Our
Journey:
Avalon's Army of Angels
June 20, 2009
Leave for D.C.
Yes, that's it.  It's official.  I'm nuts.  Oh...I don't mean
your garden variety peanut, I'm all the way to big
bonzo...Brazilian nuts.  In a few short hours, I'll be
leaving for Washington DC.  Doesn't sound too
crazy?  Well, here's the low down.  
I'll  be leaving...in
a car...for nine hours...
with all four kids.....

Pertinent background info....I HATE  to drive.  I can
barely make it to Dayton or Athens (1.5 hrs, and 2
hours respectively) without getting mind-numbingly
sleepy.  How in the Sam-hill to I think I can drive 9+
hours all by myself?!  Aggghhhh..........

What on earth could be so important it would drive
me (ha ha...I just cracked myself up!) to make this
auto-journey-from-Hades?  That's the easiest answer
there is...cancer kids.  The A-gang and I are headed
to Washington DC to join CureSearch in their "Reach
the Day" effort.  We'll join several hundred other
pediatric cancer families who will all meet with our
congressional representatives and senators - to
beg/plead/cajole the politicos into funding the
Caroline Pryce-Walker Conquer Childhood Cancer
Act.  In other words, the kiddos and I are marching on
Capitol Hill to give a face (or faces, as the case may
be) to Childhood Cancer.  Nothing else could come
close to making me attempt this.  

Its currently the butt-crack-o'-dawn, and I'm doing the
1001 things I probably should have done days ago.  
Things like printing out the address and directions to
the hotel where the conference is based.  Things like
printing out the handi-capped parking map and
disability entrances diagram for the Smithsonian
Institute.  Things like finishing the "leave behinds" I
made to give to the congresspeople we meet.  In
general....
things.  Good grief...going this alone is
just shy of terrifying.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, the original plan
was to have Nick with us.  We were supposed to be
doing this as a
family -  one for all, all for one
scenario.  Right - that and a fairy godmother will buy
you the Brooklyn Bridge.  First of all, one of our
used-to-be-fantastic-and-honest builders has now
turned disloyal and untrustworthy.  As we prepared to
go, an office worker did her best to hose us - and in
essence, cheated Nick and his partner out of more
than $4000.  We've known this person for years, and
have known the builder for longer than Miss Nasty
has worked there.  I cannot fully wrap my brain
around anyone being that dishonest, particularly to
people who used to consider you 'a friend'.  
But...dishonest they are - and heartless.  So...money
that is normally tight - just became strangling.  Nick
has no choice but to stay here and work, if we would
like to do the simple things in life like eat and pay
rent.  I wanted to cancel the trip entirely - but Nick
won that discussion - citing our free place to stay -
and my frugality as evidence that we could make it
work.  Long story short, I believe in karma.  I hope to
be able to contain my laughter when Miss Nasty loses
her job - and the builder succumbs to the recession.  
Two years ago, I would have done anything to help
these people.  Now....I'll have to work to not guffaw at
their losses...

So, here I am - headed to DC with nearly negative
funds, a fear of driving, and four kids to wrangle by
myself.  Oh yeah...I've leaped over Cashew and
Walnut to full out Brazil nut basketcase....
4 o'clock in the morning...and the journey begins.  
May the Universe have mercy on my aging soul...
Later the same day...shockingly, I still have some
brain cells left!
Well, we made it!  I can't believe I'm actually saying
this....but I drove all the way from Columbus, OH to
Waldorf, MD...and lived to tell the tale!  Wahoooooo!

The trip was not without its interesting moments.  
First of all, I have to give a giant shout out to
Onestepahead.com.  As I reached the end-planning
stages for the trip, I realized I had a few issues that
could be significant problems in DC.  Anam has just
recently potty trained.  He's only 2 1/2, so being fully
potty-trained is quite the accomplishment, but not
without its challenges.  Little Man has done fantastic
with car trips and various outings - but we were
embarking on quite the adventure, sure to be frought
with potty-disasters if I didn't plan well.  Somewhere in
the insanity, I remembered that years upon years
ago, my brilliant friend, Nancy, had found a
collapsible take-along potty seat for just such
emergencies.  I determined that I needed to find one
and started the crazed internet search for it.  Make
no mistake, we may not be a species of
traipsing-through-the-wilderness hunters and
gatherers anymore...but a determined mom can still
brave the internet wilds to find
that-which-she-deems-necessary.  I am
Shira-the-Huntress...hear me roar!

