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.

On Labor, Collision, and Candy.

This won’t make a bit of sense without first reading Part One and Part Two of this soap opera.

And then there was Friday.

I knew it would be a whirlwind day, what with both of the children having doctor’s appointments in the morning and me having one that afternoon. So Ali and I hurried through her school, and then I took the kids to see their Pediatrician to get all of their various aches and bumps from the wreck thoroughly examined. She made sure Ali didn’t have any signs of concussion from her window impact, and tickled the children to hiccups during all of the sore muscle checks. Ultimately, it is just going to take time for them to heal.

Their necks have been the slowest to recover, as they are still sore when turned over a week later. But thankfully, children tend to be more elastic than adults.

As we were leaving their doctor, I got a text from my neighbor Renee (remember? The one that was supposed to go into labor any minute and I was her on-call first responder?)

She was pretty sure she might be in labor, and was at Target down the street. We sped to Target and met her at the internal Starbucks. She had called the nurse, who told her to “wait and see.”

Every pregnant lady’s favorite phrase.

I asked her if she wanted to go on a walk with us. Do lunges. Find a trampoline. Go skydiving. ANYTHING to turn “wait and see” into “come on in.”

She, however, was in the middle of an insane maternity nesting obsession and turned all of my ideas down. She was appalled that Target did not carry spray paint because she needed it to finish her FALL CRAFT and her FALL CRAFT must be completed before the baby came so where did I think the closest place was that she could get spray paint for her FALL CRAFT?!

(Emphasis not mine. She might have screamed “Fall Craft” by the end of the rant.)

Um. Renee. You’re most likely in the early stages of labor. I think you can forget about the fall craft.


So I sent her on her way to Hobby Lobby where she would most likely be the cause of an intercom call saying “Clean-Up on the Spray Paint aisle – Bring a mop and the Wet Vac – we’ve got amniotic fluid!”

But I figured it probably wouldn’t be the first time – most likely many labor imminent mothers frantically buy all the things from that store. I mean they probably even have an intercom code for it.

“Code Spawn on the Spray Paint Aisle!”


“We’ve got a Mother Puddle in Paint Products!”

and then followed up with,

“Call 911 and order a Gestation Taxi!”

While I gleefully imagined the pandemonium that Renee was creating at Hobby Lobby, I drove Ali and Noah out to Chris’ office (we’ve discovered that they’re shockingly self-entertained in an empty office that they assume is their personal workspace) so that I could go to my doctor’s appointment in peace and be unencumbered for any impending Hobby Lobby –> Hospital deliveries.

I anxiously awaited an emergency text as my doctor checked out all of my aches and lumps, especially the ones surfacing after my ER visit. Then we discussed what I’d need to do to get all my parts back in working order. After careful experimentation and discovering that my neck probably wouldn’t get better on its own and, more disturbingly, a particular leg muscle injury would 100% prevent me from running without severe pain and hurting myself worse (which is crucial to keeping my Dysautonomia under control), that plan turned into three visits a week to my Physical Therapist for the foreseeable future.

I left my doctor and checked in with Chris, who had just left work with kids in tow. We agreed to meet at home, transfer to one vehicle, and go get some dinner.

After we detoured to the sunset, of course.


But alas. While we were on our way to dinner, Renee texted me again.

“I think this may be happening.”

“Okay. Do you want us to get our dinner to go?”

“Might be a good idea.”

We arrived at Moe’s, but Moe’s is one of those places that is great if there’s no line but worse than the DMV if there is a line. So after giving it five minutes and no one moving forward, I decided we should leave.

Renee’s husband was home from work, so my preassigned task in that scenario was to spend the night at their house with her two kids, Jonas and Loulie, and also my kids. (Incidentally, this is a different neighbor than the one that I may or may not have killed her chicken, in case you’re wondering why she would trust me with her children.) Chris dropped me off at Renee’s house, then went home to pack me and the kids a bag (or 20 because he’s an overpacker), and then to take the kids to dinner attempt number two.

I ate Pizza at their house, while Renee’s husband and I analytically studied her for certain and uncertain signs of real labor – which I am sure was wholly appreciated by the one about to pass a child from her body.

It finally became apparent that she was definitely in enough pain to go the hospital, and I, being the insensitive friend I am, cheered at her condition.

I slept fitfully that night, checking my phone for updates and hoping I wouldn’t have any especially freakish sleepwalking escapades in their house. The new baby made his appearance a little after midnight, so I cheered again about not being wrong regarding the state of her labor.

The next morning, Ali practiced her babysitting skills, and adored every minute of it.


Jonas would only eat if Ali fed him, as he decided that she is the best human being on the planet,


and his big sister might agree.


But we couldn’t just play all day.

These were serious times.

And I needed to prepare Jonas for what was to come.

I explained to him that his seemingly unfairly short days of being the baby were over.


He was now…a Middle Child.


Then I explained to him what being a middle child entailed, and his hair stood on end.


Loulie, however, was thrilled to hear that her status remained unchanged.


We stayed at their house until about noon on Saturday, when we passed the baton to a nanny.

At which time Chris immediately got to work finishing up our decorations for our annual Trunk and Treat. And rainproofing it, because storms for Halloween night were guaranteed.

I took the opportunity to take a muscle relaxer and lay in bed for a couple of hours – I hadn’t been home since Friday morning and, being the responsible human being that I attempt to emulate, I had not taken any pain pills or muscle relaxers while in charge of other people’s children.

So I relished my medicated and immobile short afternoon.

And then it was time to go give candy to thousands of eager children. Because Halloween doesn’t brake for wrecks.


Our theme this year was dictated by a certain young man who had superhero aspirations,


And his sister, who didn’t mind joining that plan,


And his parents, who were way too busy with things like pneumonia and wrecks and ER visits and everything else that October brought to properly plan costumes, and were satisfied to simply be “Bam” and “Pow.”


…The irony of which did not escape the notice of those who knew what our week had included.

Epilogue: I’m still attending physical therapy and will be for a while, Jonas is adapting to being the middle child but asks for Ali when he doesn’t get what he wants, and most importantly, Renee did indeed finish her Fall Craft RIGHT before leaving for the hospital.