Every year, in early Spring, my mom, my sister and I take our 5 children for a two-day trip to Disneyland and California Adventure. We schedule it months in advance, we buy matching shirts, we talk about it endlessly. It is, needless to say, super important to me – a bringer of complete joy.
This year our trip was scheduled for the beginning of April. About two weeks out from the trip my son developed a hacking cough. No worries, I told myself, we have two weeks. He will be fine. Around the same time Jordan, my oldest, woke up with a double eye infection. Deep breaths, everything will be ok, I assured myself. A few days later the youngest woke with the same double eye infection as the oldest. There’s still a week, we can do this, I calmed my mind. The oldest’s infection cleared, and then returned a few days later. It cleared and returned for a third time. My son continued to cough, with a snotty nose and sore throat. I continued to worry. Would our vacation be ruined? The hotel was nonrefundable. Would we all have to miss out while mom, Missy, Doodle and Moe went on without us? My sensitive heart couldn’t handle even considering that.
On Monday of the big week I woke up completely sick. My head was full of snot, my throat was sore and my voice was scratchy. By noon I was muted; I could not talk at all. And by 5:00 I had all the aches and chills that accompany a major illness. On Tuesday, for fun, my washing machine began to leak. AGAIN. (We went through several bouts of this last year before getting a replacement.) I would have to pay for some unexpected plumbing; always a joy. By Wednesday my voice had not returned and my throat was lined with canker sores. Seriously. 10 canker sores around the rim of my throat. I thought I was dying – my mouth hurt so badly. So so so badly, and the big trip was the next day.
When I awoke on Disney day 1 my throat hurt badly, but my aches and pains were gone, and I could talk in a whisper. The kids seemed to be recovered, so it was a go. Nothing could get in the way of our joy! We piled our suitcases into the old CRV and hit the 22E.
As we approached the Harbor Boulevard exit we heard a loud BANG! What was that, I cried? Of course my passengers, ages 10, 5 and 3, had no clue. We pulled off the freeway and heard the slapping of a popped tire. We were 1.5 miles from our destination, after 2 weeks of health woes, but we just couldn’t quite get there. I pulled over, while my son started crying silent tears, and I tried to calm the major anxiety creeping into my body. I called Honda roadside assistance, was transferred 3 times to the “right department” where I was told that my service had expired. She connected me with Triple A, who said that they could only serve members (which I am not), but that if I told her my location she would suggest a local tow. I said, I’m right by Disneyland. She replied, Like in America??? M’am, I’m in Canada. Oh gee thanks Honda. I decided right then and there to just drive 5mph down Harbor Boulevard to the hotel, where I could deal with the tire upon our departure. This trip was going to happen!
Those miles were hilarious. Every single pedestrian on Harbor turned to stare, point or laugh at our tire. Jordan shrank lower and lower in her seat, while Jaxon said, Mommy, that guy is taking a picture! I had to laugh to keep from crying. Surely I was now taking out the rim with my tire; but dang it, the castle and churros were waiting!
Fortunately, the rest of the day was good. We made it to the hojo, where my mom and sister were waiting to comfort me and talk me off of the ledge. We loaded the stroller with snacks and headed to California Adventure. I kept my talking and snacking to a minimum, and we had a truly great day. The joy that I had so greatly desired was right there in my hand. (Sidenote: Do you know how hard it is to silently ride Guardians of the Galaxy? It’s really really hard. It’s also really hard to whisper talk all day with your favorite people who you haven’t seen in a couple of months.)
So…… Shia, who is 3, has a truly terrible phobia of going to the restroom in public. She is terrorized by automatic toilets. She is terrorized by the volume of hand-dryer. She doesn’t trust the trick of covering the sensors. She will pee at home, church and school, and that’s about it. (Houses in which we are guests, and hotels are fine too.) In 2018, when we were annual pass holders to Disneyland, she would go in the tiny potty in the childcare center, so I wasn’t too worried. But enough time had passed that for this trip she was no longer about it. This problem has been a major point of anxiety for me. She has held her urine for up to 8 hours before, and has given herself a pretty gnarly UTI. Rewards don’t work. Threats don’t work. I have tried all the tricks. The girl won’t pee. On this day, with my throat full of cankers and my popped tire, I tried to coerce her into using the little potty at DCA. She cried so hard she vomited into my hands. I gave up, knowing that this was so terrible for her health.
That night I snuggled up with Shia in our hotel room. I awoke to her screaming, Help me! Mommy, help me! It was 2 am. I shot up in bed to see what was wrong. She was scrambling to climb onto me. There’s bugs everywhere, she screamed. I turned on a soft light to bring her out of her dream, to show her that she was safe, but she could not be calmed. She took one look at me and screamed, You’re covered in worms! She jumped up and ran to the corner of the room, shaking in fear. I was terrified, as she wouldn’t allow me to hold her. My mom, who was woken in the next bed, called out to her, but when she went to her grandma she immediately recoiled, screaming that she was covered in snails. I grew terrified. This period of terror, mixed with moments of calm; it was so confusing. She could only be calmed when held in a standing position. Was she asleep? Was she just being dramatic? I knew that her fear was real. She was truly shaking and clearly terrified. After AN HOUR of episodes I took her to the hospital. Getting her into the car was scary; she didn’t want me to touch her. But once we were settled she was completely calm. Mommy, do we have to take the freeway? I thought I was losing my mind. I feared that she was truly going crazy.
It turns out that she was most likely experiencing a night terror hangover; which is exacerbated by a strained bladder. She was also running a light fever, because surprise surprise, the eye infection and cough were making a comeback. Those moments of terror over my baby were the booger icing on the poop cake. I would either have a complete meltdown now, or I would overcome.
Mom, do you think God actually hates me? I asked. No, I think he’s giving you a blog post, she answered.
My sister got me to thinking about perseverance. About overcoming in difficult circumstances. Life, as it is, is messy and hard. There is no way to escape trials in this world. In retrospect, my trials aren’t as tragic as they felt in those moments, a leaky washing machine and popped tired are truly first world problems, as is worrying about Disneyland, but in the moments, I felt like the world was just crumpling around me. My joy was being stolen. “Why” was my word of the week. I did cry a few tears during that week, firstly over the pain of all of those canker sores, and secondly when I thought my baby was losing her mind, but I mostly held it together with a touch of sarcasm.
What I’m thinking about now, looking back, is that our reactions are a choice. When life is hard we each have a choice. I can chose to believe that things can and will get better. I can chose to believe that a trial is not an attack, but an opportunity. I can chose to have a positive attitude. I can chose to build my faith, instead of allowing my trials to wear my faith down.
Sometimes I will chose correctly. Sometimes I will curl up in fetal position and feel sorry for myself. I think that’s normal. As with all things in life, 80% success is my goal. When I’m going through stress I want to teach my kids had to react calmly, to pray out loud for God to see me through. I want to laugh. To model perspective; and all of that boils down to choice.
A month later I am still battling the throat and snot from “The Great Virus of 2019”, but I shall overcome… right? I chose to be grateful for those days, even with the woes.