We’ve had my cousin Bekah’s wedding on the calendar for quite awhile, but right after bringing the boys home I thought, There is no way we can go. It was in Franklin, Tennessee, about a 7-hour drive away. I could not even imagine trying to navigate travel and mostly a wedding with our two toddler boys.
But Amie was supposed to be a flower girl, and you know I love any chance to be with my extended family. David couldn’t go but my mom offered to make the trip with us and help out. What followed was a month of a roller coaster of indecision, and if you rode that roller coaster with me, I’m sorry!
A couple weeks before the wedding I called Bekah’s mom, my Aunt Donna, and had a heart-to-heart with her. I said, “I want to come so badly, but please be honest: am I crazy for trying this?” I didn’t want to be a burden on anyone with my brood of children. And she herself is a mother of four, so I knew she’d understand my hesitation.
I share all of this to tell you why I love my family. She said, “Julie, please come! We will all help with the boys. We’d love to have you guys!” I love that my family cares more about people and being together than having everything perfect.
So we went! We left first thing Friday morning, our five-week anniversary of having Gabe and Noah. And I very quickly remembered how different car rides are with toddlers and preschoolers! Poor Mom was turning around in her seat every 30 seconds to fetch toys and juice and snacks. We finally laid some ground rules which helped.
Want to know our two secrets to those long car rides? Prepare to be impressed: Movies and McDonalds. Yep, that’s right. We used the DVD player almost the entire trip and also stopped at McDonald’s for lunch both rides. I wept a little on the inside, but all four kids were delighted with their cheeseburgers and Happy Meal toys and those kept them busy on and off the whole weekend. Gabe and Noah don’t care much about watching TV, but it was a special treat for the big kids. We arrived at our hotel 8 hours later with surprisingly few melt-downs.
Our hotel had a pool! So we got a quick swim in before the rehearsal and everyone was much happier with fresh air and exercise. The church was absolutely perfect. A couple miles from our hotel, it was cute and small and had nursery rooms with toys, but best of all, had this fenced-in playground. We spent hours on that playground over the two days.
Judah’s whole face lit up seeing his second-cousins Tristan and Gavin from Florida. They played Pokemon during the rehearsal. They ran around the playground like crazy. They ate cheesecake. They generally laughed and goofed off. It’s been a long five weeks for my big boy, and this was the happiest I’d seen him in awhile. I literally teared up every time I watched him with his cousins. My family has been so healing for me over the past few years, and it warms my heart to see them have that same effect on my children.
Judah had a sleepover with his cousins which helped since we were sharing a little hotel room. My uncle Ken and Aunt Susan rented a cabin in the woods for their kids and grandkids, which was a lifesaver since they shared it with us! We got up Saturday morning (G and N slept through the night in the hotel both nights!), fed the kids with the free hotel breakfast, grabbed an Einstein bagel and some Starbucks for the road for the grown-ups, and drove 30 pretty miles to the cabin (I love Tennessee).
It was truly perfect. Shady and spacious and so quiet. There was a big back porch and a creek. We spent that entire day outside. The kids waded in the creek, threw rocks, caught crawfish. The above photo makes me laugh because the big kids were laying wriggling crawfish on paper and trying to trace them with a pen (there are so many reasons that didn’t work out).
I already knew that God made Gabriel and Noah for our family, but this trip only further confirmed it. The fact that our family travels often was one of the things their birth mom loved most when first looking at our family photo book. That’s something that she specifically wanted for her boys.
And she knows them well. They loved our trip. Not necessarily the long hours in the car, but even then, they did amazingly well for it being so unfamiliar. They loved the hotel and the pool. They greeted every new place and all the new people with big smiles. They loved our family. At lunch on Saturday Gabriel went around the big farm table trying to memorize everyone’s names. They got tired but did well with later nights. They even napped Saturday afternoon at the cabin and gave us some quiet moments to visit with the family.
My mom generously kept the boys during the ceremony and I stayed out in the lobby helping the two flower girls get ready to walk down the aisle. Amie said, “Mom, people are asking to take my picture so I think I must be famous.” I’m sad I didn’t get a photo of my cousin Bekah but she looked beautiful. Thank you, Nina, for bringing a tote bag filled with kids’ activities for emergency situations, like when it started raining outside.
We may have discovered some leftover pizza in the bridesmaids’ dressing room and decided to feed the boys their dinner then and there. They were delighted.
We had the boys in and out of the reception. My sweet Mom and aunt Sally let me sit down and eat a full dinner and visit awhile, then they brought the boys in for cupcakes and dancing.
Gabriel loved the dancing! I think Noah was a little overwhelmed at that point, but he still wanted to be held on the dance floor. A fun time was had by all!
We hit the road first thing Sunday morning, and somehow it was a loooong trip home. Nine hours later we arrived at our front door, exhausted, but no worse for the wear.
Of course it was a very different trip for me. I’d reached an age with Judah and Amie where they just run off and play and I get to more or less relax and visit with people. That happened a little but not as much as in the past. But I went in with those expectations so I didn’t mind. One day we’ll get there again!
I got so much delight out of seeing my four kids enjoying themselves to the fullest, watching my family envelope my new sons with hugs and love and acceptance, being served by them as they pitched in and helped with the boys. My cousin Lindsey had brought a big bag of hand-me-down clothes and puzzles and cute little backpacks for them. My mom was wonderful about embracing the chaos and adventure, respecting my rules for the kids, and helping out in every possible way.
Yes, we’ve all been tired this week back at home. Melt-downs have been a little more frequent and Mommy’s patience has been a little thin. But there’s rest in resuming our routine and normal meals and bedtimes. And I love that Gabe is still talking about “the river house” and “Ga-bin and Tristan.”
Was our road trip worth it? Yes!!!