A Christmas Road Trip Story

Illinois SnowYou know that post I did right before Thanksgiving where I interviewed CJ Blue, hero of The Husband Games, and he mentioned having eleven sisters? Well, i have a confession to make.

His big family was inspired by my mom’s big family. I don’t have quite eleven aunts, but I do have more than two uncles.

Big families are fun. So many personalities, so many stories, so much mischief. And last weekend, my mom’s family’s annual holiday party was scheduled in Illinois, so while the hubby took off for his own family obligation (which is sometimes just the way it goes when you’re a military family), my mom flew down to Alabama to help the kids and me drive home for the party.

There were some signs all would not go as planned, but we like to make the most of what we’re given.

On our first travel day, Squeaker, the two-year-old, got sick in the car well after dark somewhere around the Kentucky-Tennessee border. Lessons learned: Don’t feed a two-year-old pancakes for dinner (especially if said two-year-old is prone to taking advantage of your distraction with feeding yourself and your other children to slam back an extra bottle of syrup) and always keep a Magna Doodle at your children’s feet. (I have praised the miraculous Magna Doodle for saving my car’s carpet every day for over a week now.)

On our second travel day, Grandma and I introduced the kids to the joys of singing Feliz Navidad in the car at the top of our lungs with the windows rolled down. The boys giggled, Buttercup headbanged, and Grandma and I went hoarse.

It was awesome. And then we got to my parents’ house, and all was lovely, because we were out of the car and Buttercup had eight cordless phones and one answering machine within reach and the boys knew where the Nerf guns were stored, and all was right in the world.

Despite a poor weather forecast for the next day, we were ever optimistic, so after we got the kids to bed, my mom, sister, and I rolled a couple hundred little smokies in bacon.*Β And made a lot of weenie jokes. And then made a few more weenie jokes. Because we’re mature like that. And also because when you’re contributing bacon-wrapped weenies for a crowd of 75 weenie-lovers, you have to roll a couple hundred weenies, and let’s face it, there’s nowhere to go but to weenie jokes at that point. (Heh. I said weenie-lovers.)

Saturday morning, after a fitful night of sleep for all of us that involved Munchkin sitting up in the middle of the night (we were sharing a room), looking at me, and saying, “That’s a hawk. See, Mommy? That’s a big hawk,” and then laying down and going back to sleep, we checked the weather. Initially everything looked almost promising. We held our breath, but ultimately the party was called off. (Which–for the record–has never happened before.) Too much ice on the roads around the state for everyone to travel, which meant a quiet day of baking cookies and taking cordless phones away from Buttercup and eating hundreds of bacon-wrapped weenies, topped off with a prime rib dinner with my grandparents, who live just around the corner and who were quite relieved to not be going out in the weather.

That’s right.

My mother pulled off a prime rib dinner (at my grandparents’ house, no less) with six hours’ notice and without even having to go to the grocery store. It’s like she’s super woman. I made a joke on Facebook last week about out-mothering my mother by countering Squeaker’s vacuum cleaner-inspired temper tantrum with a comment about some kids not even having vacuum cleaners, but the truth is, my mom’s hard to out-mother. (She even made the Christmas cookies that my kids left out for Santa after we got home Tuesday night.)

The next day was Sunday, and Sunday afternoon my other sister brought her family over and we had a massive eating-and-unwrapping party. There was lots of shrieking, lots of laughter, and I officially became the Best Aunt In The World by giving my nieces Lalaloopsy dolls.

But before that, there was The Dinner Incident.

All the information you need to know going into this story can be summed up in one unfortunate sentence: My parents’ dog died this past summer.

He was a funny dog with a unique set of issues, and he lived a good, long, happy life. He’s missed, as my mother astutely observed during dinner while my children (and also possibly I) were throwing food on the ground.

“You know,” Mom said, eyeing the carnage on the floor, “I sometimes miss my automatic vacuum cleaner.”

My baby sister, who still lives at home, perked up. “We could get another one.” Because she loves animals and she wants them all.

My mother, who’s entering the stage of her life where she greatly enjoys her freedom and isn’t keen on more parental-type responsibility who’s still heartbroken over the loss of the dog, deadpanned, “I’d rather get a Roomba.”

And because we were raised around all of her brothers and sisters, the remainder of dinner was spent teasing my mother about her vicious guard Roomba that would scare away intruders and give her grandchildren rabies. And when she unwrapped her Roomba two hours later (which, honest to goodness, she didn’t know my dad had gotten her, though the rest of us did), she promised to get it microchipped. And taken in for its shots. Really. I have video evidence. But I suspect she won’t make me any more prime rib dinners (complete with Yorkshire pudding!) if I post it, so you’ll just have to trust me.

Also? On Sunday my other grandma brought her famous strawberry cake. And I might just post a pic and a recipe one day soon.

Monday the kids and I started the drive home, picking up the hubby at an airport along the way, and we made it home around noon on Christmas Eve with no further unfortunate incidents, though probably with a few more stories best not told in public. (I think one might involve the hubby and I getting slap-happy late Monday night in the car and discussing mermaids laying eggs, but like I said, probably best that I don’t tell those in public.)

All in all, despite the grand party of the year being cancelled, we had a great trip. We don’t often see family for Christmas (part military life, part choice so that our kids have Christmas memories of their own at home as well as the occasional road trip), so when we’re able to get together, it’s always fun.

Hope you had a wonderful, story-filled Christmas too!

*Bacon-wrapped little smokies marinated overnight in brown sugar then baked at 350 for an hour is my mom’s signature dish at family gatherings. She got the recipe from my mother-in-law back when the hubby and I were engaged, and ever since, she’s brought it to her family’s annual holiday party. Once she suggested she make something different, and her brothers and sisters threatened to either renew the rumors that she was adopted, or steal her clothes out of the bathroom while she’s showering the next time she takes a trip with her sisters. Or maybe both. Or maybe something worse. I can’t recall all the details, but she’s never mentioned not bringing the bacon-wrapped weenies again.

6 thoughts on “A Christmas Road Trip Story”

  1. I loved this story, Jamie! Your stories are the best. We had bacon wrapped weenies at my in-laws house on Christmas day, but alas, my in-laws are not the weenie-snickering bunch, so no laughing about that. Sorry your big family event was cancelled but glad you still had fun! I want a Roomba…my automatic vacuum cleaner leaves hair behind.

    1. Thanks, Amy! πŸ™‚ I love telling these stories, lol. My mom named her Roomba Vic (short for Vicious) since we gave her so much trouble. Hope yours learns to clean up his/her own cat hair. πŸ˜‰

  2. I just love your family stories. And those wienies are awesome! I got the recipe from your sister after I couldn’t stay away from them at her house. I made them for my family this year. I’m glad you had a fun and safe trip to & from the frigid state of IL.

  3. Would making your mom stand outside a locked car in front of Kohl’s on a freezing Black Friday and making her sing Christmas carols at the top of her lungs while saying “Merry Christmas” to at least 3 people be worse….

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