6 Days, 4 Cities, and 2,879.3 miles

I apologize for the lack of posts lately, I’m sure there has been a void in your life that just couldn’t be filled or overcome. I’m sorry.

The reason for the lack of updates was because my wife and I took a road trip! About 6 months ago, we made the decision to plan for a vacation to celebrate our 10 year anniversary! Kate and I never really went on a honeymoon and never really took a “big trip” before we had kids. We did most things on the cheap and put money into our first house. The first 6 years of our marriage, we spent an absurd amount of our own hard-earned money fixing up a house to flip it. So, while our friends and family were taking big elaborate trips, honeymoons, and vacations, we were pulling up old smelly carpet, replacing appliances, landscaping, installing cabinets, and refinishing hardwood floors.

Almost the same. . . Ok, anyways–back on topic… Kate suggested that we go to Nashville, TN for vacation. Kate and her brother went about 5 years ago and she thought that I would really enjoy it (don’t you dare throw that previous paragraph at me….I stayed home-and, since this blog is all about me, that doesn’t count). So, in the fall of 2017, we made the decision to officially put it on the calendar and book a trip to Nashville in April! After looking at a map, we figured out that Charleston is only a hop, skip, and a jump from Nashville–we could go there for a couple days too…and we could break up both long drives with stops in St. Louis, Gatlinburg, and Chicago. BOOM! It was settled.

We went through a travel agent, which—I’m not sure was necessary; I didn’t have to pay anything extra and she found some pretty cool hotels, but…eh; I probably could have done it as well. Since it didn’t cost me anything extra–I guess it was alright. The trip was set, we were going to leave early morning on Thursday, drive to St. Louis and spend the night and arrive in Nashville on Friday. Friday through Sunday morning would be in Nashville, Sunday through Wednesday morning would be in Charleston, Wednesday – Thursday would be Gatlinburg, and finally Thursday – Friday would be Chicago.

So, the Wednesday night before the trip we are going to bed around 11pm and my wife sits up in bed and says “I think I’m getting sick”. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a nightmare–I was very much awake because I could hear my 3 year old awake and crying in her room. After I get back from getting her back to sleep; the 11 month old is up. Kate hasn’t left the bathroom since I went into the 3 year old’s room a couple hours ago. Always a good sign.

Once I finally got back to bed, I asked an extremely sensitive and caring rhetorical question that I didn’t want the answer to: “Did you puke?”

“yeah-a bunch”. . . Instantly, this went through my mind: (Chris Farley Voice) “good, Great, Grand, WONDERFUL!” (Don’t get that joke? Click here.)

Ok, so what the hell do we do now? We’re scheduled to blast off in like 4 hours! Kate’s sick, I’m super tired and the girls are most likely out of whack now for the day. Probably not how grandma and grandpa envisioned the babysitting sentence starting off on day one. Anyways, around 10am, Kate finally comes downstairs and I buttoned up my salesman pants and talked her into still going on the trip. I knew that if we didn’t leave–we never would. And the car was packed and I had been overdosing on caffeine.

Ok–I’m coming to the realization that this is probably going to be a long post. So if you need to pee; I’d do it now.

We left for St. Louis about 5 hours later than we initially planned on leaving—not the worst thing in the world; but still. Kate was an absolute trooper; she didn’t feel awesome, but made it all the way to St. Louis in one shot (minus one stop in Cedar Rapids, IA to visit my cousin).

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My cousin Craig and I. One of us was on the clock.

We got to St. Louis at about 8:30pm and fell directly face-first into bed. Now, as anybody knows, once a person in a house gets sick–the others are sure to follow. This was definitely on our minds the entire trip to St. Louis, “what if the kids get sick? What do we do?” After chatting with my parents who again, were taking the first shift of babysitting (each set of grandparents got 4 days), they said the kids were doing awesome and that we should enjoy the trip, with Kate feeling better (not 100% yet), we agreed that should be the plan.

St. Louis was cool, but honestly; we were there for such a short amount of time that we really didn’t take in much (any) of the city. We went to the arch because it was literally across the street from our hotel (Hampton Inn at the Arch); but in the short time I was there, I was really impressed with the downtown area of STL!

