First Mom-Only Road Trip

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I am writing this post, so that one day, when (if) travel with my crew gets easier, I can look back on this time and laugh. I was definitely NOT laughing when it happened.

A few weeks ago, the kids and I took a road trip to visit Tommy’s parents. He was out of town at a conference for work and I did not want to spend 5 days alone. I decided we would load up the car and go visit friends and family! The trip there was pretty uneventful. Emry cried the last 15-20 minutes of the 2.5 hour trip, but overall it went smoothly. The trip home, however, is a whole other story…

Noah had fall break, but had to be back at school on a Wednesday. My PLAN was to return home in time to get to Noah’s friend’s birthday party. The babies eat every 3 hours, so I knew I had to leave as soon as I finished feeding them to make it home before their next bottle. I wanted to minimize the screaming in the car as much as possible. I packed as much as I could into the car before their scheduled feeding… all seemed good to go…until Emry’s refusal to eat. We tried four different people and several positions, but she (being the stubborn little princess that she is) refused. She was NOT going to do it. Our feeding attempts put us way behind schedule. We are not going to make it to the birthday party 😦 By the time we were in the car, ready to go, it had been almost an hour since Eli started eating, which meant we were also going to have to stop to feed the babies somewhere along the way. Ever determined, this Mama trudged on. Reminder: I have all three kids AND Manning, our golden retriever, in the car.

Eli started crying before we made it to the first stop light, less than a mile from Tommy’s parents house. He still dislikes car rides but I knew he was tired and I prayed he would fall asleep soon. He cried the first 15 minutes then he was fast asleep. Good, I thought, maybe just MAYBE, he will sleep all the way home and we won’t have to stop. Ha! During Eli’s (first) crying fit, Noah stated that he needed to go to the bathroom. Way to go, you forgot to remind him to go to the bathroom before we left, I scolded myself. Our way home from Tommy’s parents’ house has about 30 minutes of backroads surrounded by farmland before we hit the interstate. There was not a gas station or restaurant to stop at near us. We would have to find somewhere on the side of the road (oh, and it is raining!!) I promised Noah that once it stopped raining, or at least slowed down, I would find a place to stop. At this point, I am thinking about turning around and trying again after all the kids are asleep. Even if Eli did happen to sleep the whole way home, I would still have to stop to get Noah some dinner. It would be almost his bedtime by the time we made it home. I am thinking I could just go back. Tommy’s parents can watch the babies. I can get Noah some dinner. We can do baths there and the babies could have their last feeding of the night before we left. We would not have to worry about getting home as fast… but I trudged on. The rain slowed and I pulled over for Noah to go to the bathroom. I walked the dog in the grass in front of the car while Noah peed behind the car. Thank goodness he’s a boy and can do that outside when he has to! I hoped cars passing by would notice Manning and me walking around instead of Noah!

Eli woke up about 10 minutes later and he decided it was time for Screaming Fit #2. If I can make it 30 more minutes, there is a Chik-fil-a. I can feed the babies and Noah while we are there. We’ll leave Manning in the car. Sorry, Dog, but it’s cool out and I have no other choice. Eli cried the whole way to Chik-fil-a, but we made it there with most of our hearing still intact. Emry managed to sleep through Screaming Fit #2 and Noah only complained about not hearing his movie about one hundred times during that 30 minutes.

It was Tennessee Tech family sports night or something like that at Chik-fil-a when we got there. Awesome. The Chik-fil-a cow and the Golden Eagle mascot were there, as well as most of Cookeville. When we ordered , I asked for two cups of hot water so I could warm the babies bottles. The employee told me that the water was very hot. Okay, I will be very careful. She asked if it was breast milk in the bottles. Yes. I will be very careful not to overheat the milk. Please GIVE ME the hot water. Eventually, she concedes and gives me ONE cup of hot water. I ask a different employee for a second one when she brings us our food. Noah and I find a booth and a table near the back of the restaurant to push together. The car seats take up the entire booth table so Noah sits beside me at the other table with his food. The babies are upset that they are still strapped into their car seats and not getting their bottles fast enough. Once the bottles are warm (neither of which are scolding due to the dangerous cups of hot water,) the babies eat maybe an ounce or two each. There is too much going on around them.

A female soccer player from TN tech gives Noah a bag of goodies and a purple and gold pompom to shake (instead of eating.) Noah thinks the cow and golden eagle mascots are awesome and calls them over multiple times for high-fives and hugs. A random man arrives at our table to tell me to “hang in there” before he leaves the restaurant. His encouraging words did not feel so encouraging at that moment. At that moment, I wanted him to back away slowly and let me get back to feeding my fussy children. Noah finishes just enough of his chicken sandwich to justify going to play in the play area while I finish feeding the babies and change their diapers. Yes, on the seat of the booth. Sorry, Chik-fil-a patrons, but I have the diaper bag changing cover down. I am not about to drag two babies into the bathroom in their car seats (because I can’t change one and hold one at the same time) and leave Noah and all our other belongings unattended.  

We’ve spent about 40 minutes in Chik-fil-a and I feel like we have done all the damage we can possibly do. Or I have had all the looks from neighboring tables that I can handle. Screaming Fit #3 ensues as I strap the babies back into their car seats. The golden eagle mascot comes over and rocks Emry’s car seat as she screams while I am getting Eli strapped in. Then he PATS ME ON THE HEAD and walks away. Mama is going to jail for attacking the TN Tech mascot. I didn’t attack the mascot. Instead, I grabbed the diaper bag and one carrier for each arm and hesitated. How am I going to reach and carry the lemonades still on the table?! A second man asks if he can help and I ask him to hand me the second lemonade. Problem-solved. I waddle three-wide to the play area door and ask one of the soccer players to open the door for me. Employees be damned if they tell me I can’t take these lemonades inside the play area while I am waiting for Noah to put his shoes on! Noah gets his shoes on and takes the lemonades. We dodge a dozen small children to get to the exit. Thankfully, a family is coming in to the building at the same time and holds the door for Noah and me. I manage to get Noah and the babies into the car without Manning escaping AND he didn’t destroy anything when we were inside Chik-fil-a. Score.

Emry settles down and goes back to sleep once the car is moving. Eli continues to cry and Noah tries to ignore him and watches his movie. At 8pm, Noah’s bedtime, I turn off the movie and tell him it is time to settle down. Maybe he will fall asleep during the hour we have left in the car and not be a total beast at school tomorrow. Eli cries until 8:15 and finally falls asleep. Noah starts crying less than a minute after Eli stops. He misses his Dad. I reassure him that Daddy will be home tomorrow and to try to get some sleep while it’s quiet. He cries himself to sleep within 10 minutes. I deserve an entire bottle of wine if we ever make it home. All is quiet for one minute. All is quiet for two minutes. Three, four and five minutes. Hallelujah! All of my children are asleep. Manning and I rejoice in the sound of silence for a few awesome minutes. Then Emry starts crying. I am beating my head against the steering wheel at this point. Emry cries for the remaining 30 minutes of our ride home, with Eli joining her for the final 10 minutes. We arrived home at 9 pm, an hour past everyone’s bedtime and they still needed baths.

Lesson learned from my first mom-only road trip: If you think you should turn around within the first 15 minutes of the trip and you are going to be home after bedtime any way, just do it. Turn around. Next time, we are not traveling home until everyone has full bellies, are in jammies and ready to sleep the whole way home!

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