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On the Road Again

I have heard it said that people with children do not take vacations – they take trips.

I would concur.

I think the last relaxing trip I had (ie: a vacation) was when Paul and I went to Colorado in 2013. It’s probably a good thing I have those memories because they’re going to need to sustain me for the next 13 years (until all the kids are grown).

So, last week I took a trip with the kids down to Kansas and Missouri. It was not a bad time. But neither was it super relaxing. Will didn’t want to go because he was starting classes and because, I think, he didn’t want to be away from Arien that long. It saved me money.

We went to the Great Wolf Lodge in Kansas. One of my FB friends had posted about this place oh a year or so ago and it caught my attention. It’s kind of a nice little set-up they have down there. I was hoping it would be like the lodge/waterpark we visited in the Wisconsin Dells in 2006 but it wasn’t quite as big or nice as that. But it was still a cute place. In addition to the waterpark they had restaurants and a spa and a gift shop and things like that. It was all in a “woodsy” theme. I had reserved a “kid cabin” room because there were 6 of us. That included a separate “cabin” within the room with 3 beds (that were too short for David) for children. I think it was a bit overpriced for what we got but the kids enjoyed it.

We picked the right time to go, too, because the Kansas schools are already back in session. I went with that because I got a cheaper rate. But what was really nice was that there weren’t a lot of guests there. And those that were there had really young children. So we pretty much had the waterslides to ourselves.

One night we ate at one of the hotel’s restaurants. After we had ordered we were informed that we had been picked as the “guest of the night” and our meal was free. Well, that was nice! I left a generous tip, though.

It must have been our time because the next evening when I checked into our new hotel I was told that I was the “guest of the day” and was given a thousand extra points (I’m a Choice hotels member and earn points every time I stay in one of their hotels – points that can be used for free nights). I guess that’s what happens when you travel off-season and in the middle of the week!

So, we were at the Lodge for a couple of days. We were all swimmed out by late afternoon on Tuesday so we took off then. I had noticed a large Cabela’s store right next to the Lodge so we made an unplanned trip there. David was so excited! This place was huge beyond belief and filled with all kinds of stuffed animals and every bit of hunting gear you could imagine. In the back of the store they have “The World’s Largest Mule Deer Museum” it says. They had all these stuffed deer with little plaques naming who shot them, where and when. But they’ve arranged the deer to look like they’re still alive – made it a “woodsy” setting and even had a couple of little hunting shacks with mannequins dressed in flannel. Lizzie looked around and then quietly asked, “What did those people do to get shot?” I was rolling! She was so serious, too!

The next day was really special. Quite awhile ago I met two widows in a FB widows’ group. All of us were homeschoolers and we had each lost our husbands within 7 months of eachother. So, one formed a secret group on FB and we chat pretty frequently – kind of our own support group, I guess you could say. Well, one lives only 45 min. away from the Kansas City area. So, on Wednesday we met at the Crown Center in downtown KC. Shawna was missing one of her kids, too – her oldest was already back at college. But she has four total and I, of course, have the six. Even with all our kids we were able to fit in quite a bit of conversation. We ate this cute restaurant she recommended and then I followed her to the Steamship Arabia museum.

Now, this was a neat place. It’s a recovered steamboat that went down in the Missouri in the early 1860s. What’s neat about this one is that this was not a professional endeavor to recover this. It was five guys who got curious and eventually figured out that the boat was in a farmer’s field. They got permission to dig and were able to bring up all the goods out of the boat that had been preserved for 130 years. They were also able to bring up parts of the boat itself. These guys used their own money and have yet to acquire any grants or help. Over the past 25 years they have painstakingly restored the goods that were on the ship – even things like bolts of fabric. By trial and error they’ve figured out the best way to do these things. And now they’ve taken an old fruit warehouse and turned it into this fabulous museum showcasing all their finds! These steamboats were the only way that settlers had of getting goods on the prairie. They would be loaded with everything from shoes to eyeglasses to farm equipment. In addition, passengers would ride so some personal items were recovered as well. The steam engines were fed with wood so they would chop down trees alongside the riverbank. Well, in time, the leftovers of these trees would end up in the water and often create “snags” that would sink the boats. Hundreds went down in the muddy Mississippi. In fact, there is a similar, smaller museum up in De Soto Bend, Iowa, that Paul and I visited several times.

