE THERE YET?” in every form and fashion for the last four hours, so yes children, we have arrived! Let’s go to the water park! Once there, the true ghetto-ness of this place starts to humor me. Next up, dinner! Dairy Queen was the winner this night, and I’m sure the fact that it being after 8 won’t affect Angel Baby and his bedtime. Wrong. Steak fingers, chicken strips, and 4 “upside-down or they’re free” blizzards later, we’re headed back to our luxury room. All is right with the world when Angel Baby gets his bedtime bath and bottle. Can you hear that? Me either. It’s silence. Bed time, kids! Big cheer competition in the morning and that means me doing hair and makeup, racing the clock, all while Angel Baby cries because who really wants to just lay around on their back, right?
7AM comes early, and I realize my biggest baby isn’t in bed. Found in distress in the bathroom, it is quickly brought to my attention that she’s “LITERALLY dying” and has been in there since 6AM because she woke to a horrible case of diarrhea. This “stomach bug” has been going on for 3 full days now and we thought it had passed. Nope. Apparently it took a day off to prepare the for the hell it was about to unleash on my daughter’s stomach. Okay… how do I handle this? I’m alone here, remember? I did bring the Pepto chewables, so I give her two and continue with everyone else as she moans in agony. Time comes to leave and one kid wants to go to the water park while she stays in the hotel bathroom. Do you know what an incredibly overwhelming feeling of failure comes over you when you have to leave your extremely sick child in a hotel room while you take another one to a cheer competition? It is pretty awful. Open the door and it’s raining. AWESOME! This will be fun. Baby on hip, cheerleader ready, boy-child gone to the water park, and my mind in a million places. I’m not 2 miles down the road and the crying call comes. When your fourteen year old calls you “Mommy,” you know it’s serious. Quick decision to drop cheerleader off and go back to the hotel is all I can do so the mommy guilt doesn’t break my heart. I spend an hour or so there before it’s time to go back to the competition to see the last performance of the season. They’re running behind… GREAT! The music is so loud that Angel Baby screams bloody murder upon entry… GREAT! It’s a good thing that two of my friends are cheer moms too, because they instantly relieve my arms and offer to hold him while I go up to the stage to record the performance and scream my ever-lovin head off in support of my girl up there. They freaking KILL IT!! Facials on point, stunts tight, and that dance though!! WERK! As soon as they clear the stage, I’m running back to check my phone. Sure enough, missed a call from my sicky girl. I call back and can’t even make out her words. She is sobbing in pain. By this point, the thought of appendicitis has already reared its ugly head about a hundred times because I had that as a kid and this was looking all too familiar. I step outside to text our pediatrician back in Tulsa, on a Saturday afternoon. Yes, text because he is that awesome and while I appreciate his dedication, even I think he’s insanely available. Thank the Lord for his insane dedication too, because he replies in less than 60 seconds and advises me to take her to the ER. Just HOW am I supposed to do that with a baby?! This is where I tell you what it’s like to have a friend like Nicole. Nicole is a mother of 6 and here with her cheerleader too. Nicole is the friend that made enough chicken noodle soup (And crackers, and chili for the non-soup eaters, and Gatorade, and cheese, and applesauce) to feed my family for a week when I was 38 weeks pregnant and in bed DYING with the worst flu of my life. Nicole is a real friend. She’s the kind of friend every woman can only hope she has one of in her lifetime. She is spread as thin as I ever could be, yet she’s always been right there in a time of need and crisis. She’s selfless and she is so special to my family. Not only had she brought her own daughter to Branson, but two other teen girls, and she insists that I leave the baby and my cheerleader with her while I go tend to my sicky girl. That was hard for me because this is where I have to admit that my son is at the hotel water park, alone, and will need to be picked up as well. I know, Mother of the Year. It’s not as bad as it sounds though, he is almost 12 and a very good swimmer. See what I did there? There’s that mommy guilt kicking in and I try to excuse the fact that my 11 year old was swimming alone at a hotel pool while I was in another location at a cheer competition by saying that he’s almost 12, as if that really makes a difference. Do you think that she judged me? Absolutely not. She assured me that he would be picked up as soon as she left and again insisted that I hurried to my sicky girl. I leave the competition alone and arrive back at the room to my hysterical daughter, laying in the fetal position. Bam. Reality hits and I can’t get her in the car fast enough. This kid is SICK. Made a quick stop at the water park to explain what’s happening and drop off money and a room key to my child that now has to fend for himself for a while, and we’re on our way.
