Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Survival - Family Vacation Edition

I will not bore you with the details of why I laid off the blog forever.  Long story short... I'm hellaciously busy.

So, let's get right to it.  The reason I had to crack open the laptop and write a blog post all of a sudden?  We went on vacation. 8 hours away (11 hrs with stops). with two small children. one is a nursing baby. and with my inlaws. to a non-airconditioned farm house. during a heat wave.  Fantastic!  What's the problem, you might ask... well if you did ask that, just stop reading this and surf somewhere else because this ain't for you.  I'm not looking to appeal to some saintly freak of nature who sees that combination and somehow does not immediately start to feel at least a small panic attack brewing.

First, I'd like to begin by writing  a guide to traveling long distances with a pre-schooler and a baby.  It would go something like this:

Chapter One:
Don't do it.

End of guide.

So there you have it.  If you're looking for advice, that's all you need.  You're welcome. 

Now, onto the nitty gritty.  Get comfy.  You'll laugh, you may cry (for me), and you will probably ask yourself WTF more than a few times.  (And just a side note, I have actually omitted some parts of the story that would be too squirm-inducing to include, so just know this isn't even the full ordeal.)

We had planned to go to New England for a family reunion in celebration of an Aunt's 100th birthday.  She is a delightful, spicy little card, and unfortunately also recovering from a bad injury.  We wanted to go celebrate with her, but she could not make it.  We celebrated it FOR her, instead.  We wanted to stop in and see her after the party.  Our boys had not yet met her, and it was important to us that they did get that opportunity.  We packed up the kids, and our car and headed north to party. 

Now, a very short time before we left, we were told about the no A/C in this farmhouse my inlaws had rented without checking with us and our preferences first.  Luckily, something told me to ask, and sure enough, no A/C.  Well the heat greatly bothers me.  It makes me unable to eat, and I feel very sick.  My kids also, growing up in A/C and all, do not handle the heat very well, and a it is just down right dangerous this year for babies in the heatwave.  So, packing the car included packing a window A/C unit so we could at least try to stay at the farmhouse.  Originally, we turned down the house, saying we were going to stay at a hotel.  Well, my MIL did all she could to convince us to stay there.  It also was not until the last minute that I was told there were no linens, and we would be cleaning everything ourselves before leaving.  BUT the house was very large, and it had some antiques and a few pieces of art in it to make it appear fancy, and since that side of the family LOVES to look flashy, the impression a huge, expensive house full of expensive things would leave on the guests of the reunion party (also to be held at the house), trumped the need for comfort and cleanliness. 

So, that is the information we knew going up to our vacation destination.  Oh, that and that I notoriously have a frequently strained relationship with my MIL (I married the baby boy of the family, shame on me!)  So, we were all unsure of how this would pan out, but we were packed to make the best of it! 

The first leg of the trip was a 4 hour drive, stopping to feed the baby and for potty breaks for our 4 year old.  These stops drug our trip out to nearly 6 hours.  Each time I tried to feed the baby, he'd barely eat.  He was too busy looking around at everything.  It was super frustrating, but there was not much I could do about it.  We got to the hotel at bedtime, and we were all ready to sleep.  Of course, we were plagued with someone pacing the floor above us, and then a loud group of people (intoxicated, probably) trying their key card in our door over and over again, exclaiming "I can't find our fucking room!" so loudly that it woke us up.  After a comfortable, but less than restful night of sleep, we went down for breakfast. 

The 1st hotel was lovely (despite the noise that had to do with the people staying there, not the hotel itself).  It was super comfy, and breakfast was great.  Well, until a Mother got sick of her perhaps 11 year old son shoving the table into her and left him there.  Then he proceeded to throw out the waffle he insisted on making, then making an enormous bowl of cereal, leaving that on the table, then making another waffle and heading directly over to the trashcan and throwing it out immediately, then dropping some tongs on the floor and picking them up and proceeding to obsessively ask people if he could get things for them with the dirty tongs with a smirk on his face.  Then he went back to wolf down the cereal, spilling it everywhere.  Several people commented on his behavior.  Why a Mom would leave a kid they know cannot behave alone like that, I don't know, but several people complained to his face and to the management, who then spoke to the mother.  So, when the nice couple came up to us to comment on how well behaved our 4 year old was, and how his smile and the baby's smile were so cute that the man had to go get his wife from their room to come see the smiles which just brightened his day, I thought it was probably at least partly because we had all witnessed satan's spawn tearing through the breakfast station, and that made my kid look like Mother Teresa, well if she were a 4 year old boy, anyway.

