Inner monologue for the last 6 months:
Me: “How bad do you want to get out of the cold and the snow?”
Also me: “Real bad.”
Me: “Like, how bad?”
Also me: “Like, bad enough that I am willing to drive with 3 kids as the sole responsible(ish) grown-up guardian adult person across 5 state lines over 2 days, braving all sorts of gas station bathrooms just so I can wear a short-sleeved shirt and sandals outside.”
Me: “Whoah, that’s bad.”
Also me: “I mean, I shouldn’t go. Ben would miss out on family time and it would be too hard and 887 other reasons…”
Me: “Get it, girl.”
Also me: “Back off, bossy. We’ll see.”
I finally pulled the trigger and committed. I mean, my kids are all legitimately potty-trained for crying out loud. They are basically like mini adults now, right? I feed and water them at home every day. What could possibly be that hard about doing it in a different location? (History has a way of completely escaping me.)
We have several friends in SoCal (I can say that because we lived there once for 9 months. That’s a blog post for another day though) of whom we have said for some time that we should go visit. So we made arrangements, packed the swagger wagon with all the necessities (movies and snacks at the very top of the list) and pulled out of the garage into at least 5 inches of fresh snow with more coming down, like a taunt from a schoolyard bully. You think a little precip is gonna stop me, clouds? I have all-wheel drive, fool! Bye, Felicia!
The first day of driving was the longest, but the most worth it, because by the time we rolled into St. George, Utah 11 hours later, it was in the 60s, you guys. Like, I had to take off my coat because I was all warm and stuff. Graham could not comprehend why the heck we were not in California yet.
Conversation amongst myself and the offspring:
Me: “Ok, do you guys want burgers or Mexican food for dinner?”
Graham: “I only want to eat dinner if it’s in California.”
Naomi: “rhsjadkfoidda” *some mumbo jumbo that maybe sounds like California*
Graham: “That’s NOT how you say California, Naomi!” (G can get pretty aggro about proper pronunciation. I haven’t a clue where he gets this).
Nina: “Graham, Naomi is only three and she’s from Africa and she still doesn’t know very much yet.”
Graham: “Well, I still only want to eat dinner if it’s in California.”
Me: “Great news everyone! We’re in California!!!”
*pulls into Wendy’s nearest to our hotel in St. George. Utah.*
Our hotel experience was nothing short of serene. If by serene you mean that one kid was coughing all night, another had wrapped himself around my head to sleep, like a cat clinging to a branch for dear life, and the neighbors seemed to enjoy a little late-night recreating by way of dropping what sounded like a bowling ball onto the floor about every 30 seconds. Top it off with bad coffee and questionable bacon in the morning, and this mama had even more motivation to get back in that car and on toward actual California.
Now. I want to stop and take a moment of silence for our parents.
The ones who went before us. The ones who drove children on road trips without…a DVD player. Good reader, I do not know what stage of life you are in. But, if you are over 55 and you took on this incredible act of bravery, I commend you. One thousand times I commend you. And, as a child of this era, I apologize profusely for any erratic behavior I exhibited, elevated blood pressure I caused, or trips to therapy required because of said road trips (I’m lookin’ at you, Ray and Jeanette). If, however, you are young and you have yet to have children and you, like I did once, say you will never EVER have a DVD player in your car. Please hear this from a true convert: Yes. You. Will. There is no shame. You need not feel bad about it. Those sweet babies can pop their headphones on and they will be quiet and probably won’t even ask for snacks. And you can literally listen to your favorite podcast or Spotify station. And it will be a delight. See how everyone wins?
One slick tip about traveling with the littles, at least for me, is this: Bring a cooler and some lunch fixings. This way, you can stop at a playground, get wiggles out, and eat a somewhat healthy picnic lunch instead of risking a coronary by eating cheeseburgers for four straight meals. This can be, um, adventurous. Especially when you stop in Eastern California and quickly google the nearest playground because everyone is just starving to DEATH and they also have to pee REALLY bad.
As we cruised into the ‘hood where this googled playground resided, I felt like we were headed straight into the set of the movie Friday. Everything in my mama bear being told me to flee. But, I’ve been to some pretty sketch places in my day. One thing I know for certain, if you act like you’re supposed to be there, no one will bother you. Just, you know. Check the bathroom for serial killers and drug needles, watch your babies like a friggin’ hawk, and place a solid barrier on the picnic table. Oh, and discretely remind your children not to stare at the young family blasting thug gangsta rap at the table next to yours…cuz…we’re not in Wyoming anymore, loves.
And yes, my kids are still asking to go back to the “orange park,” as they so endearingly refer to this little slice of heaven on earth. It has been their favorite place thus far.
But, all good things must come to an end, so leave the magical park we did. Just a few more hours and we would be at our first destination: Carlsbad, CA.
We were headed for a momentous occasion, actually. Our youngest baby spent 8 months in a small space in Ethiopia with six other children her age, until each and every one was adopted into a loving family. We were reunited with one kiddo and her family last summer in Jackson and it was nothing short of beautiful and tender and joyful and holy. Now, we were headed to reunite with another. Nina and I had met this little guy while in Ethiopia, but had yet to meet his new family, at least in person. I pressed on, knowing that all this crazy travel was more than worth it…
Stay tuned for Part 2!