Meet Me in St. Louis: A Christmas Story

30 December 2014

I had some *deep* thoughts about our experience in the Old Order Mennonite communities this time around, and I want to share them with you, and I will...but today I'm going to talk about road tripping Christmas and barf? Because I need to maintain my status as an oversharing momblogger who keeps it realz.

In California we lived so far from our families that roadtrips with babies just didn't happen. We blissfully flew with a lap child (ha!). But now we live in Texas which is kind of closer to things, so we took the cheaper evil of the highway over navigating airports and flight times and rental cars. We did our big driving push - Texas to Tennessee - in one day. We packed up the day before and drove out at 4am. Both the kiddos transferred into their early morning car seats pretty seamlessly, and we had ourselves a sweet roadtrip sunrise with some truckstop coffee.
The kids woke up in Baton Rouge, and we ate cajun powdered sugar for breakfast. We were riding high. I think we even high-fived each other. Ironically of course. For lunch, we picnicked in the sketchiest of sketchy playgrounds somewhere in Alabama.
Things went pretty well till the last couple hours of dark driving in the rain. We finally made it to Chattanooga and were desperately trying to find a fast food restaurant with a playscape. In the haze of the city lights, their colors distorting on the wet windshield, for over an hour we navigated first to a Chic-Fil-A which ended up being in a food court and then another that was in a hospital and then to a "kid friendly" taco place that was closed and elicited some rather saucy verbiage from the husband. Finally we landed at this grungy, deserted fried chicken place where we literally let our overtired underexercised offspring walk around the whole restaurant. In general we're zealous "Sit Down And Eat Your Food" types, but at this point we were channeling a lot more zombie than parent, and watched pretty disinterestedly as Lucy Juney wandered into the bar and flirted with anyone who smiled at her.

The next morning we found out that Chattanooga was much more quaint and much less circle-of-hellish than our first impression led us to believe, and we had some hipster coffee before heading to the land of hot hot woodburning stoves and cold cold leaky outhouses.
We brought our own sniffles to the Mennonites this time, which was kind of nice since it made me less concerned about all the snotty noses in these vastly child-heavy communities. But two days in and Lucy June was looking greenish. We arrived at one of Jacob's cousins and for the first five minutes I tried to calm my super fussy baby and make excuses for her, but then she vomited all over the floor. The wife quickly got a bowl for me, and even though Lucy June threw up about four more times over the next few minutes, I caught none of it.

An hour later she was ripe and ready to eat again, so I fed her with all my fingers crossed, while Jake played with his cousins' pet raccoon and Jacob talked with the menfolk about trotlines, horses, and weather.

When we visit the Mennonites, we eat a lot. Virtually every meal is at a different relative's house and each one involves SO MUCH FOOD. Mennonite food is very Cracker Barrel - gravy on pancakes, creamed corn, mashed potatoes - plus semi-unrecognizable things with names like "Scrapple." And each meal has some kind of dessert. Many of Jacob's cousins asked me how I lost baby weight. I told them I didn't usually eat cheesecake after breakfast.
The last afternoon in the community, I was doubled over in Jacob's Aunt's house suffering through the stomach bug Lucy June bequeathed me. As I tossed my breakfast cheesecake into a chamber pot, I devised this little formula:

Mennonite In-Laws + Stomach Virus + Outhouse + Winter 
How Much I Love My Husband

Soon with our sniffles and our stomach bug - and a trunk full of winter squash, canned soups, fresh milk, homemade bread and butter, and a gallon of muscadine juice -  we left Kentucky headed for my sister in law's house in St. Louis where we planned to Christmas. I didn't feel great about bringing all our diseases into her house, except her kids had Hand, Foot, and Mouth, so we just embraced our germy holiday.

I like to see Jacob around his family. I see parts of him that I don't see anywhere else, and I know it does his little extroverted heart so much good to spend time with them. We played a lot of Dominion and ate a lot of gourmet chocolate and drank lots of wine and martinis.

The stomach bug floated around the house and finally landed back with Lucy June on Christmas morning. The kids woke us up at 5:30 on Christmas morning, and shortly thereafter I found myself in the bathroom cleaning vomit (etc.) off me and my daughter and the floor - because we were covered in vomit (etc.) 

I realized at some point I was living my parenting nightmare: those horror stories you read on blogs when the whole family is sick for a week. I was living it. On Christmas. And as awful awful awful as it had always sounded, it wasn't as bad as I'd expected. It was And time got us through it.

Now the long roadtrip is over and we're home again in Houston. We'd planned to get home a day sooner, but on our drive home from St Louis, we took a right in Texarkana so we could wish my family a Happy Christmas in Fredericksburg before finally landing in Houston.

Back in Fredericksburg, my brother has strep throat or something, and now my mother is texting me "Flu! Flu! Flu!" and I think have chills and according to our meat thermometer I'm running a temp of 108. So. . .

I think Tootie and Mr. Neely say it best:
I hope your Christmastide is merry and bright. (Illness aside) ours has been quite quite lovely.


  1. AHHH.

    I kept going, "Nooo!" until I just went ahead and read the post to Chris. You guys have earned your road trip badges, Rhodes family.

    Flu stay away?

  2. All I have to say is "Wowzers." Honestly, I just am amazed people travel with babies, and I've got 5 of em.

  3. Oh my! I hope you all feel better soon! I grew up with in walking distance from an Amish market, I have to say that scrapple is seriously yummy.

    1. I've only eaten it fried. Did they sell it in cans or something?

  4. We LOVE dominion.
    And no comments about the vomiting. We had our own..."crappy" Christmas...luckily (?) it remained contained to only the baby...despite having all the relatives over at OUR house and children sharing water bottles nonstop.
    Happy New Year!

    1. It's such a losing battle keeping snotty kids away from each other.

  5. Finally checking your blog obsessively for several consecutive weeks has paid off! Glad you are back, Rhodes.

    1. Thanks, Kozak. I'm trying to get back on the blogtrain. Thanks for never giving up!

  6. Oh my gosh! I so hear you. We got sick over Christmas too. Only had puking once though....and that was on my pillow right next to my face via my two year old.

    1. Ha! Our bed got puked on after I got up for the day. Winning!

  7. Oh wow... hopefully you got all of your sickness out of the way in those few days for the rest of the year! I can totally sympathize with the 'awful awful awful please don't let this happen to me' feeling but I love your perspective at the same time... this is all just part of life, especially with little ones!

  8. Disease and mayhem!!!!!

    But beautiful photos and I'm glad you're on the mend. And what cool stuff they sent you home with!

  9. Oh no!!! We had lots of sickness and travel too, but fortunately almost all of our bugs were gone before the travel started (other than me spending nine hours in the car with a mild-ish but still awful version of the flu).

    I love this story (swear I'm not sadistic!!), and your refreshing attitude, and your beautiful photos. I hope everyone stays healthy now!

  10. Oh no!

    I grew up around outhouses - and outhouses + winter + not your own home equals you deserving a huge trophy.

    Also I think we caught Lucy's bug on our trip home this week. ;) We hit St. Louis and 3 of our 4 family members started vomiting. It made our decision to stop for the night real easy.

    Glad you're all safe at home and feeling better!

  11. Bright side... outhouses in the winter are cold, but outhouses in the summer smell like the third circle of hell.

    We were sick for Christmas with the flu and it wasn't bad... we just hibernated all break. Very family togetherish... but I might have felt differently if it was the stomach bug. Vomit ruins everything.

  12. Ain't no vomit like Christmas vomit. We had a dose of that too! Hope you are all well now!


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