The Las Vegas Vaycay: Best and Worst

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Friends, we drove from Wisconsin to Massachusetts, visited family for two days, flew to Las Vegas without the kids (who were left safely in the care of Grammy & Papa) where we stayed for four days, flew back to Massachusetts and then two days later we drove back to Wisconsin again.

This trip was amazing and stressful and exciting and nostalgic and too long and too short and just all of the things. I’m not really sure where to begin or if you want to be bored to death with all the minutia of a vacation recap so I’ll stick with how I’ve been recapping vacations lately and give you a Best / Worst list rather than attempt to give you a minute by minute recap.

Ready?

6 Best Moments

Vegas Best

  1. 13876359_1270172276361340_9151433683835147605_nFOR THE WIN I was on a mission to find a slot machine where you actually pull a lever to play – most of the slot machines have transitioned to buttons or touch screen. Several of the machines have levers that do literally nothing, but I somehow found one in the middle of Treasure Island Casino while we were waiting to see Cirque du Soleil, so I put in a dollar and pulled the lever and won TEN dollars. I’m not a high stakes kind of girl so I took my winnings and never touched another machine. Dan tried my machine and one other and lost both times so out of the three dollars that we willingly sacrificed, we lost 2/3 of the time, but…. I won ten dollars in Vegas, so.
  2. 13668875_1265022976876270_3984995559212191329_oOMG FOOD NOM NOM Dan had an amazing Japanese breakfast in room service one morning, we ate some seriously delicious Italian food the first night. There were little coffee shops everywhere with lattes that would make Starbucks ashamed of itself and pastries that just completed me. We went to a buffet at Treasure Island before seeing Cirque du Soleil and I had chicken fried steak with stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn bread and collard greens while Dan had chinese food and then we checked out the dessert buffet and it was like oh my god, where do I even begin? I could go on. The food was good.
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    CIRQUE Like I said, we saw Cirque du Soleil and yeah it was all the things. It bordered on overwhelming with so many amazing acrobatic stunts being pulled off, often at the same time, and it just never stopped for two hours. It had comedic moments and ohhhh and ahhhh moments and was literally breathtaking. I could go on, but I don’t want this to be a whole review of the show.

  4. 13880215_10100959495545446_7383965259143166571_nTHE DAM TOUR We took a tour of the Hoover Dam on our third day which was a much needed break from the constant buzz of the Vegas Strip. Our tour guide, Memel, was amazing and funny and we had a great group of people on the bus with us. It was also nerdily fascinating to see the other side of Vegas and learn more about the history of the town and about Hoover Dam. Memel was really knowledgeable about the area and we learned a lot and saw a lot and laughed a lot. And perspired a lot, but that’s par for the course when you go to Nevada in August.
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    THE SWEET SUITE The King Bed in our hotel room was all the things. We stayed at The Venetian which is massive and beautiful and kind of like being on another planet compared to some of the other Vegas hotels. And when we weren’t wandering casinos or peeking at people taking Gondola rides or listening to entertainment in Saint Mark’s Square while sipping lattes and eating gelato, we were hiding in our amazing hotel suite. The whole room was really phenomenal with the huge bathroom and comfy bed and whole separate living room area with tvs in like every room. Also it wasn’t my job to clean the room, do the laundry or entertain small people for like four blissful days. I was sufficiently pampered.

Overall Best

  1. FRIENDS AND FAM We got to catch up with friends and family, too, for the few days we spent in Massachusetts. Somehow we managed to catch up with a ton of people, celebrate a few birthdays, eat at all the local nostalgia places that make it feel like home, and drive those old streets of our childhood. Our kids got an extra dose of family time while we were in Vegas – they had an amazing vacation of their own as both of our families whisked them around to see and do all the things and I’m so grateful for their enthusiasm and care and time that they put into making it a great week for the kids.

