Road Trip – 3 Day Weekend!

I am now ruled by the “school schedule” so the first 3 day weekend that I saw on the horizon was a chance for me to plan a Road Trip (much shorter than my summer one) so I planned a weekend away. We headed north about 3 hours to the middle of Wisconsin to check out the world in those parts. I have 4 letters for you…

VRBO

“Vacation Rental By Owner”

It’s fabulous.

I have no affiliation with them so this is not a “pitch post”. I discovered this website last year (VRBO.com) when I was looking for a place to stay for the week over the summer. It is similar to other sites that offer homes to stay in for vacation purposes. This one just happens to have homes in the areas that I head to. I used them this past summer twice while in NY on our Mammoth Road Trip excursion. (Check out the link if you missed all of that goodness. The link provides the first bits of the journey and you can follow the rest under the “Gift of Gab – Road Trip Ramblings” category).

With a family of 5 and often an additional guest along, renting a whole house for the same price or less than a hotel is a no-brainer. I have been on a “country kick” lately so I have rented homes in the country and it brings me back to my roots. I love it!

We rented a farmhouse with lots of land, walking trails and a lake/pond…plus beautiful barns and out buildings.

At the time that I planned this weekend getaway, my mind thought, “Oooo, 3 days, that’s enough time to getaway”.

It’s not.

At least not in my world.

By the time I pack, travel and get us settled, I have used up a day and a half. Then the last day is spent getting packed up, traveling and settled back into home. So I really just went away for an afternoon.

And this is what we took…

IMGP0842

Believe it or not, I got it all in our minivan. Plus, 3 kids and 3 grownups.

I have Super Spatial Powers.

I had to switch out a toy house for a flatter one but that was so minor that I consider it quite an accomplishment.

We drove 15-20 minutes and I made an announcement to my potty trained children that they should tell me they needed a bathroom when they first felt like they had to go, NOT when they really had to go. That is too much pressure and I cannot always find a safe place to stop, even to use Mother Nature’s bathroom facilities.

About a minute later I heard, “Mom, I have to go to the bathroom.” I forgot about bathroom breaks. Kid bathroom breaks that take over the whole trip.

We hadn’t even left our world yet. So, I tried to stifle my signature sigh and we exited the highway that we had just zoomed onto and headed back to use a bathroom. McDonald’s was the best option and of course then everyone was hungry and wanted to eat there. Well, the kids any ways. I have no problem saying that I love McDonald’s, I wouldn’t even dream of lying about it. I am not ashamed. BUT, I do get tired of it because it is one of the few places that my kids will eat or is around me when I want something fast. I have tried other fast food places and their speed of service does not even compare. When you have 3 young kids in the car, you cannot hang out in a car stuck in a line that has no exit for 20 minutes waiting on a chicken sandwich. Don’t they know that?

So, I decided that we may as well go pee, get lunch and THEN maybe everyone would fall asleep. Let me remind you that all of that stuff I showed you earlier is packed in this van so you have to climb over things to get in and out. And the two potty trained kids are in the very back because the toddler needs to be close to his mother – he’s just a baby, after all, and the grownups get carsick. It’s a major chore when a kid has to go to the bathroom. And of course the toddler is upset that everyone else seems to be getting out to do something fun so he falls apart that he is not included. Well, he can come, yes, so now all of us, minus dad, are off to enjoy the insides of McDonald’s. They did give away free toothbrushes and toothpaste to kids, so it did end up being extremely exciting. That’s the great part about Road Trip…the unknown treasures!

Back on the road, no one went to sleep as I had planned. We had to make another pee stop using nature’s facilities off an exit only to discover afterwards that a mile down the road there was a real rest stop. Muffins were antsy so we got off at that rest stop and stretched and regrouped, hoping THAT would help people sleep so we could keep going. It worked.

But then MapQuest failed me. It has maybe only failed me once before and I only say that because I can’t remember that it did but it MAY have. It told me to go left when it made no sense and I could not find the road it talked about unless I went right. I do not use GPS, I outwardly scoff at “SURI”(SP) the iPhone direction lady and any other technological “I will help you find your way but only when you have screamed at the right decibel or when I am back from my break, or when you have service again or maybe never” service that is available these days. Too many gone wrong moves that have left me weary of their true intention. I am old school, as I have pointed out (I am waiting for permed big hair to come back you know) so I like MapQuest. Yes, I know that is not really “old school” as in getting out the map and highlighting my route “old school” and that MapQuest uses the same technology but it works. I like visually seeing where I am headed before I go, then I have a better idea of when things are looking funky.

Kids were awake now and antsy again. Another pit stop, a call to the destination for “HELP!”, and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup for the driver (that’s me) to keep me going.

We made it. But it is not early afternoon as I had planned. It is late afternoon. I need to set up camp so it is ready because suppertime and bedtime are right around the corner.

It was not until the next day, later the next day, when I scooted out to check out the new adventure.

Being an old farmhouse, there were remnants of past lives so I enjoyed thinking about their daily routine. I would not have made it. I was lucky to make bacon and box mix brownies in addition to caretaking and my whole morning had been consumed. Can you imagine if I had to go pump my water, get my eggs and milk, head out to the outhouse, take care of the wee ones and make breakfast? Me neither.

But when I did get out, this is what I found…

IMGP0846

beautiful property and buildings. It was a fabulously warm weekend with wonderful smells and sounds.

IMGP0849

A lake and various old farm instruments dotted around.

IMGP0851

Lily Pads. I love Lily Pads. No frogs or turtles sunning though.

IMGP0856

I ventured down the dock and the end of the dock was constructed of scraps, any scraps available so that you could go further. It was a bit rickety but I went further.

IMGP0853

And further – right onto the pallet at the end.

