On Monday I stared down one of my worst nightmares and lived to tell about it. No I didn’t run a super-marathon. No I didn’t climb Annapurna. No I didn’t swim with sharks.
But I did spend ten hours in the car with a toddler and a baby and no husband.
Last week I journeyed from Northern Virginia to my parents’ home in Greenville, SC, to attend my youngest brother’s High School graduation (Congrats again Matthew!!). My awesome sister Sarah had flown up to D.C. from Dallas to help me on the drive from VA to SC last week, since the Hubs couldn’t come with us (he’s in his 3rd year of an MBA program at Georgetown University, so classes prevented him from joining us). Sarah was such an amazing help with the kids during our long car ride. The way home, however, was just me, my Honda Civic, and my two bear cubs.
I definitely had a bout of “what the heck was I thinking?!?!?!” the night before I began the drive home. My mom was nervous too – so nervous in fact that she and I actually (briefly) considered buying her a $371 one way ticket home so she could drive up to D.C. with me. That night I kept dreaming of driving down I-85 with two screaming kids and hours and hours left to travel. And of course, the thought on everyone’s minds especially mine: how in the world was I going to make bathroom stops along the way without totally infecting my kids with public bathroom germs??
On that note, I had received lots of advice: “Find a police station or a church and use the bathroom there.” “Just stop the car on the side of a deserted road and pee right outside your open door.” “Ask a lady in the fast-food restaurant to watch your kids while you run into the bathroom.” “Lock the kids in the car with the windows cracked and use a gas station bathroom – just be really quick.” “Just hold it until you’re home.” (Only kidding on that last piece of advice – no one actually said that.)
The day before our trip, I went to Walmart and bought a ton of new pacifiers for BOTH bear cubs. I figured if all hell was breaking loose in the back seat, I could keep shoving pacis in their mouths and that might buy me a few extra miles. Maybe.
So we set out on our journey Monday at 7:23 a.m., loaded down with baby gear, a cooler of snacks, and lots of prayers for the two little boys in the back seat.
The trip actually went REALLY well. I credit the boys’ good behavi0r to the many many prayers that were offered for them throughout the day. I had asked the boys’ godparents and grandparents to pray to the boys’ guardian angels for help on the trip…and I don’t know if it was the angels, but SOMETHING or SOMEONE sure worked – they were the least crabby they had been on all of our Greenville trips this year (this was our fourth trip south since January).
So how did I manage stops along the way with two babies in tow?
Our first stop was at a Chick-Fil-A in Raleigh/Durham, about half way on our journey. I unpacked my double stroller from the trunk, loaded both boys in, and managed to maneuver my way inside. The first person I locked eyes with was an 80+-year-old woman that was destined to be my Fairy Godmother for the day. I knew this the minute I saw her kind eyes, hot pink lipstick smile, wrinkled hot pink-rouged cheeks, perfectly coiffed hair, purple turtleneck dress, hose, and the faded pearls around her neck.
“Oh Dawlin! Sweetie yo have yo hands full!” She crooned to me in the most beautiful southern drawl. “Yes Ma’am. Yes Ma’am I do!” I replied.
Fairy Godmother (never learned her real name) waited on us hand and foot from the moment we stepped through those double doors until the moment we left. She kissed the top of both boys’ heads repeatedly. She refilled our glasses and spent most of her time at our table making sure we were okay, only leaving to wipe down a dirty table as needed. Fairy Godmother completely calmed my nerves about strutting through a fast food joint with my doublewide stroller and hungry babies. “Is it okay if I park the stroller here next to our table? “Honey yo park yo stroller wherever is best for yo – yo are jeeessst fine!” Jest fine indeed!” She said to me.
I can personally testify that the bathrooms at a Chick-Fil-Are are large enough to fit a double stroller – all the way into the handicap stall! So I was able to use the facilities and my bear cubs didn’t touch a thing outside the stroller. It was perfect.
Our first stop was utterly successful: Mark ate his beloved “chicken and fries with a big cow” while I fed Luke his bottle and puree of carrots (yes that’s carrots all over Luke in the picture below, lest you think we were letting him sample the Polynesian sauce.)
Our second stop was equally successful. I pulled off an exit in Petersburg, VA (south of Richmond) because I was in desperate need of caffeine and gasoline mid-afternoon. That and my nerves were beginning to fry as I listened to the complaining of a certain little buddy in the backseat:
As I pulled off the exit I couldn’t believe my eyes – there right in front of us was a TARGET – Mark and my very favorite store on the planet. Target had everything my boys and I needed for our afternoon stop: an air conditioned space we could stroll around with our double stroller; a large bathroom where we could all fit; aisles of toys, Hot Wheels, and Thomas the Tank engines for Mark to play with for a few minutes while I fed Luke (yep, right there in the middle of the aisle), and most important of all: TARGET HAS A STARBUCKS!!!
Our second stop was not a quick one, but it was the perfect break to get all of us rejuvenated for the final 2-3 hours home. We rolled back onto the highway with the Honda gassed up, the Mama caffeinated up, and the boys freshly changed, fed, and happy. See?
We pulled into our driveway at 5:02pm that night, while Toddler Bear shouted joyfully from the back seat “MARK IS HOOOOMMMMEE!!” He misses his aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents horribly already, but he was also uber excited to be reunited to his toys and cars and trucks.
This week’s adventure taught me that road-tripping with babies IS still possible. You just have to take your time, plan on long stops, and keep your eyes peeled for the Fairy Godmothers who live at Chick-Fil-As.
All in all, we had a wonderful vacation, a smooth time on the road, and we were home in time to get the boys fed and in bed at their normal time, which meant I even had time that evening to enjoy a glass of red wine and catch up on the RHWONJ episodes I’d missed in my absence.
CREDITS: I’d like to give special thanks once more to my Mom for packing a cooler full of fruit and peanut butter sandwhiches for us; to the Fairy Godmother at the Raleigh/Durham Chick-Fil-A off Exit 173 for your many kindnesses and kisses; to the makers of my Baby Trend Sit and Stand Double Stroller; my trusty Honda Civic who still runs like the day I bought it; to the woman who held the bathroom door for me at the Petersburg, VA Target; to the person who loaded Baby Einstein and Thomas the Train videos onto YouTube so I could play them for my cranky toddler off my Smartphone; to the Lord Jesus for the good weather we had all day; to all my family members who prayed over our trip; and to Mark and Luke’s Guardian Angels: you two must’ve been working overtime. Thank you all!!!