And in an effort to keep it real, folks…

5 Worst Moments

Vegas Worst

  1. CASINO CROWDS The whole casino environment really is not my scene and I’m pretty sure hubby would agree with me on this one. After two days I think we were both done living inside a Casino, dodging crowds and dealing with the constant flashing lights atmosphere. Why did we take a trip to Las Vegas when we are not gambling night life folks? We have never been and we really wanted to experience it – and see some shows, stay at a nice hotel and eat great food. Las Vegas gave us all of that, so mission accomplished.
  2. 13882422_1270168349695066_3845605412622649863_nPUSHY SELLERS Our hotel has this whole section called the Grand Canal Shoppes with all these major label stores that are too expensive to buy anything but so pretty so we spent a lot of time window shopping and just peeking at all the things. It was beautiful and seriously where we spent a good 1/3 of our trip. But while walking through this area, you are constantly bombarded with people trying to sell you tickets to shows. Not scalpers, but like legitimate employees of the hotel jumping in front of you to ask if you want to buy any show tickets. Constantly. These folks make the mall kiosk employees at your local mall seem passive by comparison.

Overall Worst

  1. NOT ENOUGH TIME For a ten day vacation, it felt like we were always running from one place to the next. Trying to squeeze in a proper visit with friends and family in Massachusetts was nearly impossible but we tried anyway. I wanted more time with everyone – but I probably say this even when we get there with plenty of time to catch up. Still, it bears repeating : There wasn’t enough time.
  2. UH AIRPORTS There is a reason we drove to Massachusetts, we really hate airports, especially with the kids. Waiting in line at security for the first flight to Vegas took literally hours. The planes were tiny and cramped like always and we had six hours of flying plus layovers to deal with. The flight back lasted literally all day after factoring in the time zone changes.
  3. HIGHWAY TO HELL Driving 1,500 miles is bound to be stressful so I’m surprised I don’t have more stories of bad moments on the road, but the truth is that most of it was pretty par for the course. Until the last day of driving when a tractor trailer literally swerved across four lanes of highway right in front of us after the driver inexplicably lost control of the truck. We still have no idea what happened – if he had a heart attack or fell asleep or what – because the highway was pretty empty and amazingly there was no one in front of him really or next to him in any of the lanes. He hit nothing but the jersey barrier (which he hit hard) and I’m grateful that we were somehow not harmed, but we were all seriously shaken by it. After calling 911 to make sure someone got to him ASAP we made a serious bee line for the next rest stop so we could shake off the trauma before finishing our trip home.

And now we’re back to the grind of swim lessons and karate classes and why isn’t my house being magically cleaned by housekeeping? I should have smuggled some of them back in our luggage.

 

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5 Nights in the Woods: The Highs and Lows.

20160621_184337We just got back from the longest camping trip our family has ever taken so obviously I have a lot of things I want to tell you and a lot of pictures to share but I don’t want to overwhelm you guys with all the things so I’ll attempt brevity here.

You might be asking yourself, “What kind of crazy person would agree to sleep in a tent for five nights????” I know, right? But the idea came to me when I was trying to come to terms with my ten year old son going to a 3 night cub scout camp by himself that was a 2 hour drive away. Logical Jen said “he’ll be fine, he’ll have so much fun!!” but Anxiety Jen wasn’t having it and was dreading the idea of being so far away. She had lots of super sensible / shrieking insensible gibberish reasons for being apprehensive.

So the two Jens in my head worked together to find a compromise and that compromise was for the rest of us to take a camping trip of our own nearby so that we’d have a shorter drive if anything happened (nothing happened) and I’d be too busy to go all mopey zoo lion for three days (it worked). I didn’t want MM to miss out on our camping trip though so I added an extra two nights onto the trip so that we’d get some quality family time in with all four members of the family, too. My husband meanwhile heard, “Wanna go camping for 5 nights???” and was smart enough to jump on the opportunity before I came to my senses.

Annnnnyway, we went, we survived, there are pictures to share and stories to tell but here’s the cliffs notes version.

5 Best Things

1 – Wizard Quest : The first day of our trip we took the kids to Wizard Quest while we waited for our check in time at the campground. It’s kind of a labyrinth / scavenger hunt / puzzle that has you walking through a 13000 square quadrasphere (as they call it) solving riddles and puzzles and finding clues throughout the building. We played through the 75 minute beginners level and didn’t finish our mission but still had a great time. I recommend going with a mix of ages because you’ll want little kids to crawl through some of the little tunnels and tubes but you’ll need some big kids / adults to figure out some of the puzzles.

