Family life, Paleo-ish eating and Coping with Chronic Illness

Posts tagged ‘Missouri’


smiths at Johnah

I.LOVE.VACATIONS. Not everybody is good at vacation. I’m really good at them. Super talented.

Scott used to be bad at vacation. We’ve been married long enough now for me to know that he needs to be mentally prepped for fun and relaxation. He has this hard wiring that makes him question whether vacations are completely responsible.


When there is a blizzard, and school is canceled, Scott makes someone in our family walk down the street to look at the highschool. He wants someone else to confirm that there are indeed no cars in the parking lot. He wants to make sure his worst fear has not come true: he didn’t show up for work.

Scott’s Amish attitude can kind of ruin your fun. Not any more. I’ve worked my powers on him. After many years, he finally gets it. Yes. Vacations are expensive, but the return they give you in precious memories, bonding and relaxation makes each vacation a worthwhile investment.

If I was 20-years-old and writing the script for my life, I would include vacations to tropical islands and interesting places overseas. We would take the kids to New York City, Spain, San Francisco and Amsterdam. But that isn’t the life we have. That isn’t the life we can afford. Our life, instead, will include chapters on vacationing in Branson, Missouri.

Scott and I never thought we were a good fit for Branson. Branson has a lot of entertainment that includes singing, plenty of thick make up and big hair. Truthfully, I’ve never even liked musicals. I’ve always thought “Wizard of Oz” would be a great movie, if we didn’t have to stop for all the singing. Get on with it already.

I’m not sure Scott and I really had a choice though. For some reason Branson had its eye on us from the start. We were given two nights to Branson on our honeymoon 21 years ago. We didn’t see any shows, but we played a lot of tennis and enjoyed the scenery. Then, my parents bought a condo in Branson. We have vacationed with Scott’s whole family there and my whole family too. That was magnificent fun. Now we spend every spring break with my parents in Branson, and our children love it. I guess Branson is kind of ours.

(On our honeymoon in Branson.)


One year when Zeke was much younger, he made a poster for a school assignment that told people who he was. The poster included a picture of Branson. He said, “I vacation with my family in Branson, Missouri every year.”

I read that and thought, “We do? Oh. I guess we do.” I guess if our children think their Branson vacations are as important to mention as the color of their eyes, the sports they like and name of their pet, then those vacations are important and special.

We were craving a vacation this year. This winter was especially hard for Eddie. He was sicker than usual. Some how he managed to knock out a really impressive wrestling season. It didn’t end the way he imagined it would though. Like all tough kids who end on a loss, he had a sore heart because of it. Eddie is nothing but resilient. On the way out of the Kohl Center at the State Tournament he said to his Grandpa Dale and me, “At least we get to go see Grandma and Grandpa in Branson.”

I love you, Branson.

I’m not sure my parents were planning on coming to Branson this year. They’ve been to Branson for 23 straight winters; now their bodies are starting to resist their sharp minds.

Nobody’s talked about it, but I’m pretty sure Grandpa made a quick decision when he heard Eddie use Branson as motivation for beating the disappointment of losing. I’m pretty sure Grandpa decided right then that one way or another he and Grandma would get themselves to Branson this year, even if they had to strap themselves to our van to get there.

We spent a week in Branson. We had some silly fun too. We always do. The drive down is always part of the adventure. Scott does 90 percent of the driving. He doesn’t really trust me. He doesn’t trust me because I do wasteful things. I’m careless with the blinker. He says I turn it on well before it’s necessary, thereby causing wear and tear. The blinker then needs to be replaced sooner than if I had used it more modestly, as Scott does. I guess I just thought blinkers grew on trees somewhere. I’m spoiled. I grew up thinking that I’d never run out of blinkers. It’s just another by-product of being a spoiled American. I’m not even going to try to make excuses.

I apologized. I said that we just come from two separate worlds.

Same thing is true for the brakes. Scott informed me on the way to Branson that it is not his fault that we are going to need new brakes on the minivan pretty soon. He walks or rides his bike to work, but he says when he does drive he uses the brakes spar-ing-ly.

I said, “You rarely use the brakes? I never considered the brakes optional.”

