The One Thing You Must Have To Road Trip With Children.

I have discovered the one and only true Holy Grail of Kid-Included Road Trips.

Without this, you will surely meet your doom, as your children will find you keeled over from over-questioning, exhaustion, and lack of alone time. And they won’t dial 911 because they have no idea how to use a phone without FaceTime.

So you’ll die.

Do not disregard what I am about to say.


Here it is. Are you ready for the most fantastic nugget of wisdom that I’ve ever shared with you?

If you dare road trip with children, you absolutely must take with you someone who thinks your children are more delightful than you think they are.


For me, that is my mother. For you, it might be someone different. But identify that person in your life, or find a person to be that person in your life, or for all I care hire that person – you just need that person. That person that will laugh at their jokes on the hundredth telling, that will think they’re adorable when you’re so tired you just pray they would spontaneously fall asleep, and who will, with no begrudgingness expressed or implied, gladly take your children on a walk when you sprint in the other direction with your camera.


(Under the ruse that you must hurry to catch the sunset but really you’re just trying to take one single breath without having to answer another “Hey Mommy when will we…” question.)

This invaluable asset became most important to me today after Noah ended up in my bed at 1am (from his air mattress on the floor because I DO NOT sleep with children), then pile-drove into my back with various sharp angles all night, then woke me up at 5:45am, then cried when I took him on a walk so that he didn’t wake up his sister or grandmother, then came back to bed with me and kicked me as I dozed between stabbing pains to the ribs, and then later complained to whoever would listen, “Mommy WOKE ME UP at like 4am and made me take a walk.”

And then later, when on our actual hike, I ended up carrying him up the hills. Which was really peachy for my still-recovering neck, back, and shoulders.

IMG_2237Forgive the lack of makeup. I sweated it all off. It’s probably caked in his lazy hair.



(After which he insisted he didn’t sleep. At all. And when his sister asked, “Then do you remember when we put on the Home soundtrack?” He said, “Well of course. Why wouldn’t I?”)

This all might have been what led me to say to him at the end of the day, “I love you and I appreciate your hug but I really just want you to leave me alone.”

Because I’m a stellar Mom like that.

But Gramamma. She willingly accepted all his hugs, all his jokes, took over for me at bedtime because she could see in my eyes that I was done, and was the ever-important adult conversation companion that one needs when in the presence of children 24/7.

She taught them about plants, helped collect fallen leaves, found butterflies, and explored joyously with them.



But also, the entertainment-education factor.

As I was walking out the door to go pick up my Mom for our road trip, I texted her and said, “Be sure and bring anything you can think of that would help Ali with her nature journal while we’re on the trip.”

She never answered, so I didn’t even know if she’d read my message. Until we unpacked. And she had this.


And then she got out the state park lodge’s iron and ironing board and did this:


(Who even knew what an iron was for?? Now I have something I can do with that awkward triangular thing that sits in the top of my closet!)

And then she sat with Ali as they cut, journaled, and documented all she had taught her during our hikes.

Leaf Journal

Okay nevermind. The one rule that you must follow if you choose to road trip with kids is, take MY Mom.

We’re actually all having a lovely road trip of State Parks (thanks in full to my mother) – follow my pictures real-time here, and see them all compiled later here, but here’s one from each State Park ( that we’ve traveled to so far) that I haven’t gotten to share yet:

Joe Wheeler State Park:


Guntersville Lake State Park:


Desoto State Park:


And also forgive any typos (but INFORM ME IMMEDIATELY), as I’m writing this at 12:31am. After being woken many hours ago at 5:45am. But no need to rehash that.

Fall is Calling.

The time has come for my annual trek north.

North(ish), anyway.

It took longer than usual this year, but Alabama is finally experiencing some crisp temperatures. Which I know is a completely relative term, what is considered crisp and all, but for us, the temperatures have finally dipped into the 50’s – maybe with a few 40’s mixed in.

But this year, instead of begging Chris to take me to a relaxing bed and breakfast in the north Alabama mountains, the kids are old enough for me to take them on my grand adventure and turn it into a school week. We’re leaving Chris at home to work and taking my Mom along for her company and voluminous nature knowledge that will surely make this count as an educational field trip.

(For some reason I never learned much from my mother’s vast stores of nature knowledge, but Ali has soaked it up. So much so that when Gramamma isn’t around, Ali educates me.)

(“If you have any questions about trees or plants, Mom, just ask me.”)

(I may or may not be fit as a homeschool mom.)

But anyway. Our field trip. We have decided to do a north Alabama tour of our beautiful Alabama State Parks.

151106.jpgLake Lurleen State Park – Chris and I took a quick pre-road-trip hike on their beautiful trails Friday.

