As much as I hate to admit this. I was told today to get my hiney in gear and update my blog...
I have been remiss, haven't I? I apologize profusely to all my readers everywhere. All 8 of you. LOL Anyway... There is the joy that is our trip to Arizona. Perhaps that is what I will focus on today.
New Years Day 2008. It's 8 a.m. My husband had just gotten out of bed to make kids stop screaming and carrying on, and get them started on breakfast. The phone rings. I leap out of bed in an instant. Not to answer the phone, but to get dressed. I know what the call is about, even without looking at the caller ID. I know exactly who it is. There is only one thing it could be at 8 a.m. on a holiday.
Grandma is gone.
We had gotten the call about five days earlier that she was not doing well. So, I started making arrangements at home to prepare for a drive to Arizona. I did all of the laundry that had been waiting for me for a couple of weeks. I cleaned my bedroom. Spotless. And I got the kids rooms all cleaned, and did some rearranging there. There was just one thing left to do. The hardest thing. Wait.
So, in the ten seconds flat it took me to strap up the girls and get dressed, my husband is finishing up his phone conversation with his mom. The look on his face confirms my suspicion. Poor Grandma. 97 years old. Her husband has been gone for some 30 plus years. She'd been praying to go. And finally, her body, tormented by a familial tremor, was finally still. But it did not lessen the pain of knowing that she was gone. My husband, a manly man by most descriptions, clung to me and sobbed. My heart broke for him. I had a hard time being sad for Grandma, because I knew she was feeling so much better where she is, but my heart was breaking for my husband, who is a lot like me; Crusty exterior to protect the soft gooey center.
And so, we began our plans for a road trip. Let me tell you how difficult it is to find a place to change the oil in a minivan on New Year's Day. But, I digress...
So, we first called his ex. She was supposed to have the kids the next day, so we asked her if we could bring them over to her and pick them up at 8 p.m. She was really good about it. Then we set about packing up the kids. My dh searched the internet for hotel rooms in Las Vegas, where we would be stopping for the night. We shopped for road snacks the kids could eat while riding in the car. We purchased headphones for their GameBoys. We purchased a DVD player for the van. (this was the BEST money we have ever spent, bar none) And we loaded the van up so we would be ready to leave early the next morning.
We left on the morning of the 2nd, a little before 6 a.m. And we drove. We stopped in Burley for breakfast and fuel. And we drove. And drove. We stopped in Spanish Fork for lunch, only because I missed the exit for Springville. Ooops... Sue me, it's been YEARS since I'd been there... And we continued on. We hit construction in the tiny corner of AZ that you go through between UT and Vegas, and that delayed us a little, so it was dark when we got to Vegas. Damn.
So, somewhere near Henderson, I asked my dh where the hotel we were staying at was. It was a resort casino. GREAT. So I tell him, well, I get the final veto if I don't like it. And he said, well it's already paid for, so.... Damn.
So, we get lost, briefly... which was my fault, but we won't talk about that, since I don't like to be wrong, and typically I am a very good navigator... but anyway.. My dh is saying how this resort's website made such a huge deal of how family friendly they are, etc. And I'm thinking, great, how bad can it be? LOL OH HO HO HO!!!! never ask yourself that about anything in Sin City... So... they neglected to mention that just about anything you need to do, including check in for the hotel, requires you to walk thru the casino. So, here we are with our little Brady Bunch, walking into this casino to check in. No problem right? OH, WRONG. My children are all wide- eyed over the slot machines and video games. And then, the icing on the cake. The servers. Women of all shapes and a few sizes in red velvet bustiers and thong underpants. The only thing coming between the innocent eyes of my four young boys and these mature bottoms are black hose. And they were sheer hose, at that. And WHILE we were en route to the check in counter in the midst of all the dinging slot machines, cacophony of electronic musical games, the fog of thick cigarette smoke, and the visual assault of half naked women, dh's cell phone rings. It's his brother, who lives in the area and wants us to call him when we're settled in. So, we stop our brood in the middle of the hotel casino with all this going on, while dh takes this call. And I am CRANKED. Seriously angry. So, dh goes to the desk while I huddle all my kids behind an 18 inch support beam that runs from floor to ceiling. I am trying to shield them from the insanity that surrounds us. If I had been alone with my husband, it would have been fine. Well, sort of. I can't stand chaos. I can't even walk into Best Buy without plugging my ears because of all the noise from music, movies, and car stereo equipment mingled with people talking loudly over it all. So I am gripping my two youngest children tightly by the hand, leaving me no hands to cover my own ears. And I can't close my eyes because I have four others to watch, one of whom is staring at it all in an autistic daze. So we wait. And we finally get checked in, and get to the first of our two adjoining rooms, and go in. Well, then the key to the second room does not work. So dh has to go back down to get that taken care of. Meanwhile I am on the bed of my room in the fetal position rocking back and forth while trying to block adult movies from the TV in our room so I can let them watch some cartoons....
Then we go to dinner. There is a TGI Fridays in the hotel. Great. Guess where it's located? On the other side of the casino. SO we have to walk through the casino to get to the Fridays. Our waiter was a tall man with a Russian accent. Very nice. But VERY VERY slow. So after an hour and a half for dinner, we go back up to our rooms.