IMGP0852

It was beautiful, serene and so peaceful. I saw an otter and a Crane. It may not have been a Crane. I call every bird with longs legs and wide wings either Cranes or Herons. Unless the bird is pink, then I call it a Flamingo.

IMGP0858

By the time I made it back to my breakfast, it was no longer hot, but it was worth it to have been off exploring before I was back on momma-duty.

IMGP0861

And my “running” shoes, I mean “jogging” shoes, that had still looked like they were fresh out of the  box even though I am supposed to be exercising more were quite happy because they were dirty with nature.

Just hopefully not the same nature that we had left behind on one of our pee stops.

Advertisements

Road Trip – Returning to Wisconsin

We love the Road Trip.

And we love the return home.

Home…ahhhh

IMGP9523

“My kitchen whimsy”

One of the greatest things to see when we get home is my little people discovering all of the things that they left behind. It is usually around 11 PM, far past bedtime, but we have pushed it to get home in two days so we can wake up and “just be home” the next morning. They are so happy and so cute and they get a chance to run around and wreak havoc on the house for a few minutes while we unload the necessities.

IMGP9521

Bed feels good too.

Traveling is fun but eventually living out of suitcases needs to be replaced with having a spot for your stuff and the routine of the day. We miss daddy and we miss our kitty.

IMGP9525

It was time for the Return Road Trip.

We got a late start, as usual. Packing up to leave is big. Big I tell you.

Then we stopped to visit a family member on our way out. It was closer to 3 pm by the time we really hit the road. Those are not good statistics when traveling with small children. Add crazy thunderstorms and impromptu bathroom stops to the mix and it’s a real Road Trip again.

We really did not plan to get very far on the first day since we started late and expected to travel for three days. After the first few bathroom stops we got into a rhythm and started to log some miles. So much so that I did not start to look for my planned lodging exit until we had passed it. By the time we realized that the exit I was looking for must have been behind us we were past any close possibilities for stopping. So, we kept driving, waiting for things to go south at any moment.

The kids hung in there and it was a good thing because we drove for over an hour before any hotel possibilities appeared. But we made it to the next major city. That was good news for the traveling part of the trip since there is a countdown to how many hours we need to go.

The frustrating part was that once we got to that area we spent an hour between two exits looking for a hotel for the evening. Who knew that this major city was a hot spot for summer vacations? The time we wasted would have put us an hour farther into the trip and at an exit that I knew had hotels but we had no idea we were going to waste this much time looking for rooms. The time ticked away and eventually it would be late enough that my angelic children could not possibly hang in there any longer. My husband and I were at the end of our travel rope, the madness would have to stop. By now it was 9:30 pm.

We finally found lodging, less than desirable, but took it. The kids feasted on the small boxes of cereal that our inn keepers had sent with us to an episode of “Full House” on TV, as I prepared us for sleep. Thank you sugar cereal!

Morning came and the kids all slept late as they usually do on our travel trips. Let’s face it, we are all exhausted from the end of our vacation to the late night traveling and the commotion of being out of a routine for so long. I was up early and got myself ready. One down. I was determined to be as ready as possible to get on the road early.

We made it by 9 AM which wasn’t too bad. Breakfast was not part of the package at the hotel so the kids ate more cereal boxes and then we had to pull off at the next rest stop. Ugh, all of these stops keep piling up.

Finally on the road again we soon ran into severe thunderstorms. It had been a while since I have driven in anything like that and especially not with my children. There is no where I have to go that I need to be out in bad weather with my kids when I am home. But now, I had somewhere to go…home. The alternative was to pull over to the side of the road but that did not feel like a safe option either since visibility was poor and we might not be seen by other drivers, so we plugged along slowly. Painfully slowly. That pattern defined our first half of the trip and then the weather brightened and we had an easier time.

I felt like a wide-eyed crazy person on the return ride home. I had been out of my element long enough to make me feel like I could not remember what my “real world” really was. Did I even have a home base? The awareness that we still had so much road left to cover was defeating and I had to play mind games to keep from buying a house en route and sending for our things. The kids handled the trip well, it’s the grownups that are the weak link.

In the scheme of things, we WOULD make it back. At worst it was just another day. But that third day is hell. It doesn’t matter that there may only be three hours left to go and the reward is our home. No one is getting back into that car without magic. I think my magic was all used up.

And ohhhh, the bathroom stops. They were much smoother now but still as frequent. How I loved the diaper years.

When we got to the point on our return journey that we knew we would make it that second night no matter what time it was, my mental energy became focused on making that happen as smoothly as possible. A mid-afternoon junk food stop followed by a “pick out a toy” stop and lastly by the “let’s eat dinner and get your jammies on” stop with a fun car movie to take us home.

It worked and we made it. Late. We were still on Eastern time.

Thank you Lord, once again. I had scheduled a house cleaning so the house was clean, cleaner than it ever is when we are home. Walking in the door was fabulous.

Thank you to our family and friends for letting us come and “spread the love”. We enjoy it, every minute. I am crazy and we will do it again for sure, just not right away!

We have “treated” ourselves for a month, not just an afternoon at our grandparents. We desperately need more water, sleep, fruits and vegetables. Yes, our family lives in a civilized world where there is access to fruits and veggies and all things good. We could easily have eaten all things good while we were on Road Trip, and we did, but we didn’t too. The trip was a treat all around.

I would not be able to do these crazy Road Trips if it weren’t for my amazing children. They are awesome travel companions and they handle the traveling so much better than the grown-ups. I spend a lot of time complaining in my head and they just “go with it”. Thank you beautiful babies, I am the luckiest momma in the world!

What a great trip, once again, one that makes memories for my babies.

IMGP9526

“The crazy toy mess that I can never keep up with”

Ahhhh…we are home….