So after that bizarre start, we were on our way, again.  We left a smidge after 10AM, and, after our plethora of stops, arrived to the farmhouse at five minutes of 3.  So, almost 5 hours in the car.  The kids were stir crazy, and the party started at 3, so we found our way to our room right away to try to get ready.  My husband started by putting in our A/C & closing our blinds.  It had been raining there earlier, but all the windows were open.  It was so hot and humid in that house, it felt like walking into the steam room at the gym.  It also smelled like that.  At least we'd have control over one room.  We picked a room with 2 couches because A. it was the only double bed (yeah, double), and the most private.  B. The better rooms were taken by folks who got there before us.  Now, we were squeezing 4 people into 1 tiny room, and the other rooms had 1-2 people, max, but hey, take the king size bed in the enormous room with tons of floor space for our pack and play and our older son's pea pod sleep tent.  We'll sleep on top of each other, no biggie.  We tried to be optimistic with, "Well, at least we can chill out on these couches if we need a break from the heat." when my MIL told us to feel the couches before sitting on them or putting our things on them.  Yep, they were soggy.  "Everything is always wet at the beach." she told us.  As if I had never visited a beach before, and didn't know better.  The couches were 2 different colors, per couch.  There was the color it was supposed to be on the bottom skirt, and then the brownish color on the cushions and arm rests from being so damp in such a humid place.  Paintings on the walls were warped.  There were brown drips all over the place, and we are pretty sure the "art" in our room was a painting of a dead dog.  Immediately, my husband said "you want to just go now?"  I was relieved to find he hated it, too.  "Really, it's not just me?" I asked, to be sure. "I didn't expect everything to be wet." he confirmed. 
  Now, onto the bathroom.  My MIL shows us the restroom, where there is a curtain that leads into a closet that leads into their enormous bedroom where there is plenty of room for their luggage, but they are insisting on keeping it in that closet.  The door between their room and closet does not shut or lock.  So, at all times, if someone is in the closet or their room and you're on the john, just a thin curtain protects any idea of privacy you may have wished you had.  They assure us that they are not using that door, and they are treating the curtain as a door, *excuse me, you better, what else are you gonna do?!*  Moments after that, I'm in the bathroom when my MIL's boyfriend walks through the curtain with a group of guests he is giving a tour to.  So much for not using that door and treating the curtain as a door.  Also, did I mention there was no blind in the bathroom, just a very see through sheer.  We could see out of it clearly, and you could see in through it clearly.  The tub was directly across from it, so you step out of the shower, and suddenly there is a free show for the folks outside on the neighbors porch, and, yes, there were folks.  There was also no place to put any of your bathroom things like towels, toiletries, a real working door....

Alas, we manage to get ourselves together and get down to the party.  At the end of the night, I took a beer up with me to bed.  After I fed the baby, I was going to have a nice, cold beer, and get some rest.  I haven't had a beer in years.  I forgot they make you pee.  What a terrible thing to forget on the night that my inlaws decide to use the door that they said they weren't using to leave the bathroom and go back into their room, while leaving the actual door to the hallway LOCKED!  So, now we are locked out of the bathroom.  There is another bathroom, down the LOUD, creaky steps, with our flip flops clonking down while someone is trying to sleep below the stairs... and make our way to the other family's bathroom that has all their stuff in it.  I do this 4 times myself, my husband does it once or twice himself, and then he had to carry our 4 year old down there once in the middle of the night.  In the confusion, my 4 year old wakes up enough to realize his legs are killing him with growing pains and starts to panic and run face first into the foot of our bed, busting his face open under his nose, swelling up his nose and cheek.  So now he's screaming about his legs and his nose.  Now the baby is awake, and now everyone is miserable (since this woke up the folks sleeping downstairs) except for my MIL and boyfriend who (I know this because she told me), took a vicodin and went to sleep after locking us out of the damn bathroom, ultimately causing all this trouble.  My husband says "we leave tomorrow!" 

I almost forgot to mention the reunion was really a lot of fun, and it was great to see everyone, and it did make it all worth the trouble.  Thank goodness, because I would have been full on sobbing by then.

