If you recognize the picture above, you might be a redneck... or a Texan. Last winter, my father-in-law moved from Georgia to Texas. Unfortunately his health has been declining and it was recently suggested to us that we come visit... soon. The trek from VA to TX is a long one at about 1,152 miles... but I think that number doubles for each child in the car. (Am I wrong?) If it weren't for the DVD players (yeah - that's plural) and the dog, it would have seemed even longer than that.
And right now you're probably saying to yourself, "You traveled 1,152 miles with 3 kids and A DOG? What, are you nuts?"
Yes I am! Obviously we should have left the kids with someone!
The dog was a saving grace! As some of you may know, I put our Olde Victorian Bulldogge through Service Dog training. The picture above is her, crashed out in a very crazy-busy Tennessee McDonalds in the PlayLand area where we were allowing the 2 youngest of our brood to play off some energy. Not only does our dog not beg or drool when she smells Big Mac-luciousness, but if you drop food on the floor next to her, she pretends she doesn't even see it.
What service does Brandy Ann provide? Well, Iraq (who has Asperger syndrome) often becomes very over-stimulated - especially in busy, noisy, colorful places... like in a McDonald's play land.We can see the tell-tale signs. First she plays like all the other kids. Then, her play starts becoming a little wild and loud. Then louder... Then... she begins trying to find a private, quiet place within the giant habitrail-like plastic tubes. (Good luck with that, kiddo!) She resembles a feral cat as she slinks and hides when anyone comes near her or if we try to call to her. Once we are able to GET HER OUT... a task that is usually far easier said than done... she goes into full, non-verbal melt-down mode. As we pull her away from the multi-colored maze of plastic, the shrieking will begin and the limbs stop working.
Without the dog, we may stay in melt-down mode anywhere from 10 minutes to some giant indefinite number of minutes. As if it's not bad enough that I am having to subdue a shrieking, flailing child, it's usually at these cherished moments when I am bequeathed with dagger-stares from other parents. (My favorite part of any meltdown!)
With the dog? Well, the moment she is placed next to Brandy Ann, the shrieks stop immediately. She puts her arms around the dog's neck and buries her face in her neck. In about 5 minutes, she has calmed down completely and asks politely if she can go back and play.
Yes - - the dog DOES help!
So how was Texas, you ask?
Yup - that about sums it up! Not only was it hot, but the state is experiencing its worst drought since Texans started keeping records... so like, before the Alamo and all that. It was so hot and dry in fact that we all spontaneously combusted the moment we stepped out of the car.
Anywhoo... We are very thankful that we got to see Pawpaw. The kids will have some very nice memories of time shared with him... except for The Skink who would get no closer than about two feet from him. (So it's been a while since she last saw him.) Iraq and Broadway got snuggely for a picture.
And we got to see cousins... however I think poor Pawpaw may have gotten just a liiiiitttlllle overwhelmed...
We even took Pawpaw to the aquarium in Grapevine, TX...
And we got to see an old friend just for a few minutes. Cyndi was one of The Skink's favorite nurses during her (rather loooonng) stay in the NICU, 5 years ago.
After 3 very short days in Texas enjoying Pawpaw, we headed to Louisiana to further torture ourselves by adding humidity to the unbearable heat and to visit my sister. On the way, we got stuck in a traffic jam, (due to a brush fire obviously caused by spontaneously combusting swamp-grass... or possibly by some moron throwing a cigarette out a car window - my vote is for the spontaneous combustion thing) but it allowed us to see one of the funniest scenes ever. Some cars were using the median to turn around and avoid the jam. Well... a motorcycle cop saw the cars driving through the median and made them turn around, drive back through the median and get back in line! Go LA police - you tell 'em!
Eventually we did get to my sister's house un-charred and in one piece so that Broadway could get some good chicken cuddles from Chick-A-Doodee. What? Doesn't everybody have a pet chicken?
Iraq got to ride Aunt Kate's new mare, Jelly Belly, all by herself. We later found out that the belly isn't due to jelly at all! The vet came out and confirmed that in a few weeks Jelly Belly will be a mommy! My poor sister hyperventilated on the spot!
I got to ride too for the first time in way too long! (On one of the non-pregnant geldings.) Yeah - couldn't suppress that big ol' silly grin!
And while New Orleans is not exactly on the rout back home, hearing that Hurricane Irene was bearing down on our home state, we thought there would be a certain amount of fun in the irony of taking refuge in that fine city! At least long enough for lunch and some window shopping.
We did discover one little over-sight in NOLA, however. It became VERY clear that prior to our next summer trip to a city notoriously as hot as... someplace even further south... we will have to invest in some doggy booties! Heat-resistant doggie booties! Poor Brandy minced over each hot patch of brick sidewalk until she reached the next shady portion where she slowed waaaaaayyyyy down to cool her poor feet. Smart dog!
And what would a road trip be without a blown tire in Nowheresville, Mississippi? Yeah... and I'm not even going to mention getting pegged by another car in NOLA (their fault) and getting some retread thrown under our front end by an 18 wheeler, causing further unnecessary vehicular damage. (Oops - I mentioned it.)
We saw the inside of far too many McDonalds' in the duration of our trip. We also saw tons of caravans of tree removal trucks and line-repair trucks coming from LA and MS toward the areas targeted by Irene. I don't know why I chose this particular caravan of about 10 trucks to photograph, but we saw them again a few hours later - just 2 hours from our home :( Oops!
After all our adventures, we got home very late - and very tired! It was an adventure for sure, but there's no place like home, is there?
*Disclaimer: We do not live in a white picket fence, but in a house that happens to have one.
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