Our week-long vacation to Ashland, Ore. earlier this month marked our first all-family get-away. The last time we went anywhere was when I was pregnant with our youngest, over five years ago.
This summer also marks the end of a chapter for us. Soon, all four of the kids will be in school.
Taking the trip this year was fitting.
I mentioned in my last blog post that we rented a house instead of staying in a hotel. There’s no way to cram a family of six in a hotel room and the town is a tourist destination, which is reflected in the hotel prices. As it turned out, it was less expensive for us to rent a home a couple of miles outside of town.
For a week, the kids ran around outside, walked through the quaint town and made memories that, hopefully, will last a lifetime.
One of the things we did on the drive north was pack snacks and food ahead of time, which turned out to be helpful. The plan during the week– and one of the reasons I was so keen on staying at a house– was to buy groceries and make meals at home. That didn’t happen as often as I wish it had. If we have the chance to go back, I’ll stick to making meals at “home” rather than go out to eat. No matter how frugal we were in our choices, it was still costly for all six of us to eat at a restaurant.
We knew a lot about Ashland before visiting, since John and I had gone before, but I did some research to make sure that there were fun activities for the kids; I’d definitely recommend that for parents preparing for a family vacation.
My kids had so much fun walking through town, hanging out at the used bookstore and playing among the trees behind the house that we didn’t go to the origami class at the library or visit the nearby lake, but we had the information and knew those things were available should the kids get restless.
Also, I did laundry– just two loads– before we headed home. When we got back to the desert, I unpacked the kids’ suitcases and didn’t have to worry about a ton of wash. It didn’t take long while we were there and it made a big difference when we returned.
It was in the 80s during the day and the evenings dropped to the 50s. There were windows that stayed open the entire time we were there. The kids aren’t used to temperatures like that in August and reveled in the freedom to sit outside or play by the stream out back.
My oldest daughter spent time every day picking blackberries by the house. She’d march outside, basket in hand, pick a small pile of the sun-ripened fruit and eat it. Sometimes she washed it, but most of the time she’d just sit in the shade of the scrub pines and eat until her lips were tinted purple.
I didn’t admonish her for eating un-washed fruit. I didn’t ask her to sit in a chair. I didn’t tell her “no” when she wanted to go harvest berries because the sun was starting to set or because she’d spoil her dinner. On this trip, I said “yes” more. In the tranquil setting of cooler weather, a beautiful environment and a relaxed schedule, I realized that I say “no” a lot and without reason.
We took a lot of pictures– nearly 300. I bit my tongue and handed my good camera over to my 10-year-old when he asked if he could walk around the property and shoot.
I didn’t complain when my youngest wanted to wear her flip flops when I knew she’d trip a hundred times.
When all the kids wanted to have a slumber party in one room, I said okay, even though I knew they’d be up late and there would be a mess.
I had some life-changing experiences on this trip. Things that meant something to me and my husband, but probably wouldn’t to anyone else. It may sound corny, but I feel like I came home a little different– a little better– than when I left.
What I learned, and what I’d tell other parents who are taking a family vacation, is that it’s important to relax, toss the schedule out the window and let the kids get dirty. The most important goal should be making memories.
I can’t possibly articulate all that we experienced during that week on vacation, but I can say that it was lovely and I’m better for having gone.