Many, many thanks to those of you who offered for us to stay with them on our trip. Unfortunately, the idea is off. Let me explain:
My husband was going to take us as far as the Ft. Worth/Dallas area, where his sister lives. He was going to fly home from there, and the kids and I were going to continue on east, as far as South Carolina, to stay with relatives there for a week or so and then get on the road again to make our way home. Since I was going to be traveling alone with the kids, we were going to take our time and see attractions along the way.
We actually did leave last Thursday, because this week my husband might have had to go to California on a business trip, meaning he would not have been able to come with us for that first part of the trip. We left at shortly after 3 pm, and drove straight through because with six kids, it is simply easier to take turns driving at night while they are sleeping. It took a total of 16 hours driving, plus a couple of hours for breaks, plus losing 2 hours for the time difference between AZ and TX.
We arrived at my SIL's house on Friday afternoon (my birthday). We went mini-golfing that evening, and hung out at their house. The kids had a lot of fun playing with their cousins, whom they had not seen in years.
On Saturday, we went to an old part of Fort Worth and watched a (staged) cattledrive. My husband and Solomon rode horses for a bit, and then we left to go to see our nephew's martial arts training. Back to the house for lunch, where we only had a couple of hours before I was going to take my husband to the airport to fly back to Phoenix in time for church services on Sunday.
After dropping my husband off at the airport, I stopped at a store on that side of town. As I turned off the car, I realized that my husband's keys were in the ignition, and I was afraid he would not be able to get into our house at home. I called him to see if I needed to rush back to the airport to give him the keys, but it turned out they were just his spare set. Still, he said I'd have to come pick him up because he was unable to get on the flight.
He had refused the naked body scanner that everyone at this particular gate had been put through, so he was to be subject to an "enhanced patdown". The TSA agent told him he would be running his hand all the way up the inside of my husband's leg, feel around "some sensitive areas", and go back down the inside of his other leg. My husband inquired what he meant by "sensitive area", which infuriated the agent and he just repeated that it was a "sensitive area" he was trying to explore. My husband informed him that he would consent to the patdown, but that none of his private parts (not his wording) were to be touched. He said it quietly, where only the agent could hear it, yet the agent freaked out, saying that there were children around. Those same children who were going to be seen nude on a computer screen a moment later, or else molested under the guise of an "enhanced patdown". So it is okay to TOUCH and FEEL AROUND a child's (or adult's) private parts, but it is not okay to talk about it??!? Long story short, my husband would not agree to be molested by this TSA agent, so he was not allowed to clear security and get on the plane. The airline refunded his ticket, and I picked him up around 5 pm.
Allowing for the time it would take him to rent a car, get back to his sister's house and pack his stuff, and then get on the road, this gave him a little more than 17 hours to make it back home to Phoenix in time to preach. The drive takes 16 hours if there are no accidents or traffic along the road. He said he could rent a car one way and make it, but I hated the idea of him driving through the night for the second time in three nights, without the option of pulling over and sleeping for a couple of hours if he got tired. I was having second thoughts about my ability to drive long distances alone with 6 kids anyway, especially because of Anna, who is nursed exclusively. So I packed up the van, and all 8 of us headed right back home, again driving through the night.
It was a long drive, but because we were traveling west and gaining 2 hours in the time change, we had 4 hours more darkness in the van that we had had on the trip east. Of the 16 hour drive, the kids spent about 12 sleeping, which made it much easier on them and us.
We got back to Phoenix at 9:30 am. My husband teaches a Spanish class on Sundays that starts at 9:45, so he just barely had time to get ready and make it in time. I was going to get there at 10:30 with the kids, who had to be cleaned up, fed, and dressed. I also had to get myself ready, print the church bulletin (which I had made along the road on my laptop), and make the house (that we had left in a hurry days earlier) presentable for baptisms after the morning service.
To make things more interesting, the gas heater on our built-in spa (which we were heating for the baptism) had a malfunction and almost went up in flames. Thankfully, our neighbor came over to alert me about the smoke coming out of our backyard, and I was able to turn it off just in time. Nothing like walking up to a smoking gas heater that is raging flames on the inside to wake you right up and get the adrenaline going! After I turned the "off" switch, I could hear that the flames inside were still raging, and at a loss of what to do next. I tried calling my husband (this was after his Spanish class but before the service), but he didn't answer. Thankfully, he walked into the backyard just moments later, turned off the gas main, and the fire stopped. Apparently, he had decided to come back to the house between his class and the service, which he usually never does.
We had the baptism in cold water after the morning service. In the afternoon, my husband was able to figure out what was wrong with the heater (it was not getting enough water because of a problem with the pool filter, causing it to overheat), fix it, and get the spa ready for 3 more baptisms after the evening service.
An interesting birthday weekend indeed! I knew turning another year older would be rough, I just didn't anticipate quite how much so! I will be making myself a birthday cake later today to sweeten the deal. My husband offered to bake or buy one, but I love baking so this will be fun.
I am very glad to be back home safe and sound. Many thanks again to all those of you who so generously offered to put up the kids and myself. Have a wonderful week everyone!