My internet masterhunt led me to the wonderland of
One Step Ahead.  Not only did I find the elusive
collapsible potty seat...but i also found detachable,
crash-safe, lap desks for the kiddos in car seats.  
These things are amazing!  The potty seat allowed
Tiny Man to 'get busy' as we hurtled down the
highway at 65mph, and all three little ones to
eat/color/play with toys in virtual peace.  A few
internet shopping suggestions for all of you - read
the "reviews" of products that online stores offer.  By
reading all the reviews, I was able to properly filter
out the Negative Nellies who complained about the
lap desks ("it didn't work well for my 15 mo old" -
ummm...
Duh!) and benefit from the brilliance of the
folding-potty moms who came before me.  (use
grocery bags with a folded paper towel in the bottom
- instead of the obscenely expensive "refill" liners.)
We stopped at the Welcome Center just inside the Maryland border.  What a
view!  And don't you just love 'car hair'?
Gorgeous view - the girls went
crazy.
Admit it, they're cute!
Right behind them, the grass hill
dropped off 30 feet or so to the
lower level.  Scary!
Road trip...hippy style.  :-)
That would be a powdered
doughnut grin...
WOW......
Long story short, I am here to report that I do not regret one cent I paid to One Step Ahead.  
Both products were amazing, and both bailed us out several times.  If you'd like to check  out
either thing, I'm so stinkin' nice, I'm posting links to them below.  

Folding potty seat:


Car lap desk:  

OK, back to the regularly-schedule ranting...

I have to say, the whole trip was easier than I anticipated.  The stress of having to follow
directions, worry about potty stops, and keep the general short-person warfare down to a dull
roar....kept me pretty wide awake.  Aurora did a SPECTACULAR job of helping me out.  At her
age (OK, on
any previous car trips), I was the useless slug who snored her way through entire
states.  I'm so impressed that Aurora not only stayed awake to help keep me awake - she
completed 9+ hours of Cirque de Soleil acrobat training as she vaulted back and forth in the
van finding food, getting toys, making dvd players and MP3 players work.  She deserves
billboard-sized accolades for that.  However, she didn't rank quite so highly in the "map reading"
portion of our challenge.  Let's just say...map skills are not yet her forte...

One of the more 'interesting' (said with dripping sarcasm) parts of the day was our van.  If you
may recall, back in Oct of 2008 we went on a family vacation to Williamsburg, VA.  (courtesy of
our dear friends, Marnita and Kevin).  On the way to Williamsburg - our trip was multi-hours
longer than necessary, because we kept losing oil pressure.  We've fought that damn oil light
since then...having it towed to a dealer twice, and racking the brains of every mechanic we can
get our hands on.  We checked into renting a car to drive to DC, because we were concerned
about taking the van through the mountains again.  However, see the above paragraph about
smarmy, selfish, dishonest, cheating builders.  A $4000 loss meant that car rental was out of the
question - so we headed off this morning on Faith.  As it turns out, Faith can buy you peace of
mind...but not necessarily a functioning car.  We again experienced oil pressure issues in the
mountains, and after rain storms.  It caused us to pull over and let the engine cool a couple of
times - but the ice cream cones that went with our 'pressure pauses' - didn't exactly mortally
wound the short people.  I can say...I have repeatedly wished armies of nasty fleas into the
undershorts of a few builder-types I know...

At long last, we arrived at my friend, Anne's, home.  I have an entirely new appreciation for the
men in my life who have allowed me to snooze carefree during all previous road-trips.  From my
dad, to my high school boyfriend, to my beloved husband.  I have a new sense of awe of these
incredible men, and their willingness to tolerate my uselessness.  I was sure to convey that
appreciation to Dad and Nick - but the long-ago boyfriend will just have to live in ignorance.  

Important note for any and all who ever consider driving to Washington DC....sign your will first,
and line up prescriptions for nerve pills.  I-495, the outerbelt, is one of the most insane, poorly
signed, cluster f*&#s I've ever had the misfortune of being forced onto!  The road is nutty and
the people driving on it are certifiable.  Mild-mannered Ohioans are not prepared for the
CHAOS that is 495.  If you haven't found religion before you hit DC...you will...
on 495.

Several mild coronaries later, we all managed to descend on our dear Anne.  After years of
seeing pictures of her house, and hearing stories about the work she's done to it, it was
marvelous to finally be able to stand in it.  From the moment we walked in the door, we felt as if
we were
at home.  Anne was welcoming, wonderful, warm, and gracious.  We never felt like
company, we felt 100% like family.  Anne and I have been friends for...
22 years!  Is that insane
or what?!  I met Anne doing the same local theater show that I met my kids' godparents, Joe and
Steve.  Anne has been with us through college, graduation, loss of grandparents, marriage,
kids, Avalon's cancer, loss of Papa Steve...
everything.  Anne sang at my parents' 25th
anniversary party and our wedding.  She is as integral a part of our life as you can imagine,
even if we often don't get to talk for months at a time.  Anne is what we all hope for in life, the
friend that you can go months/years without seeing, but instantly feels as if she never left - the
second you lay eyes on her.  We might have taken nearly 10 hours in a cranky car to get there,
but the second we stepped in the door...we were
home.