Stephan and I lived through 24 hours that, while completely our fault, was some of the toughest hours we've ever survived. (Not counting all the hours we haven't survived yet?)
We've been on vacation. We were vacationing in southern Missouri, where my family congregates once a year to sit at the pool and catch up while drinking beer at 10am. But when that vacation was over, our trip was just ramping up:
5am: baby wakes up
6am: make coffee
9am: leave for fish hatchery
10:15am: arrive at fish hatchery (temp = 96 degrees F)
10:30am: feed fish
10:45 am: hike up a mountain with a baby wrapped to me
11:45am: re-live our youth by talking to strangers
12:10pm: arrive at water park and drink shakes
12:20pm: begin sliding down concrete water slide
12:21pm: walk up hill to slide down again
12:23pm: slide down again
12:24pm: walk up again
[this repeats until 1:20pm]
1:20pm: manage preschooler fit
2:30pm: arrive back at pool and swim
4:30pm: out of pool. Begin packing
5:30pm: finish packing
6:15pm: baby smashes his face into the floor and bleeds everywhere
6:30pm: still bleeding
6:45pm: bleeding is stopped, time for dinner
8:00pm: drive away from rental house
9:15pm: stop at Walgreens for Orajel so baby can eventually eat again
9:30pm: cross into Arkansas
I can't honestly tell you the order of events after that. I know Stephan was driving. I stayed awake with him until about 12am, you know, for moral support. We stoped about every 2 hours to feed the baby, or let someone go to the bathroom. But then...
2:30am: sketchy rest stop in Alabama.... Stephan tries to find bathroom and is directed to a gated, fenced, padlocked enclosure at the edge of the property, with only one "women's" room, in disrepair, with two mystery doors that appear to be locked.
4am: Stephan asks me to drive
5am: the sun comes up
6am: I start crying in a McDonalds parking lot because I'm so tired I'm seeing things
6:30am: Stephan starts driving again while I sob sleepily next to him, disappointed I can't drive my shift this morning
8:00am: I get back behind the wheel.
10:30am: I'm done. Apparently I'm swerving so much that Stephan feels uncomfortable letting me drive.
12:30pm: We arrive at DeFuniak Springs, Florida.
At that point we visited Stephan's aunt, who lives in a nursing home there. We manage to finish driving to Destin, Florida, where a condo on the ocean awaits us. We heat up some left over chili (yes, we brought leftover chili on this trip) and take Sawyer down to the beach for his first ever encounter with The Ocean. After the driving we did, and the crying I did, the moment we all four held hands as the vastness of The Ocean met the miracle of our first son, at sunset, it was.... there might not be any words. I took a picture with "the camera in my mind" and we mostly just stood there letting the incoming tide remind us how big our world is.
One of the lessons from that day was this: some things are just different now. Stephan and I can no longer power through a 14-hour drive and expect the kids to fit into our plan. We used to drive 14 hours to and from Montana 3-4 (or more) times a year. But we have to admit that, at least for the near future, our driving days need to be shorter. It's a big shift for us. We once drove straight from Chicago to Oklahoma city, and then to San Diego, only stopping briefly. That's just not us anymore. But "worth it" is so fantastically, actually AWEsomely, not even close to what we get to do instead.