We're just back from a long weekend with my parents, who live in a suburb of Phoenix, AZ. My aunt and uncle were in town, and the family planned an early celebration for my grandparents' 70th wedding anniversary. I wanted to be there for that, and thought the kids would have fun visiting their grandparents, so we figured out the logistics and off we went. My husband had just taken a couple of days off when his parents were in town, so he couldn't spare any time off. I could, but didn't want to drive over to AZ with the kids on my own, so we decided that my Mom would fly over to join us on the road trip. My husband would fly over on Friday night, go to the party and hang out with us on Saturday, and then we'd drive back on Sunday.
It was a pretty good plan. But nothing went quite as planned. The basics all happened as we planned- but everything was just a little bit off.
First of all, we were all sick. We all caught a nasty cold, starting with my parents a couple of weeks before the trip. None of us were likely to be contagious, but we weren't feeling like going out and having a lot of fun. Of all the travelers, the only one who felt really good was Pumpkin, who shrugged this cold off in a just a couple of days.
Then, Petunia's usual post-infection mild constipation turned for the worse, making the drive over pretty miserable for her- she screamed in protest when we got her back into her car seat after our mid-morning break and after our lunch/play stop. She cried and screamed "Mommy! Help! Poopies!" for most of our first evening at my parents' house. I finally had to go get some laxative for her to sort things out.
Finally, we got spooked by the specter of the vacation tummy bug, and ended up making only a brief appearance at the anniversary party. My cousin hosted the party, and one of her kids got sent home from day care after throwing up. We are still a bit traumatized by the great Hawaii Christmas Norovirus incident, and were more than a little afraid of the thought of trying to drive home with vomiting children... so we bowed out of the party and just swung by for a little while when the party had moved outdoors. (It turns out that we need not have worried- the poor kid had gotten four teeth in quick succession and probably just had an upset stomach from the teething drool. Better safe than sorry, I guess.) We did go around to spend more time with my grandparents and my aunt and uncle that evening, and the kids played happily while we visited- so at least we didn't miss out on seeing everyone.
But, you know what? It was still a nice little mini-vacation. It was great to see my grandparents, and to give them a chance to see the kids- who behaved better than I dared to hope during our visit, leaving my grandparents and my aunt and uncle with a false but flattering opinion of our children! (They are cute, but they are not usually so angelic.) The kids had a lot of fun at Mimi and Boppa's house, even if we didn't get in the fun outings we had expected. I got the chance to lounge around a bit while the kids were entertained by my parents. I even read a book.
So, despite the general air of feeling not quite well that hung over the trip, I'm glad we went. The alert reader may notice that our travel plans were quite different from those we employed during our California Road Trip- on that trip, we tried to keep the driving to only a couple of hours per day. On this trip, we drove from San Diego to Phoenix (a six hour drive if you don't stop) in a single day.
Frankly, I was surprised at how well the drives went. Both directions, we left in the morning and stopped in Yuma for lunch and a good long play at the West Wetlands park, which is a truly great park, with a "regular" playground and a gigantic castle "imagination playground". On the way over, I decided to break up the morning drive by stopping at the Desert View tower outside of Jacumba. The kids were moderately impressed with the tower and the view and not at all impressed with the large number of unleashed (but incredibly docile and non-threatening!) dogs roaming around the place, so they would not explore the rocks nearby as I had hoped. We really should work on getting Pumpkin comfortable with dogs again- and I guess now we need to work on Petunia, too, who hadn't previously shown any fear of dogs.
I wish I could say that I have figured out the secret to keeping young children amused in the car, but that would be a lie. Petunia slept a lot, which obviously helped. Pumpkin read, colored, and played with a felt board my Mom had made her. I had my Kindle Fire with me, and she played with it a bit, but mostly preferred to read or look out the window. She napped a little bit, too.
I did pick up some ideas to make the driving (and flying) portion of our upcoming Texas vacation easier: I think I will get each kid her own clipboard and pouch of appropriate crayons/markers, and stock it with papers for coloring. I will also take along some small plastic bags to use to pass snacks to the backseat- we don't let them snack in the car very often, so getting a snack is a treat and serves as a good whine-diffuser. But really, I'm have no idea why the kids tolerated the long drives so well. I I am officially accepting the universe's offer of two good travelers as payback for the fact that neither of my kids slept through the night much before they turned two (heck, Petunia still doesn't reliably sleep through the night, and she is two and a half already). I wonder if the universe thinks this also covers the fact that the kids won't eat vegetables?