Don’t Drink the Water

My oldest daughter will graduate high school in less than a month. I won’t even get into the myriad of feelings flooding my every waking moment.  The stress of planning graduation is multiplied when deciding on a college, applying for admissions, filing the FAFSA, researching and applying for scholarships, taking senior pictures, mailing invitations to family,prom and blah, blah, blah are added on

 I do have one bit of advice.  Take your kid on college visits and start when he or she is a freshman.  It takes one stressor our of the equation and lessens some of the others.

When G was a freshman, I decided that each summer we would take a few days and visit colleges that interested here that were in the same vicinity.  We called it a “loop.”   We went to the information meetings and then toured the campuses.  At lunch after the tours,  we would talk about likes and dislikes, and then G ranked the school. This process helped her to decide which school she wanted to attend and confirmed what I had already told her about grades.

Four years ago, we went on our very first “college loop.”  We stayed close to home for the first loop, visiting Rhodes in Memphis, Vanderbilt in Nashville and the University of Kentucky in Lexington.   The trip lasted about 3 days, so I decided to make it a mini-vacation for the four of us.  After touring Vanderbilt, we went to the Rain Forest Cafe and ate under the elephants. We went back to the hotel to swim before watching movies and going to sleep.

The next day we drove to Lexington, Ky and toured UK, after which we headed home. F and Z, who were 5 and 3 at the time, were so good I wanted to rewarded them with a trip to Mammoth Cave, a place that my dad took #9 and me when we were young.  It holds some very special memories for me and I wanted to share them with my children. Plus the National Park was just a short detour on our way home.  It was perfect.

We got there in time to buy the tickets for the last tour through the shortest cave and grab a snack and a small bottle of water (sodas are forbidden in the caves).  The tour of the cave was 45 minutes of walking and climbing, so I wanted them to have something in their stomachs to avoid any whining about being hungry and thirsty halfway through the tour.

Twenty minutes into the tour, Zion, 3 years old at the time, tells me that he has to pee.  Ummmm…. we are 4 stories beneath the ground with no portable potties, and I’m thinking peeing in a corner would get me a hefty fine. He’s 3 years old, so I know there is no use in telling him to hold it. The older couple behind us notices our predicament and suggests having him pee in one of the water bottles.  I tell Zion to hand over his water bottle. When I stated to open it, I noticed that it is almost full. He couldn’t pee in that bottle. It would overflow; moreover, why the heck did he have to pee when he hadn’t drunk any water?

I told F to hand me her water bottle, knowing that of anyone’s, her’s would be the emptiest. I swear that liquid is that girl’s oxygen.  She pitched a little fit and whined. “Ugh,” slapping her little 5 year-old diva hand on her thigh and rolling her eyes while giving a head jerk. “I guess I’ll just go thirsty then. All because Z can’t hold his pee.” She shoved the bottle toward me.

“Oh, gall,” I said, quickly taking the bottle from her and thrusting Z’s bottle at her. “Here. drink Zion’s water.”

“Ewwwwe, No! He peed in it!”

“Shhhh! He did not. He’s going to pee in yours.”  At that, I told my oldest daughter to watch her little sister and stand in a certain place that would block Zion and me from the view of the tour guide.  I turned Zion around, opened the water bottle, pulled down his pants, put his winky in the bottle, told him to pee and prayed that he did indeed have a small bladder.

He did.

Catastophe averted.

Carrying the pee bottle is left to me.  I decided to keep my water bottle in my right hand, and Z’s pee bottle in my left, using the mnemonic device “in the right hand is the right bottle” to remain safe from confusing the bottles and drinking the wrong one. That would be a catastrophe.

With his pee bottle in hand, we quickly jumped back into the tour and enjoying the cave. Trying to keep a straight face, I tried handing Z’s pee bottle off to G, but she told me I was disgusting and walked a little faster to get away from me.  F and Z walked ahead of me and oohed and awed when seeing the flowing patterns the silt made in the rock above us.  We squeezed through tight passage ways that open up into huge cathedral sized cavities as we went farther and farther into the cavern.

About 10 minutes deeper into the cave, and of course in a location that was completely ill-equipped for a potty break, two huge brown eyes looking poor and wounded. met me, and a tiny voice just as poor and wounded spoke slowly and softly, “Momma?  I have to pee.”

“Are you kidding me?” I whispered.  “You just went.  Can you hold it?”

Z slowly moved his head back and forth, keeping his eyes locked on mine. We followed the tour guide until we reached a portion of the cavern that would allow Z and me to hang back to do his business.  As the group walked out of sight, I quickly turn Z around, opened the bottle, unzipped his pants, put his winky in the bottle, told him to pee, again.  Z started to giggle, thinking that peeing in a bottle hundreds of feet below the earth is funny. I didn’t agree with him at that moment.

“That is the last time. There is no more room in your bottle.  You’ll just have to hold it, okay?”

“Okay,” he said as he skipped off to catch up with the tour group, leaving me standing there.  I quickly grabbed up the bottles and caught up with the group.

Ten to fifteen minutes later, I was thirsty.  I hadn’t really had anything to drink since the tour started, so my water bottle was full.  The problem was that by this time the potty bottle had cooled to the same temp as my water bottle, and I had forgotten to make sure that my water bottle was in my right hand the last time Z peed, and the cave was dark. I was unable to tell the difference between the two bottles.

I caught up to Grace and said, “Hey, taste this and tell me if it’s water.” She started to reach for the bottle and, realizing what I was trying to pull, snarled and said, “No! You’re gross.” Left with no one willing to help me, I was forced to wait until we emerged from the depths into the sun light to determine from which bottle I could safely drink.

My water was in my right hand.  Better safe than sorry.


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