It seemed like such a great idea at the time. Chad and I whispered quietly about it when the kids weren’t paying attention to us. (Lets face it, they rarely pay attention to us unless they are hungry or need help reaching something from a high place–in which case they ask Chad because, unfortunately, I’m vertically challenged.) Anyway, back to our great idea. . . let’s take the kids on a surprise trip, one of us said to the other. We threw out ideas for several days, NYC? (because Chad and I have a love affair with that beautiful city), Chicago? Niagara Falls? We carefully considered each of our options and rated them against the endurance of a 10, 8, and 4 year old.
In the end, we landed on Niagara Falls because it was the closest in proximity and would require the least amount of walking. We also thought we could really gain cool parent points by taking them out of the country, right?
We had about a month to plan and this is what we came up with. . . let’s have them skip school for a day. . . why don’t we leave at 4 a.m?. . . Let’s not tell them where we are going. . .
That was the extent of our planning. Nothing more. Nothing less. Chad and I are really great planners.
Our lack of planning didn’t matter. Chad and I were so excited and we were sure our little ones would be thrilled by the big surprise.
The big adventure began just one week ago. Thursday night we put the kids to bed, kissed foreheads and Chad wished them good luck on their spelling tests the next day. (Yeah, we are really sneaky.) We packed up the car quietly and I even went so far as to walk into Meadow’s room before she had drifted to sleep and grab a stack of coloring books and crayons for the road trip, which she didn’t question at all. (Remember the above statement: they rarely pay attention to us unless they are hungry or need help reaching something from a high place.) When we went to bed Thursday night we could hardly contain our excitement.
The alarm sounded at 3 a.m. Friday morning and we began to see the flaws in our plan. Why are we up at 3 a.m.? I said, questioning our sanity. We rallied, though, and opened the bedroom doors to three sleeping children to announce our road trip. I would love to show you the video that I took of this very exciting moment, of Taza attacking Meadow at 3 a.m. and three kids looking really confused when we stood in their doorway dressed and talking loudly in the middle of the night, however, it seems when I pressed “record” on my phone, I actually didn’t press record at all.
Remember it was 4 in the morning and I had three hours of sleep.
Anyway, Charlie, Chanelle and Meadow became quickly excited when we told them about our road trip and instructed them to get into the car and go back to sleep for a few hours.
(This would be one of those–‘why didn’t we think this through’ moments.) Waking three kids up in the middle of the night and telling them they weren’t going to school and that we were going on an adventure does not lead to three quiet kids sleeping peacefully in the back of the car. Not even close. Instead, I sat next to Chad in the front seat watching street lights go by and rain pelt the windshield as questions were fired at us like missiles. . .
Where are we going?
Are we going to another state?
Which direction are we going?
Are we going to miss our soccer games?
How long have you been planning this?
What will be be doing?
We decided to throw them a bone and tell them that we were driving just four to five hours away.
Are we going to North Dakota?
(We live in Ohio, clearly we have some geography work to do.)
Our patience was wearing thin at about 4:25 a.m. NO MORE TALKING! NOT ONE MORE WORD! GO TO SLEEP! WE WILL STOP FOR BREAKFAST AND TALK ABOUT IT LATER!
It really seemed like such a great idea at the time. Obviously, it was time for a coffee stop.
It was about 4:35 in the morning when I sat up straight in my seat with a feeling of panic, oh my gosh, did they put their shoes on?! Chad just glanced at me and I didn’t need an answer. Once the sun stretched her rays above the horizon we made a stop. . .
We figure we are giving our kids quite the education in “What not to do” in the future. Namely, plan better. We stopped at breakfast and allowed the questions about our destination to fire away.
Our insistence on not telling them may have contributed to some frustration to our kids, but come on, Chad and I needed to have some fun, too. . .
They finally half-guessed and we half-revealed our destination and their excitement grew.
We arrived in Niagara about four hours before we could get into our hotel room. (Again, what were we thinking?) It was cold and dreary and did I mention cold? We took in the beauty of the Falls on the U.S. side and roamed the area for awhile.
It was a pretty amazing sight to see. However, it was cold. And windy. And cold. And the kids were hungry. And cold.
We tried hard. We really did. We tried to keep up the energy level and model gratitude for this experience, but after the 186th time hearing ‘when can we go to our hotel’ and the 312th ‘I’m hungry’ Chad and I really began to examine our own sanity for planning such an unplanned trip. It was about this time that I said to Chad, you know, these trips are always more fun after we are home and thinking back to all the good times we had. They are pretty stressful now, but once we get home, we will be so thankful.
For some reason, this fact made the entire trip better. Remembering that while we are in it, we feel stress, but later, when we are home safe and sound, we will have memories that will last a lifetime.
The Falls were great and all, but I’m pretty sure that these little squirrels were Charlie’s favorite part of the trip.
When it was time to check into our hotel, we said good-bye to the U.S. and stepped over the boarder to our hotel in Canada. After a forced nap (for Chad and I) we headed to what we knew would be their happy place.
Energy was restored and we got to business doing vacations like Chad and I like to do them. We walked. . .
We walked the streets and took in the and the sounds and we watched as our little ones experienced a world different than their own. Or, as they put it, like Columbus but different.
After a good night’s sleep we were so happy to see that Saturday brought us sunny skies and warmer temperatures.
Yes, Niagara is so, so beautiful. . .
The sound of the Falls are powerful. The sight of the midst is incredible. The beauty in nearly indescribable. We got as close as we possibly could by taking the Maid of the Mist ride.
The experience was captivating and awe-inspiring and we are so glad we did it. Still, we find our best times are simply walking and taking in our surroundings. We are simple folk, I suppose.
Oh, and our bravest of children. . .
Sometimes I wonder if she’s really one of us. There is no way any of the four of us would choose to sit in front of a crowd of people and allow Elvis to throw necklaces at us. Meadow, however, she adds something pretty special to our more laid back, introverted crew.
I’m not going to lie. Traveling with little ones and walking miles upon miles in crowds was not the simplest task in the world. Our lack of planning did not lend itself to the most easy of road trips. The trip home was unbearably long when everyone had to go to the bathroom at different times and one child actually got sick. Still, now that we are home and the dust has settled we look back at the pictures from this trip and remember nothing but perfection. And when I really consider it, if I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.