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Road Trippin’

March 16, 2013

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It’s spring break here in the ATX and all of Texas, New Mexico and the Southwest.  Usually we stay put over spring break, but this year, inspired by Curtis’s work trip to Orlando (I want work trips that include shutting down Universal Studios for the participants of the work trips for an evening of free rides, food, drinks, and games!), we decided to travel.  After debating the Texas coast, where I figured the half the state that wasn’t coming to Austin for SXSW went, I decided it was the perfect opportunity for the kids and I do a road trip.  We loaded up the car, made rice krispie treats for snacks, and headed west 720 miles. Oh yes I did–720 miles in one day as the only adult in a car with a 3 year old, 6 year old, and 7 year old.  All things considered, the drive went superbly, both directions.  On the way home, I drove the last two hours in the dark, all three kids sleeping, through two-lane roads in Texas (where the speed limit was 70 mph).  It provided ample time to think and pray.DSC_7950

Vacation requires a different sort of parenting, as I’ve learned over the years.  I need to be a bit more relaxed about schedules and rules, and as my kids get older, this is easier to do too.    We ate lots of fast food on our trip, which seldom happens.  (Folks, I went to McDonald’s!  Nothing against those who love McDonald’s and go there frequently, but if you know me, I don’t do it.)  Bedtimes were a bit later some nights.  We snacked more than usual in the car.  We let John and Madeleine’s daily reading fall to the side.  These things happen sometimes.  It’s ok.  It’s not permanent.    At the same time, I needed to be more planned.  It just doesn’t work to keep a bunch of kids in a small living area without much space to play outdoors for long periods of time.  Before we went, I looked for very kid friendly places to visit and we found them.  The boys loved scrambling up a mountain while I looked at petroglyphs (so cool!!).  My sister and I split up in a museum,  so she and Madeleine could move more slowly and I could do the high speed version of the museum–letting the three youngest run through a model of a volcano repeatedly.DSC_7932

In other ways, vacations mean you have to ramp up some of those parenting traits.  Patience is much more crucial, when you can’t just send kids to the backyard to play or to their rooms.  Flexibility is necessary when things may not work out like you’ve expected–when two people spend the night before a 720 drive puking (and one of them is the driver), you need to be willing to start later than you expected and to maybe stop and spend the night on the way home if you need to.  Most importantly, I’ve learned vacations with children are not about me.  Maybe if you have one child or even two you can continue to do things the way you’ve always done them, but by the time it’s 3:1 on a vacation, it’s not about the adult much.  I would have loved to have done more of the hikes at Petroglyph National Monument or have found some local cafes to eat at on our road trip.  In past trips to Albuquerque, I spent time in coffee shops reading and writing while my sister went to work.  Not so much this time.  I somehow managed to make it home without any green chile anything, which is such a shame.  It just didn’t work.  To push my own agenda through meant poorly behaved kids, so I just didn’t do it.  There will be times again when it is a little more about me, but I’m ok with it not being the case, not in a martyr sense, but just in that’s-the-way-things-are sense.DSC_7861

Vacations also provide great gifts.  I am extremely thankful for the talks I had with Madeleine.  One morning, we walked to a coffee shop so I could get my morning caffeine fix.  It was just Madeleine and I.  We had such an enjoyable talk.  On the drive home, at one point the boys had fallen asleep and Madeleine was still awake.  Just she and I talked, about things she wondered about it, about Truth in the Bible, about where the dinosaurs were in the Bible.  It was a wonderful conversation.  Having time to talk with Madeleine in a vacation setting was such a gift.  We didn’t talk about her latest soccer game or about her best friend moving away at school.  We talked about other things, the things that we usually don’t get to in everyday life.  It gave me a chance to see how Madeleine was growing up.

I was thankful for the quiet night driving I did as well.  A lot of it was spent repeating, “Please don’t let me hit a deer,” but I was also able to reflect on my trip and think about where I am going from here.  I thought of parenting and my calling as a parent right now.  I thought of how I too often trivialize the important work of parenting, and remembered children were one of the groups Jesus spoke of with extra kindness, like he spoke of widows and the poor.

I was thankful for the driving I did while the children were awake.  We listened to our first audio book (old school, on CD, because my minivan doesn’t have an aux. jack) and really enjoyed it.  I listened to the kids talk and play and when I could think of stories, I told them stories from when I was little, which they loved.  I enjoyed Mumford and the Steel Wheels while the kids had their electronic time (I save electronics for after nap time in the afternoon, when everyone is a bit cranky from being in a car so long).

With just this weekend before Spring Break is over, I can say vacation has past.  The laundry is mostly done, the bags are mostly unpacked, the car still needs a lot of cleaning out.  It’s been a good one.  However, I can honestly say I don’t need to drive that far again for a while, at least until this summer.

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