He told me that you just have to coast and only apply the brakes in the final moment before you stop. That’s how unspoiled people use the brakes. And, it was pretty obvious that I could learn a lot from Scott.

Scott got us to Branson in record time with little use of the blinkers or brakes. It was a fun week.

On the way down to Branson I was thinking about something my brother-in-law, Tom, said a few weeks ago. Tom had a surprise party for my sister. He gathered all the guests together and told them how much he loved my sister, Gail. Tom and Gail lost their son, Ryan, in a climbing accident two years ago on Easter.

Tom told the party guests, “You don’t wait until people are in a box in the ground before you tell them how much you care about them.” Tom has walked through fire. I believe what he tells me. His words were indelicate, but sometimes that’s how it is with the truth.

I think Tom and Ryan would say the same thing is true for adventure. You only have one shot at adventure on Earth. I’ve passed up a lot of adventures. I’m going to try to stop doing that.

Our whole family went zip lining in Branson. This was a 3 hour adventure that involved crossing rope bridges and riding zip lines above the trees. We also had a pretty sweet jeep ride through the woods. I shocked my family when I told them I would be joining them for the fun. I think it made them happy.

I couldn’t get the timing down right on the zip lines. Your brake system involves pressing down on the cable above you with your gloved hand, and we all know I sure don’t know how to use the brakes. The first run I pressed too hard. I was so scared, and I wanted to slow down. I slowed down enough to stop completely before the landing. The guide had to reel me in to the tower. That’s annoying for everyone who’s waiting for the whole group to finish so they can move to the next line.

I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. The next time I didn’t apply any brake at all. I made such a fierce landing, with such velocity that Scott said both towers at the start and end of the line were shaking. The guide seemed to laugh a bit nervously when I exploded on to the scene and almost knocked him off the tower.

I jammed my ankle and my knee on that landing. Eddie says you can’t jam your ankle and knee. I beg to differ. Mine were jammed. My ankle was swollen. I know because I kept inspecting it, and I was sure to show it to anyone who was interested, or sort of interested, or not interested at all.

I had to limp quite a bit for the next few days. People asked me if I was hurt. I told them, “Oh, it’s no big deal. Just a zip lining injury. I’ve had plenty of worse injuries. It’s just something you get used to when you live for adventure.”

smith zip line

I was a little proud of myself after we did the zip lining. Especially when I saw some other moms who stayed on the ground to take pictures of their families. Another lady in our group made me look super athletic. As soon as she started down the zip line, she would start flailing her legs and bicycle kicking in a state of panic. It wasn’t pretty. She quit after the second tower.

zip line

It was an incredible week. We shopped, hiked, saw some shows, played Trivial Pursuit, tennis and cards, and ate a lot of junky food. It was so fun.

Did you know that people get depressed reading about other people’s vacations on Facebook? That makes me feel badly. Everyone has their own cool story to tell. Our story isn’t special, it’s just ours. If you need proof, I can tell you all sorts of things that will not impress you.

Let’s start with Eddie. Eddie’s 17 now. He’s old enough to pack for himself, isn’t he? Well, he had a duffel bag when he left the house. I’m not sure if he had a giant teddy bear in there, a coffee maker or a 8 loaves of bread. What he didn’t have was clothes that he could actually wear. He spent the whole week in Zeke’s sweat pants. We called them his sweat capris. He wore mismatched socks and my very mom-like tennis shoes. He only brought a pair of Crocs. Mismatched Crocs.

We made Eddie go with us to buy him a pair of tennis shoes. It was probably his least favorite part of our vacation. He and Zeke found ways to entertain themselves. I really think they make these looks work.


Our family also doesn’t always get along. We have our fights. The boys fights get a little crazy. One day they were doing a work out. They finished their workout with some wrestling in the grass. As is their habit, someone lost their temper, and the wrestling turned into a precious and loving fist fight. Olivia came running back to the condo to tell me the boys were trying to kill each other. Turns out they were scolded by an employee of the development. That sounded great to me. I hope that guy scared them too. If he could help me figure out how to set them on a path that doesn’t involve a future in MMA fighting, I’d be mighty grateful.

I did my best to punish the boys by playing a nice April Fools joke on them. We told them that the condo develpment managers were going to kick their Grandparents out of their property because of the boys misbehavior. That was mean. I saw some serious fear in their eyes.

