Monday, May 5, 2014

Day 1 of our trip

taking a picture of a butterfly
It's one of those road trips which has the potential to be really good, or really bad, depending on the attitude. We are driving to Chicago for my husband's medical boards. Normal people fly in the day before the test, get a good night of sleep, take the test and fly back. Since the boards are on Friday morning, if my husband were to do this, he would not be able to get back home before Shabbos. He has done this in the past, but this time we are making a road trip from the whole experience, driving up and then back down.

the boys heaved the biggest stick they could find
Normal people spend the day before a major trip packing and then drive out the first thing in the morning. We both had something going on Wednesday morning: my husband had to work, and I had to teach my coop class on Battles and Weapons. Oh, and by that point we still did not have a place to stay for Shabbos. The few obvious suggestions fell through, my husband called the shuls, but nothing was coming through, and our preferred alternative (state park cabin) was not to be found within immediate Chicago vicinity. As I was teaching my class, another homeschooling friend was trying frantically to get in touch with me to let me know that she found us a place.  We were able to set out on this trip without worrying about what are we going to do for Shabbos.

You can teach your kids about Earth's rotation and time zones and the vastness of the US, or you can drive through the time zones. You can teach about terrain and weathering, or you can observe curvy highways cut through the mountains and waterfalls pouring off them, right beside interstates. We clearly saw when we drove into Appalachian mountains and then when we left for the foothills. We stopped at Tennessee welcome center on an island in the middle of the dammed Tennessee river. We swung into Nashville for some authentic Indian food. We used to get Indian food in Houston, and we have missed it. In Nashville, I found Woodlands, which is vegetarian and kosher. And authentic: all the spices are right and strong, all the dishes hot and steamy. My boys ordered dosas and chappati, and my husband and I got combo dinners, with mango lassi on the side. However, the baby has been up for a long time, and he was not interested in sitting in a high chair. He actually climbed out twice despite being strapped in, and kept trying to bang the spoon on the table. He would not be distracted with food. We took turns with him outside. Meanwhile, the temperature dropped, so I put on his fleecy snowsuit. My kids were wearing shorts and t-shirts, which was perfect wear for this morning. Now they were huddling in their winter jackets.

You can tell your kids all you want about proper table manners, or you can take them to a fairly casual restaurant and they can look around and decide for themselves that this is "fine cuisine" and requires better behavior. 10 yo straightened up, tucked in his napkin, kept his voice down. The younger two calmly walked around the table for the tastes of rice patties. If only those table manners would rub off on the baby...

The best piece of baby equipment that we ever got was pack-n-play. We got the most basic Graco one, and it served us well through four kids. That was where the baby slept last night. Between changing the time zones and not having his crib slats that he likes to grab, he was up at 5 am. Worse, he woke up his siblings, who tried their best to be quiet. He crawled and checked out every single drawer and crevice. The best source of entertainment was the roll of toilet paper. I usually do not let kids waste it, but this was getting a bit desperate. He ripped off a few sheets, wiped the floor with them, crumpled them, ripped them to shreds and then placed them into the garbage can. All this entertainment lasted for about half an hour.

The pool was opening up at 6 am, so I took the three older kids down there by 6, while the baby kept my husband company when he davened. Nobody was in the pool at that time, which was very nice for us. It was indoors and heated, one of the nicest hotel pools I have ever seen. The boys splashed and swam around and we did not have to worry about being quiet. 4 yo was a bit unsure about going into the big pool, but she warmed up towards the end. It was just so nice to watch and spend some time just with the older kids and not be catching anyone diving into the pool head first. 10 yo can really tread water, if not outright swim. 8 yo is cautious enough not to go deep enough. We just laughed and had fun. Then I switched with my husband, who had by now a pretty tired and hungry 1 yo.

The baby ended up falling asleep on me before we were ready to leave, so I sat holding him in the lobby while the kids had breakfast. I liked how I did not have to be anywhere else at that moment, and I was unavailable to pack or check my e-mail or hunt down elusive reception (the hotel was supposed to have wi-fi, but it was spotty). After the kids left to pack up, I had an elderly lady approach me and tell me how the kids are well-mannered. She said that she liked how they listened. I nodded politely, thinking how lucky I am that she did not witness them while they were squabbling or ignoring their parents. Then they rode into the lobby, my husband and 10 yo pushing the cart with all our luggage, 4 yo sitting on top of the suitcases, and 8 yo hanging on in the back, wheeling a duffel behind him, grinning. We do not roll quietly.

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