Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Not As-Advertised // A "Perfect" Family Vacation

Behind every picture-perfect family vacation is...well, the truth.  
I posted the cute images on Facebook, but spared you all from the chaotic reality that is traveling with 4 children 6-and-under.  I spared you from the truth, my friends.  The beautiful, messy, memory-making truth.  No one wants to see a picture of my 6-year-old FREAKING OUT because his brother BREATHED on him, do you?  Or maybe you do...in which case, scroll down. 

I've heard that if you're road-tripping with a pack'n'play in tow, countless diapers and a double stroller all crammed into your giant SUV...it must be referred to as a "trip"...not a vacation.  And I think I'd have to agree.  Not to say that it wasn't one of my favorite experiences of all time...I wouldn't change a thing...but vacation it was not.

For clarity...

This is a vacation:
Playa in January
This is a trip:
Both are transformative experiences in their own way.  And this is a season of our lives I don't ever want to forget or take for granted. I know I'll miss these wild, juggling-act days when they're behind us.

But here's the reality of what filled in the gaps between our sunny beach days and family fun:

It started in St Louis - the first stop on our 5-day, 1,000 mile journey. We arrived at our hotel and discovered someone booked the wrong room type.  And I'm not saying "someone" in an accusatory tone...because I'm not sure whose fault it actually was, and it doesn't really matter.  But the fact remained: we somehow reserved a teeny-tiny room with one Queen bed for 6 bodies + the "non-vacation approved" pack'n'play. 

When we checked-in the very nice guy at the desk informed us that the hotel had absolutely no availability for an upgrade/room change and we were stuck in the tiny room with one bed.  The next thing I heard myself ask was..."so, like, not even the penthouse is available?"  Why would I ask that?  Such desperation.  Either way...he informed me that the penthouse was, in fact, booked.

I covered our hotel room floor with blankets and pillows and configured a makeshift "room" using the closet door and bathroom door for Milo's bed to hide behind (no way would he simmer down if he could still see the big boys).

Baby in a crib behind these doors.
So we're all set for our big slumber party/lock-in.  Except that we're not and there's crying and angst and discontent among the littles.  There was something about our proximity that made them more needy than usual.  We shuffle them in and out of our bed, scratch backs, read books, give cups of water and everyone goes potty an average of 57 times each. It's sweet and tiresome at the same time.  Finally, silence.  They're asleep.  Billy's asleep (because, narcoleptic).  And I'm staring at the ceiling (because, night owl).  But it's fine because all is well with my babies. 

AND THEN THE FIRE ALARM GOES OFF.  The sound + strobe light kind.  The entirely booked hotel is beginning to evacuate and though I generally er more on the side of "I'm sure it's fine" in these types of situations, we have the kiddos so we can't really act casual about a fire alarm.  The baby wakes up, the boys are yelling all of the fire safety tips they've learned in school - crawl towards the door, stop/drop/roll.  I praise their quick thinking while fumbling with the phone trying to get through to the front desk.  Long story, short...there was no fire.  Just four wide-eyed little boys with a second burst of energy.

Another round of kid-shuffling/water/potty/etc ensues and at last everyone is asleep again.  Except me.  I'm still wide awake. So I hold my breath and tip-toe into the bathroom with pillows and a blanket.  Luckily everyone stayed asleep and I got to read on the quiet, cold bathroom floor for a couple hours.  I actually didn't mind it one bit.

  The next day a little swimming and room service lifted our spirits after that wild night and we were on the road again, Chicago-bound.

I'm going to speed this up for the sake of space and tell the rest of our messy, fun vacation through pictures.  The ones I shared on Facebook - with the smiley, glowing faces - were entirely real and genuine, but to be fair to our real story I have to capture this stuff too.

Here are my top 5 imperfect memories that I want to keep forever...

1.  When Milo called the shots with his constant protesting/angry kicking from the backseat.  Any guesses as to which age is toughest to travel with?  We've discovered that it's a newly mobile baby who's way too active and curious to stare at the back of a seat for hours on end.  We had to stop and let him climb around in the front seat to save us all from his frustrated, hi-pitched squealing. 
 Gosh he's cute.

2.  The time my Fletcher shaved his head with a razor.  I thought he was in the bathroom going potty, but the silence became suspicious. Max said, "At least he didn't shave his eyebrows."  So true, Max, way to stay positive :)  This was the evidence I found.  The bald spot was thankfully not too noticeable.

3.   The boys enduring a little child labor.  Our friends put the boys to work sweeping and vacuuming and grocery shopping while Billy and I went to dinner. They weren't going to let them get spoiled while on "vacation" :)   I love that my friends love my kiddos enough to teach them the value of hard work and earning your keep.  The boys were happy to be helpful.
This is the pic they sent me while we were at dinner.  Boys taking a break from all their hard work.
 4.  The day Fletcher spent his entire time at the beach stalking the ice cream guy.  He refused to do anything other than stand within arms reach of the cart.  He'd scream if we tried to get him to move too far away from it.  We would have bought him some, but he "lost dessert" for some bad choices he made earlier in the day.  He was definitely feeling the weight of those consequences.  We're so mean.
"I can haz ice cream if I smile?!"
Hoping against all hope the man would take pity on him and give him a free treat.
 5. The night Max could not sleep because Sullivan was breathing.  Max stomped around the room and refused to lay down near his brother.  All Billy and I could do is laugh.  Laugh at how absurd he was being.  Laugh at how much we could relate to the frustration of being in extremely tight spaces together for 5 days.  I had no more fight left in me either.  All I could do was take this picture.
These little people are so hilariously irrational sometimes.

Oh, there were so many more moments deleted from my phone or that were not even documented because I didn't have the strength to see the humor in them at the time.

Sometimes it takes the less than ideal moments to remind us of the value in living through it all together.  That’s the payoff.  Family trips are wonderful in the way that all hard things are. There is treasure in all of the memories and stories even if they're not perfect.  
I love that this wonderful, crazy life is ours.

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