One of the best pats of vacationing, for me, is the enthusiasm our kids show.  They can get excited about the simplest things–seeing a flower that doesn’t grow in our home state, trying a new activity, laughing about spilled cough syrup in a suitcase or almost getting a speeding ticket–for the kids, it is all part of being “in the moment” and enjoying the vacation to the fullest.  The best thing a parent can do is to join in on the fun.  I have written about our recent trip to Oregon in two previous posts.  In both (Road Trip Must Haves and Vacation on the Cheap) there are examples of ways our kids showed enthusiasm.  Here are a few more ideas on letting go and simply enjoying your vacation with your kids:

*Tap into the excitement the kids feel upon arrival at your destination.  Our trip to Oregon required a long 14 hour drive, the last hour of which seemed the longest.  We were all tired and a little cranky as we finally pulled up to our little beach house at around 10:15 p.m.   The crankiness quickly dissipated as one of the kids said, “I can hear the ocean!”  Like electricity, the excitement spread through the rest of the kids.  They begged to go to the beach.  How could we deny that?  We told them that as soon as both vehicles were unloaded we would all walk down to the beach together.  The kids have never worked so quickly to unload luggage!  All tiredness was forgotten.  It didn’t matter that it was chilly and dark.  A beach was nearby and they were going to experience it as soon as possible.  Once we reached the beach the kids had their shoes off and were running in the sand, getting their feet wet, and picking up the corpses of tiny crabs.  All thoughts of bed were completely forgotten.  We stayed at the beach for about an hour and then walked back to the beach house with some very happy kids. 

Happy family on the beach.

Happy family on the beach.

 

Look what I found!

Look what I found!

*Pay attention to what your kids are most excited about.  For our kids, the beach was the big draw, which is why we rented a house near the beach.  We did do some activities away from the beach, but whenever there was some spare time, the kids wanted to go to the beach and we allowed it.  There were sand castles that needed to be built, seashells that were begging to be gathered, seagulls available for chasing, and some serious swimming that needed to take place.  We flew kites, built a bonfire, and played glow-in-the-dark tag on the beach.  We don’t live near the ocean, so the kids naturally find it fascinating.  We built on that fascination and created some great memories.

Chasing seagulls.

Chasing seagulls.

 

The moat is bigger than the castle!

The moat is bigger than the castle!

 

Lovin' the beach, not matter what time of day!
Lovin’ the beach, no matter what time of day!

 

*Take the pictures they want taken.  So many times on our vacation I heard the words, “Mom, take a picture of me over here,” or “Get a picture of me doing this!”  With digital cameras, you can take as many pictures as you want and then delete those that aren’t perfect.  Mack and Hoob each grabbed my camera a few times on our vacation to get some shots they thought were interesting.  I brought my laptop computer so that each night I could download pictures and clear my memory card for the next day’s activities.  Kids love to see themselves in pictures and when the vacation is over, it is fun to print out some of their favorites and give them to them to display in their room or locker at school.
Mom, he's posing for the camera!  Take the picture!

Mom, he's posing for the camera! Take the picture!

Stepson, Shroom, posing for the camera.

Stepson, Shroom, posing for the camera.

*Find learning opportunities.  Since we don’t live near an ocean, and the kids find it so fascinating, we made sure to visit the Oregon Coast Aquarium so that the kids could learn about marine life.  They enjoyed the tide pool tables where could they could touch various marine animals and ask questions.  They went nuts with their cameras taking pictures of some of the weird creatures we saw.  It was fun to hear some of the older teenagers share knowledge they had learned in their science classes at school with their younger siblings.  One of the favorite displays was the “Deep Water” display that had an underwater glass walkway that we could walk through and see sharks and sting rays swimming all around us.  Every one of us came away having learned something new.
"What in the world IS that?"

"What in the world IS that?"

Jellyfish.

Jellyfish.

Don't eat me!

Don't eat me!

*Taste the local flavor.  Since we were near the ocean, the kids naturally wanted to eat some seafood.  We went with local recommendations and ate lunch at “Mo’s” (locations only in Oregon) one day.  I can honestly say that “Mo’s” has the best clam chowder I have ever eaten.  And my crab sandwich was to die for.  The kids swapped bites of their food so that they could taste as many different things as possible.  Hoob was so impressed with her clam chowder in a bread bowl that she took a picture of it.  When eating on vacation it is fun to skip the big chain restaurants and eat at places found only locally.  My sisters and I have made it a tradition to visit “Oregano’s” (locations only in Arizona) for a Pizzookie whenever we visit our sister that lives in Phoenix.  That is a dessert everyone should try at least once in their life!  Ask around, the locals will let you know the best places to eat.  You won’t be disappointed.
Hoob's clam chowder in a bread bowl.

