So there we were, traveling I-35 on a busy holiday weekend. Two adults, three kids, 2 dogs, and a chocolate cake. We'd had a wonderful relaxing visit with the family but everyone was excited to sleep in their own beds that night. We'd left later than we meant to, but we were confident we could make it safely home before anyone needed to eat. And then, before we could even leave Waco, that dreaded orange line popped on the map. Red brake lights appeared on the horizon. DJ swiftly navigated over to an exit while I plotted out our best strategy to avoid the red lights that mocked us just a few feet away. Stopping on the highway meant a dog would whine and bark, a baby would scream, and a preschooler would ask a million questions about why we weren't moving. In that moment, it felt like a fate worse than death.
But thanks to the blinking blue dot that followed our every move, I proved to be the map master. I swiftly directed DJ through twists and turns designed to get us to our destination in the quickest way possible. With very little effort, we avoided the traffic jam and merged back onto the highway. We were supremely impressed with our team work and navigation skills! We even high-fived. A few miles down the road, it happened again. Cars grinding to a stop. Forward progress halted. Four times we merged on the highway. Four times we exited.
Eventually we recognized our defeat. This wasn't going well. Even with constant movement, Abigail was screaming. And we were going no where fast. Suddenly, we saw a Sonic. It seemed like a beacon of hope. Food. A break. A chance to nurse the hysterical baby. So we pulled over.
Turns out Abigail's tears were driven by a massive blow out that really needed a bath (or a hose) to properly clean. As I attempted the impossible in the front seat with nothing but baby wipes and a nursing cover, Caleb declared the need for an emergency trip to the bathroom. But Sonic didn't have one, so father and son hiked hand in hand to the gas station nearby. As a result, Noah screamed because he was left behind. Marley barked with an ear piercing yelp that literally made strangers jump away from the car. Cua growled and threatened to devour anyone who came near. (She weighs all of 12 pounds. She's clearly a huge threat.) With Abigail cleaned, changed, and happy, I settled in to nurse. DJ rescued the hysterical Noah and settled everyone in grass for a fun picnic. But they weren't alone! Mosquitos, fire ants, and biting flies invited themselves to the party. In no time, Caleb's legs were covered in bright red polka dots. The picnic was quickly moved to a shady spot on the sidewalk where the ants proceeded to set up camp around my legs. Suddenly, and without warning, Caleb needed to flee to the bathroom. DJ made a return hike to the gas station, convinced this trip was going to prove a complete waste of time. He returned with a happy Caleb and a total disbelief in just how badly he'd needed to go only minutes after his first trip. As DJ settled himself on the ground to eat, I realized Noah was sitting in a puddle. DJ then got the task of cleaning up what can only be described as a catastrophic Pull Up failure.
Enough was enough. Our food was wrapped back up and children were loaded back into car seats. This was clearly not our night. So we ate in the car and let the dogs eat the french fries that fell to the floor. An hour after our last exit from the highway, we merged back on. Three miles down the road.
The rest of the trip home was mostly uneventful. Abigail most loudly expressed what we all felt - we were just done! After singing Abigail's song 8,654 times we finally turned into our street. Our home came into view and we joyfully turned our wheels into our driveway. Which was blocked by our neighbor's car. We just shook our heads.
We've made approximately 85 trips to Waco in our marriage. We guesstimate close to 50 of those have been with children. But none of our trips have quite rivaled this one. This, was one for the books!
And that's how we narrowly escaped death.