I got the call from my sister about two weeks ago. Would I be able to fly up to their house for Family & Friends Day at my nephew’s elementary school? My nephew has recently joined track and he thought it would be really cool if his ex semi-professional athlete uncle were there for him to show off.
My immediate reaction was no. I looked in the mirror and only saw the shadow of a top age-group athlete. I looked at my to-do list and only saw a never-ending list of things to accomplish by as soon as possible. I looked at my other half and only saw the look of fear in his eyes at the thought of being alone with our three rather rambunctious rascals.
But then I reconsidered. Our youngest son Dustin is turning 16-months old this coming week, and he and I have never been separated for more than an hour or so while I am out for a run or a swim. Our other two sons, Devin and Dylan, are both 6-years olds. Except for a four day trip to Fiji that I won and their two Dads enjoyed alone as their “honeymoon” when they were infants (we left them with the grandparents – one kid per pair of grandparents), they have not spent any time on this earth without their Daddy.
My husband travels a lot for work (all over the country) or for his MBA class (in Indiana), while Daddy is solo at home 24/7, sometimes for up to close to a week. So why not let him experience that joy? I would make things easier for him by putting out sets of clothes for school, giving plenty of instructions, and enlisting the help of our friend/surrogate for the entire duration of my trip. It would be a Thursday night through Sunday night, and she happens to be off work on Fridays through Sunday!
So I approached my better half, and to my pleasant surprise he was supportive in a nervous kind of way. My sister and nephews were over-the-moon excited. And I could barely contain myself, although I took great care not to show it in front of the boys. I began to daydream about sleeping in without the alarm of a crying baby waking me up, taking a shower without wondering if a toddler wax being pummeled to death in the next room, and spending quality time with my nephews (10 and 6) who were growing up way too fast.
The time came for my trip, and for the first half of it I was enjoying it immensely. It was great to see my sister and brother-in-law, my nephews, their basketball games, my parents (who recently moved from Arizona to live near my sister), and my ex-classmate from Physical Therapy school that lives near my sister
But I found myself daydreaming and wondering what the boys were up to. I would peruse their pictures on my iPhone and start tearing up. And I began to long for my partner of almost 10 years. I hadn’t anticipated just how much I would miss him too. My cup was overflowing, or whatever the expression was. I was anxious to get home.
I got some text pictures from my family, and did talk via Face Time, but I was happy to get on the plane to return to Santa Monica. I would be taking a taxi directly to our favorite massage place to start our date night (which was delayed for one day due to my absence), and I would be seeing the boys the next morning when I would wake them up for school and get to hear them beg to stay in bed for just one more minute. And life will be in full swing again, just the way I love it.
My editor probably thinks that I’ve fallen off the face of the earth, but I haven’t. Just the face of the continental United States. My family and I are right in the middle of a two-week vacation in San Juan, the capital city of Puerto Rico. My parents lived here for five years in the late 90’s, but I haven’t been here for vacation since my Grandmother brought my family and I here when I was in sixth grade. New Yorkers love to go to the Caribbean for vacation.
We had planned on making it a tradition to go on vacation for the two weeks after the boys get out of school for the summer, especially since the success of last year’s Costa Rica vacation. I wish I had more time to plan it, however. Being the event planner, I felt a lot of pressure to live up to last year’s trip. Unfortunately, it seemed like time hit the acceleration pedal around the beginning of May, and before I knew it we were just a few weeks away from our intended departure date. Once you throw in kindergarten graduation, preschool graduation, and a teething infant, time is just sucked out of the day.
To add to the pressure, we decided at the last minute to have some needed home renovations done while we were out of the house, including refinishing our first floor hardwood floors and painting. The contractors of this work thought it would be best if all of our furniture were out of the house, so I rented a POD storage system that could hold all of our first floor belongings.
The day before leaving on our trip, while the boys were enjoying separate play dates at nearby parks, I drove to a nearby area where day laborers congregate and wait for people like me to drive up and ask them for help. Luis and Rodrigo were more than happy to take me up on my offer of $40 each to do the furniture transfer. I thought I had everything set to make their job simple, but I found myself frantically boxing up things and emptying furniture that was too heavy, pulling out wires and feeding two men, until we finished three and a half hours later and me $200 poorer. All of us were fatigued to the bone.
Twenty-four hours later, while waiting for the taxi to arrive, I’m still packing that POD with last minute things, like a microwave, chairs, and kids’ toys, while also packing our four suitcases, three carry ons, a stroller and a car seat, while also preparing our three sons for a redeye flight to Miami and then to San Juan. Apparently my husband had some last minute paperwork to do, having just arrived home from a business trip the night before (in time for a date night that we fit in to celebrate our 9-year anniversary which had gone uncelebrated the week before), because he was MIA until the taxi arrived to take us to LAX for that flight to MIA.
Luckily my 7-month old infant-in-lap and I had a good five-hour stretch of solid sleep, and the other boys did pretty well too. Our connecting flight had problems, however, when we found ourselves heading right back to Miami soon after reaching cruising altitude, due to the heart attack in row 37.
We finally made it just in time to check in at our hotel, the four star Ritz Carlton planted right on the coast in San Juan. We had a great view of the ocean from nine stories in the air, but I was underwhelmed with the room, the kid’s club, and the pool. The airport was only five minutes away, but that made the area more industrial than hip. Other areas fifteen minutes away, like gay friendly Condado Beach, were much more up our alley. With a little research time, I would have known that.
Nevertheless, the boys are having a fantastic time. They love the beach, the pool, the hotel room experience, and all their new friends. They wouldn’t know that a hot dog at the pool costs $12, that our little hotel room leaves no time for Daddy-Papa time, and that they are not actually in the kid’s club due to the $170 extra charge per day required for that privilege.
