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A trip to the big woods

April 22, 2022
by Andrew Meuleners

How is the Easter Bunny supposed to find us in Wisconsin? I am safe to write about this topic since my youngest doesn’t seem to care to read my columns. He loves reading, and if I wrote a column about someone famous or exciting, he would be all in, but since I write about boring things like our family, he doesn’t seem interested in reading about that.

 This past weekend we made our annual trek to the big woods of Wisconsin for the Easter holiday. Early on in our relationship Tiffany and I decided to spend Thanksgiving in Minnesota with my family, then Easter in Wisconsin with her family, and Christmas was a dual holiday. It has worked out reasonably well with a few minor exceptions.

This past year we have started staying in a hotel when we see my parents-in-law. They have been highly gracious for years allowing us to invade their house with kids and our dog, but we have gotten to the point where it is easier to dump everything off at a hotel and spend quality time with them. My in-laws live about three and a half-hours from us.

The kids have grown up enough that we can make the trip without stopping if we want to, which we usually try to do. Now that the oldest has his driver’s license, we send him to the store quite frequently so that he can pick up whatever we need. On this occasion, we sent him and the youngest to get snacks for them to have in the car on the trip there and back.

They came back with an interesting assortment of candy, cookies, and beverages. After the car is packed up, and everyone has settled in, we depart for what again is another unforgettable adventure in the Meuleners family history.

The car ride to Wisconsin was pretty uneventful. The entire trip, though, my youngest indulged the whole time in everything that he and his brother purchased at the store. Finally, we get to the hotel, check in to the room, and then we are off to my in-laws for dinner. We got to my in-laws, and they ordered pizza. One had cheese curds on it, and my youngest ate a good amount of that, then we were on our way back to the hotel.

Before getting to the hotel initially, we had noticed a seasonal ice cream shop had opened in the city that we were staying in and noted that it might be fun to get a scoop after dinner. So on our way back, we stopped there and got ice cream. At this point, we were all pretty full. We get back to the hotel and finish our ice cream. The youngest also has a couple of cookies as a late-night snack, and then we all go to bed.

We wake up to our youngest eating jelly beans and candy from his Easter basket in the morning. He was pretty excited that the bunny was able to find us in a hotel in Wisconsin. I told him that it was just like Santa and the Tooth Fairy. They seem to have a magical GPS tracking system for where everyone is at any given time.

He then proceeded to tell us his theory that the only reason you see Santa and the Easter Bunny once a year was because the rest of the year, they were in jail for breaking into peoples’ homes each year.

After a lengthy discussion of how that couldn’t be possible, we all decided to go and partake in the complimentary breakfast that the hotel provided to its guests.

We walk down the hall and arrive at our destination and an excellent breakfast area in the hotel.

The breakfast was nice. There were eggs, sausage, waffles, oatmeal, and many other breakfast stuff. The youngest fills his plate up and is the first to start eating. The rest of us get our food, sit down, and start chatting about our plans for the day, what has to get done, how nice the breakfast is, and then my youngest says he has to use the restroom. He also says he knows where it is, and he can go on his own.

Our youngest is eleven, and we like to give our kids independence, but we still get a little leery about letting him go off by himself, especially to public bathrooms. But we let him go, and of course, it takes him a long time to get there. So my wife and I are looking at each other and start the great debate of whether we should check on him, when we should go check on him, should we wait another minute, and by that time, we see the youngest walking back.

He sits down and has this panicked look on his face. So then we start in on all the parent questions that you ask your kid when you know something is wrong. ‘Do you feel OK?’ ‘Did something happen in the bathroom?’

He makes the typical kid responses. ‘No, everything is fine.’ ‘I am fine.’ ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’

That, of course, kicks in the more urgent parent questions and responses like ‘What’s wrong?’ ‘We know something is wrong.’ `What happened? We are not leaving until you tell us.’

He then tells us his heart hurts and doesn’t feel well. I am not normal when dealing with a kid being sick. I jump to the instant conclusion that the worst thing possible is happening. I start asking him if he feels tightness in his chest, asking him to describe the pain. In my head, I think that there is an emergency room at the hospital, and we could take him there to get him checked out.

We get back to the room, my wife gives him a TUMS, and we wait and talk about our next moves. Finally, he said that he thinks he feels better. Then he goes into the bathroom, throws up, and announces that he now feels better. Unfortunately, he just experienced his first bout of heartburn.

Now, this is where my wife and I differ. I have explained before that my wife is a teacher and therefore is hypersensitive to bringing a sick child to a place where other non-sick children will be and then letting them spread germs. She immediately says that we can’t go to Easter lunch with her family and that she has to call her parents and let them know, and of course, she is pretty upset about the whole situation.

On the other hand, I say to her that we need to pause for a second and just let the youngest rest for a little while and that I am positive that he is not sick. So we “talk about it” for a little bit and I suggest that we go, the youngest can stay in the house and the rest of us will be in the garage where the party will take place. So she calls her mom and runs down the scenario, and my Mother-in-law is good with that. Then I call my sister and brother-in-law and let them know about this situation, and they are cool with it.

So long story short, we have a great time. The youngest is feeling great by the time we leave to go home for the day. So we pack up the car again, and we are all ready to go, and I catch my youngest sneaking candy into his pocket.

He sees me catching him doing this, and he looks at me and gives me the biggest grin that shows off his dimples.

We don’t always learn from our mistakes.

Have a great week, and God bless you and your family.


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