The Vacation with the “Bear” Essentials

Getting ready to hit the road with our “new” car, Mini Van Gogh

When the kids were five, we took our annual road trip to Minnesota. Before leaving, I made lists, gathered supplies, checked items off lists, and packed an incredible amount of stuff to get through a week away at the farm. For the kids, I used a huge red duffel bag, designed and made by Jason’s cousin who had a cottage industry of outdoor and camping gear. It also came with an identical cosmetic bag, a tiny replica of the big one, in which I packed some of my stuff. The giant duffel was perfect for a week’s worth of clothes for kids exploring and playing around a farm.

Once in a while on these road trips, we splurged and stayed in a motel halfway to Minnesota — somewhere in the middle of Kansas — so we didn’t have to do the entire 18-hour drive in one stretch. This trip was one of those years, and especially helpful since we left after Jason got off work and we got a late start. It was great to know we were going to stop by midnight and get some shuteye. The kids were exhausted and falling over in their car seats. Our motel room was on an upstairs floor of the motel, so we both hitched up a sleeping kid in each arm and hiked up the stairs. (Did you know that sleeping children weigh twice as much as conscious children?) As I arranged kids on beds and pulled off shoes to get them ready for more sleep, Jason unloaded the car, bringing up the luggage. He asked what I specifically needed so he wouldn’t have to completely unload the car. For the kids I said, “I just need the red duffel bag.”
 When he came back and started locking up the motel room door, I said, “Where’s the red duffel bag?”
 He said, “Right there,” pointing to it on the bed. He was pointing at the miniature red duffel cosmetic bag.
 “No, I need the big one.”
 He went back down to look some more. When he came back, he could only shrug. “That’s the only red duffel bag.”
 “Didn’t you load the red duffel bag? It was on the bed. I said to be sure and bring the red duffel bag.” I was a little frustrated.
 “I thought you meant that one.” The little one.
 The big red duffel had everything. Not only clothes, but toothbrushes, underwear, everything.
 I took a deep, loud breath. A noisy sigh. An “I can’t believe you did that can you hear the subtext in this sigh I’m making loud enough to make sure you know how frustrated I am right now?” sigh.
 Using most of Jason’s week supply of undershirts, we dressed the kids for bed, getting them out of their [now only] play clothes. Maybe he thought I was being quiet not to rouse the children. I think I was probably doing some kind of passive-aggressive silent treatment to make sure he knew he’d blown it. I used my toothbrush to brush all their teeth, and we got them to bed. They were so droopy and half asleep (or three quarters asleep) that they didn’t even know we weren’t using their own Ernie or Bert or Big Bird or Oscar toothbrushes on them.
 By morning, I might have been a little less of a grumpy pants, having gotten about four hours of sleep, so we made a plan. We’d stop somewhere along the way and find a store to see if we could find some clothes. And underwear. And toothbrushes. And everything you need for an entire week on the farm.
 At a Wal-Mart in Des Moines, we hit pay dirt. A rack of Garanimals clothing was on clearance. Those are those clothes that are interchangeable, and easy for kids to dress themselves with without looking like they need a fashion consultant. But even though they were on clearance, I just couldn’t bring myself to buy a completely new summer wardrobe for each child at the end of summer in their current sizes. They’d just outgrow them in a few months. So I went up a size on each. Plenty of room to grow. And move. And to lose their pants running across the farmyard if they weren’t careful. But what a bargain!
 We got new toothbrushes and underwear too, then got back on the road and headed to the farm with only an hour or so lost — plus one big red duffel bag. 
 Just so you know, when we got home a week later — tired, sun-soaked, mosquito bitten, and all around vacationed up — we found the big red duffel sitting right there on the bed, full of clothes that were clean, folded, and waiting to be unpacked and put away. See? Not so bad.

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