Tag Archives: Travel

Road Trips: Arriving at Our Destination

Twenty-eight hours. Seven days. Those numbers may not amount to anything big, but to me they equal progress. After ten years of trips with kids, my husband and I finally have progress. No shushing whining kids, doing acrobatic maneuvers from the front seat to reach a dropped toy. No hearing, “My shoe come off! Ha, ha, ho, ho!” Silence and then an ear-piercing scream. No more potty breaks on the side of the road (fingers crossed). Can I say it out loud now? We have arrived. We are finally at the point with our kids where we can take cool trips. We can venture further away from home. We can start to show our kids the world.

I know. People out there, they do this. They pack up their tiny tots and pack and plays. They tour and do naps on the road. That has never been us. That was always hell. And I’ll admit that I don’t think being cooped up in a hotel room for a week with my kids is ever going to be easy. A five-year-old boy thing is to jump on the hotel bed. Did you know ten-year-old boys still jump on the bed? Back and forth over both of them, at least mine does. I fear in ten years I’ll still be telling him to stop jumping on the bed.

I forget easily my own shenanigans as a kid: Fighting with my sister in the car. Not being able to sleep in a room and bed that weren’t my own. My sister not wanting to sleep with me because I always draped a leg over her in the middle of the night, which got a bit awkward when we were teenagers.

But even those are the memory makers, getting from point A to point B. The nights when you slept in luxury and the nights when you prayed bed bugs wouldn’t come out of their hidey-holes.

On our recent Maine trip, we made the best of these moments. We enjoyed beautiful scenery, a bit of history, and good food, though my daughter does prefer the plain pasta I make at home. We could leave our hotel in the morning and stay out all day.

There were the occasional head scratchers. “That restaurant was goo-ood!” heard after my child ate overpriced boxed mac and cheese. And, “Dad? Is that rain?” as a downpour brought cars on I-81 to a crawl.

But my family just spent 28 hours together in the car. No screaming, no scratches, no tears. We spent seven days in four hotels up and down the east coast. Aside from someone still jumping on the bed, we’ve come a long way.

It was worth it.

It was worth it.

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The Family Vacation: Why We Do It Every Year

Every summer my family joins my sister’s family for a week at the beach. Cousins can’t wait to see one another and do exactly the same things as last year. Dads man up to see who can find the most sea glass or the coolest treasure. (The taunting started around Christmas.) Us moms just look forward to sitting and doing nothing against the backdrop of a blue sea.

Then we arrive at the beach cottage and reality sets in. The kids run free like the wild horses on one of the islands, and we kind of still have parenting to do. And four kids somehow seems unequal to four parents who desperately want to relax.

Day 1: There was no denying when our troupe of eight arrived at the beach. As my brother-in-law put it, we looked like the Griswolds with our beach paraphernalia strapped to backs and shoulders: chairs, buckets, shovels, umbrellas, coolers, boogie boards, a skim board, towels, a football, and whatever else the kids snuck in their bags. Anyone in our vicinity who wanted peace and quiet was in for a rude awakening with all the shouting, flying sand, and obnoxious laughter.

Day 2: The expensive umbrella we bought for last year’s trip didn’t last through last year’s trip. We bought a cheap one this time. We were driving down the road our second day and fwoomp!everything on the roof had blown off. My sister’s umbrella and boogie boards landed in the middle of a five-lane road. So of course at the beach that day, my umbrella kept falling apart and hers stood strong.

Crappy beach umbrella, mominthemuddle.com

This may account for some of my sunburn.

Day 3: “Red Solo cup. Let’s fill it up. Let’s have a paaar-teeee. Let’s have a paaar-teeee.” Every year, everyone thinks it’s clever to latch onto one song so it gets stuck in everyone’s head the entire week. Four kids singing (the wrong lyrics) off-key day after day became mind numbing. When I heard it on the radio today and realized it was a real song and not some silly words the kids strung together, I nearly fell off my chair.

Day 4: Riding in a van with eight people can be lots of fun. When four of them are kids, it can also not be. At times I’m certain there were eight different conversations going on. I’m not sure how that was possible since I wasn’t part of any of them. My favorite was “Let’s copy Karen” and the kids would repeat everything I said. I hate that game. Then we played the quiet game and my husband gave the winner a quarter. Kids really aren’t so good at that. I got the quarter.

steamed crabs, mominthemuddle.com

No reason to feel crabby at the beach, right?

Day 5: My kids have never been taught proper beach bathroom etiquette. I grew up near a beach. If there weren’t bathrooms, you simply got up, waded into the ocean, and did your thing. My kids think this is disgusting. The same kids who lick their shoes and eat things from their nose. Seriously. Go in the water along with millions of marine wildlife.

Day 6: The kids and their cousins begged us to go go-karting. This activity provides no thrills for me. It’s not NASCAR. It’s not bumper cars. My kids fight over who has to ride with me because I always finish last. I don’t want to shell out $20 to drive my kids around a track so they can complain about it. I do that at home for free.

Day 7: Packing up, the kids got in some last games together. They told one another good-bye. And the adults were already making plans for next year’s trip.

