As I write this, I’m facing wide-open windows. A cool breeze carries the sound of frogs and crickets inside. There’s a creek about 30 yards away that runs like an artery between the trees and we’re lucky enough to be so close. As I write this, I’m sitting in a brick cottage in the Southern Oregon countryside.
But let me back up….
In April, my husband suggested we visit Ashland, Ore. He and I have loved the town for years. The draw for both of us has always been the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and this year if we took the trip he would have the opportunity to see nine shows. The last time we were in Ashland, I was pregnant with my oldest. With the birth of that child and the addition of three more, there wasn’t a chance John and I would see a show together. Our kids were all introduced to the theatre at a very young age and their theatre etiquette rivals many adults’, but buying six tickets to nine shows wasn’t an option.
I argued and stomped my feet and, much like a toddler, said I didn’t think the trip would ever work. Now, sitting here in this beautiful place, I cringe at the thought of having missed this experience.
We have one day left here, but when you read this, we’ll be back in the desert. That’s why I decided to write about our trip in two blog posts/columns. There’s just too much to say in one, but any more than two and it’s like you’re forced to look at slides of your great aunt’s trip to Florida.
We did a lot to prepare to leave for a week.
We made sure the car was in good working order and my husband added some fancy stuff to the gas tank.
I cleaned the house because I knew we’d appreciate returning home to fresh sheets and a picked-up living room.
My husband set off bug bombs. Not so much because we’re inundated with bugs, but because we’re rarely out of the house long enough to do this.
I had our mail and newspaper delivery stopped. I asked the neighbors to keep an eye out.
At the beginning of the summer I wrote each of the kids’ names down on a white board with “25” next to it. That’s the amount of spending money they each had for the trip. They lost money and gained money, depending on their behavior. It was a huge motivator for them.
I stressed out about every conceivable thing that could go wrong. And then, early on a Monday morning, we loaded up and headed north. We drove to Sacramento the first day and on to Ashland the next. The kids were able to see both sets of cousins—seven in all—in Northern California.
My kids were so well-behaved on the drive, I thought they were coming down with something; it was a miracle.
We arrived to the home we rented (because seriously, how can you fit a family our size in a hotel room? Also, in this tourist town, the house was cheaper) late in the afternoon when the sky was dusky and the hills had turned gold. We entered the property gates and listened to the crunch of gravel beneath the tires, anticipating what we’d find and marveling at the blackberry bushes lining the drive. When the house came into view, I was speechless— a true rarity.
It was—is—the most charming, quaint, beautiful home I’ve ever seen. It’s from the pages of a fairytale. There are picket gates and secret gardens. Butterflies and families of quail are around every turn. Roses bloom in a dozen shades and the trees make a canopy over the path to the creek out back.
Four months ago I told John a trip like this would never work. It was too hard, too expensive, too stressful. Now, a third of a year later, I’m emotional knowing that we have just one day left.
Next week I’ll share some of the things we experienced and additional things that I learned about vacationing with kids. I’ll have tips, from what I’ve gleaned this week, about staying on budget, keeping the kids busy and making some amazing memories.