1,134 Miles and 739 Pictures

The time had come that we were ready to take the kids on their first big road trip.
We headed back home to Northwest Indiana where I went to college in my younger years.

We packed the car and were armed with Car Bucks; the best idea ever!
When we caught the kids being good, they earned a buck. 
When they collected 5, they got to open a small wrapped prize.
 Genius.  I'm telling you - you really need to try this!
Two hours of good behavior for two Air Heads.
  To change things up a bit on the almost 9 hours drive, we played wind storm.
Never played it?  It's simple.
Roll down all of the windows and open the sunroof while driving 70 mph - instant wind storm!
   Yep.  First stop was Meijer.  This girl has to have as much chicken salad as possible when traveling to Chicago land.
There's something about going home.
Sure, we frequently visit my parent's home - but it hasn't always felt like home.
While I was away at college, they were fortunate enough to build a beautiful new home.
Although lots of wonderful memories have been made in their new home... it's different.

Jim and Zelma's home is the one I remember being my safe haven after my car accident.
The one place, 500 miles away from my real home, I knew I was loved by the closest thing to my own family.  It still feels like home. 
It brings a smile to my face to look at photos of their children and their families adorning the walls, and notice our family is included too. 
I remember the clean laundry smell.  The smell of chicken dumplins cooking on the stovetop.  The creeks in the floor. 
Jim singing 'Delta Dawn' while washing dishes.  Sammy tweeting when I walk through the front door.  Trains passing by in the middle of the night. 
Upon entering their house, a peace overtakes me.  A peace that our daughter got to experience.

 They don't call it the Windy City for no reason!
The day before we left, I was packing in a sundress {sweating} it was 80 degrees.
In Chicago, it was in the 30s and 40s - a far cry from the warm weather we were used to.
 Note: Chicago was also preparing for the Marathon and football game, which made it more crazy than usual.
 Rob kept telling Nolan that he was just a little boy in the big city.
Clearly we were tourists.  Nolan waved to everyone.  Sadly, no one waved back.
 Kensley did AMAZING with all the new sights, sounds and smells.
Rob and I agree that our kids need to get out of the West Virginia Bubble
but we had no idea how Kensley would react. 

Things couldn't have gone more smoothly.  Thank you Jesus!!!
Like every other tourist we went and saw the Cloud Gate or "The Bean".
It's made up of 168 stainless steel plates welded together, its highly polished exterior
has no visible seams. It is 33 by 66 by 42 feet, and weighs 110 tons. 

After paying $30 to park for a few hours, walking over 3 miles while carrying the kids,
we enjoyed some jelly beans when we made it back to the CRV.

 Nothing says fall like playing in a big pile of leaves.
 Ya Ya, as the kids now call Zelma, instantly shared a connection with Kensley.
Kensley would ask to be with her over Rob or I.
As bittersweet as it was, I was so thankful for her new attachment.

Kusbel Cookout
One evening we went to Rick & Elizabeth's house to roast hot dogs.
Like Kensley, my favorite part was eating the Hershey bars from the smores.

 County Line Orchard

 Poor little Nolan wanted to ride the Moo Choo but quickly realized that Daddy wasn't
riding with him and we had to be removed from the train ride.
 We took a tractor ride and got to pick our own apples from the orchard.

Of the hundreds of candy options to choose from, Nolan chose a blue tractor instead of a sugary treat.
No toys for me... I bought a few pounds of candy.  Then again, we had a long drive home, right!?!


If you ask Kensley what her favorite part about the trip was she would quickly respond, "School and Sammy Bird"
 When we first arrived she did not want to sleep... she wanted to make cards all day and all night. 
By 3 o'clock the first morning I let her get up and start crafting! 
 Rob's favorite creations to date: the self portrait of him drinking lemonade and the cherry eyes smiley face!
Kensley received "Sammy Bird" as a gift while at the Aquarium in Chicago from Rick and Elizabeth. 
 Yep!  He looks just like the real Sammy bird!

If you asked Nolan his favorite part about the trip he would say the wagon... and waving at strangers.

 This trip was the perfect reminder of what little blessings they truly are!
The kids were great on the drive home... again, car bucks are worth their weight in gold.

We made it! Over 1,100 miles.  There is no one other than this guy I'd like to be stuck in a car with for countless hours! 

I, on the other hand, was a hot mess. {insert crying like a baby while on the phone with my Dad at a random gas station} I didn't want to leave. It pained me to say goodbye. 10 years ago I said my first (of many) goodbyes. It doesn't get easier. For me... it gets harder every time. I know that you can't just run away from reality... but that is just what this trip was.  I ran away from the troubles of life here. We got there and Kensley was amazing. The fear of the unknown of returning paralyzed me.  In the past, jumping back into our normal routine proved to be challenging for Kensley. We just didn't know how things would turn out... Kensley transitioned at my parents house over night and later returned home.
  Not stressed, not nervous, not frazzled, not aggressive... just perfect!

We are claiming that a breakthrough occurred the moment Kensley stepped foot inside the Donelson's home. 
She felt happy.  She communicated she felt happy.  She wrote she felt happy. 
She hasn't been the same since... and we are happy!


☆Sara☆ said...

Wow what an amazing post! Your vacation looked like a lot of fun Anne I am so glad kensley did stop great! PS why didn't I know about car bucks when we just drove 9 hours as well!!

Christy K. said...