Tuesday, July 22, 2014

To Take a Trip

Before our big trip becomes a distant memory (you know how quickly something like that can feel like a dream once you're back to real life?!), I thought I'd pass along some of the things we did to make traveling more fun and the packing a bit easier. I'd never done anything like this before, traveling for days at a time, not in my childhood nor as a mom. I kept trying to imagine how this would be?!

I had so much fun reading others tips and ideas, I thought it might be interesting to share mine too :) I found out there's lots of tips and tricks out there for big road trips if you go looking for them! After awhile I felt like I was on "idea overload"! :) We took lots of things along to try to keep people occupied, I knew they probably wouldn't all get used but it was exciting to have these bags of things that no one could play with until trip time! Another thing I wanted badly to do, was figure out some way to not have to drag 50 things in everytime we stopped for the night. A kind reader sent me an article with lots of great ideas and it included the perfect packing tip!

So, without further ado:

disclaimer: I realize I am a light packer. If these ideas sound crazy to you, that's fine :) Maybe there's someone out there like me who will like them!

1) We put a rod in the back of the van and put all our dresses, shirts, pants, jackets...in short, everything possible...on hangers.
2) We used two "communal" suitcases, one big and one little. In the big one I packed all of our night clothes, our box of toothbrushes/paste, etc, shampoo/soap and a few other misc items. In the small one I packed all our underware and socks and here's where the perfect tip came in: I took a gallon size zip loc bag for each of us and wrote our names on them. Into each went that person's underware and socks. (*) Flatten out all the air, throw it in! It kept things neat and orderly and even Lillian (age 4) could find her own things easily. I loved it! It also made it simple to put things away when we came home! When we stopped for the night, out came 2 suitcases and 7 sets of clothes on hangers and that was it!
*note: this was summertime so there weren't many socks. You could use 2 bags per person if needed.

since we had a big van, we took along a small stack of drawers that's usually full of doll clothes to hold all our stuff. Worked great tucked between Charles' car seat and the back of the driver's seat!

1) Coloring books/crayons/markers; Paper and pencils/pens
2) Books to look at/read
3) Books on tape from the library
4) A pack of pipe cleaners - my girls love making people and shapes out of them!
5) Magnets of our family and house and a cookie sheet to play with them on. I read this on a blog somewhere a long time ago and thought it was so neat! I took pictures of each of us and of some of our furniture, cut loosely around them, bought magnetic sheets, stuck the pictures on and cut close around them and made magnets! (We discovered the cookie sheet came in handy for a nice lap desk too!)
6) Three ring binder with plastic sleeves. I put blank paper in a few and cut pages out of an activity book and stuck them in the rest. They could write on the sleeves with washable markers and then wipe them off!
7) A list of all the states to mark of license plates. Chris and Isaac had a big competition going with that! I think they found all but 7!
8) A bag of wrapped packages. I went to Dollar Tree one day and had fun! :) Nothing big, just little stuff. On the days we drove for longer stretches, I'd set the timer for an hour an they'd get to pick a package to open. This had to be the hit of all the activities along!
9) Other misc - sometimes we'd do the timer thing and play a game when it went off, or read another chapter in the book we bought, or sing, or tell stories.
10) Rubberband bracelets. The girls spent a bunch of time on those!
11) Games. I think the only one we ended up using was Battleship and the Uno Dice for Charles!

Charles was the biggest pain! There's not much to amuse a 15 month old in a van that lasts more than a few minutes! We had some books and toys and snacks,etc. His favorite activities turned out to be messing around with the Ipad, and playing with the Uno Dice game on the cookie sheet :)

I think that's it! Should have asked y'all for ideas before we left - maybe you'll have to share them and I'll tuck them away for another time!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Days 10 - 13: Arkansas

We spent our last 3 days with the Gingeriches in Arkansas. Rachel and Kristine gave us their house and they stayed with Grandpa. They were having their last 2 days of Summer Bible School so it was a busy time to be there!

Thursday forenoon Rach, Krisitine, Joy and I (and my little ones) went to visit a neighbor lady, Genice, who was one of mom's good friends. We had a little "party" along with her daughter, daughter-in-law and sister. You can't spend time with them without laughter and stories :) It also felt sad because mom was missing from the circle.

We spent the afternoon having lunch together, quilting on the quilt mom had left unfinished, picking blackberries and playing with cousins. I did laundry somewhere in there too! Supper was at Carl's that night for whoever was around. We sure enjoyed their fresh sweet corn, cucumbers and peaches!

