Our original plan was to leave early Thursday morning and drive straight through to Memphis, TN. Then at the last minute, we decided to leave the night before and drive through the night while the kids slept in the car. We figured it would make the trip more bearable for them (and for us) if they could spend the first chunk of hours asleep.
We left home around 11 pm and made it as far as Mason City, IA with no problems. Then at about 2 am, a deer jumped out in front of us.
After what we witnessed last year, I was sure I was going to end up with a deer in my lap. My heart stopped as I pulled my blanket up over my head and braced for the worst, but God protected us. The impact wasn't too bad, and the damage was contained to the front end of the van. The passenger side headlight was dangling down to the ground and the hood was smashed up, but the worst damage was the cracked cap on our radiator. We thought our trip was over before it had even started.
iPhone photo of the car at the time of the accident
Thankfully, I am married to a man who doesn't let a little thing like a broken radiator at 2 am stop him from achieving his goals. He limped the van to the nearest 24-hour Wal-Mart and worked for the next three hours rigging up the radiator cap with epoxy. The kids were awake the whole time (2-5 am), but did very well coloring and eating early morning snacks. After plenty of epoxy and prayers, we once again hit the road, determined to make it to our destination. The van made it all the way to Memphis without overheating or showing signs of any other problems. Great job, JP!
JP fixing the van in the Wal-Mart parking lot
Once in Memphis, we were thankful to have a place to stay with my Aunt Jean (my mom's sister). Sadly, her husband, my uncle Hoyette, lost his battle with cancer just weeks before our arrival. We couldn't make it down for the funeral, so I was thankful to get to see her now and share a cup of coffee. The girls brought a smile to her face, too.
From there we went to my Mee-Maw's home for brunch. Time with Mee-Maw is always sweet and always way too short for me. She is not the strongest she has ever been, but she seemed to be doing well for a 90-year-old still living independently. We ate together, then JP took the girls down to the pond in her complex to feed the ducks while Mee-Maw and I sat on the porch and drank coffee. The whole time we talked, her eyes were watching the path waiting for her sweet great grand-babies to come back. She couldn't keep her eyes off of them, and they adored her, too. Even Rosie didn't show any signs of being shy or hesitant around a face we rarely get to see.
I love my Mee-Maw
We were only able to spend a couple hours with Mee-Maw, and then it was time to get back on the road and continue on to Ft. Campbell, KY, where my brother Micah and his family are stationed right now. Once we got there, we realized we didn't have the proper documentation needed to get on base! Security is tight for obvious reasons. Thank God for JP's dad, who kindly drove to our house, found the documents we needed, and faxed them down to the base for us.
We arrived just after nap time and the kids were all bright-eyed and excited to see their cousins!
First activity on the agenda: swimming! The temps in KY were in the 90's.
So, stranger, come here often?
Saturday morning we went on a tour of the Army base. Life on post is something you can't really understand until you've seen it firsthand. We were surprised at how large it was (even though Ft. Campbell is a relatively smaller base) and how Army families had everything they needed within the base walls (stores, food, entertainment, schools, parks, pools & splash parks, daycares, etc.). Micah and Missy live in one of the newest, nicest neighborhoods on base and are blessed with a beautiful 4-bedroom home for their growing family. We got to check out the building where Micah works and get a small taste of what every day life is like for the whole family.
Later that night, the kids had fun playing around on power wheels. :)
Ruby and Malachi were so stinkin' cute together.
This picture cracks me up -- hang on Malachi!
Rae was slow and steady on the John Deer.
Sunday was a kick back, relax, and enjoy each other day. That night we went to the bowling alley on base, which is always fun with seven kids under the age of six!
JP helps Ruby bowl a spare
Malachi guarding the bowling balls
Micah & Jeremiah
This is what bowling with seven kids looks like :)
This is my family's scoreboard. Rosie has the high score...mine is the low one. :)
The next day was Monday, Memorial Day. It was a really neat experience to be on a military base on a day set apart to honor those who have sacrificed everything for our freedom. We decided to visit the Don F. Pratt Museum on base, a museum dedicated mainly to the history of the 101st Airborne Division, or "Screaming Eagles," who are based out of Ft. Campbell. Across the street from the museum is an outdoor park that displays a bunch of military aircraft and equipment used by the division.
The kids all wanted to wear their shades...and hold hands. How cute could they be?
JP & Micah in front of a helicopter
Everybody say, "Don't shoot me!"
Shortly after taking this picture I saw the sign that read "DO NOT CLIMB." Oops.
This is an Iraqi tank that was captured by the 101st Airborne Division during the Persian Gulf War.
There wer little flags all over the park with messages to the soldiers. The one Zach is looking at says, "Thank you for your sacrifices."
The kids looking at a Memorial to fallen soldiers. It was the perfect opportunity to talk to them about what Memorial Day is all about.
This is a model of a 5th Group Special Forces soldier within the museum, which is what Micah is.
I'm thankful for all of the opportunities we had to talk to the kids about the sacrifices these soldiers make every day and the ultimate sacrifice so many have made for our freedom. It also opened up doors to talk about Jesus' sacrifice for our eternal freedom, and the truth, "Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."
We planned to leave Monday night around the kids' bedtime to drive home through the night, so the kids filled up the little time they had left together with dress up and more swimming.
Left to right: Anna, Rae, Malachi, Ruby & Zach
Rosie drinking from the sprinkler
Leaving was extremely difficult for the kids, especially Zachary and Malachi. As we said our goodbyes and handed out hugs, Zach started bawling his little eyes out. He could barely speak to say goodbye. Malachi started crying too, and according to Missy, they cried after we drove away, all the way through brushing their teeth, and were still crying when they went to bed. She gave them little guardian angel coins their grandma had given them when they had to give up their cat to hold as they fell asleep, bless their precious little hearts.
I was surprised that my girls were not more emotional about leaving. They fell asleep about an hour after we left and slept all the way through the night, not even waking up during gas stops. We got home around lunch time on Tuesday.
I'm extremely grateful that we had the opportunity to make this trip. We never got to visit Micah & Missy when they lived in North Carolina, and I've always regretted it. That's a whole big chunk of their lives that we'll never be able to relate to or picture in our minds. Seeing their life and their home at Ft. Campbell allowed us to get a taste of what everyday life is like for them right now. They are such an amazing family with unbelievably sweet and respectful children. I love them and look up to them in so many ways.