traveling is not for the faint of heart…

We are currently sitting on a cruise ship just outside of Barcelona, six days into our epic spring adventure, and I’m wondering why we ever left home.

I should have known things weren’t looking good on our first night. One of the big problems with car trips is my unquenchable urge to pack junk food. I hate it, I shouldn’t do it, none of us need it. But all that food I try so hard to keep out of the kitchen during real life finds its way into the backseat and we spend the entire ride passing around peanut butter cups and potato chips and Coke Light and Capri Suns.

We took Jason’s parents and headed south to Bavaria to enjoy a little time at the Cinderella castle and Garmisch. It was almost lovely. If only we could have stayed in the car out of the cold all day it would have been perfect. Still, things went smoothly.

That night we checked into our hotel and made our way down to the large family swimming pool and outdoor jacuzzi. There’s nothing better than cold weather and a hot pool. My husband loved it so much he soaked for nearly an hour before grudgingly removing himself to come up for bed.

I met Jason and the kids at the elevator outside the pool area and we split into two groups. Jason took our seven-year-old, Rex, and got in line for one elevator while the rest of the girls and I waited for Grandpa and Harrison (9). I watched my two boys step into the elevator and smiled to see Rex tugging on Jason’s hand. He insisted they hold hands, something Rex rarely does with Jason now that he’s “big”.

Four minutes later we stepped off the other elevator and headed down the hall toward our room. There was a large group of people clustered in the hallway twenty feet ahead and I looked for a path through the mix.

Then I heard a frantic voice yell, “Mommy! It’s Daddy, he fell down and died!”

I have to pause here. My husband is a rock. He’s the human version of a draft horse; he’s strong and powerful and could probably carry all four of our children up a mountain at the same time without stopping. I’m the silly weak one. I’m the one who breaks her back and sprains her ankles and adds drama and Tabasco sauce to our life. It’s not Jason. Ever.

The group parted and there he was, my man, my strength, my sweetheart, face down on the ground and unresponsive. The entire episode confused me. What in the world was he doing down there? I kept patting his back saying, “Sweetheart, come on now, let’s get up.” I  almost offered him an ice cream cone or a pastry if he’d just raise his head and look at me.

It took me about thirty seconds to realize he wasn’t moving and my children were sobbing and my poor mother-in-law was standing there in shock and if I didn’t take control of the situation we would be adding PTSD therapy to our Emergency Room bill.

I turned and gave the kids a Disneyland smile. “It’s okay kids, Dad just bumped his head and he needs a moment. Go with Grandma and get your jammies on and I’ll come check on you  in a few minutes.” Good thing I sent them away. When my father-in-law and I turned Jason over he had a deep 3 cm gash on his beautiful bald forehead and another small cut over his eye.

It took a trip to the ER and a dozen stitches for us to learn that a day in the car with candy and no water, plus an hour in a hot pool, is a recipe for fainting. And it was only the beginning. In the five days since we’ve had three cases of the stomach flu, two sore throats, and a nearly busted nose (Harrison ran smack into a pole while reading a map in Marseille yesterday week).

Believe me, if you’re traveling in Europe with kids there are worse things than pickpockets.


  1. Dear annie valentine,
    We have finally arrived! We are in the little village of Ennetburgen, near the slightly larger village of Stans, near the famous little city of Lucerne (Luzern) in Switzerland. I have been 2 weeks with out phone and internet and I really felt the pain of withdrawl every time I needed a phone number or wanted to look up an address or — well you know everything!!!! I have enjoyed the perfect weather this week between rushing to walk (no car yet) to the school, the soccer field, the grocery store, etc. I am happy and proud that I am organizing our schedule so quickly but Switzerland does not want to fall in line. Everything here is a bit slow, so I will learn to be more patient. In the mean time…. I want to invite you to start making plans for a visit to Switzerland, its not Disney Paris (you hope) but its a nice slow, nature filled holiday. Leave the stomach bugs and sore throats home please!

  2. Oh snap. I hope things get a bit easier for you for the rest of the vacation. And that someday you can say “Hey, remember that one vacation where the kids thought Dad died? And there were sore throats and throwing up? Yeah, that was fun.”

  3. Hi Annie, So sorry this happened to your family, especially while your children are so young. They’ll remember it forever. However, it’s a great lesson in staying hydrated for everyone. I think cold weather compounds the problem. I really dislike drinking cold water when it’s so cold and then out to exercise in really warm water 94 degrees in a therapy pool. I finally put 3 bottles on the side of the pool and force myself to drink it.

    Take care and enjoy your cruise and take lots of fun pictures. Sometimes I think nothing could compare to the stuff that happens to us here on “Danger Ranch” I want to visit the basement – outside entrance and dirt floor, and my husband won’t let me go there until he’s here. He’s on Workman’s Comp. from falling off a cliff fighting an early brush fire this season. Can’t see his injury, but his back and one knee hardly keep him standing. Big guy at 6’5″ it’s hard to imagine that the guys are not exactly “supermen” all the time. Hang in there. SusanLaz

  4. Are you certain you are not being filmed for an upcoming family sitcom/drama/adventure/reality show on BYU-tv?

  5. Oh my goodness, he fell bad! And also I want to see a castle someday.

  6. My husband passed out while mowing the lawn a few years ago. When I heard him listing, to the doctor, the reasons he may have passed out ( drank a bunch of Dr. Pepper, didn’t eat so much, had insomnia, developed a migraine, took migraine medicine, and then decided to mow the lawn in 90 degree weather) and cracked his head wide open, I had to leave the curtain area because I wanted to punch him. He too freaked out his family (and half of the neighborhood). Hope your kids weren’t too scared. You would think men would take better care of themselves. 😉

  7. Annie! I was looking at my son’s wedding pictures yesterday and I was suddenly overwhelmed with I-Miss-Annie-itis. So I fell down and died.

    Sorry. Not poking fun. I’m glad your husband is all right. My Jake developed epilepsy last June, and it’s so scary to come upon them non-responsive and not know what has happened or how they got that way.

    But a piece of advice? If you want people to really feel sorry for you, you probably shouldn’t start a blog post with, “I’m on a cruise ship outside Barcelona.” Or say anything about castles. Or use the word ‘Bavaria’ within five paragraphs of ‘junk food.’

    xoxo, my darling friend!