Fishkins Vacation Day 1 & 2

We pulled out of our driveway around 2:30 pm on June 25th. We had to pick up my brother Chris in Souix City, IA on the 26th and we wanted to drive as far as possible on the first day in order to cut down on driving time on the 26th. We hadn’t made hotel reservations for the night because we didn’t know how far we would get and we didn’t want to pressure ourselves into going farther than we felt we could just because of reservations. 
Everything started out great. The weather was wonderful, everyone was excited. We took Steven’s sister Michelle with us as our graduation gift to her. She had never been to this part of the country before and she loves the outdoors so we knew she’d enjoy it. We had decided that we would rotate one kid out of our car each day and into my mom’s car. That way they could spend some time with my mom and their uncles and they wouldn’t be on top of each other in the backseat all the time. It was the perfect plan! We started out with Micah and Jonah in our car. And they were great together! The ride was always smooth when those two were in the car together!
 We got through our part of KY, into a small corner of Indiana, into Ohio, back into Indiana and crossed into Illinois. It was in Illinois that we started to hit nasty weather. The rain was so strong, the wind blew really hard and it got super black. Come to find out later the storm we drove through spawned 2 tornadoes in Illinois so we got incredibly lucky! We had to stop at one point and take refuge in a local Dairy Queen until the storm could pass over. So sad that we had to indulge in a chicken finger basket and a s’mores Blizzard while we waited. It was awful! *wink*
But after the storm we were greeted by some pretty cool cloud formations.
We made it as far that night as Walcott, IA, a total of 498.9 miles and 10 hours of driving. We stopped at a Days Inn which, even though you could tell it was older and it needed some remodeling, was very clean. Plus we got it for under $100 a night and it included breakfast the next morning.
The next morning my mom woke up to a call from my brother that his connecting flight from Chicago to Souix City had been canceled due to the weather in Chicago. He was being rerouted to Houston and then in to Omaha, Nebraska instead. The kids had a little time to swim after they ate breakfast, which made them happy and us too because we knew that they would swim out some wiggles before we hit the road.  Oh and we played with Eli’s hair a little too! Hello mini Brianna! lol
We got on the road from Walcott around 10 am after a stop at the World’s Largest Truck Stop for a fuel up, tire air up and some coffee from Caribou (for Michael and I). 

We stopped for a picnic lunch at a rest stop in Iowa. It was a beautiful spot to stop and stretch our legs for a while. It even had a playground for the kids which helps so much when they’ve been locked in the car for so long. Like I mentioned in my last post we had packed egg salad, tuna salad, pasta salad, potato salad, bread, and chips so we could eat healthy and cheaply on the road. It was great to just be able to pull out what we needed and clean up was a breeze since we brought paper plates and plastic utensils for these kind of stops (we use reusable items when we stay put for a longer period of time but we don’t want to have to worry about washing dishes at a rest stop!)

Over the picnic we decided it didn’t make sense for everyone to go to the airport in Omaha to pick up Chris. So we decided to split up. Steven and Michelle went in my mom’s car with Jonah and Micah and headed on to our destination for the evening, Niobrara State Park. Michael, Brianna, Eli and I headed on to Omaha to get Chris. I was really surprised by Omaha! It was a cute little midwest town. Well, in reality it’s not that little, the population is almost 500,000. But it was clean and easy to navigate and I really liked it. I’d like to go back one day and actually explore it a little.
After getting Chris we drove through Nebraska and up into South Dakota to cross back over into Nebraska to reach Niobrara State Park. We drove across the Niobrara River and the Lakota Indian Reservation of Santee on our way. It was a beautiful drive part of the way through the Loess Hills, but I’ll admit that most of Iowa and southeastern South Dakota are pretty boring.
Once we arrived in Niobrara they had gotten some of camp set up. Our tent was up, mom’s was ready to go up. We got the canopy up, even though my brother kept protesting we weren’t going to need it. Well, we were awfully glad we had it the next morning when it rained for almost 2 hours straight and we needed to pack up and move on! For dinner that night we threw hot dogs and polish sausages on the grill, potato salad, pasta salad and strawberries. We got a campfire going and the kids got to make S’mores which is always a hit!

