Growing up, both Jon and I were blessed to have wonderful "framily" nearby. [Side note: I borrowed from a cell phone commercial for this term because it is less wordy--and funnier to Elsa--than "family as close as friends."] We continue to be blessed with great friends here in Memphis, but those we consider "framily" are alas, not geographically close. So, when we realized we could take nearly an entire week to celebrate Thanksgiving, we knew we had to visit some of these folks.
The last time we visited this family (written about here), we were able to get an affordable direct flight. However, since weather is always a potential factor in late-November and since nobody wants to fly over Thanksgiving, we chose to drive. Our friends had done it last New Year's when they had visited us, so surely we could do it, too.
We have done a number of roadtrips with two kids--I have even done several by myself--so we weren't worried about how the girls would do. This would be the longest, by far, however. In order to maximize our time, we left on a Monday night after I had finished teaching my class. After our customary roadtrip stop at Chick-fil-A, we were on our way. As expected, Lena fell asleep pretty quickly, and Elsa followed, once she was full of chicken nuggets, of course. So then it was up to Jon and I with regards to how far we could go until we needed to stop for the night.
We made it past Nashville, which was our goal--this knocked several hours off the entire 13 (if we were to drive straight through...ie, without kids). Even with this headstart, though, we were still in for a full day of driving. Nothing particularly eventful happened (fortunately), but now Elsa thinks that every long trip is a special occasion that warrants ice cream since we stopped for lunch at the Dairy Queen attached to the gas station where we filled up.
It was definitely bedtime when we rolled into the driveway in Maryland, so we whisked the girls upstairs before getting to visit for a few minutes. In the morning, it only took Elsa a few minutes to assimilate into the tribe of kids, which was heartwarming. Lena also joined in the ruckus as best she could. After rounding everyone up, we headed into the city to visit one of the Smithsonian museums, the Museum of American History. They have a really cool interactive area for kids, which is where we spent the bulk of our time. Both of these girls are a work of art.
It was definitely nap/rest time when we got back to the house, and then the rest of the afternoon/evening was spent according to the comforting rhythm and routine of family life. After getting the kids in bed--which, with five little people ranging from 6 1/2 to 10 months, was quite the undertaking--we proceeded to do what we would do for the next several nights: play board games and drink adult beverages.
We didn't stay up too late because Day #2 was also Thanksgiving, and we had a Turkey Trot to attend. The 6 1/2-year-old participated in a fitness group at school, and their culminating activity was a 1K fun run. Not to be left out, Elsa and the 4 1/2-year-old ran, too. Each was awarded a medal and a cupcake for their efforts.
Our return to the house commenced in a flurry of Thanksgiving prep activities. I somehow wound up watching all the kids while the others cooked and cleaned...which was great because I also got to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Just doing my part, you know. Our friends had invited some of their neighbors to join us for dinner, which increased our kid total to 8. In a small world connection usually reserved for Memphis, one of these families had ties to Bamberg as well. And then, a friend from our time in Bamberg came over too. It was a typical Thanksgiving meal, with too much food, lovely conversation, and small children running amok. Pretty much awesome.
We never quite figured out how to spend our final full day in Maryland, but with the previous two days' excitement, staying at the house proved to be an excellent decision. I even snuck out early for a run, and I've got to say that Maryland is much hillier than Memphis--the difficulty of the run couldn't possibly have been because I am out of shape. At any rate, after breakfast, we played in the backyard on the swing set and in the leaves and just generally enjoyed each others' company. If all of this sounds Norman Rockwell-esque, that is because it was (albeit peppered with inside jokes and bitmoji avatars).
And then it was time to say good-bye. We gamely attempted to make the entire drive back to Memphis in one day, but with a late start and some longer-than-planned stops, we decided to call it a night just past Knoxville. Fortunately we still had Sunday before having to get back to our regular schedule, so we got a good night of sleep and hit the road again. Yes, we may have spent 3 days driving for a 3-day visit, but getting to spend time with our "framily" was totally worth it. Although now it's their turn to visit us...