Aim low and fire
My brother, his wife and their children - three of 'em ages 6, 2 and 1 - were coming for a weekend visit.
In planning for their visit and arranging extra beds and pillows and a place for the baby to sleep and five meals and dozens of snacks and three gallons of milk, it occurred to me, we might need an escape.
Seven kids. Snow and cold outside. Nothin' to do but wrestle, jump, run and dump oodles of totes of small toys in every room of the house.
We're gonna need a break.
Twenty short miles down the road is a great wildlife museum. Towering robotic animals move and help young'uns (and big'uns) to understand natural history and wildlife habitats. We'd only been one time before, so this would be perfect. Plus, my six-year-old nephew has a thing for big, intimidating wildlife.
I pitched my idea at the supper table a few days before their visit. The kids were on board. And then there was Brent.
I refuse. It's expensive and the animals aren't even real. I'm staying right here.
He's the eternal pessimist.
But, we'll need something to do with all these kids, and it's a great experience for them.
I'm the eternal optimist.
It's a happy marriage.
I'm absolutely not going.
His resolve was palatable.
I didn't think. I aimed low. And I fired.
Going to high school basketball games and eating cheap Mexican food isn't giving your children experiences in the world.
He didn't fire back. He was sunk.
Brent and I both had a rural Kansas childhood experience. We were 4H and FFA members. We raised and showed livestock. We played and worked on the farm. And the similarities stop there.
My Mom and Dad embraced the hard work that comes with a family farm lifestyle. But they always had a way to make time for fun, time for a family vacation, time for a new restaurant or a museum or a festival or literature - both old and new.
None of these experiences were extravagant. We couldn't afford that. But our location, in northeast Kansas, accessible to the major metropolitan area of Kansas City, gave us a chance to see the world beyond our family farm. My parents took great pride in making sure we understood we were swimming in a small pond.
Brent's location - in southwest Kansas - left them isolated from much beyond the borders of their city. Seven hours drive to Kansas City. Six hours drive to Denver. Isolated.
And his parents placed an even greater emphasis on farm work. A family vacation meant taking 4H animals to a livestock show. He didn't play high school sports. He still hasn't seen the ocean.
To him, going to high school basketball games and taking the kids out for a quick meal at the Mexican food joint is doing more than he ever experienced growing up.
Think before you speak, right Mom?
Together, we've living our lives and raising our family in the middle. Literally.
When it was time to say goodbye to university life in Manhattan, we sought out the smaller, rural places in the middle of Kansas. We landed in Ellsworth. Half-way between northeast and southwest Kansas. And we haven't left.
I fight to help our middle-of-Kansas kids understand what's beyond the borders of our county.
Brent strives to make sure they appreciate what's right here at home.
We're striving for a balance of kids who love their rural Kansas home, and kids who aren't afraid to conquer a world so much bigger than them.
It's exactly what I had in mind when I dreamed of raising a family.
We never made it to the wildlife museum. My nephew firmly put his foot down.
I wanna stay here and play!
I didn't fire back this time. The kids used the wildlife toys and set up a jungle in the basement.
It was a perfect compromise.