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2 – Enjoying beautiful sunsets on the river. We stayed at the Holiday Shores campground in the Wisconsin Dells which is close in proximity to all of the local waterparks and tourist traps but nestled into the woods a bit and right next to the Upper Dells River which you can see in most of the pictures above. Our camp site was right on that river and we took full advantage. Dan and the kids did a bit of fishing and I took lots of pictures at sunset and it made a nice backdrop to all of our camping festivities. The camp ground has a beach area on the river also as well as boat rentals and more.

3 – We pretty much had the campground and the Dells area to ourselves. Camping during the week meant that the first four days were pretty low key. It wasn’t until Thursday night that things picked up and by Saturday it was so crowded at both the campground and the Wisconsin Dells area that we were kind of thrilled to be leaving which was honestly perfect timing. I will have to remember this for our next trip.

4 – We got a lot of quality one on one time with our six year old daughter. A fringe benefit to the whole cub scout camp thing was the ease of parenting just one child for basically the first time in nearly seven years. It was kind of a cakewalk by comparison, you know? We had a lot of fun playing mini golf at Pirate’s Cove, walking the Broadway strip, going to a paint ball range, getting ice cream and seeing Finding Dory together. I think she enjoyed being the center of attention for a few days.

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5 – I walked an average of 10,000 step every day that we were there so I probably look like a super model now. I think 4,000 of those steps were probably going to the bathroom.

5 Worst Things

1 – Having to walk 5 minutes to the bathroom every time I had to pee or a child had to pee. Especially fun in the middle of the night. The best part about coming home was closer proximity to bathrooms, honestly.

2 – I spent a part of every day being either too hot or too cold and most days I experienced both. Thank god for bandanas, because I was a sweaty hot mess for most of the trip.

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3 – When the campground did fill up, the constant stream of people definitely got to me. The campsites were decent sized but felt very pushed together once we got closer to the weekend. And we had some pretty noisy neighbors that kept us up a few nights. This is nothing new and pretty par for the course with camping.

4 – I went through cell phone battery packs like they were going out of style, and wasn’t really doing all that much. My phone and I were at war for much of the trip because every time we drove twenty minutes in any direction it decided I had no coverage and didn’t know where we were anymore until I restarted and then it was fine again. First world problems, I know.

5 – I slept in a tent for five nights. My back hates me.

Look at me, way up high, suddenly here am I…

I’m flying!

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Something about looking out over the world from high above feels so freeing. I could not stop clicking that camera button over the course of the four flights we took this weekend. So many beautiful views worth savoring.  Each picture gives me that sensation of weightlessness and renewal. Too good not to share.

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I can soar
I can weave and what’s more
I’m not even trying

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High up, and as light as I can be.
I must be a sight lovely to see.

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Nothing will stop me now:
Higher still look at how
I can zoom around,
‘Way up off the ground
I’m flying.

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Summer Vacation 2015: Cheers & Jeers

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We drove from Wisconsin to Hershey Park in one day – by the skin of our teeth, arriving at the hotel at 11:45pm. Then we drove from Pennyslvania to Massachusetts, visited as many family members and friends as we could before driving back to Wisconsin again four days later. Like any road trip vacation, there were awesome memories and less awesome memories, too. Here are some highlights.

Cheers to:

1. Preventative doses of children’s dramamine for the car sick prone girl child. Hurray for no pukes on the road (or otherwise).

2. The rest stops in Ohio were borderline gorgeous with Panera Bread and Dairy Queen so children and adults felt pampered. Also impressed with the assortment of healthy snacks and fresh produce available at all the rest stops. Fresh strawberries make any meal seem healthier.

3. Relaxing with a good book in a private cabana the next day after a long day on the road. Completely recharged my batteries.

4. MM becoming obsessed with the water slides at the hotel pool. This was a big deal for him, he’s been a slow to learn swimmer and never really much of a thrill seeker – tackling the water slides is a pretty big step for him.

5. Bonding time with family. Playing Pitch with the inlaws into the wee hours. Going to Boston with my dad. Watching little cousins enjoy theme parks and birthday cakes and little memories together. Trying to teach my in-laws how to play Munchkin. Catching up with my aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents and more.

6. So much birthday cake. I think we saw at least 5 birthday cakes on this vacation, most of them for BB who turned six while we were in Massachusetts.

