Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Missouri. Conquered.

I'll be honest- this might be the longest post I've ever written. I really could break this up into two parts, maybe even three but I'm too lazy to do that so here we go. 

We went to Missouri. It was (mostly) an OK time. I don't think Matt really enjoys road trips or dealing with people in general so these are kind of taxing on him but the kids and I really love it and honestly- a summer road trip is what I look forward to all year. I really spend MONTHS planning these trips out so when people start acting pissy, I take it personally. But..  more on that later. 

We left our house at 4:13 a.m. on Sunday morning, the day after we did Lucy's birthday party. Crazy? Not to us. Olivia and Jackson each had a backpack with everything they needed. If it didn't fit, they didn't bring it. I had our one suitcase for Matt and I, plus Penelope and Lucy for the whole week. I had a blue Rubbermaid tote that had all of our dry stuff (cereal, disposable bowls and spoons, snacks that were pre-bagged into baggies, extra juice boxes, cookies, and some other stuff) and our small cooler with water, our lunches for travel day, and some juices. Also had my laptop bag and cpap machine but those are small so they don't count. The good news is that we now know we can all travel, with our stuff, in the Explorer. That was a hotly contested argument and I won because I am an amazing packer. 
We got the big kids up at 4 to help us load things. We woke Pep and Lu up at 4:10 a.m. and got them right into the car and then we left. It's 100% easier to do it this way, trust me. (Everyone went to bed in their outfit for the next day.) 
I drove the first leg which SUCKED because I didn't know how foggy it gets between Duluth and Hinckley in the morning. So much so that I couldn't see anything and it was like drying into an abyss. I almost hit my first deer, too. It was just hanging in the road and thank god it saw me first and ran because I missed it by two inches at most, and I would have totaled the vehicle. No question. I've never hit a deer but I had no time to brake or swerve, nothing. So that was fun.  
Not quite to the MN/IA border we stopped for breakfast. I had muffins and juice for us, and mini donuts if they were still hungry but it ended up being perfect. 
Got back on the road and everyone was excited for Iowa because we've only driven through a small portion of it once before years ago and nobody remembered it, so I was excited to see stuff.  
We saw nothing. As it turns out, Iowa is an incredibly boring state.  A lot of corn and a lot of soybeans. Bonus though is there is almost no traffic so we had a good drive. Oh! What was cool is we saw a sign saying I-35 is a monarch butterfly path so we say hundreds of butterflies the entire way. That was actually really cool.  
Stopped for lunch at a weird little state run rest stop. They still had a working pay phone and Olivia and Jackson had never seen one. So that was kind of hilarious.  
Sandwiches, fruit, and chips for lunch in this nifty meal prep containers I found at Walmart was a total win.  
By the time we got to Missouri I was getting a little sick of the road but we had to get to Branson that day so it was a solid 14 hour driving day, which is basically our max.  
At least the kids were mostly in good spirits. Jackson slept through most of it but the girls were just fine. I'm going to interject here and tell you that in true Strand Six Vacation fashion, we had no technology. The kids had their phones but have no Wifi because we disabled it so they were basically useless. Matt and I had our phones for GPS backup and looking up nearest bathrooms and gas stations. No technology for fun. This is the second long road trip we've done with no technology and it works fine. No crying, no whining. I will do another post sometime showing you what I brought for boredom busters but we managed just fine.  
Finally, we started seeing signs for Branson so everyone kind of perked up.  
Mostly because it was BEAUTIFUL. Rolling hills of trees and rock formations and just absolutely gorgeous views.  
My favorite part about road trips isn't the activities and people, it's the scenery. It's really fun to see new places and compare it to where I live. I live in a pretty area, but this was absolutely gorgeous.  
We knew we were close when all of the Jesus stuff started popping up everywhere. The best way to describe Branson is.... it's like the Wisconsin Dells but with Jesus. The Dells has water parks EVERYWHERE but  Branson has Jesus everywhere. 
Our hotel wasn't really on the "strip" where everything was at, but it turned out to be pretty darn close so I'm glad I picked this one. And, it had 3 queen beds. I'm finding that hotels that let six people stay in one room is really, really difficult. I don't love the idea of paying for two rooms but I think that's going to be our future soon and that really sucks.  
By the time we got there it was past our normal dinner time and nobody wanted to get in the car and go anywhere so Matt went and found fast food and we called it good.  
Oh! I forgot to post this on FB or Instagram, but how amazing is my shirt? It's pretty perfect and I got lots of compliments from older people at gas stations. I'm a little disgusted the younger folk have no idea why this is funny or amazing.  
Our first full day was going to be Silver Dollar City. An amusement park with a "old America feel", so everything is set to late 1800's basically. 
We had a hot debate on whether we pay the $50 to park near the door or park in the free lot. Matt was driving so we ended up in the free lot and while that sucked in the morning because we had to walk at least a mile uphill through a barren parking lot, the walk back to the car at the end of the day was downright brutal. Usually I'm fine with him being cheap but that day I was pretty pissed off about it.  
The day was really fun though and Olivia and Jackson have already said that if there was every a chance to go back, they'd really like to go back.  
I will say that if you have smaller kids, Silver Dollar City has a lot of areas and rides for smaller kids and that was perfect for  us because Olivia and Jackson don't want to hang out with us the whole time.  
I wish I had gotten more photos of them on rides because their faces are absolutely hysterical.  

