Last Friday, I spent 12 straight hours in the car with the kids driving to the house I grew up in. They did great.
However, on Tuesday it was time to get back in the car and start home and the return trip was destined to be much more of a G0ng Show. My kids were exhausted from spending a long weekend at my parent’s house. Less sleep than usual, no Daddy, a minor virus, and a highly charged, emotional environment left us all drained and now we would be flying down the highway, pulling a U-Haul Trailer, crammed into the small cab of a pick-up truck.
To get home we would first drive 6 hours west to spend a night at my sister’s, followed by driving 8 hours south the next day. On Tuesday, I had my 11-year-old nephew to help me out, but he would then stay behind at his house. So on Wednesday, I would be on my own again (and by “on my own” I mean in charge of driving, not running the U-Haul trailer into anything, refereeing the kids’ fights, changing the DVD player, dodging water bottles that would be thrown at my head, and not getting lost).
A few highlights of our adventure.
Highlight One: When pulling a trailer (which I had no prior experience doing) it is important to only use wide-open parking lots that can be entered and exited without actually having to do any backing up. At some point we had a “back-seat emergency” (I honestly can’t remember what the issue was – let’s just call it Back-Seat Emergency Number 327). The first place to pull over with an appropriate parking lot was an “adults only” book, video and (I believe) live-performance arcade. My daughter looked out the window and said, “Is this the dentist?” My nephew could not stop laughing. I am not going to ask how my nephew had such a clear understanding of what this place was – that is my sister’s problem to figure out. But I appreciated that he was really giggling but also embarrassed as this was about the same reaction I had.
Highlight Two: My son insisted on wearing a purple and black, shiny, ruffled, can-can skirt for all parts of the long drive. In what I think was a nod to subtlety, he chose to wear it inside out so the violet lame’ wasn’t showing, only the purple ruffle. Still, he was a young boy in a very fancy skirt.
Pulling into a truck-stop in rural Illinois I was keenly conscious of his outfit – as was everybody else. I finally looked at one trucker who was staring, but half-smiling and said, “Hey, it is safer than him wearing a hoodie.”
Highlight Three: We were in the car long enough for my son to conquer the chest clasp on the last remaining car seat which he had heretofore been unable to open. Do you know that NO company makes a product for this particular type of genius? Sure, when kids get older you can put something on the seatbelts to keep them from unbuckling. But kids in true car-seats can’t possibly open the buckles – except Little Dude – so no product is actually made to prevent this occurence. It has been suggested that I buy a model of car seat with tougher-to-open buckles. Since none of my son’s grandparents can release the buckle on his seat, and he has now succeeded at opening the buckles on three different models of car seat, I don’t think that is a realistic solution.
On day three of this road trip I was prepared with the only thing I could find at L0wes that I thought might keep him buckled in – a multitude of rainbow velcro straps.
Little Dude left his buckles alone for about four hours, then he planned his big escape. I pulled over at the nearest exit and looked for a big parking lot where it would be easy to u-turn with the U-haul (see Highlight One).
So we were here – in the “Visitor’s Lot.”
I was a little nervous to be hanging out in this parking lot. I was not afraid of a prison break, but was conscious of the fact that every move I made was being watched by guards who were thinking, “What the hell is that lady doing?”
As I tried to figure out how to best apply the velcro straps, Little Dude kicked off his shoe and it went under the truck, coming to rest equidistant between the front and rear tires and the left and right side. Now that I had given the guards plenty of time to crowd around their cameras, I needed to get down on my hands and knees, stick my behind in the air and shimmy under the truck while trying not to scrape my knees on the blacktop.
In the meantime, PJ once again played, “guess what type of business we have pulled into.”
First she asked me what the business was. I lied
sue me and said, “I’m not sure.” She looked around and concluded we were at a tennis facility. I believe it was because of the high fences then she announced, “And I can see two guys walking around.” I am pretty sure they didn’t have racquets, but I was too busy crawling around under the truck to take a good look.
Highlight Four: With about two hours left to drive PJ asked, “What’s adopted mean?” I quickly turned off the radio and prepared myself for an important talk. Since Little Dude seems to avoid the topic, lately I have been hopeful that PJ’s probing will provide insight and context. Plus, he was stuck in the truck with us (thanks to the velcro job), he couldn’t casually wander away as he seems to do at home whenever sensitive subjects come up.
I replied, “I think you know what adoption is. Little Dude is adopted.”
She then said, “But what does it mean? Am I adopted.”
I replied, “No, because you grew in my tummy. But Little Dude grew in his Ethiopian Mommy’s tummy. But he was supposed to be part of our family, so he came to live with us.”
She replied, “Can we adopt a puppy?”
He was happy with the additions to his car seat.
I am happy to be home.