Road Trip – Our Final Moments in NY

We spent the beginning of our last week on Road Trip at our family host’s home and then we headed to Wells, VT for a mini-vacation at a Bed & Breakfast Cottage to finish off the week. My husband was flying in to meet up with us, relax for a few days and then be my traveling companion for the return-to-home part of the Road Trip.

We busied ourselves “spreading the love” as much as we could those last few days, although we were starting to wear thin. At this point in the journey we are always a bit like we have been eating way too much sugar for weeks on end, which we have.

You can see it in our eyes.

We are a bit crazy.

And we might not be all that pleasant to be around, but the family knows that they only have to endure a few more “moments” with us so they come.

We even had an unexpected visitor one afternoon that was a delight for my children. And it did not care how crazy we looked.

IMGP9049

IMGP9063

It had been a rainy damp afternoon and the baby squirrel climbed onto the window ledge, checked us out a bit and then covered itself with its little fluffy squirrel tail and took a nap. So cute and of course my kids were “tickled”.

The last leg of our trip was the Fourth of July Weekend. We gained a traveling companion, my husband, and then headed to Vermont to stay for a few days in a Bed & Breakfast before we left to go back to the Midwest. It was one of the best decisions of my life because I was so pampered. At this point in the Road Trip, I needed it. It was just lovely. The owners took great care of us and they had some extra special goodies here and there for the kids. We were located up a four mile mountain dirt road and it was wonderful! More country life for me 🙂

IMGP9197

I grew up on a hill and this brought me back to all of those afternoons that I had to trump up the hill after school. I was finally forced to get some exercise on those last few days of Road Trip!

Our first morning in our cozy cottage found me whining, “I just wanna cup of coffeeeeee”, as I quietly tried to fight with the Keuring. I am not a fancy coffee machine person so I had no idea how it worked. I kept pushing buttons but no coffee was coming. I kept pushing.

Pushing buttons eventually paid off and I got coffee, but I never discovered the secret. Our hosts brought us coffee in a carafe so I was saved. I left the other grown-ups with a “good luck” and drank my hard earned coffee. I decided that I do not like these types of coffee makers, not so much because it almost won, but because I like to refresh my cup of coffee eighteen times and I cannot do that with a one-cupper. Good to know. I can scratch that item from the giant list of technology things that I am way behind on.

On our final day family joined us once again for a last hoorah and then we were off on our trek across the country. We had such a lovely time, as always, going back to be with family and friends. But now, we are so ready to go home.

This mini-vacation had a much better outcome regarding nature. My older son and I caught frogs in the pond. All of my children loved going up and down the hill and playing outside with family, still mindful of bugs, of course. But they went outside more and forgot their bug phobia for a few moments.

It was so nice to be back in New England, one of our favorite areas. I am still trying to figure out how we can move here, buy a trendy farm, and make it work. No light bulbs yet!

So, I had to pack up the van AGAIN…but at least the packing business would be over in a few days, for a while.

Road Trip – Return to Home…here we come, ready or not!

Road Trip – Stuck in the Kitchen, Out in the Country

As promised, it got better for my daughter, mainly because she pretty much stayed inside all week.

And with this view, I was happy on my Country Vacation, even if I was inside because of bugs…

Country Vacation

The first morning in my beautiful country paradise found me stressed out over technology. Internet service and cell phones can be tricky and I forgot about those limitations. My cell phone service was spotty and I could only get enough bars to receive texts and make calls if I stood on one leg on the last board of the deck, clucked like a chicken and swayed back and forth. That got old.

But hey, it was the wonderful country so I enjoyed it and just gave out the home phone number…it took me a while to remember that that is how life worked in the “old days”. Oh yeah….clever…

IMGP8830

Probably my most favorite kitchen accessory is my “shoulder towel”, so we buddied up and I planned to play in the kitchen if I couldn’t play outside. I busied myself with all of the gadgets when I could and had a lovely time entertaining family and friends. I made a delicious tomato salad pizza that the Pioneer Woman makes, but I did not have the recipe and getting online was a chore so I “just made do” with my memory. It tasted delicious!

IMGP8829

IMGP8827

IMGP8833

IMGP8856

I made a Peach Crumb Cake, but that came with issues.

After a while I noticed that my cake was just not cooking fast enough in the oven. This was some sort of convection oven and I have had no exposure to those. I turned the temperature up but nothing happened and eventually the oven gave me a message…”Call Customer Support”.

IMGP8957

If that is not an advancement in technology, I don’t know what is.

I wasn’t sure if I was to contact customer support because my cake wasn’t going to win any awards, but I guessed it must be due to the in-operation of the oven. Of course, this is not my house, so I jotted down the information to share with the home owner. In the meantime, I channeled my Country Girl powers and divided the cake into two smaller pans then baked them in the toaster oven one after the other.

I had it covered.

They baked and I had two Peach Crumb Cakes, which was my original plan to begin with, for a family gathering that needed this dessert. The homeowner resolved the oven issues. Crisis averted.

Well, that crisis any ways.

On one of the afternoons I had plans to meet up with some friends and needed to get “cleaned up” to make a good showing but I was not operating in a fashionable mode being that I was on Country Vacation and all.

Yikes! Look at those hairy eyebrows! Whose overgrown shaggy hair was that? Had I even done any exercise in the past month? Did I even remember to pack anything cute to wear when I left our hosts house for my Country Vacation since I was leaving from that spot?

Nope.

Sigh.

Luckily, they know me and love me so there are no surprises. It was hotter than hot and we would be meeting outside. I donned my trademark signature cutoff jeans (I know, “old school”) and then tried a few different shirts and earrings until I settled on a fresh minty colored tank top. It would have to do.

Wow, I really go to “hell in a handbag” on these Road Trips.

