We made it back from our Sojourn to the South late Monday afternoon, tired, sore, cranky, and overwhelmed by a carful of crap that had to be unloaded, sorted, and hopefully put away. We made it to unloaded. I'm still stepping on doll shoes and magnetic mosaic squares, and dozens of other toy parts that I will probably never identify properly.
By Christmas Eve, everybody seemed to be feeling pretty good. I had managed to get Devon off to daycare for two days, thus obtaining 12 hours in which to organize and pack and quietly panic for the trip ahead. We rousted everyone at 3:30 am Christmas Eve morn, and in remarkably good spirits we headed for Tennessee.
The girls slept for the first few hours while we maneuvered the dense fog in northern and central Virginia. When daylight finally appeared, we stopped for breakfast and then fired up the new dual-screen, portable DVD player that I got just for this trip. By the end of the day (about 13 hours from when we started) there was a whole lotta whining coming from that backseat, but there was just as much coming from mine. Midway through the day, my head started to feel as though someone had shoved a couple balloons up my nose and had started to blow. Did we bring anything that contained decongestant? No, we did not. Did my parents possess anything in their pharmacopeia that contained decongestant? No, they did not. Why my head did not spectacularly explode that afternoon, I am not sure, but I managed until the next day, when my beloved and allergy-ridden sister arrived with several medications in hand.
I was sure that I was on the path to a horrible, wasting illness that would render me immobile for the duration of the trip, but by the end of the second day, I was doing pretty well. Between my sister's decongestants and the AMAZING showers at my parents' house, I was feeling pretty good.
But let me digress for a moment. My parents' house. I have never spoken about it here, and am somewhat reluctant to now because they just might read this humble blog from time to time (Hi, Dad!), but this house. Is freaking huge. You would think that I would have pictures to show you, but - and I am quite serious - I do not have a lens wide enough to capture the hugeness. Every shot I try to take, I am jammed up in a far corner of the room, trying to get as much in the frame as possible, and I still just get a fraction of it, and it looks like a normal room, but IT'S NOT. Square footage? I dunno. Several million, considering how tired I am from just going from the kitchen to the living room over and over. Huge.
Why do two retirees have such a huge house? Ah, well, ask my Dad and he says it's all Mom's fault. Though he was the one who consulted with an architect and helped draw up the plans, and showed up those plans every time we visited their PERFECTLY REASONABLE HOME WHICH WAS ONLY THREE HOURS AWAY IN PENNSYLVANIA. They felt that house was "too big" and "too much work." Because they were getting older. And needed to simplify. So they built a freakin' mansion in the middle of Nowhere, Tennessee.
Really, I could go on and on about this. But I'll move on.
I really wish I was a better photographer, so I could have taken pictures of the insane meals my Dad prepared. I have no idea what gets into this man's head when people come to visit his house. Apparently, he thinks we need to be bludgeoned with cheese and starch in order to have a pleasant visit. Here is what we ate:
Thursday dinner: chicken and dumplings, mashed potatoes, green beans. My dad asked if we wanted bread as well. I opted to be able to poop the next day.
Friday Breakfast: Breakfast Strata. This is a concoction, made the night before in a casserole dish, comprised of layers of cheese, english muffins, cheese, ham, and more cheese, with an egg/milk mixture poured over the top, and a final layer of...wait for it...CHEESE. The most artery-clogging, acid-reflux-inducing, gastrointestinal crisis in a Pyrex dish I have ever eaten. Good? Well, shit, yes, it's good. It's also disgusting. In a good way. But the CHEESE!
Friday Lunch: Make your own paninis. And what did we have available to put on our sandwiches? Turkey, salami, proscuitto. Cheddar, provolone, American, fontina, swiss, mozarella, Colby, CHEESE CHEESE CHEESE.
Friday Dinner (Christmas dinner was on Sunday, when the whole family could be together): Leftovers (Dad was going to attempt something else this night, but had a brief moment of clarity and went for leftovers instead. I'm sure it would have involved CHEESE.).
Saturday breakfast: Sausage gravy and biscuits, eggs, bacon, leftover Breakfast Strata (Or there would have been leftover strata, except the dish exploded in the microwave! And it was Mom's fault, according to Dad.) My dad makes excellent sausage gravy, but by this point, my gut was so bloated, I looked pregnant. Kinda felt like it, too.
Saturday lunch: I don;t remember this meal at all, so I think we all just ate whatever. I'm pretty sure my survival instincts kicked in and I skipped this meal altogether.
Saturday dinner: Mexican Night. CHEESE enchiladas, tamales, tacos, burritos. WAY too much food. This was the point where it was very clear that Devon was sick again, and I couldn't eat much because I was upset. But even if I had, Dad, it wouldn't have made a dent in all that FOOD.
Sunday breakfast: French toast, eggs, bacon. Miraculously, no cheese.
Sunday lunch. Since dinner would be early, only snacks. Which were sausage balls (loaded with CHEESE), crackers with creme fraiche, smoked salmon and caviar, and pigs in blankets.
Sunday dinner: Standing rib roast, turkey breast, mashed potatoes, brioche rolls, yorkshire pudding, AND MACARONI AND CHEESE. I am not kidding. Macaroni. And CHEESE. Again, my dad makes the most amazing mac and cheese known to man, but GODDAMN. THE CHEESE.
Seriously, I will smack a bitch who tries to feed me cheese right now.
All in all, it was a good visit, just exhausting trying to keep two kids happy in a strange, HUGE house. Devon wanted to stay downstairs most of the time, which is where the guest bedrooms (yes, plural, but only two) are as well as a big TV, a bar, snacks, a fireplace, foosball table. I'm not kidding. The place is HUGE. Fortunately, David was well enough to look after her much of the time, so I could spend some quality time with my mom. My dad was too damn busy cooking, and then recovering from cooking, to spend much time with anybody. I know it's his way of showing love, but I cannot emphasize the words "gastrointestinal crisis" enough here.
Did I get ANY pictures? Yes, a few:
My Dad, reading to Devon. She wore that dress for the entire visit.
Harper, with Mom and Dad's dog, Tessie
Harper and her beloved cousin, Erin. Erin is my sister's daughter.
Harper and Erin's daughter, Sophie.
The Smith Women. My mom likes to segregate everyone for family photos, for some reason. I never did get a shot of the menz.
Somewhere, on another camera, I guess, I do have a picture of the bar downstairs. If you're a drinker, this bar is probably where you'd like to spend the rest of your life. Me, I was too worn out all the time to risk any of the after-effects of alcohol, which for me range from massive headache to vomiting and wishing for death, and that's after ONE BEER. I'm kind of a lightweight.
There is much more I could tell you, but I've talked your ear off (written your eyes off?) already. I'm very glad to be home, even more glad that David is off until Monday, glad that Devon is back on major antibiotics, even if she is MUCH nicer to be around when she's really sick and doesn't have the energy to yell at us.
I can't believe that tomorrow is the start of a new year. Perhaps I'll have some thoughts on that then. Right now, I'm going to take a bath in Pepto Bismol while sipping on a Maalox milkshake.