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.

What Happens After a Collision.

Continued from this post

Our ambulance arrived at the hospital and Chris was waiting for us. As they opened the doors, I was so relieved to hear his voice, although I couldn’t move my head to actually see him. The children arrived a moment later, Noah bubbling over with joy and reports of ambulance bliss. The policeman who rode with them came over to me and said “They never stopped talking a single second.”

I think he needed a doughnut and coffee break after that ride. And I should’ve bought the first round.

Chris took the kids to the waiting room while the paramedics wheeled me into Birmingham’s brand new hospital, Grandview Medical Center, and although I had been anxious to see it, I was quite immobilized.

The ceilings looked grand, though.

Then came the line of admitting nurses, vital checking nurses, and physician’s assistants. Each one asked me my pain level, what had happened, and if I could be pregnant.

The Physician’s Assistant dialed up the intensity by following up with, “Why? Why don’t you think you could be pregnant?”

“Because my husband has had a vasectomy.”

Her eyes narrowed, “But you still have all your parts, right?”

I answered expressionlessly. “Yes.”

I guess my lack of guilt and defensive protests convinced her that I was NOT, after all, at risk of pregnancy, and she let it go.

Chris and the kids came back for a few minutes until Noah’s hugs got too violent, then he took them back to the waiting room.

I asked the nurse if I could pee. I had drank most of my iced coffee, after all, and it had been a while since I’d seen a bathroom.

No I may not. I am immobilized for a reason. When all scans are done, then I may pee.

An hour went by and I told a nurse I REALLY needed to pee. She said no, but did expedite my scans.

They took CT scans and multiple X-Rays while I was focusing on keeping my bladder from bursting inside of me. I secretly hoped its burgeoning state would mess up all their scans.

They wheeled me back to my room and again I asked to pee.

“Not until your scans are read by the doctor and we know it’s safe to let you get up.”

This. This is the pain and suffering for which I would need to be reimbursed.

My information board showed that it would be at least an hour and a half before my scans would be processed. Chris was back in my room by then (my Dad had come and picked up the kids), and I told him I was GOING to go pee. If I didn’t, the injuries I would sustain would be significantly worse.

He held up his hands and said “I will take no part in this.”

I heaved myself up in bed, with great pain, in anticipation of sneaking into the hallway to the bathroom next door.

Which is when a nurse walked by and beat me to it.

Chris laughed. “Did you just get snaked?!”

I waited, dangerously close to bladder implosion, for her to hurry up.

She left, so I leaned out of the doorway and turned my whole body left and right (immobilization makes stealthiness terribly difficult), and when I was sure the coast was clear, I tip-toed into the bathroom and let out a giant moan of relief. Then I casually walked back to my bed and waited another hour and a half, thankful that I had taken things into my own hands.

The doctor came in and said that nothing was broken, the nurse gave Chris a ream of paperwork that included a couple prescriptions and instructions for treating whiplash, and they sent us on our way.

Chris came and picked me up at the ER entrance, and as I walked out, I saw this. Ah, the view was grand, after all. I stopped to take in the moment (and a few pictures.)


Then I got honked at by an ambulance and slithered into Chris’ car.

He took me home and put me on the sofa while he handled all the things – getting my prescriptions, going to look at the car and talk to the towing company, and later, going to pick up the kids from my parents at church, along with a collection of balloons from my Grandmother’s Birthday party – the one that I had so rudely missed.

IMG_1668Although I could barely lift my head to see it, I did appreciate his attempts at celebration.

Meanwhile, my pain increased in both quantity of locations and intensity, and I began to realize that maybe I was hurt more than I first thought. The same happened with the kids, although their adrenaline lasted significantly longer than mine. According to my parents, Ali did nothing but run up and down the church hallways manically while yelling about how much energy she had. (Kid Adrenaline *may* be chemically identical to cocaine.) But as Chris drove them home that night, Ali cried softly in the back seat and told him that she never wanted to go down that road again.

Both kids started having head, neck, and shoulder blade pain, along with a nice lump on Ali’s forehead from presumably hitting the window, and Noah’s chest hurt where the seatbelt caught him.

On Thursday, Chris’ mom came over for the morning so that I could take pain pills, muscle relaxers, and stay in bed. This turned out to be quite a blessing, as my pain level had continued to increase. The kids, although sore and not able to turn their heads all the way, seemed in better spirits than the night before. But I was perfectly content to not leave my bed.

I asked a friend to pick up the wreck report for me so that I could start the tedious process of filing a claim on the other driver’s insurance. By the time I was able to call, though, the claims manager had gone home for the day. So I asked to speak to anyone who could help me, because I needed to get a rental car.

I got a most unhelpful representative who informed me that until the claims processor determined that the wreck was truly their client’s fault, he couldn’t help me with my rental car needs. I told him it was stated on the wreck report that both the police officer AND the driver confirmed that the collision was her fault. There was really no question about it.

“I’m sorry. But it doesn’t matter what the police or the driver say. The claims processor has to determine if she was legally at fault before we can help you with anything.”

…Because he was there at the wreck and all, officiating like a sideline ref? Or was he in the replay booth?

“Fine. I’ll get the rental car myself and y’all can reimburse me when you decide it was her fault.”

“I really wouldn’t recommend that at all, ma’am, as I cannot guarantee that we would reimburse you for any expenses.”

I let out a bit of indignation in my voice as I stated my syllables very pointedly. “I have to take my children to the DOCTOR tomorrow morning to get their injuries from the WRECK checked out. If we cannot go to the DOCTOR because you won’t let us get a rental car, then we may have further PROBLEMS.”

He changed his tone and said, “Let me see what I can do.”

He came back several minutes later. “I’m sorry. I really can’t do anything. But I see here that it looks like it will be determined to be her fault, although I certainly cannot guarantee it. You can get a rental car on your own and we should be able to reimburse you for it.”

Thanks, dude.

But at least he didn’t refuse to let me pee.

More to come from our epic saga of a week…and apologies to all who prefer short and succinct stories.

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.