With the children’s love of hiking and my love of nature photography and hiking, we have become increasingly passionate about our state park system over the last few years. Our state is blessed with a particularly beautiful and diverse park system, and there are far too many parks that I haven’t visited yet. I may have missed the peak of fall colors (I originally planned this trip last week but delayed it because of my wreck injuries, which are actually worse than they were last week, but I cannot ignore the call of the north(ish) even if my neck would rather stay home), but I am positive we will find adventure with or without fall colors.

151103j-Mirrors-in-the-Mountain.jpgOak Mountain State Park – the one that is largely responsible for giving me fall fever.

Our plan is to visit six out of 17 state parks in the next three days: Joe Wheeler, Monte Sano, Cathedral Caverns, Guntersville, DeSoto, and Cheaha State Parks. If you would like to follow along in our adventures, I hope to blog while we’re out, but I will definitely be sharing real-time on Instagram and Twitter, I’ll put a couple on Facebook and Facebook, and we will possibly live stream on Periscope.

I certainly hope to create a special collection of photos for Picture Birmingham from this road trip and the other state parks we’ve visited, and should have a special edition note card set just in time for Christmas presents.

So if you enjoy fall colors,




And every lake reflection I can find,


Then follow along! And who knows – I may even let Ali educate you a little.

The Road Is Always Greener on the Other Side.

It’s actually not, people. Staying on your side of the road is the greenest thing you can do. Because cars getting crushed and heaps of paperwork being made from Police, Paramedics, ER Docs, and Insurance companies is not green at all. And that’s without even mentioning all the plastic used in my lovely neck brace.


See that smug look? I look good in a neck brace and I know it.

(My ambulance selfies, however, did not fully show that. Angles, people. Watch your angles when taking selfies in the back of a careening ambulance while all your body parts are strapped down.)


Speaking of ambulances, they are the least comfortable, least safe feeling, least smooth rides since covered wagons. I commented as much to the paramedic in the back with us (us being me and the lady who hit me, apparently being guinea pigs in some sort of new Uber Ride-Sharing For Ambulances program), and the paramedic told me that our ride was actually much smoother than most.

So yeah. Don’t ride around in an ambulance, people.

(Although the irony of them strapping me down to immobilize my perhaps-broken neck and then knocking me to and fro and up and down was pretty entertaining.)

But I digress.

Let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

It was Wednesday morning, and the kids and I had a very busy day ahead. We had a Symphony field trip at 11, my Grandmother’s 89th birthday party at 12, and Awanas at 6. On top of that, my neighbor was imminently any-minute-now please-God-make-this-happen having a baby, and I was her designated driver and/or child watcher. So I had informed her of my schedule, and was planning on being The Most Evil Symphony-Goer and leaving my phone on for baby-having emergencies.

We also dropped by CVS on the way to pick up a couple of prescriptions. As we left, we were driving down Summit Parkway and I was uncertain which way I should go. Should I take the interstate to Vestavia, or should I go up Shades Crest?

I was in the left turn lane to get on the interstate, but the light was red. And that light takes forever. So I changed my mind and crossed to the right lane to take Shades Crest.

It’s funny, the little decisions in life. I thought that at most, taking the alternate route would have a five minute impact on my day…

I turned left onto Shades Crest Road. I drove by Vestavia Baptist Church and started around a curve.

Which is when I knew my day was about to be much more impacted by my route decision.

There was an SUV coming around the curve in the other direction, at least halfway in my lane, and going extremely fast without any sign of swerving back into her lane.

We were on a two lane road. The sidewalk had a high curb. There was nowhere to go. I knew she was going to hit me as soon as I saw her, so I just slammed on the brakes and braced for impact. (A rather unfortunate subconscious decision.)

During the two seconds of knowing I was about to have a head-on collision and actually colliding, it’s fascinating what goes through one’s brain.

I never wondered if the kids and I would be okay.

My thoughts were as follows:

We’re not going to make it to the symphony. And there was another mom looking for an extra ticket last night! I guess it’s too late to give her ours. I hate our seats won’t get used. Oh – and we’re not going to make it to Mammaw’s birthday party either! Oh gosh everyone’s going to be talking about me having a wreck and I’m going to totally Me-Monster her birthday party without even being there. Oh no what if Renee goes into labor? I better let her know I won’t be able to help her for a couple hours. I guess I should start shopping for a new car, too.

And then there was the crash.

It was significant, but neither the kids or I remember anything much about that particular second. We don’t remember our bodies hitting anything, although all of us ended up with various impact bruises and knots. We don’t remember how loud it was, although I assume it was. My memory picks up at being covered in iced coffee and that my airbag, deployed, was filling the car with a powdery haze that looked very much like smoke. The kids were both screaming and crying, and Ali was panickingly wailing “The car’s on fire! We have to get out! It’s on FIRE!!!!”

