Aug 14, 2016: Vacation Wrap-Up!

Well, after nearly ten hours of driving yesterday, we are HOME! I did daily posts while on vacation, so you’ve heard most of the highlights. But I was trying to post on a phone, which is somewhat challenging, so I figured I’d wrap up a few last bits I meant to mention, as well as a couple of pictures that I couldn’t get to post! (For some reason, my phone wouldn’t post any pictures that had been edited in any way. And there was a particularly good one of Theo I wanted to post. Plus, Chris sent me a few from his phone that you haven’t seen yet.)

My aunt told me a while back that she heard when one travels with children, one shouldn’t necessarily expect a vacation be relaxing or always fun, but just something different. And so we always set our expectations that way, and it really does help to ease any sort of stresses that come from traveling with kids. Because our kids are by and large great travelers, but they are still children…and traveling with children is inherently a bit challenging. Well worth it, in my opinion, but challenging. 🙂

So anyway, our vacation was surely something different, and it was mostly fun as well. And the not-so-fun parts? Well, we just rode them out and looked forward to bedtime. 😉

Sam is in a slightly fearful stage right now. Nothing too pronounced and nothing concerning, but just a stage where he is comfortable in his routines and sometimes balks at stepping out of them. So we adjusted as we went along for that—he sat out a few things that would’ve been pointless to push him on, and he joined us on a few things where we knew that pushing him wouldn’t really cause him any grief. And in spite of his trepidation on those things, he had fun.

One thing that freaked him out was our rental house the first two nights. He didn’t nap much on vacation, so he was overtired and rather cranky by about 7pm. And so the first two nights, we pulled up to the rental house, and he shrieked! I think he felt like he wanted to go home to his own bed, and this was not home! But once we got him inside and in his PJs, he calmed right down and settled in. And by the time we reached the second rental house, he was old hat at accepting a new place.

Chris and I both agreed that we liked the second rental house better as far as the house was concerned, but we liked the neighborhood of the first rental house much, much better. The first rental house was in SW Portland, in a neighborhood called Multnomah Village that I have since learned is quite desirable. (I didn’t know that at the time—I simply picked it based on price and strong reviews from previous guests.) And I can see why. The neighborhood was modest but very charming and quiet. And it was only half a mile from the main street, which had supermarkets, gas stations, restaurants, and everything else we could need. And the house itself was great in terms of the homeowners being super nice and hospitable and equipping the house with everything we could possibly need. But it had one rather big issue for us, which I was unaware of when I booked it: The only bathroom was downstairs, and both bedrooms were upstairs. And the flight of stairs down to the bathroom was incredibly steep and made of very hard wood. The first night, I fell down the last two stairs trying to get to the bathroom somewhere around midnight, so from that point forward I just slept on a couch downstairs with a blanket. I typically go to the bathroom at least three times a night, so navigating those stairs three times a night was not a good idea. Plus, we had put up the baby gate (which the owners provided—nice touch!) at the top of the stairs just in case Sam climbed out of the portable crib and wandered around, and the gate was LOUD to open and close. But it was a must-do: Sam is very good on stairs, but if he had fallen down that steep, hard flight, he would’ve gotten badly hurt.

So I’m not sure we’d rent that house again. Also, it had a lot of spiders, and I hate spiders. One of them was probably the largest spider I’ve ever seen inside a house. With its legs, it was larger than a silver dollar. The body alone was larger than a quarter! I made Chris kill it by promising that I would handle every poopy diaper for the rest of the vacation—which I did, including a bad episode of diarrhea. I think we both felt that was a worthwhile trade, because I HATE spiders and he hates poopy diapers! But for people who don’t mind spiders and don’t have to use the bathroom multiple times in the middle of the night, it was a great house in a great neighborhood, and I would recommend it.

The second house was perfect for us in terms of the house—there was a big bedroom downstairs that the boys used, and then there was another bedroom upstairs that I used. Chris slept on the futon downstairs for two reasons: (1) We didn’t want to leave the boys downstairs with us upstairs, as we had no baby monitor with us; and (2) The neighborhood was pretty sketchy, and we weren’t comfortable leaving the boys down there with no adult in case anyone broke in. There were definitely squatters in the abandoned medical office building next door, and the people in the lot directly behind the house were…unusual. The house on the other side had a door that remained open all the time, too, but we never saw anyone come in or out, so we suspect it might’ve been a place for squatters as well.

