“OK, we’re all packed. We’ll get up when Fred gets up at six a.m. and start packing the car. If we hope to be out by eight, we should for sure be on the road by nine.”
“Alright, we have everything? Booster chair, bouncy chair, bucket seat, potty? Fred’s pack and play and swaddle blankets and sleepers? Crayons? Puffers? Clothes? Mobile? Blankets and pillows? Ny’s violet doll and Mr Potato Head? Snacks for the drive? Diapers and wipes and receiving blankets? Extra receiving blankets? Paper towels? Sippy cups and formula and bottles and bibs? Suck-A-Duck? The cat has been fed? Dishes done? Lights are off? OK. Let’s get everything downstairs. Nyana, can you carry your stuffed doll down to Yellow Car for us? Thanks! Ok, let’s go. Say goodbye, house! Goodbye, Sofie! Bye, elevator!”
Daisy Rae is packed to the gills and the first ever fambly road trip commences. We’re on our way to Grannie’s.
Torrential rain outside of Abbotsford. I grip the wheel a bit tighter and prepare for what the mountain passes will have in store for us. This is our first fambly road trip and I’m hauling some precious cargo.
Fred has been screaming for the last 30km and Nyana is kicking the back of Don’s seat. We pull into a Tim Hortons in Chilliwack to feed Fred, grab coffees, and let Ny get some fresh air. We’re praying the Gravol we gave her before leaving does what it advertises and keeps our car vomit-free, but we’re not putting all our eggs in one basket, either.
Daisy Rae has delivered us to the Coquihala summit with no problems. We stop for a bathroom break and a quick photo op, and Nyana lets us know that she is so, so, cold. We feed Fred again and are on our way. This is the halfway point.
We roll into Westbank. We’re so close we can taste it but we’ve been going for a solid two hours of rough winter conditions and the kids are needing a break. With just over an hour to go to Grannie’s, we pull into a Wendy’s to—again—feed Fred, and grab some food for the rest of us as well.
We finally pull Yellow Car into my mum’s driveway in Vernon and I’m moderately impressed that what used to take us four hours pre-kids only took us five and a half with Nyanimal and The Fredster. Nyana eyes us suspiciously as we get her out of the car for the fourth time that day and promise that the very very long car ride is over this time. As we usher her up the front steps, she is swooped up in hugs from Grannie and then enthusiastically met by no fewer than four dogs. It’s fascinating to see a two year old delighted and terrified at the same time.
After a long day of travel and no nap, Nyana falls asleep in Grannie’s bed. Don and I only spend a few hours socializing with my mum and my sister—who is home from camp for the week—before we head downstairs and crawl into bed ourselves, making a Nyana sandwich as we settle into our first ever co-sleep.
I wake up to Nyana lying perpendicular across me. Her bum is in my face. I reset her between Don and me and go back to sleep.
Don wakes up to a giant eyeball staring him down as Nyana shoves her stuffed Muno doll in his face. “Kiss Muno, Daddy.” Don kisses the Muno doll and tells Ny to go back to sleep. A minute later, Don wakes to an Elmo doll in his face. “Kiss Elmo, Daddy.” Compliant, Don gives Elmo a kiss and again asks Nyana to close he eyes for a few more minutes. “Kiss my face, Daddy,” he hears. He kisses her forehead, gently shushes her and begs her to go back to sleep.
Fred starts chuffing in his crib. The clock is ticking and we’ll all be awake soon.
Footsteps on the ceiling—both human and canine—tell me the whole house is up. I realize that Don is up too and see him on the other side of the room, feeding Fred his breakfast bottle. I get Nyana out of the big bed and guide her upstairs to say good morning to Grannie and get some yogurt and Cheerios for breakfast. She bursts into tears when the dogs try to greet her at the top of the stairs.
After a slow start to the day, we’re off to the city park to feed the ducks. We park the car at the Starbucks across the street and grab some lattés, then Don straps Freddy into the Snuggli, I grab Nyana’s hand, and off we go to the duck pond. I have a strange sense of nostalgic déjà vu as I lead my kids into the same park I started high school in, toward the same ducks I fed on numerous first dates as a teenager. Nyana and Grannie sit down on a bench in the sunshine, and in a matter of minutes there is a mountain of bird feed at Nyana’s feet and a swarm of birds jockeying for position. It doesn’t take long before both Ziploc bags we brought are empty, and off we head to the playground.
Nyana has a major meltdown when we ask her to say goodbye to the park. I carry her on my hip, screaming and sniffling, back to Yellow Car, where she continues to fuss the whole way home. We convince her to nibble on some grapes and cheese, and then lure her downstairs for some Dora the Explorer on Netflix and some quiet time. We’ve decided not to even attempt nap time while we’re at Grannie’s. Once she’s calmed down, we take her outside to play with her new sidewalk chalk from Auntie Kim. And when she runs out of sidewalk, she turns her attention to Daisy Rae.
Grannie serves the two legs of lamb she’s been roasting all afternoon. We have mashed potatoes and gravy and mint sauce and peas, with strawberry shortcakes for dessert. We’ve decided that Nyana has absolutely no idea what day it is on the calendar, and so we’re celebrating Easter while both my sister and I are in town. It’s wonderful to be able to share a holiday with family, even if we are celebrating two weeks early. Nyana eats a surprising amount of dinner and falls asleep in Grannie’s big bed surprisingly easily shortly after eight o’clock.
