Four years ago I traveled back to land of my childhood for a family reunion. The week prior was the week I realized, after all the time Paul spent trying to impress me and capture my attention, I was starting to develop feelings for him. The day before my scheduled departure I almost backed out the trip because I feared he'd move on to another girl once I left. That night he called the house phone and asked for my cell number. Two days later he began to text me. I spent the whole trip with my face in my little green phone like the picture above on the steps of the Saint Louis Basilica. Ever since that trip we've been together, and I have wanted to take him there and show him this place that I love.
Last Monday we finally had the opportunity to go on our first family vacation with Andrea to Southern Illinois. I have to say, it was exhausting, but once Andrea quick puking in the car she was actually a pretty adaptive little traveler. So as to not bore you too much, I'll just post some highlights from the trip. I'll also point out some major tourist attractions in case you ever decide to visit Southern Illinois as your next vacation destination.
Because my mom had had surgery 19 days before we left we had to stop every 2-3 hours. During this time Andrea and my mom would walk a bit. This was our first stop. Andrea wanted to just sit on these bumps. When we told her it was time to get back in the car. . . you can imagine the meltdown.
Paul and I found some disguise glasses in the toy box at my grandma's house. Te he.
Sleeping arrangements. Andrea did really well sharing a room with us. I was afraid that the crinkly plastic mattress covers my grandmother put on our beds would wake her up, but she didn't seem to notice any tossing and turning.
Southern Illinois tourist attraction: Hay bails.
Perfect for planking. Just saying.
Southern Illinois tourist attraction: Bug infested trees.
Southern Illinois tourist attraction: Cemeteries. We visited quite a few, and drove by at least 15 in all of our wanderings.
Southern Illinois tourist attraction: Custard Stand in Sesser, Illinois (population: 2,300). This place was where my mom worked in high school. Paul enjoyed an upside down banana split and Andrea enjoyed tasting it.
Southern Illinois tourist attraction: Old houses. This is the house my grandmother grew up in. . . not looking so good.
Southern Illinois tourist attraction: Beach.
On Thursday we went to Rend Lake. It's a man-made reservoir with a rocky little beach. This was a first beach experience for Paul and Andrea
She was a little unsure and nervous at first.
But by the end she didn't want to get out of the water.
I love her grin in the picture. If you tell her to smile and say cheese, this is what you get.
I love this girl!
We built a sand castle around Paul.
Southern Illinois tourist attraction: Bowling. (Wearing our matching family reunion T-shirts)
Family picture with happy Andrea.
This is what most of the pictures looked like. . . with screaming Andrea.
Andrea loved this basketball, much to the grand dismay of the Hatchett men.
Kitty kitty staring contest.
Southern Illinois tourist attraction: This is the water tower in Giant City. When we got to Missouri and saw a water tower I asked Paul if he knew what it was. He guessed it was some sort of sign. I couldn't believe he'd never seen a real water tower.
So, the Saturday before we left we drove to Giant City to climb a real water tower.
The view was amazing. Green as far as the eye could see.
Southern Illinois tourist attraction: Dead animals. Not only did we see some taxidermy masterpieces, but we also saw lots and lots and lots of roadkill. Yum.
This has to be a riveting magazine.
Southern Illinois tourist attraction: Chiggers. (These are not my legs, fyi.) Someone, who has asked to remain anonymous to maintain his dignity, got chiggers. Compliments of the Midwest.
I overflowed my grandma's dishwasher. This was the fifth towel we had to put under that mess.
Andrea looking off my grandmother's front porch. I have so many memories playing there.
Southern Illinois tourist attraction: Lots of small towns! There was a sign on the highway for Benton (the town where my grandma lives, population: just over 7,000) that read, "Tourist Attractions: Craft/Quilting Shop and Antiques." Who wouldn't want to vacation here?
On the way home we stopped in St. Louis so Paul could go in The Arch This is "technically" a Missouri tourist attraction, but it's only two hours from my home town, so I count it..
I personally believe it's one of the most beautiful sights in the country.
View of Saint Louis from inside The Arch.
Southern Illinois tourist attraction: The Mighty Mississippi River.
The top of the arch.
In the pod leaving The Arch. Andrea didn't like this part very much.
Southern Illinois tourist attraction: Beautiful sunsets.