As you can see from the previous post, the Family Langan (there it is . . . Our Last Name!!) made a trip up to Connecticut and back home to PA in the span of about 26 hours. Now, this kind of trip is not particularly unusual for us -- our kids have been shuffled around the eastern seaboard since birth, thanks in part (a large part) to the US Navy. Older Girl was moved from Florida to Pennsylvania to North Carolina all before she was 7 weeks old. I went on a single parent road trip with Older Girl and The Boy while Rob was called up with the reserves for 9 months; it was about 2000 miles round trip, just me and the babes and The Wiggles all cozy in the van. You can catch my drift here; our kids are no strangers to the car. So you would think that we would have traveling down to a science. But you'd be wrong. We still always forget something and have to end up either buying it at our destination or going without (more often it's the latter). And we always leave at least one thing behind like a strange reverse souvenir(and it's usually more than one thing, and usually of the toy or lovey variety).
I am the suitcase packer and Rob is the car packer, and the amount of baggage that we bring has increased tenfold since the children have come along. It's enough to make me want to become a Shinto, as my friend Laura says.
So here's a little glimpse of a normal trip. This is not a Rant -- these are just the facts, ma'am:
Since the van was about 4000 miles overdue for an oil change, I thought it might not hurt to get that done before we left. While at the service shop, we met a very nice woman who was a speech therapist and who, after chatting with The Boy, tried so delicately to tell me that I might want to get him evaluated. I wasn't offended; he's already in speech therapy. Done and done.
We then drove to my friend Laura's home to borrow something for the trip, where the van promptly died in her driveway. Dead. As a doornail. With me, The Boy, and Baby Girl locked inside. So I had to crawl into the back to pry open the power(less) locks and heave the power(less) sliding door open, and haul the children out that way. I paged Rob with our phone number followed by 9-1-1. I knew he would think something really bad had happened, but I didn't want him to think I was just calling to chew the fat, either. So while Laura watched the kids, I poked around under the hood with the cell phone on my ear (Laura: Do you know what you're doing under there? Me: No, not really). Turns out that the lead had come off the battery and so I had to screw it back on -- all the while thanking God that it hadn't come off on the middle of the highway.
After some much-needed diet soda and conversation (thanks, Laura!), we headed home to meet Rob and pack the car, which is easier said than done when there is not even one piece of clothing inside of a suitcase yet. We wanted to leave right after Older Girl was finished with school at 2:30, but our best laid plans went out the window when we decided to have a Panera lunch break (their I.C. Caramel coffee drink is like heroin to me). We had to keep our strength up, after all.
We were able to leave by 3:00, but leaving the house and being out on the road are two different things. There is always the Last Stop For Gas before the actual driving begins (especially if gas in PA is $2.17 and gas in CT is not.) We finally got on the highway and we were making good time (if you don't count the seventeen bathroom breaks that The Boy had to take before we were even out of the state). We let the kids eat dinner at Wendy's, which seems to be their hearts' fondest desire, where I told them that once we got back on the highway we weren't stopping until we got to the hotel. Foolish Mommy. We had to make at least three more bathroom stops before we were dragging the old chariot into the Days Inn, where all three kids got a good second wind at 9 pm after seeing their cousins.
They had to explore the hotel room like the Beverly Hillbillies Do Connecticut: "Wow, they have a microwave and a refrigerator in here!", "They have light switches right next to the bed. You don't even have to get up to turn out the light!", "Look, Mom, they have little shampoos in the bathroom." Thank goodness they couldn't look out the window and see the cement pond. The way they talked, you would think that these kids live in a lean-to.
We tried to have The Boy and Older Girl share a bed, but you can all see where this is going. I'll save you all the "But he did . . ." details and just jump to the part where Rob very sternly separated the two while I was brushing my teeth and I came out of the bathroom to find two overtired kids whimpering into their pillows, while Rob and Baby girl drifted off to a peaceful sleep. I dropped into the bed with The Boy, where he silently rolled onto his side facing away from me and pulled up his shirt, which is apparently the universal sign for "Scratch My Back."
The next thing I remember is waking up and realizing I am wet because The Boy has peed the bed. He has been night trained for a while, but he was so tired that he didn't wake up this time.
I changed him, but having no other pajamas for myself, and knowing that I would have to be up soon anyway, I just got up and got my shower, all the while thinking of the McDonald's next door and a large cup of their "Caution: Contents are VERY HOT" coffee.
We made it to the funeral home on time, where Rob was one of the pall bearers (OG: "But Mom, why do they keep calling Dad a 'pall bearer.' His name isn't Paul!") And while it was very sad, there was also an undercurrent of love and laughter because of the children. And I'm glad about that because Aunt Helen loved the kids and she would have wanted them to be laughing. The kids didn't have as many questions about the funeral as I anticipated; actually, Older Girl knew quite a bit about what was going on and, although she cried, I think she was fine.
After a brief visit with family back at the house, we piled the kids in the van for the long drive home. The long, loud drive home. Our placid little Baby Girl, who spent almost the whole trip either sleeping or smiling happily at whoever happened to be cuddling her, decided to let us know, in no uncertain terms, that She Was Displeased. She started crying about an hour and a half away from home, and she didn't stop. At all. Ever. Until we got home and pulled her from her carseat, all red-faced, screaming, and sweaty. My mom called our cellphone in the middle of Screamfest '06, and said, incredulously, "What is that noise?" By the time she called, Baby Girl had been crying for 45 minutes and she had started sounding more like a wounded animal than a baby. We tried everything to calm her, but it was one of those situations where she only wanted to get out of the seat -- but she had to be in the seat to get home. Catch 22.
Meanwhile, The Boy was humming to himself to drown out the baby, while Older Girl was just staring out her window. I could tell she wanted to jump. So did I. Or at least stuff some cotton balls in my ears to stop the bleeding.
But we obviously survived, and the suitcases are still sitting on the bedroom floor to prove it. (We are like post-trip vultures, swooping down on the splayed open suitcases to pick whatever is still clean and useful from the bag instead of just putting it away like normal people.) But they will eventually be emptied, ready for our next trip, which I am sure will bring its' own thrilling and exhausting tale. Can't wait for that, can you?