You know how once in awhile, you have those epiphanies, or those moments of clarity where you go, Wow! I think I just learned something! ? My long trip from Louisiana to Wisconsin, back to Louisiana again with just me, three kids and a dog, helped me learn a few things, gain some clarity, and smacked me in the head a few times telling me to wake up.
1) I really can drive 1200 miles by myself and when you include the return trip that makes 2400 miles.... by myself. No one else to ask to wait with the kids while I run to the bathroom quick, no one to take the wheel when my eyelids got heavy, and no one else to help run interference when the kids wouldn't stop bickering in the back seat. There was no caffeine to help keep me awake, because I can't have any.
We've taken this trip so many times in the past, and each time we do I look at Husband, who drives 7/8 of the way, and wonder how he can do it. How can he sit there that long and drive that distance? Now I know!
2) Anything that is placed remotely near the dog can and will get chewed. If he can reach it, he will chew it/ shred it/ destroy it. He doesn't know the difference between a brand new book, a cardboard box, or a child's beloved stuffed animal. Bring *many* chew toys while on a long trip with a dog. They get bored, too.
3) When you need to sleep in a hotel that is clearly on the wrong side of town, hold your head up like you're supposed to be there. The welcome sign that says "F* the Crypts" wasn't meant for a small white girl anyway!
4) Bribing children is always a good idea when you have to spend 24 hours in a car with them. They will behave much better. And if you have a DVD player in your car, Rock On! Let them sit and watch all the movies they want to!
5) Spending Christmas in a snug, cozy home, while your husband is 7000 miles away in a combat zone isn't as fun as it sounds. *But*, anyone can get through it. I'm still alive, I came out on the other end unscathed, and we're all much stronger than we were before.
6) Seeing the Nutcracker Ballet is a beautiful experience, even if you've seen it almost 10 times before. But it's much more beautiful when you get to see the look on your daughter's face, who is seeing it for the first time.
7) Good friends will find you no matter where you are. And send you gifts, and cards, and well wishes full of much love and support, and make you cry in front of your parents.
8) Parents with grown children miss doing the Santa thing, no matter how much they grumble about it! Stay at your parent's house on Christmas Eve just once so they can share in the joy on your children's faces Christmas morning.
9) Maintaining all the qualities that make up a good marriage is difficult from this far away. It's easy to get wrapped up in the kids, and life in general, and forget there's someone who sits around and thinks about you every second of the day. Marriage doesn't get put on hold just because someone has to be away for a long time, and it takes extra work to keep the communication going.
10) Miranda Lambert is right, everyone *is* famous in a small town. Especially if they are my sister. (and now me by association) You can also become famous if you tip the hairdresser $17 for a $30 cut.
11) The Harlem Globetrotters are just as fun now as they were 20 years ago. Only, 20 years ago they were all a bunch of old men, and now they are all younger than me.
12) It still snows way too much in Wisconsin. Way... way.... too much. It's nice to visit, play in the snow, then get the heck out of there and back to the south where my truck isn't covered in salt for 6 months out of the year.
13) Life goes on, even when you have to leave your loved ones for awhile. Nephews still grow way too tall, sisters still party on with their friends, and parents still live their lives one day at a time.
14) The trip there is always shorter than the trip home.
15) My most important discovery is something I once said would never happen: A family who has been through much pain and grief, and has completely fallen apart from eachother, *can* begin to heal and come together to share a wonderful Christmas. God brings certain people together in ways we cannot explain or understand, but I know He does it so that this family can begin to come together in good times again. I'm speaking of my inlaws, who I had the pleasure of joining this Christmas at my sis-in-law's house. Although, the best part was getting all the grandkids in one place at one time, for the first time ever. Much to my MIL's delight.
16) Perhaps the grossest discovery was that a toddler can indeed shoot projectile vomit all over the backseat when you are so close to being home from a mega long trip that you can almost see your city's lights on the skyline. And, diapers do not wipe up vomit very well. They aren't really absorbant in that kind of a way.
I'm sure so many other wonderful things were learned on this trip, but the big ones will stick with me the most. It's hard trying do the best I can for the kids, while making sure my long-distance husband is happy at the same time. However with about 13 1/2 more months to go, I'll have plenty of practice trying to get it right.