Part AA few days after we got back from Mackinac Island we were going to make an 8 hour trek back to Northern Michigan (8 hours away from home) to visit my husband's grandmother, Nana Grace. It had been almost two years since she was able to see Henrik and she's never had the opportunity to meet Theodor. We wanted to make sure that she got that chance, so Eric asked if I'd make the trek with the boys to the U.P. to visit her. Of course I said yes, and so my mother-in-law and I were going to drive up there with the kids. BUT, I had a sneaky plan!
It had been 43 days since we had seen Eric. And it was a LONG 43 days at that. The boys were starting to ask about Eric more often, they were starting to get upset that he wasn't able to be there for them. So, Eric and I booked a flight for Eric so he'd arrive at midnight on the night (or day) we'd leave for Marquette. I was all wiggly inside. I knew how surprised my boys would be and to me, this was the best surprise in the world. It was SO hard to keep Eric's arrival a secret, but I did! And when they woke up, there was DADDY! They just smiled in shock, they were silent and smiling and wide-eyed. I will never, ever forget the smiles on all of their faces! It was priceless. Pictures don't even do it justice (and not because it's a blurry one).
As the house was filled with laughter and joy, I slipped away to pack a few last minute items (I already had the bag packed and just had to add personal items, and no, I didn't unpack all of the toys/diaper bags/totes from our other trip yet). I found myself taking a little longer in the shower that day; I'm not sure if it was that my partner was back and I didn't have to feel bad about him watching the kids, or if it was that I was giving the boys a few extra minutes together, either way it was good for all of us.
A few hours after the boys wrestled and got reunited, we were ready to hit the car around nap time (my boys nap early because they wake up so freeking early). I'd be lying if I said I wasn't dreading this trip. Eight hours in a car with my boys, my mother-in-law and a husband I hadn't seen in 43 days, was not exactly how I wanted to spend this time together, but, sometimes we have to do things we don't want to do, right?
Before the trip even started I realized that my oldest son is a smart ass and I should have known then that it would be a long trip. As my MIL backed out of the driveway, she said, "Where'm I going?" Henrik quickly replied, "backwards" like it was no big deal. With Eric in the back, I in the front, Alice behind the wheel, we tag teamed our boys trying to keep them happy and excited for this long adventure. Boy was it hard.
For the most part, it was an easy trip. Eric was better than any toy I could have given the boys and the music really came in handy this time around, but we still had some tears and some crabby mommy time. As the length of time got longer and the boys grew impatient, Henrik and Alice had this conversation:
H: Grandma, drive faster!
A: I'm going the... oh, well, I thought I was going the speed limit.
A: I'm going the... oh, well, I thought I was going the speed limit.
With one hour left in our trip we were all getting restless. Theo was pretty much screaming to get out of the car and kept pulling on his harness and banging his head against his car seat, Henrik started up:
H: I don't want to be buckled. (Tired three year old)
Me: too bad, we have to stay bucked for a little longer. (Can you tell how worn down I am? SO not my "good mommy" voice.
Eric: pretend you're in a race car and it's you're racing harness! (Good Daddy!)
H: I don't want to race. (Smart three year old)
We made it to our hotel in just over 10 hours, we traveled coffeeless the whole time #sadmommy, the boys demanded gas station hot dogs, they ran lose in a restaurant where Theodor threw everything on the floor and Henrik puked, I got annoyed with Eric for some damn thing, we listened to Afro Circus about 16 times, Gangnam Style about five times and we only ate at McDonald's twice! But we made it. Phew.
If I am honest, I'd have to tell you that I have had a hard relationship with my in-laws over the past several years. It's not that we don't love one another, it's that we've not yet figured out how to blend our different families and our very different beliefs. But know, that no matter what our differences are, I do love them and I'm proud and happy that I get to share my sons with my in-laws and their family. That's the only reason I decided to make the trip to Marquette.
While yes, it is extremely stressful taking my sons on a day long car ride, it's even harder for Nana Grace to make the trip. I wasn't sure what to expect once we got there, my worst nightmare was that we'd be stuck in her apartment where there was no child proofing and a lot of things my children could destroy. I was worried that because they were cooped up in a car the day before that they'd be too wild to keep indoors and would make too much noise in her building. I hadn't traveled with my MIL with our kids yet either so I wasn't sure what she expected or wanted out of the trip either. Yes, talking about it would probably make it easier, but at that time I just speculated and worried.
When the boys woke up, we met up for breakfast and Nana Grace suggested we go to the Children's Museum! REALLY? Marquette had one? We lived in a place larger than Marquette and they had nothing for kids. I jumped at that opportunity and after breakfast we headed out. We were even able to invite one of Eric's cousins and her son. It was a wonderful, and better than I imagined or could have hoped for.
I've always loved Eric's grandmother, she is a kind, smart, outgoing woman who is stronger than she looks. She's held her family together through some pretty rough times but always has a positive outlook on things. I knew my boys would love to meet her, and when the were friendly and kind to her I knew that it melted her heart. The boys were playing in the kitchenette in our hotel room, hiding and playing in the cabinets, when Theo looked at Nana Grace and said, "Nana Gayce, in ner?" as he pointed to the cabinet Henrik was hiding in. He invited her to play with them and flashed a smile as he gestured again for her to come over. She respectfully declined the invitation, but she had a smile that lit up the room. She let out a little chuckle that just made me feel good. I can't really explain it, but it made me feel comfortable, happy and welcomed.
While we were there to visit Nana Grace, it was also a time for us as a family of four to re-connect. Our boys needed their dad back. I needed my partner, my husband and friend. We all were like puppies trying to get his attention, the boys always won. One morning when we woke up, Henrik jumped in our bed and clung to Eric. "We're magnets!" he cheered. Eric had a good laugh about that and played along. "We're magnetized!" they yelled as they ran through the room. Theo joined in and Eric soon had two boys, smiling from ear to ear stuck to his legs. This game lasted twenty or so minutes and in that time, I have never been happier.
It was more than just seeing my husband with his sons. It was that my family was all together again. 43 days is a very long time and you always wonder what it will be like when you get back together. In our case, we didn't miss a beat. And even though it would have been nice to share that time with just our family of four, I think it was important for my MIL and Eric's grandma to see our family in action and see our interactions with one another. I've always said that family is more important than anything, and you always do what you can for family, and in this case I did. I brought my boys their dad, I brought my MIL her son and his family, and I brought some great-grand kids to their great-grandmother. So what if it was a long drive, seeing all of those happy faces made it all worth it. And shame on me for dreading the trip. I should have listened to my heart. I knew I was doing the "right thing" I didn't realize until I was there that it was.