Finally, we get everyone settled into their rooms. Well, this was somewhat poor planning on my part, because instead of opting to pack my own bag, and let dh pack his own bag, we pack our stuff in the same bag. And our adjoining rooms only join in the hall. There are no doors between rooms like the old days, when most people had large families. No, we are not the norm. We are the exception, not the rule. So, I have to give my dh a list of all the stuff I need for my shower. My shampoo, my conditioner, my facewash, my hair styling creme, my clothes for the next day, and my pajamas for that night. I opt to use the bar soap generously provided by the hotel. And their hairdryer, even though I had packed my own. I was trying to keep my husband from having to make a second trip to bring everything I needed. I have naturally curly hair, and to use a hairdryer without a diffuser in a desert climate like Vegas is ill-advised. Especially a crappy hotel hairdryer with a fan in the back that catches your hair and twists it in the fan motor and makes the entire bathroom smell like singed hair and makes the smoke detector go off. Ok, so the smoke detector didn't go off. But I thought it would. And wondered if it would be like on TV where the sprinklers come on when the smoke detectors go off. So, anyway, when I finally get out of the shower, and pjs on, etc, my dh comes in, says good night to me, and we go to bed. He was in one room with three of the boys, and I had the girls and the baby (ok, so he's 3 now). I looked over at the clock, and the local time was 8:30. OH my hell...
I must say that this is one of the most uncomfortable beds I have ever slept in, and I am freezing. It was a queen sized bed, and there were two standard pillows on it, but I gave one to Mason when I shoved the little love seat in the room next to my bed so he could sleep with me without actually being in the bed with me. I also had to give him a blanket, so I gave him the soft vellux one that was under the bedspread. So what I was left with was the bedspread and the flat sheet. I am cold natured usually, so this made for not the most comfortable sleeping arrangement. So I woke up every couple of hours to stretch out, since I slept in the most compact little ball I could get my chubby self into. Anyway, the following morning I got up and got dressed and ready for the day's drive, and had just gotten done when dh called me on the hotel phone. Apparently the boys in his room had been wide awake for the past couple of hours... So we met in my room while I got the girls up, and woke the baby and changed his diaper, etc. It was at that point that we realized we had brought in the diaper bag, but not the back pack with his clothes in it. So he was going to stay in his pajamas... Oh well.
Then we went down to breakfast. An all you can eat buffet, also in the hotel, also located at the other end of the casino. Amazingly, at nine in the morning, there isn't anyone sitting at the bar, and the casino is much quieter. We didn't see one single thong pantied server on our way to the restaurant for breakfast. On the way in, a man and his friend who are talking animatedly stop in mid sentence and begin pointing at each one of the kids and counting aloud. "SIX KIDS!" He exclaimed. "You have a basketball team!" I have to say that I was grateful that he hadn't asked if I knew what caused that.
Breakfast is a crazy thing. This restaurant is huge, first off. I normally let my boys and oldest girl get their own stuff, but I was feeling a little nervous about it due to the sheer size of the place. And you wouldn't believe the breakfast layout. Muffins and doughnuts, eggs, pancakes, waffles, blintzes, I think anything you could possibly imagine was there. So at one point, I thought that my 10 year old w/autism is lost. And in a state of panic, I realize that if I have to describe what he is wearing, there is no way I can. I have no clue. In fact, at that very brief moment, I couldn't even remember what clothes had been packed. But, thank goodness, I had just missed seeing him walk back to the table, and he was sitting there when I returned to break the news to my dh that I had lost one of the children.
Back to the rooms to double and triple check to make sure we had all of our stuff, and get the kids loaded up with their backpacks. We make our way back out through the casino to the parking garage, where I am relieved to find that our van is still there. We unfortunately left a little later than we had planned, which meant we got into Phoenix at rush hour. This would not have been so bad, had it not been for a lunch stop in Kingman that caused one of the boys to have diarrhea. Diarrhea that did not manifest until we were sitting in bumper to bumper traffic on I10. There was nothing we could do, we had to wait until we could find an exit. We were in the HOV lane, so we had to get all the way into the right lane, in bumper to bumper traffic, where most of the traffic was moving slower than we were, and you do NOT want to slow down in the HOV lane of a Phoenician interstate. So, thankfully, when we finally were able to exit the freeway, there was a 7-11 at the end of the ramp, and an on ramp on the other side, which was what we'd hoped for. However, the pit stop took us almost 45 minutes because we had to change the underwear of the boy in question, and we made every other kid use the restroom while we were there. And there was a single restroom, with a single toilet. For employees, mostly, except the occasional restroom emergency. I felt so guilty standing there with the other five kids that I bought them each a little treat so I could at least feel like I patronized the store, since we were holding up their bathroom for so long. Anyway, I made dh load the kids back in the van while I used the restroom, and then we continued on. We only had about 2.5 hours left and we just wanted to get there and get the kids settled and relax.
Did I mention that just outside of Phoenix, the highway we take into Thatcher is two lane, and goes through mountain grades and is very curvy. It's not fun to drive during the day when it's clear. And now, it's pitch dark. And people don't slow down on the curves. So you have to hope that you don't get one of them careening around a curve over the double yellow head on into you... I just got my iPod out and played solitaire. My dh had driven this enough times, I knew he would be fine. And I didn't want to think about it. So, at about 8 p.m, we arrived in Thatcher at dh's aunt's house, with starving, tired kids. And after driving for 9 hours and the drama in Phoenix, we wanted to feed them, get them in bed and sit down. But there were other plans in store.....
...... to be continued.