So, the trip this weekend was a rousing success. All were on good behavior and treated each other with gentleness and kindness throughout the whole weekend. The kids were good, too. It was an immensely positive weekend for everybody, and the boys really outdid themselves all weekend with good behavior and excitement.
Honestly, it was what I expected: there was no impetus for them to misbehave at any point in the weekend. The weekend's activities were set up to be interesting and exciting: we don't do a Christmas tree at home, so it's exciting for them to decorate one. They were seeing relatives that they don't get to see often, and we were visiting with friends that we see rarely. Still, they are little boys, and I was by myself as a parent for 72 hours.
On Thursday, we loaded the car and left right after work, around 4:30. We stopped at the first rest stop because of little bladders, then stopped at the second rest stop to eat. We stopped at the third rest stop because of little bladders. So, this is 3 rest stops before 6:30. The Baby fell asleep about fifteen minutes after the third rest stop, and the other two fell asleep about an hour later. The Boy briefly woke when I stopped for gas in Harrisburg, but they slept until we arrived at Grandpa's house at about 11PM. 350 miles in six and a half hours is really, really good time - no weather or traffic related stops.
Friday morning, we had a nice breakfast at a bagel shop, where I introduced my oldest boy to the fact that bagels in New Jersey are the best in the world. The kids played in the yard for a couple of hours (including whacking each other with sticks, which explains the scratch on Little Bear's forehead, I discover after the fact), then we went to the Christmas Ice Caverns. That's a beautiful animatronic Christmas display, and the boys went through a couple of times to see all the stuff. Friday afternoon, we watched a little of television, played more, and had a pizza dinner with my brother's family. We all slept well that night.
Saturday morning, we had an easy breakfast and played around the house until it was time to see Uncle B. We had second breakfast with him, then he came back to hang out for a little while. It's awesome to see him, and the kids get along well with him. After he left, I went to pick up my Aunt F while the boys played with my father and niece, and I got back to find a nice, full house. We had a wonderful (early) Christmas dinner of turkey and mashed potatoes and vegetables and a couple of different pies and cookies and brownies. While the rest of the family was cleaning the dishes, the boys and I stayed out of the way, and The Baby fell asleep.
He stayed asleep on my lap until after the presents were done and the house was emptied. The older boys did a great job of keeping control during presents time; The Boy even helped me distribute them! That's always been my job, but he might take over. We'll see what Hannukah brings. The boys got a nice haul: fire trucks (which was a HUGE hit for The Baby, as he has been carrying his truck around with him since Saturday night), some stuffed things, some Spot It games, some stuff from me & The Wife (including a blu ray set of all the Christopher Reeves Superman movies for Little Bear, which is a highlight for me)., and some assorted sundries which - as usual - wound up being favorites, particularly little light-up rings that project colored lights. They played with those until they broke.
Eventually, the boys went back to bed, and I packed to get ready to go. The next morning, Grandpa, my brother & his family, and we had breakfast at the pancake house, then we left for Scotch Plains. We had lunch and played with D&L and their boys, an almost-4 and a newborn. It was pretty darn awesome, although kind of ironic: their new house is about 200 yards, as the bird flies, from our old house in Scotch Plains. We did stop at the comic book store, which was a highlight.
The trip home was as easy as the trip out: already being in Scotch Plains cut 30 miles from the trip. We had a potty break in western Jersey, then a stop at the Dunkin Donuts near the Cabela's along 78 (exit 29). The Baby slept for the hour before Harrisburg, and we stopped there. I was nodding at the wheel, so I gave the three boys iPhone, iPad, and old iPhone, and I closed my eyes for a fifteen minute catnap. Then, we had a snack and potty break in the Harrisburg JCC, then played in their playground for a half hour or so. All three boys fell asleep about a half hour out of Harrisburg and slept until we got home.
Things that need further discussion: Christmas & Christmas trees in a mixed faith household when one spouse makes their primary living in worship; how much better pizza and bagels are in northern New Jersey; and the benefits of planning travel time around little boys' nap times.