We got some rain that night but that made it all the more peaceful for sleeping. I love laying there and listening to the rain hit the roof of the tent. 
By the end of day 2 on the road we had covered 923.2 miles. Not too shabby!! And everyone was still happy so that was awesome!
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Our Griswalds Family Vacation Part I

I can’t believe it’s been 2 months since I’ve updated the blog! Why the absence? Well, there were a few reasons. 1. I was just kind of over it. I didn’t feel like I had anything to write about and I hate forcing it, you know? 2. I started scrapbooking, a lot! And I honestly just didn’t have time in the day to do both! Between the two I really love the hands on feel of scrapbooking. I love the feel of paper sliding between scissor blades. I love the creative process. It fulfills all of my creative urges! But I also can’t keep up with scrapbooking the way I’d like to so I started the blog to record the memories until I could get around to scrapping them. The scrapping took over for a while, but I’ve realized I need to find a way to do both. 3. I kind of felt for a while like blogs were becoming the new school yard. I follow so many blogs, many by moms, and I absolutely love reading them. I don’t always agree with what they might say or post but I love to see the day in and outs of other people’s lives. But I became kind of jadded seeing the way that some of these women were being judged and ridiculed on their own blogs. It felt like blogs were becoming the new mean girl central and I didn’t want anything to do with it! But after my hiatus of both reading and writing I’m missing it, so I guess it’s time to get back!
Our 15 day sojourn out west was amazing! We covered 11 states in 13 days. It was incredible! It was long! It was hard at times. But I wouldn’t trade a single minute we spent in the car, or a single dollar we spent on gas for anything in the world! We made some amazing memories on this trip and I can’t wait to share it all with you!
I thought I would start by sharing some of the things we did to get ready that made our lives so much easier on our trip. Going such a long distance and being gone for such a long time with 4 little ones definitely takes more planning. You really have to prepare yourself for every possible scenario. You will over plan because if you don’t prepare for it, it will happen!! lol
We planned for this trip for 10 months. 10 months of researching on the internet, talking

to others who had done the trip, etc. We definitely planned to do more things than we actually got to do, but that was OK because we were prepared for sites that took less time than others, sites that were farther away than we thought they would be so driving took longer, etc.

For us, getting the trailer ready with all of our camping equipment was essential. And I’m not joking when I said we have a trailer.
 She is probably our most important supply that we have!My mom bought this last summer and we took it on a few test runs. It is wonderful to have all of our camping stuff in one spot. We can drop everything on a Friday afternoon if we want and head out to camp, and all we have to pick up is some food. The trailer is set up with Rubbermaid totes in the rear for each tent (we have several). In each tote are the air mattresses for that tent, the sleeping bags and/or sheets, pillows and a rug. My back doesn’t allow me to sleep on the ground and the kids sleep better on an air mattress too. Steven and I decided to buy a sheet set to put on our mattress and we cover up with extra quilts, which are stored in their own tote. The kids each have their own sleeping bag. And we also bought pillows just to be used for camping since they always end up smelling like campfire after a while. Each tent also has a collapsible dirty clothes hamper so that dirty clothes aren’t strewn all over the tent or shoved back in suitcases and then we don’t know what’s clean and what’s dirty. Eventually I want to get a shoe rack for our tent also since we take several types of shoes (tennis shoes for everyone, flip flops for the showers, water shoes for creeking or swimming in lakes).

We have several shelves inside the trailer that hold our Dutch Ovens (we have several different sizes), various pots and pans, a wash basin that we store paper towels, napkins, etc in while we’re traveling. We have hooks to hold cooking utensils, fire utensils, bungee cords, extension cords, hoses, etc.

We have several of the 3 and 5 drawer Rubbermaid organizers. In these we store plates, bowls, cups, eating and smaller cooking utensils. Flashlights and batteries get a drawer. Drink mixes to add to water bottles get another drawer. We also have a drawer for garbage bags and ziploc bags.

We have several other Rubbermaid containers that we store food in. We have a camping stove as well as a camping kitchen, which we all pitched in and bought my mom this past year for Christmas. We keep the kitchen under our canopy which we bought new this year. It has plenty of room to put it over the back of the trailer so we can keep the doors open while we cook or to load up the trailer in the rain (like we had to do a few times on this trip!) We also have folding chairs for each person to sit around the campfire. For Eli we have a high chair that will attach to the side of any table and takes up very little space.

