Those are the most frequently asked questions I've had since the kids and I left home 18 days ago. Followed closely by "Is Joe joining you later?"
The short answer to both of those is, "Slowly. And hahahahaha...nope!"
But seriously how do I do it? Very slowly. One mile. One hour. One event. One day at a time. First we drove to Dallas and then stopped for two nights to play with cousins. Beyond Dallas it took us another 60 hours before we reached my parents' house. (For reference: It's only 12-13 hours of drive time but we can't move that fast.) Besides lots of movies and snacks, I didn't have much of a travel plan when I hit the road. Yes I shamelessly put screens in front of 3 out of my 4 children for 90% of the drive. Let's be honest it was survival mode for me. Thankfully little traveler #4 turned out to be incredibly content with very little. His pacifier + scenery out the window + an occasional snack kept him happy for all except 30 minutes of our 5 day drive! Back to my main point: traveling slow. I quickly discovered it worked best for the kids and I to get out of the van every 3ish hours. And I don't just mean fill up the gas tank and take a quick potty break/walk around the gas station. No I mean take a real break. Stretch our legs. Play. Eat real food. My natural instinct while traveling is to power through with as few stops as possible. By forcing my self to slow down and stop frequently I got to be the "fun mom". The kids and I explored a state park, a couple splash pads, a couple small towns, one Walmart and many playgrounds along the way! We fell into a rhythm of sorts. As the kids were buckling themselves into their seats at each stop I would find a town about 180 miles away (on the route). I'd then quickly google the town and find a fun (free!) attraction. I'd set that address as my next stop and off we'd go! A few movies and many snacks later and we were at the next stop! The kids would play while I made our picnic lunch (or dinner). We would eat and play some more. And after about 2-3 hours we would get back on the road. Like I said it was a sloooow process. But it worked! The kids and I (generally) stayed happy. And more importantly I survived the drive with my sanity (mostly) intact.
One thing I'm super glad I did was pack a small but easily accessible swim bag in the back of my van with just the essentials. Because you just never know when you are going to swim/go to a splash pad/have a water balloon fight/run through a sprinkler/etc. Not having to dig through multiple bags for every child's swim suit & towel has been fabulous. Other sanity savers have been packing individual bags for individual destinations. NOT individual bags for individual people. Like a travel bag with all the kids' clothes and essentials together. Also camp bags packed and ready to go since we headed to camp 48 hours after arriving in Minnesota. Other travel sanity savers for me have been the roll of paper towel I have in the front seat and the potty chair in the back of the van we pull out when nature calls:) Oh and all of our toiletries are in a caddy (think college dorm bathroom) in the front of the van. Always available.
Ok. Enough boring travel talk. Let's get to the fun stuff. Because there has been plenty of that! I told Joe before we left that I thought the kids and I might get bored for an entire month in Minnesota. Ha! That's hardly been the case. We have been going from one thing to the next. There has been no time for boredom!
We started with the Fourth of July celebration with my mom's side of the family. Then headed "up north" for summer camp. Which was followed immediately by a long weekend at my cousin's house to visit with my dad's side of the family. There were card games and horseback rides and sprinklers and food galore! We then spent a day with my grandparents. And my grandpa made me some stilts and matching ones for my kids! Just like the ones I had as a child:)
From there we returned to my parents' house and we've been busy. We had a park & splash pad afternoon with friends. A zoo morning with other friends. And a cold and rainy parade with yet some more friends! Oh and a morning of fishing and swimming and paddle boating with even more friends:) I even snuck away one night for time alone with my best friend from high school. No pictures were taken that night. But I promise it was a fabulous evening of eating, talking, laughing and a little crying. It was a little like therapy. Oh to know and be known.
So much fun....even my big kids are crashing and napping...in the oddest of places....
They both told me they weren't tired just moments before they fell asleep! They both slept right through supper that night:)
Lastly we've been soaking up as much time as possible with Joe's family. Boating with Papa & Grandma. Quality time with uncles and aunts (including soon-to-be aunts!!) on the lake and at the pool.
So much time with family and friends. It's good for the soul. We are loving it!!! And this weather (besides the cold rain!) has been amazing. All this fun is making it hard to miss Texas...except Joe of course. We all miss him. Charlotte especially feels bad for her daddy all alone in our empty house. We've talked and facetimed a few times which helps. Though I'm thinking the peace & quiet aren't bothering Joe too much;-)
So that's how we are doing it. One fun event after another. No time to rest. Even when sick! Yes. I got sick unfortunately. A summer cold that left me tired and achey. I wanted to just crawl in bed and quit. But I couldn't. So instead I texted Joe and whined to him. Then I put on my big girl pants, took some ibuprofen and carried on. Because the fun just never ends:)
I've done my fair share of complaining about medical school and residency for the past five years, but I have to admit they have done a fine job of preparing me for traveling solo with kids for weeks at a time. I've got lots of practice! What I wasn't prepared for was the stench that is coming from my filthy van...I can't find the source. Scary. I know. But we are learning to live with it. It's all part of the experience. I'm just glad my van is still running. Today I had a moment when my drivers window wouldn't roll back up. I was slightly panicked at the thought of driving all the way back to Texas with my window down or taped shut. Thankfully I restarted the van and it cooperated.
And now we are off once again. Next stop Wisconsin for a week with good friends!