We came home exhausted, filled with sand, and covered in peeling skin. A mountain of laundry sat as tall as the washing machine. The refrigerator held nothing for dinner. Normal life had returned.

But when we looked at the photos, we remembered: that first year when the kids were so small, songs from years past, giant sea glass, running down the dunes, and always getting soaked that first night on the beach. Every year the kids get older and bigger. So do the memories.

That’s why we do it.

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Filed under Everyday Life

Still Time for Adventure

“It’s real smooth,” he explained. And so was he, my brother-in-law talking me into riding a roller coaster over Thanksgiving break. The Alpengeist. I watched as it looped and twisted through the night sky, dozens of feet dangling in midair while hands braced the harnesses that kept occupants inside the car at all times.

I knew no one else would ride with him so I agreed. I like roller coasters, the ones that aren’t scary, but I really feel like I’m getting too old for this stuff. I don’t think my heart can take it anymore. I knew the ride would be quick. I just tried not to think any more about it.

As our turn approached, I made two requests: no front row and I had to have an inside seat. The less I saw of the ground and the fact that I was nowhere near it, the better.

When we boarded, two gray-haired men took the seats next to us. They were father and son. The son kindly tucked in his dad, put his hood on him, and asked, “Dad, are you OK?”

My brother-in-law turned to me and said, “Do you scream?”

I said something like, “Uh, you better believe it.”

I locked my eyes on the row in front of me and as the coaster started downward, let out a scream that lasted half the length of the ride. More screaming followed. Panic set in. I couldn’t tell whether we were up, down, left, or right. Could this entire ride be upside down? What was this? When would it end?

When we finally stopped, my trembling fingers couldn’t undo the harness. I could barely stand on gelatinous legs. As we walked to our family, the man who had been sitting next to me turned to me and said he was 87 and he just thought he’d try it. What?

If I hadn’t had a mouth full of cotton, I would have asked him a hundred questions. He seemed OK. And except for my screaming, he probably had a great ride.

My kids, mother, and sister wanted the verdict. “Mommy, did you throw up? We heard you screaming. We can’t believe you rode that.” Very funny. This ride is touted as “one of the tallest, fastest, most insane coasters in the world.” I’m convinced.

I’m not adventurous or spontaneous. I’m a hardcore planner and I painstakingly think things through. I don’t care for adventure that takes my breath away, but every now and then I can be talked into something stupid. There have been times when, through sweaty palms, knocking knees, and not being able to catch a breath, my prayers have included more than a few curse words. But I feel like sometimes you get a free pass when panic sets in.

Deep down, I know it can be a good thing to make sure there’s still blood pumping through your veins, that it hasn’t seized up like water in molten chocolate. I need to know my heart can take a jolt, especially with teenagers coming my way in four years.

So maybe I shouldn’t write off adventure yet. Maybe there will still be hope for me at 87, and my kids will still be able to talk me into a little something stupid. What will I have to lose? Maybe nothing but a pair of false teeth.

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The Top 10 Reasons I Can’t Wait to Get Home From a Trip

Our recent Thanksgiving trip reminded me of the joys we face each time we travel. We do it to see loved ones. We do it for fun. We do it because we can’t spend 365 days holed up in this house together. Why not take our craziness on the road, spend a load of cash, and wonder why we don’t do this more often? That’s what I’m wondering by the end of every trip….

10) My daughter, who can hold it all day no matter how much I beg, suddenly has to go when we’ve reached the rural part of our trip and no businesses can be seen for many miles.

9) When the cooler is empty, the kids can’t agree on which disgusting fast-food restaurant we’ll dine at. Then whoever picked it will inevitably not like their dry, crusty meal. Someone always has to return to the counter for sauce, and the workers don’t see you standing there no matter how long you patiently wait.

8) At any roadside location the bathroom stalls, hardly large enough for me to turn around and squat in, can be excruciatingly small when you are trying to avoid the liquid on the floor, cover the seat with tissue, and keep your daughter’s pants from touching anything. Somehow I have managed on past trips to hold an infant on my hip, expertly maneuver button and zipper with one hand, and keep my toddler standing and out of said puddles with my patented whisper-scream all in this 1-foot-by-1-foot space. Oh it can be done.

7) The kids fight for the top bunk, bottom bunk, left side of the bed, or right side of the bed, and the loser makes sure the night is ruined for the rest of us. One kid wants the light on; one wants the light off. One wants music on; one does not. Just GO TO SLEEP!

6) The later the kids go to bed, the earlier they wake up in the morning.

5) Forgetting my husband’s deodorant means he has to use mine. He smells lovely and breezy for a few hours. When I use my tube the next day, I find some really, really long hairs glued to it. Gross.

4) No matter what thrilling event you have spent hours planning for the next day, the kids will gripe that it’s boring and their feet hurt, and you can forget any educational stuff you looked up. They don’t want to hear it.

3) The last hour of the trip, they must ask every two minutes, “When are we going to be there?” Now I know how my dad felt.

2) When we finally pull in the driveway, the kids can only carry one thing and they both have to go to the bathroom—the same one—at the same time.

1) Man, I don’t care how much laundry there is. There’s no place like home.

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Filed under Can't Get a Break