We trekked across the land, family of 7 in a van. We’ve been sojourners for a month and a half and we finished the last 1500 miles in a 4 day journey. Nana graciously allowed us to stay with her this entire time in transition. Our family leaves a huge footprint, even in a 5 bedroom home. Collecting all of our trinkets, toiletries, and treasures took 7 hours and that is only because we had the help of loving aunties.
We don’t know anyone in Texas, we have no family in Waco, and yes we may even apply to Fixer Upper. Dad has already crushed my dreams as he helped recenter me on the obvious truth, “We cannot revolve our family around trying to be on a show.” But who knows what God can line up.
Here is how we did it and materials needed:
Zip lock bags
Discipline, Prayer & Lots of Grace
Bags and bags for days: We have one trash bag of clothes and diapers separated into ziplock bags for checking into hotels along the way. When we change in the morning, we then wear the clean clothes and the old clothes will go in the trashbag for laundry upon arrival. With five kids having a ‘1 Nighter’ bag is essential for road trips. It avoids us toting extra weight and sifting through 5 different bags for a kid’s pajamas, 1 kid’s socks, and 1 kids diaper. We take one bag and a pack n play into the hotel. We will request an additional pack n play from the hotel. We separate further into zip lock bags so we can toss each kid their clothes, a bag for pajamas, and a bag for misc such as diapers/hair supplies/cosmetics. One day we may purchase nicer luggage for traveling, but for now these trash bags do the trick.
Pie: Packing and organizing all the bags took a long time and that is where pie came in handy. Pecan pie has been my go-to holiday pie this year and it was very comforting when the tasks started to appear daunting. I will also say I took a nap while Dad figured out as best he could where to fit everything in our cars.
Vacuum: Before you play the big game you lay out your clean jersey, washed sweatbands, and fresh garments. Look good, feel good, play good. That is how we are approaching this trip with 5 kids 5 and under. Drexel surprised me by vacuuming the car out and it felt so lovely stepping into an organized, clean van as we started our trip.
Snacks: Putting thought into your food planning is time and money well spent. It is nothing worse than tired and hungry kids in a restaurant, not eating, getting more frustrated and then causing a scene and making you look like a terrible parent. Set your kids up for success by bringing in a ‘safe’ (meaning they will actually eat it) snack in for their ‘appetizer.’ We use cheerios, bananas, or veggie stix. We bring in the babies own water cups because they are more spill proof. Feeding the kids before hand will also help you save money from expensive kids meals that they won’t eat. We hardly ever buy kids meals, we will usually make 2-3 kids split one adult meal. If you haven’t already laid the ground work, I would avoid trying to get your kid to eat healthy on a road trip. Whatever they will eat is what you should serve, kids can survive on fruit and fries for a couple days. Having a green smoothie at the end of the day may help put your mind at ease.
CDs: We don’t have screens to occupy our children in the car so we put on CDs they like to listen to. We are thankful they have learned to occupy themselves, sleep or just be still. But the coloring books, Legos, and figurines only last so long. The Bible songs and children’s stories help put them to sleep or occupy them enough to keep their minds engaged. The 1.5 month baby sits in between the oldest boys. Their temptation to play with each other was quieted by these CDs and their responsibility of the baby. The children CDs may annoy you, will likely really annoy you after day 2, but shift the audio to the back and play podcasts from your phone in the front.
Role Assignments: As we loaded the van and said our good-byes, Drexel went through the assignments. Our 5 year is in charge of food and snacks, our 4 year is in charge of toys, 2 year old is in charge of blankets, our 1 year old is in charge of noise and happiness, and our 1.5 month old is in charge of cuteness. They appreciated their roles and fulfilled them with enthusiasm. Mom had navigation, Dad had driving, overall decision-making, and most importantly, cheerfulness. His cheery attitude sets the tone for the entire family and on the days when I was tired and slow to start, he kept the team moving in the right direction. We prayed and hit the road.
We were extremely excited and couldn’t wait to see Waco for the first time. Nonetheless, we had much to do and one thing that got us through each day was to not expect too much from the day. We moved slow with our 7 and were very flexible to the needs of the entire group on the trip. Our 1.5 month old was a huge determining factor because he has to eat or no one will have a good time. However, his feedings allow the kids some much needed snack, stretch, and play time. We purposed to enjoy one part of a major city as we journeyed across.
IKEA was good to us. We spent three hours there and didn’t purchase anything. We fed the family for under $25, the older boys spent time in the play area, and we took the babies around to shop for future ideas.
We strolled the streets in beautiful weather. Visited 16th Street Baptist Church and saw a little piece of history. We then crashed a USF/USC football party with our Navy gear on. There were free bounce houses for the kids to enjoy and they appreciated the opportunity to get some energy out. As we approached the middle of nowhere Mississippi, we were thankful for Chic Fil A. It’s such an easy win for parents. Food is delivered fast, it’s safe (meaning our kids actually eat the food), the bathrooms are clean, and the customer service is spectacular.
