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A road trip with just one parent in the front seats

Autumn is here. The change is resplendent. The colors are vibrant. It’s like a reverberating energy, a leaf’s last chance at life before falling, ending. I feel like these last months in Kansas with Eric were like those leaves. Our love had achieved its crowing beauty, then it fell.

Halloween morning at Foxy Pond.

A season is done. The season with dad, with my husband. It was perfect though. From our brunches and hikes to exploring the city with our family. New restaurants, new foods, farmers markets, new friends, new environs outside our windows.

We used to drive by this one field at dusk and count the deer. As much as I wish that season could last, it’s over. We are starting to experience life without Eric.

My little family took a huge step over our fall break four-day weekend. We took our first road trip without Eric. This was hard because I had to drive, in fact being responsible for driving all the time is one of my biggest burdens in life without a husband. I used to sit in the passenger seat enjoying a worry-free ride.

I could drink Gruet with dessert at Andres. I could sleep, read, play Words with Friends, read news articles to Eric, skip all the songs I hate but he loved. But now I have to drive. I was nervous to be in charge of a two-night, three-day trip that included eight hours of driving. But it was really ok, actually it was really fun.

Adventurous, a feeling I haven’t had room in a while.

After I picked up Liam from his first debate club meeting, we hit the road in my all-wheel drive Kia packed with snacks and electronics. I got caught up on the Tim Conway Jr. Show podcasts and the kids indulged in their electronics. I even bought Katie a Mario Cart for her new portable Nintendo that she had saved for and bought herself. The three-and-a-half-hour drive to Branson wasn’t bad, except I got drowsy so I stopped at Starbucks for a grande Pike AND got chocolate covered espresso beans. Yeah. I barely slept later that night. Note to self…

Road trip supplies!

When we arrived that evening the kids were dying to go swimming, only being a California girl, I always forget to bring swim suits when it is cold out, I forget about indoor pools. So… I went free range and let them go in their underwear and long t-shirts. And I gave them money for the arcade. This was a brilliant move because they got to have fun and get out energy while I stayed in the room and refueled with a hot shower and peace and quiet reading time.

Silver Dollar City was fun. I get such a kick out of Liam, his favorite attraction wasn’t a roller coaster or ride. It was still “Grandpa’s Mansion” which he remembered from our trip there several years ago. It’s basically a fun house that you walk through with the mirrors, slanted floors, a bed on the ceiling; all the illusions. He literally spent two hours in there. I have no idea what he was doing. Katie and I played checkers and shopped. We all got HUGE ice creams (my favorite attraction). I’d show you a picture but I’m embarrassed at how much I ate!

The next day we drove to the Laura Ingalls Wilder house and museum. This was inspirational for a fledgling writer like myself. Did you know her daughter Rose was the first successful writer in the family? She was a journalist and then wrote books. It was she who encouraged her mom to write about her pioneer days. Rose edited the books and introduced her mom to publishers. I loved seeing Rose’s writing space. I’m obsessed with writing spaces. I feel like if I design my space perfectly my writing will be perfect. I even saw the little desk where Laura wrote her books.

Maybe some day I will have royalties!

Someday I hope to get a package like this.

Laura’s desk. It’s so tiny!

Rose’s study recreated in the museum.

I was afraid what the road trip would be like without two parents in the front seats. But as we were heading home, I was filled with the peace that comes from giving your kids a great gift. We had laughed, explored, had junk food, tried new things, talked. I was on some highway enjoying the leaves, drinking coffee – half decaf, I learn from my mistakes – and listening to more Time Conway Jr. when from the back came Liam’s voice, “Hey mom, this was fun. Thanks. Let’s do it again soon.”

I reverted to my fallback these last weeks. I started to cry. Then I told them that I was really proud of us for trying something new, that I wanted them to have some fun time because of all we had been through.

Kate said, “Well mom, it was perfect but let’s bring bathing suits next time.”



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