It really sucks sometimes when you have these grand plans and you try to do awesome things with your kids and they just act bratty. My friend Sara summed it up perfectly the other day when she said her kids were acting entitled. That’s exactly how our kids have been acting lately and it’s very frustrating.
It’s really hard to remember that kids were born selfish and impatient and whiny and that we have to teach them not to be that way… especially when you’re stuck in a car with them for hours. This trip just wasn’t the happy family vacation that we had planned on.
We thought that putting the kids to bed early last night might change their attitudes when they woke up, but apparently we were mistaken… Today started off disastrously. We ate breakfast at the hotel, packed up our stuff, and started driving south on I-29, straight toward Kansas City. I was so ready to just go home. We’ve never had such a disappointing trip and I sure felt like a failure. Happy family traveling is kind of our thing and we couldn’t seem to get our act together this time around.
The kids cried and cried for about 30 minutes, asking to turn around, promising they’d behave. I really wanted to believe that we could turn this trip around and have a great time, so we decided to try one more time. We ended up wasting a solid hour and a half on our detour, but I think the kids really got the point that they were going to have to behave and have fun on this trip.
After that, they did start behaving much better. Every time they’d start getting a little out of hand, I’d remind them that they promised they would behave if we kept on going instead of going home. And that seemed to help. So after our hour-long detour around the city, we finally headed west on I-94 toward Jamestown.
We arrived around lunchtime and made a pit stop at Wal-mart to get some food… Jamestown is full of fast food options, but not much else. Jamestown’s claim to fame is the world’s largest buffalo. We decided that our options for fun in North Dakota were certainly limited, so we headed to the National Buffalo Museum.
It sounds kinda lame, but the kids actually really enjoyed walking around Frontier Village and the buffalo museum. We spent about an hour and a half checking out all the old time shops. The kids especially loved the old jail where they took turns handcuffing themselves inside the jail cells.
We paid $10 to get the whole family into the buffalo museum and spent about 30 minutes walking around looking at everything. The kids were really excited to see the live buffalos behind the museum, especially the white ones. They claim to have the only 3 albino buffalos in the world.
After the buffalo museum, we drove north to Pettibone to visit some of Josh’s relatives. We seriously lucked out because they live just 5 minutes from a small lake that’s perfect for kayaking AND they had a kayak. We were really excited earlier this summer when we got a Zoik inflatable Ego Trip kayak in the email to borrow for the summer. The only problem is we hadn’t had a chance to try it out yet. So we threw it in the back of the minivan when we left town in hopes of going kayaking.
We arrived at Lake Williams in the late afternoon, threw on our swimsuits, inflated the kayak, and ran for the water. It was a very small lake but we were the only people there so it worked out perfectly! We spent about 2 ½ hours on the lake… kayaking, swimming, looking for crawdads…. The kids talked us into letting them try out the kayak alone and they did so great with it! Lia was too little to really paddle but she loved floating around on it.
But it was Max who surprised me the most. He’s been pretty reserved lately. I guess it’s part of growing up, but he’s been reluctant to try new things, especially if he’s worried that he might not get it just right. But he was very eager to try out the kayak and he even stood up and did some stand-up paddleboarding all on his own. Then he decided to paddle out deep and jump off the kayak. The kids had SO much fun that we had to drag them away from the lake with the promise that we’ll do it again soon.
After our lake adventure, we showered up and Josh took Lia for a walk around town. We barbecued with some relatives and had hoped to camp that night. The place we were staying had a huge yard with plenty of flat space and even some awesome shade trees. But right before we busted out our tent, a huge thunderstorm started rolling in and we were forced to change plans at the last minute.
We ended up sleeping all five us in a bedroom with two twin beds and hardwood floors. It worked but you can just imagine how great of a night’s sleep we all got! Either way, I was just super thankful that we had such a great day!
Full disclosure: today sucked. It was probably one of the worst travel days we’ve ever had as a family. I knew we were pushing our luck keeping the kids up so late at the Mall of America. Lia had a meltdown before we even got on the road. We met some friends for breakfast at Blackbird café. The kids were antsy and whiny and antagonizing each other the entire time we were there. (Sidenote: the food was incredible! I highly recommend this café if you’re ever visiting Minneapolis… even if you have to take grumpy kids with you.)
In an attempt to cheer everyone up a little bit, I told the kids to keep their eyes peeled for billboards with fun attractions on them. We knew we were headed to the middle of nowhere, so we weren’t exactly holding our breath that we’d find something interesting.
We lucked out and Max saw a billboard for a store that sold cheese, so we stopped. Lia and I had a battle about whether or not she was going to get out of the car, but I won. We walked around the Grande Depot and bought a couple different kinds of cheese, some bread, and I got a bottle of wine.
And then we got back on the road. We drove and we drove and finally we decided to stop and do a little geocaching in hopes of having happy kids. It seemed like our plan was going to work until we found the first geocache. It had treasure to trade, but of course only had two ninja turtles. We spent the next five minutes trying to referee the fighting over who would get a ninja turtle and who would be out of luck.
