There are many misconceptions out there about parenting. It's tough, but not for the reasons one would think. It can get a little pricey, but I'd probably find something to spend the extra money on anyway. The hard parts sneak up on you. It's discipline vs. compassion. It's supportive vs. domineering. It's finding out just how much chaos one can survive. But mostly, it's the logistics. Without kids, a trip to the store simply involves enough clothes to keep from getting arrested and a mode of transportation. With kids, it's an entirely different evolution. Your car becomes an appropriately nerfed rolling entertainment center. I'm not just referring to the portable DVD player. One must also assume that at some point one, or both, children will choose to self-entertain. In that case, a handy collection of age appropriate toys must be accessible.
Next, you must assume that at some point during your venture, no matter how short, one of the kids will express a bodily fluid at the worst possible time. This means you should definitely pack extra EVERYTHING and enough wipes to dam a river. Don't believe me? Make sure and read my other post, titled: "Seriously, How Did I Get Here?"
Various types of snacks and drinks should also be considered. It's damn hard to scream whilst chewing. I recommend a man bag, diaper bag, or purse roughly the size of Utah to ensure ample space. You would never believe the amount of goldfish a child can eat in one setting. That's because it's an optical illusion. It may look like the food is in their little mouths. Truth is, you'll find most of it the next time you remove your car seat. There, crushed into your seats will be the remains of thousands of sad little cheddar flavored fishies that never met their intended destination.
Once they are packed, your brain is so shot that you'll probably forget most of your own essentials. I would recommend making lists, but that's a sissy move. Live dangerously. Anyone can handle a stinky day or two, should you forget to pack the deodorant.
Packing the truck for our Thanksgiving trip was a nightmare. After all, this wasn't a simple trip up the road. We were stopping for one night in Alabama, to spend some time with my family, then pushing on to our final destination, Pigeon Forge. We would then spend three nights in a two bedroom cabin with Amanda's parents and her brother's family. If you're in to math, that's nine people in a two bedroom.
The cabin was a result of a last minute decision to take the trip combined with the fact that two million other families decided to share the same holiday dream. After looking on many various sites, with no luck, I was shocked when my father in law was able to acquire a cabin so quickly. Most of the ones we looked at were woefully overpriced or not available. My shock quickly turned to concern when we arrived at the cabin. First of all, it was suspiciously tucked away, down a long and winding one lane road. As we drove up to the cabin, and I literally mean UP, I became very concerned about the parking situation.
The truck came to rest at a 45 degree angle, and the parking brake whined sadly as the entire weight of the truck tested it's worth. While straining to keep from falling down the mountain side where our cabin was precariously perched, I instantly began to dread what came next. There was a very real possibility that the carefully packed luggage and assorted accoutrement would most likely tumble out of the truck, and down the hill, the moment I open the rear hatch. Luckily, only a few items shifted during transit and I was able to keep them from tumbling into the darkness.
(Cue the spooky music)
I've waited until now to reveal the primary source of my concern. Our cabin was named: God's Little Corner. Now look, I'm as God fearing a man as the next, but this name concerned me greatly. First, it's a little condescending. The all knowing, all powerful God of the universe certainly doesn't require a "little corner" to call his own. If he did, I doubt he would choose to place said getaway anywhere near Dollywood.
Second, I was sure the name wasn't referring to the fact that this cabin was so palatial and grand that it must be like a little piece of heaven.
Finally, I'm not a fan of being murdered in my sleep. Why was this place so readily available when nothing else was? Here we are, an unsuspecting family of do-gooders paying good money to meet our doom at god's little slaughterhouse. Sounds plausible, right?
Surely my fears would be relieved once we got inside and settled in to our new comfortable digs. Wrong. The owners of "God's Little Corner" wanted to make sure that we got the message. Every square inch of wall and shelf space in the entire cabin was chock full of figurines and paintings of angels. The Vatican would be jealous of such a spread. One could not find a place to sit where a host of heavenly angels weren't creepily staring at you. Amanda's brother even complained the next morning that he had a hard time sleeping because he felt like he was being watched the entire evening.