7. Candlepin bowling with my best friends from high school and most of their children – two generations of people who were mostly terrible at bowling but loved every minute of it.

Jeers to:

1. Sketchy gas stations in Pennsylvania and Illinois with “working but not working bathrooms” and potholes that could swallow your car whole. And gas stations that don’t seem to actually sell gas.

2. Forgetting all my plans to stop worrying and go with the flow – though I did good with this on the whole, there were a few moments when I kind of ruined my own fun by worrying too much over nothing in particular. I’ll continue to work on this.

3.  There never being enough time to catch up with everyone sufficiently. Though we were ready to go home by the end of our trip, we definitely weren’t ready to say goodbye yet.

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Things Learned in the Woods

Yes we can!
#likeagirl: Super proud of setting up the tent behind us all by ourselves!

Sometimes I have a tendency to sell myself short. I will let other people do things for me simply  because I believe they can do it better, faster, stronger (more than ever our work is never ooo-ooover). But how do you grow that way? Last weekend in the woods, I learned that I know how to set up a tent. After 6 years or so of camping with DH, I actually committed this skill to memory. And did it. #likeagirl

#imaginationvacation
They don’t need toys and gadgets

No matter how many toys you buy them, how many gadgets they own – a kid with some sticks and rocks and a few leaves has everything they need to have fun. Minutes after arriving at the campsite, they were busy digging trenches and building fairy houses. You don’t have to tell kids how to play in the dirt – this knowledge resides at the core of their very being.

rainy day cuddles
You can’t tell the weather what time it is.

Sometimes you have to roll with the punches. The weather doesn’t care that it’s Father’s Day weekend and you have a limited amount of time for Fun in the Sun memories. Go with the flow, indulge in rainy day tent cuddles, catch up on your reading pile. Breathe.

enjoy the view
Stop and look around.

Don’t forget to reevaluate your day often, especially on a “bad day” – because a day doesn’t have to continue being bad. You can always find beauty in it if you slow down and look. You can always pause, breathe in the dewy air and start fresh. Ignore the rainy moments, the itchy bug bites and the muddy trails and find your zen again.

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She fears nothing.
Don’t be afraid to do your own thing.

Sometimes you have to admit what you need and pursue it, even if your needs differ from the crowd. There are times for rolling with the punches and there are times for saying, “See you in 30 minutes. We’re going to go enjoy the beach now.”

this is the good life
Let go of perfection and you’ll find it.

Sometimes “perfect poses” are over rated. Sometimes the giggles can’t be contained and make a beautiful moment even better. Sometimes the beautiful moments are just as much in the people as they are in the place.

fried fish is made to be eaten
Plans are made to be broken.

“The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men; Gang aft agley” (translation: …often go awry | source: Robert Burns). I think I instinctively knew that if we planned for one of our meals to be the fish caught by my husband and friends, that somehow we would not be eating fish. It’s not that I don’t think they can catch fish, it’s just that I knew it was foolish to rely on it. Apparently it was foolish to rely on my backup plan, too, of bratwurst and hot dogs. Between the lack of fish and the ever persistent rain, we opted to seek out the next best thing: Fried fish, followed by frozen custard: safely indoors.

to infinity and beyond
Fear is a powerful thing.

I’ve been afraid before. I’ve avoided things simply because my fear said “no, don’t do that.” Sometimes they are silly, sometimes not. But I’ve rarely pushed too far against that instinct. I didn’t know the physical manifestations that accompany fear when you push on. The way your feet try to betray you and your breath feels constricted. The way time slows down for you but seems in fast forward for everyone else who joyfully prances ahead to see the cool thing. It’s surreal to watch others around you not affected by these invisible forces.

Logic told me that the infinity room was something worth pushing ahead for and that it was unlikely to fail me. I wanted to reach the end, to see the big sights. I wanted it even more when I realized how hard it would be for me to walk that short walk to get there. I forged ahead slowly and I’m proud of myself, but I felt much better a few steps back as the air returned to normal thickness and my heart stopped hammering in my chest.

there be dragons
Where there is a photo op, we’ll be there.

This where I wrap up my post with a sweet, heart warming paragraph about how great my family is and my words sort of contradict the things I’ve already written but also tie them together beautifully. But sometimes you don’t need to tie it all together. Life isn’t a perfectly tied bow. It’s a series of semi-unrelated incidents that only make sense if you step back far enough to let them blur together. If you stop looking at them altogether and look at the faces around you instead. Because at the end of the day, the faces are all that matters. 

