Saturday, May 30, 2015

The zest is in the journey

"And to this day I wish I had lingered a week or so...But we stupid mortals, or most of us, are always in a haste to reach somewhere else, forgetting that the zest is in the journey and not in the destination."
-Ralph D. Paine

Oftentimes I'm guilty of rushing through our days, watching the clock tick by, measuring the importance of the task at hand by the length of the list. Then one day I look at the calendar simply amazed another month has passed, season come and gone, my babies have outgrown their clothes, but only a hazy memory remains of how we got to this point. But it's as if time almost stands still when we camp. The lists are forgotten, the hustle and bustle of our schedules abandoned. We just exist in that moment. It's not always picture perfect. Our temperaments tag along for the ride. Brothers squabble. Spouses disagree. Parents and children butt heads. Families get lost. Bugs swarm and bite. Drinks spill. We exist in the moments, both good and bad, away from our bustling every day lives.

Memorial Day weekend marked our first camping trip of the season. We loaded up and headed to Madison, Wisconsin. In good old Mahlke family fashion, we got lost. No worries, though, with only a little bickering and a handful of roundabouts, we finally found the campground, set up camp and settled in for a sticky, dirt-filled weekend of family fun.

BBQ (where big brother taught little brother the fine art of cutting), family volleyball (complete with tears and tantrums), sparklers (with protective gear from the rogue sparks, of course), s'mores (oh the stickiness!), baths (dirty, dirty boys) and night-time bunk shenanigans completed our first night.

Saturday was filled with excursions away from the campground. We discovered a very fancy Target that entertained us immensely (an escalator for the shopping carts!), and we picked up a few forgotten essentials before heading to the zoo on one of the muggiest days of the season. (The one minute kiddie train ride is most definitely not worth the 30-plus minute wait in the sweltering sun.) We cooled down afterwards at our very first splash pad, which was a huge hit until a kid skidded across the slippery surface and skinned his knee.

After getting a taste of the camping fever, we are ready to get back out there again in a few weeks, to stop time and exist entirely in the  moment.

21 week baby bump.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Swollen feet in the muggy heat of Memphis.

"Only the traveling is good which reveals to me the value of home and enables me to enjoy it better."
-Henry David Thoreau

On the morning that we embarked on the last leg of our trip, we waved good-bye to my in-laws, the van reloaded and reorganized, South Carolina in the rear view mirror. Our final destination was Memphis, which we arrived at around supper time on Wednesday after a painfully long eight hour trek. Since none of us could stomach another single second in the van, we walked to a nearby pizza joint that, thankfully, had arcade games for the boys to entertain themselves. Sitting still in a fancy restaurant would have been a tall order that evening. Since the outdoor hotel pool hadn't opened yet for the season, we burned the rest of the day's pent up energy at the basketball court, using the small pink ball Spencer had scored from the claw game at the restaurant, before retiring for the night in the hotel suite. The boys cuddled on the pull-out couch, Disney Junior providing a brainless activity to fall asleep to.

Bright and early the next morning, we set out for downtown Memphis, cramming all the sights into a single exhausting and fulfilling day. First up, a monorail ride over to Mud Island River Park. Apparently all the elementary schools in the surrounding area had the same idea, the place inundated with field trip students fluttering about. The boys loved the Riverwalk, an exact scale model of the Lower Mississippi River. They flung off their shoes and jumped right into the mini river, soaking their bottoms in the process. It took a bit of convincing to pull them out in order to move on to something else.

We hit up  Beale Street mid-afternoon, right before the rush and flourish of the popular street. The music propelled us forward, eyes peeking through store windows and up at the colorful signs. We happened upon a bar with a solid wall of frozen adult beverages. We gawked at the colorful array, wishing it were another time and place (perhaps without children or a baby cooking in my tummy). Instead, we inquired about any non-alcoholic drinks, of which they had just one. They might not have contained alcohol, but we slurped those frozen pink lemonades happily. It was a hot muggy day, and my feet had swollen to twice their size from the heat and all the walking. Finally, we settled upon a restaurant for some dessert. Dave ordered gator chips, which we all gobbled up, except our pickiest eater, Spencer.

Before returning to our hotel in Germantown, we visited a little trolley and railroad museum. Although it was technically closed, the generous owners opened it up for us to tour anyway. While Spencer bustled from one exhibit to the next, Ashton and I settled in a corner with a hands-on train table. He played with all his Thomas friends while I rested my swollen feet.

For supper that night we went to a local BBQ joint recommended by a friend, Germantown Commissary. We asked for southern-style food and it's certainly what we got. Minnesota just can't compare to this type of cooking.

Friday we had a spontaneous meeting with a friend I met off Instagram, an Instameet. Heather and I have been chatting for a few years and it was fun to finally meet her and her daughter in person. The boys instantly hit it off with Tilly. Partway through the morning, Ashton shyly sent his daddy on a mission to ask a very important question to his new friend. Once Dave asked Tilly if she'd be Ashton's girlfriend, she covered her mouth with her hands and giggled uncontrollably. Apparently, she thought he was asking her to be a boy. Oh well, long distance relationships are had to maintain anyway. We ended the all-to-brief meeting with a picnic and duck-feeding before we hugged our new friends good-bye and got back on the road. Destination: home.

The drive back to Minnesota was cut considerably since we were starting in Tennessee, but it still felt like a lifetime, our home so very far away. That night we stopped right at the Iowa border, content to have made it through Missouri, and crashed in a hotel.

After driving a full morning through Iowa the next day, we howled with delight when we finally passed through the Minnesota border. We arrived home that afternoon, happy to be back, yet sad our trip was now complete. Weeks later, momentos of our vacation litter our house--ocean sand and seashells, magnets, postcards, a garden gnome, miscellaneous toys. It won't soon be forgotten, yet I am in no hurry to hop in a car for a long road trip again any time soon.