Last Sunday we packed up the five kids and every free square inch around them in our minivan and drove over seven hours to my parents' house for a week of Christmas vacation. Elijah spent the first four days running a fever over 103 and clinging to my hip like a barnacle. Toby coughed and whined and stared blankly much of the trip. I didn't get terribly ill, but I did lose my voice completely for 24 hours, which made it difficult to converse with my family, discipline my children, or even be polite to the lady at the shoe store who probably wondered why I was refused to speak to her.
On Thursday night things hit an all-time low when I was suddenly afflicted with a horrific migraine headache (only the third of my lifetime) and was confined to laying still in a dark room while listening to my mom, my dad, and my husband trying to get dinner for the kids--no small task with all of our dietary restrictions. My mom said something like, "Here, Doug, you're a chemist. These are potato buds. Pretend you're in a lab and cook these according to directions." I mustered my strength to try to croak with my inflamed vocal cords, "You'll have to substitute rice milk for the milk, oh...and canola oil for the butter!"
By Friday we were all on the mend (except for my poor mother who picked up our sore throat), Elijah was becoming more accustomed to Grandma and Grandpa's house, and we were beginning to enjoy our time together more. We spent an evening at my sister's house where the kids played hide and seek and ran cars down a track together. Naomi found a cozy spot in her cousin's bedroom to read five of his chapter books. He later remarked to my sister, "I've never seen anyone read as fast as Naomi! She didn't read one book last night, she read five!"
Saturday we had a little birthday party for my sister (with an 11th anniversary celebration for Matt and I on the side). It wasn't a half-bad visit, all in all, but by today I think we were all ready for my family to head home again. We finished the laundry this morning, gathered all the markers and hot wheels cars from under the furniture, and piled everything back in the van. Somehow it all fit, and we were on the road by 2:30pm, which isn't too bad for our family. Matt put a theological lecture on the audio system and we settled if for the long drive.
Twenty miles from town, on a hilly rural highway, before we'd even reached the interstate, our van began to sputter, then slowed to a stop in the driveway of a farmer at the top of a hill. Three children and a farmer, all in snowsuits, looked at us...and we looked back. Crap. And now what?
After our brains resumed functioning we called my parents, who drove out in two cars to pick us all up. And we called AAA, who has lost about a thousand dollars on us in the last year, to come and tow our van, once again. And Matt began calling co-workers to see who could possibly cover his shift tomorrow. And I asked the kids, "Alright. Who prayed for us to spend more time at Grandma's?" Hannah's little face lit up. "I did!!" she happily admitted. I then passed out some peanut butter cookies to keep up moral while we awaited rescue.
We unloaded our van and packed all our things into the trunks of my parents' cars. Then we drove back to town and unloaded all or our things back into their house, where Toby promptly had a diarrhea explosion all over his pants. We're getting settled in again now, and we are thankful: thankful the car didn't break down three hours into our trip, thankful that we're all safe and warm, thankful that AAA doesn't have any rules against people like us being members of their awesome club, and thankful that Toby's explosion didn't happen in a car seat. Tonight we'll eat leftovers and play cards, and I pray the van will be fixed tomorrow, because as lovely as this little vacation has been, I'm starting to get anxious to be back in our normal boring routine.