Friday morning we all went to the Bible School program. Charles wasn't too impressed and didn't cooperate too well, but it gave us a chance to see some church people. Quilted again in the afternoon and got the quilt finished! I loved being able to help with that! I got to go berry picking that afternoon and that was fun again too in spite of the normal scratches and chigger bites.

I spent all Saturday morning getting things packed back up! We all left at 11 and had a picnic at the Blanchard Springs picnic area. Carl, Grandpa and Isaac did a little fishing while the rest of us packed the picnic things away and waded in the ice cold spring water! We got cleaned up and left there around 3 along with Grandpa, Rachel, Kristine and 2 of Carl's girls and headed back up to Mansfield, MO. When we were there Wednesday, we found out they do a Musical called "Laura's Memories", so we decided to go back up for that Saturday evening and then get a motel and leave from there for home.

It was a perfect way to end our trip and was especially fun to have other family along to enjoy the evening with! The very sanguine lady who was the music director talked with us beforehand and was so impressed when she heard about our trip that she told the whole cast and they gave us public recognition

We pulled out around 7 yesterday morning for one more day on the road. And now, it's back to real life! It's a little hard to believe it's all over with - all the planning and preparation and work........... It's a trip we'll never forget, that is certain, but not something we'd want to do every summer! :) It's been fun to share the trip with you all and it was a good way to give ourselves a little journal to look back and remember our trip by.

So ends our Big Adventure!

Day 9: Mansfield, MO

I think we would all have to agree, we saved the best for last! Backing up to Wednesday.......

By Jasmine:

On Wednesday morning we all got up around 7:30 for breakfast. At 8 we left Javans and headed for Mansfield, Missouri. Around 10:30 we arrived at Laura's last home, Rocky Ridge Farm! We went in the museum and bought tickets. While we waited for the tour of the house to start, we looked around and watched a video about Laura that had recordings of her voice on it.

Before too long we went on the house tour. Daddy stayed outside with Charles because he usually got fussy and didn't like to be inside! (He took a tour later with another group.) We had a little old lady for our tour guide. Mom described her as a recording. She said, "It's like she has a recording in her mind." She saidd t hat because a time or two the guide got distracted, so she'd rewind about 5 sentences and start there and repeat exactly what she'd said before! :)

We walked into the house and found ourselves standing in Laura's kitchen looking at the very things she used to cook with and serve meals on! The tour guide told us that everything in the house was just like it was when Laura lived there except the flooring and wallpaper were replicas. She went on to tell us what the slot made in the wall between the kitchen and dining room was used for - Laura would fix a meal and put the food on the "window sil", then she'd go around and put the food on the table. Afterward she would out all her dirty dishes on the "window sil" and then go around and wash them in the sink that was right by the slot. She said she saved time that way!

The guide also told us that the newest thing we saw in there was the refrigerator. Rose bought it for them, but Laura didn't want to give up any of her precious floor space. She saw the broom closet and decided that it was the place for the fridge, so out came the brooms and in went the fridge! They had to add a little bit on outside the house to make it fit.

As we went through the house the guide told us interesting things, like - they used an old radio for storage (Almanzo took the inside parts out! They didn't throw anything away!) She also told us when Laura had parties, she served apples from her orchard and popcorn from her garden instead of ice cream and cake. Another interesting thing was that Almanzo hooked rugs. She said one time he needed something to do, so he took up hooking rugs! One room in the house still had the original linoleum on the floor! The guide said they've toured literally thousands of people through there and it still looks good. All she can say is "they don't make things like they used to"!! :)

Another story the guide told us was about the huge rocks that made the fire place in the living room. She said Laura found these big rocks she wanted to use for the fire place, so she showed them to Almanzo. He didn't like the idea of all that work so he brought home a load of bricks to try to persuade her differently! Laura wasn't one to give up easily and she wanted those rocks, so she shed a few tears and guess what? She got her rocks! :) Too soon it was all over and we went outside thinking about all that we had seen that day. The museum was also full of interesting things to look at! All kinds of things that belonged to the Ingalls family and to Rose - Pa's fiddle is there and gets taken out and played once a year, clothes they wore, quilts they pieced, lots of items that Laura mentioned in her books and much more. It was a lot of fun!

By Isaac:

After the homestead tour and museum, we went to the Rock House that Rose had built for her parents. She sold a story for $10,000 and used it to build them a house for their retirement. Rose directed all the building of the house and the guide said she's heard Rose made them re-build the chimney from 1 to 5 times! She finally said she would accept it but insisted it was still crooked! The guide said she guesses Rose was right because it still leaks sometimes when it rains.

