We spent the month of July in the Midwest- 3 weeks in Minnesota, and 10 days in Iowa & Missouri. While we traveled, I worked on an article for a parenting website entitled, “How to travel with kids- don’t”.
We have traveled with the girls since they were born- pretty regularly, I might add. And while some trips are magical, most are not. Each time we pack up for another trip, I feel like I am playing a form of Russian Roulette: will this trip be magical or miserable?
Maybe it’s how my brain works- to categorize a memory as great or horrible, when in reality, it falls somewhere in the middle. Traveling with kids can take you to some of the highest highs- experiencing beautiful moments together. And it can also bring you to the lowest of lows- food poisoning induced projectile vomiting at the same time as explosive diarrhea, on the nasty floor of a hotel bathroom. But mostly, travel with kids brings you to a lot of ordinary, meh, moments.
The kind where kids ask how much longer at the beginning of a 10-hour road trip, the monotony of foraging for the apple pie Larabars in foreign grocery stores, the grumpiness that ensues over the course of adjusting to a time change.
All this to say, while I could write about our travels out of the magical lens, I can assure you they were not.
We spent a lot of time “traveling” on this trip, despite flying to Minnesota to reduce travel time. I think as a mom, I spend an inordinate amount of time planning and worrying about the transitions- the logistics of moving a months worth of luggage into the car, out of the car, into the airport, getting the family through security, going potty enough times before boarding the plane, getting off the plane, getting to the baggage claim without losing a child, retrieving a large amount of luggage, acquiring a rental car, moving luggage and children to the rental car, driving to VRBO, moving the luggage (AGAIN)….. blah, blah, blah.
We were able to see our families, and the girls got a lot of good quality time with people they otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to see. They camped with the Uppgaard grandparents, visited aunts & uncles, played with cousins, and spent a week at a cabin up in northern Minnesota.
We celebrated my Dad’s retirement at a truly magical surprise party. Fireflies made their appearance as the sky darkened and toasts were made. All the more magical? We got a babysitter for the kids that night.
On our last day in Minnesota, we learned Alice had COVID. And then I tested positive. And then Avery got it. Chad somehow remained immune.
Luckily, my in-laws had an exposure prior to our arrival… so we all holed up at their cabin in Missouri. We tubed, went on boat rides, and fished. I love running the hills in Missouri, but unfortunately, COVID dashed my running dreams.
In Iowa, we went to the county fair, watched the hot air balloons, visited the cows, looked at soybean plants up close (have you ever?), and played in the sprawling yard.
Throughout the trip, I read Jane Eyre. And a quote that struck me was, “There is no happiness like that of being loved by your fellow-creatures, and feeling that your presence is an addition to their comfort.”
And I think that quote perfectly sums up how I felt about spending a month with family. It was a month of being loved by people we don’t see nearly enough. It was a cram session of memories, a hustle to see all the people we love, it was lying on the couch late at night re-living childhood memories with my siblings, countless times of yelling, “Reel, reel!” as I watched Alice’s bobber slip beneath the surface.
It was a drinking from the fire-hose kind of trip. It was listening to four Nancy Drew audiobooks on car rides, it was Chad vowing he would never listen to another Nancy Drew. By the end of the trip, we were bleary-eyed and so ready to be in our own beds.
Or as I told Chad, I was so ready to be home so I could be grumpy, and let down my “on-personality mask.”
We have been home for three weeks. I got my grumpy out (sorry Chad), and have never loved my bed quite so much.
I will leave you with a poem I wrote on a dock in Minnesota:
The loon calls
As the last rays of sun stretch through the sky
Creating contrast, definition
The trees with their leaves
Now black, against the horizon
Waves lapping below
A bird trills
And a fisher casts his rod
Horseflies dive bomb
I am minute
in this wild world
The sky is pink,
Horizon still pierced by rays
The colors are pastel,
The air is matte
Ducks swim home through the reeds
I am contributing nothing to this moment
But my attention
And for a moment,
All is right