By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
It’s way too early on Monday morning, and here I sit, slumped over my keyboard staring bleary-eyed at the computer screen. This column is due to my editors in about seven hours, and I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus. Oh, man. I’m so hung over – but drinking didn’t do this to me. Vacationing did.
Don’t get me wrong. The vacation itself was great. But all those miles on the road and the consecutive days of non-stop summer fun with the kids have taken their toll. I feel like a leaky pool raft that has withered into a limp, crumpled heap on the floor. I’m tired. My head hurts, and I just want to sleep for awhile.
But the kids have other ideas. They are as energized as the day we left for vacation. They want to know where we’re going today and what we’re going to do. They keep climbing into my lap and asking about the day’s agenda, like three little wide-eyed fun junkies looking for their next fix.
I’ve tried to explain that our vacation is over, and now it’s time to get back to normal. “We’re not going anywhere today,” I said. “We’re just going to stay home and catch up on things we need to do.” They looked at me like I was a little bit nuts, unable to come up with a single reason why grown-ups would ever allow the vacation to end.
Our summer voyage started a week ago. We left in the evening, after Tom got home from work and we stuffed the minivan full of luggage, toys, books, games and movies to keep the kids entertained on the 11-hour car ride. We stopped once for a quick dinner and once for gas. During that last stop, I changed the kids into pajamas, hoping that would help persuade them to sleep for the remainder of the ride. A few more miles down the road, 2-year-old Kate and her 5-year-old brother Jack were snoring softly in their car seats. Seven-year-old Adam was still wide awake, giddy that he was allowed to stay up so late. He silently flashed me the thumbs-up sign every time I turned around to check on him.
We had planned to stop at a hotel shortly after midnight, but once you pass Des Moines, Iowa, the hotels are not nearly as plentiful as those huge windmills towering over vast cornfields. We ended up driving until nearly two in the morning before finding a hotel just off the interstate.
The kids were awake by 8 a.m. the next day and ready to go again. We only had two more hours to go to make it to Tom’s parents’ house in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Once we arrived, we had a delicious home-cooked meal, hot showers and comfy beds to sleep in. By the next morning, we were rejuvenated and ready to take on the Twin Cities – which, by the way, are a great place to visit in July to escape the intense heat and humidity of the South. Each day we were there, temperatures never climbed out of the lower 80s and the humidity was virtually non-existent. It was heaven.
On Day 1, we went to the largest indoor water park in America which is appropriately named “Water Park of America.” The kids loved it, and so did Tom and I because most of the kids’ pools were less than a foot deep. The place was set up like a huge playground with water running down a maze of slides, tubes and tunnels and plenty of things to keep even 2-year-olds happy and safe in the water.
On Day 2, we went to the famous “Mall of America,” which houses the nation’s largest indoor family theme park. (Indoor activities are big in Minnesota, for obvious reasons.) So we ditched our sunscreen and spent the day riding the Ferris wheel, the merry-go-round and kid-sized roller coasters. The boys even had their photo made with Sponge Bob Square Pants and then jumped around inside a huge, bouncy house shaped like a pineapple.
On Day 3, we went bowling and played in an arcade where we spent an obscene number of quarters. We even managed to find a babysitter that evening and had a grown-up dinner on the town with Tom’s parents.
The next day it was time to go. We left that afternoon headed for home, which was tough because the trip back always seems to take roughly four times as long as it did to get there. The kids started asking “How many more minutes until we get there?” about 30 minutes into the trip, so it was destined to be a very long day. But Tom was determined to get us home in one day, and we made it into our own beds shortly after midnight. It felt good to be home.
So the vacation hangover is worth it in the long run, knowing how much fun we had and having had the chance to spend time with family. All I really need is a little quiet time, a long nap and two aspirins. Tomorrow will be a better day.