Wednesday, September 18


At the beginning of September, we took a 2-day road trip to my parent's new home in North Carolina.  Yes, two full days of driving.  I suppose this is normal for some people who have always lived far away from family, but this was a first for us (the furthest we've gone in the past is one day, up to Kansas).  I spent lots of time mentally preparing for the trip, looking up tips for traveling with children, and trying to come up with a plan that I thought would help it go smoothly for us.  The effort was worth it, mostly, I think... It was so nice to see my parents and 2 brothers in their new beautiful lake house, the 9 days we spent there was not long enough!  It was odd but fun to meet their new friends, who know of my existence but basically see my parents as having only two kids (but there's 4 more of us!).  It was a beautiful part of the country, a part I haven't spent a lot of time in, and the weather was still a bit warm but that was good since we were on the lake!  Maybe- hopefully- one year we'll get to see the fall colors or maybe even winter snow!

8 am sunrise

We left on a Saturday morning at 6 am.  I packed the car pretty lightly but with a plan (of course), by having a big tub of stuff next to Beth in the back that I had no intention of taking out of the car until we got to North Carolina.  We had an overnight bag packed for our hotel stay, food for meals packed at the feet of Luke's carseat, and a box with books/small toys/work binders stuffed between the boy's seats.  Our plan was to stop at all of the state borders and after meals, so they could get out of the car and run around.  It's too hard for me to plan gluten-free restaurant stops along the way, plus I didn't want to make them sit in a restaurant and eat when it's easier to pass time in the car while eating!  As it turned out, this plan worked rather well.  I feel like overall we made enough stops but not too many, usually we drove 2-4 hours at a time.  I found I needed to stretch quite a bit too, apparently 2 days in the car at 20-something weeks pregnant is a little harder than I thought it would be!

First rest stop- Louisiana! We got eaten alive by mosquitoes!

Somewhere in Louisiana (or maybe Mississippi?) we pulled out these bad boys.  DVD players.  Unfortunately they didn't all work very well but they kept them entertained for 1.5 hours or so.  Beth's battery died first so I'd let her use my phone to listen to audio books (she managed to listen to the entire Wizard of Oz book in the car.)

Yup, Jack was still rear-facing.

 For our first night, we stopped in Montgomery, Alabama.  (I am not sure why I don't have a pic at the Mississippi or Alabama borders, but in Alabama we ran into some people who lived less than 10 minutes away from us- small world).  In Montgomery, my dad put us up in a 2-bedroom hotel room that had a kitchen, which was super nice!  As soon as we arrived, we unpacked our overnight bags and Ryan and the kids went and hopped in the pool.  I had to hunt and gather for food in an unknown town with no gluten-free restaurants, and after being in the car for so long and feeling sore I was on the verge of tears.  I  went into the closest grocery store and they had *nothing* that was gluten free.  I talked to a cashier and she asked someone else (good grief) and they finally came up with another store that was only a few minutes away.  That's when I discovered the beautiful store that was Fresh Market, and I think I heard angels singing the Hallelujah chorus as I walked in and realized they had so many options for us!  I grabbed some frozen dinners, fresh fruit, and sushi for Ryan and myself and went back to the hotel to get it ready while everyone finished burning off energy in the pool.  Showered and happy, they had dinner and fell asleep rather easily that night.

The next morning was Sunday and we had less driving to do so we didn't need as early of a start (though the kids were up at, ahem, 5:30). We had breakfast, went to mass and leisurely packed up, setting off around 10ish (I think).  We passed the Georgia border because the boys were asleep so we stopped at a gas station somewhere after Atlanta.  They found sticks while Ryan set up the DVD players again!

Next stop, South Carolina!  It was sunny!  And they wanted to climb trees. :-)

And finally, North Carolina.  We thought we were on the home stretch, didn't realize we still had over an hour or so left!

I should have taken a photo of us pulling into their driveway, of everyone clapping and cheering that we were finally there, but instead I felt overwhelming relief to see them and to FINALLY be there!  It was about 6:30 pm, everyone was DONE with being in the car and we were all hungry!  We unloaded, visited and played, ate, and I hated to do it but I went to bed pretty early that night!

Monday and Tuesday were great days to stay home, get to know the new house, play with old toys and visit more.  Ryan took the kids out on the canoe.  I found a Fresh Market nearby and was able to get some gluten free food for Beth!  Wednesday, Ryan and I took the kids to a wildlife park where we got to ride on the back of a horse-drawn wagon and feed/pet wild animals.  I also found a chiropractor and had a much-needed adjustment!  Thursday we rented a boat and spent the afternoon on the lake, and Friday we stayed home until we had some guests show up- Ryan's brother, sister-in-law, and their two kids!  They live several hours north of my parents and were able to take a few days to come down for a long weekend, since we see them only once a year or so it was a nice treat for everyone!  Saturday we celebrated Josh's birthday and watched the Aggie game, Sunday we stayed home and Monday morning they left.  We started packing up Monday afternoon for our Tuesday morning departure.  The days flew by... Everyone had such a nice time (at least I think they did!) and it was a perfect blend of staying home and going out for activities.  After two days in the car, making too many short road trips with the kids was out of the question!

A quick trip to a nearby park on Monday.
Didn't look that much different than home!

Waiting for Beth and Luke to come back onthe canoe.

This is literally my parent's backyard.

Wednesday we took the kids to an exotic animal farm/petting zoo place.  We paid for a horse-drawn wagon ride through their huge refuge with many unsual animals, and fed many of them out of our hands.  It was quite an experience and super fun for the kids!  They did NOT enjoy being in the car for another hour one-way, but I think the experience was worth it!

