I tried to think of ways to break our recent trip into categories...ways to rate the various experiences...clever icons or emoticons to use in a list. But, not everything fell into neat categories, and I was getting too obsessed about making it all work out neatly. So you get the quick and dirty version, with good, bad, and indifferent all jumbled together. Which is how travel, and all of life, really is when you come down to it. So, without further ado (and do you hate it as much as I do when someone writes "without further adieu"?) I give you The Journey to the Frozen Prairie:
*Colin is a GOOD traveler! We haven't taken a trip out of state for 4 years, and I knew he would travel better at age 6 than at age 2. But I was still surprised at how cheerfully and happily he sat in his booster seat and played games, chatted, looked at the sights, etc.
*We really can't travel all the way to Springfield in one day anymore. Maybe in the summer when it stays light later we could try it again. But all of us, and especially me, did so much better with an overnight break.
*Related to the last point...I found that constantly being aware of pacing myself on this trip was immensely helpful in keeping my pain and fatigue levels manageable. It's hard to face yet another area where I can't go on like I used to, but ultimately it's worth the adjustment.
*Hilton Garden Inns are great little hotels. We stayed at 3 different hotel chains this trip, and we liked HGI best. With holiday specials they were reasonably priced, very clean and pretty, and had a yummy breakfast buffet.
*Being together in the car is valuable family time. There's something about being closed up in a small space, progressing toward a goal, but yet not having anything TO DO that forced us all to relax, talk, and just enjoy being together.
*Yes, we did bring along things to do...just nothing that was work. Natalie and I both brought crafting stuff, Colin had some small toys and coloring books, Tom had his nap pillow. :)
*Illinois is depressing in Winter. Spring, Summer, or Fall there are things to see across the wide open spaces. But in Winter it is dark, grey, dingy, and blah. When we got back to NC we could see the difference that a slightly warmer climate makes; we have so many evergreen trees here and the grass is still green in many spots...nice.
*I don't like trying to socialize with a TV going constantly. My hearing isn't 100% so it takes a lot of concentration to hear conversations in a group, anyway. With TV added to that I tend to just tune out and shut up.
*We don't have exciting New Year's Eve parties at our house. There's nothing sacred about celebrating an arbitrary calendar date, so it's no big deal. But this year's celebration involved a blaring TV, a bunch of people looking bored, some good snacks, and a sparkling juice/champagne toast at midnight. Other people enjoyed it, so...good, that makes me feel better about it. Meh...
*It was good to have all of Tom's family together, and I think it meant a lot to his mom. The Roths are a talkative bunch, and there is always a lot of laughing and carrying on. Colin fit right in partly because he is so much like his Grandpa Roth...I just wish Grandpa Roth could have lived to see Colin.
*New Year's Day we got together with a bunch of people from my family...aunts, uncles, cousins, first-cousins-once-removed, friends...we all met in the fellowship hall of the church that most of them attend. We had pizza and soda and lots of conversation. It was very good to hear and see how everyone was doing. So many of them have faced trials and struggles, and yet I think everyone there that night is striving to live for the Lord and to serve Him. What a great heritage to have as a family.
*Being around family shows you so much about yourself and your children. It was good for our kids to see other kids being raised the same way they are. It was good for them to see other parents just as weird as theirs and to realize where all this weirdness came from. :)
*Tom and I got to talk with several of my cousins and their spouses about raising kids, and particularly some specifics about the challenges we face with our children who are now young adults. What a blessing to be in a family where no one seems to be swinging to the extremes of legalism or lawlessness, but instead striving to find the "Biblical middle". The specific applications of Biblical parenting look different in each of our houses, no doubt, but that's how it should be.
*I didn't get much crafting done on this trip despite packing a huge bag of knitting/crochet/needlework supplies. I cross-stitched one sunny morning at Mary's house, and knitted a dishrag in the car, and practiced some knitting stitches to the point of frustration. But I probably shouldn't have packed so much stuff to do. :)
*Natalie and I went to a Real Knit Shop while in Springfield. This was my first trip to such a place, and if they are all like this one I'm not in a hurry to repeat the experience. The yarn is expensive, but I was expecting that. I thought I'd look around and touch some yarns I'd read about online...maybe buy a skein or two of something neat if the prices were reasonable.
*Unfortunately this shop was staffed by the Shrill Knitting Man. Normally I think of knitting shops as being female-owned and operated, but I'm not opposed to men knitting (I think historically men knitted before women) and/or running shops. And this fellow wasn't exactly compromising his masculinity by working there, if you know what I mean. But he clung to us, and chattered at us, and emoted about the products...to the point where I was about to run screaming from the store. Fortunately Colin had been drinking plenty of water to get over his cough...saved by the full bladder. :)
*So, I didn't buy the expensive sock yarn I was looking at. Which is a good thing, because after I started calculating everything later I realized it would have been a dreadfully pricey pair of socks. $8.50 per skein of yarn, and it took two skeins, $5.00 for reinforcing thread, ?? for needles, and ?? for the Wonderfully Simple Sock Pattern That Only A Complete Idiot Could Screw Up which the SKM was insisting I needed to buy.
*And then as I was practicing knitting later I realized I simply cannot execute a decent purl stitch, and there's no way to knit socks without purling.
*Horseshoe sandwiches are a wonderful treat. Even a poorly-executed horseshoe is great. Hamburger, fries, cheese, texas toast...how could it not be good? There are differences in execution, and the place where we had them puts the fries on top of the meat and then pours the cheese sauce over the whole thing. My preference is for the cheese sauce to be on top of the meat and bread with the fries piled on top. That way some of the fries get cheesy and some stay crisp and crunchy. But that's mere semantics...a horseshoe is still a thing of beauty and a joy forever.
*Ginger Ale is not an exotic beverage. I can go to the dinky Lowe's Foods up the road and find three brands of it on the soda shelves. So why was it so hard to find in Springfield? Granted, the Shop n Save we went to was not in a great neighborhood, but it did have an extensive liquor department. Doesn't anybody even mix Ginger Ale in drinks anymore? We *finally* found some 1-liter bottles of store-brand GA in some odd aisle...with wine coolers, maybe? I could have bought any number of lemon-lime sodas, but what's the deal with the Ginger Ale?? I asked the Pepsi guy stocking the shelves and he told me Pepsi doesn't even make a Ginger Ale..okay, their loss, I guess. An older man who heard me talking told me he used to drink Ginger Ale all the time growing up in South Carolina. So, it's now a "Carolina thing" a la Cheerwine?
*But Springfield does have Spumoni ice cream. Yum! We bought Prairie Farms because it came in a half-gallon box that would fit in the hotel room freezer. Edy's probably would have been better, but PF was pretty good.
*Hotels with guest laundry rooms are a treasure. We packed light, we couldn't have packed any heavier and had room to to sit in the car. So we ended up doing a couple loads of laundry at the hotel. So much nicer than tracking down a laundromat.
Well, there's more, but this is already too long. That's the best of it, anyway. No great tourist attractions, no fabulous parties, no trendy shopping sprees. :)