Ryan had to go to Salem and since there is a Target within minutes of Salem, I had no choice but to offer my company. Then we decided to take the kids and get a hotel for two nights and make a mini-vacation out of it. I’m pretty sure we threw around the word “fun” around quite recklessly as we prepared for this trip, as in: “We’ll go to the Oregon Zoo! It will be so fun!” or “It will probably take about 8 hours to get there with all the stops to nurse and stuff. Super fun!!”
The parental concept of “fun” looks quite different from my pre-kid days, when my life was basically a string of sexy trips to Cancun over Spring Break. It’s possible I am misremembering this period of time, but I don’t think so. After surviving this trip, I have concluded that people traveling with three small children with very low levels of self-sufficiency should probably re-think their definition of the word “fun.”
If you’re going on a trip with small children, one thing you have to remember to pack is your proverbial vacation pick axes (you have one of those, right?) because at some point, you will need to mine the crap out of Mt. Vacation in order to find the fun buried deep inside. You will need to sift through pan after pan of sand and dirt to find a little vacay gold. Your trip may not feel fun every single moment, but not to worry! The fun will happen retroactively – when you’ve forgotten how hot it was changing diapers in the back of the minivan or when your eardrums stop vibrating from the screams of overtired children who have come into very brief contact with a fly.
So here are some highlights from our “fun” trip to Salem. Some moments were genuinely fun. Some moments felt fun only after we got home, showered, took a nap, and drank espresso.
In a mostly successful effort to prevent travel-related meltdowns, I got the boys Ninja Turtles lunchboxes and filled them with things: dollar store toy airplanes, paper and colored pencils, and this baby bottle thing where the nipple is made of hard candy. So, yes, essentially I gave my children candy nipples to keep them busy in the car. Totally legit parenting.
Our first big stop along the way was Mt. Hood, a small town near the Columbia River Gorge. This was my first time Mt. Hood-ing it. I enjoyed a delicious dinner looking out at the sun setting behind one of those mountains covered with trees. Tree Mountain! There’s no way that’s its real name, but if I was in charge of naming mountains I would re-name it Tree Mountain While I Ate Baked Pasta – because “Tree Mountain While I Repeatedly Tried to Shush My Children” is less catchy.
The kids did pretty well waiting for dinner. We only had to tell Brayton he couldn’t wander around and pretend to shoot the Sith (also known as “other people in the restaurant”) about 687 times.
Let me just stop here and say that I am astounded by the modern marvel that is GPS. Ryan and I just got our first smart phones and sweet baby Jesus was I thankful for that tiny little computer during this trip. In the 10 minutes leading up to our approach to Mt. Hood, I was able to search for a kid-friendly restaurant, read its reviews, then navigate to it. WHAT THE HECK, MODERN TECHNOLOGY.
After some more driving and stopping to nurse the baby and more driving and more nursing we finally made it to Salem! By the time we checked into the hotel, it was around 10pm – two hours past the kids’ bedtime. I could no longer locate my proverbial vacation pick axe, so I was unable to discover fun at this point. Liam had to be dragged onto the elevator, then into our hotel room, as he is deeply suspicious of any room he has not previously visited. It was pretty much downhill from there.
Our room was a stubborn 85ish degrees all night and I was rocking some hard-core insomnia. I slept maybe one hour collectively, getting up at 3am to eat a granola bar and one of my children’s Uncrustable sandwiches on the floor in front of the bathroom – definitely in the running for one of my top 10 most glamorous moments of 2014.
Also, in case you’re wondering, an hour of sleep after a long travel day is more or less the perfect way to start a day of lots of walking, keeping track of your super short children, and casting your bleary gaze at caged animals.
It wasn’t all drudgery, though. The Oregon Zoo is beautiful, they have very good hamburgers, and watching the kids’ reactions was so much fun.
And beer! You can walk around the zoo with beer! I declined, seeing as how my body is responsible for feeding a human baby, but Ryan jumped on board that booze train faster than you can say “Brayton get over here and stop wandering off this is the last time I’m telling you I will give you a time out right here in this zoo.”
Brayton loved the giraffes. Who doesn’t love the giraffes? If you don’t enjoy seeing giraffes in man-made captivity, you don’t have a soul.
