As I grow older, the definition of a “perfect day” has evolved: What was once only dependent on the whether or not Missy and I would change out of our sweats after waking up late on a chilly Saturday morning now takes into account feeding schedules, nap times, and unpredictable levels of crankiness that comes with having four young children.
Yet despite so many variables, the last Saturday of September was as close to perfect as one day could possibly be. By 9:00AM not only were we all running on good sleep, good tempers, and a good breakfast, but we also had fabulous early fall weather outside, as well as a few events planned for the girls that would really send the day into the Stratosphere.
It all started a few days before, when Missy called me at work to ask if I thought attending Illumifest in West Des Moines on Saturday evening was a good idea. Not knowing much about it, a quick Google search gave me everything I needed to know: Illumifest is an outdoor festival put on by the City of West Des Moines each year with rides, food vendors, an outdoor movie, and fireworks capping off the night.
It sounded like the perfect way to spend the afternoon together as a family. The only sticking point being that the fireworks didn’t start until almost 9:00…if we were going to keep the girls up that late (they had never seen live fireworks before) we were going to need to do our best to wear them out beforehand to ensure good afternoon naps. This was key.
And so, by 10:00 Saturday morning, we were loading up the van to head out on our very first fall nature walk.
We didn’t have to travel far; Brown’s Woods State Park is just a few minutes by car from the homestead, and despite being in the middle of West Des Moines proper, it still has the feeling of being miles away from civilization.
While not very big (although at 484 acres, it’s the largest urban forest preserve in the state don’tcha know), there are still 2-3 miles worth of nature trails and loops interconnecting throughout the park, and the ½-mile beginner’s circuit was just the right length for our posse…
…with plenty of benches along the way, providing good resting points for snack breaks.
By the time we arrived back at our car an hour later, we were all natured out. Sadly, most of the wildlife in the area vacated at the sound of our oncoming toddler laughs and screams…
• • • • •
Our plan seemed to have worked, as afternoon naps lasted a bit longer than usual, but by 4:00PM we were packing up the van again. Missy had prepared a picnic dinner for the six of us, and had purchased ride tickets ahead of time…both of which ended up saving big time cash in the end.
With ten ride tickets each, the girls had their fill of slides,
…and even the miniature Galleon, which Rowan (to the shock of everyone) volunteered to ride on by herself.
And yes, as the ship started climbing higher, she freaked out a bit…so in hind sight, either Missy or myself probably should have hopped on with Ro too. Luckily there was another young mom sitting right in front of her (^) who reached back to hold Rowan’s hand when the ride started getting too scary. Lifesaver!
(Insert mandatory family pics!)
For dinner, we booked it across the street to a local playground so that we could remove ourselves from the chaos, spread out our blankets, and enjoy a more low key meal.
The girls played on the equipment for over an hour, and by the time the sun went down we had the stroller packed up to head back across the street for the movie.
• • • • •
The rest of the evening was bliss: we reached the hillside where the movie was playing, spread out our blankets, and snuggled up.
It was cold enough for the girls to don their footy PJ’s and they were just old enough to vaguely understand the concept of the movie showing (The Lorax). Add some fresh kettle corn in their laps, and they were in heaven.
Lola was such a trooper!!
Their attention spans waned as the movie wore on, but by that time Steve and Cindy had (thankfully) joined us so that each girl had a lap to saddle up in. And as the move wrapped up, we were hyping the fireworks…
…which began shortly afterwards. While they were a bit frightened at first, they soon realized just how cool fireworks really were, and their expressions were priceless.
The show lasted almost a full half-hour, so by the time we made it to the van (parked back across the street), it was well past 9:00PM. For three girls that are in bed by 8:00 each night, it might as well have been midnight. Back home, they were asleep before their head hit their pillows.
It’s hectic to do things like this with the girls, all the loading and packing and planning…while also making sure Lola’s needs are met as well. The easy thing to do would be to sit at home doing the same thing every weekend, but then it wouldn’t be fair for them to miss out on opportunities like this.
We just might be crazy, putting ourselves through the stress and chaos of trying to give our girls the best, but seeing their happy faces as the fireworks lit up the night sky confirmed that it was worth it in the end.