I even rode a couple of rides and that's a big deal because I get the worst motion sickness now but I mostly rode with Lucy who doesn't like fast rides, or anything that spins.  
I made the big kids go on this frog ride with the littles because I knew I wouldn't be able to fit and they had to have bigger people to go with them. This was SO FUNNY because they didn't know the frogs "hop" so when it started they burst out laughing and trying to hang on.  

Favorite part of the day? Jackson being forced onto this ride. He went up there to help Penelope and Lucy onto the ride and the person working it made him get on, so he rode the entire thing like that.  

Matt went on a few rides. I convinced him to do do this one and all five of them came out soaked head to toe. It was funny, though I don't know if he thought it was funny.  
Overall? It was a fun day. What they don't say ANYWHERE is that Silver Dollar City is basically on a mountain You are walking up and down hills all day and none of the paths are flat, it's all uneven surfaces so I wish I had rented a power scooter. I'm not even kidding. My calves were screaming by lunch time and we spent eight hours there and I had drank so much water and only peed once, so that's not good.  
At the end of the day I was so exhausted so when we went to the parking lot and I realized we had to walk alllllllllll the way to the trees? I could have collapsed right there. Matt was pissy, the kids were pissy, I was pissy, and it was just so dang hot. We made it. Barely.  
That night though we had to eat and we didn't want fast food, so we decided to try a place called Pasghetti's.  I'm a fan of pasta and so is pretty much everyone, so we thought this would be great. 

Spoiler: It was not. It was so over priced and for a place that touts "home made", it's the spaghetti you'd make at home.  It's generic sauce, frozen meatballs, frozen breadsticks you bake in 5-7 minutes and just completely disappointing. 
So we decided we would get happy with ice cream, so we stopped at this place. I know it's a tourist town but really- does everything have to be so completely over priced? Anyways, it was alright but it wasn't good enough to go a second time.  
One of the must-do items on our Missouri list was to go to a cave. Jackson and Olivia had done this before but they wanted to go again. Originally, I had found a cave in Springfield that was a ride through cave. You get in a cart thing and they guide drives you around in the cave. At this point I was trying to think of ways to slow down on spending so I saw billboards for this one right in Branson. It was $20 cheaper on the total cost and we wouldn't have to drive an hour and waste the gas, so it seemed logical to just do this one.  
You know what we should have done? Spent the money and gone to the other one because doing an hour long hike through a steep and narrow cave with two kids under five is pretty much the worst experience ever. We had whining, we had kids touching walls and me repeatedly saying, "You're killing the cave, stop touching, use the RAILING!!!". It was mean trying to not fall on my ass because it was completely wet and slippery and the concrete rail is virtually useless when it's wet and how I left there without a broken ankle, I will never know. Oh, and it was 265 stair steps and so steep. I was literally huffing by the time we got  back and that next group looked concerned. One woman asked if it was bad and I said, "Well I can barely breathe but I'm sure you'll be fine".  
To kill time we bought expensive bags of dirt and let the kids find rocks and stuff and that ended up being a two minute activity and a complete waste because they are all scattered in the bottom of my vehicle. Yay.  
My wishlist item on the trip was the Showboat. I have wanted to go on a showboat since elementary school when I had to watch the musical. I don't know why I love it, but I do and I booked the tickets before we went because I didn't want it to sell out and miss it. That was smart because the boat did sell out but we were lucky enough to get all six seats in the same row next to each other. 
It was the dinner show and if you know me, you know I am not an adventurous eater. I always eat a burger or chicken strips. Sometimes I get crazy and order a pasta or a salad but not often. The menu this night was pot roast and gravy, Caribbean chicken,  green beans, potatoes, a salad, and this raspberry lemon ice cream pie. 
Can I just tell you I ate ALL of it except the salad and the potatoes?? I'm not kidding- I ate VEGETABLES, you guys! They weren't good and I'll probably never do it again but I'm sure my body was like, "What. Is. Happening?!".  
It was really good. I cannot emphasize that enough. Everyone ate their food. Even all four kids. All four kids ate the food, you guys. This has never happened, not even with goldfish crackers.  
The show is a comedian/magician, three tap dancers, and a group of five singers and it's kind of like a variety show, I suppose.  
We had an intermission and got to wander around the boat and check out the lake, which was really pretty, and stretch our legs.  
The show itself was SO GOOD. Everyone in my family were a little annoyed we were doing this but I'm telling you- by the end of the show they were all laughing and having fun....... even Matt. If you know Matt in real life, that's a big deal. 