Feeding camels

Goats, emus, etc.  The emus were pretty demanding and rough!  We learned quickly not to hold our buckets too close to the edge of the trailer!

Overwhelming huge giraffes!

They ate straight out of the bucket!

Sleepy sleepy boy....

Some sort of white deer?
Thursday afternoon we rented a pontoon and headed out to the lake.  The kids LOVED it, and Luke still talks about going back to North Carolina so we can ride on the boat again!  We cruised the lake, everyone (but pregnant me!) took turns tubing, we swam in the middle of the lake, and headed back right in time before a torrential downpour!  Given that this was their first time doing anything like this- swimming in the middle of the lake- I was so surprised at how well they all took to the water and how comfortable they quickly became swimming around when their feet couldn't touch the bottom.

So excited to be on a boat!

Luke and Daddy. 

Cool stuff.

I loved his wind-blown hair after his rides!
I am so surprised how well they all did swimming in the lake, when they have practically no experience with swimming like this.
The extra kid in there is my youngest brother, who was "sick" that day from school. ;-)
Friday was the day we welcomed Ryan's brother and family in from Virginia.  They took a long weekend and came to stay in my parent's basement- what a fun time and such a blessing since we otherwise only get to see them a couple of times a year!  

Time to get down to business and start playing cars on the back of the couch.
Of course we took them to the dock for canoeing, jet skiing, and fishing.

PawPaw's jet ski, the kids had so much fun on this!  And when I say kids, I mean Ryan too. ;-)

Little Matthew wanted a turn too!  He just sat on it with Uncle Ryan.
Jack's catch!

Saturday was Aggie game day and Uncle Josh's birthday!  And lots and lots of playtime, of course.

Aggies versus Alabama game day

A little bit of our own football game during halftime.

Happy birthday Josh!
We celebrated Josh's birthday that night with a little cake and some brownies- taking into consideration everyone's special diets, of course. But yes.  There was most certainly cake. :-)

Sunday we went to mass, played in the house and on the dock some more.  And loved on those little nephews of ours... I hope and pray we get to see more of them in the future!!!

He didn't jump in.



On Monday morning, they left bright and early and we spent the rest of the day staying close to home, cleaning, and packing our stuff.  I was super prepared for our trip on the way and a little less prepared for the trip home, but all in all it worked out.  I wasn't able to prepare as much food ahead of time on the way home which meant we had to find a place to eat for dinner on our first night of our trip home, but though it wasn't ideal it worked out.

We left before sunrise on Tuesday morning for the drive home.  We had a hotel booked in Mobile, Alabama so we had a full day of driving ahead, this time not worrying about stopping at state lines as much as just trying to make it.  The kids were NOT happy about traveling again.  Luckily we had a nice start to the trip, just several hours in for our first stop we were able to stop by my college roommate's house in South Carolina!  It was so nice to see her in her home with her two babies!  We couldn't stay for too long, but the break was nice for the kids, and they weren't happy about hitting the road again.  But... we had to.

We were all about to lose our minds in Montgomery, Alabama.  We decided to circle around and found this park- an oasis in a pretty crummy part of town.  But it was God-sent.

They played for half an hour while I walked around the sidewalk to stretch and blow off steam.  Then we crashed the golf club's bathrooms, haha.  Again, they weren't happy to be getting back in the car but at least we had 30 or so minutes of being out of the car.

A few more hours... Boring Alabama highways... This guy in the back seat saying, "When are we going to be there?" about 1,264,982 times....

We finally made it to our hotel, ate some quick microwave dinners, and hit the pool for some destressing and relaxation!  I don't know how long we all played in the pool but it was so nice- the weather was perfect, the kids were happy, and no one else was around.  We had a regular hotel room this time- two queen beds- and so I slept with Jack and Ryan slept with Beth, while we madeLuke an air mattress bed on the floor.  It was... cozy.

I wish I could say the second day of driving was easier but it wasn't.  I will say that a single pinterest idea saved the day- I had purchased a box of bandaids from the dollar store and gave them to Luke.  His attitude changed as he unwrapped and carefully chose the colors and placed them on all of his boo boos.  Jack played with them too.  Best $1 I ever spent, as they were still playing with them when we pulled into our driveway around 6 pm that evening.

I have major respect for families who make a drive like this on a regular basis!  Maybe it will be easier when they're older, or when we have a bigger car, or if we have movie screens that actually hold a charge... But in the mean time, I don't think we'll be able to go back next year since we'll have a baby.  I can't imagine driving that trip with a baby!  But I am so sad that we won't be back anytime soon either.  It was such a beautiful vacation- from the house to being able to spend time with my parents and 2 brothers in their new house, to seeing their beautiful new surroundings and experiencing "lake life" with them. Luckily, they are able to come back to see us a couple of times a year. :-) 


Neen said...

I LOVE car trips. Every step is an adventure. My husband HATES them. I have found that we do better with less electronics. Instead of trying to entertain them they start to have conversations. I love our car trip conversations. They are so random. Later they become the funniest part of the "remember the car trip when . . ." stories. The drive might not have been easy but it was creating great memories for all. Your kiddos are so cool. Have you ever tried Allergy Eats .com and their iphone app. They are trying to create a usable database that would have helped you so much finding places to eat. I am just learning about it even though my friend's husband founded it a while ago. Next year go for Thanksgiving or better yet Halloween. The trees will be electric. (I think babies under a year travel better than older kids. They tend to just sleep.)

Anonymous said...

Superbly written, as always, but in this case some of those remarkable photos stole the show... only wish you would have posted more!

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