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Thursday, July 23, 2009

What I Learned on my Summer Vacation

Yeah, I know. Sounds like some crazy topic your English teacher made you write about to keep you quiet after she’d gone through her expectations on the 1st day of school. But as you can see from my previous postings, it’s been kind of a crazy summer around here. We’ve been to Cooke City, Wyoming, Billings, Malta, Helena, Livingston, Pray, Ennis and back. But I figured I better let you know how the latest and greatest road trip went.

Sometime in the spring, April or May, Celestia proposed a trip West for the book club girls. She and Jasper have a home near Bigfork and wanted us to all have a chance to come and see them this summer. Western Montana holds lots of great memories for me from my growing up years. I went to Big Sky Bible Camp almost every summer from the time I was about 8 until I was in high school. Sometimes my mom and dad would stay an extra day or two and we’d go boating with some friends on Flathead Lake, or hit the waterslides in Columbia Falls, or take extra time going through Glacier Park and the Going to the Sun Highway. When I was in college I worked for a summer on a fancy schmancy dude ranch, right outside of Big Fork on Flathead Lake and had an extremely good time, once I got over being homesick. More fun than I can even remember!

So when Celestia proposed a trip west, I was all over it.

But that was in May. Before I had taken two 6+hour car trips with 4 children.

I even told the Farmer the Sunday before we left, that I was seriously questioning our sanity. He nodded in agreement, which didn't really help my resolve.

At all.

One of my pet peeves, though, is when people say they will do something and then they don't carry through so I was bound and determined to go. Plus I got a call from Celestia telling me how much they were looking forward to our visit so that made it a little easier. Mary and I compared lists on how we had successfully traveled with our kids before and designated who would get what, contacted our friend Beth to borrow an extra set of DVD screens (to make the total 4), packed our bags and tried to get a good night sleep before the drive. We had a great trip and lots of fun, but too much to go through all the details.

So I decided to post a list of things I learned while traveling with a friend and our four beloved children.

1) Diapers are a good thing. Two of the kids are potty trained, two are not. Care to guess for whom we made pit stops?

2) McDonald's is a great bribery tool. We told the kids they could eat at Micky D's in Lewistown if they behaved.

3) Feed the kids before you leave. Poor Maggie whimpered about needing something to eat and thinking she was just kind of "snacky" (Ben's word), we asked her to wait until Lewistown. Turns out she really was hungry and got an upset tummy outside of town.

4) Travel DVD players are a parent's best friends for long road trips. We had the kids do their thing for about the 1st half of the trip over and back. When they were really bored and started to ask "Are we there yet? Are we there yet?" we stopped and plugged in the movies with headphones. Traveling Bliss!

5) To heck with good restaurants. Find a drive through and a park with a kid-friendly playground. We did this in Great Falls on the way over and in Lincoln on the way back. The kids ran, climbed, chased, ate, and were hot, tired and ready to travel.

6) Arrange for a bottle of wine and cheese and crackers at your destination. After being cooped up in the car for those 8+ hours, we were as tense as a newly-strung barbed wire fence! Celestia met us with wine, crackers, cheese and fruit and in 10 minutes we had relaxed to the point of drowsiness!

7) Kids just want to have fun, with or without toys. After we arrived at the Jaspers, the kids were out of sight and playing with the fun stuff Celestia had saved from when her boys were little. There was a sand pile, kiddie pool, sprinkler, and a yard for running. We didn't really do much that real tourists do, because the kids were enjoying just playing together.

8) It really is o.k. to have ice cream for supper. Who knew? But we had the okay from Celestia, Bill and Mary, so who was I to argue? Especially when it is homemade ice cream, churned on the back porch with real ice and rock salt! Good stuff!

9) Mountain lakes are beautiful, but not so good for swimming. Swan Lake ranks right up there as far as beautiful, but I wouldn't say it is exactly balmy for bathing. I guess there's no concern of swimmer's itch or other such bugs when the water is oh-so-cold!

10) Artichokes, garlic, and cheese make bread taste divine! Mary and I took a few hours Friday morning to walk downtown Big Fork. We did buy t-shirts and some coffee, and enjoyed a little adult time, but the best purchase we made all weekend was the bread from a bakery in Big Fork. We got a loaf of the above, and a loaf of cinnamon-raisin-pecan bread. All I can say is WOW! I'm going to have to try my hand at some here in my kitchen. If you know of a recipe, send it my way!

11) There's no place better than the back-porch of a mountain cabin tucked into the trees, in the morning for a little quiet time with our Creator. Something about the majesty of the mountains makes God's presence seem a little closer. And it's even better when you hear the 5 year olds in the back seat talking about and being thankful for all the beautiful mountains, lakes, and trees.

12) Our kids are AMAZING! Let's just say that no one, especially the moms who are with our kids 24-7-365, expected such great behavior. I don't think we had more than about 8 minutes of fits or fussing total between the 4 kids in the car all the way up or back. They were kind to each other, and for the most part used their "company manners" on the whole trip. We even survived a meal at Chili's in Great Falls without any eruptions! What an answer to prayer and what an encouragement to see how good our kids really are!

We stayed in Great Falls on our way home Sunday evening, which broke the trip up nicely, especially since there was a great pool at the motel. All four kids swam until they were exhausted. A bag of popcorn and some chocolate milk, and all four of them slept soundly and were ready for the last leg of the journey Monday morning. We arrived safely, but exhausted early in the afternoon, with enough time to unload, unpack, and unwind before bed. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and I think our hosts enjoyed having us there too. Thanks Celestia and Jasper for a great break from our daily routine!