The next day we packed up and drove to St. Louis for part two of our Missouri adventure. In hindsight, I kind of wish we had driven to Kansas or Arkansas to see/do something to cross those off our map but I didn't think about that when planning.  
On our drive, we saw this place so we had to stop. It isn't anywhere near as cool as Minnesota's Largest Candy Store so that was disappointing.  
As soon as we got back on the road it was clear that it was going to rain. And probably rain a lot.  
The Weather Channel confirmed that and for almost the entire drive to St. Louis we were driving in the red section, so that was really fun. I am so glad Matt was driving because I didn't like it at all. But I kept seeing signs for this weird road side attraction and since we're on Route 66 it has to be legit, right?  
So we stopped. It was 100% weird and all of the employees were making jokes about your anus and saying, "have poking around Uranus!!" super loud. Very weird place.  
Obviously Matt and I got shirts, and I got my Route 66 bumper sticker and magnet. Tradition.  
I had a few things on the agenda for St. Louis, seeing The Gateway Arch was the main one. I've only driven by it once when I was nine, but Matt said he's actually been here before.  
I bought us tickets for a Riverboat Cruise but we wanted to see the Arch before so we bought tram tickets to the top. This is the door and you see the yellow part with the metal under it? That little rectangle? That's THE DOOR.  
I always forget Jackson is terrified of heights and is claustrophobic until I make him do stuff like this. He is going to need extensive counseling someday.  
 The view is pretty. 
 Not going to lie, I thought there was more to it. For how much we paid to go up.... I thought there was more to it. I also thought the windows were bigger but no, the windows are very small. 
 Olivia and Jackson nerded out though and read all of the information, looked out every window, identified buildings, etc. They really, REALLY enjoyed this. 
 I don't know what Matt thought but I am pretty sure he didn't love being surrounded by so many people, so we didn't stay up there very long. That and it was very warm so I was starting to hot flash and I had to get down. 
 We walked through the museum part and say what you will about government spending, I really like that these museums are put together because I found it all very fascinating. 

 The base of the arch. 
 After our tour of the Arch we walked to the river to get on the boat. 
 The ride was alright, but it was actually pretty short. We saw a couple of bridges, which were really pretty but do I really care about the concrete barges in St. Louis? Nope. 
 I once went on a cruise in Chicago and they told us all about the architecture, why buildings were where they were, etc and it was so great. This was kind of lame. 
 The little girls were more excited to eat popcorn, to be honest. 

 This picture is right before our cruise and this is basically how all of St. Louis went. Olivia and Jackson were sports about it all, Lucy didn't care, and Penelope was fully over all of it.  
 The last full day was going to be the St. Louis Zoo, and then the Science Center, with dinner at Blueberry Hill. That was the plan. 

So we went to the zoo first thing when it opened. I almost stole a goat. This one obviously wanted to come with me. 
 The kids loved this one a lot and I realize now it looks like they crowded him against the wall, but there is a ledge a few inches off the ground and he was just hanging out on it. 
 We walked around the entire zoo. Twice. 
 Oh, and I thought Jackson was only scared of centipedes and millipedes, turns out it's all bugs. He barely wanted to stand next to a damn sculpture of a bug. 
 This was when I was starting to get pissed off at Matt. More on that. 
 Olivia absolutely loves flamingos. They are her most favorite animal and I've always called her my flamingo because her legs/knees remind me of a flamingo and so this was the only thing she wanted to see. 
 Also, I have never identified with an animal like I did this orangutan. She has two babies. A husband. The babies were running wild all over the place, and the husband sat in the shade doing nothing. Literally nothing. Well, he played with his nipple but other than that, nothing. 

You know where she is? 
 She has a bucket on her head and hiding under a sheet. Just trying to get some peace. 

I see you, mama. I see you. 
 But then those damn kids came and took her sheet AND her bucket and were tackling her. I could have watched that all day and what was funny was there were other moms around me all saying things like, "Wow- is he just going to sit there all day?", "Man- you think the zookeepers would give her some kind of a break", etc. It was hilarious but man..... we get it, mama orangutan. 

