This was our third girl's trip to Des Moines, and quite a bit has changed in those few short years! The first time we met up was in 2011 when Val was the mother of one little boy (Kasen) and I was pregnant with Tory. Inclement weather prevented us from getting together in the spring of 2012, and in 2013 we met again with a toddler Tory, baby Linden (Val's second child), and baby Easton (Ashley's son) in tow. Val gave birth to Lucy (her 3rd child) last spring, so we skipped meeting in the spring of 2014. This year (2015), we brought four (of our six) kids with us -- Lucy (11 months), Tory (age 3), Aden (15 months), Easton (age 2) and Ashley is pregnant with a baby girl due this May. Phew! This time, Val left her big kids Kasen and Linden home with her husband to dial down a bit of the craziness, but it was still a lot of little people in one hotel room.
Our girl time over the weekend was just about as relaxing as it sounds (which is to say it was total chaos), but it was still so much fun and completely worth it. The three of us aren't together but a couple times a year, so it's always wonderful to see one other any chance we get.
Val and I left Minneapolis early Saturday morning (with Tory, Aden and Lucy). The drive to Iowa went fairly smoothly, only having to stop a few times for bathroom breaks -- mostly for Aden who had two pooplosions during the drive. One of them was particularly terrible and forced me to wash out his pants in the toilet of a Country Kitchen restaurant. Parenting badge unlocked! I can't said I've been subjected to that particular experience before. Though, if there's anyone in the world I'd chose to road trip with it's my friend Valerie because she's so understanding when it comes to kids. Between the two of us, we're able to tolerate a fair amount of crying and kid wrangling while still managing to hold a meaningful and quite enjoyable conversation with one another.
Upon arrival in Des Moines, we met Ashley and Easton at Bravo! for lunch. We were all famished, so lunch went fairly smoothly with so many little kiddos. It's hard for the kids to misbehave when they're busy shoveling their faces full of food. Aden is really into whole food lately -- not cut up into bite-size pieces -- and he devoured several chicken strips on his own during lunch. He looked so funny gnawing on a giant piece of chicken.
It was a gorgeous spring day, so we decided to take the kids to the Blank Park Zoo for the afternoon. This zoo is one of my favorites because it's small-sized and managable with kids, and the animals are close-up making it easy for even the littlest tike to see. There weren't many people at the zoo on this day despite the nice temperatures and sunshine, so we practically had the place to ourselves. We looped the zoo once and then came back to the playground equipment so Tory and Easton could burn off some energy.
After the zoo, we checked into our hotel and settled in for the night. Just like our girl's trip last time, we ordered pizza to our room for dinner and took the kids swimming in the hotel pool while we waited for our food to arrive. Ultimately, the three of us girls just wanted to hang out and talk so there's really no need to leave the hotel property. It's easier with the kids that way, too. We let Tory, Aden, Easton and Lucy scale the walls of our hotel room around for a bit, then we put them in their respective beds and pack-n-plays for the night so the adults could enjoy the rest of the evening together. Of course, just as Val, Ashley and I were ready to turn in to bed ourselves, one baby woke up and started crying which created a chain reaction amongst all of them. We got Easton, Tory and Aden back to sleep, but poor Val was up half the night with an upset Baby Lucy who didn't want to go to back to sleep in her unfamiliar surroundings.
Our trip ending all-too-quickly after breakfast at the hotel restaurant Sunday morning. We said our good-byes and departed back to our respective cities. Fortunately, the kids were so exhausted from the night before they all slept the entire drive home.
Even with less-than-stellar sleep, our 24-hour trip was totally worth it. I love spending time with Val and Ashley no matter the circumstances. We're still dreaming about a girl's weekend without the kids one day when no one's pregnant or nursing a baby. It'll happen! It just might be a few years....