The only casualty on this boat was a mule. Interviewed after the sinking, the owner claimed that he had tried to get the animal off the boat but he was “too stubborn.” However, when these guys excavated the ship in the early 90s they found the mule’s skeleton – firmly hitched to a post with a bridle and bit in his mouth. He had been left tied up while his owner swam to safety! They have that mule skeleton on display in the museum today.

They also had some interesting accounts posted on the wall about the slavery tensions between Missouri and Kansas leading up to the Civil War. I knew Missouri was a slave state (mostly because I just finished doing my final project on Tom Sawyer) but Kansas was a free state. This led to some bloody skirmishes prior to the war’s start. I found that interesting.

Anyway, I would love to go back to this museum sometime when the kids are older or absent. It was hard to soak in everything I wanted to when I was constantly being summoned by an excited kid who wanted to show me something.

Then, we all went back to the Crown Center for ice cream. I was trying to soak in every possible moment I could with Shawna. It’s refreshing to spend time with someone who has endured the same thing, but yet shares the same faith and hope you do, too. And then we eventually had to say good-bye, but we promised we will definitely see each other again.

That night we took it easy at the hotel. It was a stormy night so we ordered in pizza and watched cable tv. Later, I took the kids swimming in the hotel pool.

The next morning we drove by the Chief’s stadium so David could get pictures. Then, we went to this Amish store that’s just over the Iowa border off I-35. Paul and I had been there 5 years ago. That’s where I got my stairstep basket. Despite being knocked down numerous times it’s still in great condition, too. We ate lunch there and I browsed and browsed.

On our way to this store I explained to the Littles what the Amish are. I was trying to prevent any embarrassing outbursts! As it turned out, there was only one actual Amish person working that day. But when the girls saw her, they got so excited. “Look, Mom!” squealed Lizzie, “There’s one of them!”

I only bought one thing for myself on this entire trip and that was at this store. I was hoping to find something genuinely Amish and I found the perfect basket for my dining room table. It can hold our utensils and napkins and the salt and pepper shakers. I liked it so much I bought one for Arien, too!

We were home an hour and a half later and Arien had made dinner for us. She came over and I got unpacked and it was just nice to be home.

I didn’t have a miserable time by any means. But, the truth is that vacationing without Paul is just plain hard. It’s hard emotionally because I naturally think of other family trips we took with him. And it’s hard, physically, because I am trying to please two different age groups. And it’s just a lot of work – packing, hauling luggage, etc. And sometimes the kids’ behaviors aren’t too great when they are in tight quarters with one another. The first afternoon and evening Ben had a total meltdown and was crying, “I want to go home!” He was fine and had no problems for rest of the trip, but it’s hard to be out of your home element. And I always end up having to share a bed with a short person. It's most horrible with Lizzie. She sprawls when she sleeps and is a dead weight. Trying to move her is like attempting to push a 300 pound log up a rocky hill. And she is a hot sleeper so it's like sleeping next to a furnace.

But yet, you have these good memories (hopefully, they’re good) and you have pictures and years from now, you’ll find yourself saying, “Do you remember that trip?...” So, it’s important.

Thankfully, I had no vehicle problems. My van is up to 233,000 miles and I keep thinking one of these days it’s just going to up and die – refuse to move another inch. But it keeps going! Other than windshield wipers that are getting a bit bonky from time to time, it remained faithful the entire way down and back. That was a good buy.

My next trip won’t be for a couple of years when I plan to take the kids to see the Creation Museum and Noah’s Ark in Kentucky. I want to figure out exactly what this trip will cost (or approximately, I guess) and when I have the money saved we’ll go. I think I’ll throw any “extra” money into my trip fund, too, because I’d really like this to happen about the time David graduates. We don’t have to vacation every year (and I’m not sure I want to) but we’ll keep traveling.

I want the kids to have the memories. And I want them to know that their mom was brave and was willing to step outside her comfort zone in order to give those memories to them.


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