A week's vacation with rugrats

We went on our first big vacation with the kids! Previously, we had been away from home for a night or two, but never more than that. But, because I have decided it must be time for the kids to go meet our friends and relatives in California at Thanksgiving this year, I decided we'd better have a practice vacation first.

Ken grew up in Ithaca, NY, and still has friends and family there, and I have some online friends who also live in Ithaca. So, it seemed like a good destination, being about seven hours drive. Ken's sister lives in Amherst, MA, and we decided to stop there for a couple of days on the way back. Driving isn't the same as flying, of course, since you can stop and get out, but in a plane you don't have to sit in the seat all the time. The whole day of travel will be longer when we go to California, and the duration of our trip will also be longer, but it will have the same structure, that is, going one place (Grandma's house) for a few days, followed by a car trip to San Francisco, and another few days seeing friends before returning home.

The kids did really great on the trip to Ithaca. We only stopped in those places we would've had to stop anyway for ourselves, although for a bit longer. We read books, we got out sticker books, we got out coloring books, we sang songs, and we talked about the trip that we were taking. Once at our destination, Ken's friend Bev West's house, there was a little fussing about "I want to go home", but usually that was because Jocelyn (the major fusser) knew that something specific was available at home (e.g. yogurt for lunch instead of whatever was served), so she wanted to go there. Once we determined what it was, we generally were able to provide it or a facsimile and mollify her. Bev's house was really great for them, because she still has a lot of the books and toys her own children grew up with, and they just love new books and toys. We did go to playgrounds, which of course we could do at home as well, but it was something to do with our other friends that was child friendly.

Unfortunately, it rained Monday, the day that I spent with my online friends and planned to do the playground thing. Next time we will need to research if there is an indoor playground (usually they cost money) or children's museum. We went to the playground anyway, but we got rather wet. The kids like going to restaurants, so they thought it was great when we went out to dinner at Moosewood Restaurant.

Tuesday we hung around at Bev's house. She has a small pond in the backyard, which they swam in, and Bev enjoyed reading to them and interacting with them in imaginative play. A favorite was feeding pretend corn shucks to the hobby horses.

Wednesday, we went to see Ithaca Falls, which is a fairly impressive waterfall. Perry had some difficulty with the footing, which is a gravel path, and got kind of fussy on the way back to the car. We finished out the morning with a trip to the beach of Lake Cayuga, where there was a seaplane moored which we got to see up close. A good friend of Ken's father came to visit and meet the twins later that afternoon.

We left Thursday morning for Amherst. The kids got stressed out by the hustle and bustle of packing, and so they started the trip somewhat fussy, and it was hard to get them to calm down and listen to a book in the car. We stopped for pizza at lunch, which was a hit, and then there was a little park to run around in. There was a little river in the park, and a small dam with a lot of water running over it, which made another waterfall, and they enjoyed that (and Jocelyn has been telling everybody since we got home that we saw two waterfalls on our trip). We dropped flowers over the side of a bridge and watched them disappear down the stream. This proved to be a problem in a later stop, when Jocelyn picked a weed from the side of the walkway back from the restaurant and wanted to drop it in the water (there wasn't any at that stop), and then refused to get back in the car. We finally got her to get in by promising her we would go find another river. Unfortunately, we had left behind the Massachusetts map by mistake, but we managed. We found a state park with a lake, and this was acceptable to Jocelyn. A little fussing ensued when we discovered she had dropped the weed somewhere on the floor of the car, which was covered with suitcases, ice chests, books, toys, and everything else you can imagine. Another discussion and we finally convinced her there would be more weeds to pick in the park, and it would be okay to throw those in the lake. Eventually we got to Auntie Joyce's place still in one piece. We learned from this that we should be much calmer about leaving, even if it means we get off a little later than planned. Indeed, I think we would have arrived earlier had we left later!

We had carefully selected a time when all the cousins would be home from college, so there wasn't room at the inn. But fortunately Valerie had friends in the area who had a large and beautiful home for us to stay for two nights. This is where the large bag of toys and books I'd packed came in handy -- we hadn't even gotten it out of the car at Bev's.

Friday we spent hanging around at Joyce's house, and in the afternoon took a walk to a bridge over a stream, so we could drop flowers in the water and watch them disappear, since this had been such an important activity the preceding day. We had one problem that day, which is that after Jocelyn fell asleep for her nap, Ken and I and one of his nieces took a walk. When we returned, we heard Jocelyn screaming at the top of her lungs. It turned out she had awakened ten minutes previously, and upon discovering that none of her people were around, she commenced to scream for them. Her uncle just wouldn't do, and Valerie was napping where she couldn't hear Jocelyn. So, we learned from this that we should not leave her sleeping with unfamiliar people without advance preparation (and maybe even that won't be enough.)

For dinner we got take-out food and took it to a local park to eat as a picnic. One of Ken's cousins lives in Amherst as well, and they came to dinner. They have kids, ages 6 and 10. Our kids enjoyed playing with their second cousins at the park, and Jocelyn even remembers the phrase "second cousin" when reporting her fun in the park!

Saturday we went to a potluck in Belchertown, from a "queer families with twins" email list, which is comprised mostly of lesbians. We have two moms in our family -- we have a dad too, but they let us come anyway. Ken feels kind of conspicuous :-) The hosts had a nice yard, and it was a beautiful day, so we pigged out while the kids slid on the slide and played with the sand-and-water table (and got filthy and soaked. We changed their clothes before getting back in the car.) It was a small gathering, with 4 families. Ours were the oldest twins in attendance, but there were a couple older singleton siblings as well. Of course, when every family has at least a set of twins, even 4 families makes a big group!

We timed it to have naps in the car on the way back, and arrived home without any further ado. The kids were very glad to be home. It was a long time away for them. My cat was glad we were back, too, and it was nice to sleep in my own bed.

I'm hoping that we will have this trip to draw on as we prepare them for the bigger trip. "Remember when we went to Bev's?"