Hoob's clam chowder in a bread bowl.

*Foster the natural love for animals.  Soon after arriving at our beach house a “resident” made himself known (we are only guessing it was a “he.”).  A raccoon was living under the deck of the house and it was apparent that vacationers before us had fed him.  He came right up to us without fear.  The kids named him “Kunz” and hand fed him cereal and crackers.  (Before anyone lectures me:  I know the dangers of getting too close to wild animals, and I was cautioning the kids constantly as well as keeping an eye on all the happenings.  It was clear that this little guy HAD been fed by others before us and was used to people.)  A few nights into our vacation another raccoon showed up that was mean and chased Kunz away.  The hand-feeding stopped and the kids named the new raccoon “Cujo.”  Luckily, we got some great pictures before Kunz was chased away.  The kids loved being able to tell my parents about Kunz.  They’ve experienced all sorts of wildlife at my parents’ cabin over the years.  There was “Squirrely,” the gray squirrel who would come up to my mom on the deck of her cabin and tap her feet until Mom fed her peanuts and there was the sage hen that followed my dad everywhere, including into the cabin.  The kids have thrown cracker crumbs to chipmunks and watched colorful birds fight over the seeds in the birdfeeders.  Deer and moose pass buy regularly.  Their excitement over seeing wildlife is contagious.  Foster it wisely and with caution, and they will love the memories.

Kunz getting a treat.

Kunz getting a treat.

*Trust your spouse’s recommendations.  Hub was familiar with the area we were vacationing in because he’d lived there for many years.  He insisted we visit some lava tubes and the “Ape Cave” in Washington State.  It was a three hour drive from our beach house, which didn’t thrill the kids, but Hub kept promising us that we would enjoy the excursion.  We broke the drive up by stopping half way and eating a picnic lunch before continuing on.  We visited the lava tubes first.  They are underground tubes that were created when molten lava covered giant fallen trees.  The ends of the trees were sticking out of the lava which allowed them to deteriorate, thus leaving  hardened tubes in their place.  Of course teens are going to dare each other to crawl through the tubes!  The entire family, except me (claustrophobia, ya know!), crawled through the tubes.  They egged each other on and went back through the way they’d come.

Exiting a lava tube.

Exiting a lava tube.

Next, it was on to Ape Cave. 

At Ape cave we passed out flashlights to everyone because, once inside, it is pitch black.  It is about an hour and a half hike through the cave from the entrance to the exit.  It is not guided.  You find your way through on your own, but it is impossible to get lost, as you use your flashlight to look around you can quickly tell the only way to go.  There is quite a bit of climbing in Ape Cave and a few places that were tight squeezes.  In one spot Hub had to go before me and talk me through it so that I could make it through in spite of my claustrophobia.  The best thing about the cave was that the family had to work together to get through it.  Some took on the role of leading and finding the way to go.  Some took on the role of reaching down and lifting others up the rocks.  We all encouraged each other along the way.  Of course there was the usual laughing when someone hit their head, or screaming when Squid and Shroom managed to hide and scare the girls.  When we all made it out of the cave alive we were very proud of our accomplishment.  And Hub had been right, it was worth it.

Entering Ape Cave.

Entering Ape Cave.

 

One of the easier spots in the cave.

One of the easier spots in the cave.

 

Helping each other through a tight squeeze.

Helping each other through a tight squeeze.

*Enjoy plan B.  There was one day that our plans had to be changed because of rain.  Not wanting to just sit around the beach house we decided to drive to Newport (30 minutes away) and visit one of the museums there.  We had a choice of a wax museum or Ripley’s Believe it or Not.  We took a vote and Ripley’s won.  The kids enjoyed the exhibits and came up with some fun ways to take pictures.  We decided upon new boyfriends and girlfriends for our teens based upon some of the exhibits.  It only took us a couple of hours to see everything in the museum, but it was fun to be out doing something.

Squid's new girlfriend.

Squid's new girlfriend.

 

Mack's new boyfriend.

Mack's new boyfriend.

 

Trying to get pictures in the mirrors that go on forever.

Trying to get pictures in the mirrors that go on forever.