I tried to open my driver’s door, but it was completely jammed. My side got hit the worst, and my door would not be opening. I yelled over their crying for Ali to open the back door on the other side of the car. Just about that time, a guy from a yard crew at the house next door opened my front passenger door. The kids climbed out of their door, still crying, and the lawn guy helped me crawl out the front.

At that point, I distinctly remember thinking, This dress is too short for all this maneuvering. I most certainly just flashed the lawn guy. Good thing I’m wearing tights.

We all worked our way out of the car, and I picked up Noah and hugged Ali close to me as both of them cried. In the moment, I wasn’t hurting anywhere, so I didn’t even think to ask them if they were hurt – I was just worried about their emotional state. Until the lawn guy asked them if they were okay.

They said they were. (Their problems would come later. Kid adrenaline is a magical thing that we need to figure out how to bottle and sell as an essential oil.)

At the scene of the wreck, I never saw the impacted side of my car, but assumed that it was pretty bad.


It wasn’t until much later in the day that I saw this picture:


We sat on the retaining wall, which was wet with rain, and tried to figure out what came next. I saw other people on the phone so decided I wouldn’t call 911. The car that had hit me had its entire front panel shaved off, had left its wheel in front of our car, and was sitting perpendicular to our car about 20 feet behind it. It appeared that all of its airbags deployed, and there was a woman sitting in the front seat crying, being pushed on in every direction by airbags.

IMG_1659Picture of her car taken later at the wrecker lot.

I texted Chris. He was in the middle of texting me about work stuff.

FullSizeRender 9

The sidewalk was flooded with people. Neighbors, the lawn guys, the guy that was driving behind me that had almost hit me, and all were coming by to tell me what they saw (“We heard someone going so fast that we all turned around to see what was going on – then we saw that car hit you!”). Someone brought shivering Ali a jacket, and then went to one of the houses and found an umbrella for the three of us to share. Everyone asked if we were okay. I told them all yes, we were perfectly fine.

Until very suddenly, my neck started hurting. Then my shoulders. And my back.

Adrenaline is a spiffy pain reliever – until it’s not.

As I rubbed my neck, the parade showed up.


Four police cars, two fire trucks, two paramedic trucks, a “fire car” according to Noah, and not long after, two ambulances. They were all surrounding the other car, so I assumed she must be hurt worse than us.


Then a steady stream of first responders walked over to us and asked if we were okay. The kids had finally calmed down and told everyone that they were fine and weren’t hurt. I told them my neck was hurting, but I thought I was okay. One of the people told me that I probably wasn’t – he thought he was fine after a wreck but had three vertebrae broken.

The paramedics, one by one, suggested that I go to the hospital. I finally agreed, but I told the paramedic, “My husband is on his way. I don’t want to leave until he gets here to take the kids.”

He agreed.

I called Chris to see where he was and tell him the update. As we were talking, the paramedics came back with an immobilization board and neck brace and told me they needed to strap me down right away. I hung up with Chris and they laid me back and covered me with straps. The kids, who were being quite mature, began to worry about me as they watched this process. I assured them that I was fine, it was fine, and Daddy was going to come get them before I left.

The paramedics loaded me into the ambulance on the left side. I looked over and the lady that hit me was on the right side.

The paramedics began taking all my vital signs and asking me questions, and then they said it.

“We’re going to have to go ahead and go. Your husband can get your kids when he gets here.”

Ali and Noah were sitting on the retaining wall with policemen. This paramedic was asking me to leave my kids, who had just been in their first wreck, literally on the curb.

I had been unusually calm the entire time, and somehow didn’t lose my calmness in that moment. I said, “I am not leaving without my kids.”

“Well, we need to go. Where is your husband?”

I pulled up Find My Friends and held it up, showing them his little blue dot. He was still a few miles away.

“He’s not going to be able to get up here anyway with the traffic. The kids are in good hands. It’s okay. We’ve got to go.” He started closing the door to the ambulance.

“NO. I will not leave my kids here.      …It would really freak them out.”

(I was the one freaked out and they were the ones being mature but I assumed (correctly) that their potential emotional breakdown would persuade the paramedics more than mine.)

One of the other Paramedics said, “Give me your husband’s number. We’ll figure it out.”

A minute later he came back in. “Okay. We’re going to transport your kids in the other ambulance to the hospital. Your husband will meet us there.”

That seemed better for some reason, so I agreed.

Then came the extremely lurchy ride to the hospital. I stared at the ceiling and willed myself not to shake from side to side.


The lady next to me said, “Ma’am. I am SO sorry. It was totally my fault.” It was the first and last exchange she and I had, and I felt so bad for her and tried to share some comfort by awkwardly saying, “It will be okay. The kids are okay and that’s what matters.”

The rest of the ride included sirens punctuated by painful bumps and paramedic’s questions. The only thing that would have made the shared ride more uncomfortable is if, after apologizing, she had said, “And by the way, I love your blog.”

But she did not.

More of the story soon.