We are now the proud owners of a minivan! We bought a van from the good people at Warehouse Auto and then promptly put that sucker to work driving 2,458 miles on a big ole Christmas road trip.
Taking two small kids on a trip of that magnitude was a huge undertaking that required weeks of preparation. It had been two years since we last visited our homeland in Dixieland, and we were more than ready to go back! Bright Eyes had several great-grandparents who were anxious to meet her for the first time.
The trip was both the best of times and the worst of times, as is typical of long-awaited events of that nature. It was exhausting and draining on all of us to be on the road so much. However, in the midst of so many travel difficulties were periods of great joy. When we could finally sit still and just be, it was sheer bliss. The beach is always a great place for being. Our time there was very restorative.
Our girls saw the ocean for the first time and flew a kite for the first time. The BabyGirl bonded with Granny over biscuits and Bright Eyes established a connection with Granddaddy over apple slices. We breathed in the sweet sea air. We ate tons of seafood and i actually liked raw oysters!
The beach is a very, VERY long way from the Kingdom of the Cornstalks, so we were fortunate to have the opportunity to go there. It was a special time that i will always remember. It was a true vacation in that our usual cares and concerns about day-to-day struggles were exchanged for beautiful scenery and meaningful relationships. And the food! Granny's cornbread, Kay's turkey, my dad's grouper sandwiches—the whole week was delicious!
After a week at the beach, we continued our trek to spend a week with The Professor's family. Our time there was a blur of go, go, go to see as many family members as possible. Lare & Amy were so hospitable to have a big group over to dinner with children running around all over the place. We had Christmas festivities at The Judge's house with kids frantically tearing into presents. Grandma Jackie and Grandpa Lou had us over for a wonderful visit in their home. We were delighted to see Grandmother in her new assisted living apartment. Allison helped me get caught up on Top Chef, and our girls played with their cousins to their hearts' content.
When it comes down to it, an undertaking of this level is simply not possible without a good deal of help. There were many people along the way who eased our burden by looking after us. We are so thankful to the people who took the time to notice our needs and lend us a hand.
For example: On our drive to Lare & Amy's house, we took a winding, curvy, hilly road. The Professor made the comment, "You don't see roads like this in the Kingdom of the Cornstalks!" Immediately from the backseat we heard the sound of poor Bright Eyes throwing up. She had never in her life driven on hills and curves, and she was not accustomed to the motion of it. We therefore arrived at our destination with a child covered in vomit. Amy dropped what she was doing to dig up some clean clothes for Bright Eyes to wear.
After dinner the kids were all playing and the BabyGirl asked me to come upstairs to help her with something. While i was up there, Amy came up to rotate some laundry. It struck me as kind of an odd time to be doing laundry while hosting a houseful of people, but ya know, whatever. I was actually pretty impressed with the multi-tasking she displayed; i would never have remembered about my laundry with all those people over.
When it was time for us to leave, she said, "Oh! Let me grab Bright Eyes' coat!" She presented us with a freshly-washed, vomit-free coat hot out of the dryer and smelling like lavender breeze. Turns out the load of laundry that i was criticizing her for was MY DAUGHTER'S COAT.
I was blown away by the thoughtfulness of it. She saved me so much hassle by washing it then and there. Also, that particular coat is special because it's been in the family for decades. I was so glad it had been washed promptly so that it didn't stain.
It was a small act of kindness that made such an impact.
Bright Eyes is in that stage of getting into EVERYTHING. It is so much fun because she is exploring non-stop and learning new things every moment. She has to get her hands on each new thing she sees: What does it feel like? What does it taste like? Can I bang it on the table?
I really love this age. The caveat, though, is that she has to be watched like a hawk 24-7. It requires a lot of energy to take her into someone else's home, where she grabs the glass ornaments off the Christmas tree, splashes in the cat's water bowl, digs through the trash, pulls on the table cloth, and knocks over every drinking glass she encounters. Uncle Stan was so attentive to our needs and made the experience of keeping up with her so much easier. I was trying to cut Bright Eyes' food into small pieces while holding wiggly, squiggly Bright Eyes in my lap at the dinner table. The task necessitated six hands. Stan saw me from across the room and came over to cut her food for me.
Throughout the evening, he continued to bring me things so that i didn't have to get up from my post of watching or holding Bright Eyes. I had mentioned that i like cashews, so he brought me cashews. He came to my seat to offer me coffee. When i said that i could only drink decaf at that time of night, he offered to make me decaf.
The job of watching Bright Eyes at a big family dinner is one that prohibits you from participating with the group. While everyone else is eating dinner, you are feeding her. While everyone else has dessert, you are in the other room changing a diaper. While everyone else is engaged in conversation, you are chasing her from room to room. Uncle Stan saw all that and made sure i wasn't alone.
I was so inspired by Uncle Stan. He serves everyone around him so effortlessly. It's truly a gift. I do not inherently possess this quality, but i long to develop it.
One of my favorite names of God is El Roi, the God Who Sees. In order to effectively help someone, you have to see their needs. Amy saw that Bright Eyes needed a clean coat to go home in. Uncle Stan saw that i couldn't take care of myself while keeping up with Bright Eyes. My dad saw that we could never afford a beach vacation.
So many people over the course of the two weeks saw our needs and met them. Things like that are what turn a grueling road trip into an experience of God's character.