That said, the view was pretty spectacular! And honestly, there didn’t seem to be any better neighborhood in Crescent City. The town is very small, and all of the neighborhoods we saw seemed similar: Lots of rundown houses, lots of what appeared to be squatters, and lots of what appeared to be people on drugs. That part of the state is pretty well known for drug use (a lot of marijuana and a lot of methamphetamine), so while I don’t want to paint with a broad brush and make assumptions, Chris and I were both cognizant of the fact that some of the people wandering around who looked strung out on drugs potentially were strung out on drugs. And we didn’t want any tweakers squatting in the building next door breaking in at night, thinking the rental house was vacant too.

So we were both glad we visited Crescent City. The redwoods nearby are absolutely breathtaking, and the ocean is stunning. There were tons of tide pools for Theo to explore, and that was his favorite part of the entire trip. But do we need to go back to Crescent City? Well, no. We both agreed we’d be fine not going back to Crescent City. The coastal redwoods stretch a long way, so there are other towns we can visit when we want to see them. We stopped in Fort Bragg on the way back (to visit Chris’s cousin and great aunt), and we both thought that looked much more like a place we’d want to visit—cute little neighborhoods, fun shops to poke around in, etc. Crescent City feels very distressed—many abandoned stores, most of the houses in some level of disrepair, etc. We did enjoy our time there, but I think we will pick another town the next time we want to explore that part of the state.

One fun thing about our trip was the budget, actually. It was pretty meager this year, so we tried to keep things tightly reined in. And it turned out to be really fun because there are a ton of free and low-cost things to do in and around Portland that are fun for everyone. Most of the activities we did were either free or very low cost, at least in Portland. The only big-ticket thing we did was the Oregon Zoo, and that was well worth the splurge—it’s a very nice zoo, and the boys both really enjoyed it!

Crescent City was a little harder—most of the attractions around there have a fee attached. But tide pooling is free, and Theo and I spent a whole afternoon doing that! And a large part of the redwoods are pretty much free, so we did that, too.

Another thing we did differently this time was ban iPads in the car. We actually don’t allow them in the car 99 percent of the time anyway, but we used to make an exception for a road trip of more than three hours. The problem, though, is that one child argues incessantly over the lack of WiFi in the car (meaning there are limited things he can do on his iPad), and the other child doesn’t understand the concept of no WiFi (meaning he can’t watch Thomas on Netflix). I didn’t want to hear the whining or the arguing, so we just decided to do no iPads in the car. We also didn’t bring a portable DVD player, as that would’ve meant arguing over what DVD was played, and I didn’t want to deal with that. Given that we had three days of very long drives (two seven-hour days and one ten-hour day), this could’ve presented a bit of a challenge in terms of our patience. But actually, two out of the three long-drive days went really well. We got Theo the Melissa and Doug license plate game, and that kept him very entertained. You remember the old license plate game, where you try to spot license plates from all 50 states? Melissa and Doug has a wooden board with all of this states drawn on it in a USA map, and each one has a small wooden license plate affixed to it. When you see the plate on the road, you then flip over the plate on the board to mark it off, and it tells you the state capital on the back. So it’s sort of a geography and state capitals lesson, as well as a visual tool for those kiddos who learn best visually (like Theo). He loved it! I hesitated at spending $19.99 on it, but it was well worth it—he got very excited every time he could flip a plate, and he enjoyed learning the state capitals. And obviously, we can use it again on future road trips, and Sam can use it when he’s old enough!

We also passed time on the long drives by having Theo tell us stories. This was a positive and a negative: The negative being that he’s currently in a horror-loving stage, and thus his stories got pretty gory at times. The positive, of course, was that storytelling is fun! And we learned that Theo is actually an excellent storyteller. He gives a lot of background details, and if you ask him about any plot holes, he immediately fills them in. Honestly, I wonder if he has the makings of a writer—his imagination is very vivid, and his stories are actually very well developed and interesting (if rather gory) for an eight-year-old. Next Stephen King, maybe?! It was just neat to see because he hates writing (the physical act), so we don’t really get to see much of his imagination come out very often. But if you have him tell you a story, you realize he’s actually capable of crafting quite a tale. Just be warned that it will currently include a lot of death and gore…sigh….

Anyway, I guess that wraps up the little bits. We look forward to next year’s vacation, wherever that will take us! We had been thinking of trying to get back to Virginia again, but I think that plan may need to be altered. But we’ve got plenty of time to think about it.

Here are a few more pix from the trip, etc. One more week at home, on “staycation,” and then the boys are back in school: Theo in third grade and Sam at his new preschool! Chris is taking this week off, too, as he had six weeks of vacation time earned and was maxed out. So he’s staying home along with us and working on house projects. Come next Monday, it’s back to real life for us all!


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