Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hit the Road Jack

The following is something I wrote over the weekend as we drove from Houston, TX to St. Pete Fl. Just now got to post it. This is a snapshot of a road trip with our family of 6.

We’re going to Florida for Thanksgiving. Time for family, catching up with friends and a 15+ hour trip in the car with 4 children ages 10 months to 10 years. It’s the first time in so long I can’t remember that we are spending Thanksgiving with my family. In fact, we’re so rarely with any family on the holidays, we’ve just had the kind of jobs that make traveling around the holidays practically impossible.

Day 1
1.54 p.m.- We’ve made it 100 miles. Contemplating making this a 3 day trip instead of 2 but holding onto hope we’ll encounter small miracles without drugging the girls. We left Houston late, big surprise, and then sat in traffic thanks to construction. Just as we got out of that we had hungry kids and potty breaks being called for all around. Shouldn’t be long, construction and traffic precluded, before we’re in Louisiana. The girls are singing and coloring now, distractions are good.

4.11 p.m. Now we’re 275 miles out, we were making better time but we’ve hit traffic again right around Baton Rouge. Just about desperate for fuel we’re looking for a gas station and Starbucks, hopefully we’ll find one soon and be able to continue on our merry way without a break down. I do mean that literally and figuratively. The girls seem to have found their stride hanging out in the van. Jeremy has a tradition of making People Puppy Chow a.k.a. Muddy Buddies, a sugary crunchy concoction of chocolate, peanut butter, Chex cereal, and powdered sugar. Yes, a big batch of that made the night before our trip and we munch in the van until our tummies hurt. Brilliant plan, right? Give 3 kids pure sugar and then trap them in a smallish moving vehicle for hours. Yes, truly brilliant. What wouldn’t be absolutely fantastic about that! Now on the other side of sugar highs, the girls are reading, playing digital connect four, and drawing fancy letters quietly. I can’t get them this quiet at home EVER and they don’t get sugar at home most of the time. Tempted to rethink my home strategies. So far, the highlight for me as been having the sound track to Mama Mia cranked up and the girls singing “Dancing Queen” at the top of their lungs to help settle a cranky Evangeline. It totally worked so we sang it again, two more times. Jeremy was thrilled.

6ish Stopped for dinner at the “fancy fast food joint” known as Chic Fil-A and my favorite fried crap to consume. It was good but only to a point- it’s hard to enjoy deep fried food items when all you’ve been doing all day long is sitting on your rump. I could feel it go straight towards gravity’s pull and there’s nothing I can do to stop it since I’m not going to be very physically active over the next few days. Oh well. Evangeline enjoyed munching on a French fry, I mean, Waffle fry or what ever they call their fried potatoes. I tried not to think about all that going into her little body so young. The girls burned off their dinner on the small indoor play ground, that was far more the point than the food and I’m kind of glad for that too. We got back on 10 to sit some more. Lovely traffic.

8.15 My heart is pounding in my throat. With my attention on knitting I was caught off guard when we suddenly swerved sharply to the left. Not that you can swerve and have it not be suddenly. Anyway, I looked up in time to see something large, white and boxed shaped in the middle of the lane as we careened wildly past it. The girls all raised a chorus of freaked out cries, startled from their reading, writing and game playing, the only one that didn’t seem to notice was Evangeline fast asleep and secure in her car seat. Jeremy said he saw the car in front of us swerve to avoid the cooler and it’s contents sprawled all over the middle lane we were in and then had just enough time to do the same. What freaked him out the most was that it felt to him as though he may have made to sharp of a motion and it felt like we were going to roll. That’s just my biggest concern with a mini-van. Now we get to go another 600 odd miles to Florida with me contemplating that possibility.

8.49 Had hoped to stop by now but we lost so much time with our late start and sitting in traffic that we’re pushing on to get at least 450 miles under our belt today. The plan had been to camp, you know, pitch a tent, grill some food, make smores and cuddle up and go to bed. Though we’ve never been camping as a family I went a lot growing up and was certain I could handle a simple over night stay in a basic camp ground. Until the forecast this morning- 32 degrees. Yeah, I’m not taking my family, including a 10 month old baby, camping for the first time ever in freezing weather. I suspect Jeremy is relieved, he’s looking forward to a bed in the climate controlled setting of a hotel and given my tired rear end, so am I. We’re on the look out now for hotels with promising billboards and free wireless internet. Cranky kids in the back, it’s time to stop and get to bed.

10.18 p.m. In a hotel room in Mississippi- I love spelling that state, it’s so much fun. Our second one tonight in fact but we’re staying in this one. The first one was at a different establishment, which shall remain unnamed unless you talk to me in person and I’m ranting about it, and the free wireless internet they promised wasn’t working. I wanted it. So after going around with them on that we called the Holiday In immediately next door and got a nicer room with a lower price AND working internet. We’re beat. Going to read some bedtime stories and pass out.