Urgent Care #1 – We barely make it in the door and she’s in a mad dash for the bathroom. Start filling out paperwork, when I’m informed that neither one of my two insurances are accepted here, but I can go right down the street to another Urgent Care because they do accept my insurance.
Urgent Care #2 – Start filling out paperwork and the lady at the desk asks me exactly why I am there. As I tell her about my daughter, she tells me to hold on and she leaves the desk. She comes back with a doctor and then the doctor asks why we’re there. After explaining the symptoms, she tells me they do not have the diagnostics there to figure out what’s wrong with her and that I should take her to the ER at the hospital. AWESOME.
ER – after explaining her symptoms for the fourth time in 10 minutes, the doctor comes out and asks if she has been out of the country recently? Umm no. Not Ebola. So they take her vitals and send us to the waiting room. I’m sure we will sit there for hours, but surprisingly they call us back in less than 15 minutes. Thank the Lord they put us in a room with a bathroom, because this kid has gone at least 5 times since leaving the hotel. She is so dehydrated that it takes two sticks to get an IV going, which was terrifying to her. The doctor comes in and starts poking around on her tender tummy and looks at me and says, “You know what lives there, right?” as he gets a reaction after the right side is pressed. Yep. I do. And I remember how traumatic that experience was to me as a twelve year old. They put her in a gown, do bloodwork, give her pain and nausea medicine, and order a CT scan and sonogram. I’m really starting to freak out at this point wondering what I’m going to do if my daughter goes into surgery and I’ve got three other kids out there in Branson somewhere with my friend.
I’ll go ahead and skip 6 1/2 hours into the future and save you the details of 47 trips to the bathroom, and the dramatics that ensued over an iodine drink for the CT scan. The doctor comes in and tells us that after going over the scans several times, they have concluded that this is not acute appendicitis, but rather a very mean stomach virus. Although I was relieved, all I heard was very expensive stomach virus. Are you kidding me right now? I’m sure he read the look on my face and tried to make it better by telling me that he too was certain it was appendicitis, and not to feel bad for bringing her there because she was dehydrated and definitely needed to be seen. He writes her a script for nausea medicine and says he will go get the paperwork going to get us out of there.
An hour and a half later, we’re still sitting there. I kid you not, we have been there so long that her pain medicine has worn off and she is back in exactly the same condition I brought her there in! We have now been here eight hours when a nurse with discharge papers finally comes in. I explained to him that her pain has returned and asked him to please give her another dose of pain meds before we leave. Annnnd, he’s gone again only to return another 40 minutes later with the pain medicine.
We did finally get out of there. I rounded up my orphan children, thanked my dear friend for her being just that, and sped off to the hotel with a very tired, crying baby and my sicky kid who is now begging me to get her to a bathroom ASAP. We make it back and Angel Baby gets a bath right next to his sister who had camped out on the toilet once again. Haha that’s how our big family operates sometimes. It isn’t always roses and daisies.
The point of this chaotic story is not to reassure those of you without multiple children than you made the right choice, but to thank God that even through all of this, we are blessed. My girl DIDN’T have to have surgery. My children were well taken care of and loved in my absence. None of the rest of us are sick. She slept all night last night and woke up today feeling so much better and has even eaten a little bit. I’d say that’s something to celebrate!