About 1 week before we left for our trip, Brad Kane was interviewing us for his article in the Patriot News, and he asked, “Aren’t you afraid you’ll just drive each other crazy? I mean, that’s a tight space to be with 5 other people for 4 months.” Of course, I went into some long-winded response about how we love spending time together and are used to tight living quarters; our current home was only about 1000 square feet, a modest space for a family of six. I droned on about how homeschooling and Shawn’s “work from home” schedule were perfect preparation for a trip such as this.
And then came the second day of our journey.
Cold rain kept us bundled up inside the cozy bus for most of the afternoon. The older two kids and I took a jaunt to the Gettysburg Museum that morning, but we were back by 2pm. I had the rest of the afternoon and evening before me…in rather tight quarters…with 4 rambunctious kids. I knew Shawn would be leaving at 6 pm for his writers' get-together, leaving me alone with the restless rabble.
Around 5 o’clock, I started to lose it. Sitting on the small couch in our “living room” with the two youngest taking turns scaling my back and perching on my shoulders, my body tensed with anxiety while my mind spiraled into depression: “What on earth have I gotten myself into? I believe I signed up for the adventure with children cuddling in the corners of their bunks reading books while I sat contentedly on the couch tapping my computer's keyboard in a writer’s euphoria. I want a refund.”
For some odd reason, I hadn't mentally prepared myself for days cooped up with a screaming 2-year old, a whiny 3-year old, and bickering 7-and 8-year olds. This was my experience day after day at home in Pennsylvania. But there is something about “doing what you always dreamed of” that candy-coats everything. Talk about rose-colored glasses…but then your youngest son elbows you in the face during a tantrum, knocking those lenses clean off your face, putting you face-to-face with reality: nothing, not even your dream coming true, is perfect.
So when reality hit me, I staggered to the back of the bus, flopped down on our disheveled bed, and spent 10 minutes feeling sorry for myself. Then I dressed the entire crew, herded them out to the van in the blowing rain, and drove to McDonald’s.
I hate McDonald’s. The food is cheap and the quality even cheaper. It’s everything about food that I despise.
But I love McDonald’s indoor playland. Yes, it is a disease-festering, bacteria-laden nightmare to all us mothers; but to my children, it’s heaven on earth. And truthfully, to this tired mama with a serious case of cabin fever, it was a gift from God. For two sweet hours, my kids ran their little hearts out, climbing those bright blue and red tubes like a hoard of spider monkeys. And I sat cozy at a corner table tapping the keyboard in a writer’s euphoria…at last.