I got back yesterday from a 4.5-day road trip. It was a one-woman show. I climbed in the car on Saturday morning and took off to visit a blogging friend in Nebraska. I have a picture of her and me standing together, but it's still on the camera, and I don't feel like messing with it right now, so you'll just have to imagine us standing next to one another in her living room while her husband snapped photos of us. My charming hostess and I talked nonstop for hours (was it really hours? It only seemed like such a short time), pausing only when she was making dinner (homemade lasagna!) or when her 10-month-old daughter needed something. The daughter in question spent the evening fighting sleep, chewing on my shoe and phone, and trying to interject herself into the conversation any time she felt her input was needed. In other words, she made herself indispensable. It was such a fun evening! Lots of laughter and companionship.
The next morning I completely forgot about Daylight Savings Time and wondered why on earth I'd awakened at 7 a.m. when I'm never up before 8. Thankfully Wendy and her husband reminded me about the time change and assured me I wasn't going crazy. I was fed pancakes for breakfast and had my legs wrapped up by a demanding polydactyl cat who desperately wished to go outside. It felt like home. Instead of home, however, I climbed back into the car and headed clear across Iowa and into Illinois.
In Illinois, I visited another family. This family used to live in the Tulsa area, but they moved for the dad's job, and so we don't see one another very often. They have four kids, three of whom decided to show off their best behavior and throw tantrums right after I arrived. Mom, of course, was horrified, and I just laughed. I didn't have to worry about disciplining a single one of them! Eventually the kids settled down, and after her husband got home, she and I were shooed out the door to go have dinner and drinks somewhere kid-free. We picked a local Mexican restaurant, and we had daiquiris and enchiladas and stuffed ourselves silly and talked and cried and swapped stories and otherwise made ourselves feel much, much better. She and I were completely wiped out by the time we got back to her house, so we headed off to bed early.
On Monday morning she managed to wake far earlier than I ever would have and sneaked out the door to find pumpkin spice milk so we could have pumpkin spice lattes for breakfast. When combined with fresh cream from a nearby Amish dairy, that was a breakfast coffee I could get behind! I didn't have to leave her house till after lunch that day, so she sat down and did some school with her kids (this was a very homeschool-family-focused trip, and I didn't even intend that to happen), and I helped when she had to make or answer phone calls. She scolded me for teaching on my vacation, but her kids are largely younger than mine, and the work was different than what I do with my own, so I still felt it was a break.
Early that afternoon, I took my leave of her and drove to a state park to meet yet another family. This was another homeschool family that I'd met online, and I wasn't sure I'd be able to meet them until after I left for my trip, but it worked out. We hiked around a short trail, and the kids ran ahead and then played on the playground until it got too dark to see. I had a good time; it's so nice to meet new people!
That evening I headed to a hotel. It was my one major luxury that I allowed myself on this trip, but I enjoyed it. I took a long, hot shower - I always feel like I'm emptying hot water tanks quickly and feel guilty when I'm visiting others - and watched television while working on a cross-stitching project all evening. It was quiet, too. I loved visiting my friends and seeing them, but I am an introvert at heart, and this evening of solitude was just what the doctor had ordered.
On Tuesday morning, I left Illinois and meandered down through Missouri. I had time to kill, so I stopped at Meramec Caverns to take the tour there. It was a neat place, and if I ever go back with the kids, I'll probably do the zipline as well, but with nobody to take pictures (and it was a cold day), I didn't feel the need.
Late that afternoon, I arrived at my final overnight stop. This family has one very energetic 5-year-old boy, and he took to me immediately, though he didn't remember me from when he used to live in the Tulsa area as well. He decided I "got his game," and he begged to sit next to me at dinner. I got a giant bear hug before he went to bed, too. Again, there was chatter and laughter and lots of catching up. Yesterday morning we went to breakfast, and I came home.
Home is a good place. Home is where the children greet you at the garage door when you drive in and give you giant hugs and insist on helping you unpack. Home is where you get snuggles on the couch and people call you 'Mom' and you can take long, hot showers whenever you want and light candles and fireplaces and raid the fridge. I took my trip to relax - and in many ways, I did - but coming home brought a new level of relaxation. It felt good to walk in the door and have some ownership of the space. I'm grateful to everyone who put me up for a night, and I loved my trip, but coming home had its own charm, for sure.
Of course, the boy promptly got sick and I spent the evening and night cleaning up yark and administering breathing treatments, and we've been to the doctor today already, but ah well… at least it's home.