An Inconvenient Adventure

Packing is the Achilles’ heel of homemaking. No matter how smoothly you think your little empire is running or how many closets you’ve cleaned out this summer, trying to pack up everyone’s belongings for a trip reveals every glaring weakness in your system.
I have a shoe system. It works fairly well. But the second I need all seven kids to gather up their tennis shoes is when I discover that at least 3 children are missing one or more of their tennis shoes and haven’t bothered to tell me.
Which would explain the slightly bizarre footwear we sport at church every Sunday. “Mom’s too busy to notice, so it’s fine if I wear pink cowboy boots with ruffle bottom knit pants and a Matilda Jane dress.”
Meanwhile, the underwear, which I am constantly finding in the crevices of my couch or lying on the stairs, has disappeared. When faced with the task, not a one of my children can gather up enough clean underwear for a single week away.
Which makes me question how they’ve been handling this issue at home.
Then I decide I don’t want to know.
Obviously, we’re packing for an Adventure. It involves camping, something we’ve never done as a family before. And, because we love the Ridiculous, we’re going to take a 15 hour drive before we camp where there is no running water. No electricity. And a port-a-john as our only comfort.
Here’s the thing, this trip is one great big Inconvenience. The timing is awful. Andrew is out of town, so I’m packing for all nine of us to make this trip (we’ll pick him up on our way out of town) – while single parenting.  The cable and the internet have been down for a day, rendering my back-up plan of “utilize the screens for sanity” completely useless.

circa 1997, hint: my hair wasn’t curly then

But this trip also holds great Possibility. We’re embarking on a trek that I made fondly many times as a kid. All the family I remember from my childhood camping trips will be there, plus all the family we’ve added in the last two decades. We will get filthy. We will get cold. We will take turns scaring the folks who have to go pee in the woods in the dark. And I truly can’t wait to show my kids how much fun this little corner of Ridiculous can be.
G. K. Chesteron says: An Inconvenience is only an Adventure wrongly considered; An Adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered.
I wrote this quote at the top of all my packing lists to help me keep focus. Because if I let the exhaustion of a morning spent looking for 54 socks overcome me, I will forget there is joy in this part of the adventure.
I’m not saying this part is my favorite. Not by a stretch. I got all the bags in one spot today and sat down and had a good cry while I thought about how to get it all in the van.
And then I located my big girl panties, grabbed my boys to help me, and we got ‘er done. Maybe the joy comes in knowing we’ve already made a heap of memories and we haven’t left the driveway.
I’m taking lots of tiny breaks, just for sanity’s sake. I crawled into my bed at lunch time and closed my eyes so the world would quit spinning. Finn wandered in wanting a sandwich. I told him I’d make him one if he’d cuddle with me first. He can’t say “no” to a negotiation that involves peanut butter.
I hauled him under the covers with me and sang him Gershwin tunes while he listened quietly and then muttered, “No more” every time I asked if he wanted another, even as he snuggled in tighter and waited patiently for the next song.
And by the time we both crawled out from my Safe Place, we were grinning: Him in anticipation of his  sandwich and me because, while I might hate hunting down their underwear, I do actually like these people I’m packing for. And I don’t mind an Inconvenient Adventure with them one tiny bit.
So I’m using my hot spot to post this and then I’m gonna curl up in my tub and read a book, because with no cable or internet, it’s like I’m camping already. But I’ve got plumbing, so I’m using it while I can.
And then tomorrow, we’ll finish the packing, I’ll answer “How many hours until we’re leaving” another 800 times, and we’ll hit the road. From there, I hope Adventure (and Andrew) find us – in all of the good ways.
And I guarantee you I’ll tell you all about it when we get back…
*Handy hint for creepies: There are still other folks living here this weekend and a pretty gnarly dog on our porch when you cross him. So stay home with your multiple cats and live to creep another day.

The Backseat Bandit

A long time ago, I told you that we existed in a Vortex of Adventure. Nothing was ever easy, a simple trip to the store was bloggy fodder with a clean up on aisle 4, and we rarely left home because of it. Then our kids got older, there seemed to be less blog material from our outings, and we actually made trips with little to no incident.

I got complacent.

I got prideful.

I was in that “goeth before a fall” season.


