After returning home from my dad's birthday festivities, we had two shorts weeks before our next adventure --a spontaneous and quite miraculous trip to Indiana to see Cynthia and Tom.
The wheels for this trip started turning on Mother's Day. I'd just spoken with Cynthia, and was really feeling the need to go see her. I was still nursing James at the time, so I'd need to bring him. And the girls hadn't met her, so I really wanted to bring them. But if i went with the kids, I'd be of no use and get nothing done, which would somewhat defeat the purpose of the trip. I was frustrated and teary and desperately feeling the need to have my mom around when Reid said, "Hey babe, why don't we all just go see her?"
Man, i love that guy!
In just a few days time we'd figured out that:
-My two brothers, Jared and Nathan, were already planning on spending a few days with Cyn and Tom in late June, as part of a road trip across the country.
-My sister, Julia, was already going to be flying from DC to UT the very same weekend that Jared and Nate would be there, and it would only cost $50 more to add a leg to Indiana
-Reid's schedule at work was perfectly open for that very same weekend.
-We could all stay together in a TownHome-style hotel
-We could rent a handicapped accessible van for a few days, allowing Cynthia to go on a few excursions with us! (they gave us three days for the price of one!)
- I already owned three bottle of children's allergy medication that were all unopened! Grace's terrible cat allergies would be under control!
And best of all--this meant that my kids could actually meet their Aunt Cynthia!! And not just see her face on our computer!
I called Cynthia to tell her about all these stars aligning, and she pointed out the obvious: that "this trip had been orchestrated by our mother." I whole-heartedly agreed.
And so, our adventure began.
The girls were legitimately helpful getting from the parking lot to the airport, rolling their own suitcases behind them. Grace was especially sweet--always looking to Reid and I to see if she could help with the things we were lugging. I marveled at how it could be easier flying with four kids than it was to fly with our 3-week old Grace. Is it just perspective? loss of reason and mental faculties? Both?
Because our plane touched down after midnight, we opted to stay the first night right in Indianopolis. The excitement that kept the girls awake on the plane ride was matched by the thrill of sleeping in a hotel room! They were up until after 1:00am. (11:00pm MST, but still)
James was the first to crash, even with his sisters running around, ignoring my constant "Pleeeeease be quiet so James can sleep!" Bless him for being so dang good. The entire trip! The girls finally fell asleep--all three in a bed. Eliza, who still tends to fall off of beds (maybe 'cause she was in a crib too long?) was sandwiched in the middle. I wish I'd taken a picture, but, like i said, it was 1am.
I just want to say that, although most people think we are a bit crazy having our 4 kids in one bedroom (yes, James is no longer sleeping in our closet!!) my kids do so well on vacation, and i think it's largely because they're used to each other. They sleep right through all their loud breathing, and coughing, and sleep-talking, and wriggling. And that is why, during our infrequent yet crucial hotel stays, I tell myself that having them all share one small, cozy room is totally worth it. I tell that to myself aaaaaallll night long since I can't sleep a wink, what with all their loud breathing, and couging, and sleep-talking, and wriggling....
We took off for Bloomington the next morning, but not without consuming the entire continental breakfast, and taking a quick swim in the hotel pool, of course.
Julia had gotten there a couple days before us (bless her for mopping and vacuuming up as much dander as she could for us Allergic Allreds!) She went with Tom and Cynthia to one of their favorite lakes (I do envy the lakes they have in IN) on Friday.
Then on Saturday they took us to another beautiful lake
While we were there, already having a singularly magical moment watching yachts and eating watermelon, Nathan and Jared pulled into town. And it was there, on the shore side of Lake Monroe, that we had our first official Five Ashworth Siblings in Indiana moment. I'm pretty sure that if you look close enough, you'll see my mom smiling down on us in this picture.
The rest of the trip was a perfect combination of enjoying ourselves immensely, and helping out significantly. All of us spend so much time and energy trying to think of ways we can lighten Cynthia and Tom's loads and lift their spirits. So when we are actually there with them, and able to do something about it--we are like Energizer bunnies, but with Duracell batteries.
Just a small list of what "many hands" were able to accomplish in 5 short days:
-clear enormous wood piles from the side of the house
-clear enormous wood piles from the side of the house
-cut down dead and dying branches
-weed the lawn and the garden areas
-destroy several wasp nests (with peppemint spray, mind you. Cynthia has a bleeding heart with space enough for even wasps. But i will say, that stuff worked! we got rid of their home without getting stung!)
-hang plates on the wall in the kitchen
-hang art on walls around the house
-purchase (with Dad's money!) a brand new HDTV
-mount said TV
-rearrange and decorate the space with the new TV
-declutter the bedrooms
-cook something like 36 freezer meals (we did this in the hotel room in the mornings, when Cynthia was sleeping)
-feed the LDS missionaries
-take several loads to the GoodWill
Even with all the "work" we did, we still had plenty of time to:
-play trivial pursuit
-stay up late, talking and telling stories
-have a piano recital from Grace and Abby (they learned some patriotic songs just for this trip!)
-rock out with Tom's handmade guitars--there were enough for everyone to have one!
-eat amazing food--as we always do when Tom's the cook
-take a day trip to Lake Lemon with Tom and the girls
-go swimming at the city park (Reid and the kids)
-drive around the ritzy neighborhoods, and drool all over their idyllic properties
-watch "Happy Feet"
-enjoy watching Tom and the girls play endless games and tell endless jokes
-take a quick trip to Nashville, IN where we were able to see several of Tom's Guitars for sale in a little instrument boutique/shop
|Eating breakfast at our gazebo|
|Tom is so good with kids, and the girls had such a great time with him!|
|This is just one of many "hikes" Reid took the girls on while James was napping and I was working--bless him for it!!|
|Tom, Reid and the girls at Lake Monroe, successfully seeking out geodes. Many even made it home with us!|
|Collecting seashells and other treasures|
|Angel baby himself|
|More Lake Lemon|
|On the right--Abby playing her recital piece. In the middle, the new TV and art arrangement that Cynthia designed and Nate and Jared hung up. On the left, Eliza mauling Tom|
|Nathan standing by three of Tom's guitars!|
The 6 days went by way too fast. It was so good to be there. We were all exhausted by the end of it, but none of us wanted to leave.
I still marvel at the fact that, with so little planning, such an unlikely and wonderful reunion happened this summer.
Thanks, Mom, for putting that together :)
Side Note: So many of you have asked how the Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber is working for Cynthia. The answer is that is does help her. It hasn't cured her M.S. by any means, but it improves her overall feeling and well-being. She still uses it regularly and is still so grateful and appreciative of all the kindness and generosity that made it possible for her to own such a wonderful piece of equipment.