Just last week my daughter was in the car talking about how much she missed her Grandpa Jim (Liam’s dad, who lives in Connecticut). I told her that we couldn’t make a trip to visit him because daddy didn’t have time off from work. She suggested that I take her and her siblings, without her father, as if this were the obvious and easy choice. And, she suggested that we leave immediately.
I told her we would not be leaving immediately, but that I would consider making the trip without Liam. And so, this past Sunday, I rallied the troops, packed a small boatload full of stuff, and hit the road. It should be noted that my husband, as he was seeing us out of the driveway, was simultaneously loading his golf clubs into the trunk of his car and donning his golf rain jacket, hoping to make a scheduled tee time at 10:00. He sure wasted no time starting his bachelor weekend events.
The ride north went somewhat smoothly. We stopped for the first time about an hour and a half into the trip, still in Pennsylvania, at a fireworks store. After I peed behind a tree near the parking lot, I pulled Nora’s old potty chair from her potty training days (an absolute necessity for long road trips with small children!) and plunked it down onto the asphalt in the lot. After she did her business, I nursed both little children while sitting on the floor of the car in front of and in between the two captain’s chairs, and changed their diapers. The new minivan is proving to be an excellent investment! Lots of room for road-tripping shenanigans inside her. Because there was no way this mom was trying to drag three little ones into a rest-stop restroom! Firstly, it would have added too much extra time on an already long trip. And secondly, I have nightmares imagining the four of us crammed into a crowded bathroom stall, while I have to negotiate peeing as well as holding a baby and making sure two little ones don’t put their hands all over every stall surface and then put their fingers in their mouths.
The middle part of the trip was a little stressful. The baby screamed off and on for awhile. Frances napped, but older sister Nora refused. Instead, she whined a lot, asked 326 times how much longer until we got there, and twirled knots in her hair like a nervous wreck, something I’ve never seen her do before. I think it was a mixture of being exhausted, excited, and stressed out; the baby crying was rough on us all.
I think I was finally able to relax and drive comfortably with shoulders not hunched up around my ears after our second pit-stop, just inside Connecticut, once the baby fell asleep. Unfortunately, our second stop was in a less private place than the first. Nora did her business on the potty seat inside the car. And, I may have too. Yes, I’m sure you’re visualization of a grown-ass woman squatting down, pants around her ankles, inside a cramped minivan to use a child’s potty seat is spot on. Especially when I add in the details that the girls were giggling like crazy and screaming, “I can see your booty!” the entire time. So humiliating. Thank goodness for shaded car windows!
I made the oldest promise never to tell anyone what she had seen.Yet, here I am revealing it all. Oh well. It was either use the potty seat, or drag the kids inside someplace, which I’ve already mentioned I was reluctant to do. After I confessed the above to my husband, and listened to him laughing for a few minutes, he admitted it was a brilliant idea, really, and that we should probably invent an adult seat to be used on road trips for just these kinds of situations. I’m sure there is already one out there somewhere. I will have to look into purchasing it for our next journey.
We made the four-and-a-half-hour trip in about six hours, stopping twice for about a half hour each time. Not too shabby. And, I only had to use my 130-decibel-level voice a couple of times to ask everyone to shut the hell up, but in slightly more polite terms than that.
The afternoon we arrived proved to be the nicest in terms of weather, and the only real beach day of the four we stayed. So, even though the water temps were in the high 50s, the kids put on their suits and headed down to the water to splash about in the surf and dig around in the sand.
Some other highlights over the next few days included spending time with grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins, eating lots and lots of desserts (always a fan favorite at Grandpa Jim’s), playing on a playground at the beach (I just can’t get over how cool it was that the kids could slide down the slides and land in the sand), and having a seafood dinner with Grandmère (Liam’s mom) while trains rolled past on one side, and boats rocked calmly on the other. I also enjoyred a quick visit with my college roommate. Although, between the chasing after and minding of children, we really just got to see what the other looked like these days, exchange a few smiles and laughs, and document the whole blur with a bunch of photographs.
And now, for the lowlights. Mostly, these happened during the night. I knew they would. Co-sleeping works great for us at home, but not so much when we travel. At least, not when we are limited on space.
Our sleeping arrangement was an air mattress on the floor next to a twin bed. I told Nora to expect that she wouldn’t be able to sleep next to me. She accepted this, at first. And then, in the middle of the night, she fell out of the twin bed and onto the air mattress at my feet. She then refused to climb back up into the bed, and so, slept in a small crack of open floor between the mattress and dresser instead. This seemed to work out well. Frances also managed to roll off the air mattress a couple of times and got banged up by the piano pedals on the floor. Only my kids.
And so, nearly every bedtime was a complete disaster. At home, Liam and I usually take turns putting kids to bed, one or sometimes two at a time. Never all three. However, each night in Connecticut, I managed to have all three awake at 9:00 p.m. or later. Not a good scene. I just didn’t have enough body parts or bed space to nurse, hold, and comfort all three at the same time. This was a time when I certainly wished we had the kind of kids we could just tell to go to sleep and they would, while I sat out in the living room nursing a beer and enjoying some alone time.
As it is, over the past six days, I have enjoyed only an hour-and-a-half of alone time, a world record for me. The thirty-minute car ride home from my parents’ place on the tail end of our trip home from Connecticut (it went about as smoothly as the ride up, except I used the potty seat twice, as I’m an old pro at it now), when I insisted Liam meet us there and then drive the kids home in the minivan, while I drove home in his car in SILENCE. The thirty-minute bath I enjoyed two nights ago, even though the middle girl yelled, “I watch you, mommy!” nearly the entire time from outside the locked door.
And the past fifteen or more minutes that I’ve been writing this post, which I began many hours ago, and have only just neared the end, after I put the baby to sleep. Other than this time, I have been holding a baby in my arms, or had a baby strapped to me in a carrier, or, I’ve been in the presence of one or more of my children, within a five-foot radius or less, for the past 144 hours. I’m in need of a vacation from my vacation.
Which is why, when my husband asked me this morning, before he left for work, if I had time, could I make a strawberry rhubarb pie, I gave him a look that said: You’ve got to be effing kidding me, right?
I don’t think he was kidding, but I think he read me loud and clear, that there would be no pie making happening. At all. Likely ever again. Perhaps he should have scheduled his baking plans in between rounds of golf and dining out, while I was in Connecticut visiting his family.