Rose bought all the furniture for the house and everything was very expensive. She ended up spending $11,000 on the house. It was a 6 room house with a bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, dining roomm parlor and another room where Laura wrote a lot of the Little House books.

Rose also bought them a car! The guide told a story about how Rose taught Almanzo to drive the car he didn't know how to stop the thing, so he pushed the break and gas as hard as he could and pulled on the steering wheel and yelled "Whoooaaa"!!! The car ended up in the ditch with quite a bit of damage to the bottom of it! :)

Almanzo and Laura lived in the Rock House about 8 years and Rose lived in the Farm House. But after Rose moved away, Almanzo and Laura immediately packed up and moved back to the Farm House!

After that tour we looked around in the gift shop and used up the rest of our money we'd saved for the trip and then it was time to load up and head for Arkansas!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Dear Mom

If home is where the heart is, than what happens if you have no idea where your heart is??

If it is more accurate to say, "Home is where my family is," than maybe loved ones in Heaven is just God's way of making us realize where He wants Home to be!

Dear Mom,

I came "home" for the first time to no mom here. As I walked in the door of my sisters' house where we're staying, May 6 and the week following came rushing over my senses. We stayed here over the time of your funeral, mom. Spent numb, mechanical days here planning who would lead songs and choosing a burial plot; selecting pictures and memorabilia in your honor; writing poems late at night with kleen x by our side.

This trip has brought you to mind so often, mom. I remember when I told you of our plans, I knew you would love the idea of visiting all the Little Houses! And you did. I can't begin to tell you how many times in the past 9 days of travel I've wanted to tell you all about it. Can't remember how often I've caught myself thinking "I'll have to remember to tell mom _________".

I miss you, Mom.

Today I sat at the quilt you left half quilted and let the tears roll down my cheeks. So many people have told me with knowing nods, "Going home for the first time will be hard," and I've wanted to smack them. "How is that helping?" I've wanted to say. "Don't you think I know it will be hard?" Of course I know that they know that I know that it will be hard, you just say those things and its ok. Because it IS hard.

You're not here to cook for my family anymore, not here to hug my children and ask them about our trip and admire the souvenirs they would proudly show you. Not here to read them the age old stories about "Tabitha Tabby's Fantastic Flavor" and give them snacks in your little bowls on the low, slide out board in your kitchen. You're.not.here.

In many ways I want to run. Run back to Ohio and my own little world (although in some ways I feel like running farther than that right now, the whole "where IS my heart thing). Run away from the daily-ness these people have to face and seem to be doing well with in most ways. Run away from the future here that needs to be made without you, mom. Just run.

But life is life. Death is no surprise. Why do we act like it is? Because we're human, I suppose. Because we're on this earth and we can't just sit around waiting to die. And so, we make the first trips home and the first......everythings......because, well, it must be done! And we know in our hearts that if we allow it, it will make us stronger, better people. People who's hearts are turned toward Home in new and deeper ways. People who try a little harder to focus on what counts and remember the fact a little more clearly that we are all dying and we are all longing for Home!

Love you,

We'll catch you up with the rest of our trip one of these days :) For now we're busy playing with cousins, enjoying family.... and shedding some tears and feeling the ache.... and longing for Home!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Day 8: Fun and Friends

(Just for your info - I'm furious. I've typed part of this and accidentally lost it TWICE!!!)

By Jasmine

We've been gone for a week now. I'm getting kind of tired of traveling now but it's still fun. We spent the day at Javan and Matina's for our 8th day.

In the morning after breakfast Tanya and I went outside. We caught the kittens and went to the hay bales. We played with the kittens a bit, then let them go and played tag. When we were finished we decided to catch them again but they didn't want to be held so we went back to the house.

Right before lunch Tanya, Isaac, Bradlyn and I played Scrabble. In the middle of the game we had to go to lunch, afterward we finished our game. Then we went out to play a game of croquet. Logan won even though Isaac got to be poison first!

That afternoon Tanya and I decided to pretend the little children were our children. While we were outside playing church, dad called and said it's time to go. We were going back to the place Laura and Mary lived in "Indian Territory", and then meeting Javan's family at a park for supper. At the Little House on the Prairie the well Pa dug was still there they had built a log cabin on the old foundation that was the same size as the one they had lived in. They also had an old school and post office.

When we had finished there we went to the park. They had a train, a miniature gold course, and a play ground with huge slides. They were a lot of fun!

