Four kids + 2 weary adults + 1 mini-van + 411 miles = 3 magna-doodles, 40 books, 21 snacks, 6 water bottles, 4 potty stops, 4 changes of clothing, 3 mops of messy hair, 8 McDoubles, 2 large fries, and 1 embarrassing public moment.
Mental math is not my strength, but this is one equation I have memorized, and it almost always works out.
Last Friday Emma proudly watched as I slathered pink frosting on a home-made "sprinkle" cake. I scattered the sprinkles on top, strung up some pink streamers, and tried to hide the stress I felt for Emma's sake. After a quick family party we strapped the kids into our loaded mini-van and headed to Iowa. Matt had a job interview near my hometown on Monday morning, so we took the weekend to visit my family. The trip out was fairly uneventful as the kids slept most of the way (see above equation and subtract the McDonald's menu and the embarrassing public moment, phew!).
Toby found his six and eight year old boy cousins to be delightful participants in his new favorite sport: extreme wrestling by surprise attack. Once Jesse figured out why Toby was screeching, yanking on his shirt, and body-slamming him on the ground, they had a gratifying weekend of tussles. The girls found everything Wyatt and Jesse did to be absolutely hilarious, inducing rounds of giggles, which further spurred-on the boys' antics. Grandpa ran the kiddy wagon ride which continuously circled the block. We even had a second birthday party for Emma, complete with a giant sparkly birthday hat and a purple feather-boa for Emma. (I am not too sure about the quality of the boa, as we spent the next two days picking up purple chicken feathers, and the boa had to come home in a zip-lock bag).
Matt successfully completed his interview, though I don't think it will be a job for him. ("And Mr. Eby, how would you feel about ministering to a Satanist?") Then we packed up again for the trip home. It wasn't long before dinner was called for. Toby despised the McDouble and french fries served to him, and promptly ensured that he wouldn't have to eat them by depositing them on the floor. I spent the next half-hour chasing him around McDonalds, stopping now and then for another bite of food as we passed our table. He made friends with a girl filling out an application, attempted to slip back into the food-preparation area, then bolted for the door as soon as a strange man opened it to leave. Indigestion followed.
Back in the car Toby decided he was hungry, and we soon needed an after-dinner potty-stop. Spotting a rest area 30 miles ahead on the atlas, we decided to hold out for that over a local gas-station. Thirty minutes and four cranky kids later we arrived at the rest area, which was closed. The next exit had a Shell station and a nearby Wal-Mart. We opted for the Wal-Mart. Matt had a phone call to make, so I dug out pajamas for the kids and rounded up four water-bottles to refill. I strolled into Wal-mart with a line of kids holding hands and making train noises, and a diaper bag large enough to shop-lift a fish tank. After handing each girl her pajamas and assigning her a potty-stall, I strapped Toby to the changing table--all under control.
Just as I had Toby's diaper off, another lady came in and headed for the first stall. The door was open, so she was a bit startled to find Emma with her pants down. "Oh, sorry," I said a little sheepishly. "Oh, that's OK," she laughed. She turned back around, then laughed even harder as Hannah waddled out with her pants around her legs. "Mommy," Hannah whined, "I can't reach the toilet paper." The lady offered to stand by Toby, with his diaper still off, as I secured some toilet paper for Hannah. Emma then came out from her stall with her pants around her legs to see what all the commotion was. "Mommy," Naomi called from behind her closed stall, "I can't get my pajama pants over my shoes." I wiped Hannah's bottom and plunked her PJ's in her hands, sat Emma on the toilet, unsnagged Naomi's pajamas from her shoes, then remembered Toby's diaper-less bottom. Thankfully, the changing table was still dry, and the lady was clearly more amused than annoyed. I completed Toby's diaper change while the other lady used the restroom, then put Toby's pajamas on while she helped all three of my girls wash their hands. (Add to the equation above "1 angel sighting").
We are home now, and things are fairly back to normal. I spent two hours in the doctor's office with Toby yesterday, attempting to console him after 16 pin-pricks and occupy him for an eternity in a 7'x7' white room, all to find out that he's allergic to dairy and peanuts--two things I really already knew. This morning we await the arrival of a new baby--Hannah's expecting any minute, again--and Toby has collected each cordless phone and brought them to me declaring, "NO, NO! No, no phone!" Ahhh, back to the daily grind.