58 Hours in the Car with 4 Small Kids… oh yes we did!

I grew up in Southern Indiana where wild black raspberries crowded the fence rows, thunderstorms rolled in like a dark and majestic symphony, and I was never without a friend because of the gigantic family I shared a last name with.

When I moved out to Utah to attend Brigham Young University, I did an internship at a dude ranch in the middle of no where southern Utah. That summer I met a handsome hardworking boy and we got married just months later. Eight years, 3 degrees, 4 babies, a remodel, and lots of moving later, we have again found ourselves in the middle of no where southern Utah. The red rock, lack of distraction, and land to grow babies, lambs, and gardens are perfect for me and my family. My happiness here doesn’t mean I don’t miss my family back East though.

Going to Indiana to visit doesn’t happen often, but when it does I still think of the adventure as “going home”. As we drove through the rolling hills of southern Indiana last week on I-64 I took a deep breath and felt something inside me fill. Returning home to Indiana closes a gap inside of me that I don’t notice until I return to that place.

I wanted to share the adventure with you because it does mean so much to me. AND so many people don’t even know where Indiana is or how beautiful it is. I feel like I’m doing you a favor by letting you in on one of the nations best kept secrets.

We piled all 4 of our kids into our Suburban and started off on a non-stop journey across the country. We like to drive straight because those quiet nighttime hours are the best for traveling with littles. No potty breaks, no calls for water and more snacks, and no “are we there yet’s”.

After some car sickness two hours into the drive, honestly scary ice and snow crossing the Rockies in Colorado, and about 3 pounds of whole grain goldfish crackers later we pulled into my parents house in Northern Kentucky, 29 hours and 20 minutes after we left. That trip isn’t for the faint of heart, but I never ever regret doing it once it is all said and done.

My kids kept asking if we were in a rain forest because of all the trees that line the interstate as you head into the heart of the midwest. And all I could say is, “yes, a rain forest indeed!”, because compared to our high desert red rock landscape it is a rain forest!

The air in Indiana and Kentucky smells moist and alive. It’s such a delicious smell.

My dad has been working on family history a lot lately and it was so much fun to see the pictures he’s acquired from grandparents and to hear some of the stories he’s learned. This is a picture of Effie Mae Wellman, my mother’s great grandma (she’s on the left).

And here’s something even better. Mom had a box of her things that she had gotten when her grandparents died. She recently took the pretty wood box out of storage and keeps it on the piano now. It’s full of odds and ends and was so much fun to go though.

Those long things are bones! They have numbers and names on them… it was either a game or some kind of voodoo thing, weird right?! The brown cylinder is a gorgeous little leather sewing kit, and the other things are just random treasures. These were her things! Here’s my oldest son in a pair of glasses from Effie Mae’s box.
58 Hours in the Car with 4 Small Kids... oh yes we did!

I love things like this! Little connections to the past. I knew Effie Mae’s name from looking over my family history and I’ve always really liked it. I’ve through about using the name on more than one occasion. Going through this little box and seeing her pictures made her so much more real.

Looking through this box and enjoying my dad tell me a bit about his family history research was one of the first things that happened once we got there. I think that it opened my eyes to how much I like preserving my own personal history. I relish the stories of the people I love, and my kids and their kids will never know so many of those stories, and ultimately people, if I’m not willing to take the time to record them. Three cheers for living in the digital camera age!

I took lots and lots of pictures that tell personal stories and now I just have to write them down.

For instance, this is a quilt that my mom’s grandma made and hand quilted. It is gorgeous! After taking an intro to piece quilting class recently I was so excited to go through amazing family quilts and take pictures of them. This quilt is a log cabin quilt block put together in a pattern called “barn raising”. I’m so in love with it that I decided I’m going to make something similar for my own bed as my very first large quilt. It might take me 3 years, but I’m going to do it. Oh how I love the detication and work that go into large projects like this. Quilts have such beautiful stories to tell.

Here’s another quilt done by my great grandma. The quilts will be a whole post on their own, but I wanted to share a few right now.

And here’s what the behind the scenes of a quilt photo shoot looks like – my sister-in-law snuggling under the pile.
58 Hours in the Car with 4 Small Kids... oh yes we did!