People think I am crazy and they might be on to something.

That I even make the pilgrimage Road Trip across half the country with young children gives them cause to wonder about my sanity, but adding a few mini-trips within the big trip, really makes them shake their head. I have always had a tendency to go to the beat of my own drummer, but I do periodically wonder if something is wrong with my drumsticks.

Our last full day on our Country Vacation found us hosting an impromptu informal family gathering. We love gatherings.

I chose the theme of “Farmer’s Market” for the menu items so that we could eat up as much as possible and I would not have to pack it when we left the next day. There were various grilled meats, fresh vegetables and pasta salads, Peach Crumb Cake (of course), chocolate covered strawberries, crackers and chips and dips, sauteed peppers and onions, parmesan crusted summer squash, Raspberry Puree Brownies, and any other delicious party food I could put out. It was not a bad spread for being a hodge-podge.

IMGP8974

IMGP8991

IMGP8983

One of the big mysteries of the country house was revealed by a visiting family member. We could not figure out where the kitchen exhaust was. There HAD to be one, even though the ceilings were high and the rooms were airy and open, there just had to be an exhaust system. I remembered seeing a label somewhere mentioning something that seemed exhaust related but my mental fog prevented me from remembering where I had seen it.

Us ladies spent the afternoon discussing it and prowling around. It was a mystery.

All of a sudden a loud whooshing sound filled the kitchen. I turned to see the exhaust system working like a charm. It was soooo cool! A family member found it and we all cheered…mystery solved!

That’s the kind of fun we have in the country…

Keep your eyes on the back of the stove as you scroll through the pictures.

IMGP9031

IMGP9032

IMGP9034

My country upbringing has been revived and my juices are flowing. Country life has its inconveniences for sure, but apparently it is in my soul. Now I just need to convince my husband that we need to be country people and find some kind of farm life that fits who we are. Gardening? Small animals and cheeses? Eggs? Orchards? Berries? Ahhh…what a dream it is.

Good-bye Country Vacation, it was wonderful!

Road Trip – “Country Roads, Take Me Home”

A huge part of our Road Trip to Upstate NY is spent visiting many of our favorite people because the majority of them live around there. So, we make the rounds or they stop by so we can “spread the love” around.

And boy can we spread the love.

I suspect there is a collective sigh in Upstate NY when we hit the road for the “Return to Wisconsin” part of the Road Trip.

(Some day, when my children are older, I dream of a Road Trip through the USA to visit family and friends who are scattered around. Doesn’t that sound like fun?)

When I was planning this trip I decided to include a vacation, of sorts – not that Road Trip isn’t a vacation in itself mind you. It would count as our summer vacation, would give our resident host a break and would return me to my Rural Roots.

I grew up in a small rural town in Upstate NY, but spent my college years and the years thereafter in cities and suburbia. This past year, I started craving my rural roots. I needed the countryside, the quietness, the animal life and the chance to share all of that with my children. I wanted the kind of country that I grew up in, the kind of life that is really limiting when you are a teenager because there is nothing close by and “nothing to do”. Now, I love it and that is exactly what I wanted.

I dreamed of a Country Vacation.

My wish came true and I found a beautiful home in a neighboring town that had breathtaking views of the Vermont Mountains. It was perfect in so many ways, not the least was that my children would actually get a chance to spend some quality time in the countryside like their mom had.

I love nostalgia.

Our first week in NY visiting family was wonderful and it was behind us before we knew it. I found myself, once again, in the position of having to pack up the van so we could head over to our “Country Vacation” destination, only about thirty minutes away.

Even though I did not have to pack the entirety of our belongings because we would be returning to this residence, I still had to pack much of it. The sweat, the swearing and the frustration started again. Oh the agony of packing. What was I thinking? More often than not, those words have escaped my lips through the years.

Deja vu…

and

Poor me. I just want to hide…

IMGP7808

Before we arrived at our vacation destination, before we even left the family home that we had been staying at, I texted my husband that I was going to buy this property, sight unseen, because I was never going to pack and unpack again. Never. Ugh, this packing business is for the birds.

So, I am not leaving.

Ever.

Especially once I actually arrived and fell totally in love with our Country Vacation home and the return to my rural roots. Getting there was exhausting. I was supposed to go to the grocery store the night before we left after my wee ones went to bed. But they never actually settled down until late and I was so tired from the previous days of “spreading the love” around so I made a sandwich instead and packed the van. That cop-out meant that I had to take my wee ones, who were over-excited about our country vacation, with me to the grocery store. It is rarely pleasant. We managed to make it out with only one fall on the floor that resulted in a bruised knee.

A McDonald’s “to-go” lunch was the plan once the grocery trip was complete. As luck would have it, their grills were down so no burgers were being made. It’s a traveling day all right. The lack of grill food messed up one of three Happy Meal orders and my order as well, so I had to regroup quickly.

Then we were on our way. What a morning!

As we neared our destination the country roads become windy and hilly. I was brought back to my teenage years of buzzing along at a nice speed over all the roads until my daughter’s little voice from the far back told me that all of the curves were making her car sick.

Oh right, I got caught up for a moment! I slowed it down. Car sickness is the worst!

We arrived and it was country heaven. Beautiful views, a lovely home, very country and just as perfect as it could get. The inside of the home is so wonderfully laid out and I knew that I meant it when I texted my husband that I wanted to buy this property.

I fell in love with the kitchen.

