As we were sitting on a cruise ship just outside of Barcelona, six days into our epic spring adventure, I was 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 7-year-old, Rex, and got in line for one elevator while the rest of the girls and I waited for Grandpa and Harrison, age 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 20 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 30 seconds to realize he wasn't moving and my children were sobbing and my poor mother-in-law was standing there in shock. 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 OK 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 centimeter-wide 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).
Believe me, if you're traveling in Europe with kids there are worse things than pickpockets.
Annie Valentine is a wife, mother and columnist. Contact her at email@example.com, or vist her blog at regardingannie.wordpress.com.