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Kate and I at the Arch. (I don’t know why the picture is so small…its either this size or a life size picture of the arch…)

Ok while I’m typing this, I’m having a change of thought. Cory Cove on 100.3 KFAN, would call this an “on-air production meeting”. This is already getting long, so instead of having a long 50,000 word post, I’m going ‘glaze over’ the entire trip and put links to the different cities we went to, and you can get my thoughts on those directly at the bottom of this post (with pictures!!). Hopefully the rest of this post intrigues you enough to click on these. #clickbait

After a couple days in Nashville, we headed over to Charleston and while enjoying a really interesting harbor tour of Charleston; I received the following text from my mother: “I may not take Grace to ECFE.. I think I’m getting sick”.

Immediately my wife and I went from “vacation mode” to “parent mode”. We spent the rest of the night contemplating whether or not we cut the vacation short and go home or trust that the kids will be fine and continue with our trip. This conversation went well into the evening and we finally made the decision that if the kids did get sick, we would want to be there; and probably more importantly, they would want us there. So we made the decision to leave Charleston Tuesday morning, skip the Gatlinburg stop and drive as far as we could.

Turns out “as far as we could” is 14 hours, 1,243 miles, and one time change. Charleston to Chicago. #RoadWarriers

We spent the night in Chicago in a 2 person whirlpool suite so we could relax after sitting in a car seat literally all day. We had a bottle of wine and some fantastic Lou Malnati’s Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza. This was actually pretty nice and relaxing.

After a 2,879.3 mile round trip (Two Thousand, Eight Hundred Seventy Nine POINT Three) we got back home about 2pm on Wednesday (2 days earlier than we planned). I will say that the reaction we got from Grace when we walked in the door made me forget about the fact we had cut our trip short…Although, I definitely was a bit resentful that I had to cut our first “real vacation” in quite some time short, but it was good to be home.

However, I am curious and would love your opinion. Please leave me a comment on what you would have done. My wife and I had an extremely hard time making the decision to come home. The thing that we kept thinking about was if the 3 year old got sick. IF she were to get sick, she’s going to want mom & dad (mom) next to her –no question; the 11 month old probably couldn’t care less. That alone was a driving factor in us coming home early. So please–let me know what you would have done; would you have done the same thing or would you have stayed?

Sorry for getting long-winded…The experts would say that I’m 736 words over the ideal length at this point.

Oh, and the girls never got sick…

Please read my blog posts on the other cities. They’re not as long and probably a lot more humorous; unless you just don’t find me funny, and that’s OK!–many people don’t (my wife, kids, parents, friends, in-laws, colleagues, the cashier at Target, etc)…

8 Things I learned from my vacation

Nashville On Stage

Charleston, We Hardly Knew Ye

Also-please let me know what you would have done in our situation…I’m genuinely interested!

Thanks for reading!

Please share and subscribe if you enjoyed it!

-ML

10 Things I Learned From Staying At a Hotel (With My Kids)

As I mentioned in my previous post, last weekend my in-laws paid for a hotel room for all of their kids/grandchildren to be together and have fun for one weekend. There were definitely some things that I observed, that I would like to share with you.

Here’s at least 10. . .

1.) A hotel is a pizza joint’s main source of income. In cities with both a hotel, (motel—Holidaay Iiiinnnnn) and a pizza joint, it absolutely has to be. I saw a different pizza delivery person every 20 minutes. I suppose that people get to the hotel and think “I just carried 27 bags, 6 kids, a table, cooler, food, walked the longest hallway of all time…pizza sounds like a great ‘pick-me-up'”. Besides, it’ll go great with the beer. (Hot Tip: if you live in a town with a hotel but no pizza place – move; if that isn’t an option-open a pizza joint and thank me later. A phone call from your yacht will be just fine.)

