I feel like I have recovered from our vacation experience enough to speak about it.
My grandfather was from a magical place called Kelley's Island. Now, it's not really magical of course, but as a little kid I sure thought so. And I was desperate for my kids to think so too. The cottage that was the source of all the perceived magic is no longer in my family, but I managed to rent it just the same.
This trip was literally years in the making and somewhat of a dream come true for me.
See, tons of people take their kids on vacations every year. Tons of people take multiple kids on vacations every year. And tons of people, take multiple kids on vacation every year, and have a good time.
To be clear.... we are not those people.
Call it fear, call it laziness, or call it practicality.... either way....
Hauling 5 kids away on a trip is not something to be taken lightly.
Something to keep in mind is that our kids are all still very young, and are all very close in age. That means more hands to hold than we have available, more gadgets to bring than we have room for, and more naps to miss than should be legal. This year, we finally buckled down and decided enough is enough, we're taking the leap! One more step to being a normal family who does normal things like take a 5 day trip in the summer!
(to an island smack dab in the middle of luxurious (ha!) Lake Erie, which means less than 2 hours in the car... ferry ride included!)
So, as the days crept closer, I began to prepare more and more. I shopped, and wrote lists, and cooked food. To feed 5 kids for 5 days takes A LOT of food, and there was no way on this earth or above, that eating out was an option. Taking all of our kiddos to a restaurant is a task that I wish upon no one, especially not myself. Nope. No thanks. A full day of cooking to prepare meals for 5 days? Yes please!
And so, the lists continued. What does a family of 7 need to take on vacations anyways?
Well, the same thing as any other red blooded American family would need.... x7.... Plus some extras.
The day finally came, we were leaving!!!
All packed and ready to go, we headed out on the open road...
in 2 vehicles
... because a family of 7 can't fit in 1 Honda Odyssey when said family needs to pack everything it will need to sustain itself for a week (and I'm not talking extras... think bedding, food... toilet paper?!) I digress...
Open road! It's amazing!
I had so much fun driving the route I had taken so many times as a child, showing my kids all of the markers along the way that tells a 7 (6,4,3, and 2)yr old that you're almost there (the Lake Erie monser was gone but the giant still stands and peach butt was as pretty as ever). The ferry ride was amazing, the weather was perfect and the water was sparkly!
We arrived at the cottage and all my summers as a little kid came rushing back. It smelled the same, it looked the same, and I loved it just the same.
And then....... the kids exploded. The 3 youngest hadn't napped. We tried to feed them lunch (VERY late) and no one ate. There was crying. There was pouting. There was fighting. There was dismantling of the cottage and all of her 100+ years of history that's not completely meant for a family of 5 small kids. My husband and I looked at each other and we sat and just absorbed the chaos as it unfolded around us. Nothing was helping, nothing was making them happy. It was pandemonium. It became clear that sleep deprivation was not helping, so we figured a drive around the smallish island would surely knock a few nappers right out. And it did! And it was amazing... for 37 seconds, until someone had a tantrum and woke up the sleepers and pandemonium sat its big fat rear end right back down on top of us.
The realization hit us like a ton of bricks, this wasn't working. We tried. And we were failing. The kids were miserable. We were miserable. I'm pretty sure the island was miserable.
Remember back there where I mentioned we brought 2 cars and mentioned the drive was less than 2 hours, ferry ride included? Well, we faced a choice. We could force a situation that left alone, was not enjoyable for any of us. Force the experience for experience sake...Or, we could divide the household up and do what was best for the kids. The big boys were doing well, it was the littles that were not.
See, the kids are homebodies. Some would say that it's our doing for not venturing out into the big wide world enough, and some might be right. But, for whatever the reason, they are who they are and to fight that fact is just not worth it.
I tossed some things back in a bag, packed up my 3 little sobbing disasters, and off we went. They were asleep as soon as we drove off the ferry and were happy as can be when we got back home and they were in their space. Over the next few days they played and we went to the beach and had fun of our own. The big boys did big boy things that big boys shouldn't tell their moms about if they don't want her to worry (or gag). But, the kids were happy. Obviously, had we been further away or only had 1 vehicle, this would not have been our plan of attack. But we did, and so... it worked. A few days went by and on the last full day I decided to pack the kids up and go back up to the island. It might be horrible, but even if it was, it would only be for one night and one night is infinitely more manageable than a whole week of nights. The littles were so excited to see their dad and brothers and we did all kids of fun family things. Bedtime was hideous, and sleeping at night (if you can call it that) was worse, but we were headed home in the morning and so it was fine.
So, could one call it a vacation? Absolutely not, at least not for mom and dad.
There was no relaxing, no endless lounging, no extra yummy food or tasty beverages. Just a really old cottage, 5 cranky kids, a few (hundred) bugs, and 2 seriously tired parents.
But, it was trip that I will never forget and that I will be eternally grateful to have experienced. It was the first step of many and it taught us so much about how to manage our expectations. We learned some lessons that over the years will be absolutely invaluable for our family. I am so proud of us for making the choice to split up and go against the grain of what most people might have done. Our family is not like most other families, so why should our vacations be like most vacations? We modified where necessary and crazy or not, it just worked. So much of our happiness and contentment in any given situation is contingent on our expectations. It's a powerful thing when you learn that you and you alone can control your own happiness- learning that is has nothing to do with what's going on around you but rather, your own perception.
My perception tells me happiness equals success...and if all my kids are happy, not sure how much more I can ask than that!
This was the beginning of the end- looks really calm doesn't it? -don't be fooled.
(3 day break)
And we're back!!
We met the boys by the beach as soon as we landed back on the island. Perfect.
I wanted so badly for Kelley's to be a part of them, like it is a part of me...
and boy is it ever...
these kids were meant to throw those stones.
So thank you West End Club and so long... until next time!