Monday, October 14, 2013

the great Kansas road trip

Only a few hours after I wrote my last blog post, Jared's step-grandma passed away. She had a long life and her passing was a blessing to her and those who loved her.

They live a good 8+ hour drive from us. All the way up in the northwest corner of Kansas. We hadn't been back to visit since Greg and Lina's wedding last summer. Unlike last July, this time we decided to split the trip into two days.

So last Tuesday we spent the morning packing and loading up and were on the road by noon.
Last Tuesday also happened to be Jared's 29th birthday. Don't worry he got to open some presents. However, I did get off pretty easy - since we were on the road, there was no meal for me to prepare or any cake for me to bake.

The kids did well in the car; a little Disney Mulan and Hercules action always helps. But if we drive for too long of stretches, I feel guilty since that means Graham doesn't get many chances to eat, so we drove as far as Lincoln, Nebraska and got a hotel room for the night. The kids swam in the pool {and the bathwater warm hot tub} and then hung out in the room.
The highlight of the evening had to be the half-hour search for my swimming suit that yielded no results. And since we had already promised the kids they could swim, and Jared couldn't take all three by himself, I presented to the pool in a nursing cami and underwear. Pure class. Thankfully no one was there when I entered or exited the pool.  What we won't do for our kids...

(At this point I am sure you are thinking to yourself how awesome we do it up for Jared's birthday, am I right?)

I must say, they have gotten a bit of practice lately and they are all now pros at hotel sleeping. These kids sleep better in a hotel than they do at home! I am always amazed at how Graham just passes out completely and even sleeps in late.

The next morning we were on the road and made good time. After a quick lunch at PHB (That is Pizza Hut Buffet for those of you unfamiliar with my abbreviations), we arrived in Herndon in the early afternoon. We had some time to get settled in and get ready in time for Esther's wake that evening.

The next morning was the funeral. The kids did well. Since Jared was a pallbearer, he sat on the other side of the church. So it was just me and the kids. Bailey sat beside Papa Alan (Jared's dad) looking solemn and clasping her hands in prayer at all the appropriate times. Graham nursed for a few minutes and then fell asleep for the entire duration of the funeral. And Avery... well, she was just typical Avery. Thank goodness for Jared's cousin Rachelle who helped keep her entertained. I don't know what I would have done without her!
The funeral itself was a nice service. Esther was an extremely devout woman. She had great faith and it played a central role in her life. (Seriously, the woman prayed the entire rosary multiple times each day.) At the graveside, a group of younger relatives played instruments and sang her favorite songs. They sounded so great and the songs were so moving, even I had tears in my eyes. I thought it was a great tribute to a woman who had such unwavering faith.
The trip wasn't without its awkward moments. After all, Esther was Jared's step-grandma and that left us in a sort of weird position: the "steps" of the family. Jared wasn't her blood and he was the only one who was "related" without truly being "related." It is just awkward because you are on the fringes. And while you aren't considered family, you still feel like family.
Jared knew Esther better and longer than he knew either of his other two grandmas (one dying when he was only a few years old, and his other suffering from Alzheimer's most of his life). He told me how he used to ride his bike out to her house just so he could sit with her and hear her tell stories. Stories of life back in Herndon in her youth. Stories about life during World War II. Stories of her days working as a nurse in California. She was part of his life for over 20 years, so when Jared talked about Esther, he didn't refer to her as his step-grandma. He just called her his grandma.
So even though we might not be her blood, we still made the trip. And I am glad we did.
We stayed an extra day after the funeral to relax and enjoy some time with Jared's relatives. Alan wanted to take the kids to visit the horses again, just like last year. Last year Bailey wasn't too keen on the idea. What a difference a year makes!

The girls haven't seen much of their uncle John in quite a long time, so it was sweet to see how quickly they took to him. Every morning Bailey woke up and asked if we could go see Papa Alan and Uncle John. When I would answer yes, she would say matter-of-factly, "Oh good. Papa Alan loves me. And Uncle John loves me, too."
The kids also got to meet their cousin. (Their first and only right now.)
Lucinda (or Lu or LuLu or Lucy) is almost 8 months old. In fact, Bailey and Lu share the same birthday. She is Jared's sister Val's daughter. All the kids were pretty taken with her and even Avery had her name down after the first day.
Papa Alan and all his grandkids

We spent part of an afternoon visiting Jared's aunt Jane. She raises dogs, so she always has puppies around. Once the girls got past the loud barking, they enjoyed holding the puppies.

And on our last night in town, we left the girls with Jared's dad and went to supper at Greg and Lina's. We saw their new home and Lina cooked a delicious meal for us. We also drank a lot of wine. Like three bottles. Between just Lina and me. So basically it was a fantastic evening. We shared a lot of laughs, and at one point I looked at the clock and realized that over three hours had passed in the blink of an eye. We had a really great time with them. I definitely wish they lived down the block rather than 8 hours away.

The next morning was a bit rough. Thank God for Ibuprofen. Lots of it.
(Is it possible that I am already too old to drink like that??!)
Regardless of our hangovers, we loaded up and got on the road. We made the whole trip home in one day. I was ready to sleep in my own bed and avoid the expense of another night in a hotel. However, we did make a quick stop in Omaha to see Aunt Fe and Aunt Beaner and eat with them. (It's what we do best!)

We only got pulled over once the entire trip. (It was Jared's turn this time.)
I will consider one written warning a win in my book.
And we only experienced one pull-over-the-minivan-on-the-side-of-the-interstate moment to break up a fight between children, so that is also a small miracle.
It was a good trip, and while it was only five days, I am very glad to be back home.


  1. Great pictures! I love the one of Graham in the tub and the girls on the horse. :)

  2. I'm with Catrina -- awesome pics! Those two she mentioned were favs of mine too. Its always exhausting but worth the memories! My whole family is step this and step that -- but they are closer than "blood." My sister and one of my brothers are "step" but we've been a family since I was six ... there is not "step" ya know? So glad ya'll were able to go. It really is hard simply PACKING for a trip let alone make there and back.

    Oh, and the whole cami & panties thing? Id have done it too ... its what we do! hahaha

    1. It does sound like your family is one cohesive unit, regardless of "steps" and all that. It definitely isn't that way in Jared's family though, even though they have been family since Jared was 8. And yes, the packing alone took FOREVER! Kids need so much extra crap!

      Oh, and the make-shift swimsuit? Totally unnecessary - we of course found my swimming suit in the wrong bag about 5 minutes after we got back from swimming. Figures, right?


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