If you follow me on Instagram, you saw that we survived a six hour road trip to St. Louis last weekend with our three children piled into the beloved minivan. We survived and had a blast and now we know that family road trips are totally doable at this stage in life, which was something uncertain prior to this trip. Yay!
I haven't been to St. Louis in two years, when I went with Cecelia for Kim's baby shower. Many babies have been born in the past two years, my parents have officially moved away from Missouri, and life has been moving at warp speed. So it was time to revisit our old stomping grounds and oh, the memories that St. Louis holds for Nate and I.
Truman asked me one day if I had ever been to St. Louis before, and then a thousand mental images flashed before my eyes: arriving at St. Louis University as a freshman, totally clueless about what the next chapter in life would bring. Meeting Nate, meeting some of my best friends in life, graduations, engagements, and weddings. I had eight spectacular years when I called St. Louis my home. And I promptly informed Truman that yes, I had been to St. Louis before and lived there before he was even a twinkle in my eye. Isn't it weird to think about a time when our children didn't exist? It bends my mind frequently.
We planned our road trip a few months ago, deciding that we were just going for it and would hope for the best with the six hours in the car with our children. I overpacked (shocker!) because I was frazzled about temps being in the 80s down there, requiring layers and summer clothes and preparing to be in a tropical climate (exaggeration). We had a ridiculous amount of room in the back of the van, since we have all three car seats across the middle, so three smallish suitcases, the double BOB, Nate's golf clubs, and various 'mom bags' of snacks/diapers/wipes/books/activities fit without a problem. Therefore: our minivan is perfect for road trips and I really do love it with an absurd amount of intensity.
We left right after dinner on Thursday night, pulling away from the house around 6:30. Nate's parents came and got Henry later that evening and kept them at their house, spoiling their grand-dog rotten with bones and long walks and allowing him to get on their furniture. The kids were dressed in their pajamas and I was hoping they'd all fall asleep within an hour of departing, but instead we had to make our first potty stop for Cecelia within an hour. After that? Smooth sailing. The bigger kids flipped through a few books, I handed out a few snacks, we listened to music and talked but somehow avoided the iPad for the trip down to MO. Porter initially fell asleep right away, woke up for the potty break, then went back down for good around 8:30. Truman was out by 9:00 and our little hold out Cecelia finally gave in at 9:40. Before she gave in to sleep, she was chatting away, spying the gummy bears I was trying to sneak with Nate, and discussing the giant wind mills in Illinois with much gusto. Once the middle row was sawing logs, Nate and I listened to a few podcasts and before we knew it, we arrived in St. Louis. With only one stop and clocking a total of 5.5 hours, we are calling this a super successful road trip!
We carried the kids inside Hannah's house and laid them down right away, Truman and Cecelia sleeping on air mattresses in the TV room and Porter in a pack-n-play in the sewing room. Nate and I slept in their guest room which was also on the third floor and in between the other rooms where our children were--perfect set up! Even though it was midnight when we arrived, we *had* to stay up and have a drink with Hannah and Michael to catch up a bit before bed.
I think the kids slept all night this first night, possibly Truman or Cecelia needing to use the bathroom at some point, but it was a success. All three kids were awake and ready to go by 6am, so we headed downstairs where Hannah and her youngest, Hattie, were waiting for us. Hannah and Michael have three girls all around the same ages as our kids, and nearly all of our St. Louis friends have daughters! So Truman and Porter really upped the testosterone game while we were visiting and Cecelia didn't know what to do with so many girls and girlie toys.
Eventually Michael and their other two girls, Tilly and Lucy, came downstairs and we all had breakfast together while the children warmed up to each other (took maybe 2 minutes before they were bossing each other around and playing strange pretend games together). I laid Porter down for a quick morning nap around 8:45 and woke him up around 9:30 as our crew head out for the zoo. Being a Friday morning, you would assume the zoo wouldn't be inanely packed but you would assume wrong, my friends. Apparently the St. Louis zoo is a hot spot for field trips on Fridays in May, plus it's free (!!) so it's always a popular destination, but this was straight up cray. Worth it, but nuts!!