Spring Break: Geeking out at the Wisconsin Dells

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We went on vacation this week. Our kids have spring break a few weeks before the rest of the town. A fringe benefit to private education is having Spring Break all to ourselves I guess. That and the stellar education and lack of common core. Whatev.

We stayed at the Mount Olympus Hotel Rome. I’m not sure I can recommend it in good conscience. We’ve been to better places. But that’s coming from the snooty grown ups who were like “These beds are uncomfortable” / “this indoor waterpark reeks of chlorine and the bottom of the pools feel like knives in my feet” / “stuff seems kinda run down” / “stop trying to upsell me” – that kinda stuff. My kids didn’t really notice any of that.

They noticed:

tea cups and slushees - a match made in heaven?
TEACUPS!!! (and bumper cars and go karts and laser tag and MORE)
slushee love
thank you God, for this delicious slushee
ready for the waterpark
Being able to go to the water park in March!!

So yeah the kids thought Mount Olympus was awesome. And at the end of the day, that’s what really matters. Dan and I decided to check out of some the tourist attractions we’ve ignored in the past because “there is so much to do right here at the hotel!!!” Without that excuse holding us back, we  finally checked out:

TOP SECRET

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This place is ridiculous in kind of a great way. They were running a discount that day so we all got in for $16. A lot of the hotels in the area have discounts for stuff like this, too. The premise is that in 2002 the White House somehow crash landed upside down in the Wisconsin Dells. Now it’s a tourist attraction. Like furniture is bolted hanging from the ceilings and there are weird creepy passages and famous historical guys lurking about. It’s campy entertainment and we kind of loved it. We also went to the…

Tommy Bartlett Exploratory

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More campy fun. This place is kinda like a kid’s science museum and kind of like a Star Wars rip off theme park. You barely know what you are walking into when you go inside and three hours later when you stumble back outside you will have no idea how so much time as gone by. But in addition to the silly Star Wars-esque robots there are tons of hands on science-y exhibits that the whole family geeked out over. Some highlights included:

pattern talk
attempting to create the same patterns by describing the pattern to each other

and:

muscle man
Lifting a 5,000 ton SUV using a giant lever system.

And of course the best part about going on vacation is how comfortable your bed feels when you finally get home!

Where is your favorite place to go on vacation with the family?

Road Trip Tips: 8 tips to reduce vacation stress and have a blast!

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This summer our family took a three week road trip up and down the East Coast and camped at half the stops along the way. This vacation was hugely daunting to me and I’ll admit, I was terrified that it was going to be a disaster – but we had a great time and survived the experience with our sanity in tack.

Here are the things I did that I think helped make the vacation a success.

the road trip binder1. Do your research and stay organized! While planning the vacation, I bought a three ring binder and a bunch of plastic sleeves and sticky tabs to keep organized. Inside the binder I had our itinerary (which I reprinted at least a dozen times over the months leading up to the trip as things changed), all our reservations, directions for each day of driving (rather than trying to do the whole trip in one set of directions) and ideas for things to do in each state. I also had a list of camping recipes and activity ideas and plenty of room to add new papers on the go. Each day had a plan of attack, a place to drive to and an estimate for how many hours we’d be driving. As important as ALL of this was (crucial really), equally important is…

2. Don’t be too rigid. Let yourself change plans: We probably changed 40% of the trip as we went. Some days were just NOT panning out to be camping days and we got a hotel instead. Some days we decided to just keep driving. Some days the drive time estimate was way off or the restaurants I’d looked up were not what we wanted or the place we wanted to go was closed. Don’t hug that binder too tightly. The whole point is that it gives you both a starting point and a place to fall back to. It’s not The Only Thing That Will Work. Let yourself roll with the punches and embrace the journey or you will be a hot mess. This leads in nicely to…

3. Go with the flow but acknowledge your own needs. Especially if you are traveling with other people – friends, in laws, etc. all naturally move and live at a different speed than your family. That’s just how it is. We’re programmed differently with different needs. Try to be flexible so you can all get along and find road trip harmony but acknowledge your own breaking points and give yourself time to reboot and do things on your own speed when you need it – and if you are like me, you will need it. Don’t feel guilty about needing your own rhythm.