*Try something new.  Kayaking, horseback riding, a new hike, a new food, on vacation try to do at least one thing that is new to your family, something you’ve never done before.  Our family booked a fishing excursion because none of us had ever fished on the ocean before.  The kids’ enthusiasm for this activity even got the captain of our boat excited!  We came home with 51 fish and six crabs.  The kids cheered for each other any time a fish was caught.  The deck hand and the captain told us it was tradition to kiss the first fish you caught and that if you taste the still beating heart of a fish it brings you good luck.  Whether these are real fish lore, or they took us for suckers, the kids bought into it and did as they were dared.  Ick.  We paid to have the fish fileted and the crab cleaned and cooked.  We had a very tasty meal the next night, and came home with enough fish to feed us for quite a few more meals.  It was a great time!  And now the kids can notch another activity up on “stuff I’ve done.”

The "Mother-in-law" fish that Hoob caught.

The "Mother-in-law" fish that Hoob caught.

 

Shroom kissing one of the fish he caught.

Shroom kissing one of the fish he caught.

 

Tasting a beating fish heart.

Tasting a beating fish heart.

 

Hauling in some of our crabs.

Hauling in some of our crabs.

 

The captain having second thoughts about letting Hoob steer the boat.

The captain having second thoughts about letting Hoob steer the boat.

*Let go.  I once heard a morning radio talk show host tell about seeing stressed out parents at Disneyland trying to rush their kids around so that they could see every single attraction.  The kids were crying and the parents were clearly not happy.  He said, “If your four-year-old wants to stay in the spray area and get sprayed, let him!  If that is what he is enjoying then relax and let him have fun.  The point of a family vacation is to build memories, not to see how many attractions you can get under your belt.”  I agree.  If you come home from your vacation more stressed out and angry than when you left, what was the point of going?  Let go and let the kids experience what they want to experience.  It is okay if you don’t see or do everything you planned.  Remember that the relationship with your family is the most important thing.  Slow down.  Build those memories.  Go with the flow.

Oregon 172

Enjoy the enthusiasm of your kids and you can’t go wrong!

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Update on my health:  We still don’t know what is going on.  I saw a cardiologist who thought for sure, based on my symptoms, that I had a hole in my heart.  But when testing was completed my heart looked healthy.  He did say that it is possible that there is a very tiny hole that the test wouldn’t show but that I don’t need to worry about it.  Huh?  Not worry?  Okay.  I’ve been told I can do whatever physical activities I desire.  My symptoms are subsiding a bit, and I told Hub that maybe we’ll never know what it is.  Meanwhile, I’m glad to be feeling better than what I was.  Since I was down in bed for most of June, whenever I do feel better I choose to spend the time with my family rather than at the computer, so blogging will not be as often as in the past.  Perhaps I can pick up my old schedule once the kids are back in school.

 

Vacation Goals Update:

Family goal – Each person was asked to find at least one person to help or show kindness to while on our trip.  Helping a family member counted.  There were many little kindnesses performed, almost too many to write.  Here are the ones I personally noticed:

HUB – Gave Ryan our contact information and told him that if he ever desires to come to Utah he can stay in our condo in Moab or in my parents cabin in the Uinta mountains and that we will be his personal tour guides.  The offer is a standing offer.  Also, when we discovered too late that Yawlin wasn’t tall enough to go on Dueling Dragons, Hub stayed with Yawlin so that I could go on the ride with the rest of the kids.  Hub was very attentive to ALL of my needs on the trip.

ME – After getting caught in a downpour walking back to our hotel room one night and ending up soaking wet, we decided to order the old fashioned chicken noodle soup from room service to take the chill off.  The lady who brought our order was so kind and had decorated the table in such a pretty way that, even though there was already a 22 percent gratuity added to our order, I decided to tip her in addition to the gratuity.  We loved the flowers she had provided.  I also allowed Hub to use my travel pillow on our flights so that he could be more comfortable.

SQUID – Helped Yawlin lift his luggage up to high racks whenever we had to ride a shuttle at airports.  He also allowed Yawlin to bury his feet in wet sand at the beach.  Squid celebrated his 18th birthday on the day we left for the trip.  On a layover in Atlanta we rode a train to an underground mall and ate lunch at a 50’s style diner.  We informed our waitress that it was Squid’s 18th birthday and she brought him out a huge ice cream sundae and four helium filled balloons.  As we left the restaurant Squid spotted a group of mom’s with four kids.  He gave the balloons to the kids whose eyes lit up upon receiving the free gift.