What little we saw of Shreveport appeared very ethnically diverse and seemed to separate the southwest from the deep south, Mississippi and Alabama. The mall was relatively empty except for an Aeropostale having a 90% off sell (Mom was snagging tops for <$2!) and the few of us parents at the play area. It was awesome seeing the four kids playing so well together and still enjoying the adventure of hotels, fast food, and driving all day. It is hard to eat well while traveling so we stopped by a grocery store to buy fruit and green smoothies for dinner. Don’t worry we had beignets in the morning for breakfast.
Driving into Waco there lots of Fixer Upper signs welcoming you on the way. Dad pointed out his new office building, the awesome McLane stadium, the Baylor campus, and we stopped and got a fix of In-N-Out Burger! That was number one on the priority list, then unpacking, and resting our minds from the long trip. We spent Saturday exploring the area and looking at houses. We finished the night with the boys, Praising God for his protection and provision and thanking them for their awesome attitudes along the way. They gave us a compliment as well, “You guys were laughing a lot too up front.” I hope that is what they do remember about our relationship together, that we laughed a lot and enjoyed each other’s company. A great way to end and recap the trip.
Most hectic moment: a certain someone peed their pants. We won’t name names but it would surprise you. Hey, accidents happen and everyone needs grace. Being this is our fifth baby, blowouts and wet pants don’t surprise or stress us out as much anymore.
Most joyful moment(s): hearing the boys laughing in the back seat, Zakai waving to everyone in every restaurant, and Loah telling the whole world “See ya later!”
Most disappointing moment: Things were going well and we were making great timing on our way to Shreveport. We stopped at a Love gas station, connected to an Arby’s. Everyone was getting a little antsy. I pumped gas, used the bathroom and then wanted to get some curly fries from Arby’s. I went in and did not see a food rating anywhere so I asked, “Where’s your food rating?” The lady looked offended and said, “I’m not sure.” I prodded some more, “You guys don’t have a food rating?” She turns to a coworker and they agree that they do not have one. I walked out. As I am re-explaining the story to Johnna – while our one year old is overstuffing his mouth with dried blueberries and spitting them up with equal excitement – I am expecting her to agree with me. “If I’m going to eat unhealthy curly fries, they can at least be clean right?!” To my shock, instead of agreement, I get lectured about being spoiled and how starving kids in 3rd world countries are not eating right now, but I’m complaining about a food rating. I think I probably heard her say, “Quit being soft.” Even as I recount this event I still don’t know where that left hook came from. Nevertheless, I counted myself back in and got back in the fight. I start to drive down the road a bit delirious like incoherent boxers being interviewed immediately after a match. Then I thought, I’ve been saving that last bite of the rice krispy treat from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for a moment such as this. These treats are homemade, extra gooey, deliciousness that Johnna doesn’t even care for and I get to eat it all by myself. [Getting to eat a dessert in a family of 7 all by yourself is absolutely a luxury.] My mouth starts to savor for the taste of crunchy goodness that I purposely parted with earlier so I would have a little pick-me-up at a pivotal moment during the day. After being denied the craving for curly fries, I was hopefully anticipating my own dessert, “Johnna, can you hand me that last bite of rice krispy treat.” She’s laughing. I’m confused. So I ask again, “Johnna, can you hand me that rice krispy treat I had saved from earlier?” She’s still laughing. I turn towards her like the Terminator, “No.” I’m back in shock now and in denial of all reality at this point, “No. Can you please hand me the last bite of rice krispy that you don’t even like, that I was saving for a moment like this, and I was really looking forward to eating.” Now tears are coming out and she cannot respond because she is laughing so hard. I had just counted myself back in again and then realize this is my most disappointing moment of the trip. It almost tops my most embarrassing moment that happened the day before.
Most exciting moment: Johnna enjoying her third benedict in a row and it being here in Waco. Excited to have our best breakfast experience from our trip in the city we now call home.
We met a ton of amazing people along the way. You cannot help but attract attention when lugging in 5 babies, two of which have to be held at all times. As I have said, we leave a footprint. God kept us safe, the vehicles safe, and there was never a point where all 7 of us were crying at the same time! We always found parking that could fit our van and our car we pulled whether through busy downtowns, rest stops, or at night as we settled into lodging. We were injury free physically and emotionally. As a bonus, Dad was able to maintain his quiet times (prayer and Bible reading) in the morning which kept all of us covered and encouraged by the Word. The trip was truly a blessing. The one thing we didn’t mention so far was discipline. Stay with us as we will share with you in future posts how a foundation of discipline for disrespect, disobedience, and dishonesty was essential to the success of our road trip.
We are enjoying getting a feel for this new city! We are continuing to pray for a church to call home and a house to live in. For now, we are enjoying the search and appreciating the prayers! Looking forward to all that is ahead in the New Year.
The King Family