Finally Max decided he didn’t want one, but then Ava didn’t want it if Max wasn’t getting one. So Lia ended up with both ninja turtles, but then we had to find another geocache. The second one was a lot trickier and it involved Josh climbing through tall grass and all of us with biting ants crawling all over us. Luckily, Josh found the cache and it had treasure, so all was right in the world again… at least for five minutes.
From there, the day only went downhill. I have to believe the fact that we kind of accidentally skipped lunch probably only compounded the fact that everyone was over tired. Either way, we arrived in Fargo, ND around 4:30 pm and headed straight to Olive Garden for dinner. At that point, we decided to book a hotel room in Fargo instead of driving on to Jamestown that night.
I used my Priceline app to get us a room and we headed straight there. We let the kids have a quick swim in the pool, gave them a bath, let them watch a few innings of the Minnesota baseball game on tv, and then put them to bed early.
Just in case you’ve never had the privilege of trying to get three kids to go to bed in the same room, I can just tell you it’s not fun. I bet it took half an hour to get them to settle down and quit fussing about how the others were being too loud or wiggling too much. (Sidenote: I figured out the best way to put them all to bed a couple days later… I put Lia to bed first, then Ava, then Max and spaced it out about 10 minutes. That worked so much better!)
“We’re not going to ride rides until 5 o’clock,” I said for the 82nd time in less than an hour. The thing about family travel is that everyone has different expectations and different things that they get excited about. And the thing I’ve learned about my kids is that if they are excited about something that is happening later in the day, they will get so caught up in waiting for that thing that they will completely overlook anything awesome we are doing in the moment.
So I spent most of the day reminding my kids that we weren’t going to visit the amusement park in the Mall of America until 5 pm when I could get discounted wristbands. He spent most of the day irritated that the kids were so excited to visit the Mall of America. And I reminded him that they were kids and that a giant building big enough to hold a Lego store AND an amusement park AND a Noodles & Company would obviously be very exciting for kids.
But our day actually started out with a visit to the coolest (free!) playground we’ve ever visited in all of our travels! There’s a park in Bloomington that Minnesotans lovingly refer to as Chutes & Ladders. It’s actually called the Hyland Park Play Area in case you ever try to find it. We met my friend Sara there with her kids. The kids played and ran and got wet in the splash area and climbed and jumped and did monkey bars and slides and tire swings.
When they were all worn out, we headed to lunch at Punch Pizza. The food was great and the company even better. Though at one point I think there were six kids whining about not liking their pizza. Sidenote: they were crazy, because it was really good pizza. After lunch, we said goodbye to our friends and headed to the Mall of America.
We spent a solid 45 minutes at the Lego store while the kids tried to pick out a Lego set. I had no intention of buying them Legos, but when you travel with grandparents, the kids tend to get extra spoiled. Max and Lia finally picked out a set and Ava decided to get an art set instead at Barnes & Noble. We still had plenty of time to kill before 5 pm and that’s about when the whining set in. We wandered a bit and got the kids each a t shirt, then headed to the food court to grab dinner.
Five o’clock finally rolled around and we bought our wristbands for Nickelodeon Universe. Our friends the Hurlburts were going to meet us, so we decided to ride the roller coasters first since their kids are little. Awhile back, we had the idea that it would be super fun to try to ride 100 roller coasters as a family… not like in one summer, but just over time. Because roller coasters are fun and we’re adventurous. Lia is still too little to ride most coasters and a little scared too, but we’re working on that.
We decided to ride the Pepsi Coaster first since it was the least scary of the two coasters Lia was old enough to ride. I knew she would probably be scared on the other coaster, so I didn’t want to ruin it for her. All the kids loved the Pepsi coaster, so we rode it several times throughout the evening. We rode the Fairly Oddparents coaster next and as I guessed, Lia totally freaked out. She was okay though and I was proud of her for riding it.
After that, we met up with our friends and wandered around, hitting up as many rides as we had time for. Max was the only one tall enough to ride the Spongebob coaster and he absolutely loved it. I think we rode it at least 8 times. They all loved the log ride and Ghost Blasters. Josh and I rode the Avatar Airbender with Max and that was my favorite ride. I rode across from Max, so anytime the cars spun just right, I had a perfect view of his face, huge grin and all!
On our second time riding the Fairly Oddparents coaster (without Lia), I looked up and Ava was freaking out. That girl is never scared on roller coasters, so it took me by surprise. I looked closer and her mouth was full of blood! She had knocked her mouth on the hand rail and knocked out her (very!) loose tooth! She was freaking out because she couldn’t find the tooth, but we got lucky and it was in the seat next to her. People were looking at us like we were crazy when she got out of the coaster car with a bloody mouth, but we ran to the bathroom and got her all cleaned up. And when you think about it, that’s a pretty awesome way to lose a tooth!
We stayed until the kids were about to pass out. We kept trying to leave, but they would see a ride and there would be no line, so I felt like, sure, ride it, we bought the wristbands. But we had also promised to get smoothies before we left. It was so late by the time we got out of there. And even though the amusement park was pricey for a family of five, the lines were so short and the area was so small, we really were able to ride a ton of rides in the few hours we were there.