2.) Related…It’s nearly impossible to eat healthy at a hotel. Let’s be serious-no one brings bags of salad into a hotel room. Maybe a neglected fruit or veggie tray; but the stars of the show are generally licorice, cookies, pizza, and soda/alcohol. OR..you and the family go out to eat, which is usually unhealthy as well. This isn’t a “health and fitness” blog, just saying…

3.) No matter how bad of a parent that you think you are; a hotel is a great place to see parents much worse (portrayed) than yourself. Especially at the pool area. There are kids swimming while parents are scrolling through their phones. Disclaimer: I’m not immune to this–I definitely check my phone more often than I probably should; but I was also in the pool with my kiddos-playing with them. There are a lot of impatient and grumpy parents out there as well…

4.) And, no matter how great of a parent that you think you are; a hotel is also a great place to see parents much better (portrayed) than yourself. You know the ones, the parents who are always bright and smiley, with a million things to do with the kids. More importantly, they look like they are genuinely enjoying every little activity that they are doing with their family. Weirdos.

5.) There are no good places to get rid of dirty diapers. I used the men’s room bathroom down the hall…. :D. As most mens’ rooms go, the diaper was the best smelling thing in there.

6.) Pool/Court side rooms are awesome, until they’re not. When everyone has a room court-side as we did; all of the cousins could run around, play basketball, volleyball, go swimming etc. It was awesome, they could do it all together while the parents could either go play with them, or watch from the “Base Camp” 20 feet away. They’re not awesome when your little kids go to bed at 8pm and the pool/court closes at 11pm. 3 hours of agonizing over which stray volleyball banging against the door is going to wake the kids up or, more importantly, spill my cocktail.

7.) You look forward to quiet time! From 11:01pm to 8:00am there was almost complete silence! It was marvelous! The downside is that quiet time basically means that the area is closed; not “you can sit here, you just have to keep your voices down”. It means “go to bed, it’s 11pm-you have kids who don’t care you’re on vacation they will wake you up early.”

8.) Quiet time is strictly enforced by Ruth. Ruth was the enforcer of the hotel; the Derek Boogaard of the hotel if you will. If you weren’t in your room at 11:01pm; she was going to put you in there, and wait awkwardly until you fell asleep. I’m fine with this at night, but when your kids wake up at 6am and the curfew doesn’t get lifted until 8am, you’re kind of stuck in that hotel room for a couple hours. “THIS PLACE IS LIKE A PRISON!!”

9.) Pools are dirty. Breaking news, right? I distinctly remember a point when I was holding my 10 month old and I saw some brown stuff at the bottom of the pool, looked at my wife in horror and said to her: “is that us?” Sometimes I don’t think; and this was one of those times–I slid my foot through the brown mystery substance. It was sand (whew!). Sand, at the bottom of an indoor pool- in central Minnesota- in the winter. How does that even happen? Also, the amount of snot that gets smeared into the pool water is disgusting. I saw my kids do it, I saw other kids do it. I saw parents do it. Kids, this is why you don’t drink pool water; you could die.

10.) For now, my kids like me. They loved swimming with mom and dad in the pool, jumping in from the side while I caught them, and absolutely had a blast when I could throw my 3 year old into the air about 10 feet and catch her. We had a blast! I know that eventually, they aren’t going to want to do that with me, so I really enjoyed the time we had while they wanted to have it!

Thanks for reading the entire post! If you made it down here, here’s a bonus number 11!

11.) When called upon, my kids can sleep through the night! My wife and I were borderline terrified of how both kids would sleep in the same room after the past couple weeks we’ve had at home. Both of our kids are LOUD criers and inevitably, if one wakes up the rest of the block wakes up. Somehow, both slept through the night; allowing mom and dad to get a full 6 hours!

Thanks for reading!

-ML

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I met Destiny

This past weekend, I was swimming in a hotel pool with my 3-year-old daughter Grace. She can’t really swim, so I was basically holding her life jacket while she kicked and splashed. She loved it. I’m not big into swimming, but I love watching my kids have fun; so it was really enjoyable. The pool was warm, a bit crowded; but we had fun.