It was beautiful and open to the living area with windows all around that framed the Vermont Mountains wonderfully. I began to channel my inner “Pioneer Woman turned Country Girl” and had a ball planning out my cooking events in this fabulous kitchen with all of the wonderful kitchen accessories and utensils, mountains in the backdrop…and kids in screaming panic fits about bugs…

Wait, does that happen on her show? I wonder if anyone would watch MY show. It’s a bit more of a reality cooking show with poopy diapers, bug-phobic kids and food that needs to be tended to all at once…see what you think…

We unpacked (ugh) and once we were settled inside, we headed outside to roam around. There was a lovely small pond that we ventured to first. Ahhh, just the country moments that I was looking for. Until a fly buzzed by my daughter and she screamed as if her arms and legs fell off. That panic sent my older son into a tizzy. My toddler felt the frantic vibrations from his siblings as we raced up the hill back to the house, but he loves being outside so you could see he was trying to work out how he was going to handle this. He was upset but he wasn’t sure if he was upset about the bugs or upset that he was going to have to go inside.

In the end, I went inside with my two big muffins and my mini-muffin stayed out with a family member who accompanied us. That is pretty much how the rest of the day went. Actually, that is pretty much how the rest of my Country Vacation went. I spent it inside.

But I had that great kitchen to fall back on.

Luckily, I was a kid in a candy store with the kitchen and I had big plans to use all of the kitchen toys so I was able to be flexible about my Country Vacation. I am good like that. I used my middle child’s wish to stay right by my side in case a bug was around as the perfect time to cook dinner for that evening since I was inside any ways. Technically, this is far from a camping trip, but it followed a similar philosophy, “keep it simple, use things up and make do with what is on hand”.

Our first “camp” dinner was “Keep it Simple Quesadillas”. Yummy, easy, healthy (aside from the larger than serving size portion of melty cheese) and very lovely on the dishes that were available for me to use. I feel so “Food Network”. And I was able to pull it together under the stress of having packed, grocery shopped, unpacked and endured the never-ending trauma from bugs. Now THAT is a full day at work.

IMGP8806

It was late, but not later than expected, when I finally got the last of my wee ones to close her eyes. My daughter was still seeing bugs in her sleep tent. She was just that freaked out and exhausted. I promised her that tomorrow would be better. It will.

Tune in tomorrow for the next episode, “Stuck in the Kitchen Out in the Country” – or something like that.

Road Trip – “Pizza and Wings”

There is a certain style of “pizza and wings” that I miss from my Upstate NY world. Every time I go back, I get a bit crazy fitting my food orders into my travels.

On this particular trip, I ordered them three times. You might not think that sounds crazy at all (or maybe you do), but out of all of the weeks in our traveling, only one and a half weeks were spent in the location of my wings and pizza. When I looked back and did the math, I ordered pizza and wings three times in ten days. That is a little crazy. Ok, a lot crazy.

But let me explain…

I could place an order online and I it all could be delivered right to my door.

And in my defense, I was so happy to see that hot steamy delivery package come into my arms that I immediately ran to the kitchen to fill a plate and sit down to devour my favorite foods that I forgot to take pictures so that I could share them with you. THAT is why I had to place another order. But then I forgot to take pictures again. So, I had to place ANOTHER order, especially since it was my last night in Upstate NY. I remembered to take pictures that time, but I think I was just in a hurry to get to the eating part so they are not particularly good pictures.

For me though, they are beautiful and every time I see these pictures, my mouth waters and I really want to make another online order and know that my hot delicious “pizza and wings” delivery package will be in my arms in 45 minutes.

Except that I am back home in the Midwest and I have not found that style of “pizza and wings” here yet.

IMGP9088

Oh my…

IMGP9091

…don’t they look delicious?

IMGP9096

I miss them…I love those pictures…I am really hungry now…

Road Trip – “Corn Toasties”

When you move from your favorite places to eat, you may become obsessed with getting that food when you go back to visit.

I did.

And I can get a little crazy trying to get those foods. (Just wait until I tell you about pizza and wings!)

One food that I love are “Corn Toasties”…at least that is what I call them. They are prepackaged and similar to a corn muffin but flatter. They fit into your toaster, which is a beautiful thing, because they are best devoured toasted with lots of butter!

IMGP8713

This is what they look like after your children have heard about them…

IMGP8740

Road Trip – Lunar Moth

The time we spent visiting family and friends in Upstate NY while on our Road Trip was fabulous. I still have lots of fun things to share with you and am slowly getting organized as we settle back into our routine.

There were a few highlights from the trip that were unexpected.

Here is one of them…

IMGP8968

IMGP8971

It is a Lunar Moth, was bigger than my hand and it was beautiful! I had never seen one before and even my bug-phobic children came outside to see it!

Road Trip Ramblings, Day 2 – How Much More Road is There?

Day 2

My children ALWAYS sleep later on Road Trip mornings than they would if they were home. It’s another one of those Murphy’s Laws of Children. Today, I would not mind if they woke up at 5 am so we could get up and get going since we have a full day of traveling ahead of us. It never happens that way and I let them sleep.

Eventually they wake and I start the process of getting everyone dressed and ready as I countdown how many people are left. I am always a crazy lady as I try to pack up everything once it gets used for the last time and then plunk it outside the hotel room door to help me survey what is left in the room. Since I want the Road Trips to be fun, I cannot throw everyone in the car with a mini box of Froot Loops and race off. My wee ones love the hotel breakfast, of course, so we always need to factor that into the morning time frame. My mom already headed down to breakfast after having spent the evening in her own room, at my suggestion. If she was going to be sane enough to help out again today, she may as well have had some peace throughout the evening.

It worked and she was feeling rejuvenated, as was evident by her numerous texts about breakfast. We conversed via text something like this…

mom – I am down at breakfast and can bring stuff back.

me – Ok, I am getting everyone ready now.

mom – Are you coming down?

me – That is the plan, I am trying to get things around now.

mom – I will save the table then.

me – Ok, good, we will be down. I am still getting everyone ready.

mom – Are you coming? It is getting full and I do not want to lose the table.

me – Yes, we are coming…not ready. Diaper change. Come back if you need to.

mom – It is full and there won’t be any tables. I don’t want the kids to be disappointed. Should I hold the table?

me – Yes.

