A Family Road Trip

Wendy Rhein

By: Wendy Rhein

Christmas week is upon us – a season of love, family, joy and togetherness. Translation – 10 days of complete family togetherness. That’s a lot of days of nonstop togetherness. A lot. This year I’m taking that togetherness to the next level – driving 1,300 miles in a week with my 71-year-old mother, my 6 ½-year-old and my 2-year-old. Yep. That’s right. A family holiday road trip! Given our cast of characters, who needs Chevy Chase?

As we prepare for two very long (10+ hours) days in the car, everyone has their set of priorities. The boys need their laptop dvd players charged and ready to go with their own flip cases of painstakingly selected movies – Alvin and the Chipmunks for Nate, Sesame Street for Sam. They both need headphones (did I mention Alvin and the Chipmunks??) and they both need a special pillow or blanket to snuggle. Both having these same things may seem redundant, extravagant even, but if the little one doesn’t have exactly what the elder one has, mayhem and chaos ensue and frankly, I can’t deal with the drama while I’m driving 80 miles an hour down I-95 trying to get us there. Both kids need re-stocked travel bags – that backpack of treats, a new coloring book and crayons, a new car or other tchotchke that can be handed out when the “I’m boooreed, are we THERE yet?” starts.

The boys and I recently did a 7 hour ride for Thanksgiving and everyone survived unscathed, so I am confident we can do this one too. But things change when you alter the personality dynamics of the car and our dynamics are dramatically different when adding my mother. She is simultaneously excited and nervous about the long ride. This will be the first time she has left our new city since we moved in 18 months ago. A conversation last night went like this:

“I can’t wait until we go! I haven’t spent a night out of this apartment since we moved.”

“That’s true, unless you count those 5 weeks you were at the hospital and then the rehab center after your surgery this summer, Mom.”

“Oh. What? Oh, that’s right. I forgot. But that shouldn’t count.”

“Right, it shouldn’t count. This is better than a hospital bed.”

“I’ve already decided I’m not taking my blood pressure medicine while we’re traveling.”

“What? No, you have to. Driving 10 hours with two small kids would make anyone want to take blood pressure meds. Take it. I may want to take it.”

“No, then we’ll have to stop for a bathroom every two hours and I know you hate to stop. I will be fine. Really. If I have to spend the next day in bed, then I will do that.”

That’s not how I envisioned starting our vacation but I have learned when to stop talking and when to argue. At least I like to think I have.

“No, Mom, take the meds. It isn’t good to skip a day and if we have to stop, we stop. I’ll survive.”

“I know you, Wendy, and I know you want to drive all the way in one day and get there and be done, so we don’t need to stop. It is only 10 hours. We can do that.”

“Thank you Mom, but can we stop if I need to? I am going to need to stop sometimes just to scream.”

“Sure honey, whatever you want.”

So as we venture out on our holiday of family togetherness (that will surely involve a few scream breaks for me) we wish you all a good holiday with your own families and friends, filled with laughter and screams of joy.

In case you need one last holiday cookie batch for an office party or neighborhood gathering or even just to eat one handed while you finish wrapping gifts or lighting candles, here is a new family favorite: Christmas Biscotti!

Wendy’s Christmas Biscotti
Makes about 18, depending on how thick you cut them. Easy to double the batch

2T butter, softened
3/4c sugar
2 eggs
2t almond extract
1 2/3c flour
1/2t salt
2t baking powder
3/4c dried cranberries or dried tart cherries
3/4c unsalted pistachios

Preheat the oven to 350. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a mixing bowl, blend the butter, sugar, eggs, and almond extract until smooth. Add the dry ingredients (not fruit or nuts) until the dough is well blended. By hand, stir in the nuts and fruit. You don’t want to use the mixer or the nuts will be crushed. Once the dough is mixed, make two logs on the parchment paper, about 3 inches wide and an inch thick. (Cover your hands with a bit of water or butter to help shape the logs without walking away with half the dough stuck to your fingers.) Bake the logs at 350 for about 20-25 minutes, until the dough is a light golden brown and set. Remove from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes. Using a serrated knife, cut the baked logs into slices about ½ to ¾ inch thick and lay them on their sides. Reduce heat in the oven to 250 and bake the sliced cookies for 40-45 minutes, turning them over halfway through so they can brown evenly. You can serve them up just like this, or you can make them fancy by melting some white or dark chocolate or both, and either dipping the cooled cookies into the chocolate, or drizzling the chocolate over the cookies. This is another reason why the parchment paper comes in handy – much less to clean up if you go the chocolate drizzle route.

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