It was so much fun to spend with my siblings, and parents, and nephew.

The riding lawn mower was quite the attraction (and my brother is a nut! We sure miss him living with us…).


And Mom’s lilacs were blooming. The other day on instagram I took a picture of my own lilacs out my kitchen window and said, “The view out my kitchen window is so very purple today and the house smells like lilacs and memories.” I think it’s time to write down the lilac memories.

We also made time to go to the temple in Louisville. This is where Thomas and I were married and I so enjoy going back.

And then we made our way across the river from Northern Kentucky into my childhood.

I’ll always be a Hoosier at heart.

The people in this little area of the world are some of the kindest you’ll ever meet. My high school best friend drove a few hours just to visit me and I even had the chance to meet up with Cassie from Wholefully. I was so excited to finally meet someone I enjoy so much online and she did not disappoint. She’s even more fun and kind in real life (which isn’t always the case when it comes to meeting online folks, trust me!) It’s the Midwest in her, she can’t help but be genuine (and isn’t she a glowy pregnant lady!).

I was lucky enough to live close to all of my grandparents and I love taking my own kids to their houses to visit. Sometimes I just hate that my kids don’t know my family like they know Thomas’. But I try to tell them stories often of my childhood and these people that I love so much and I hope that it connects them in some way
indiana granparetns

My dad’s mom lives on a gorgeous farm. We lived about a mile from here in my childhood and spent many many hours at her farm enjoying life and family alike.


This land and it’s memories play such a big role in my own desires and life goals. I plan to make similar memories for my own kids and grandkids via a country life.


My grandma also has full-size playground equipment in her yard. How cool is that! We used to go bug all the adults chatting inside to try and find someone to push us on this merry-go-round. The best uncles and older cousins were the ones who would indulge and send us spinning.

My grandma’s lilacs were in bloom too. Most of us were over by the tractor and strawberry patch poking around while my dad and grandma (his mom) were walking through the yard. Grandpa passed away last February, but grandma has been well takencare of by her kids. Having 13 of them does mean you have a few around to help 🙂

Dad and Grandma were walking through the yard, Grandma with her cane in hand. They stopped at the lilac tree where Grandma reached up with her cane to pull down a high bloom-filled branch. Dad cut her a bouquet from the lowered branch. When he was finished cutting she let go of the branch and Dad held out his harvest for Grandma to smell. I looked over to see my little white-haired grandma smelling a bouquet of lilacs freshly picked for her by her son, my papa. My heart swelled in my chest. Being near people I love fills me. I wished so much that I had had my camera over there to capture the moment. I didn’t though, so now writing it down will capture it in a different way.

And then we went inside and I got a drink of Grandma’s deliciously earthy well-water. While I was standing at the sink, like I had a thousand times before, I noticed Grandma’s watch where she keeps it in the window sill while she does dishes. I’ve seen it there so many times before, but today I wanted to remember it. Sometimes the everyday things are what I miss most when I’m far from my family.


The grandparent visiting continued.

My other grandma has excellent light in her living room.

Passed out in Grandpa’s chair after dinner.

Grandpa is always good for a game of serious croquet.

This grandpa is the man who painted and gave me the two water colors on my hutch. I sat down at a little table on his porch to chat and noticed a new work in progress. What I loved most was the little practice strokes in the corner. My grandpa takes time to develop and then share his talents and to me it’s time well spent. I’m so grateful he’s been willing to share his work with me. I know that it takes time and effort and the fact that he gives it away says something about him.


And with one day left we had a fun evening at my mom’s celebrating my baby sister turning 17 (!!) and just enjoying being together.

I should give scarves as gifts more often. The post-opening antics were super funny.


And before we knew it, it was time to drive another 28 hours home to Utah.

My oldest and I cried leaving the state and my little boys ask to go back to “Kentuckies” every day since.

Once you get a little Midwest in your heart it’s hard to get it out again.

Subscribers get access to Dinner Made Easy meal plans, exclusive recipes, giveaways, and behind-the-scenes updates​! Sign up for my newsletter or get a new recipe every day.

