Lee's Summit. Chicago. Hilton Head. Mt. Airy. Lee's Summit.
We had potty breaks in Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, and the car seat.
Our travel planner (me) underestimated our gas budget by $150.00.
Our meal allowance diminished three days before we got home.
Oh well. At that point, I gave up on the dollar menu and ordered what I wanted.
We were already over budget. I'll take a Big Mac, please!
Only once on this crazy road trip did I wish for a limo window divider to separate the front and back seat. The kids weren't even fighting. They were just singing so incredibly loud. So loud that I couldn't hear myself sing. Normally that's a good thing considering I'm helplessly tone-deaf, but I had a brief thought as I listened to my voice ring out above the kids that maybe God "touched" my vocal chords in such a way that now I sounded a bit like Whitney Houston. I wanted the divider so I could test my new, angelic voice.
I was assured by someone in the back seat I did not sound like her. I had not received a miracle.
The truth hurts.
The trip was AWE-SOME.
Somehow, individually, we all put our "stages" on hold for the week and just enjoyed each other.
How amazing is that!
-Walking on the beach of Lake Michigan. (Had we known there was "beach" in "Chicago" we might not have made the 1020 mile trek down to South Carolina.)
-Changing for the wedding in the McDonald's bathroom. Luggage spread across the booth while the manager spied us suspiciously. Umm, we'll take a coke with the use of your bathroom.
-Watching my studly husband riding a bike and hauling a baby trailer. Beach towels draped over his neck and a beach chair as a backpack, he bravely led our bike parade (Dad with Noah and twenty pounds of beach gear in a toddler bike trailer, Josh on a big bike, Madelin on a medium bike, Mom with Savannah on a tandem bike, Zach pulling up the rear and picking up all of the gear that fell out of our bikes)--he confidently led us 1.5 miles everyday to the beach. Impossible to look cool, yet I think he's much cuter as a family man than he was as a football player.
-Savannah riding on the back of my tandem bike. Are you pedaling, Savannah, or just riding?
-Seeing the beach for the first time in years---is there anything sweeter than children running toward the water with uninhibited excitement---Watch Out for Sharks! No one even stopped. Why weren't they afraid? I was.
-Entering the ocean dangerously deep (up to my hips), I attempted boogie boarding with my kids---my STINKER son, Zach, swam underwater and grabbed my leg. I suppose hitting him with the boogie board over the head was probably not my best mom moment, but he totally deserved it!
-Biking the beach---amateur beach bikers, we rode easily with the wind at our backs---how fun is this! Why didn't anyone wave their hands and warn us that riding back into the wind was going to be a NIGHTMARE? Madelin's crying, boys sweating profusely, I'm swearing under my breath. Preston? Preston just kept biking as his family grew smaller and smaller behind him. Savannah, are you pedaling? A look behind me shows that she's using the bike ride to practice some arabesque circus moves on the back of the bike. I think I started to cry then. Next time we'll do the one way bike ride on the beach and catch the bus back.
The trip was packed with memories. The best part? The best part--the unforeseen gift of the trip--was witnessing the beauty of a big family working together. That picture is rare for us--seven intensely selfish people can create quite a chaotic household, so we treasured every moment of watching our family love...watching our kids show grace...watching our family put aside their own wants for just a week and looking out for the needs of others. Absolutely beautiful. Even if the kids barely remember this adventure, Preston and I have priceless snapshots hidden in our hearts and deep gratitude that God gave us the privilege of raising this large family. For one week...one week...our big family worked. We laughed loudly, played together, helped each other, talked together, showed grace to each other, biked together, shopped together, swam together, lost Noah together, and found Noah together. There's a secret in big families (the secret that's often hidden from those of us in them)---when big families work--they TOTALLY ROCK!
We're back home...back to our selfish, fleshly squabbles...back to putting our own needs first...
BUT...now, when I catch people smiling with pity at us as we attempt to go somewhere in public with all of our kiddos...when I hear someone say (daily), "Wow--don't you have your hands full?"
I can smile with a new confidence...with a new secret...(nope--not pregnant)
The secret is that Yep...we do have our hands full...and it's a sweet, outrageously, fabulous, wonderful GIFT...
That's my new secret...