About 10 minutes into our Saturday morning swimming, a very quiet and shy little girl wearing green arm floaties came directly up to me and very quietly asked if she could play with us. She softly said her name was Destiny, and I would guess she was probably 4-6. I did a pretty thorough glance around to see if I could see some sort of parent figure looking at her or me; and didn’t see anyone that caught my eye. Regardless, she seemed pretty harmless, I asked Grace if she cared if Destiny played with us. Always one to make new friends, she said “Sure!”.

Well, Destiny was much more interested in me helping to hold her up by the strap on the back of her arm floaties so she could swim better (as I was doing with Grace), than playing with Grace. Since Grace is my daughter, I’m obviously going to be much more attentive to her and making sure she was having a blast. Unfortunately, I got to the point where I was almost ignoring Destiny. Not because she wanted to play, or anything like that; she was a sweet, albeit a little awkward, little girl. Because I wanted to make sure that I didn’t have to rescue my own kid from the bottom of the pool. Now, conversely, in the back of my mind during all of this was “what happens if I look over and this little girl goes under while I’m playing with my kid”. The whole ordeal is getting a bit stressful at this point. I glance around for some sort of parent/guardian for Destiny…nothing. :(

Parents, am I wrong to admit that in a situation where my kid and your kid are both going under water; that I’m saving my kid 10 times out of 10? Once mine is safe, I’ll go for yours, I promise. But am I a terrible person for admitting that? Look, I’ll save as many people as I can-given the opportunity, but my kids are going to be my first priority in a safety situation. Please tell me I’m not a jerk for thinking this way.

About an hour later Destiny was still there, but I think she was slowly getting the hint that if she didn’t want to play with Grace, I wasn’t really enjoying having to watch her as well. I felt really bad, but I’m not very good in those situations. Still no parent figure that I could see either, and I’ve had Lasik.

**For the first time in any of my blog posts, I’m going to have a point, and I’m getting to that point very soon-I promise.**

All of a sudden, out of nowhere, this giant inflatable ball appears! This thing was so cool!! The kids in the pool, young and old, loved it. So I grabbed Grace and we ran around the pool with the other kids ‘booping’ it back in the air like we were at a rock concert. This went on for about 20-30 minutes and then it was time for us to head back to the room to eat lunch, and I was out of breath.

As I’m getting out of the pool, Destiny floats over and again, very quietly says something to me: “I haven’t gotten to touch it”. I didn’t really know what she was talking about (I’m not bright), so I think I looked at her a little weird before realizing that she meant she hadn’t gotten to play with the ball that all of the other kids were playing with. I didn’t know what to say to her, so I said “well, keep trying!”. As you can tell, Tony Robbins and I are basically the same person…

As Grace and I are walking away, the ball comes flying out of the pool right towards us-slow motion style. I got my hands on the ball and this 10-12 year old girl comes running up to throw it back in. So, I stopped her quick and said “NO RUNNING BY THE POOL!!!” Just kidding. I actually said: “Hey, this little girl right here (pointing to Destiny in the pool) hasn’t gotten to touch the ball yet”. “OK!” the girl said and pointed right at little Destiny and under hand threw it right towards her!

It went over her head.
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BUT! Since kids now days are becoming more awesome because they’re being forced to (See: Parkland, Florida). I know, I said no political talk, but let’s be honest; when you were in high school, were you doing/thinking the things that these kids are? No, the answer is no-you weren’t.

Anyways, The other kids all heard the conversation that I had with the girl outside of the pool, so they caught the ball and walked it over to Destiny so she could throw it in the air.

You guys, she lit up like the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. It was so much fun to watch her instantly being able to play with the rest of the kids around her. It made me really feel good that Grace was able to see the whole thing as my wife and I always stress being nice to everyone to her. Now, I’m not telling this story to make myself sound like this great and wonderful person; I can do that on my own-just ask me. I wanted to tell the story to remind people, that sometimes a very small act of kindness can make a person’s entire day. Not only will I remember how much fun Grace and I had while we were swimming, I’ll also remember the look on little Destiny’s face when she finally got to be included with her newfound friends.

Also, I still didn’t see any parents to watch their child have the best time of the their swimming session. I’ll blog more on my thoughts on THAT particular issue and other observations from the hotel later this week.

Have a great rest of your week everyone.

-ML

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