Day 2
8.06 a.m. Just crossed the Mississippi/Alabama state line and we’re on the look out for Starbucks (again) and KrispyKreme doughnuts. Jeremy looked up coffee stops before we left and we were so excited to see KrispyKreme pop up. Haven’t had KrispyKreme in ages since they left Houston after growing too fast. It will be so exciting to sink our teeth in to warm doughnutty goodness. Yum!

Last night Evangeline was so excited to be freed from her car seat and crawling around the room. She needed some nekkie time thanks to a bit of a rash on her bottom so I think the two freedoms (no diaper and no car/car seat) made her rather giddy. Crawling and giggling all over the room, she loved to make us laugh, talk to the baby she found in the mirror and explore every nook and cranny she could find. A new found skill she has developed is getting reactions from all of us, particularly her big sisters. Using a forced, cough-like, look-at-me laugh she goes until we’re all laughing with her and then flaps her arms and gasps with excitement. When we stop she calms down and then starts her silly little laugh again repeating the experience. Over and over, she doesn’t seem to tire of it. When we placed her in the pack-n-play and told her goodnight she laid down for just a moment and then remembered the fun she had been having before, stood up and started the whole thing all over again. It was hard to get everyone to stop responding and laughing with her, she’s just so darn cute! Eventually though sleep began to claim her sisters and she gave up trying to get us to react, fussed for a moment (“but I don’t want to go to sleep!”) and then sat down, grabbed her Raffie, and fell over to lay down and cuddle with him to fall asleep. I was so proud of her, she put herself to sleep fairly easily when it was time and figured out how to intentionally make her family laugh. She’s growing up so fast!

All that and we still haven’t found KrispyKreme or Starbucks. Which ever we find first is fine with me, I just need coffee!

8.32 the doughnuts have landed! And the HOT NOW sign is on! Woohoo! I’m having hot KrispyKreme right now people! Oh yeah, life is good. Totally worth driving 500 miles. I think I love Alabama.

12.34/1.34 p.m. We crossed into EST just a little bit ago and have stopped at a beautiful rest stop. Officially in Florida the girls are a little more energized that we’re in the right state at least but no matter how many times we explain that it is still a long way they anticipate grandma and grandpa’s house around every corner. We’ve told them there’s no point asking us if we’re almost there because the answer will be no until we’re pulling into their driveway. Peanut butter and honey sandwiches for lunch, trips to the potty and we’ll be back on the road again. My stomach hurts a little bit from eating so much People Puppy chow but crunching really helps me stay awake when it’s my turn to drive. Really should pack carrots and celery, wouldn’t be so detrimental to my buttocks.

4.33 p.m. EST stopped for gas and coffee- basic fuel requirements for a long road trip. This was a break through stop, we had made it 2 hours without stopping, the first all day. Feels like quite the accomplishment! I hoped online and chatted with a friend while nursing at the Starbucks, checked e-mail, looked for construction the rest of our way, and replied to a few Facebook messages about appointments this week. Very productive 10 minutes or so. Before getting back on the interstate we started a new family tradition: ordering frosties from Wendy’s. The tradition is less the frosties, more how they are ordered and it all began several months ago on a trip home from Dallas when we stopped for Frosties but couldn’t put down the driver’s side window in that car and Ophelia had to order them from the back seat. Struck with nervousness, she froze for a moment until Jeremy reminded her to order 5 small frosties. “Smy Small Smosties!” she blurted and we all busted out laughing with Jeremy yelling over his shoulder through his laughter out her window the correct order. The story has been a family favorite since. Today, Jeremy placed the order at the drive through with complete clarity and a straight face for “smy small smosties!” Laughter and shouts of the correct order erupted from our back seat as the Wendy’s employee asked him to repeat his order, which he did exactly the same way. Lavinia got a little upset, I think she was worried that we wouldn’t be getting our frosties if they couldn’t understand us but the employee guessed the order correctly and we drove away with giggles and our frozen chocolate non-dairy desserts.

6.30 EST Potty break at a rest stop. I think we were next to someone important with the FL Gators, either that or they are just some serious die hard fans with a black RV thing, big screen TV and blue and orange wardrobes.

The girls and I raced to the restrooms and I was so relieved to see it wasn’t an open one this time. Every rest stop we’ve been to up until now was an open one with ventilation from outside. Good for the smell I guess but not so good for bare butts when you have to put your hiney down on a cold hard plastic seat. Even with a toilet paper dress on the seat it was like sitting down on an ice cube of sorts every time, not the most conducive for going number 1. I know, TMI.

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