Subscribe Now

Share Your Comments

Want to share a photo of what you’ve made? Be sure to register or log in and then click the camera icon camera icon located at the bottom of the comment area.

Notify of
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
amy hines

Thank you so much for sharing. I’m so glad you and your family got to come back this way to share all the fun memories you have and now they have. Love the Shoaf family so much.


It was so good to ‘see’ your grandma again in your post 🙂 Oh, how we loved driving east and spending a few days with your family before heading out on the rest of our trip!


oh my gosh, this brought tears to my eyes…joyful tears! All the pictures and memories of your grandparents and sharing that family heritage with your little ones! I try to share with my daughter as much as I can about her roots and how precious it is! Thanks for sharing!! Just a farm girl from Michigan!


i dont live or come from your state but i looooved your post… thank you for sharing… it made me remember so much of my childhood and people i miss so much. Memories like this are things that you can pass down to your children that they can never lose or be taken from them 🙂


This is the most beautiful post I have read in ages. I always enjoy your thoughts and ideas but this one really touched my heart. We lived in Omaha for a few years and loved the Midwest people and things to do there. I had the opportunity to visit my great uncle and aunt on their ranch in Texas several times as well as growing up on my Grandfather’s ranch in California. I am trying to create these same kinds of memories for my grandchildren. It is easier to do so for those who live nearby. We are looking forward to the others coming this summer for a visit similar to yours. Thank you for sharing your visit with us!


Okay, this post is making me cry. You encapsulated so much of what I love about where I live. SO many people hate on us (or, like you said, have no idea about where we are or what our “deal” is), but the simplicity of life here is just the most beautiful and magical thing. It’s something that is given as a gift to you during childhood, and you carry along with you through adulthood. There are a lot of things I don’t love about where we live (mostly political issues), but I am always proud to be a Hoosier. And I am so excited for my daughter to get to grow up here playing in the dirt and smelling the lilacs.

In related news, can you believe our lilacs are JUST starting to bloom here? Our house is actually on one of the highest points in Southern Indiana (before it starts to plummet toward the river), and that means we have this crazy little micro-climate where all of our plants are about 2-3 weeks behind everyone else in the area. At the “bottom” of our country road, you can see people’s plants blooming, and that’s how we know that in about 10 days, they’ll start blooming at our house (because our road climbs up the side of a big old SoIn hill).

You also totally made me want to photograph all the old beautiful quilts from my family. Including all the small blood stains from where women in my family accidentally pricked their fingers while hand quilting.

It was so awesome to finally meet you, my friend. Hopefully next time we’ll get to spend a bit more time together!


From Illinois just a few miles from the Indiana border and very rural. Wouldn’t have it any other way!


Melissa, I’m homesick just reading your post and seeing your pics! I loved growing up in Indiana! Do you remember playing in the cornfield at my bday party?

Megan Carr

Thanks for showing off my Hoosier state. It really is a hidden gem like you said! 🙂


I love that your kids thought it was a rain forest! When I moved from Indiana to Arizona for college, a girl who had lived in the desert all her life just couldn’t image the green I described for her. Or the flatness (northern IN was my home). We live in VA now, so we can get there in just one overnight drive.

holly waterfall

This post is making me teary. I, too, grew up in Indiana. I miss the farmland. I miss the lilacs that we could see outside our kitchen window as well. I miss the simplicity of life (or maybe that was just childhood, no matter where you live). Thank you so much for sharing your journey back home. I haven’t been back in over 12 years. I remember being a 17 year old teen, having to drive away from my beloved 13 acres in Attica, Indiana to move out to Utah, with tears streaming down my face. I know that home is where you make it, but boy, there is just nothing like being taken away from a Midwest home.


I agree! There is nothing, NOTHING, as beautiful as trees and creeks, corn fields and farmland. Every place I have lived is beautiful in its own way, but I will always love the Midwest and call it home.

Bless This Mess - About Me

I’m Melissa, and I want to help you feed your family wholesome food.

As a hobby farmer and mom of five, I’m all about keeping it simple in the kitchen. I want healthy meals that feed my family well, and then I want to get back to my (messy) life. Let’s work together to find something yummy for your dinner table.