We met our friends Lindsey and Kim along with their kids (Lindsey has Caroline and Ali, Kim has Caleb--the sole boy of the kid group down there) and observed many animals in their natural habitats, including bears engaging in baby-making activities. This was probably the highlight of the zoo trip for the two dads in the group and we spent a decent amount of time watching this entertainment while the children were sufficiently confused. I forgot how spread out the St. Louis zoo is and we didn't really see a ton of exhibits, but we ended on a high note as Cecelia and Porter and I went on the carousel while Nate took Truman on the train. For what it's worth, the STL zoo train might rank higher than the MKE zoo train since there are TUNNELS, people. This was very satisfying for Truman, and at this point Cecelia was basically melting down for the first of many emotional lows on our trip.
After the train and carousel experiences we decided to get the nap-ready children home since it was nearly noon already, and then the dads went to get take out for the adults while us moms fed the kids. CC, Porter, and Lucy napped while Hattie fought hers with intensity, and Tilly and Truman watched a show before coming outside with us adults as we ate and drank beer. Yes. Both the food and the beer were from 4 Hands and I was a big fan. This was a fantastic part of the day because the weather was perfection with sunshine and upper 70 degrees and it's always awesome to catch up with old friends. Especially ones that you can pick up right where you left off, like we hadn't been apart for a few years. I love this about our St. Louis friends: no matter how much time separates our visits, it's never awkward and we have too much in common for things to feel forced.
We all showered and got ready because this was the night we had two sitters come to watch all six of our children. Porter napped for 3.5 hours and Cecelia napped for FOUR hours this day so I think the zoo and the traveling *might* have worn them out. The sitters arrived at 6:00 and I had been preparing Truman and Cecelia for this occasion, but still held my breath as we said goodbye. I wasn't sure if they'd freak out being in a new place with new friends and unfamiliar babysitters, but apparently all six kids were angels. They ate chicken nuggets, watched a movie, and even went to bed without a problem. Another lesson in 'Our Kids Surprise Us All of the Time.'
The four of us adults went to grab a drink from Olio first, where I chose a fancy cocktail called The Jabberwock and loved it. Nate regretfully picked a drink with Absinthe in it, forgetting that it tastes like black licorice and then subsequently feeling horrible for the remainder of his night. Michael had the sun glaring directly into his eyes all night, and the four of us split appetizers (Bruchetta and the assortment platter with nuts, olives, breads, etc). So good and this seemed like a very hip place, a far cry from many of our tried and true college-places of the past!
We then went to dinner at Old Standard for some classic Southern fried chicken. I like to joke that my friends from Wisconsin assume St. Louis is in 'The South' while my friends in Missouri assume Milwaukee is in Canada---and this meal made me feel right at home in The South;) Kim and her husband, and Lindsey and her husband also met us so we were a group of eight adults sans kids. Obviously very fun and I even finished a Whiskey Old Fashioned while some other girls had Mint Juleps. Yes. Please.
We got home around 10:45 and Nate basically ran up to bed since he was fighting with his drink choice from earlier. We were all pretty tired and I believe our children slept fair this night, possibly getting up again to pee and then waking for the day by 6 again. Who wants to sleep in when there is fun awaiting!?
