Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Road Trip to Indiana

Mama-Dirtyfoot at the wheel.....Watch Out!
This picture does not do the fall colors justice.
Our first pit stop - somewhere in Wisconsin
Minnesota has an annual "Education Minnesota Professional Conference" the third Thursday and Friday in October.  This conference was formally known as the Minnesota Education Association Conference thus giving name to what Minnesotans still refer to as MEA weekend.  The purpose for these days off of school is to allow teachers, statewide, to attend its conference.  For parents and students it is an opportunity to plan a long weekend.  For what David refers to as the "Minnesota holiday", the local news was even covering the crowds at the airport for the school year getaway opportunity.  For last year's MEA, our family had moved to Minnesota less than a month prior to this long weekend.  We had no idea what MEA was and so we could not plan accordingly.  This year, we decided to take advantage of the long weekend and head to Michigan City, Indiana (an hour east of Chicago) to visit David's parents.

Anyone with kids knows how daunting a long road trip can be when the kids are in tow.  Luckily, Madeline is a little easier to travel with these days.  As long as she has paper and markers for drawing, a steady stream of DVD movies and occasional snacks, Madeline is good to go.  On our trip *to* Minnesota for our move, Jonathan was 8 weeks old and he slept almost the entire way.  Those days are gone and Jonathan is much more high maintenance.  David and I are not the "drive through the night" kind of people and so we do our best to time things as best as we can, have toys, snacks, occasional stops and prayers for long naps!


Grandpa is ready for bed and the kids are ready to party all night.
David showing Dad the photo album he made for Mom
At breakfast the next morning.  Getting a picture of both kids looking at the camera is next to impossible
Our trip to Indiana is about 450 miles.  Jonathan is not liking his car seat these days....I don't blame him - the safety regulations now require children to ride facing the rear until they are 2 years old.  When we got on the road, Jonathan fell asleep for a bit.  We took advantage of the first hour and a half as best as we could but when Jonathan woke up he was screaming and not having any part of any toys I offered.  I figured it was time for the kids to eat but could not bare the thought of stopping an hour and a half into the trip.  Thankfully I prepared some lunches for the road so that we would have more flexibility in our travel stops.  I crawled in the back and sat on the floor in between the two kids.  As I assisted Jonathan with his drive time lunch, we all ate as we chugged along.  Lunch was done and not long after that Jonathan decided he was *done* with the travel.  Good time for a pit stop.  In pre-kid years a pit stop was just that - do your business and go.  Now, these stops require more time.  Aside from having to walk our dog, Sobaka, who was also on this trip, the strategy is to let the kids stretch and tire them out as best as you can.  As you can see in the video above, David was doing his best in that department.  In fact, he did a great job - Jonathan was content when we first got into the car and soon after fell asleep for another nap.  We were able to continue on a few more hours and made our next stop a dinner stop at an "Interstate Oasis".  Both Jonathan and Madeline were able to run around as we sorted out everyone's dinner orders - Madeline & I for Chinese, David for pizza and Jonathan for a McDonald's Happy Meal.  We were now sufficiently fueled, rested from travel and ready to make the last leg of the trip.

Madeline and Grandma playing with the animal figurines as Jonathan looks on
Out to lunch - an Indiana guilty pleasure...not exactly Ted's
It was probably around 9pm when we pulled into David's dad's house.  That doesn't seem too bad - a late start out of Minnesota, two fairly long stops while on the road and we still managed to arrive in about 9 hours.  Yet, 9pm is late for the kids and they then got a second wind because they have been cooped up in the car.  Obviously it was also late for David's dad because when we arrived he was already in his PJ's.....and here comes my three ring circus, ready to party all night.  Thankfully the kids' "second wind" only lasted long enough for David and I to unpack the car, get the trundle day bed (David and me), cot (Madeline) and port-a-crib (Jonathan) ready and get Sobaka settled in as well.  The kids were excited to see Grandpa.  Madeline talked non-stop about adventures on the road and Jonathan kept handing Grandpa a book for Grandpa to read to him.