Months ago, we committed to attending the Inkwell Conference with friends. (By the way, if you aren’t reading the excellent content at Story Warren, rectify this immediately. Trust me.) When it came time to leave, though, money was tight, our time was tight, and the trip got shortened to just an overnight jaunt. And somehow, in my head, the fact that it was 6 Google hours one way didn’t really enter into the equation. We’d made a Shiny Vita-cation and a five hour drive to the beach with nary a hitch. This would be a cakewalk.

*insert snort of derision*

Apparently that sixth hour is the one that will push you over the edge. Or maybe it was just the barfer in the back-seat…

We were carpooling with another family. They have two kids. We have, well, you know: An army. In my ignorance-is-bliss state, I neglected to consider what it would be like to add a small family to our already small country on the move. Or what a circus show we might appear to the casual observer.

It was about two hours in and we needed to fill up the van. We picked the most crowded gas station ever, nearly got into a rumble over a gas pump, and took thirty minutes to finish the task. I turned around in my seat and whispered, “Everybody? BE COOL. Try not to draw attention…”she said from inside a 12 passenger van full of kids.

At this point, we played fruit basket turn-over and somehow the two mamas ended up in our van with 9 kids. We took another two hours to make it through some rush hour traffic. Whatever, I had a friend to gab with. The kids had each other. Finn had his paci. We were fine.

And then Adam said from the way back, “I don’t feel so good.”

I made some sort of flailing movement with my arm as I held the steering wheel while my friend Lara said, “Oo! Oo!”

And that was all the warning we got. The next thing we heard was a chorus of “Ewwwwwwwwwwww,” from the 3 boys beside Adam.

And then, “Oh no! Not again!”

Followed by, “I’m so sorry, Adam. You ok?”

Finished with retching noises and “Can I get out of the back seat now????”

I performed some sort of evasive maneuver across three lanes of traffic to get us off the interstate. I whipped the van into a McDonald’s parking lots and we evacuated as quickly as possible. I tossed peppermint oil over everybody and we began triage.




We pulled out an hour later, freshly scrubbed, thanks to a Publix run and heroic Andrew, who hasn’t gone through morning sickness and doesn’t suffer from the hair-trigger gag reflex I still have. We had to throw away a lot of crucial items, including Adam’s shoes. Fortunately, Sam gave Adam his flip-flops, I gave Sam my flip-flops, and I had a spare pair of shoes for me. Otherwise… well, I don’t know. I didn’t have a plan B.


Once he had been stripped and scrubbed, he was fit as a fiddle and spent the rest of our little “pit stop” in a tree. Which is kind of where I wanted to be, too.

What I’m trying to say is, it took us eight and a half hours to make it to our hotel. We threw the kids in bed and slept for five hours before it was time to get up and troop downstairs where we entertained the crowd at the breakfast buffet with our “Who wants a waffle?” routine. (This is second only to “Who has to go to the bathroom?” which I’m told is hysterical but feels nothing of the sort.)


These two love a good cuddle.

The conference itself was a treat. If you ever get the chance to go, don’t question, just DO IT. Inkwell is designed for kids and parents are “allowed” to attend. So are younger siblings. They made it super easy for all of us to be there and to get the most out of each session. We spoke to writers, songwriters, illustrators, and poets. They fired our imagination and challenged us to consider our creativity as an act of worship to The Creator. hashtagFANTASTIC


Even Finn was inspired. So much so, he grabbed a book that interested him and plopped right down in the middle of all the shoppers, content to let people go around him while he read.

Our kids were suspicious that this would feel like school (said the homeschoolers who have never been to school) but by the end of the conference, they were all bent over their papers, creating stories and drawings.


And all the parents secretly exchanged high fives.


The entire motley crew.

The Vitafam had to hit the road due to some scheduling issues, so we turned the van in the direction of home and planned to retrace our steps from the previous day. Fortunately, some rearranging of seats so the carsick prone were protected and a highly motivated Andrew got us home in just seven “short” hours without further incident.

We did stop at a rest stop to eat dinner from our cooler. The kids were super impressed and said, “What is this place? We should stop here every time!”

I shivered and searched the bushes for serial killers.

All of that to tell you that, despite my denial, the Vortex of Adventure has not left us. It may go on hiatus, it may not always find us at Costco, but to enter our Vortex is to do so at your own risk.

So… we’re off on another trip next week, because we are gluttons for punishment, that’s why.

Who would be brave enough to join us???