We have a container that holds board games, card games, bubbles, some toys for the kids in case they get bored (which I have to admit didn’t really happen but it’s better to be prepared!) We decided to take Eli’s Jumperoo and it was probably one of the best decisions we made. We were able to put him somewhere safe while we were setting up camp, cooking, etc. It gave him some exercise and it was also the only place he got a nap at times besides the car seat.We line the coolers at the door so that we can open it and get to them at any time. We came up with a general menu plan of our favorite camping meals (I’ll share some later!) and went ahead and gathered up what we already had at home to help save on some of the cost. We had quite a few things in our freezer like chicken breasts, ground beef, hamburger patties, hot dogs and sausages. The day before we left we made up a batch of egg salad, tuna salad, pasta salad, and potato salad. We used these for picnic lunches on the way out and even once we got to a few of our destinations. This saved us a ton of money, not to mention was a lot healthier than stopping at McDonald’s every day! We made sure to start out the trip with fresh bread and individuals packs of chips. We grabbed several trail mixes and different snacks in order to cut down on the junk at the gas stations. We grabbed pancake mixes and condiments. All of this pre-planning helped to make sure we were eating healthy and helped us with our bottom line (and our waist lines too! lol) In our cars we put our suitcases and a small cooler with drinks and a bag with some snacks so we wouldn’t spend a ton of money at gas stations on drinks and snacks.

Now as far as the clothes situation, being gone for 15 days meant we needed a ton of clothes. I knew that we were going to have access to laundry facilities at several of the campsites we were going to be staying in so I knew we didn’t need 15 pairs of clothes for each person. I decided to go with 10 per person in case it took a few days to get to a laundry mat, or if someone got messy and needed to use 2 outfits in a day. I also took several pairs of pajamas per person, including winter jammies since it gets cold out west at night. I took a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt for each person to change into once the sun started going down.

In order to keep all of these clothes in order I took the example of a pin on Pinterest and used gallon sized Ziploc baggies.

I wrote a name and a number on each bag and then filled it with an outfit complete with clean underwear and socks. I put pajamas in another bag. This was probably the best thing I did to prepare! There were several nights that we pulled in to a hotel at midnight or were setting up camp in the dark. This allowed us to get in each person’s suitcase, pull out a bag and know that they had a complete outfit ready for the next morning. All we had to grab was a pair of jammies and the shower tote and we could leave all the suitcases in the car and not have to completely unload and repack the next morning. It also helped when we returned home because I knew that clothes that were in baggies in the suitcases had been cleaned on the trip and didn’t need to be cleaned again. It was fabulous!!

Each child got to bring a backpack filled with toys, coloring books, books, etc. They also each have their own DVD player. I took CD cases and removed all their DVDs from their plastic cases and organized them into the CD cases. Brianna had her own and the boys had one with their movies. We also have a larger one that holds Disney movies or movies that would appeal to everyone. Each child took a blanket and their PillowPet to use in the car. They also got time on the Kindle to play games and read books if they wanted thanks to Kindle Free Time.

One of the other great things we did to prepare was to make Goodie Bags for each child. We got plain gift bags, decorated them with their names using alpha stickers from my scrapbooking stash. Then we filled them with things we picked up at the $ Spot at Target, the $ bins at Michael’s, with snacks and candy. If the kids kept good behavior in the car they got to pick something out of their bags when we stopped for lunch or for the night. Just a threat of “If you keep up this behavior you are loosing your goodie bag treat for this stop” often made them stop what they were doing. For the most part they followed the rules of the car and loved the goodies they got to draw from their bags. They had everything from a new DVD (I love the $3 movies at Target!!), new books, candy necklaces, packs of Oreos and Goldfish. They couldn’t wait to see what they might get next. And we filled those puppies so much that when we got home they still had stuff to eat, play with and enjoy. So it felt like vacation just kept going! lol I highly recommend Goodie Bags for your next trip. Yes, it cost us up front but it also was key to our kids great car behavior on 12 hour days on the road!

So, that’s what we did to prepare before we ever got on the road. Next I’ll break it down day by day because we did so much on this trip and took over 1900 pictures so you just can’t share that in one post! I hope you will enjoy seeing our trip! We definitely enjoyed it!  Any questions as we go along please ask! Here we go!!