I didn’t think it would work out. I really didn’t. The logistics of taking an unplanned trip with triplet 15mo seemed insurmountable. And my heart hurt. I was torn. I wanted so badly to be there to honor the memory of my Grandpa, to share memories with the family, to laugh and cry…but I just didn’t know how to do it. The questions attacking my mind seemed endless:
- Do we fly? What do we do with the third baby since we can only hold one each?
- Where do we stay? We’d need two hotel rooms or half of my Grandmother and Granddaddy’s house.
- How do we bring three pack ‘n plays, three car seats, the “beast” (our triple stroller), and three babies on an airplane? Not to mention suitcases, diaper bags, etc.
- If we fly, we have to rent a van since we can’t split up between family members or all ride in one car. And nobody can pick us up because we fill up a van. Can we afford that?
- If we drive, can David take off two extra days for travel time?
- How do I fit in breastfeeding three babies throughout the day (which still takes 45 mins to an hour each time)?
- What will I do if we make it there and the babies have a meltdown during the memorial service which is right during naptime? It will take both of us out of the service…what’s the point in going???
In addition to these questions, the normal ones every family faces of cost, packing, food, exhausted children, exhausted parents, etc swam in my mind for days and days leading up to us looking at each other and realizing…we had to drive. It had only been two months since our first trip to North Carolina. That is not nearly long enough to forget the challenges and exhaustion it is to travel with three babies. We were dreading another one. But David was given time off at work, more than willing to make the trek and support me in whatever it took to get us there. So I began making my lists and checking it twice. We mapped out a route. We were going to say goodbye to my Grandpa.
In preparation for the trip, I began making extras of our meals for the babies to eat while we were gone. I didn’t know what mealtimes would be like or where we’d end up eating and knew that it would be so much easier on me there if I could just toss their meal in a bag and head out. I packed as little as I could and sent the three pack ‘n plays with my parents (thank you!!!) and we still had a full van and car-top carrier! I somehow fit all five of our clothing and shoes, coats and hats into one suitcase. I am still blown away. However, we had a small suitcase for the various random things for the babies (diapers, wipes, blankets, sippies, books, etc), a toy bag, a diaper bag, a cooler, three travel high chairs, the massive triple stroller and a backpack for each mealtime stop along the way. We cut out a breastfeeding (oh the babies’ protests!) and managed to shave about two hours off our travel time. What used to take my family (growing up) of seven people 8-9 hours to drive took us 14.5 hours in November. This time we were determined to make it in 12.
The trip up wasn’t terrible considering what we were doing to those poor munchies: stretching them between mealtimes, squishing them for “naptimes” in car seats next to a couple of blankie-stealing siblings, and forcing them to ride next to one screaming brother or sister for hours at a time. Oh, and running Baby Signing Times for about 5 hours. Ha!
We ended up staying at Ridgecrest (Lifeway Christian Stores’ beautiful retreat center), which is in Asheville – about 45 minutes from where my Grandpa lived. This is one of my favorite places for Exodus International (where David works) to host their annual Exodus Freedom conferences. In fact, the babies had been there once before – while they were in my tummy!!! My parents braved the snow and ice (yes, Floridians, it was cold!) to set up our pack ‘n plays in the adjoining room. That was a HUGE help. The last time we traveled to North Carolina we had quite a time getting everything in and set up and babies down with just the two of us at midnight – cranky, angry, sad babies… =) So, we pulled them out of the car seats into the icy, frigid air and put them in the “beast” and strolled in at a decent 10pm. I quickly sat down to nurse them all to calm them and we put them in the cribs and shut the door. Ahhh….HOLY COW! We shut the door! The door between the two rooms that didn’t have a handle on our side!!!! The door from the hallway I had already bolted because we weren’t going to be going in and out of it. Screaming babies. Panicked mom. Shoving doors. Bumping deadbolts. Stretching fingers. We called the front desk and they said they’d send someone right over. She told him to hurry because she could hear the babies screaming in the background. And screaming they were. We made so much noise trying to get those doors open. Finally, David got the door open. And the babies screamed their protest at being kept awake. It was now 11:30pm. Goodnight.
