We are in every way but name "done" with our vacation. The final days before our drive to Austin involves a stay at nana and grandad's house with a bucket full of legos. Legos are not the stretching of legs imagined when access to a gym and large yard are involved, but it is certainly better than the confines of the van—if only so that we don't have to smell your shoes.
Twenty-two days ago we left in the middle of the night for Memphis, TN. You woke up somewhere in Dallas and we ate at an ice-box disguised as a Chick-fil-a. We checked in and ate BBQ (Judah revealed that he was part wolf when around pork ribs). The excitement of the Memphis Zoo was finally realized. Oak Ridge, TN provided you a forest porch to play on as we stayed with your great-grandfather's brother ("Uncle Mike"). You won't remember Roanoke even though we bought special PJs to replace the ones you have noticed are missing (left in Memphis). Though I will remember getting complimented about your behavior right before Cora face planted into every plate and cup on the table—a seemingly impossible task!
Each one of you slept as we drove through the Shenandoah Valley. The time with the Schindele's in Virginia feels like a month ago (only actually two weeks). You won't likely remember the hot nights or your first attempt at making applesauce. But you definitely figured it all out by the time we got to Danielle's house in Connecticut. Between picking apples, playing with blocks, and spelunking in her basement, you realized "going home" was becoming our overarching destination throughout each remaining stop. But that didn't stop y'all from thoroughly enjoying the incline and Heinz Field tour in Pittsburgh or Churchhill Downs in Louisville. (You don't know that we booked a hotel in Louisville, TN instead of Louisville, KN ... that was fun.)
Yesterday you fed carrots to a horse, re-entered the holy land that is Texas, and opened books with your nana. Tomorrow, we'll get into the van one last time and arrive at our house—hopefully in time for me to watch the conclusion of the Steelers game. Though you have each been at another's neck at least once on this trip, y'all are playing together quite well. This time has been special for each of you.
Kenzie, you won't remember how invaluable it was for us to put you in the middle car seat between your siblings. Your "mom" attitude was usually quite helpful. Seeing you grow closer to Olivia was special. I won't forget how upset you were when you found out your "vanilla" ice cream was actually strawberry. But let's be real, the disposition you developed against pictures made for hilarious photos and your stinky shoes need to be thrown out. Your loud cheer in Pittsburgh when it started to rain—indicating that we would not go on a walk—surpassed almost any other shout of excitement on the trip. Picking apples by yourself or sewing with Danielle might be the highlight of the trip for you.
Judah, you named this trip "van"-cation weeks before we left. Your mom and I rejected a plan to slide back our visit to the Memphis Zoo so we wouldn't have to answer any more questions about it (after 14 hours on the road you were still disappointed we weren't going to the Zoo our first evening in Memphis). After visiting Churchhill Downs, you began to narrate all of your imaginary games in the voice of Larry Collmus—Always Dreaming also somehow became a hockey and football player. Your excitement about every event was only matched by your despair over "van"-cation coming to an end. It certainly didn't help that a yellow jacket stung your head during your lament over leaving Danielle's house in Connecticut. Yesterday, you fell asleep with a chicken nugget in your hand. And when you woke up you kept eating with your eyes closed. In the midst of it all, your face became older right before our eyes.
Olivia, this trip has been eventful and difficult for you. For starters, your ability to communicate has both increased and been pushed to its limits. There have been multiple moments of pure laughter over your articulate sentences—particularly when you express your disdain or disinterest in something. You've done this a lot since your normal "get away" time has been replaced with long stretches of sitting next to your siblings (your little Annie-fists have certainly expressed themselves against your siblings' faces ... and you bite me in Memphis). But hearing you laugh for hours playing with Kenzie in the van will be most memorable. The long naps have made your sleep schedule weird and I enjoyed our mornings just laying down after your siblings woke you up.
Cora, what is there to say? You are the fourth child and the entire book has been thrown out the window. Despite no teeth, you are practically eating everything. Apparently, during our carriage ride around Natchez, you ate an entire chocolate bar—at least that's what your face and hands indicated. You have army crawled all over the country at this point, but it has been your head-butting that has been the most humorous. You have slept horribly this entire trip and provided multiple days of headaches to your mother. Nonetheless, you rarely cried in the van and your giggles playing with the kids were humorous.
Over the course of a month, we drove over 3,600 miles and spent more than 55 hours on the road. We had more sandwiches than any of us can count. We bought more Powerade bottles at gas stations than we should have. And we probably have already forgotten numerous memories and jokes. Still, I wanted to take some time to write this for y'all and myself while the memories were fresh. It's been a blast.