I decided it was finally time to attempt the unthinkable: a trip up to my dad's with Dan and Monika - by myself. I traveled solo with Dan quite a bit when he was still an only child. Monika and I have taken a couple trips together as well. But this was the first time I'd mustered up the gumption to take them both on an overnight trip alone.

I strapped the car seats into the cab of our truck, threw our cargo (traveling light with two kids is next to impossible) into the bed of the truck, and away we went. Keep in mind that we drive a regular cab truck (that's a truck with three seats). The only thing regular about riding in such close proximity to each other meant regularly reminding Dan to keep his hands in his lap and not in Monika's eyes, ears, nose or mouth.

Monika fell asleep shortly after departure. Dan, despite being noticeably tired, managed to keep his eyes - and mouth - open for the entire trip. I decided after about 20 minutes that cell phone conversations and text messaging while driving aren't nearly as distracting as driving while trying to keep a two-year-old from waking up his baby sister.

We counted every bridge and river we crossed. We waved to semi trucks and motorcycles. We pointed at cows and hay bales and corn fields. As we were driving past a rather stressed corn field, Dan announced, "bad corn field." I didn't know what to say. All I could think was he's way too young to be doing drive-by crop consulting.

We were almost to Brainerd when Monika woke up. I was hoping to make it to Aitkin before we needed a pit-stop. We have friends in Aitkin and it's always a lot easier to stop some place where there's an extra set of hands to help with the child who doesn't need immediate attention. Half-way through Brainerd, Monika made it known that she was not going to wait until Aitkin to stop. Nothing is more nerve-wracking than a wailing infant - driving or not.

So, plans changed and we pulled into a fast food joint with a playplace. I figured it was the next best alternative to stopping in Aitkin. Dan could run around within the confines of four walls and I could tend to Monika. We were greeted at the entrance to the playplace by a little girl who didn't waste any time asking if Dan could play with her. I told her Dan could play and that it would be very nice of her to show Dan how the tunnel system in the playplace worked. This stop was going to work out even better than I could have hoped.

As Dan's new friend was showing him how to enter the tunnel, I walked over and politely asked the little girl what her name was.

"Don't ask me my name!" she told me sternly.

I was stunned into silence. I realize some parents teach their children not to tell strangers their names, but this little girl had just finished asking me if she could play with my son. Looking back, I should have seen the girl's behavior as a warning sign, but at the time I was more concerned about taking care of Monika.

The nameless little girl led Dan through the tunnel system all the way up to the very top. I could hear them laughing and see them moving through the translucent plastic of the tunnels. Every time they came to a window in the tunnel, Dan would call out, "Hi, Mommy" and flash a big smile. We might have to consider stopping here again, if needed, I thought to myself.

Dan and the girl came out of the tunnel system, Dan told me, "That was fun!" and they went back in again. Within no time they were back to the top of the tunnel. Shortly after, the tone of the voices coming out of the tunnel entrance changed from happy to angry. I moved to the entrance and called for Dan. The angry voices started yelling. Then I heard the little girl say, "Well, serves you right!" in the snobbiest voice she could before she scuttled out of the tunnel. Alone, at the top of the tunnel, paralyzed by fear, Dan freaked out and started to cry.

I tried to coach Dan out of the tunnel, but I don't think he could hear me over his cries. Suppressing the urge to tell her how rude she sounded, I told the little girl to go back in and lead Dan out of the tunnel. She obliged, but Dan wanted nothing to do with her at that point.

Now we were really in a pickle. I was holding Monika and Dan was stuck up in the tunnel. So, I did the unthinkable. I walked over to the lady who I presumed was the nameless girl's mother and interrupted the conversation she was having with her friend.

"Hi, is this your daughter?" I asked. "Could you please hold my daughter while I go up and rescue my son?"

The girl's mother was very pleasant, but it didn't make me feel any better about leaving my daughter in the arms of a complete stranger. As collateral, I told the little girl to come with me. I kicked off my shoes and crawled into the tunnel.

As I shimmied through the tunnels, I was glad for two things. First, that my years as a gymnast left me both short in stature and reasonably flexible. And, second, that aside from the girl's mom and her friend, the playplace was empty. I certainly didn't need an audience for this event. I can only imagine the chuckle the restaurant's manager was having as the scene unfolded on the security camera.

I reached Dan, who by now was nearly hysterical and wanted me to carry him down. After convincing him that his request was truly impossible, he agreed to follow me down, wimpering the whole way. We made it out and I breathed a sigh of relief to see that the girl's mother hadn't run away with Monika. I did my best to shake off the embarrassment I was feeling about having to manually rescue Dan and kindly thanked the lady for holding Monika.

With both children settled, we quickly departed. I'd had more than enough of the playplace for one afternoon. Thankfully, the break had been enough for Monika, too. She fell asleep before we made it out of town and slept for the rest of the trip. After another hour of countryside commentary from Dan, we finally made it to Papa's house.

(I won't even start about the trip home; that's another whole story.)

Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 50 cows near Melrose, Minn., with their 2-year-old son, Dan, and their infant daughter, Monika. When she's not farming, she's writing for the Dairy Star. Sadie can be reached at gsfrericks@meltel.net.