Mom – Are you coming?

me – YES…diaper change!

We made it to breakfast and some of the crowd had cleared. We were able to enjoy our table and our breakfast. With bellies full, we headed back to the room so I could finish packing. By the time I have readied us to leave the hotel room, we are still at least a half hour away from leaving the hotel premises because I need to pack the minivan. You would think that this would be an easy process since I just packed it a day ago and we did not need to fully unload. But for some reason, our items seem to have taken on added bulk and I cannot get things to fit back into the car.

Ugh.

Whoever is in charge of keeping the kids busy while I wrestle with packing and repacking and repacking our gear has no easy task either. I am not sure which one I would prefer, but it makes sense for me to end up with gear packing duty since I need to know where everything related to our “stuff” is when it is packed in the car.

Now that I have taken so long to get the car packed up we need to make another run to the restrooms before we leave because I really do not want to stop again for the bathroom for hours. I am sweaty, swearing and beyond frustrated. It ain’t perty.

We leave the hotel and the gods are with us as we manage to get a couple of hours of drive time under our belts before we need to stop. “Bathroom issues” and “toddler intolerance” continue to be the themes for Day 2, although not quite as strong. Here is a picture of a makeshift car curtain to provide some privacy while the kids use the car pot at our stops. I absolutely plan on using these moments as retaliation when my children are older and they tease me about some sore point in their upbringing. It isn’t all roses for me either!

IMGP8631

I have also noticed that a new theme is developing, which does not help with trying to get the kids to use up their stored energy from sitting in the car. For some reason, the rest stops seem to be particularly dirty on this trip…inside and out. The grassy areas are filthy so the kids cannot run there and play because I do not want anyone falling down or picking up things. And when I say picking up things, I mean all kinds of “things”. Actual rocks, garbage or other treasures, as well as diseases. We just finished a bout of “Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease” at our house. I do not need other body areas affected now as we travel to visit family and enjoy summer vacation.

The inside of the rest stops are yucky too so I do not want anyone fooling around, playing or touching things there either. That being the case, we never get to use up our energy. Well, the kids do not get to use up their energy. I have actually used up ALL of my energy keeping everyone from using theirs. It is exhausting. I cannot wait to end the Road Trip and cleanse everyone and everything.

At this point, it is still too early to know how the evening will play out. We have only logged six hours of driving time the first day so there are nine hours left. That is insane. There is no number on the warp speed odometer that will make a dent in that kind of driving time left. But another night spending hours unloading at a hotel and getting set up, only to spend hours the next morning breaking camp and repacking the car slips further away as an option as the day wears on.

Eventually, there is the unspoken decision that we will drive on to the final destination no matter what. HOW that will happen is also left unspoken because we have no idea how it will actually become a reality. But we know we have committed to the plan and as we plug along we manage to log some decent mileage during car naps.

IMGP8642

The rest of the trip ends up happening through a series of stops every hour to stretch tiny legs, buy any kind of treat to keep people happy and state change long enough to make it another hour. And so on.

We needed to stop at the airport so that my mother could pick up her car that she left behind when she flew out to visit us. It is late evening, and as we depart the airport in a two-car caravan, my toddler and middle child are finally sleeping. My oldest child, who is really not that old at all, has proclaimed that he will stay awake to help me drive. He is in the far back of the van and he is my chatterbug. He spent most of his time “helping me drive” by asking me questions about owls at night, what night moths looked like and telling me that he did not like the forest next to us as we drove. I had to keep whispering to him, loudly so that he could hear me in the back of the minivan, that I did not want to talk because his siblings were sleeping. He was helpful, however, telling me to be careful because horses would be crossing the road, according to the sign that he saw. At this hour of the night, the horses should be in bed, as should we.

We arrive at destination 11 pm, Eastern time, which is really 10 pm “our time”. Momma is fried. My adult traveling companion is happy to be back at her home. Two weeks spent visiting in our world can do that to you. My two older children are awake and refreshed now to have arrived. Hey, it’s grandma’s house and that means there are toys to be played with that we have not seen in months. They happily and eagerly occupy themselves which gives me an opportunity to bring in what we need for the night and then to bring in my sleeping toddler. He wakes briefly while we are in his room as it is getting readied, but only enough to point to his bed. I snuggle him in and leave. He is off to dreamland immediately. The other two, have no plans of sleeping at all. But, momma is exhausted so we begin the bedtime journey and try to at least clean off some of the “yuckies” from the trip by performing a small amount of personal hygiene. Then, they get tucked in and follow their sibling to dreamland. I am not far behind.

Thank you Lord for getting us here safely, one more time.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…..

Road Trip Ramblings, Day 1 – Getting On the Road

I have cause to celebrate…I have the first day Road Trip journal ready to share with you and…

it is Bacon Friday!

Here ya go…

Wow! Can it really be time to make our Road Trip to NY to catch up with family? My mom will be my traveling companion for this part of the journey and she was not sure that I had my act together. She should be worried. The mental fog that often drifts in and out of my head throughout every day has sorta settled in. It’s not the packing that concerned her because summertime traveling is much easier than wintertime travel. She had tougher questions. Did I get the car serviced? Were the kids prescriptions filled and ready to go? How about my prescriptions? Was I stocked on diapers, wipes and bun crème? (I did not add that French accent to ‘bun creme’…the computer did it…but I like it!). Did I have enough prescription cat food for the cat sitter? (So she could feed my cat, not herself…)

I had to admit that these were really tough questions. Luckily, she had asked me early enough in the planning process so that I was able to regain some dignity and eventually answer “check” to all of those questions.

