For Gillian's spring break this year, we decided to travel to Texas to visit with our family and friends. Ben had to stay in Colorado for his job, so it was just me and the three little ones. Since my oldest two are so well-behaved (usually), I figured it wouldn't be that big of a deal. I knew it would be hard, but I felt prepared.
First off, we left Thursday. We had been planning on leaving Thursday for over a week, so we had hotel reservations and everything. Basically, my heart was set, and nothing was going to deter it. Not even the BLIZZARD that hit Colorado that very morning.
Yeah, a blizzard.
Now, I'm a Texan. I didn't know what a blizzard was. I thought it probably meant snow and wind, and I figured - well, I've driven in snow and I've driven in wind. What's the big deal? My plans were still a-go!
Gillian's school was even cancelled, which probably should have set off the blinking red, warning lights in my head. But all I thought was "Great! We can leave earlier!"
It was so bad that they were closing roads this way and that. Flights were cancelled, schools were cancelled. And with good reason. You couldn't see anything but white. White for as far as the eye could see. I came to a road closing and was told that I would have to turn around and drive back, that they weren't letting anyone go any further. What?! But I just spent the last 3 hours driving what should have taken me 45 minutes, and now you're going to tell me that I have to turn around, drive through all that junk once again, only to end up where I started from?! But as soon as I got up to the place where I was next in line to make the U-Turn, the guy gave me the go-ahead. They were re-opening the roads! What luck! It took me a whole 10 minutes to start feeling like a guinea pig.
I seriously couldn't see anything but white. I didn't know if I was on the road or a cloud or a field or a sheep. I had no clue. There weren't any tail lights ahead of me because I was the first one allowed through. I couldn't see the lines in the road. I couldn't see anything. If you've ever stared at one thing for a long time, you'll know that you kind of start hallucinating after a while. This was a bad situation.
We were all starving so I pulled into a McDonald's, praying that it was open, and we went in to use the potty, stretch our legs, and grab a bite to eat. After 15 minutes, we got back in the van, and I soon learned that we were snowed in. After just 15 minutes! I didn't know what to do. I'd never been snowed in before. So I try to back up. I try to wiggle the car this way and that. But I'm sliding all over, nearly hitting the cars parked next to me, and I'm not making any progress whatsoever. I start to panic, and I start to cry. This is just not turning out the way I had planned. But I'm stubborn enough to stick with the original plan. The further I drive, the less likely it is that I'm gonna turn around and go back home.
I go inside the McDonald's and ask if anyone has a shovel. Nope. So I go back into the van and pray for help. Immediately, (Thank you God!) a guy who had driven through the drive-thru and seen me trying to back up, stopped his car and came over to help push me out. But he can't do it by himself, he tells me. Then out of nowhere, another guy walks up and starts pushing too. That does it. I'm free. Free to drive myself around and around a toilet bowl full of WhiteOut! At least, that's how it seemed.
After a few minutes, I smell a smell. I don't recognize this smell, but it didn't seem like a good smell. What have I done? I call Ben. I'm crying. I'm pathetic. I'm giving up. I don't know what to do. He asks me where I am and promptly gets on the computer to find me a hotel. Any hotel. I tell him about the smell. Uh oh. He thinks that when I was foolishly wiggling my van in the snowbank that I must have shoved some snow up my tailpipe. I might be poisoning the kids and myself. Just great. So I roll down the window. During a blizzard.
Let me paint you a picture of exactly what was happening. (Lord, forgive me for I knew not what I was doing...)
I'm crying hysterically, on the phone with Ben, trying to figure out where the next hotel is. The window is open in my van to let the potentially lethal gas out of the cabin so we don't all get very, very sleepy and die. I'm leaning my body over to the right, with my right arm thrust behind me as I'm feeding baby Jack a bottle, the cell phone wedged between my shoulder and my ear. This makes my field of vision all askew because my head is more horizontal than vertical. AND I'm doing all this in the middle
Eventually, we make it to the hotel. We pull in, and since Ben had just been on the phone with the sweet receptionist, she welcomed us and sat the kids in front of the fireplace and gave them each a lollipop. She greeted us by name. Now, if you've been stuck - fearing for your children's and your own life, in the middle of a blizzard, for hours, disappointed that you're not going to make your destination in the time you had originally planned - being called by name means SO MUCH! All she did was say my name, but to me, it felt like she took me into her lap, stroked my hair, and said "There there. You're safe now. You made it. I'm going to take care of you from now on."
