When summer vacations go south, sometimes the poop hits the floor

Posted: Friday, September 21, 2007

I was flying alone on Alaska Airlines with my two toddlers. I was cursing myself for seating myself close to the bathroom, forgetting about the unpleasant smell. I soon realized the stinky odor wasn't coming from the bathroom - but from my child.

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I quickly changed his diaper then prepared for a dash down the aisle so I could flush it. I needed to be quick so I could get back before the children escaped their seats and walked up and down the aisle, proudly telling everyone we were on a "big, fast, jetliner."

I ran to the bathroom, opened the diaper and it was empty. With a sinking feeling, I poked my head out the door and saw the solid lump sitting in the middle of the aisle. It must have slipped out in my rush.

People were craning their heads to look. Live entertainment was happening in front of them, and their eyes darted back and forth from the floor to me like they were watching a Wimbledon final.

Funny the things you think about in awkward situations like this. I had the urge to yell "doodie!" remembering a scene from Caddyshack. Swimmers mistake a Baby Ruth bar floating in the pool for poop yelling "doodie!" and evacuating the water. Would anyone get my Caddyshack reference or would I just appear insane?

This was a perfect metaphor for my trip. I was returning to Juneau after a disastrous ending to our summer vacation at grandma's house.

I'd arrived with unrealistic expectations for childcare, exhibited toddler behavior when I didn't get time alone and stayed too long. I'd actually finished a book, reading it with a flashlight in bed.

The kids wouldn't sleep alone so I slept between them (to break up wrestling) and they each draped one leg and one arm over me so I wouldn't move. It was so awkward I wore a neck pillow for the ten hours they slept. Escape was futile. One always woke up when I tried to wiggle out and then woke up the rest of the house.

I had something resembling a nervous breakdown halfway through. I'd gotten my butt kicked and was heading home to lick my wounds. It was only noon and I'd already been on a two-hour shuttle ride and a ferry. The alarm clock hadn't gone off so I hadn't even brushed my hair. Now this. Could things get any worse?

The trip had some wonderful moments. Dancing under the stars to a salsa band at the county fair, lake swimming in sunshine. The kids had their grandparents and a trip to the petting zoo, an undersea show and a safari Imax movie in Victoria, British Columbia. They were passing swimming milestones. Their neurons were firing. Their language was exploding and they got some sun.

So what was I to do about the poop on the floor? All I could do was slink over to the poop and say sorry to everyone who saw it. Humbly pick up and dispose of the stinky bomb, and hope the air would clear sooner than later.

• Courtney Nelson and her husband are raising two boys in Juneau.

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