Traveling With 10

 From the Farm:


Published in the Casper Journal May 25, 2011

We found it at last ... the vehicle which five car salesmen said “didn’t exist,” an 11-passenger, all-wheel-drive van with doors on both sides. I saw it on the internet and called the dealership, in Indianapolis.
“Does that eight-passenger van have a third bench option ... to seat 11 people?”
“No ma’am,” the salesman responded. “Those vans don’t exist.”
“Well, if there’s any way to add a bench, call me back.” I hung up. Ten minutes later my phone rang.
“I just went out to look at the van and it already has 11 seats.” The salesman sounded a bit surprised.
“What about a passenger door on the driver’s side?”
“No ma’am.”
“Well, I’d still like to see some pictures,” I told him. Within a few minutes I had several photos in my inbox. I pulled up the first photo: three benches, 11 seats. I pulled up the second photo: AWD, printed on the back door. I pulled up the third photo and called the salesman back. “It looks like it does have an additional door.”
“Yes ma’am. It does.”
“DO NOT SELL THAT VAN TO ANYONE!” I nearly yelled into the phone.
“Where are you calling from?” he asked.
There was a stunned silence before he asked, “And you want to purchase a vehicle in Indianapolis?”
“Have you ever tried buying an 11-passenger, all-wheel-drive van in Wyoming?” I questioned.
“Well, ma’am we can only hold it for 24 hours with a deposit.”
“It will take us 24 hours just to pack our family,” I said. “I’ll give you a deposit every day next week, but you can’t sell that van.” He transferred me to a manager, and the deal was made.
“It’s very red,” the kids said when they saw the pictures that night. “It’s an apple van,” my daughter piped up. “Remember, it’s from Indian-APPLE-is.”
“What should we say when people make fun of how big it is?” one son asked.
“Tell them people made fun of Noah’s ark, too, but it sure kept his family safe,” joked my husband.
And so, we planned our trip to the Midwest to pick up the van. Have you ever taken a long trip with 10 people? Clothes for 10, food for 10, backpacks for 10, entertainment for 10 ... what might any of these people need at any time during the next week? Coats for the cold, swimsuits for the sun, shoes or sandals, pajamas, underwear, socks, and a change of each, just in case.
We’ve traveled to the Midwest before, but this time we tried something new and took the train. Driving to Denver was the most stressful part ... almost as stressful as boarding the train. Each child had a coat, a backpack, a small bag and a blanket. In addition we had three car seats, a double stroller and a huge food cooler. A friendly conductor seated us near the front of the train, with lots of space.
Once the ride started, it was heavenly. No red lights, no traffic, no seatbelt signs, both parents free to help with kids. In addition, everyone had their own comfy seat. It reclined, it had a light, and the bathroom was available whenever anyone needed it. (No, Amtrak isn’t paying me to write this.) In addition, there were pillows for sleeping, foot rests and an observation car with huge windows.
The scenery was incredible. As we stared out the window at the green fields of Iowa my preschooler commented, “How about in Wyoming we stop planting yellow grass, and start planting green grass?!”
The travel seemed to take a fraction of the time, and we arrived rested and cheerful to pick up our van. There it was: big, red and all ours. We all climbed inside. All-wheel-drive? Check. Fifth door? Check. Eleven seatbelts? Wait ... there were actually twelve, an unexpected bonus! The van had other surprises as well, including a cool DVD player.
The ride home was as enjoyable as the train trip there. Everyone had their own comfy seat, plenty of foot space and big windows to watch the green fields go by. We left on the Amtrak and returned in the apple van. Traveling with 10? There’s nothing like it.

A Mother's Day

From the Farm:


Published in the Casper Journal May 10, 2011

Happy Mother’s Day! As a mother myself, I’m quite convinced that Mother’s Day wasn’t created by a mother. I’m equally as sure that the day can only truly be appreciated by mothers.
As the mother of eight children, my Mother’s Day begins early. “Clink, clank, crash ...” I hear sounds from the kitchen. Pretending I’m asleep, I listen to my children (and husband) whispering and scurrying around making breakfast. The slight aroma of burned toast reaches my nose, and I hear the kitchen window opened quickly for some fresh air.
Soon, their voices “wake” me up. “Happy Mother’s Day,” they sing. I pretend to sit up groggily and act completely surprised by their efforts. “Breakfast in bed? How nice! Wow! All of my favorite foods!” I do like lying in bed, and I do like eating breakfast, but combining the two can be a bit tricky, especially with eight little people sitting around me. They watch my every bite. “Is it good?” “Is this really your favorite breakfast?” And eventually, “Can I try some?” Soon, we’re sharing spoonfuls of the special meal all around, spilling a bit of juice, toast crumbs, and granola on the bedspread. Happy Mother’s Day.
“Guess what, Mama? Today you won’t need to do any work!” pipes my six-year-old. I smile as they clear the breakfast away. Yes, a lazy shower is enjoyable, but just as I get out I hear a wail from the baby room. No one can decide what the twins should wear, or quite how to tackle and dress them, and so I help. I go in to the kitchen and quietly wipe up counters and sweep the floor and then ... we’re late! (Only mothers ever look at the clock.) It’s into the car to leave for church.
On the way, everyone reassures me that the Mother’s Day program will be wonderful. “I can’t wait!” I smile. It’s nice to go to church on Mother’s Day, but somehow the program always turns out a bit differently than planned. My four-year-old refuses to sing, my eight-year-old is hidden on the stand behind a tall boy, and the twins are fussy during the music. Still, who can resist a group of children singing sweetly to their mothers? Happy Mother’s Day.
At home, everyone begs me to “put my feet up” in the living room while they make a special dinner. And so I lounge on the couch. As I turn the first page of my magazine, the fire alarm goes off. My husband, apron on, assures me that all is well and I hear more kitchen windows opened. Lots of discussion and busy noises come from the kitchen as the sound of shattering glass makes me jump. Never mind. I’m putting my feet up. But wait ... a diaper must be changed and everyone else is busy ... and so I fill in.
Soon I’m escorted into the kitchen. Gourmet food? Well, in the minds of eight children and one devoted dad, yes. Perfectly gourmet, despite the idiosyncrasies. And besides, I didn’t have to cook it. Happy Mother’s Day.
After dinner, it’s back into the living room for a special party. Starting with the youngest, I’m presented with an assortment of gifts wrapped in a variety of paper. Construction paper cards, homemade necklaces, photos in hand-painted frames, and lots and lots of coupons. “I’ll sweep the floor every day for a month!” “This coupon is good for a week of breakfast in bed!” (Oh goody!) “This coupon may be exchanged for as many hugs as you’d like.” “I’ll do all of my jobs without being asked.” Piecrust promises? Perhaps. But solid gold in a mother’s scrapbook. Happy Mother’s Day.
Speaking of pie, we gather on the lawn for pie and ice cream. Yes, it’s my favorite. Yes, I’m going to eat two pieces. Yes, Sara Lee or Marie Callender (whoever she was) made it to perfection.
Who invented Mother’s Day? It wasn’t a mother. We’re too busy cooking food, herding children and changing diapers to stop and celebrate. And it’s hard to commemorate a role we all feel so imperfect in. However, despite our perceived motherhood weaknesses, it’s certainly nice to be celebrated. And, we don’t require much. Singing, pie, children ... a perfect Mother’s Day.