Yep. It’s real life on vacation, but it’s still just so good. I love hanging out with these people. I love these people. I’m so grateful to have the luxury to hang out with them in such a fun place. We’re going to do it now; when we’re in a box in the ground, it’s too late.


fus ball smiths


Scott’s Favorite Holiday

NCAA Wrestling: Division 1 Championship

This past weekend was Scott’s favorite Holiday: NCAA Wrestling Championships. When the tournament has been as close as Iowa or Missouri, Scott will take our boys out of school and they go in person. I just know those trips are going to be at the top of our boys’ lists of best childhood memories. I still don’t know exactly why.

Scott is in charge of those trips. I’m not involved. It’s a good way for me to see how things would be run in our family in my absence. Not the way I’d like them to. Let’s get that straight.

Nary a hotel reservation is made, nor a single preemptive thought is given to what will be eaten or worn on these trips. I used to let this lack of preparation worry me, but now I have been forced to admit that sometimes you don’t have to be one bit prepared to have the time of your life.

Scott started going to the NCAA Wrestling Championships with his brothers many years ago, before we had kids. He and his two brothers(and sister) have always been in agreement on a lot of things. One of the things they agree on is that there is rarely a good reason to part with money. Wasting money on a bed, blankets and pillows seemed especially frivolous to those brothers.

The brothers would attend the tournament in Iowa City and just knock on the door of some people they vaguely knew when it was time to catch a few hours sleep. Those stories horrified me.

Scott was telling our kids the other night about the time his brothers and three other guys went to the tournament together. When they decided it was time to get some sleep one of the guys they were with said his friend “Sheila” said they could crash at her place.

They went to the apartment building and knocked on her door. They knocked and knocked. Then they started getting a little annoyed. I mean, she DID offer. Finally, a strange guy, who had obviously been sleeping, came to the door. Oops. Wrong apartment.

They eventually found the right apartment. They knocked again. Another strange guy came to the door. “Sheila’s” friend in the group said to the guy, “Sheila said we could stay here tonight.”

The guy’s like, “Whatever,” and let them in.

The six guys walked in and laid down on the carpeting (which you know for a FACT “Sheila”, the girl who lets large groups of strangers sleep at her house, keeps meticulously clean). They slept until it was time to go watch wrestling again.

I told Scott it’s funny how one person’s nightmare can be what another person considers a good time.

I’d like to post some pictures of these epic trips. Because Scott definitely always remembered a camera. He took a lot of pictures, and developed the pictures right away. The pictures he took look magical they way he displayed them in his scrapbooks. That’s not true. But, you knew that.

Scott’s to do list before these trips did not include remembering the camera. His to do list included one item: watch wrestling. The rest of the details he figured out as he went along.

Now my boys have similar fun NCAA Wrestling Tournament stories to tell. They talk about how hard they laughed, how awesome the wrestling was, and how great it was of their dad to splurge and buy them a piece of gum. To share.

They’re old enough now to be able to tease their dad for his funny ways; I sense that they are also being groomed. I would guess they’re quite likely some day to submit their own children to the same atrocities of cheapness come NCAA tournament time.

This year, the tournament was too far away for Scott and the boys to attend. Instead they hosted an NCAA Wrestling party at our house. Scott said he wanted it to be like the Super Bowl party he had this year. He called me one day in January and said, “I want to have a Super Bowl Party.”

That probably sounds like a normal comment to you. It made me stop what I was doing. I’ve known Scott a really long time. I’ve never heard him suggest having a party. Ever.

I asked, “What did you say? Did you just say you want to have a party? That is awesome. Who are we inviting?”

“Zeke,” he answered.

That’s for real. That conversation happened.

“Zeke? Zeke is the only person on your guest list?” I asked. “What about Eddie? Doesn’t he get to come?”

“He can come. He just doesn’t sit still, and always gets bored after a while.”

So, Eddie’s out. Zeke’s in. And that is what Scott calls a party.

They had their party, and it got a little crazy. I won’t give away all their secrets, but let me just say some some gum was split and some soda was had.

NCAA Party

*Eddie, some wrestlers and a giant chocolate bunny crashed Scott’s party. More proof that the best fun isn’t always planned.

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