And the hotel we ended up at was beyond perfect. Not only was it run by that precious angel, it was very clean, there was a nice sized bath tub, and there was a restaurant on site, so we didn't have to worry about no one delivering in the storm or having to drive anywhere to get dinner. So we ordered some food, got in our jammies and vegged out to some tv for the rest of the evening.
After watching the Weather Channel and getting advice from my parents and my husband, I discovered that to drive out the next morning would be a mistake. The blizzard wasn't going to leave my area until the afternoon, and it was going ahead of us. We would simply catch up with it and end up in the same mess that we'd been in all day. I was not going to make the same stupid mistake twice. It looked like the storm was going to be hovering over my path for the next 48 hours, so going that way became impossible. I had to wrestle with my pride and admit that I couldn't continue with the original plan. (very hard for me. I'm a pretty easy-going person, but when I've set my mind to something, it's pretty hard to get me to let go. It's a pro and a con, depending on the situation. In this case, it was a MAJOR con, as I put myself and my family in danger. And BOY did I let myself have it! I was soooo mad at myself. Never again.)
Here's our car the day after we got to the hotel. By the time I mustered up the courage to look outside, a lot of the snow had already melted. And we were left with these piles. Walking across the parking lot to the restaurant with three kids was an adventure. I kept praying that I wouldn't slip and fall since I was holding Jack and trying to keep the blowing snow off of his sweet face. Gillie and Josh were troopers. I'm telling you - I've got GREAT kids!
Here they are in the hotel. Jack decided to wait until I got the camera out to show me exactly how much he was enjoying his stay. Thanks, Jack.
So how to do you keep three kids entertained when confined to such a small space with mostly non-kid-friendly shows on the tv?
You let your daughter listen to your mp3 player and take pictures of her dancing.
And you let your little boy get the wiggles out by jumping off chairs. Makes me think of this guy - http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/gever_tulley_on_5_dangerous_things_for_kids.html
After getting the car looked at by a mechanic to make sure the smell wasn't something dangerous (everything was fine, and they didn't even charge us for the test!), we ended up, no joke, driving back to Denver (we even had lunch with Ben!) in order to drive south through Colorado, across the tip top of New Mexico and across Texas. I had never driven that way before, so I didn't know what to expect. I had heard it was a lot of country roads and stuff like that, but honestly, I like that sort of traveling. Much better than straight highway driving, if you ask me. Lots of opportunities to stop and tinkle or grab a bite or loosen up stiff legs and backs.
We stayed in a not-at-all-perfect hotel in New Mexico on our way. It was pretty gross. And then the next morning, we packed up the van and got back on the road. The drive into Texas was beautiful. I was struck by how green it was compared to the brown that Colorado was still. And all the wildflowers!!! I wanted to stop a million times to take pictures of them, but Momma ain't no fool (anymore). I wasn't about to stop unless I really, really had to.
We got to Arlington that evening and stayed with my dear friend, Amanda and her sweet hubby, the R.S. We got pizza and just chilled out. It was so nice. I miss her to pieces, and it was great to catch up in person!
The next morning, we left for Houston. Originally, we were going to get to Dallas on Friday afternoon, have dinner with some friends, attend Adat Shalom, and spend the night with Amanda. Then Saturday afternoon, we were going to drive to our friend Rebekah's house and spend the night there and attend Chase Oaks Church the next morning, have lunch with some church friends and then drive to Houston. But we didn't get to Amanda's until Sunday evening, so we totally missed out on visiting our Dallas peeps. (I figure that just means that we'll have to make another visit sometime!)
Finally, we made it to my mom's house. Jack settled right in.
We spent a great deal of our time playing in the backyard since the weather was so nice and warm. The kids played ball with Papaw. Here I was supposed to be catching the ball, NOT taking pictures.
See how well I obey! I just had to get this shot. I spent many an hour playing ball with my stepdad. It's so cool to see my kids playing too.
The kids really loved having their cousin come over to play too. Here Josh and Pete are playing in the dirt with cars and shovels. As all young boys should.
We brought Jack outside too. He liked sitting in his new Bumbo that his Gramie bought him. Papaw thought Jack needed a ball and bat too. He wasn't too sure at first.
But after a little while, he really got into it. I have a million of these shots. He was just giggling and smiling and drooling so much.
See? See that drool? And those big, bright, blue eyes? *swoooooon!*
The cousins took a well-deserved break with some push-pops. Such fun.
Here's Peter. Isn't he dreamy? Such a bright kid!