It is the last-minute packing that takes the most time, those things that you just cannot pack until the morning that you are leaving. And of course, by then, there is no more room in the car to pack all of those things that you had to wait until now to pack. I thought that I had really pared down the loot but, as always, it wasn’t enough. Eventually, I managed to get everything in and we were on the road about 8:40 am, which is not bad. Not bad at all.

We are leaving on Father’s Day weekend. Sad, I know. Or maybe not. I told my husband that my gift to him was that I was taking all of the kids with me – Happy Father’s Day! Peace and quiet 🙂 We celebrated Father’s Day last weekend so he did not miss out. It seems like there is always a holiday or an event on the calendar when I need to plan a Road Trip. Although I have a flexible schedule my traveling companions do not.

The theme for this trip, at least for Day 1 any ways, became quite clear very early into the trip… “bathroom issues”. We are familiar with that theme. It seems to be a common one with the three to going on six-year old age group, those who have a new awareness to potty training. We had just barely crossed the border into Illinois, only about 40 minutes from our departure time, and my daughter had to use the bathroom. We were near the first real rest stop on the trip. Less than half an hour later we needed to stop at the second rest stop on the trip for the bathroom. Sounds simple enough, I can hear you saying to yourself. Yes, maybe it is a pain to keep stopping when you have barely burned any rubber yet, but no biggie, with that behind you now you can make up some ground. I know that is what you are thinking.

Well, you would be wrong. Or “mistaken” as my husband is teaching my children to say. First, because there is always the “I’m hungry” addition to any stop. And even though I pack things to eat so that we can eat somewhat healthy the first travel day at least, the clock is still ticking as I get everyone set up with snacks. The young ages of my traveling companions requires that I provide assistance to the snacking on varying levels. I suppose if THAT were the only addition to the stop, we could please the troops and move on.

But the real kicker involves the advancement in technology that created automatic flush toilets and hand dryers in the bathrooms. My kids are scarred and there seems to be no end to the trauma that these automatic restroom accessories induce on my wee ones. They go into full panic mode, heels dig into the commercially tiled floors, hands spring up to cover their ears and the intestinal organs seize up. No matter how badly they had to go, which is the reason why we have stopped so early into the trip, and quite possibly for the second or third time, not a drop of any waste product is able to exit those little bodies. They are clammed up tight. My efforts to force myself to use sweet talk to coo it out have no effect. The fear that the toilet will flush while they are on the pot, in addition to all of the other toilets flushing with no rhyme or reason and hand dryers blowing willy-nilly thwarts any possibility of progress.

I am no stranger to anger and frustration at those moments but I have had to move on from those feelings because they do not solve anything when you have fifteen hours of solid travel time to log. And they certainly will not open up the flood gates so that my kids can then go to the bathroom.

A few years ago I started keeping a kid’s port-a-pot in the van. It has been a life saver and I really do need to add that as a gift idea on my blog. Seriously.

I keep the pot stashed with extra plastic bags and a roll of toilet paper. I have a procedure in place and it is a serious operation that is very fine-tuned. Yes, I guess I am a bit proud.

Needless to say, it came in handy more times than should have been necessary on the first day of the road trip. Thank you port-a-pot.

The sub-theme to this trip is “toddler intolerance”. That age group has a very limited capacity for giving you extra time to get to the stopping place that would really help the travel efforts the next day. Pretty much, when they start the serious complaints, you had better abort mission and find a hotel.

Again, I can hear you thinking, no big deal.

Well, you would be wrong, again. I mean, mistaken.

You see, when the moment hits that the toddler decides that they have had enough, you have just left behind all of the options for hotels. Now, you are traveling on a long stretch of highway with cow pastures on both sides of you and not a hint of a hotel on the horizon. When you finally start to see signs for hotels, there still may not be any available rooms and you may need to get back into the car and move on. This has gone many ways in the history of the road trip. At best, if you find a hotel in a reasonable amount of time and get a decent room you still need to unpack and get the bedtime-scene set up. Figuring out who will sleep where is the first challenge. Then it is time to do the actual set-up. Playpen (I guess they are called Pack n’ Plays now) erected for the toddler’s bed, lullaby CD ready to go, Dream Lites ready to help make it seem like home (yes, you can roll your eyes), pajamas unpacked and on each child, and the toddler fed – that is crucial. The older kids now have a better capacity to deal with being out of a routine but not the toddler. As you scramble to get all of this taken care of, you know that at any moment it can go south fast. The baby/toddler has always had their bedtime-scene set first.

I did, in the past, and especially when I had two toddlers in tow, always plan to stop around 4 pm and get a room and get set up no matter what. The trip then took three days. It never seemed to be any better because by the third day, no toddler was getting back into the car. They just knew nothing good would come of it so they were done traveling. Trying to force a plank-straight toddler into the car seat was akin to physical abuse. I went back to making the trip in two days come hell or high water because it was over and done with. Adding a third day, even though it was only for a couple of hours, was more than anyone could handle.

So, as Day 1 ends and bathroom issues, road construction, and toddler intolerance are behind us, my muffins sleep as I journal about the first day in the glowing light of the laptop in our dark room. Having done the Road Trip many times before, I still feel like all the preparation I put into the trip and the myriad tricks and treats up my sleeve did not ease the travel efforts. Thank goodness for my mom, the only other adult with me on this leg of the trip. On these trips, being in charge of any of the kids is like drawing “short straw”. They can all bring on their tough game at full strength and no child is any easier than another. For the most part, they are really good at this travel thing and in the scheme of things, it really isn’t THAT bad. All the same, thanks mom for making it through the first day with me!