HUH –  Was very attentive to her little brother.  She gave Yawlin a piggy back ride as we walked through one of the theme parks because he was getting a little tired.  She also took him to the hotel pool and played with him there while the rest of us rested in our hotel rooms.

JUJU- Held the pool gate open for a lady in a wheelchair.  She also stayed with Yawlin twice while the rest of us went on rides he was unable to go on.  She went with him on one ride that could be considered “boring” for a teenager.

MACK – At the car rental counter she saw a woman’s overloaded suitcase about to tip over.  Mack held it up for the lady until she was finished filling out her paperwork and was able to take control of her suitcase herself.  Also, we all witnessed a worker at Islands of Adventure get yelled at by a woman for something that wasn’t his fault.  Mack waited for the lady to leave and then she went and apologized to the worker in behalf of the lady. 

SHROOM – Held a door open for some people at one of the attractions and then got stuck there holding the door because people kept coming.  And coming.  We had a good time teasing him about getting stuck holding the door.

HOOB- Stayed with Yawlin closer to shore while the rest of the family tried body surfing in deeper water at the beach.  She also helped him build things in the sand according to his specifications.  Hoob also held a few doors open.  

YAWLIN – There was a boy at the beach who had been floating in a tube.  Somehow the tube got away from him and was floating out to where he couldn’t reach it.  Yawlin grabbed the tube and brought it back to him.  He did the same thing with a ball that another little boy had at the hotel pool.  Yawlin also held doors open a few times.

*One funny way our teenage daughters showed kindness came after they had caught a seagull.  At Cocoa Beach they concocted a wild plan.  Huh was buried in the sand except for her head which was covered by a towel.  The other girls then placed pieces of nectarine and bread on Huh and the towel.  Huh had to be patient and lie there for quite awhile.  There were a few near misses and then one seagull landed in the perfect spot and Huh rose from the sand and trapped him with the towel.  It was actually pretty hilarious.  The girls were ecstatic that their plan had worked.  Others on the beach, especially kids, wanted to pet the bird and get pictures.  The girls happily obliged before letting the angry bird go.

My personal goal:  I wanted to spend some one-on-one time with each member of my family or to at least make each individual the focus for a time.  We did most things together as a family (which is the point of a family vacation), but I did manage to squeeze in some “focus time” with each person:

HUB – There was one morning that we woke before the kids and were able to sit and quietly talk about trip happenings and make plans for the new day.  We also held hands whenever we could, which prompted the kids to make the “Awww, lookit” comments.  Hub listened to the comments for awhile and then planted a big fat kiss on my lips.  The kids reacted by running away and yelling, “PDA!  PDA!  Ewwwww!”  🙂

SQUID – At the 50’s style diner that we ate at on our layover in Atlanta our waitress gave us some nickels to use in the juke box.  I invited Squid to come with me to choose songs to play.  He didn’t know any of the old songs so he ended up choosing by how interesting the song title sounded.  

HUH – During our flight home the two of us were seated together but across the aisle from the rest of the family.  I used that time as our one-on-one time.  We looked at all the pictures from the trip on my digital camera and we did cross-word puzzles together.

JUJU – The two of us volunteered to be a part of the Fear Factor Live show at Universal Studios.  While the rest of the family left to go on the Simpson’s Ride the two of us had to fill out paperwork in order to be participants.  We were able to use the time to visit and to take pictures of the two of us together.

MACK – We were on the Jimmy Neutron ride together and laughed hysterically at the rest of our family’s reactions to the ride.  We were both wiping tears from our eyes.

SHROOM – Had to leave us a day and a half early because of football.  Right after going on his final attraction of the trip I made him the focus by having the family give him a big group hug for a picture.  I told everyone to have sad faces.  There were people walking by who were wondering what it was all about.   

HOOB – While at the beach she asked me to bury her in the sand and take her picture.  I happily obliged.  We also walked over to an empty lifeguard tower and I took pictures of her posing on it.

YAWLIN- After we’d experienced most of the attractions at both theme parks together as a family we split up so that the teenagers could continue doing thrill rides.  Yawlin and I got to spend a lot of time together trying attractions that were more appealing to him.  I watched him play in water in two different kiddie areas, we took pictures of each other in different spots in the parks, and we visited some gift shops.  At the beach I buried Yawlin in the sand and then took a picture of him and I helped him build a castle with a moat that kept getting washed away in the surf.

The two goals I’d set (one personal and one for the family) were fulfilled.  The main reasons for taking a family vacation were to create memories and do some bonding.  Mission accomplished!