Nyana is asleep in Grannie’s bed and Fred has been asleep in his pack and play for more than two hours. I pull Fred out of his bed for a dream feed and then crawl into bed with Nyana and Don, and prepare for Fred’s middle of the night wake-ups. I say a silent prayer that he has a good night.
Fred chuffs himself awake for the third time in as many hours. I slowly open my eyes to see Don sitting on a grey yoga ball beside Fred’s pack and play, his arm leaning into the bed in an attempt to calm the noise with formula. He tells me later that his arm has fallen asleep in this position after spending the better part of an hour there. Nyana is awake in Grannie’s bed, too, so after a sleepy fifteen minute cuddle, I take her upstairs to get some breakfast. As we leave Grannie’s bedroom she proudly insists she’s not scared of dogs today!, though her tune changes as we approach the dogs behind the gate at the top of the stairs. We shoo the dogs away and I lead Nyana into the dining room for breakfast.
It’s been another slow start to the morning. Grannie has a special delivery from the Easter Bunny, so Don takes Nyana downstairs to watch some Netflix while Grannie and I hide the loot. When we bring Nyana upstairs, we hand her a purple Easter basket and a set of pink bunny ears. We explain to her that much like Santa brings toys at Christmas, sometimes at Easter a magic bunny brings chocolate for girls and boys who listen to their mummies and daddies, and who are big girls who love their little brothers. Because she is those things, we tell her, she gets to find all the chocolate the bunny left at Grannie’s. She’s apprehensive at first, but soon warms to the idea of collecting chocolate that had been hidden at her grandmother’s house by a magic bunny. I’m not sure who has more fun, my daughter or my mum.
I back the car out of my mum’s driveway, and Don and I return Nyana’s wave as she says goodbye to us through Grannie’s picture window. Don and I exchange anxious looks as we put the car in gear. It’s our first time being alone together since Fred was born, and it’s our first time leaving Nyana in the care of someone who doesn’t have medical credentials behind their name. It feels like a huge rite of passage for all of us as we agree to let Grannie “babysit”. I point Daisy Rae in the direction of a pub on the lake, and Don and I enjoy burgers and beer and the silence of grown-up conversation.
Lattés in hand, I pull the car to a stop in the middle of the empty Rec Centre parking lot. It’s time for Don’s first lesson in driving a manual transmission. I give him an overview and then let him at it, and am pleasantly surprised at how quickly he picks it up. He’s not ready to be unleashed on the roads yet, but he doesn’t kill my car learning how to balance the clutch and the gas, either. We zip around the parking lot for half an hour or so before we decide to head back to check on the kids. We get back to find Fred asleep in his bouncy chair, and Nyana and Grannie happily chatting over a plate of berries at the kitchen table. Relieved to see that my children can happily be left at grandma’s house, I make a mental note to start planning an adults-only getaway to Mexico for the fall.
The local news tells us to stay tuned for driving conditions on the mountain highways. We learn that a severe weather system is moving in along the higher elevations and that for the next few days, travel on the Coquihala isn’t advised unless necessary. Unfortunately, I tend to get cranky if I’m in my hometown for more than three or four consecutive days, and so travel is somewhat necessary for us. We will leave in the morning as planned.
Nyana has been asleep for a few hours and Don has just convinced Fred to nod off as well. Don and I begin the somewhat daunting task of packing up three days worth of a toddler and a baby in someone else’s home. It’s shortly past midnight by the time we have all of our belongings neatly packed and organized and ready to be packed into the car in the morning; I give a sleeping Fred a few ounces from his bottle and I settle in for our last co-sleep with Nyana. Tomorrow morning we’ll make the five hour drive home.
I wake up to footsteps on the ceiling again—the whole house is up. It takes a minute but I realize that if the whole house is up, it must be past seven. It’s past seven o’clock and I didn’t hear Fred once last night. Don wakes up at nearly the same time as I do. We catch each other’s eye across Nyana and I gesture towards Fred. ‘Did he get you up last night?’ ‘Not me. You?’ ‘No, me neither.’ Don gets out of bed to check that our son is breathing, then breaks out a big grin. Fred has slept through the night for the first time ever.
The car is packed, the grandkids have been kissed, and we are on the road. Within an hour we pull into a Tim Hortons in Kelowna for some breakfast. Within minutes we’re on the road again.
We’ve become those people who actually pull off the highway to stop in Merritt. It’s been a treacherous hour through the first mountain pass outside of Kelowna, and Daisy Rae is black with dirt. Fred needs a bottle, the windshield needs a scrub, and Nyana needs to stretch her legs. We fill the tank, hose down the car, and head out again towards the summit.
We’ve become those people who stop in Merritt AND Hope. We stop to wash Daisy Rae’s windows again, and then pull into Dairy Queen for lunch. Instead of getting our meals to go and eating in the car, we all go in and have a seat at a table overlooking the Fraser river. The long drive is getting to Nyana and she barely eats any of the chicken nuggets we’ve given her. She eats a few small bites of my hot fudge sundae before we load up into the car again. Next stop is home.
Nyana has gone quiet in the backseat. She’s staring out the window with a look of absolute boredom on her face and Don and I share a giggle. We hand her some animal crackers, and five minutes later hear her offering them to Elmo. At least she shares.
I click the button on the fob and pull Daisy Rae into our parking garage. We’re exhausted. The car is a mess. Nyana isn’t feeling well and will be puking for the next 24 hours, and Fred shows no desire to even attempt sleeping through the night again. But we’re home and we survived our first fambly road trip. Hell, we might even consider doing it again.