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Tales from the Mini-Vacation

Before we had children, my husband and I used to go away on vacation.  Not extravagant and not all the time, but we were able to visit a nice number of places over the years.  We did islands in the Caribbean; hit one of those 6 cities in 14 days tour in Europe; national travel like San Diego (love it there so much!), Las Vegas, Key West and even a trip to catch a few spring training games in Florida.  Our kids are 8 and 11 and we have yet to take a major vacation with them.  When they were really young, the thought of getting on a plane with two children nauseated me.  As they got older, money got tighter and priorities changed a bit.

Oh sure, we have been away with the kids overnight to places like Hershey Park and Sesame Place.  And these kids definitely love staying in hotels!  Their favorite thing to do is go to 7-11, buy a whole bunch of crap, and eat it in the hotel room.  Sometimes we get so much that I wouldn’t be surprised if the workers thought all 4 of us had the munchies for smoking something illegal.  And if the hotel has an indoor pool and a jacuzzi whirlpool, it’s all the better – because that “makes” it a vacation.

We are still saving and planning for that “big” vacation, but we decided to head to Washington DC for a few days during the recent President’s week off.  This wipes away a little of the guilt of not offering them their true dream vacation just yet.

On the morning we left, while I finish getting ready and packing (for 3), my husband makes us all breakfast.  Sweet, but sans coffee.  Crap.

We pack up the car, hop in and start on our way. The trip should take us around 4 1/2 hours, but first things first.  I get my brave on to ask for a coffee stop.  I’m not picky –  gas station, deli, Dunkin Donuts – whatever is easiest. But heere it comes – “No!  We are not stopping.  This is why I made breakfast!  So we don’t have to stop before getting on the road.”   Argh – that “no” was on the tip of his tongue just waiting to fly out upon my request – which he knew was coming.   I continue to question the “no” over and over again – “Why say no?  What does it do for you?  Your wife asks for a simple cup of coffee and you have to say no?”  I’m fuming and I make this “so” much bigger than just the coffee.  I’m such a girl.  Well this is certainly starting off on a sexy note.  If this is a sign of the rest of our time away, this is going to SUCK.  Whose bright idea was this trip anyway?

About a half hour goes by and as Motley Crue’s “Looks that Kill” comes on the radio, the husband gets off the highway and goes to a Dunkin Donuts drive-thru for my coffee.  How’s that for a subliminal message?  I’m sure he did this just to shut me up, but in my mind, I’m the winner because I have my coffee.  Still a little pissy, but as we continue on our way, my comedians lighten the mood with their silliness.

  • Dear Daughter: 4 more hours?   That’s like a whole day!  (Math lessons needed)
  • Dear Son: I can’t wait to get to the hotel to sit down and watch television.  (Dream big, my boy)
  • Dear Daughter: Washington DC is not a state!  It’s a country! (Geography lessons needed)
  • Dear Son: After my husband points out an accident on the other side of the highway, my son says “An accident? What?  Someone peed in their pants?” (Keep your day job kid, whatever that will be!)

Better spirits….alright, this will be fun.  Aww, I love my family!  Wait –  Ouch!  The EZPass just fell off the window and smashed me in the leg.  Did my husband will that to happen?

The rest of the ride was relatively harmless and as we approach the DC area, we go on the hunt for a 7-11 first (because priorities) to no avail, so we settle for a CVS near the hotel where we would be staying.  We got our typical “what’s wrong with you people?” look from the cashier when purchasing our slew of goodies and headed to our home away from home.

Luckily, one benefit to my husband traveling so often for work is he had enough points for us to get a pretty nice suite for our few days in DC.  2 bedrooms (3 beds), 2 bathrooms, a living room area and a little kitchen.  My kids cannot get over this room!  You would think we lived in one of those “Tiny Houses” on HGTV, the way they are carrying on.  It’s hilarious!  And because the hotel room was apparently “so big,” the kids decide to play hide-and-seek and my husband joins in.  I love that one of the kids actually looked in the fridge for their father.  After the hide-and-seek adventure, we spent a little time in the pool and jacuzzi.

As I was unpacking a few things later on, my girl says “Mom, how come you brought makeup with you?  You’re pretty just the way you are.”  Kiss up.  What is she buttering me up for?  (Maybe the 3 stuffed animals that we ultimately bought her during our 3 days in DC?)  Sleep time approached and my husband and I start off in the same bed.  Could this be real?  Nah, my daughter winds up in the bed with my husband; I wind up in the other bedroom in bed with my son.  In the middle of the night, I switch to the other empty bed though.  I have officially slept in 3 beds in one night.  Bed-hopping these days isn’t quite as fun as it was in college.

The next morning, we hit the streets of DC and over the next few days, we hit all the monuments, the Spy Museum, and four of the Smithsonian Museums – American History, Air & Space, Natural History and American Art.  Watching my kids as “individuals” was so eye-opening. Looking through their eyes as to what piqued their interest was quite cool.  For example, my daughter was the only one out of the 4 of us who wanted to go into the American Art museum.  I really thought we would be in and out – but the girl was enthralled with it.  Who knew?  She was satisfied with looking at paintings, reading the blurbs about exhibits and learning the history.

It’s a lot of walking for my suburban kids, who are used to getting in and out of cars.  “Walking is good for you,” I say to my daughter.  She gave me that look that only a girl could and said, “It’s not good for THIS body.”  She was quite excited to see the Lincoln Memorial though, as she just learned about him in school –  “Mama, I want to touch his beard!”  and then gave me a wide-eyed, gaping mouth look when she realized how “big” the memorial really is.

My son enjoyed all the exhibits where you could “do” things and get results.  There was a fabulous room in the American History museum where he could have stayed all day.   One of the best experiences with him actually came out sadness.  There was a man, assuming homeless, asking for money outside of a store.  My son asks us all sorts of questions about how the man got there, how that happens, how we can help, etc.  The kind of questions you often don’t realize how hard they are to answer until someone asks them.  We decide to give the man a dollar, even though my son wanted to give more after realizing that one dollar wouldn’t go a long way.  We continue our conversation and my sweet son declares that when he grows up, he will help the less fortunate.   Interesting that THIS is what he picks up in DC.  Makes sense though, no?  Ya know, just like the elected officials who promise to do the same…sigh.

Overall, we had a lot of laughs, took a bunch of pics and made some memories – and not too much bickering after the initial coffee drama.  (Score one for the coffee machine in the hotel room!)  Simply taking the kids out of their daily environment showed them in a whole new light and helped me learn so much more about them.  And even got my son thinking about a career of helping people less fortunate than he is.  Can’t ask for anything better than that.

When we returned home, I asked the kids about their favorite parts of the trip.  My daughter responded, “Swimming with daddy and the snacks!”  My son said it was relaxing in the hotel room with us.  “Oh! And remember when we couldn’t find dad when playing hide-and-seek?”  No mention of museums or the monuments.

I guess it doesn’t really matter after all where we go or what we do, as long as we’re together.  The best part of the vacation for the kids was just being with us.  Us? Really?  Have they met us? Hmm….maybe we don’t need that “big” a vacation?  Is it just the simple things that make the most memories?

As I read through what I wrote here, I know there’s nothing especially earth-shattering about this post.  Just some family humor really.  Except maybe to remember that things that may seem “little” to us as adults may be “big” things to our children.  I love that they are still little enough that simply spending some quality time with mom and dad is all they need.  And right back at ya, my little magnets.  I realize that this will change someday – sooner than I care to admit – so for now, I’m soaking in as much as I can.

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