My oldest brother, Jeremy, and sister-in-law, Jen, live down in Evansville, Indiana. My (and Travis’) last visit to their house had been when my nephew Jensen was a couple months old — he’ll be 4 in January. So we were due for a visit.
Timing-wise, it worked out best for me and the girls to go while Travis was going to be elk hunting in Colorado during October — which obviously meant he wouldn’t be joining us this time. I had a hard time deciding whether we should fly or drive. Flying sounded challenging because I’d be on my own with two kids. Never mind Emma’s craziness or Annabelle’s dependence — the sheer logistics of getting all our crap into the airport by myself were mind-boggling.
But the thought of driving 13+ hours with Emma was equally intimidating. And I had a $100 credit for Southwest, and tickets were very reasonable. So in the end, I decided to fly. We would fly from Minneapolis/St. Paul to St. Louis, where my parents would pick us up and drive us the last 3 hours.
After much thinking and strategizing, I pared our stuff down to a manageable amount: I had our jogging stroller with Annabelle’s carseat (and Annabelle), a single giant rolling duffel bag with all of our stuff, and one larger carry-on bag that contained toys/markers/iPad/snacks for entertaining the kids during the flight, as well as my small purse that contained only the essentials. For Emma’s carseat (that we would need once we got to STL), we ended up buying Annabelle’s convertible carseat early and shipping it to my parents’ house, so they brought that with them in their car (they drove the whole way).
Thursday morning, the girls and I left the house right on time. My plan was to park at an off-site airport lot so that the shuttle would pick me up at my car and drop me off right at the door. Well, right as we were driving through St. Cloud (after we had been on the road about an hour with 1.5 hours more to go), Emma puked up the copious amounts of applesauce she had just ingested. I pulled over at a gas station (soooo happy we were right by one!) and spent about 30 minutes wiping off her carseat, changing her clothes, and rinsing the dirty ones.
I didn’t feel like we had enough time for the off-site parking anymore so I decided to just park at the airport. It would mean more walking but less time waiting. We made it to the airport without further incident and got our stuff unloaded how I had planned. As we were walking through the parking garage trying to find the entrance/elevator, Emma got freaked out by all the loud noises so I pulled over and ended up putting Annabelle in the Ergobaby, Emma in the stroller and carrying the carseat in the same hand I was using to push the stroller (the other one was pulling our duffel). It was tricky to say the least.
Luckily, getting our bags checked and going through security were both a breeze. We had plenty of time so while we waited for boarding to begin, we played at the kids play area they have in MSP Terminal 2.
The flight went well. Emma got a window seat and I sat in the middle with Annabelle. Emma started getting a little impatient on the jet way before we took off because she had to be sitting down and buckled in but I turned an iPad movie on and that solved that. It was tricky nursing Annabelle on the plane because the seats are so cramped and she really dislikes the nursing cover but we made do.
When we got to St. Louis, my mom met us at baggage claim to help with all our stuff. We got everything and everyone loaded up and hit the road after a quick lunch at Culver’s. Both girls napped almost the whole way to Evansville.
That night, we got settled in at J&J’s house, ate dinner and hung out. It was really warm that day — probably mid-70s — so our bedroom upstairs was hot that first night. Thankfully it cooled down for the rest of our trip and then it was very pleasant. Emma alternated between sleeping on the air mattress with me and in Jensen’s toddler bed.
The next day (Friday), we checked out the Evansville Fall Festival (what we Midwesterners call a fair). Emma went on the several rides, including the carousel, swings and train (Jensen was not interested one bit!).
Jeremy and I went on a crazy ride called Freak Out. It didn’t look that bad from the ground but holy cow, it was crazy. I’m not a fan of roller-coasters so my mom was surprised that I was actually willing to go… she was right. I screamed so loud that my throat hurt the next day.
We also tried a bunch of different foods at the Festival, including a deep-fried Monte Cristo, kraut balls, Creamsicle float, and deep-fried pickles. My stomach and esophagus hated me later.
Saturday, we stopped by Ruby Moon winery on our way to Cates Farm in Henderson, KY. The winery had some of the best wine I’ve ever had. My favorite was a white called Stellar White. I definitely need to get some more sometime.
Cates Farm had a little of everything. They had a pumpkin patch, sandbox full of corn kernels, rubber ducky racing, slides, bouncy house, hay rides and a corn maze. We spent our first hour or 2 doing all the kid activities. Emma LOVED this big slide they had, which was just a 50-foot-long black, plastic culvert pipe. We went down it 5-6 times. She also loved the duck racing because it involved water.
She did not love the bouncy house though. She wanted to jump in it but the two times she tried, she got scared by the bigger kids and had a meltdown so I had to go in and get her out.
The only bad moment of the day was when we couldn’t find Emma for about 10 minutes. We looked everywhere we had been in the kid area… she wasn’t anywhere. It felt very surreal. We started asking employees and other patrons if they had seen her; no one had. FINALLY, we found her. Apparently, she had wandered into the corn maze alone. A wonderful lady had seen her in there and heard me calling for her, and brought her back out. Thank the Lord!
After we walked through the minion-shaped corn maze (watching Emma like a hawk), went on a hay ride, and picked out our pumpkins, we called it a day.
On Sunday, we went to J&J’s church and then just spent the afternoon at their house. Jensen and Emma painted their pumpkins and spent the rest of their time doing what they had been doing the whole trip: chasing each other around, wrestling, screaming, jumping off couch cushions, playing with toys. They had a great time together.
Monday, we packed up, ate a quick breakfast and hit the road. When we got to St. Louis, we ate lunch at a hole-in-the-wall BBQ place called Mark & Wanda’s. It had great service, great prices and great food. We’ll definitely remember that place for the next time!
The flight home went well. My mom helped me get our stuff into the airport and stood with me in the security line until I got to the TSA person. We had just enough time after getting through security to buy Emma some candy (she chose Swedish Fish), change diapers and go to the bathroom, get our stroller tagged for gate-checking, and fill up my water bottle. Then it was time to board!
When we got on the plane, I was worried that I was going to have to ask someone to move because only middle seats where left. But there were two rows on one side in the back that had a middle and aisle seat open so we sat in the very last row. Again, both girls did well and it was definitely easier to nurse Annabelle sitting in an aisle seat and not the middle.
It took us over an hour to leave the airport after we landed. First, I thought I should try to nurse Annabelle a little more so she didn’t get hungry on the way home. So we stopped at the kids play area for a bit and met another little girl named Annabelle.
Then we made our way down to baggage claim but we had taken so long, they had already moved our bags back to their offices. We walked over there, found our bag and Annabelle’s carseat, and then Emma had to poop. So we stood around for 10 minutes waiting for her and then changing her diaper.
We were finally on our way to the car except then we took the wrong elevator, so we went up, got out, got back in, went down, walked to the correct elevator, got back in, went up and got out. All that while pushing a stroller, pulling a duffel and wrangling a toddler. Ugh.
Emma then discovered moving sidewalks, which she thought were pretty fun. So we rode it a couple more times than necessary (that part of the airport was dead) just for fun.
Then came the fun of finding the car. In the midst of the chaos of getting to and into the airport, I forgot to take specific note of where I parked. I knew the general area but we had to walk around a bit before finding the car. Emma was walking and wearing her backpack leash, and she kept whining “Emma’s car. Emma’s car.” I was relieved when we finally got loaded up!
Both girls slept the whole way home and it didn’t mess with their bedtimes too much either. So all in all, it was a very successful, enjoyable (albeit exhausting) trip!