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Family Road trips: Good and Not-So-Good

Written by Guest Blogger Schelle Lenssen

An old proverb talks about “a journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.” My new spin on this classic wisdom is “a family road trip of 500 miles begins with the toddler throwing up in the back seat.” It certainly doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it? But pretty or not, it’s exactly how we kicked off the summer travel season.

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Every Memorial Day weekend, our family’s tradition is to travel to a cabin near Yellowstone National Park. Most years, this is one of our favorite vacations and we have accumulated many happy and fun memories after nearly a decade of trips. Unfortunately, as can happen when traveling with kids, we also have some not-so-great memories. When our oldest was a baby, we rushed her to Urgent Care when her fever got scary. Two years later, we called the Poison Control Center when she discovered, and sampled, a box of mouse poison. We’ve had vehicle issues, been caught in snowstorms, and now can add “cleaned up vomit on the roadside” to that ever-growing list of near-disastrous events.

Looking back on all the things that went wrong over the years (and almost caused me to lose my temper or sanity), it would be easy to just cancel the trip. But we don’t. We truly love that tiny spot of paradise in the mountains. My husband and I thoroughly enjoy sitting next to each other on a boat, fishing for trophy trout while our daughters get spoiled back at the cabin by their grandparents and whatever aunts and uncles made the trip. Our little girls collect wildflowers, explore streams, and talk to tiny baby bison. Our oldest daughter sometimes comes fishing and when she caught her first fish a few years ago, I could actually see her confidence and strength build with every turn of the reel. These are the reasons we keep going back year after year. A little bit of vomit from the youngest isn’t going to stop us. All the memories we make on this summer adventure – good and bad – become part of our collective family history.

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The rest of our summer is nearly all planned out. A collection of overnight camps, day camps, local Vacation Bible Schools, and sports camps will see us rushing from activity to activity. We’ve also got plenty of time for blanket forts, sidewalk chalk murals, backyard camping, and family water fights. New swimsuits and flip-flops are waiting, ready to be worn for days on end. Summer certainly doesn’t have the same structure and routine of the school year, and we try to embrace that whimsy and make the most of it. Although, if the two-year old could keep her stomach healthy and not vomit in the backseat for the remainder of the summer, that would be great too.