Monday evening we returned from our family vacation, or "holiday" for my one reader in Great Britain. We had a ton of fun. Thursday morning we loaded up the minivan with four duffle bags, three kids, two strollers, one grandparent, and a partridge in a pear tree and headed for the coast. Our goal was to make it to Yuma before Benjamin woke up and realized he hadn’t eaten in 4 hours, and by the grace of God and a pacifier we rolled into the Carl’s Jr. parking lot just before meltdown. The girls played on the playground and ate their lunch with dad and gram while I fed Benjamin, and we were off again without a hitch.
The next three hours were occupied by Mark Driscoll, Disney Princess Sing-Alongs, and a stop at a Subway located inside a gas station. We were a little hesitant about buying sandwiches and petroleum from the same establishment, but the people making the subs were wearing official Subway green polos, so we ordered some to go and headed out for the last leg of our journey. As we came through the mountains the trees became greener, the air grew heavier, and the surrounding cars got more expensive. We had made it to California.
Our hotel room was great. It was on the second floor and every time we came and went Bethany got to push the buttons on the elevator, which she got quite a kick out of. That afternoon we took naps and got settled in, then went swimming and had BBQ by the pool. (Author’s note: Wherever the concept of “naps” is mentioned, please note that it is always in reference to children and/or a combination of accompanying adults, but, unfortunately, never to the author herself). Friday morning two more grandparents flew in and met up with us at Sea World. We all had a blast touching bat rays, checking out the animals, and sitting in the second row of the “soak zone” at the dolphin show. We retreated to the hotel for naps in the afternoon, then returned in the evening to make sure we got our 50 bucks worth. We left after the Shamu show around 10:00 pm, exhausted but beaming from our marine adventures.
Saturday we headed for the beach, joined by still more family flying in; our sisters and their husbands. Matthew dropped us all off, along with about 200 pounds of beach gear, and we set up camp on the first available patch of sand. While Matthew circled the globe looking for a parking spot, I fed Benjamin and watched with great amusement as the three grandparents attempted to assemble a beach cabana that looked more like an oversized kite. It was only after Matthew arrived and took over that it began to resemble the picture on the box. Once base camp was set up, we spent the day throwing the football, frolicking in the waves, and trying to minimize the amount of sand that our children ingested. Once again, we returned to the hotel exhausted.
We spent Sunday at a park on the beach, having a picnic and playing games until the kids and the parking meter expired. After dinner, we hung out in the room and fell into bed for some much needed rest. The next morning, with a sense of victory, we packed everything up and took off for home. Our family vacation had been a success.
It’s tricky traveling with small children, but we were ready for it. Expectations were set low and patience was stored up for those inevitable difficult moments. We set out to have a chaotic, exhausting, fun-filled family adventure, and that’s exactly what we did. It wasn’t relaxing by any stretch of the imagination, but there’s just something about packing up your little populace and taking them to a new, exciting place and watching their world get a little bit bigger. Something well worth the trip.
The day after we got home, I asked Bethany what her favorite part of the vacation was. I wasn’t sure if she’d enjoyed Sea World more than the beach, or perhaps going out to dinner with family or playing at the sea-side park. She paused thoughtfully for a few moments before giving her definitive reply: Riding the elevator.
Next year, we're going all out: Downtown Phoenix Chase building. Thirty-eight floors ought to do the trick.