As we settled down for bed that evening we were faced with the ominous task of sharing a bedroom with two kids, one under the age of two. Some people don't think that humans possess the instinctive abilities that we see in nature. I disagree. If you've ever tried to sleep in the same room as a small child you will agree that we all possess the ability to move in complete silence, like a ninja. Because we know that one single grunt or cough could turn a peaceful evening into a gauntlet of pissed off kid. Once you're in bed, you feel like a prisoner. Not laying in a comfortable position? Tough shit. You're stuck there until morning. Lord knows you wouldn't want to risk shifting to your back. Next thing you know, he's standing up in his travel crib glaring at you. This glare can't be avoided either. You can't simply pretend he isn't there. If you do, he'll result to other means to let you know that if he ain't sleeping, ain't nobody sleeping.
Perusing the entertainment center in the living room was when the "culty" factor stepped up a few notches. The TV was accompanied by a VCR and a handful of VHS tapes of unrecognizably tasteful movies. We're talking MUCH lower rent than the dreck spewed out on ABC family. However, they did include a copy of Forrest Gump and Sister Act. Good lord. They couldn't even spring for the far superior Sister Act 2. Who were these monsters?
But no multimedia collection would be complete without an entire catalog of religious CDs from some random pentecostal housewife. Every CD cover was a unique scene of a heavy set, middle-aged woman in an indiscriminate floral dress staring off into the distance with a cheesy nature backdrop behind her. I'm not talking two CDs here. More like eight or nine. Apparently this chick was a big hit in the snake handling, jazz organ circles.
All of this led me to one very pressing thought: Webcams.
Yep, time to search the cabin up and down for the hidden webcams. My heart raced at the thought of some deliverance type psycho sitting behind a laptop sharing MP4's of my bathroom rituals with some businessman in Tokyo. After an exhaustive search, and no I'm not kidding, I was unable to locate said cameras. This guy was good.
The next day we decided the best place to eat lunch and enjoy some entertainment would be the Dixie Stampede. If you've never been, let me break it down for you. Your party, and 1100 of your closest strangers are packed in to a rodeo arena to dine in the darkness. They actually take pride in the fact that they do not have utensils. That's right, let's reinforce all the hillbilly, backwoods stereotypes out there by serving a four course lunch with no fork in sight. And we're not talking ham sandwiches. More like, cornish game hens, pork and even soup which you are forced to drink from the bowl like a refugee.
I've been a part of some pretty uninspiring performances in my day, but nothing compared to the energy of the Saturday lunch show we were privy to. This show consists of some basic horseback races with predetermined winners to ensure that we would all be on the edges of seats while at the trough. The Christmas portion even included some people dressed up as toys dancing to a collection of very austere Christmas muzak. It was like something out of an ambien commercial.
After surviving our lunchtime extravaganza Amanda's family shockingly decided to grant my request for the weekend. I'd read about this place called Cade's Cover that was supposedly a natural marvel, complete with wild animal encounters and breathtaking views. Bull crap. It was a single lane eleven mile road through some random fields. And wouldn't you know it, Nolan luck swept through the area like a toxic fog and scared away the animals. That's right. We saw two stinking deer and a handful of boring turkeys. What a waste.
But our trip was not complete. Nature was not finished screwing with us yet. Our entire eleven hour drive home was in a torrential downpour. Here's where you really earn your pay as a dad/husband. As soon as droplet number one hit the windshield, my entire family, Amanda included, entered a coma-like state. So there I am, driving through the mountains in a monsoon, while maintaining perfect silence in the vehicle. This requires copious amounts of caffeine and a vivid imagination. With every mile that passed, my mind did what it usually does; It relived. One of my more annoying habits is that I tend to dwell on encounters. I relive them over and over creating new and exciting outcomes to whatever the conversation was, at the time. I'm sure I would've looked like a complete psychopath, if Amanda would awaken to find me pantomiming a ten year old conversation, but at least we weren't careening in to oncoming traffic.
I guess that's how we are supposed to survive the logistical nightmare of having kids during the holidays. Find your own coping mechanisms. Find something to keep your mind off of the mind-numbing lengths you go to so that your kid can laugh and tell jokes with a cousin who lives far away. The jokes, hugs and memories are that much sweeter if you can ignore the fact that a horse-filled, sporkless lunch shouldn't cost $120, or that some Japanese CEO has pictures of you in your whitey tighties.