Okay so apart from the State of Mind Suggestions, here are some fun and practical tips that we utilized on our vacation.

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The I’m Bored Box: In an effort to be Super Mom, and avoid back seat boredom, I spent months leading up to the trip collecting books and activities that would tie in nicely with the various legs of our journey or just be a fun distraction. I wrapped them up by date and wrote where we were going and what we’d see. Most days that we were on the road both kids had a package to open – sometimes it would be a combined package.

Cautionary tale: This was way too many packages for a 3 week road trip. Imagine your backseat slowly becoming cluttered with 40+ books and activities and toys along with the other things you accumulate on the trip. If it’s a short trip (like less than a week) then I think my method would have worked well. For longer trips, use this idea more sparingly so that you don’t have to spend 20 minutes waiting for your kids to find their seat belt at each stop.

A hack for mounting your tablet as a portable DVD player: Before we left, I’d spent a lot of time looking for a portable DVD player or some kind of carrier to put our tablet in so the kids could watch movies during the drive. We never found one we were 100% sold on.316-7xx_2Then right before we left my husband came up with the idea to take a bungee cord and wrap it under the fold in the case that my tablet came with (the kind with a cover for the front) and then attach the tablet to the center console of our truck so that the tablet was facing into the backseat – right in the middle so both kids could easily see. We were able to charge the tablet up front so the battery lasted the length of the movie and the whole thing cost us nothing because we were reusing things we already owned.

There’s An App For That: Take advantage of technology where you can. In addition to your phone probably having a great GPS and camera to use on your trip, you can also find a lot of great apps to use along the way. Two that we took major advantage of were:

  • The KOA app for Android which lets you search for KOA kampgrounds near you, gives detailed descriptions of said campgrounds and what is nearby, stores your Value Kard Rewards if you are a member, make reservations, mark favorites and get emergency alerts along the way.
  • RoadNinja is awesome  for planning what exit to take when you need gas, food or a hotel. You can search by highway and see what is at each exit and how far away it is. There are several apps with this premise but RoadNinja was the best executed free app available, in my opinion.

Avoid car sickness: Aside from keeping road sickness medicine on hand and having plenty of barf bag options, a new thing I learned the hard way is Keep the kiddos hydrated! If they aren’t getting enough to drink, apparently it can exacerbate motion sickness and keep them from feeling any relief. Bring some gatorade in case anyone accidentally goes too long without a drink. For us this seemed especially true when trying to wake up uber early for the day’s drive.

Family Photo Ops: You want everyone in the picture but you don’t want to use a tripod or your arms just aren’t that long. Look for another family ALSO trying to get a family picture and offer to swap photographer duties with them. It can be super sketchy trying to find someone to take your picture and not be paranoid that they will run off with your camera. Another mom or dad with kids is way less likely to commit theft like that in front of their own children. And you’ll be paying it forward.

These are just a few things I learned along the way that I think made our vacation a success. In short, be prepared but don’t be married to your plans. Be creative and have fun!

 Read more about our vacation here.

Road Trip Diary: The St Louis Galleria in Missouri

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When we last left off on my recap of our Epic Family Road Trip, we were visiting Metropolis Illinois, home of Super Man. That morning we had visited the Lost River Cave in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Some would consider that a pretty full day of travel but we had one more stop to make that night before we gave in and stopped for the night.

The thing is – it was actually BB’s 5th birthday that day and despite having seen a lot of cool touristy stuff that day, I didn’t want to let the day go by without doing something extra special for her. I had it in my head that we should go to Build-a-Bear to let her pick out a birthday present. But the closest one to us was ever so slightly out of the way in St Louis Missouri.

Hubby agreed that the detour was worth it and we headed to the St Louis Galleria which is coincidentally the home of the original Build-a-Bear Workshop. BB was absolutely in her glory. We’d never purchased anything there before and both kids were SUPER excited. Incidentally, neither child purchased a bear.

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BB fell in love with Pinkie Pie from My Little Pony and when MM saw Leonardo from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles there was no going back for him either. They loved the whole process of stuffing their new loved ones and picking out names, etc. Both kids got a little bag to carry their stuffed friends in and then we took the kids out for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory.