We woke up, and we actually had a pleasant breakfast with the rest of the folks who were staying at the house.  The kids had fun trying to kill all the bugs we were finding in the house (yep, bugs), and we were all discussing going to the beach.  I went upstairs to get dressed for the beach, and find the bathroom is locked AGAIN.  This time, I catch my MIL and ask if she's done in there.  "Sure, Sweetie, go ahead in."  "You locked the door." "Oh, I was so afraid I'd do something like that."  "Yep, you did it.  You did it last night, too, all night."  "Oh, I had no idea!  I'm sorry."  "Okay."  So, now she is aware that she had locked us out, not once, but twice.  Remember this fact...

So we are headed to the beach at the end of our driveway, that we only found out that morning is a pretty crummy beach to take kids too.  It's full of broken shells and rocks.  There really isn't much of a place to sit comfortably, at least that was the report we got from one of our cousins.  (So, again, this begs the question of why did my MIL have to book THIS place?!) But, rain is on it's way, so we figured it would have to do.  My MIL tells us to hang on, they are coming, follow them.  Why we had to follow their car to the end of the driveway (we drove because it was a looooooooooong driveway), I don't know, but we head out.  They turn the wrong way.  They are taking us to a different beach.  We only had about 30-45 mins to be at the beach before the baby needed to have lunch and take his nap, so about 14 minutes into driving we try calling their cellphones to ask where we are going.  They don't answer.  My husband immediately calls his hotel points customer service line and books us a suite for that night.  He tells me, though, that he just wants to drive straight back home, with me holding the wheel so he can stand out of the sunroof and flip the double bird all the way home.  I guess he was done.  They finally call us back, and we tell them we thought we were going to the beach down the street, and they tell us they are taking us to a better place, and we explain we don't have the time.  So we agree to try to squeeze an extra hour out of the kids and make it work.  Well, after they take us down side streets full of traffic cones that people put up to keep you from parking in their spots, we call them back and say now it's really too late unless we park right now.  So we try the main lot, and it's $50 for the two cars to park, and that is NOT worth it for an hour.  We head back home.  I feed the baby and start packing while I put him down to nap.  Then, I announce we are leaving, and I take the fall.  I say it's too hot and it's making me ill.  They saw that I couldn't even eat more than, literally, 3 bites of my lunch, and they know I have asthma, so why make them angry at both my husband and I.  They don't like me half the time, anyway!  So they say they understand, actually, shock, gasp, and they are happy we made it at all with the kids.  But, then my MIL starts laying it on thick with how much of an expense this was and how some other family member bought toys for the kids to play with there, and trying to work her guilt on me, per usual (even though we warned her from day 1 that we probably would end up in a hotel).  It almost worked, until I went to get our soap out of the bathroom and it was locked for the third time in less than 24 hrs with no one in it!  Then all guilt melted away, and I was looking forward to a non-soggy bed, climate control, and room for my kids to spread out and not break their face on furniture.  Oh and no bugs, and no moldy shower and moldy furniture.  Oh, and a PRIVATE, unlocked bathroom!  Woot!

My husband really was my hero, and that is where he saved our vacation.  The suite was fantastic. The baby even had a more private area to rest in, and it was easier for him to fall asleep and stay asleep there.  My 4 year old loved the late night swims with Daddy in the pool while I put the baby down for bed.  They could take a CLEAN bath, and stick to their bedtime routine.  We got to enjoy some of our favorite places in New England.  Too bad it rained, and the 2 times we went to the beach it poured on  us within minutes, and we had to leave.  We did get to see our 100 year old Aunt, and she loved getting to see the boys.  We stayed 2 more nights before heading back for our 2 day drive home.  After 5 nights away from home, we were ready to get back to our own beds.  The kids were fussy most of the time by then, and we were exhausted.  But, vacation was saved & despite the mishaps and the gross accommodations, we ultimately had a good time.  We did get together with my inlaws again for some dinner one evening.  We wish we could have seen some more of the family a little bit more before we left, but our time was short and we had a lot to try to cram in, so we did the best with what time we had.  I guess doing the best with what we had really was the overall theme of the whole week. 

To end on a positive note, we did not let the baby play on the hotel floor or the dirty farmhouse floor, so we thought he'd have a small set back in his learning how to walk.  He had taken his first few steps at nine months, and now at 10 months he was up to 6 steps.  So we were prepared he'd maybe be out of practice and have to work back up to 6 steps.  So, when we got in the door, we put him in the living room, and he just walked right across the room, clapping his hands and cheering.  We imagine he was thinking "Freedom!  Sweet Freedom!"

Oh, and when we asked our 4 year old what his favorite thing about vacation was, after he mentioned watching a dvd in the car he said "coming home!"  And there you have it.

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