Even before we moved to Seattle and the land of kale chips and roasted chickpeas, Jason and I had never been much of a fast-food family. Not even when we were young newlyweds. It’s just never been our thing. And up until last Sunday our kids hadn’t even heard of McDonald’s. It’s POSSIBLE that we maybe felt sort of
smug proud of that fact. But alas, our great run is over. Now they know. They know about the happy meals and the toys, the unlimited ketchup and the play area. There is no turning back now.
But let’s rewind so I can tell you how we ended up there, dejected and despondent while our kids darted to and fro on the play structure, happy as could be and full-to-the-brim with GMOs.
We decided to go camping last Friday. Our first campout of the year — Lake Wenatchee, here we come! The boys were pumped and Jason and I were feeling cautiously optimistic. Last year’s camping trips had gone mostly well and we were all eager to get back out there. We found an amazing campsite at Nason Creek and it was a truly wonderful weekend. The stuff stories are made of. Sunny. Incredible location on the water. I mean, look at us. Could we all BE any happier?
So how did we end up completely beside ourselves in the parking lot of a McDonald’s, you ask? After such a wonderful weekend with Jason and I congratulating ourselves on a job well done, pinching ourselves because it was all so easy?
There’s really only one direction to go after all that high-fiving and “aren’t we awesome?”-ing.
It went like this…
Jason and I had just finished taking down the tent, reorganizing our gear and rolling up the sleeping bags. We were set to reload the car for the ride home. Our plan was to head out around 11am so we could stop halfway for some lunch (NOT at McDonald’s) and hopefully be home by 2pm.
Isaiah was “helping” me clear the trash out of the back of the car when Jason walked over, carrying our largest camping box, ready to load ‘er up. As soon as he set the bin down in the trunk next to Isaiah, we heard a loud hissing. Our minds both went to the propane canisters, which were deep inside the box. I reached out and grabbed Isaiah just as Jason started to pull the lid off of the top. We were all three immediately leveled with a terrible burning in our throats, our eyes, our mouths. It was unlike anything I have ever felt. Isaiah started to scream and I ran with him from the car, both of us coughing and gasping to catch our breath. I don’t even know what Jason did. I remember hearing him gasping and choking and coughing as well but that’s about it.
Turns out it was our bear spray — which is basically industrial-strength pepper spray. And it had all come out. When I read about it later, the people in the online forums suggested we just buy a new car rather than attempting to clean it out. For reals.
Anyway, long story short? We couldn’t even go near our car for more than an hour. We had to open all the doors and let it air out. Jason spent that entire time trying to clean out the camping box and all the gear inside. If we had known how strong the pepper spray was, we would have thrown the entire box out, contents and all.
But we didn’t know so Jason dutifully scrubbed and cleaned and scrubbed and cleaned and got the stuff all over his hands, arms, legs and face in the meantime. We finally piled in and headed for home two hours later. We coughed the whole way and Jason’s whole body was burning but we pressed on.
As if we weren’t miserable enough, about halfway home Isaiah started to melt down. We pulled over (for the third time) so that he could pee (again) and hoped it would serve as a re-boot. We pulled up at a gas station and Jason got him out of the car. He refused to pee in the bathroom and insisted on peeing in the tall grass on the side of the building. Whatevs. By this point, WE DON’T CARE. Just pee and let’s get back on the road.
Then he announced that he needed to poop. And he asked if he could poop on the sidewalk. Seriously, WHAT? For the record (do I need to say this? It feels like it needs to be said), pooping on a sidewalk has never been done by anyone in our family ever. Obviously a line had to be drawn. Jason said, “no, definitely not” and Isaiah launched into full-blown meltdown mode. He forgot about pooping and laid himself limp on the sidewalk wailing and flailing and Jason was finally desperate enough to grab him by the hands and literally drag him to the car. It wasn’t pretty. But it wasn’t even the beginning of our woes.
Apparently Jason still had the oily residue on his hands, despite washing them repeatedly before we left. And said oily substance then transferred to Isaiah’s hands during the, uh, dragging situation. But we didn’t know it at the time so Jason just buckled him in and off we went, making haste for the highway, Isaiah wailing all the way.
Do you know what kids do when they are having a tantrum? Besides screaming, that is? They rub their eyes.
Within minutes, Isaiah’s weeping and gnashing of teeth turned to surprise and dismay as he screamed and screamed: “MY FACE IS SPICY!!!! MY FACE IS SPICY!!!! HOLD ME!!!! HELP ME!!!! I LOVE YOU, MAMA, HELP ME!!!!”
You know what Jason and I like to do during this sort of situation? We like to panic.
Jason stares straight ahead and pretends like nothing is happening while his eyes just get wider and wider. That’s Jason’s panic-mode. Mine is talking. High-pitched crazy-person talking.
The whole car at this point was complete pandemonium. Isaiah was still screaming “MY EYES ARE SPICY!” I was shouting to Isaiah not to touch his face, not to put his hands in his mouth and I’m so sorry and here, why don’t you try drinking this water, while Gryffin (hands over his ears) was hollering, “stop it, brother, stop it!” and Jason manically shook his head faster and faster before finally shouting over all of us, “PULL IN TO THAT McDONALD’s!”
Jason: PULL IN. DO IT.
I pulled in, thinking we just needed somewhere to park so we could regroup. But Jason turned around in the passenger seat to face the boys, eyes still wide, and said, “OK. YOU HAVE TO BE QUIET! We are going in here and we are going to get something called a HAPPY MEAL and if you want one, you have to BE HAPPY! NOW! BOTH OF YOU!”
Isaiah was still wailing but then it became: “MY FACE HURTING… I HAPPY! I HAPPY!… MY FACE HURTING!
Jason carried Isaiah inside still crying and thrashing and screaming about his poor face. We got to the front of the line but we were so flustered that we couldn’t even figure out how to order. Jason’s eyes started getting wide again, Isaiah screamed out, “MY EYES ARE SPICY!” and the woman at the cash register just stared at us, mouth open. Realizing what a train wreck we must look, I grabbed Isaiah with one arm, took Gryffin’s hand with the other, and hauled them both off to the bathroom where I washed Isaiah’s hands and face repeatedly in an effort to calm him down.
Jason, meanwhile, was apparently having some sort of mental break because he still couldn’t figure out what to say. The woman at the register finally said, “ummm, are you OK?” He snapped out of it enough to say, “yeah, uhhhh, we’ll, uhhhhh, have some happy meals?” She knew what to do. She took it from there. Like a boss. She helped him order the food and somehow we ended up with burgers and fries all around and milkshakes to boot. The boys both rallied when they saw the play area and Isaiah quickly forgot his woes when he opened his toy.
Jason and I just sat in complete silence for a few minutes, recovering from it all, staring at each other, mouths agape, unable to speak. Once we got over the shock and realized that the boys were both happy and occupied, we settled in to perhaps the best family meal-time we’ve EVER had. Jason and I had never had such a long stretch of uninterrupted conversation over a meal. Isaiah and Gryffin ate and played happily. There was no whining, no drama, and all the ketchup they could ever want. And although we were both secretly hoping that the food would be terrible? OHMYGOSH, THOSE FRIES.
We made it home 3 hours later than planned. Yet another layer of parenting pride stripped away (not sure there are any layers left at this point) and our camping glow dimmed significantly. But we’ll rally. We always do. And hey, I hear they’ve got these McDonald’s things everywhere these days.