Jonathan found a spot to hang out while visiting Grandma
During our stays in Indiana, we make several trips a day to visit David's mom.  David's mom has been in a nursing home since she had a stroke.  Certainly David's mom is happy to see us and the kids but I can say that the kids also tend to brighten up many of the other residents as well.  Madeline and Grandma have their own routine when we visit.  Somewhere along the way Grandma received a small envelope of animal figurines.  Madeline grabs that as soon as she walks in the door and wants to play with Grandma.  If it isn't the animal figurines it is the few stuffed animals that decorate Grandma's room that she wants to play with.  We wondered how Jonathan would do on this visit since he is now very mobile and into *everything*.  Luckily, Jonathan was good about staying in Grandma's part of her room and didn't destruct too much.  Jonathan was actually quite content with playing with Grandma's wheelchair.  In fact, he discovered the the foot rest on the wheel chair made an excellent Jonathan-sized chair.

Working on making dinner
We try to get out to Indiana as often as possible.  However with an 8 hour (+) drive for us, school schedules, David's work travel, etc we are not able to get there as often as we would like.  Yes, we visit regularly but despite our trips, the fact that David's mom no longer has access to a computer like she used to (she loved to follow this blog) or long phone conversations (speech was effected), Grandma misses out on following a lot of our daily lives as she would have under normal circumstances.  David decided to compile a large photo album of pictures of the kids and us showing things that we've been up to over the past year.  Also, I decided to pack the kids Halloween costumes so that the kids could show off for Grandma.

Aunt Carolyn got Madeline a bunch of dress-up stuff.  Jonathan is trying to figure out what the heck is on Madeline's face!
Jonathan and Aunt Carolyn playing with the maracas from Aunt Carolyn
Jonathan off to see Grandma in his airplane
Rapunzel and Pilot Griggs ready to show off costumes for Grandma. The pumpkin bucket is Grandma's Halloween treats.
Additionally, since David's mom's stroke, David's dad hates eating dinner at home because he doesn't like eating by himself.  Most nights, he goes to the hospital where he volunteers (not where mom is) and a group of seniors meet for dinner there at the cafeteria.  Also he and David's sister, Carolyn, go out to eat at least once a week.  Although this solves the problem of eating alone, it does not offer a home cooked meal and so I try to cook something up when we visit.  David's dad is not a fancy eater, a very "old school" meat and potatoes kind of guy.  And usually at dinner time David's sister, Carolyn, comes over to eat, allowing us time to visit with her as well.  Friday night I made a lasagna, Caesar salad and bread & butter and Saturday's dinner was ribs, potatoes au gratin, broccoli, cauliflower, and corn bread.  Our final visit of the day to David's mom was always after dinner.  We headed over with the kids and when the kids hit their limit and it was time for bed, I headed back to David's dad's house so that I could start nite-nite routines and David stayed on to visit his mom, driving back with David's dad.

Our travel pit stop on the way home
I love watching Madeline and Jonathan play together...
When we travel we always "land with a splat" and so gathering up all our stuff, kids gear and toys is no small feat.  It is amazing that we were able to get up, showered, have all the bedding disassembled, kids fed breakfast, sandwiches for the road made & packed and all the kid (and dog) gear gathered AND have us pulling out of the driveway by 10am!  After a last quick visit to Grandma, we were on our way back to Minnesota by 11am.  Thankfully, the way home went much more smoothly!  Jonathan's morning nap in the car started as soon as we left and was nice and long.  We actually were able to make it halfway (Madison, WI) before our first stop.  We opted to try one long stop and so we gassed up, walked the dog and had our lunch at a Hardees that had a small outdoor playground.  When the kids were finishing their lunches I walked Sobaka and when the kids were done eating, I took them outside to play while David went to gas up the car.  We were able to kill many birds with one stone.  With the packed sandwiched still in the car, I was able to pull out the second meal when the natives became restless.  Our one well timed and well executed stop got us through until we arrived home - in record time, 7.5 hours!

....especially when they are having so much fun!
It is always nice to get away but it is always the best feeling to come back home.  You could tell that the kids were content to be back in their own surroundings while the first night sleeping in my own bed after a trip is always the best.  Although David has some upcoming business travel, it is time for the kids and me to hunker down at home until after Christmas.

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