This trip has been about so many things for us, but the greatest reason for leaving our jobs behind and taking our kids on the road is simple: family.
Not only have the 5 of us been needing extra special time together, but there are so many family members back east that we rarely get to see. Flying a family of 5 is so crazy expensive, and to drive so far takes so much vacation time from work, that the time we would actually have to spend with family is less than the days traveled.
Our first family stop led us to Illinois, south of Chicago to Chris' dad's house, on Father's Day. We wanted to be sure to see him on that day, along with Chris' grandpa and uncle, 3 men whom we love very much, and miss greatly. We see this side of our family far too seldom, and although we haven't been back in years, stepping out of the car felt like home instantly.
It's one of the greatest feelings in the world, don't you think? A feeling of belonging and acceptance, regardless of time passed, that envelopes you and welcomes you as you step into loving arms. Even the kids could feel it, an instant affection poured on them from the first minute...
It was a fantastic stop, so much so that we extended it by a day, not quite ready to move on. We stayed with my sweet father-in-law, as did two of our nieces in order to get maximum cousin hang out time. Chris' dad made his award winning chili, which was an all day affair, and oh so worth the wait! Chris's sisters and brother came over with their families, including our two nephews, plus his grandparents, one uncle, and one aunt, to enjoy the delicious dinner and get some great family pictures.
The kids caught fireflies, had an epic water balloon fight, played in the pool in the yard, went fishing with their great-grandpa, blew bubbles with their great-grandma, played Uno with their cousins, watched their grandpa do magic tricks, and went to a drive-in to watch Cars 3.
I think the hardest part about visiting family is leaving, and this trip was no exception. It's especially hard when you don't know when "see you next time" will come to fruition. But we know we definitely don't want so much time to pass before our next visit, and now that the girls are old enough to remember our time there, they'll be begging us to go back about 2 weeks after we get home to Arizona.
To our Illinois family, we love you, and we miss you already. Thank you for all the amazing memories!!