Today was all Rudy’s day. After being dragged all around, told to sit still, told to be quiet and behave, told to wait, be patient, focus, and pretty much everything horrid to a 5-year-old boy with a never-ending brook of commentary at the ready to babble all over the place and a very active, wiggly body to accompany that, Rudyard Fredeen was ready for — and had TOTALLY earned — some fun! 

So, at 7:00 am he decided he was ready to go do all the things. The problem was, nothing was open, our movie didn’t start til 1:30, and the most important thing was, WE WERE STILL SLEEPING!! LEGO Batman on TV for the win! Around 9:30, we all went down for some continental breakfast (where Rudy totally remembered the mini-car races and slow-mo videos we made there last year!) and a quick hug from the giant stuffed bear who greets road-weary travelers in the lobby. A bit of breakfast, a bath and brushed teeth later, we were off to attack Rudy’s day! 

1st stop: Grocery Store for candy, Starbucks, and cough drops (now that Jared’s on the mend, I’m not feeling well, go figure).

2nd stop: Movie theater parking lot for some bike-riding practice and killing time. 

3rd stop: Toy Story 4!!! This has been such a highly anticipated film in the Fredeen home (even before our little guy was born) that our combined excitement was palpable! I won’t spoil anything for our readers, but, to us, it was pretty dang perfect. 

4th stop: Photobooth! Ever since Rudy was a baby, we’ve been cramming into these booths, shelling out $1’s, $5’s, the occasional credit card (for the fancy ones), all to get some crappy-developed, half-cock-eyed, 3-second capture of 4 called out poses to remember the moment by. I know my husband does not love this “must do now” activity. But he has never once said so. On the contrary, he is the first one to reach into his pocket and feed the machine it’s green paper treats in return for its mediocre services. You see, he knows it’s not the picture he’s investing in. It’s the living the life that he puts his hard earned cash behind. It’s because every time we put Rudy between us and shower him with kisses, make a monster face, or smile while all looking a different direction, we know these photobooth captures will not go on forever. These little slips of images of fun will be magnetized to our refrigerator for a brief time maybe, but they will be imprinted on our hearts forever. I’m certain my sweet Jared will always find a way to shell out money and a minute to the 4-frame time capsule experience…after all, “these days will never come again”. 

5th stop: “Go!” toy store. With Rudy’s lost tooth money and a $20 one of our frands had put in the tip jar with a note specifically for “Rudy to get something fun!”, he wanted to buy a toy. We looked online and found a toy store to visit. It looked cool and Rudy was almost more excited for this than the movie. We walked through the mall and past a Game Stop, which he was so excited to go into that he almost forgot about the toy store, and headed down the mall hallway to the toy store…the toy store? Wait. Isn’t this where the directory said it was supposed to be? We asked someone and they said, “Oh yeah, all the toy stores in Great Falls are gone. You’ll have to go find a Target or Walmart.” I was heartbroken and turned, expecting to see my son’s lip trembling, or ultimate despair. But, always one to surprise us, he just said, “Oh. Well, let’s go back to Game Stop. I’m sure I’ll find something* there!” And this is why he’s the best travel partner!

6th Stop: Barnes and Nobel for some story time and a new crossword puzzle book for Jared and me! This was such a fun way to spend a couple hours. We read books, looked at more toys, bought a couple games for the road and then realized how hungry we all were!! 

7th Stop: Car picnic dinner. I began making sandwiches and Rudy goes into a panic. I think he’s being dramatic, but I look at him and one of his other wiggly bottom teeth is literally hanging by a skin off his gum. He was like, “I’m so hungry, but I CAN’T eat! What if I eat my tooth?” In what felt like an eternity, but was mere minutes, the tooth was dislodged and we were all laughing at the holes starting to take over in his mouth. 

Playground! I mean, what Rudy day would be complete without a playground? We remembered a really beautiful park we had visited last year, full of geese, ground squirrels and a really cool skate park, and went there. Rudy taught me how to throw a frisbee. I’ve never been very good or enjoyed it much, but when he was teaching me, I had the best time. Then we went on a walk and he wanted to go say hi to the guys wheeling around the skate park. So, he did. He just climbed right up the steps and started cheering for the boys doing tricks, advising some to “be careful” and others to “wear knee pads”! He clapped and stood in awe of boys his age and older doing all kinds of scooter and bike tricks. It was really something to watch him just be so in that moment and then turn to us and say, “Ok. I’m done here. Let’s get back to our little journey (nature walk).” Then, I kid you not (if you’ve even read as far as this in this very long-winded blog), he stopped a lady walking a dog and asked her if she wanted a hug. I thought he was going to ask to pet her dog, but nope. . . just if she wanted a hug. Of course she did! Who wouldn’t? This. This is why traveling with Rudy is amazing. 

After a couple hours of playing, exploring and watching a beautiful sun set behind an absolute storm-swollen set of clouds, we decided it was time to head on. With Missoula as our next destination for an open mic night, we only had about 3 or so hours to drive. So, Jared got us to Seeley Lake and called it a day! And oh, “What a daaaaaaaayyyy, this has been!”

*Final choice of toy from GameStop (you know, where they have all the video games and accessories): A bottle of “Bendy and the Ink Machine” black slime.

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