The Great American Family Road Trip [2017]: Days 11-13

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“Do you want to stay or leave?”

It’s a question with no right answer, but it comes up often in our marriage.

Several weeks ago, my husband and I decided to make our last overnight stop a short stay in Mississippi with his family. But our daughter’s diagnosis of hand, foot, and mouth in Colorado changed everything.

We desperately needed a day outside of the car.

But, if we stayed longer than originally planned, could we drive from Mississippi to Georgia in one day in time to make our kids’ preschool open house at 7 p.m. the next day?

This would be the challenge on the final leg of our journey.

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The Great American Family Road Trip [2017]: Day 5

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“I think it’s going to rain more!”

We should have listened to our oldest backseat driver. Eerie foreshadowing.

But my husband and I wanted to execute at least one idyllic family picnic during our trek across the country. And what better spot than Rocky Mountain National Park?

Except, of course, we knew the storm was coming.

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The Great American Family Road Trip [2017]: Day 4

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When you get married, you don’t consider all the things that can go wrong – the things that WILL go awry. 

In many ways, Karen Carpenter was right: You’ve only just begun.

And little did I know that – just before our eighth anniversary – my husband would be driving me up a steep mountain road in the pouring rain with two excitable children in the backseat…thousands of miles from home.

Thanks, Expedia.

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The Great American Family Road Trip [2017]: Day 2

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Human beings are funny creatures. Even at 10 p.m. on vacation, I found myself running on a treadmill last night.

In my defense, we spent most of our second day on the road in the car. Again.

But in the 20 minutes I spent exercising alone, I enjoyed the kind of reflection that comes when you don’t hear a child breathing (i.e. whining) for the first time all day.

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The Great American Family Road Trip [2017]: Day 1

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“I can’t find it!”

Two doodle pads. Really, I thought this would be our solution to the endless backseat rivalry.

But, within one minute of my son entering the vehicle, a special feature of his brand new toy had been lost: a cat face magnet.

And – to no one’s surprise – two preschoolers now fought over the newest doodle pad.

This was the beginning of our epic first road trip as a family of four.

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Frozen Joy

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Last week, we were ushered into California by the whimsical music of a local ice cream truck. My son’s eyes widened with curiosity, for he had never heard such a sound.

“What’s that, Mommy?!”

The truth is, we were all pretty excited for a two-week adventure in California. My husband would do research, and the kids and I would seek out new experiences with Bay Area friends.

But children will be children…and there will be messes.

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To Climb a Mountain

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If you’re not careful, you’ll come to fear everything when you’re a mother.

I was reminded of this most recently during an active shooter training at the university where I work. It was a brilliant idea, really: listen to 90 minutes of gunshots and panic protocol two days before flying across the country with an infant and a toddler.

But the problem with ideas is that they are powerful and nearly impossible to derail. My worries about protecting two children in California only increased as our departure grew near.

Who will try to steal my kids when I am not looking?

Will I survive Bay Area traffic?

And, perhaps most outrageously, will I die in a mass shooting?

Things grew grim. And I’m not going to lie – the leash backpack was pretty tempting.

Somehow, amazingly, I mustered the strength to silence my mentally constructed catastrophes long enough to allow our family to board the plane.

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California Screamin’

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“If you’re going to San Francisco…”

…I highly recommend leaving your pride at home.

How long can my child possibly scream? I can’t tell you how many times I asked myself this question on our recent cross-country flight to California. It was a first for our family: two children on an airplane. Before the aircraft even moved, regret set in.

Beneath a suffocating red Delta blanket, I repeatedly tried to calm my daughter through nursing, but it seemed no soul could find rest. And it was there – right in the middle of the plane, with my chest half-exposed – that life commanded I listen: you don’t have all the answers.

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