She corralled my toddler at rest stops when he wanted to be on the move and in the hotel when he decided he did not want to be in the pool, until you took him out of the pool, and then he wanted to be back in again. After a few of those “in and outs”, he was involuntarily moved to another activity outside of the pool room and she ended up with toddler duty because my two older children decided that they wanted to swim on their own, with life jackets, for the first time ever. We have been working on that comfort level with them so I was not going to squash that energy. Mom drew “short straw” again. The bigger kids “swam” and were so proud of themselves. I was too. That was enough to make the day worthwhile.

It is time for me to go to sleep so that I have the endurance to deal with whatever theme that Road Trip Day #2 decides to dish out.

Good night, sleep tight..sugar plums and gum drops…

IMGP8624

Illinois has fabulous rest stops called “Oasis” and they are built over the highway so you can watch the cars and trucks whiz under you.

Road Trip Ramblings – From the Beginning…

Family road trips can either scar you or get into your veins. For me, it’s in my blood. I love road trips. There is nothing like getting into the car and taking off knowing that you have an adventure ahead of you.

Since we moved to Wisconsin from upstate NY seven years ago, my road trips have been spent traveling back and forth to visit with family. I have not needed directions to make that trip in years because I make it often and could make it in my sleep, if that was possible. My oldest child made his first road trip when he was five months old and I have taken all of my wee ones ever since. Every seven or eight months I pack up my muffins and head back for a month or so because it is important for our children to spend time with their family. No family members live in Wisconsin with us so our children have a much different upbringing than my husband and I did since we grew up with extended family all around us.

Since I started bringing my babies home, I have become chopped liver. Oh, sure, family enjoys seeing me but after a hug and a kiss, I suspect they would push me aside to get to the kids if the kids weren’t already running to them. My oldest will be starting kindergarten this fall so the flexibility that I have had in making my trips will now be governed by the school schedule. That will take some getting used to and because of it, we needed to make a road trip this summer to spend time with family since we probably would not make the trip until next summer. It is a two-day trip at best and it has even been a three-day trip. You cannot just take off for a long weekend with that kind of travel time needed.

So, with preschool graduation behind us, I packed up the momma vehicle with kids, paraphernalia and all sorts of tricks and treats tucked into every spare corner to pull out when we needed to keep every one from a meltdown if we still had to keep driving and log some miles. It’s not my first trip!

One of my favorite shots is before we even leave the driveway. The car is loaded beyond capacity and all you can see are three pairs of eyes ready for their adventure. Since they have done this since they were babies, they love the trip with all of its treats, adventure and family and friends waiting at the end of it. Coming home, there is the same anticipation of going back to your own bed, your own toys and getting some space because now we have had enough “togetherness” and we need our own routine again. When you live far from family it is either feast or famine!

IMGP8616

(Pssst…here’s another secret of mine…I do not like to put pictures of my children on the World Wide Web because I have not reached that comfort level yet. It’s an unknown world out there. I wish I could because of course, I think they are the funniest and most adorable wee ones ever! You will notice that most of my photos will share the essence of them but not true identities. In this rare instance, I will share because they really ARE the Road Trip and this is how it starts.)

In the beginning I made the trips alone with my first child. But when he was somewhere around six or seven months old I ended up with food poisoning at our stopover for the evening. I was halfway between NY and WI so there was no quick way for someone to get to me to help so I had to “just deal” until I was better and could continue on. Trying to take care of a baby at a hotel while suffering the full symptoms of food poisoning throughout the evening into the next day was character building to say the least. Since then, my mom forbids me to make the trip by myself, rightly so. It isn’t just about me anymore! So, my mom and my husband share the traveling companion duties to get our family back and forth.

It is not a relaxing trip by any definition and each trip has a theme, mostly getting from Point A to Point B as quickly and safely as possible. Nonetheless, it is a trip that I still look forward to and then am happy to have behind me when it is over…until the road trip bug bites me again and I start itching for another one. Wacky, crazy…I know. But the road trip can still be defined by you. Air travel has become so insanely unreal that I cannot even imagine being left in an airport with three small children while our flight is delayed indefinitely or worse, canceled, and there are no options available for regrouping and starting over.

Truly, I could not do the Road Trip if my children were not so amazing. As young as they are, they really deserve the credit. Sure, the baby and toddler years come with meltdowns and limited travel times. The older years, you will see, are plagued by a different set of issues. But despite those issues that crop up my children have hung in there when I needed them to most. It makes all the difference. “Thank you, my beautiful babies!”

So, summer Road Trip, here we come! I will share with you some of the highlights of our pilgrimage to the Land of Family as we cross half the country in search of familial connections and stories to tell around the Thanksgiving table when my kids have grown.

You will see the color of the trip change as it nears the end. The rose-colored glasses get scratches and fingerprints on them. The extended family grows weary of following me around with all of my half-baked schemes to “Get the family together”. But that is the whole idea behind “family”. You are supposed to get on each other’s nerves.

Come along with me as I share my Road Trip stories with you over the next few weeks (or however long it takes me, I really have no idea). You may get the urge to make your own Road Trip or you might decide that going to work doesn’t seem so bad!

The Road Trip takes its toll and you must love adventure, good and bad.

Or maybe you need to be crazy…

Make it, Bake it or Buy it...Recipes!

Fresh Ideas for Gifting With Food

Gotta Find a Home

Conversations with Street People

The Spice House Blog

Find fresh ideas for giving thoughtful gifts

eASYbAKED

a collection of recipes

Make it, Bake it or Buy it!

Find fresh ideas for giving thoughtful gifts

i am baker

Find fresh ideas for giving thoughtful gifts

Beau-coup Blog

Find fresh ideas for giving thoughtful gifts

The Pioneer Woman

Plowing through Life in the Country...One Calf Nut at a Time