By the miracle of spring, I've already finished going through all our vacation pictures. (Superb weather had us outside a lot and outdoor pictures don't produce red eyes.)
Here's the short version:
My dad flew to Kansas and then drove me and the kids to his house. It takes my parents about 10.5 hours to make the drive. It took us 15.5 hours. All of our stops were a bit slower than usual because I was handling all the car seats. (Those buckles were not designed for grandfathers.) The real complication, though, was First Daughter. Remember how she decided to potty train? She quickly figured out she could get us to stop anytime by saying she needed a bathroom. She did really well the whole trip, but my dad was bemused at best when she wanted to stop twenty minutes after we finished lunch (where we'd been "resting" for two hours).
We had a relaxing day with my parents before driving to Chicago for my sister's convalidation ceremony and a lovely reception at her new house. We stayed overnight there and spent the next day touring some local sites, including this great playground.
We also took advantage of our local science museum membership to check out a museum in the Chicago area for free. First Son and First Daughter loved the area where they could "dig" for fossils. Playing in the sand is always fun.
We drove back to my parent's house and rested for a few days before heading to another local science museum. We've visited this one before so I knew the kids would love it, though they didn't remember it. We spent the bulk of the time in the bones exhibit, but here's a picture of them painting on the glass gallery with Gram.
We had dinner with some of my high school friends and their twin girls. Pizza outside and lots of make-believe. Then we rested for a day at home. Here's the view out my parent's living room. Isn't it lovely? The weather was fantastic, so the kids ran around outside quite a bit. They loved going in and out the sliding glass door by themselves.
First Son and First Daughter had their first fishing experiences. First Daughter lasted about twenty seconds before running off, but First Son enjoyed it. He didn't catch anything, but it was a pretty windy evening so the prospects weren't great. (They also didn't take the time to dig any worms, which would have been more enticing.)
Then we drove to another city to visit my brother and his family, who had missed the ceremony due to illness. We spent the afternoon at the zoo there (discounted admission, thanks to our local membership). The kids spent the bulk of our zoo time running through sprinklers, but we did get to see them feed the sea lions. We visited my youngest sister at her new home and then headed to my brother's house for dinner. They very sweetly planned a surprise cake for my birthday (a little early). Second Daughter was crawling around under the table and came out covered in cake crumbs, so here's a picture to commemorate the event. (I've always wanted to feed cake and ice cream to my kids for the first time on their first birthday, but somehow they always seem to snag some by ten months.)
The highlight of the trip was driving back to Chicago to meet Kansas Dad after his conference for a visit to Shedd Aquarium. First Son loves "all the sharks and all the whales and all the dolphins" more than anything else and the Shedd was practically heaven.
It would have been even better if First Daughter hadn't gotten sick while we were there. Twice. We couldn't leave so we just let her sleep in the stroller. She seems to remember the visit with pleasure and says she liked the sharks the best, though she was sleeping for most of the big shark exhibit.
We drove back to my parent's house to spend Memorial Day with them and my brother's family. First Daughter kept saying "I need to go outside to play with my cousins." It was wonderful to watch them racing all around. First Son also loved playing with their puppy, which reminded us of our plans to get one for the Range this summer (while Kansas Dad is home to help house train one).
Finally, we made the drive home, Kansas Dad at the wheel this time. It was a speedy 13 hours 15 minutes. We spent quite a bit of time in the car over the course of the vacation, but the kids were amazing travelers. We may even go for another visit someday.