And I don’t have a picture of it, but we all loved seeing some fruit bats doing fruit bat things like…eating fruit. And flying around. It was equally amusing to watch people’s responses to fruit bats. Apparently some people are quite frightened of them and don’t mind expressing this at loud volumes in confined spaces.
I was looking forward to this with nearly all of my being (especially after the Uncrustables night), but…I wasn’t impressed. Am I crazy? Should I try it again? I got an iced coffee, my go-to drink. I drink it black, so if the coffee isn’t good, there’s no syrup, sugar, or dairy products to disguise its mediocrity.
The adjoining hotel lobby where we enjoyed our coffee snack was not all that family-friendly (couches = spills you can’t wipe up), but we forged ahead and I only got one brief disdainful stare from a hipster while I sat nursing the baby.
The Best Restaurant Ever
Some of you saw this in Instagram, but allow me to repeat the trifecta of awesomeness that is Portland’s Hopworks Bike Bar: delicious food, good beer, and a place for my children to play – right next to our table.
They als0 has this super cool wall o’ beer bottles and light fixtures made of growlers – two ideas I’ll hold onto in case Ryan ever gets his man cave video game palace.
Riding the Carousel of Terror
The next day, Ryan went to a local community college to do his stuff. They had an old fire truck in the lobby that the boys loved. They wanted to climb it and pound it and basically ruin it with their enthusiasm. We did not allow this. We took a photo instead.
While Ryan was occupied, it was just me, the kids, and Lady GPS. The kids had never ridden a carousel, so I was like – it’s mutha freakin’ carousel time, kids.
My first whiff of trouble was when Brayton nervously claimed that he didn’t want to “ride those big horses” – which is like the entire point of a carousel. Then I had to drag Liam on, since carousels are technically unknown territory and therefore threatening. Everyone was fine for the first two seconds of the ride, then –
Both Liam and baby Isaac cried the entire time. I don’t know about you guys, but when my kids turn the fun times into the sad times, I take selfies.
After my children recovered from the terror of the carousel (wait, “terrosel” – get it?), we headed back to the college to wait for Ryan. We passed the time reading about Ninja Turtles and Bubble Guppies.
One Last Thing
And we did indeed make it to a Target – after our day at the zoo. This was retroactive fun at its most glorious – I would have vastly preferred to finally make it to a Target well-rested, alone, and with an iced coffee in my hand, but still…Target. I mean, it can’t be that bad.
This last photo didn’t fit into the post anywhere else, but it’s hands down the most terrifying photo I’ve seen of Liam, so I think you should see it.
Nothing like a little mishap with the flash and a empty-eyed expression to make a normally adorable child look like the spawn of Hades.
Thanks for sort-of coming on my trip with me. Next time you should come for reals and I’ll let you change some diapers in the back of the minivan.
Epilogue – Where Have I Been?
I can’t believe you’re still reading this post! Good for you!
I know it’s been a super long time since I’ve posted, but blogging doesn’t mix with my life very well right now. Blogging is oil and my life is water. Or I guess the other way around, but it sounds gross to use the word “oily” to describe my life.
Here’s a super quick rundown of what I’ve been up to:
1. Having a baby (Baby Isaac! Born February 28! Paragon of adorableness!)
2. Staying in school full-time during all the having-a-baby business
3. Going back to work part-time while going to school full-time while getting up in the middle of the night and nursing my newborn baby around the clock
When I had sweet baby Isaac I had already pulled back a lot on my responsibilities. I managed to finish out most of my classes, but took an incomplete in Intro to Epidemiology. I could write 600 posts alone on how much I hated this class, but I’ll save us all from having to relive the agony and just tell you that the word “epidemiology” is basically like a swear word to me now. If someone were to get angry with me and say something like, “epidemiology you!” I’d be like, “Aw, HELL naw! Oh, no you DI-int!” and then there would probably be fisticuffs.
Anyway, here I am again – still working, but free and easy in terms of schoolwork for an ENTIRE SUMMER! I started writing for fun-zies just a few weeks ago and it felt so delicious, like my brain was eating pie.
This is really the end now! Go eat some brain pie!