We also visited my dad. If you ask me, I think Jack is a spitting image of my dad when he was young. It's freaky how much he resembles him. Freaky, in a good way. He's got a lot of his daddy's features too, but I think, out of all my kids, he looks the most like my dad's side of the family.
My dad has a fish pond in his backyard. Lots of tadpoles and koi. Here Josh, with his shirt on backwards, enjoys the view with his Nana.
I also got to visit with my cousin, her two kiddos, and my dad's big sister, my aunt. Here are three generations enjoying a moment. Little Miss Chelsea is only 6 weeks old here. What a doll! My aunt's house was totally flooded during Hurricane Ike, and they JUST moved back in.
I got a call a few weeks before my trip from my friend, JD. When he was moving everything out of his mom's house, he had come across my old high school letter jacket, my high school diploma and various other things of mine. I told him to hold on to them since I'd be coming down and could get them from him in person. I hadn't seen him in years, not since before I became a mom. And he was dying to meet my kids. He's an artist, a musician and a cancer researcher. My kids thoroughly enjoyed trying out all his musical instruments. That big long thing in the back is one of his creations. It's pretty loud and awesome. Jack and I got headaches within 2 minutes, but JD loved it.
We went back to my dad's place the last night we were in Houston. In this next shot, the kids are all being held and the pets are even in the picture! Meet Toonces the cat and Bandit the dog. Toonces hasn't learned how to drive just yet, but she can go Number 2 in the toilet. Pretty sweet deal! And Bandit is just a big ol' ball of muscle and energy. He freaked Josh out with his quick jumping and running, hence the kids being up in everyone's arms. Pretty funny stuff.
While we were there, Gillian lost a tooth while playing with my stepsister, Alyssa. I do love me a Snaggletooth!
The next day, we drove up to Dallas again to make absolutely certain that we spent some time with our friend, Rebekah. We showed up right before she got out of school, and we all enjoyed some more outdoor time with her and her family.
Here's Jack, chillin' with his new pal, Pete.
We did manage to attend Adat Shalom that evening, and I even got to play my flute in the worship team. We were so pleased to see our friends there. I just love that congregation. It felt like 'home.' I cried when we left.
Afterwards, we drove back to Rebekah's house to spend the night. I stayed up half the night chatting with her while Jack slept in my arms and the older two slept in her bed. The next morning, her sweet dad made us pancakes, and we left. I boo-hoo'd like a baby as we drove out of the area. I really love Dallas and hated missing out of seeing so many of my friends on our visit. But I knew that I needed to get an early start so we'd make it to our hotel before we all lost our minds. Jack was NOT pleased to be making another road trip. Poor thing. So I was stopping every half hour or so on the side of the road to hold him for a few minutes. I stopped at nearly every rest stop or gas station that we came across. Which meant that it took a very, very long time to get to our hotel. We had decided to stay in the same hotel that we'd stayed at when we drove down. NEVER AGAIN. It was worse this time. Really bad. Like I was trying to determine whether I needed to call the cops bad. And I'm pretty sure I was bribed with a lower price for our stay to keep quiet about what they knew I'd seen. I just took the discount, vented to Ben and locked my doors up tight! We were out of there extra early the next morning.
There is something magical about being back in your home. When we crossed the Colorado border, I started getting all giddy. Not only was I about to FINALLY hug my husband who I missed desperately, but I was nearly done with this crazy adventure. But before we got home, we stopped in Colorado Springs to stretch our legs, give Jack a break from the car seat, and engage in some good ol' hiking to remind us of why we love Colorado so much. I saw some signs for Seven Falls, and we decided to go.
When we got to the top, it was snowing. HA! Snowing, but no blizzard -thank goodness! Colorado was really cold, but it was home. It felt nice to be back in such beautiful country, to be wearing warm jackets and snow boots, to drive in the mountains and to know that our car ride was nearly over. It was super duper nice to sleep in my own bed. It was wonderful to hug my husband. It was fantastic when finally, nearly a week later, everything in our house was washed, put away and cleaned once again. Some normalcy is just now getting back to us, that's why it's taken me so long to get this blog written.
I can now officially scratch "drive in a blizzard, get stuck in a hotel with three small kids for two days, double back and drive cross country with a 5 month old and then drive back home again" off my Bucket List. Next time, we're taking to the skies! It'll probably take us years to save up for that many plane tickets, but it'll happen. In the meantime, if you want to see us - come to Colorado. We'll put you up, feed your belly and talk into the wee hours of the morning. Then we'll wake up early, go spot some moose, and hike on some snow-covered mountains. Who's with me?