When Javan's family came, we had supper, rode the train, and played mini golf. Then we went back to the playground. On the playground they had things that you sit in and spin. They were tilted so that you could make them go by yourself. There was also a wheel, sort of like a big tire, only it wasn't standing up straight nor did it have air in it :) It was on it's side and also tilted so that when you ran on it, it spun. It was a lot of fun!

When it was time to go home Isaac and I rode with Javan's family. When we got back to their house we had watermelon and Tanya, Isaac, Bradlyn and I played Ninja. That night I slept with Tanya in the tent. It was a fun day!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Day 7: Kansas

The rest are in bed. I should be there too, I suppose, and I should be making someone else write this. But I feel in need of a little unwinding time alone, and writing is a good way for me to accomplish that...

Today was our first day that didn't quite go as planned. Not bad for 7 days, I suppose! Our original plan was to leave at 7:30 this morning for the Science Center in Kansas City and then spend the evening and night at Javan Zimmermans and go to the Little House on the Prairie tomorrow. Well, our night got rather late after visiting too long with first Arlyn and Sue over supper and then Cynthia and her husband before getting to bed at Marvin Kauffman's house! But, we've been flexible as we've gone along, and the visiting was more important than a rigid schedule.

So, we decided to leave later this morning and go to the Little House on the Prairie today and the Science Center tomorrow, making it possible for me and the little ones to stay at Javans and catch up a little. After a delicious breakfast by Cynthia, we headed out and arrived in Independence, KS in the afternoon.

Upon arrival there, Chris remembered why he'd made the plans the way he did - the place is closed on MONDAYS!! Bummer. We looked around and then headed on for Javans.

Our supper and evening spent together made up for everything :) Such fun watching our children get to know each other and a little amazing to see ourselves mirrored in our oldest daughters! When did we become the mothers instead of the young girls giggling and sharing "heart to hearts"?? Matina and I go way back. Back to when we were probably close to our girl's ages! Don't tell anyone but we felt a little old tonight heading off to bed like responsible mothers of 5 and 7 instead of staying up and talking til the wee hours :)

Tomorrow we'll hang around here, do some laundry and some more catching up. Then we'll go back to Independence to see what we can see and meet Javan's family for supper at a park and spend the night here again. Good times ahead..... and now I had better join my slumbering family (and hope that the passle of boys sleeping outside in the tent have a peaceful night!) :)

Day 6: On the Road

After a peaceful night of rest in the Super 8 parking lot, my doors were opened and suitcases and people were loaded inside once again. My wheels were turned back toward DeSmet, and I rolled willingly along! From what I heard, everyone had had a good night and were eager to see a few more things before heading on to Iowa.

After a brief rest at The Laura Ingalls museum while the people eagerly checked out a very interesting room in the museum that they had missed the day before (a room full of lots of original items under glass, so I heard - Ma's shawl, a dress of Carrie's, the family Bible, jewlery, hankerchiefs, lots of photographs and handwritten letters and countless other items of great interest!) everyone clambored back aboard and my wheels were turned toward Iowa.

As we traveled on and the flat prairies turned to rolling hills, my work load became a little heavier! My youngest passenger seemed quite weary of being confined to my lovely interior. I was as relieved as his mother to have him silenced for a nice, long nap! The other 4 were fairly well occupied with a long story, "Hank the Cowdog" or some such I believe? It seemed like forever til they pulled me off for a refill for my hungry iron stomach. Then, it was back to the road where I carried them on toward their destination. They said they were looking for a McDonalds, I believe, but several hours later we rolled into Wendys for another little break.

Back on the road again (I was wondering when this journey would end!) I was interested to see what the restless children would find when they opened the packages their mother passed out. They seemed pleased with their gifts, and I was happy with the quietness that ensued as they checked out new treasures.

I was more than happy to take a break when they pulled me into a small parking area beside a white house and small garage. I enjoyed the silence while the people became reaquainted and enjoyed supper together, but that wasn't to last long! Soon the children all reappeared and 2 energetic boys began bouncing a basketball uncomfortably close to my nice, red walls! They didn't stop there, soon one boy had climbed atop my head and the other carried a cat up and let him prance around on my back! I was relieved when a parent turned up to restore some order!

I had hoped this would be my resting place for the night, but no. Here they all came climbing aboard once again! We rolled along and arrived at yet another house in the darkness and this time the suitcases and clothes were drug out and I heaved a sigh and settled in for a night of much deserved rest!

This trip has been interesting, but I'm beginning to wonder when I will see the hills of Ohio and my familiar resting place at the Millers again?

By: Big Bertha the Red Van