We have vacationed in Wisconsin every single summer for the past 29 years. It's one of the things I have wanted to blog about, so it would be well documented. So hang in there, it may go long.
I grew up one of six kids, on a dairy farm and we never went on a family vacation. Ever. You do remember me telling you that farmers work 24/7. Well, that's why we never vacationed. We never even went camping together.
So I had dreams of vacationing and camping with my future family... to fun, far-away places.
Fast forward, Randy & I are married. We're heading out on our first vacation. Gotta stop ya here and clarify something. It's a working vacation. Our vacations were always working vacations because we had our own full-time ministry. Randy is a Christian singer/songwriter and does concerts for a living. This is kinda embarrassing to admit, but the first time we went on a true vacation without his guitar and several boxes of CD's, was our trip to WI last October and our Disney World vacation this past January. Seriously, those were the only times we have ever gone anywhere that Randy did not have concerts booked. In 29 years!
So, back to the story. Randy & I go on a 5 week vacation after a year of marriage. My first real vacation. We load up his '69 Dodge Charger and proceed to put on several thousands miles meeting his relatives and him meeting my relatives and doing concerts throughout the country. And I quickly realize, I am in love... with traveling. So this is what I was missing! I am hooked. So I REALLY begin to dream about all the adventures our little family will someday embark upon.
Fast forward, Shawn is born, 26 years ago. At 3 months old, we put him in our yellow 2-door Datsun B210 and we're off to Wisconsin to introduce him to my family. Shawn is a great traveler. We take him again when he turns one. A year later we travel with both Shawn and our baby girl Miranda to Wisconsin. It's important that we take Miranda to meet my family too. She too, takes to traveling so well. OK, you see where I'm going here don't you. My kids LOVE Wisconsin, the farm, my family, my roots. Four years after Miranda, our son Tyler comes along and our little family is complete and I once again, imagine going on interesting, exotic vacations that will take us out of our comfort zone and expose us to other cultures and lifestyles. But every summer Randy would set up a concert tour in Wisconsin and we'd spend a month or so staying with family and friends while Randy ministered throughout Wisconsin. And it was wonderful!
Occasionally we would propose such places as Washington D.C. or Disney World, New York City or Yellowstone Park... but the kids would look at us like we were crazy and adamantly exclaim "umm, hello! The farm!" SO the farm it was, and is, and ever shall be! And we never looked back. We stopped dreaming of those other places and finally came to the conclusion that our kids had vacations others only dreamed of and it took me years to realize just how blessed we were!
And here's where I gotta brag. Our kids are the best travelers!
I guess when you put them in a car or van from the time they are born, and they know they will be there for 3 days, they catch on real quick that you don't ask if you're almost there. And another thing, some of our best vacation memories are of our times together in those tight quarters... telling funny stories, scary stories, attempting to find all 50 license plates, reading from the kids journals I kept over the years, playing each others music playlists, listening to Garrison Keillor and "Prairie Home Companion" tapes, singing the oldies and playing "ask me anything" and "movie/movie star/movie".
The van would be filled with Miranda's Barbie's, Tyler's GI Joe's and Shawn's Super Heros. I would bring duffle bags filled with dress-up clothes. I never knew what they would be dressed like when we'd pile out at various pit stops... princess Miranda, sniper Tyler or ninja Shawn! I loved their vivid imaginations.
Oh and trust me, we had our moments. It wasn't always fun and games. Have I told you that we'd sleep in the van as we'd travel? Ya, Randy and Shawn would throw some sleeping bags on the ground and Miranda, Tyler and I would curl up somewhere in the mini van. We'd wake up WAAAY TOO EARLY and all too grumpy and drive to a local grocery store, buy milk and have our cereal and donuts at a nearby picnic table.
And I'm like, what were we thinking!! Well, that we'd have crazy, fun stories to reminisce about when the kids were all grown. And guess what, that's exactly what we do!