Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Ever since we've had kids, we've kind of been stranded in Abilene. By choice, though. We never really put forth the effort to venture out of our comfort zone. Here we have all the gluten free food we need, diapers and sippys galore, and air conditioning forever. Going out of town seemed like it would be more of a train wreck than a train ride.
A few weeks back, Christopher got a check in the mail from one of those vicious Air Force programs that in the end, totally ripped him off. While the check should have been $10,000, it was only $150. We had seen the lack of funds coming from a mile away, and gladly accepted the chunk of change that was given. Some money is better than no money, right? We tucked the un cashed piece of paper aside in a zipper pouch for Eleanore's 3rd birthday. We wanted to put it to good use.
"We should go somewhere", we discussed. "The zoo"? That's only 15 minutes away though, but she hasn't been there in months. Actually, she hasn't been there in almost a year (really?). "No, not the zoo", we agreed. "We can go to the zoo anytime".
"Sea world"?!, we pondered. "Yeah right, drive all the way to San Antonio... no".
"What about the Aquarium" ...
Yes. We would go to the Dallas World Aquarium. Dallas isn't that far away, is it? We've never been there, but we know people that go there on the weekends, so it can't be that far. We marked the calender, made sure not to touch the check, and borrowed a "My Trip to the Aquarium" book from the library. We couldn't wait.
A couple of days before our final departure, I got organized. I made lists of things that needed to be done, I packed bags of spare clothes and emergency towels, I baked bagels and cookie-brownie bars to snack on (traveling gluten free is hard work, yumm). I put together a backpack full of books and toys for Miss Eleanore. I gathered a collection of plushies and chewies for Mister Charlie (hes a baby, not a dog, really). I proudly crossed things off of my lists left and right. "Bring it on, trip" I chanted. Besides, I had a brand new gel pen that I was using, so the more strikes I got to make on the paper, the better.
The morning of the trip arrived. Eleanore had barely slept the night before, shaking in her Dora bed from excitement. We had gone to bed late, too, probably staying up to watch a rerun of Seinfeld or something. OK, there is no "or something", that's exactly what we had stayed up doing, and I know it. The alarm went off at 5:00 am. We both took showers, and then slumped ourselves downstairs for a cup of coffee and a breakfast biscuit (again, my handy baking skills for the win). We packed the ice bag (basically an ice chest in a giant pink tote bag), delivered the toys and towels (if you're wondering why I brought towels, its because I wanted to be prepared for every bodily fluid that the kids could possibly throw at me) to the car, and woke up the beasts.
The plan was, the kids would surely sleep the whole way there. We were hitting the road by 7am, the sun wasn't all the way up in the sky yet, the air was nice and cool, the gentle motions of the rocking car would ease them back into sleepy dreamy la la land. Surely.
Eleanore teetered on the edge of sleep for the first 10 minutes or so, but before we were even out of the city limits, her eyes were bouncing around from sight to sight, hunting for the Aquarium that she knew was hours away. Her legs were galloping and kicking the back of the driver's side seat, her hands had taken on minds of their own and were grabbing and hitting everything they could reach, and her mouth wouldn't, stop, talking. Animals this, land fish that, divers this, aquarium aquarium aquarium birthday that.
About an hour into the trip, we made our first stop. A random gas station truck stop type setup, just off the freeway. Eleanore used the potty like a good girl, Charlie ate when he wasn't hungry, then giving it back to us in a projectile manner, and Eleanore opened up her birthday package from her pen pal, which included a very special birthday dress that I had ordered just for this occasion.
Inside the package were a few gifts. A miniature "The Little Mermaid" tea set, and a bottle full of colorful pony beads. Neither were things that could be easily opened up and played with inside of the moving car, but that didn't stop an eager Eleanore from asking over, and over again, for the next 2 hours. Non. Stop. The dress though, she could put on and wear right away, and it fit perfectly! And with the dress, came some cute matching pigtail holders. She loved it.
By this point in time, Charlie decided that he was done sitting in his seat. He had been there against his will for an hour already, and was ready to come out and play now, thanks. When I responded to his cries with a "aww, its OK Charlie", this made him even more angry. Because to him, of course, it wasn't OK. He was stuck facing the back seat, with only a stupid fluffy Elmo book to look at. What the hell, Mom?
And then Eleanore, who couldn't stand the sounds of her brother crying, began to cry herself.
More crying. Crying x2.
And whining. And yelling. And complaining. And every other "I hate you" emotion that could possibly be directed towards a Mother and Father who are trying to enjoy themselves in the front seat while the kids are held prisoner in back. It was officially a family road trip. Our very first. And off to a great start.
I haven't driven in a big city in years. I'm from Portland, Oregon, where driving was never really hard, just kind of tricky sometimes. None of my previous adventures behind the wheel could possibly prepare me for the hell hidden amongst the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex. My knuckles were ghost white, clinging to the steering wheel as if the tighter I held it, the more control I'd have over everything going on around me. I claimed the area all around me as my space bubble, and winced anytime somebody nudged it, or more frequently, rudely cut into it. By this point, Charlie had fallen asleep, thank goodness, but Eleanore was repeating "I have to go pee pee" one hundred times a minute. "Hold it", I said back to her, using my we're-going-to-die voice. She was in a pull up anyways, and by now I didn't care if we all drowned in pee, I just wanted to get there.
Three and a half (OK maybe four) agonizing hours later, we pulled into a parking space at the Dallas World Aquarium (but not after getting lost trying to find the damn place first). Somehow, luck must have had a soft spot for us after all, because we managed to grab a nice shaded place under a tree. Both of the kids were practically jumping out of the car before we could even get the emergency break on. We payed our $5 for parking, packed up the stroller (that we would end up using for nothing more than a luggage shuttle later), and started off on our adventure by foot. Eleanore holding Daddy's hand, Charlie holding mine.
To be continued...