The next day we napped the babies in the morning (ha.) and headed over to my Uncle Randy and Aunt Lisa’s for a dinner with the family. Yummy spaghetti (Aunt Lisa’s Italian!), lots of hugs. I so enjoyed seeing them all again, as well as some family I hadn’t seen in 10+ years! They all met the babies and took pictures and tried to guess which was Emma and which was Makenna. It is sooooo different being with family as a mom of multiple children. With mobile babies constantly being passed from one relative to another in another room, I was constantly counting “1-2-3” and watching the stairs that went downstairs. Following conversations and finishing sentences is really challenging. I can’t just give the cute baby back like I could before I was a mom. Now, they are mine. They are given back to me when they fall apart because of so many missed naps. I was so tempted to think “what’s the point?” This is way more stressful, we should have stayed home. But this is my normal now. And there is a point. I was there. It didn’t look the way I wish it could have, I only got to spend a total of two hours with family before we had to make the 45 minute drive back to get babies to bed. But I got to be there. And hug family. And hear stories. And introduce my sweet babies to relatives.
The next morning we tried napping the babies again and then headed out to the memorial service. We arrived with not a minute to spare (good GRIEF, coatshatssocksshoes x three going out to the car, coming off in the car and going back on to get inside…why do people live up north? All you HOMs mamas, why? Tell me, please!! =). Five minutes into the service, it became apparent that two of the three babies were not going to make it quietly. So David took them out. I was so disappointed. But so grateful for him.
The service was so precious. So many stories! (Scrambled eggs, getting teased and not realizing it, chasing squirrels, growing corn, dancing with Grandma…) I lost it several times. Daniel put together a beautiful video of pictures of Grandpa – the ones from his childhood I’d never seen! I found out Grandpa started an autobiography! I cannot wait to get a copy! It was a very memorable service and I think it honored the memory of this hard-working, family-loving, generous man. Honored him very well.
Oh, and Makenna (my charge during the service) played happily and almost quietly at my feet until the service was almost over when she fell and got her head stuck between the chair legs. It was really funny but laughter would not have been appropriate at that time. So now I laugh. Oh, Baby Girl, I’m sorry. But your face was funny. How I love you. And after the service, a gentleman who played poker with Grandpa came up to me and said he was so grateful for the noise she made during the service – a reminder of youth and happiness in the midst of a room full of sorrowful people mourning the death of a loved one. How kind. He also went up to my husband and told him he wished David hadn’t taken the babies out – for the same reasons. What?! Oh, what a blessing those words were to me! Perhaps he was remembering the stress of trying to keep his own children quiet, many years ago. Regardless, I think Grandpa would have agreed. (However, the scene that played out in the hallway with the two babies and David….yeah, still probably a good thing we took them out. =)
We went down the hall and ate some good food, took pictures, toasted to Grandpa, and passed the babies around and around and around. There were several tables set up with pictures, Grandpa’s uniform, medals won in the air force, letters, books, etc. It was a good day. A sad one, but a good day. Grandpa was loved and cherished and respected. He will continue to be by his family. And I look forward to telling our children what a great man he was and how much I loved him.
We headed out early the next morning praying that our nap-less babies would do decently on the drive home. Poor Noah. He just much prefers his crib to that car seat. Oh well. We made it out of the freezing cold region and into our much more enjoyable (read: coat-less) weather. Thanks to a nice fellow driver, we were alerted to the fact that our car top carrier top was coming loose. Oh joy. David jimmied the lock and we headed off again…only to be flagged down 30 minutes later by someone else. So we hopped off the interstate and David fixed it good this time. It wasn’t coming loose.
At our last stop for the night, we had the first of two blow-outs that night (reason #1 why I hate disposable diapers…I never have a blowout in cloth!). That was fun. Just what I always wanted to deal with. Always. As we were pulling out of the parking lot, babies fed and ready to fall asleep, we checked the digital odometer and it read 210 miles. Sweet! We only had 150 miles left, so we could make it home! Well, about 100 miles on the road, we realized that it had been set to kilometers. We had 50 miles left to drive and only 42 miles of gas. Great. (Totally my fault, too!) So we had to stop to get gas or risk getting stranded on an empty stretch of interstate near home. So we stopped…I don’t think a mouse could have been quieter! We were both trying so hard not to wake the babies. They did wake up but didn’t make a peep, just stared at David through the window while he pumped gas. Then as soon as we were back on the road – they were out! And they went down in the nursery when we got home, like a dream! Oh, praise the Lord for small mercies!!! A wonderful end to an emotionally packed and exhausting weekend. I’m so very, very glad we went.