I spent last weekend with the kids in my friend Kirsten and her family outside of St. Louis. You may remember Kirsten from when we were crazy and took four kids under four camping for Mother’s Day (seriously, what the hell were we thinking?). I’ve been friends with her forever. We went to high school together. We were in the same sorority. She is one of my closest friends.
Three weeks ago she had her third baby. A beautiful little boy named Lucas. I did the only sane thing a person could do when she finds out one of her best friends has a fresh baby to visit. I waited the longest I could (three weeks), then I loaded the kids into the car for a long weekend in Missouri.
We had a great time visiting her. Audrey ran into the house when we arrived, ready to play with Sophia. Elliot was pretty shy at first, but was soon playing with Bryan and his tractors. I had a great time holding Luke and drinking wine with Kirsten. Do you know how great it is to spend lots of time with a newborn without having to get up in the middle of the night to feed the baby or change a diaper?
On Monday morning packed up the car and headed back to Des Moines. Google maps says the drive should take about five and a half hours. With kids that drive easily stretches to seven hours. I knew that going in to the drive. I decided we would take our time and stop to play a few times.
We were in the car by nine. I was feeling good about the day. I had coffee before we left and I was hoping to get about 90 miles down the road before we made our first stop. That was not meant to be. Before we got to the highway Audrey announced that she needed to go potty. That meant we were stopping at our first gas station by 9:30. I tried to stay relaxed and chill.
After our first stop we made it all the way to Hannibal, MO before our second stop. Hannibal is great if you are very interested in Mark Twain related tourism. If you are not, it is a town filled with fast food restaurants and several stop lights that really slow down your drive. We stopped at a Missouri Welcome Center for a bathroom break (I mean, it had been a full 60 minutes since our last stop). While there I asked the woman working if there was a playground close by. She directed me to one right off of the highway. The kids played happily for a fifteen minutes break from the drive. They were not happy when I made them get back in the car.
Side note – the park had bear proof trash cans. I was not aware that Hannibal had a bear problem. If you know about this please tell me.
After Hannibal the kids asked me question after question about every single item they spotted. If I was not able to immediately answer why a truck had a white trailer I was asked again. And again. My chill road trip mom personality started to crack.
We lasted another hour before we stopped to pick up lunch in Donnellson, IA. We got pizza from a gas station and asked one of the employees if there was a playground in town. Luckily this tiny town of around 800 people had a playground. We had a picnic and then played for about 15 minutes.
We got back in the car and resumed the drive. I thought we would make it two hours before our final stop. Oh, how naive I was. We only made it 50 minutes down the road to Fairfield (home of the Maharishi University of Management and lots of people who practice transcendental meditation) before Audrey announced that she had to go potty. We stopped. She didn’t pee. I was no longer fun road trip Mommy. I was super annoyed we only stopped because you said you had to go potty and you didn’t even pee Mommy. She isn’t as much fun.
We got back in the car. 90 minutes later Audrey had to go potty again. Luckily we were by the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge, a great place for a short hike with clean restrooms and a museum for us to wander through. We pulled into the parking lot at 4:02. They close at 4. We turned around and drove back to a gas station in town. At that point I was basically doing the crazy whisper yell thing at my kids telling them to stop touching things. I let them each pick out whatever bag of snack mix they wanted (Audrey picked Bugles, Elliot picked Honey BBQ Chex Mix) in the hopes that it would keep them quiet for 10 minutes.
After that stop we were only 30 minutes from home. Under normal circumstances. We were headed into Des Moines at rush hour. It only took us 10 minutes longer than normal, but it was a long 10 minutes. I was ready to be home. I was ready for John to take over parenting while I took a long walk along.
This morning I was back to being a nice, normal mom. I am ready to wait a few weeks before I go on a solo road trip with the kids again. It will be even longer before I take an eight-hour trip with the kids.
This morning asked if we were going on a trip today. When I said no she was disappointed. She was ready to hop in the car and go. I’m glad she likes to travel, and thrilled that my loss of patience yesterday didn’t deter her from her wanderlust.