Sunday, July 30, 2017

this vacation brought to you by . . . taxpayers

Well, we made it.  We are road-weary travelers, dragging into the drive after seventeen days and 2700 miles.  We safely and successfully completed our trek through Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, and back again.

If you know me, you know I love spreadsheets and budgets and the like.  I kept tight financials throughout the trip, both because I wanted to spend as little as I could while still having an amazing time, and also because I'm not working this year and I really need to be frugal.  And I just like looking at stacks of figures sometimes (blame my accountant mother).

The numbers are in, and I'm pretty satisfied with how well we did.  

Lodging:  156.00
Fuel:  226.43
Entertainment: 214.12
Food:  469.40

Grand total:  1065.95

Per person, per day:  20.90

Before I get too smug, though, I have to admit that we are hugely indebted to the generosity of friends and family.  We only had to pay for two nights' lodging (super-fun airBnBs:  a camper in someone's backyard in St. Louis, and a tiny house on a lot with a yurt, rabbits, and a garden for the picking).  Otherwise, we stayed with loved ones.  People cooked us many meals, and took us for dinner often.  People supplied my needy children with endless snacks and drinks.  And they supplied me with endless beers.  :)

All snuggled up in the camper.
But also, I have to take a moment to thank the American taxpayer (self included, I suppose) for supplying us with amazing opportunities for fun.  I think that every single thing we did for entertainment included some element of governmental funding, whether as a public service or through grants.  Here is everything I could think of, and I'm sure I'm forgetting something:

*the Interstate system / rest areas:  our infrastructure allowed me to get safely to every destination, and we frequently packed food and ate at a rest stop for lunch - a double-win, because it saved money, and the kids could get out and run around and burn some energy.

*pools:  what more can I say?  We love a good solid aquatic center.  We visited eight different pools during the course of our trip, all of them municipal.  Some were seriously theme-park quality.  Some were just old-fashioned rectangular swimming holes.  All of them offered hours of fun and aerobic exercise for car-weary children.  Plus we worked up some serious base tans.

*museums:  City Museum in St. Louis is my all-time favorite, but we also enjoyed the exhibits at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the Ulysses Historic Adobe Museum, and the University of Nebraska State Museum.  

An excellent collection of mastodons in Lincoln!
*libraries:  the Lawrence Public Library gave us an afternoon of delightful, air-conditioned quiet fun, and the Keene Memorial Library in Fremont was a favorite destination during long, hot walks.

*zoos:  we visited the famous Omaha Zoo and it was over-the-top amazing.  Could have gone back ten different times just to cover all the different exhibits.

*farmers' markets:  we always enjoy traipsing through the Soulard Market in St. Louis.  We also spent a fun morning with family at the Mission Farm and Flower Market in Kansas City.

With all the Reeves siblings and children on the way to the Market.
*gardens:  the Denver Botanical Gardens was probably one of our top spots on this trip, after the pools.  They have an excellent kids' garden that we could have explored for many more hours.  Thanks to Sara for letting us use her membership!

*hiking:  one of the primary attractions in Colorado, outside skiing, is the amazing hikes.  Fort Collins is especially close to the Front Range, and we loved exploring a little bit of Horsetooth Reservoir with my old best friend Ryan.

*parks/playgrounds:  when all else failed, we could always find a good city park for an afternoon of playing after visiting a coffee shop.  It may not sound like much of a vacation, since we do the exact same thing in Nashville, but I love comparing how each city and town does their urban planning and layout.

Todd forgoing his shirt at Congress Park in Denver.
So . . . here's to you.  The American taxpayer.  For giving my family the opportunities of a lifetime, and so many enjoyable, affordable chances to have fun.  Oddly enough, I kinda feel like I'm being undertaxed as I consider all of this.  I know many of us are hand-wringing right now, as the current political situation has us stressed.  But I'm here to tell you that, although there is always room for improvement, we aren't doing that badly!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

decorating the hallway

I sat at a splash-pad in a community park in a lovely, gritty part of Lincoln, Nebraska.  I put my phone down.  I had thought about leaving it in the car, but the 100-degree heat didn't seem friendly to expensive electronics.  I watched with a soft smile from behind my knock-off Target shades as my son and daughter screamed with glee, chasing children and being chased across the sprays.  They slid face-first down the slide, speed increased by the lubrication from their wet swimsuits.  I glanced up at the sky, letting my eyes drift into middle distance as the clouds slowly swirled into new and interesting formations.  I felt such deep peace and satisfaction.

It had been a very hard day.  We were eleven days into our grand tour of the Midwest:  a seventeen-day road trip that would bring us to friends and family both old and new (some brand-new, in the case of the new babies that we hadn't met yet, and the new husband for my youngest cousin).  We were all feeling a little weary of this adventure, and ready for the comforts of home.  Especially Todd, who had taken to plaintively observing, "I'm more of a home person."  Vicki Jo was being more aggressive than normal (which is hard to do!), feeling a need to exert control over her environment.

But in that moment, as the damp, cool air from the sprays pleasantly washed over me, I just felt like I needed to stop and observe this moment.  It was pure joy.  Summer and swimsuits and sticky heat.  Bodies that would expend all their energy and collapse into sleep happily once the sun set.

After all, this is my hallway season.  I intend to stand here for a whole year, carefully observing circumstances and changes and my intuition.  But I don't just want to stand in a bare, uncomfortable place.  If we are going to dwell in this little hallway, we need to decorate.  We need to bring in fresh flowers.  We need to paint the walls.  We need to make it feel like the home it is going to be:  not only functional, but also beautiful.  And so, as I let joy twist my mouth into a smile at the splash-pad, I realized that these memories are decorating this hallway.  All these moments frozen in my mind, and hopefully etched onto the brains of my children, will be the perfect design scheme.

In Kansas City for my cousin Abby's wedding, we stayed with my brother and sister and their families in a beautiful airBnB in a historic part of town.  The owner had done a professional-quality job decorating and adding those special touches.  The downstairs bathroom was wallpapered in a gorgeous, bold, large-scale floral design.  It just worked perfectly in that small space.  I thought about how perfectly it would translate to the tiny little hallway in our own home.  I have been putting off painting and decorating my house for the last five years because I "haven't had time."  Well, now I have time.  And the hallway will be the first place to be re-imagined.