“Darling, you got to let me know.
Should I stay, or should I go?”
A few days after Christmas, we were basically singing the lyrics to this well-known song by The Clash. Our previously planned day-trip to Milwaukee had been canceled due to the Stomach Bug of 2017. We were all finally healthy, and Dan and I were studying our calendar, zeroing in on the last day of the year on which we could possibly make up our trip. We arrived at our decision by using the universally acknowledged best tool for decision making: the Pro/Con List.
Cons // “If I go there will be trouble.”
- We would be exposing our now-healthy family to a cesspool of germs. (big city + public museum + restaurants)
- We had just gotten Theo sleep-trained and had enjoyed a week of almost uninterrupted nights. Was it wise to mess with his nap/sleep schedule so soon?
- Cost (gas + eating out + parking)
- We would be going while the schools were still out on Christmas break. As homeschoolers, we are a bit spoiled and prefer to visit places while most kids are in school.
Pros // “If I stay there will be double.”
- Should we really let our fear of illness keep us homebound forever? (OK, OK, my fear of illness. I’m so sick of having sick kids!)
- Theo hadn’t been taking two naps a day lately anyway, and he really went with the flow when we visited Madison for a few days in October.
- Our membership to the Madison Children’s Museum gave us free admission to the Milwaukee Public Museum, so that was some big savings!
- We’re planning a big trip near the end of 2018, so we want to get some more experience traveling with children under our belts.
- This big trip will also be consuming most of Dan’s vacation for 2018, so we won’t have another opportunity to do a day-trip with to Milwaukee this year. [Planning/executing this trip will actually be a full series. Stay tuned!]
Ultimately, the “Pros” list won out, and we decided to go. The plan was to leave home shortly after 9:00 AM, have lunch at Chick-Fil-A in the Milwaukee area (we don’t have a CFA near our hometown, and we all LOVE it so!), visit the Milwaukee Public Museum, eat dinner at Organ Piper Pizza, and be home in time for Theo’s bedtime.
Now, in retrospect, I would have done well to reread my post about traveling with littles because I made some rookie mistakes. Although I did remember to bring snacks, water, and changes of clothes for both Theo and Logan (I would end up needing them both), I did forget to administer kids’ Dramamine and bring a puke-bucket in the van, so you all know where this is going.
Although we started out about 45 minutes later than we intended, our drive started out well enough. We listened to The Green Ember and WOW Hits 2018. We were all getting hungry and were about 15 minutes out from Chick-Fil-A when we saw signs on the highway informing us that there had been a major accident, and both sides of the highway were closed up ahead. We took the next exit and only just managed to avoid a complete traffic jam. Unfortunately, we would have to take a detour that now put us 45 minutes away from Chick-Fil-A. There was some grumbling, but we all decided to hold out for CFA. Then, as we twisted and turned on the side roads, Logan announced that he felt like throwing up. I chided myself for forgetting the puke bucket and handed him the flimsy plastic bag we use for our in-vehicle trash. He made a valiant effort to get it in the bag, but, minutes later, we still had quite a mess on our hands. Then, another of my children (who is particularly sensitive to taste and smells) started gagging and saying that the smell was going to make him throw up. Dan pulled off onto another side road, and we narrowly avoided being rear-ended. Even though it was freezing, we opened the windows to get some relief from the smell. Dan and I exchanged looks. Did we even want to continue, or should we just turn back?
“All right, show of hands. Who wants to just turn around and head home?”
No one raised their hand.
“Who wants to keep going?”
All hands went up. Well, that was settled, but we warned our children that the gagging and complaining had to stop because that wasn’t helping anyone.
We finally arrived at Chick-Fil-A. Dan brought in most of the crew and ordered our food, and I stayed behind in the van with Logan. I helped him change his clothes, and I cleaned up the mess as best I could with baby-wipes and hand-wipes. Logan and I headed inside to wash up, and we found the rest of the crew already seated and digging into their food. It was a good meal (we had to order 72 chicken nuggets!!), but, afterward, we all agreed this was our least favorite CFA of the three in the Milwaukee area. It was terribly crowded (not their fault; we did arrive around noon), but the ambiance was not as warm and friendly as the other locations.
