Saturday, July 18, 2015

21

Twenty-one days on the road alone with three kids.

In those 21 days, we have visited nine states, seven hotels, four national parks, numerous national forests--and countless gift shops, stores, gas stations, restaurants, and fast food joints.

In those 21 days, I have taken over 20 GB of pictures, slept in eleven different beds ,listened to an estimated 85+ hours of Harry Potter on audio, and packed and repacked suitcases with clean, then dirty, then clean, and finally dirty clothes.

In those 21 days, I exercised only a few more times than twice, surrendered my Whole 30 ways slowly at first then with complete abandon, forgotten family prayers and scripture study more often than I remembered, worn makeup maybe twice, and used the same ponytail band every. single. day without losing it. That may be an entry in the ponytail record books.

In those 21 days, I've been the driver, the planner, the entertainer, the navigator, the dietician, the laundress, and the disciplinarian.

In the last few days, I added another title. I morphed into the zookeeper.

Twenty-one days on the road alone with three kids would make anyone crazy, right? And I completely lost myself in the process.

I have children that are brilliant, energetic, fantastic, sensitive, rambunctious, noisy, emotional, and easily distracted. My kids are hard. It's not news to me that they are harder than most. Unlike some parents who seem completely oblivious of their children's behaviors, I get it. I do. When we travel, I have to be on high alert every moment we are outside (or in a restaurant or in a hotel room or in a pool). If I turn my back even for a few minutes (take a shower or get my own plate at a breakfast buffet), they are spanking each other or dueling with plastic knives or wandering off or not following along behind. I know people can hear us through hotel walls and across quiet exhibition halls. I know.

After 21 days of this, I had reached the end. The End, I say.

While waiting in the ticket line at Mesa Verde National Park, Micah elbowed his way onto a display ladder, Evie climbed up onto the ticket counter, and Hyrum started throwing Anakin Skywalker eyes at me because I wouldn't allow him to poke his disobeying sister. (You know which eyes I'm talking about, right? He has them practiced and perfected.) Before losing my cool completely, I pocketed the tour tickets and corralled my three miscreants out to the parking lot.

"We're going home right now." I opened up my map app and they heard the ominous phrase "Starting route to . . ."

What? They all three knew that the one stop I wanted to make on our three-week adventure was the cliff dwellings of the ancient Pueblo Indians.

That's when it happened.

All four of us started to cry. Kids crying to convince me to stay, that it was my lifelong dream and I shouldn't give up now. Mom crying that I was so embarrassed, that no matter what I did they wouldn't listen to me.

I meant it, too.

In the end, they convinced me that they would listen and obey, pinky promising each other to higher standards of obedience.

What had happened to the fun mom who rode roller coasters and pitched tents in the rain? What had happened to the organized mom who had designated suitcases for dirty laundry, Sunday clothes, and camping gear? Where had she gone?

After 21 days, I had lost sight of why I had embarked on this adventure--the panoramic 360-degree big picture view of why I had planned this trip in the first place.

I had become so focused on the minutiae of minutes and disapproving glances that I had forgotten about the future. These three weeks will become memories with our family. Just us. Us and this beautiful country we live in. Us and museums and geysers and caves and water slides and mountains and forests and roller coasters and horses and so. many. gift. shops. Moments holding each of their hands. Moments laughing in bed in the morning, listening to recounted dreams. Moments kissing their foreheads just because I was sitting by them on a train. Moments rejoicing at the sighting of a missing license plate (we ended up seeing 49 of the 50 states (dang Delaware) and most of the Canadian provinces as well). Moments together that will gel into permanent, joyful memories.

Pinky promises aside, they were far from perfect today, but somehow it didn't matter as much. After we had unpacked into the last hotel room, Micah asked if they could spend some time outside, looking at the unparalleled view of southern Colorado. I said sure, and as he headed out the door, he turned, caught my eye, and stopped. "Can we do it as a family?"

Only stopping long enough to grab my camera, I followed them, unskillfully hopping over the wooden balcony and landing on the grass below. I followed them--watching Hyrum find a perfect walking stick for his baby sister, listening to Evie assign each brother a musketeer's identity, witnessing Micah's kindness as he taught Eve to sword fight with sticks and protect her when Hyrum got too into his character.

That panoramic view of the mesas and hills and pinon pine and endless blue sky as the backdrop for their play brought my perspective back to where it should be.

It was a moment of pure joy.

I have many posts coming up. Posts of our travels. Posts of parenting tricks I learned on the road. Posts of random thoughts I had as I watched people from all over the world. But this one may be the biggest lesson I learned.

I finally--today--on Day 21, found joy in the journey. Joy in our journey. Our noisy, rambunctious, distracted, energetic, fantastic journey.

Hope it's not too late for that to gel into my memory bank as well.

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