Thankfulness, Prioritized.

Ali brought home a thankfulness list from church last Wednesday night and proudly presented it to me, asking me to read it in its entirety.

I suppose she thought I would be relieved and happy to come in fifth on her list of thanksgivings, and I suppose I am. It’s not like I’ve gotten to be a stellar Mom lately. And, at least I didn’t come in last, behind “other, other, other, iPad, Minecraft” like her beloved godmother Amanda did.

But my favorite, by far, was my mom’s spot on the list.

She came in second place. She is pretty awesome and all and she totally deserves at least second.

But she came in second – right behind “Grandmama’s Laszanya.”


Should you be such a good cook that your food is better than you are?

It can’t be a bad thing.

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.

It Happened One Thursday.


The date was October 1, and we were trying to get out of town.

Not right away, which was good as I hadn’t packed for anyone. But in the afternoon, leaving town was the plan.

Ali was going to my Mom’s for the weekend, and Chris, Noah and I were going to Atlanta for the annual trek to “Pop’s Race.”

But things had to be done first.

School, for one.


Packing for people to go in separate directions.

So we began with school. It was early – I felt confident that I could accomplish all that the day needed. There were hours ahead of me! I had this.

After school, we drove to Target to get necessaries for our journeys. Ali needed to pick out a birthday present for her best friend, as she would be attending her spend-the-night birthday party while we were gone. And I needed things – because who doesn’t need things at Target?

No one. That’s who.

I’d grabbed half the things when my calendar on my phone beeped naggingly.

I didn’t remember having plans.

Then again, I didn’t remember the last time I’d checked my calendar, either.

I looked at the reminder. Children’s Theatre! We had a field trip starting in half an hour and I had completely forgotten about it. We’d missed the last play due to a nasty cold virus we’d passed around our family for two weeks – I could not stomach flushing another $21 of theatre investment.

So I sped up.

“Mommy! Why are you walking so fast?”

“We can’t keep up with you!!”

I grabbed a gift bag for the present, ran through the book aisle looking for the set Ali wanted to get her friend to no avail, sprinted to the checkout, and paid. No present – I would worry about that teensy detail later.

Miraculously, the Chick-Fil-A drive-thru line next door hadn’t cranked up to its usual lunchtime frenzy yet, so I got the kids some chicken and sped downtown to adequately provide my children culture and sophistication.

Somehow, we made it to the play, The Reluctant Dragon, with 15 minutes to spare. Most likely because I key in every calendar entry 30 minutes early to plan on the fact that I will not look at my calendar, but whatever.

That 15 minutes gave my children ample time to be impatient, antsy, and far too wiggly for the theatre.

And then, right as the play began, Noah began to cough. Except not a cough – it was the juicy tuberculosis-meets-croup cough he’d had on and off for a month, in fact the very same cough that prevented us from attending the last Children’s Theatre play.

He did not sound uncontagious in the least.

And we were sitting on the second row.

I am positive that he coughed right on The Reluctant Dragon himself at some point, which might (rightfully) make him reluctant to act in children’s plays in the future.

On one side, I had friends. I whispered apologetically that he wasn’t contagious – he just couldn’t shake the cough.

On Noah’s other side, far out of my whisper-reach, were strangers. And the child closest to Noah was leaning on his mother to get as far away from Noah’s nasty lungs as possible.

The cough continued, without stopping, and becoming more urgent, throughout the entire play. The entire play which I did not watch but instead spent strategizing and restrategizing how I could get him out of the theatre without disturbing other people, but to no avail. We were solidly locked in. And there were no intermissions or breaks in the action during which it would be acceptable for me to cross in front of someone.

Could I jump over the row of chairs in front of me, which were all empty, to escape that way?

I was wearing a sundress. There was zero possible way to accomplish that awkward escape without showing my underthings to The Reluctant Dragon.

(Who, incidentally, had a very disturbing underthing problem of his own going on, as his costume was clearly designed for those not sitting on the second row.)

As I tried to not stare at the Dragon’s leggings-as-pants barely made PG-13 by a shimmering thongish covering of dragon scales, I willed the play to end so I could get my child out of this harrowing cough situation.

After approximately 2,357 coughs, they took their bows.

But then there was Q&A with the audience. And again zero ways for me to escape (gracefully.)

Noah sounded at this point as if he was certainly dying of a medieval plague that might have wiped out even the most reluctant of dragons.

Finally finally FINALLY, the questions ended. I pushed my children down the aisle and up the stairs, smushing them into the crowds of parents and children leaving the theatre, attempting to get out before anything worse occurred.

Except that I failed.

Because at that moment, as we were on the carpeted stairs amidst hoards of people, Noah’s cough reached the apex of its theatrical act.

And he phlegm-vomited a pile of ooze right on the stairs.

I panicked.

In half a second my mind went through all the contents of my purse. Did I have anything to clean this up??

I did not.

Except for maybe a feminine product but mopping up a pile of phlegm with a tampon did not seem like it would abate my humiliation one tiny bit.

Meanwhile, the hoards were pressing into us from every side – we had to move or risk theatre trampling.

I apologized in general to all of the people that had been pressing into my little brood at that moment and…I walked up those steps.

The guilt of leaving a pile of phlegm on the stairs beat my brow all day. THIS is the way I repay the arts? THIS is the kind of person I am?

Oh, the horror.

A truly good person would have tamponed that little mess right off the floor.

But I stuffed my humiliation and remembered that I had to get my family out of town. I raced to the bookstore for that present. As Ali browsed, I fretted. I had not planned on the oh-so-pleasurable theater outing when I thought I had plenty of time, and I still had 100% of our packing to accomplish. Ali took her time picking out books, then decided at the last minute that she’d rather get her friend a Lego set – something we could have easily grabbed during our Target sprint.

But no matter.

We drove home, Noah having zero traces of a cough OF COURSE, and I packed in a frenzy. I now only had an hour until Chris was to be home and we were to leave.

As I was packing the very last thing (I hoped), my neighbor and her two kids stopped by. Then my other neighbors saw that we were having a party and they walked over. And I found myself, a mere half hour before it was time to leave town, with a playdate at my house for six kids and three adults.

Because why not? I mean my son had only just phlegmed all over The Arts.

Chris drove up, the neighbors scattered, and we left.

And I managed to relax my shoulders sometime around the state line.