After the zoo, it was hot. I was in head to toe pain. I'm not talking a "I'm sore and my feet hurt" pain, it felt like I had been hit by a car, then beaten with a bat, and now my bones feel like they are falling apart and disconnecting. It was painful

But you know what? I was rallying. I was going because my kids wanted to do these things and I am not going to ruin a vacation just because I hurt. Matt was so damn cranky for the entire day and he says he wasn't but you know when people have that "I fucking hate every minute of this" look? All day. We get to the car and he's extra pissy, Lucy is screaming because she's tired, Penelope is crying over a ring, and I lost it

When I say I lost it, I'm not kidding. I screamed at everyone to shut the hell up and declared we would do NOTHING. 

And nothing is what we did. 

We sat the entire night in the hotel and everyone had goldfish crackers or candy for supper because I was over the attitudes and the crying. To be fair, Olivia and Jackson were great but Matt and the littles? THE WORST. 

And I'm just so tired of it, you know? I plan and plan trips out so everyone gets a say in what we do and I just get the "I want to be anywhere but with you people" vibe from him and it's just the worst. 

So the next day we were leaving. And he tries to go to the Science Center. He made a big deal of NOT doing that before our drive home because he didn't want to get home late so that's why I purposely arranged the schedule to do it after the zoo.  So no, we are not doing it, we are going home. 

We got into an argument and I burst into tears because I'm angry, I'm sad, I've got anxiety and depression, I don't do well with change and I'm tired. I think I actually screamed and declared I wanted to go home and said that his negativity ruins everything for me and I'm absolutely sick of it.  

He, obviously, was angry. Olivia and Jackson were crying and I hear Jackson whisper, "I appreciate you mom and we like our trips." and that breaks my damn heart because this is just the worst. 

So we drove home 10.5 hours in mostly silence. 
With bathroom breaks. Because Jackson had diarrhea and that's how we ended our trip. 

So I don't know. I know this is all just passing and it's probably mostly me not being able to handle things as well. I told my therapist once that I get really irritated because pre-AFE it was just assumed that I would be the cheerleader, I would rally the troops, I'd be the positive force and Matt could just sit on the sideline and it would be fine. Except now I can't do that like I did so sometimes I need him to do it and I don't know if it's because he can't do it or he won't do it. It's like he's just waiting for me to snap out of it and do what I've always done and I don't know how to get him to understand it's on him now. He actually has to pick up the baton and run now.

I should actually write a post about what a post AFE relationship is like because it isn't just us. So many survivors talk about really struggling in their relationship afterwards because a medical crisis is one thing but when that crisis changes your spouse irrevocably, that's a problem. It's kind of beyond the "in sickness and health" thing because you still assume during that that it will be your spouse, just sick. Well I'm still his spouse but I'm not at all like old Sara. I am very much a completely different person and I think we're struggling in our own ways.


Overall it was OK. In hindsight, again, I wish we had skipped St. Louis and done something different. Let the Arch be just a stop and keep going to somewhere else. The entire city is not tourist friendly, it's dirty, it smells absolutely foul, the water there is so gross and it doesn't even feel good to shower in. Everything about the place gave me a gross feeling so no, I'll never go to St. Louis again. Willingly. 

But just the other day the kids wanted to know where our next road trip is going to be and I'm not sure. I said I would like to go to Florida to see family again next year so maybe we do Alabama? South Carolina? Georgia? We'll see. 

Do you have an idea? What is a REALLY AWESOME state to go to and why. We're open. 


Shooting Stars Mag said...

Aw, I'm sorry the trip kind of ended on a sour note. It sounds rough though. It's not easy to be go, go, go and happy when you feel AWFUL. I'm pretty sure I'd have broken down too. It sounds like the big kids had a lot of fun though, and the little ones enjoyed some things which is good - it's hard to entertain little kids 100%. lol

Well, if you want to go to Florida in the future, I recommend driving through Cincinnati, OH/Kentucky because that's where I live and I do think we have a lot of fun things to do. I can also help with finding the best deals and whatnot!! Georgia and South Carolina are always good too. Never been to Alabama, and I don't really want to because their politicians suck. LOL


Beth (Coffee Until Cocktails) said...

I agree 100% about Branson being Wisconsin Dells but with more Jesus signs and zero water parks. I've been there once and that was totally my impression of it. Agreed also on St. Louis, we have relatives there so we've been a whole bunch and I can tell you, downtown is the worst. There is better stuff on the outskirts and in the suburbs. I'm sorry it was an up and down time, I think I'd be getting frustrated toward the end too though.

Have you done South Dakota? I feel like there is a lot of family friendly stuff to do there!

The Flynnigans said...

The momma orangutan has me in stitches. LOL
I’m sorry that Matt was a dick and kinda ruined the trip for you. I’m sure your efforts were much appreciated by all of them, even if they didn’t outwardly say it.
Hugs momma xoxox.

Penny @ Penny's Passion said...

We live in St. Louis and love it! I'm so sorry you had a bad time here. You should really give it another try sometime. I would be happy to help plan some fun activities for you to do.