I made my first trip to Iowa for the Fourth of July ten years ago. Ten. 1-0. Tyson and I met a decade ago, started dating within a matter of weeks, and made the trip to Iowa together a week or so later. That my mother let me go to Iowa to meet the family of a guy I had just barely met myself is still a little baffling to me, but ten years, almost seven years of marriage, a mortgage, and three kids later, and it looks like it's worked out okay.
That first trip we passed the time of that four-hour drive listening to music (CDs) and stand-up comedy (tape adapter), and there was absolutely, positively no stopping allowed.
Our drives look a little different these days. Instead of stand-up, we sing along to the soundtrack of Moana. We make the trip in a minivan emblazoned with one of those love-em-or-hate-em family stickers on the back window instead of a slightly rusty Oldsmobile. And we've picked up a few tips along the way.
Tip #1: Stopping isn't so bad after all.
Rest stops FTW. And who needs toys when a strip of colored concrete becomes a road in their imagination? "Beep beep! I'm a car!"
Tip #2: SNACKS.
So many snacks.
Tip #3: It's good to have some helping hands when you're trying to take photos with a horde of children.
Tip #4: Uncles that don't mind toddlers joining in on their lawn games are the best.
No tip here, but according to these two, the hymnal at Grandma and Grandpa's church isn't filled with songs about Jesus, but the Moana soundtrack.
Maybe the tip is that a hymnal and a Bible without pictures can still keep them occupied? Works for me.
Tip #6: It's best to have a new baby cousin around for giggles and snuggles.
Tip #7: Bubbles. We are all about the bubbles.
Tip #8: When the power goes out due to a renegade squirrel before 8 am on the Fourth of July, you move outside for a chalk party in your pajamas in the driveway.
Tip #9: Matching outfits. Because: obviously.
Tip #9: When hosting 40+ people for the Fourth, get yourself a big grill. And a grillmaster with an impressive beard.
Tip #11: When a good percentage of those said 40+ people are small children, and it's 90+ degrees outside, break out the water.
And tip #12: When Minnesota's Largest Candy Store is on your route home, and everyone in the car is awake, and you've already been driving for approximately ALL OF THE HOURS (okay, so like 4 1/2), you STOP.
And you get some candy.
And some may be so overwhelmed by the candy, or the freedom, or the sheer excitement of it all, that they literally run through the store shrieking happily at the top of their lungs. Acting just like, well, a kid in a candy store.