Since I have dragged this out a bit, let me start by re-capping our summer adventures that I have already documented. We left on July 16 for Memphis, where my family was staying--just me and the kids. Eric stayed home to work for two weeks before joining us at our "final destination." We spent six wonderful days with my family before traveling a day to Chicago to visit family and friends for four days. We left early on Thursday, July 29 to drive up an hour north of the Twin Cities to spend 24 hours with my brother-in-law and his wife and four kids who are, roughly the same age as my kids.
My very short visit with them was wonderful. The cousins get along pretty well, especially the first day and my kids were able to attend their church's last VBS night with their three oldest. It meant that I was able to enjoy "girl time" with my sister-in-law as we walked around the small city near their home. We had some plans to do shopping, but, like most small towns in which I have lived, most businesses were closed by 6 p.m. Therefore, we found the local Dairy Queen and then walked off one tenth of the calories that we consumed. The kids were sufficiently worn out and sugared up from VBS. My sister-in-law had already volunteered to watch my kids for a day so that I could meet Eric and have alone time with him for 24 hours before we all met up to get ready for the big event that intiated this long trek--my sister-in-law's wedding. I do believe that this officially qualifies them for sainthood.
Words cannot express how glad I was to see Eric again. Sure we talked on the phone several times a day while I was gone, but touch is one of my "love languages" and I had been starved for two weeks. I felt like I was on my honeymoon again, which is wonderful. It was also the first time we had been alone together on an overnight since we went looking for homes over a year ago, which didn't count much because most of the time, we had a real estate agent with us. We walked around a lake the next day and basically rested in each other's company until it was time to meet up with our brother's family, their kids, and our kids to get ready for the wedding.
The wedding was lovely. For several years, my sister-in-law knew that she wanted to have her wedding in her father's backyard and I don't blame her. Eric's dad lives on several acres with tall trees surrounding the beautifully restored farmhouse. Some of the unique touches to her wedding was having a "unity tree." They both added soil and water to the tree, which represented their living, growing love. They also read a children's book called A Lovely Love Story by Edward Monkton to the 25 kids that were invited to the ceremony. After the ceremony, everyone grazed on all sorts of appetizers--marinated meat on a stick, piles of veggie trays, fruit trays and all sorts of delicious, filling creations. They had beer and wine from places where they had visited and, instead of a wedding cake, they had Girl Scout cookies and cake "shots." All the while, the 25 or so kids played in the grass, in the driveway, drew chalk pictures, on the play equipment and in the playhouse near the trees. There was no dancing, but there was a bonfire later that night where hot dogs could be roasted and s'mores made. And because there was no DJ or dancing, it meant that we could all spend time catching up with family that we hadn't seen in a while, which was VERY nice. It was pretty late at night when we dragged our kids back to the hotel room, where we were going to stay for a night before moving into his dad and step-mom's house for a few days. Then, we spent a few days with his mom and step-dad and his daughter and her family. It was all relaxingAll too soon, it was time for a final load of laundry before heading home.
We left fairly early with Eric driving the whole way. We drove to Sterling, Colorado that first day. In case you were wondering, yes, it was a long day of driving. Our goal was to drive to Arizona from the Twin Cities area in two days with a rest day in between. Sterling is not a town I would recommend. We had a lovely view of the mixed level prison, which was within walking distance. There was also a Travelodge nearby and one of our kids confused the prison with the Travelodge, even though they have never stayed in either. We ate a restaurant that offered "fried macaroni and cheese" on the kids menu, which is as gross as it sounds. The next day, we spent time at Focus on the Family checking out their play area, which is designed after their "Adventures in Odyssey" area. The kids had a great time, though it didn't hold their attention for that long, as is the case with most play structures. We ate at "Whit's End" cafe, which is supposed to be like the soda shop featured in the radio/book/video series, but felt more like an amusement park experience in terms of food quality and prices. After lunch, we drove through a downpour to Garden of the Gods and attended a multimedia presentation and browsed through their book store hoping that the rain would stop soon. In desperation and a bit of boredom, we decided that driving around the park in the thunderstorm would be better than looking at all sorts of overpriced kitch. Just as we were about to leave, the sun suddenly appeared, driving the rain away and enticing us to hike. Within thirty minutes, the only evidence of rain were streams running alongside the trail and some streaks along the rocks as water had fallen. Even those eventually disappeared. Garden of the Gods is incredibly beautiful. I wish we could have spent more time hiking. That night, we stayed at Pueblo, Colorado, which was also chosen for no other reason than it didn't require a long drive and it was further south, bringing us closer to home. We ate at the children's favorite restaurant since hearing a Tim Hawkin's monologue: Cracker Barrell. The last day of travel, which also was a long drive, was pretty dreary, even with entertainment. There were a LOT of pit stops, for some reason, as if our kids didn't really want to be home. Unfortunately, it extended the time in our car to almost beyond patience. I almost cried when, an hour from our house, a child mentioned that they had to go to the bathroom--again. The biggest problem is that because of the route we took, there is nothing within the two hour drive between Payson and Mesa with the exception of a casino that is twenty minutes from our home. It always seems as if the last half our of any excursion is the most painful, whether it is a place where you were visiting or your home. Hearing occasional whining about having to go to the bathroom only made the situation worse. I was so relieved when we finally got home and I was able to get out of the car and into the warm, musty smelling home that I hadn't seen in 25 days. It was dinner time, however, which meant getting back in the car and getting a pizza that we could throw in the oven as well as other basic supplies. Eric and the kids worked at unloading the van of suitcases, sleeping bags, pillows, activity bags, garbage that hadn't been properly disposed of, DVDs and CDs, electronics equipment and a host of other things that we had accumulated.
In some respects, each segment of my trip seemed too short and yet, I don't know if I would make such an oddysey again. Living out of suitcases became very tiresome after the first week, especially when you are sharing a suitcase with four other people who happen to be children that rummage through to find their clothes, mixing the rest of the clothes in a heap. Do you realize how well socks and underwear can hide in big suitcase? If I had been like Elizabeth Bennett and actually stayed a month in one place, it might have been a little less stressful and the kids and I might have been given a more permanent place to put our clothes, maybe even a cabinet as stylish as the one that Lady Catherine deBurgh suggested to Mr. Collins! I also missed my husband's company for two weeks. I missed my dog, Jacques and our daily walks together. I also missed the rhythm of being home, even if that rhythm did not involved going outdoors because it was too hot. The trip did, however, give me a deep appreciation for my kids, who, though not perfect, were perfectly wonderful through all the long car rides here, there and everywhere.