Next, we headed to the Milwaukee Public Museum. We were pretty excited that our membership to the Madison Children’s Museum got us into the MPM for free, but there must have been a special event in the area because we still had to pay $20 for parking. I know that’s pretty typical for big cities, but we’re used to free parking at home (with the occasional $2.00 parking ramp)! Shane and Conner had been to the Milwaukee Public Museum a few times before. Logan had actually been there as well, but he was a baby and didn’t remember anything. To be honest, I was kind of disappointed in my children’s lack of enthusiasm for the visit to the museum. We enjoyed the changes they had made to the “Streets of Old Milwaukee” exhibit. We always delight in the “Ancient Civilizations” exhibit, the butterfly room, and the geology exhibits. We skipped most of the “Rainforest” exhibit, as we’ve noticed it is pretty evolution-focused. Even though there were lots of opportunities for the boys to rest, and we even stopped at one point, sat down, and had a snack, we hadn’t even been there for three hours before the boys were looking glazed-eyed and complaining about how their legs, feet, eyelashes (haha), etc. hurt. I thought for sure Conner would be really excited about the special “Weapons” exhibit because he’s always making swords and “shooters” out of sticks, K’nex, and whatever else he can get his hands on. But he just wanted to cruise through without really looking at anything!
One highlight, though, was Logan’s reaction to a display of a Tyrannosaurus Rex eating a Triceratops. It’s in a dark room, the dinosaurs are extremely life-like, and horrible sounds of the T-Rex bellowing and grunting are piped into the room. As soon as Logan’s eyes fell on the gruesome scene, he froze, his little red Natives glued to the floor.
“I’m not going in there.”
“Oh, honey, it’s just pretend! Look, Daddy will hold your hand.” (I was busy wheeling Theo around in the stroller. It can be legit scary, and I was afraid Theo was going to start to cry.)
Dan and the boys observed the exhibit for several minutes. Theo tired of looking at the Ice Age skeletons and started to fuss, and I motioned for them to come.
Logan’s eyes were saucers and he walked stiffly until we were far away from the dinosaur exhibit. When he felt like he was at a safe distance, his little shoulders relaxed and he shot a big smile up at me. “Mama! That T-Rex eating the Triceratops was my favorite part!”
We left the museum earlier than we expected, which we decided was actually OK because we figured we’d beat the rush to Organ Piper Pizza. Now that is the undisputed highlight of our day-trip to Milwaukee. [Shout-out to my friend Charene for the recommendation! Thanks, girl!] We were seated at a long wooden table and handed laminated menus. When we selected what we wanted to order, we approached the bar area, placed our order, and watched for our number to be illuminated on a big Bingo-style sign. While we waited for our food, we were entertained by an extremely talented organist, whose organ was elevated on a small stage. The organ’s pipes filled two rooms behind the organ, and the organ also controlled other areas of the room, such as percussion instruments placed on high shelves and duck decoys that jumped and quacked to the melody. The organist took requests, and there was an area for children to dance. Oh my goodness, it was so unique and so much fun! Conner requested “anything from The Nutcracker” and “Jingle Bells” and was delighted when the organist played his second request. I requested “Phantom of the Opera” and received my request as well! (He played a medley.) The food was excellent, and we were very glad we had arrived early because the line to order was long as we were heading out. This was such a fun and novel experience. We can’t wait to go back!
Oh, and remember how I mentioned how I would end up needed both of the backup outfits for Logan and Theo? I already explained how and why Logan needed his. Theo needed his when we were at Organ Piper’s Pizza. I took him to the restroom to change his very wet diaper. Mid-diaper change, while he was, erm, exposed, he surprised me by relieving himself all over his clothes, the bathroom floor., and a tiny bit on me because why not?
Our ride home was relatively pleasant and uneventful. We had planned on showing the Disney version of Robin Hood, but after all the carsickness, we decided against it.
So, in sum, a majority of our calamities occurred on our way to Milwaukee, but here they are again:
- we were delayed by the highway being shut down
- Logan got carsick
- another kiddo gagged and threatened to get carsick
- we only just avoided being rear-ended
- the kids were underwhelmed by their museum experience
- the older boys got surprisingly tired and crabby after only a couple of hours at the museum
- Theo peed all over himself, the floor, and me at the restaurant
All of these things are relatively minor in the grand scheme of life. If this had been all there was, Dan and I would not have counted it an ahh-mazing trip, but we would have been glad that we had gone.
HOWEVER. A couple days later, Theo, Logan, and I all got colds. Yes, my biggest fear was realized: we were sick again! Logan’s drippy nose cleared up in a couple days. My cold lasted longer, but was also pretty mild. But poor Theo! He had a high fever that almost lasted three days (his whole body was shaking at times), was so stuffed up he had to take great gulps of air while nursing (which was painful, messy, and worrisome in equal measure), and was just miserable. We took him to a weekend clinic, and he was diagnosed with another ear infection!!! (Well, we had a good run of about three months without one, thanks to these steps!) Further, our week of uninterrupted nights was a thing of the past, and we’ve been getting up with Theo again to make sure he’s not in pain or not suffering for the ill-effects of amoxicillin if you know what I mean. Le sigh.
Even though this experience is making me super-nervous for our big trip in 2018, I am thankful for all the lessons it taught me about traveling with my kids. For example, I must always, always be prepared for carsickness.