The drive into St Louis was a little crazy as we hit the town at rush hour and it was crazy packed, but we got a peek at the St Louis Arch and I snapped a picture as we drove by. The ride back into Illinois was much quieter when we left that night and eventually pulled over and found a hotel to stay the night. The next morning we had a fairly short and uneventful ride home.

And that’s the final recap of our road trip! We had such an amazing trip with a lot of memories that I know we’ll treasure forever.

Previous: Metropolis IL

Visiting Metropolis: Home of Superman

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I owe a major thank you to the friend who said, “Oh if you are driving through Southern Illinois, make sure you stop in Metropolis.

You mean like Superman, Metropolis? Like that’s a real place?

She assured me it was quite real and gave me the skinny that I’m going to give you now. Metropolis Illinois is a small town in southern Illinois that loves its Superman Legacy. They even have a 15-foot bronze statue of him in the middle of Superman Square. Seriously. They also have a Supermuseum and gift shop.

According to roadsideamerica.com,

“The Chamber of commerce used to givefree packets of Kryptonite to children — until lawyers from DC Comics read about it on this website and made the town stop (Metropolis failed to submit the “Kryptonite” for approval by DC, and the chunks presented a choking hazard for children anyway).”

Metropolis

5 Things To Know

  1. Metropolis is not the big, bustling city that you might expect given its name and Superman’s story. It’s a pretty small town and for the first fifteen minutes driving through town I was unconvinced we were in the right place. Keep going until you see the massive man in tights. I promise he’s there.
  2. Once you get to the center of Metropolis, all the Super Sights are in walking distance. Find a parking spot and you are ready to enjoy the sights.
  3. The Super Museum is also the Super Gift Shop. When you go inside, there is a ton of memorabilia, comics, old toys and Super Stuff. The museum is further inside and costs $5 for everyone over the age of 5.
  4. When you step inside Superman’s phone booth, sadly you don’t magically turn into a superhero, but you do look adorable so take pictures.
  5. The 37th Annual Superman Celebration will take place June 11th – 14th, 2015. Super fans travel from all over the globe to visit the Official Home of Superman. Complete with an Artist’s Alley, Man of Steel exhibitions and contests, amusement park, live music and $1000 Superhero Costume Contest, the Superman Celebration provides fun for the entire family.

We were only in Metropolis for a couple of hours but it was a really fun stop on a long day of driving and the kids were absolutely in their glory! It was, in a word, Super!

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Road Trip Diary: Lost River Cave, Bowling Green KY

lostrivercave-ky

Did you think I was done recapping our summer road trip? Believe it or not, there are still more stories to tell! We got busy last month with the start of a new school year and that whole me getting a job thing, but I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you guys about one of the coolest places we went this summer: The Lost River Cave in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Initially we’d planned to see Mammoth Cave while we were in Bowling Green but it turns out that the tickets to the Mammoth Cave tours sell out FAST! I did a little research and came across this gem of an alternative. The Lost River cave was conveniently located, reasonably priced and even better: not sold out yet!

I was fascinated with the history of the Lost River Cave which boasts the tale of the blue hole, disappearing Civil War soldiers, Jesse James’ hiding place and the cave’s night club past life. I got a lot of story ideas out of this trip, not to mention a ton of exercise!

After a 20 minute leisurely hike along the property, we came to the entrance of the cave where we took a boat tour through the cave – parts of the cave ceiling are so low that you have to really duck as you go by which sounds intimidating but the guide does a good job of preparing you for it and the boat is moving pretty slow to give you time.

The tour guide was funny and informative and had a lot of great stories to tell. The cave was beautiful (and nice and cool – awesome on a hot July day). Afterwards we hiked some more to the butterfly habitat which was beautiful and probably one of BB’s favorite parts of the morning – and just one of many family friendly activities they have to offer in addition to the cave tour. We couldn’t resist pressing some pennies up near their gift shop where they also had treasure mining activities and an Outdoor Classroom to learn more about nature.

lostrivercave

So whether you are a hiking enthusiast, science geek, butterfly lover, spelunker, tree hugger, eager tourist or just looking for something fun to do with the family on your next visit to Bowling Green, I highly recommend the Lost River Cave.

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