(hair chalk this morning, and I love that the arch is on TV in the background randomly)
Saturday morning, the guys golfed and the moms took the children to playgrounds and the Famers Market in Tower Grove park. Now this *sounds * like a super fun experience and overall it was quite enjoyable, but I decided to forgo Porter's morning nap this day in the name of getting out the door by 9:00 and assuming he'd probably sleep in the stroller at some point. Nope, and he was pretty irritated that I messed with his schedule, refusing to sleep in the Ergo, the stroller, or my arms. Once he plowed through his window of fussiness he returned to his happy-go-lucky self. But Cecelia? Oh boy. She was requesting to nap by 10:30 this day and was pretty displeased with life for a bit. Admittedly, we probably did push the limit by walking all over the city (or at least it felt like it), and finally walking to lunch at Rooster around noon. The dads met us there right when Hannah and I partook in ice cold beers, and we remarked that it's really 100x easier to handle six children with added hands on deck (and with beer, duh). I had an omelette, Cecelia had nutella pancakes, and Truman had chicken fingers as we dined outside. Truman is a true Wisconsin boy and was not a huge fan of the direct sun beating down on his head, and I quickly slathered sunscreen onto my pale, Northern children's skin. But the morning WAS fun, especially in hindsight;) Cecelia got to swing at a playground, they all ran around and burned energy, Hannah and I walked approximately 10 miles and had beer with lunch. So: success.
Hannah and I drove Cecelia and Porter home for naps while the dads walked home with the double strollers and Truman + Tilly, Lucy + Hattie. We all hung out a bit and then Nate and I decided to go to Sump Coffee for a coffee purist experience. Very fancy and again, quite hip! Driving back from Sump we also observed the most interesting float/truck/entertainment ever. I do not know what the flags say, the lady in back had a see through shirt on, and the guy playing the drums is my favorite.
Also took a bunch of selfies with my buddy at this point. This kid!
Screen time for the big kids.
We all showered and got ready for the BBQ Hannah hosted for dinner. I had to wake Cecelia from her nap this day and Porter also slept a stellar amount, and then our friends Maggie and Ryan came over with their two girls, Kim and Mark and Caleb came after that. It was a fun time hanging out in glorious summer weather in Hannah's back yard. So many kids! Times have certainly changed when you compare our lives to the college years.
Attempted a panoramic, meh.
The littlest children enjoyed sitting in the BOB and eating snacks. Hattie was kind of obsessed, actually.
How did we achieve this picture?!? I have no idea, didn't even use bribes!
Miss Lucy = the sweetest.
Immobile baby in the grass.
The entire crew of eight adults and nine kids walked to Ices for elaborate ice cream that is made-to-order with liquid nitrogen (super fancy). I got a few bites of the Salted Dulce de Leche Custard but at this point in the evening, Porter was just d-o-n-e. It must have been close to 7:30 or so and he was beyond exhausted, so I had to walk him back home. And then Cecelia freaked out when I left, so Nate had to walk her back with us and Truman stayed with the rest of the group. It's hard being so far out of routine with vacation schedules in a new place, man!
You can tell by her look that she is on the verge, right?
We said goodbye to Maggie/Ryan and Kim/Mark, put the six kids to bed, and then stayed up to have one final drink with Hannah and Michael. Although we all felt like we could have gone to bed at 8:30, we managed to stay up until 10:30 somehow.
Sunday morning we all got up fairly early again, had coffee, and the guys went to get Strange Donuts for us. Why are donuts so tasty? The s'mores version was pretty amazing and the kids didn't seem to mind the sprinkles (surprise). We packed up and hit the road by 9:30, hoping to time it with Porter's first nap since we learned our lesson with trying to skip the am snooze session the day before. I really wanted to stop by SLU to show the kids the campus, go to the bookstore, and walk around but since it was Sunday the bookstore wasn't open and we also just needed to get going on our trip home. We did see the arch driving out of the city at least and someday I'd love to take the kids inside as a STL rite of passage.
Hannah's house is beyond beautiful.
We have a lot of children!
We stopped twice on the way home, once just about 1.5 hours in for CC to potty and once at the halfway point for a McDonalds lunch. Porter only slept about an hour total during the entire six our trip, and Cecelia did the same short stint. But somehow everyone was mostly happy and content---especially Truman, since he got to watch a movie on the iPad this time.
Handsome boy rocked his first long road trip! Post about his new convertible car seat coming soon.
All in all, both of the actual road trips were successful and our time in St. Louis was wonderful. Traveling with three kids is not always the most relaxing, obviously, but I was proud of how our offspring handled the trip and we all had fun visiting with our friends. Thumbs up, all around.