I take a lot of pictures, with only a fraction of them ever making it to the blog. When I post I usually say something about the picture, but behind every picture there are everyday items that go without saying.
Before these pictures you see a lovely time at the Nicollet mall in downtown Minneapolis. We headed down there because we heard it was permissible to busk on the mall and we love street performing. Additionally, with a fairly light schedule, we thought we may get some money to tide us over just a bit while we try to frame our later summer/fall travels, and a maybe even earn a bit on the side for the Mall of America.
Behind the scenes we realized it wasn't the place for us at that time with those goals. Unlike the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, and far more like the 16th Street Mall in Denver, there is a large homeless population asking for money. We would never be able to find a spot more than a few feet from a homeless person looking for their next meal. It just didn't seem the spot for busking with the kids to get travel and Mall of America money.
It would be a good spot for a ministry, sharing the Good News, gospel music, and the spread of some joy. I'd like to do more of that in the future, and we do include gospel in all of our sets, but right now busking is part of how to manage expenses, and I admit I have trouble telling the downtrodden, "Move over, we are collecting the money now, and by the way, here is a gospel song." I think that misses something. Perhaps we can sometime go down just for the ministry someday if we get more church sponsorship to cover our one real expense needs, but that isn't the case right now. In fact, we have ZERO churches in Minnesota who seemed to want anything to do with us. I have no idea why, but we called dozens and had no interest, despite knowing gospel groups that have come out of Minnesota. Maybe it's just us and Minnesota isn't where God will lead us in the future.
Off we headed to the Mall of America! In front of the picture we see the most amazing mall with shops of every kind, an indoor amusement park, American Girl Store, and so many places to eat!
Behind the scenes we have choices to make. Only one ride per child, not including indifferent twins who prefer book stores, due to a tight budget (no busking funds appeared and we have medical bills to pay... more on that). We left the bus after we ate to avoid having to eat out, and returned to fix dinner in the bus, so it wasn't the indulgence it could have been, but I really don't mind that. The point was to see the attraction, not indulge in the sensationalism. That's not why we hit the road, and managing priorities is a better lesson in life for the kids than yet one more amusement park.
Sean chose a crazy roller coaster, but Mary was limited. See, even further behind the scenes we have a young lady who has had stomach spasms and upper abdominal cramps for a month now. The first couple of weeks it was only once or twice a day, fading quickly, so we didn't figure it was urgent. When it stuck around we took her in. The first doctor misdiagnosed her with a pulled muscle or something. After a week and a half more of handling it with ibuprofen, it took a turn for the worse and we ended up in the emergency room with her on Tuesday. There they did a urinalysis, abdominal x-ray, and blood work. The diagnosis was actually a case of constipation and urinary tract infection. For the next 2 days she stayed at the bus with me, lying in bed because it was uncomfortable to stand up and walk. We have done all we could with extra water, fruit and prune juices, fiber, antibiotics, etc. This was her first day feeling bouncy and well again, though she had felt mildly nauseous that morning. We banned all crazy rides. When she saw the boring options, she decided she'd rather see what goods she can get from Build-a-Bear, and being a sucker for a sick little girl, I let her get a new dog.
She had a relapse this morning and we almost ended up back at the emergency room, but the OTC stuff I had given her finally kicked in, so she is back to her bouncy self. It would appear that days of heavy water, prune juice, and fiber is simply not enough right now, and I don't really feel like having her on laxatives constantly, so we will try to get the current problem under control, then look into diet modifications, investigating what could be the root cause. Wheat? Dairy? I am cautious about the "allergy/disorder of the month" fads that hit, but when your child is doubled over in pain, you throw out the suspicions and head for the research.
Then there is Minnesota. Beautiful, land of 10,000 lakes! I'm trying to love Minnesota. Really I am. The pictures are stunning. We found a park on a lake, with the most amazing forested areas on all sides, lily pads, and frogs.
Few have activity centers or pavilions for entertainment, since most assume people only head there for the lake, boating, swimming, etc. This means they are not looking for entertainment, which previously had been the main way we would afford our RV Parks through Texas and Arizona. State parks have daily vehicle fees, so that leaves federal parks, which rarely have full hook-ups, and never wifi.
We finally did find a reasonable park, closer to what we paid in TX, AR, MO, and AZ. As you can see from the pictures, it's pretty. It's kind of odd though. It's full of nice RVs with decks, decorations, and little yards, and it's a ghost town except for a few people who come stay at their RVs on the weekend. The "chalet" is a building with a very small game room, only open Friday night, and part of Saturday, with a little bar that sells pizza, pop, and 3.2 beer and wine. Then it goes back to being a ghost town, but at least we're left alone.
We can get wifi, but the dump station and the bathrooms are up a steep hill, and we have very small tanks. This means we take the narrow hill with the bus every few days, which we stretch that long only because we hike the narrow hill to the bathrooms the rest of the time. Except Katie. She stepped on a bee and her foot is swollen, so she doesn't have to go up the hill.
Even so, it's in our price range and doesn't charge more for kids, so we'll stay another week at the weird park, where no one bothers us. It's hot, sticky, buggy, and an hour from anywhere fun in Minneapolis, but there is a library about 7 miles away. It's a decent place to decompress after our crazy last 2 months, figure out what Miss Mary needs to get healthy again, and find a routine. When this next week is over we play at a fair a bit north from here, then we head straight to Illinois and back to the land of Thousand Trails campgrounds. I already made reservations!
Our lives are not as shiny sometimes as the pictures suggest, but that's life for everyone, right? The majority of our days are usually full of giggles, and one would never say it's boring! In fact, we're terribly blessed to get this opportunity for travel, regardless of how long it lasts. We're soaking up every minute of it we can, and are learning to trust God to handle things like schedules, where to go, and what our children need. We forget the lessons at times, but we're always brought back.
Update: Since I wrote this 2 days ago, we've had our hyper, clingy, talkative Mary back. I think we turned a corner. Now to find out how to avoid it in the future.