"Are we almost THERE?"
"ARE WE ALMOST THERE?"
"MOM! LISTEN TO ME! WHERE ARE WE? ARE WE THERE YET!?"
"I've told you 5 times now that we are still a long time away. We will be there when the clock says 5:34 and that is the last time I am going to say that and now I am going to ignore you," and then I calmly turn around and stay silent although the tension inside me is ready to burst like a volcano. It's bubbling and boiling to the top. I'm ready to explode just like she has been for the last 30 minutes.
She whimpers not wanting me to ignore her but her anger mounts, "I HATE YOU!!! YOU'RE THE WORST MOM EVER!!!!"
She says a bunch more mean stuff to me that I won't repeat here for your sake and then I finally figure it out...
"[Sister], do you need to go potty?"
"It's OK sweet, we can stop, do you need to go potty?"
"YES, OK?! YES!!!"
Thank goodness we were able to figure that one out within the first 6-hour stretch of our 10-day long road trip.
I've learned a lot over the years.
I learned a lot last year during our summer vacation.
I made sure to learn from those mistakes and I made a commitment to continually learn from the mistakes on this trip and try to remedy them along the way.
For instance, this vacation I learned that when Sister asks, "Are we almost there?" it is her way of saying, in a non-embarrassing way, that she needs to use the bathroom. So we learned quickly that when she asks if we are almost there that we just pull over to the nearest exit to have a potty break.
It worked quite well.
I also learned from the tough experiences we had on our last family vacation that I need to prepare a lot better ahead of time.
So... this time we have been planning on this trip for 3 months and have been letting the kids know that we will be taking a long trip as a family after school it out and before summer camp starts.
When we got closer to the day we were leaving I made a picture calendar of where we were going to be day:
Then I brought my separate picture schedule with the removable velcro pics to describe each day.
My kids have been really into coloring lately so instead of buying coloring books that they only color a few pages in, I printed off tons of coloring pages for them that were of their favorite things. I printed about 50 pages for each of them! I know, it was a lot, but I wanted to be prepared.
I had gone to the dollar store and bought a bag, markers, dry erase markers, a clipboard, pens, and a notebook for each kid so that they each had their own "travel bag" to have all their things to keep them entertained.
I laminated a couple of coloring pages for each one and those were to be used for the dry-erase markers so in case they just wanted to color the same thing over and over.
We borrowed our friends' portable DVD player just in case we needed it for backup. And I had coloring books and thing in my "travel bag" as emergency things they might need if what I had for them didn't work.
I also packed thera-putty, pinwheels and hand-strengthening balls for sensory and anxiety situations.
But the best thing, and I didn't even plan for this when it all started, was having my sister and her family come along with us on the road trip!
It made a world of difference for my kids to know that their cousins would be tagging along wherever we were.
Not to mention, it was great for Marc and I because if we were getting frustrated with each other in the car, we were able to laugh and enjoy other's company while eating lunch or stopping for activities and we would forget what we were ornery about.
It was great.
I do think we (our family) caused some near-heart attacks for my sister, Jessie, as she wasn't quite prepared for some of the things that go on with darting children, screaming/yelling meltdowns, or wanderers... poor girl, I didn't prepare her enough (insert sheepish smile emoticon here).
Our first stop was LasVegas.
Our half way point to our California destination.
It was all going quite well, even with the potty meltdowns, until we got to the hotel. The hotel was really busy and we had to park in the parking garage on the 3rd level.
I thought that was OK.
Sister did not.
She was afraid of heights now. This was news to me, but she was completely melting and there was no calming her down. She was frantic and going down the elevator that had the window to look out of did not help the situation either.
She screamed at us the entire walk to the lobby and then we had to wait for what seemed an eternity to get the keys to our rooms. I don't even like to say "eternity" when I refer to this hotel lobby experience as "eternity" sounds so blissful and bright... this was ... hmmm... how do I explain a long period of time that is filled with running, melting, darting, holding, grabbing, out-maneuvering and patience draining cries?
It was just not fun.
Marc and Joel were in the longest line known to man (OK, granted, we were traveling on a Memorial Day weekend... duh) to get our keys and get things paid up and we waited near the Elvis statue in the lobby.
At first it was all fun and games getting pictures with Elvis and laughing with the guy who was waiting there by us for the first 30 minutes. (I'm surprised he lasted that long.)
Then Baby decided she didn't want to talk to Elvis anymore or smile at all the strangers.
Now she wanted to run into the casino and try all the slot machines, run up and down stairs, touch ever railing and dirty seat in the whole place and play tag with a worn-out mommy.
She darted down the halls into crowds of people one time too many and I was resorted to holding her in my arms while she yelled, screamed and hit me... the guys that had been laughing with us was now gone... I understand.
Then we both remembered she had an iPod. Luckily that was able to get her to sit for the next 20 minutes until Marc and Joel were done checking in.
Then we swim through the crowds of people in this humongous hotel to find an elevator to take us up to the 7th floor...
That's right, the 7th floor. We just hoped Sister wouldn't figure out that seven floors was pretty high up.
It was quite the fete to get all 10 of us in one elevator plus one Asian lady who I am sure is used to crowds and packed elevators, but was she ready for the ride with us?
And none of us were prepared for the fete it would be to get all 10 of us OFF the elevator.
I have to say our Asian Lady friend turned out to be quite a hero. We were getting off before her and before the second half of us could get off the elevator doors started to close!
Sister went into pure panic as I was trying to keep the doors open until we all got off, with only temporary success... those doors were stubborn and this little, tiny Asian woman, who had to be at least in her 50's pried those doors open until everyone got off and we were able to avoid Sister's meltdown about separating any of us.
Sister continued to yell at us down the hall about the elevator and being scared of heights and everything else, then we got into our room and the kids fought over which bed and who would use the bathroom first. Of course Sister got to use the bathroom first... that was a given... she screams the loudest. We don't care about justice... we care about peace.
Brother was happy as a clam as he was able to watch the lights of the tram pass below our window and with it being dark enough outside Sister didn't seem to be as afraid of heights when the sparkly lights were distracting her.
Marc and I got everyone to bed.
We sat up and watched "Fixer Upper" until Brother started to snore and then we turned off the TV and rolled over to go to sleep and I grabbed Marc's hand and said, "Can you believe how well all this is going? I just can't believe how well the kids are doing. It's amazing."
And I was serious.
Are you ready for the ride?