We are half way through this adventure, however, so Alen and I thought we could bite the bullet and make it for one more week, but now we’re not so sure. Baby Dustin has come down with his first bad cold, complete with high fever and congestion. Devin, our oldest beach boy, is suffering from an ear ailment, probably due to the high number of flips and cannonballs he has performed at the pool that is shared by many other kids of all ages. And Dylan, who is never sick, has a hacking cough and slight fever. All three were up last night sucking down Motrin, changing wet pajamas, and begging for a cup (or bottle) of cold water.
I’ve got some congestion and a sore throat now, but Alen is feeling good, gambling in the casino on the first floor. All the boys are sound asleep, well except for Dustin who just coughed himself awake in time for his next dose of Motrin, and Devin, who just told me he vomited in his sheets. In-between writing, tending to my sons, and channel surfing, I am already researching for next year’s adventure, and I might have found the perfect one. I think it’s called a staycation. All the comforts of home, because you are home. Sounds right up my alley.
With only two weeks left in the school year, it seems like so many activities are trying to cram inside so little time. End of year parties, goodbyes, birthday parties, final evaluations; you name it, it’s happening. Throw in there my own Dad’s birthday, his 76th, as he celebrates it with my Mom all the way in Arizona. Dad is six months into his recovery from total knee replacement surgery, and is still experiencing a lot of pain and discomfort. His mobility is minimal, and his spirits are low. I can hear it in his voice every time I talk with him, even though I am 411 miles away. Besides the surgery, he is also lamenting the fact that he has never met our third son Dustin, who is now 6 ½ months old with two bottom teeth and what seems like 411 very long eyelashes.
I felt really bad for my Dad, and the boys missed Grandma and Grandpa a lot, so despite my misgivings about missing kindergarten and preschool (although much less misgivings about preschool), I made plans for a surprise road trip to their house, arriving the evening of my Dad’s birthday. I booked a two-night stay at a hotel near them (they have plenty of room but three little ones showing up unannounced doesn’t seem like the surprise I was shooting for), alerted the boys’ teachers, and gassed up the minivan. Packing for 72 hours is fairly painless, but I did end up forgetting a razor (which the hotel had) and some paperwork that I wanted to work on (which I wouldn’t have had time to do anyway). When you have three boys with you, it’s pretty much all about them. No workouts in the snazzy fitness room, no TV (for fear of waking them up), and no sleeping in.
We left the beach by 8:30am with plans to arrive at their house prior to dinner preparations so that we could hopefully be a part of dinner. Eastbound traffic was sluggish until we escaped the confines of Los Angeles, at which point I kept the pedal to the metal the rest of the way. A stop for a pancake breakfast a few hours later, and then a stop for lunch a few hours after that. Sprinkle in a smattering of small potty breaks and “go run around” stops, and we arrived at the hotel. Coincidentally, Papa was leaving our house for an east coast business trip (Miami) at around that very same time, although the boys got confused and kept asking when Papa was going to arrive at our hotel.
We settled in briefly and then hit the road again for the 6-mile drive to my parents. We stopped in a store close to them and grabbed some ice cream cake with “Happy Birthday Grandpa” written on it (I had them add the Grandpa part), some candles, and a lighter. Our plan was to drive up to their neighbor’s house and park, walk quietly to their house, and call them on the phone from right outside their front door. We’d have a friendly chat, and then tell them to hang on a second because someone is knocking on our door, and then at the same time we’d actually knock on their door. We’d wait until they opened their door before yelling “Surprise!!!” I was proud of the fact that the boys came up with that plan.
In reality however, my phone battery died just before we got to their house. There was no room to park in front of their neighbors, and the ice cream birthday cake was melting rapidly due to the 106 degrees of stifling air. Instead we quietly parked, tiptoed up to their front door, and knocked. Their dog Lady greeted us first with a very loud yapping bark, which sent two boys scurrying around the corner. The remaining boy, dressed as cute as a button complete with an “I Love Grandpa” bib, began to wail at the top of his lungs from the commotion, at which point my parents open the front door and stare in disbelief. I think they wondered why only the baby and I were making a surprise visit. Pretty soon the infant caught his breath and the boys built up some courage to come near the dog and my parents.
The boys were in the pool in no time at all, where they stayed for several hours while I visited with my family and showed off Dustin. Thanks to the power of heat exhaustion, everyone slept well that night in the hotel (the boys in the king size bed, Dustin in a hotel-provided pack and play, and me on the lumpy sofa bed), and woke up refreshed for another day of visiting and swimming. Now here I am writing in my lumpy bed while my angels sleep soundly, ready to tackle the leisurely drive back tomorrow.
Checking some notes I jotted down during this journey, I learned a few things:
1) Never have a set time that you need to arrive at your destination when you’re driving with three little boys. The stress is so much reduced when you couldn’t care less how many times you have to stop for potty breaks and water and food and another potty break, and they want just 5 more minutes Daddy please running around the grassy area of the rest stop.
2) Always pack extra clothing (mainly shorts and underwear), and keep some handy in your front seat in case of accidents or spills. Having to worry about wetness here or a stain there is stressful for everyone. More stress equals more meltdowns. Less stress equals more love.
3) Bring electronic games, and happily give up your iPhone and iPad.
4) Make the ‘½ tank’ of gas mark your new ‘empty’ mark. There’s nothing worse than having to drive around with kids on an empty tank (and stomach), while your mind already visualizes running out of gas on the most deserted road of your trip, and then what do you do?
5) Bring their pillows from home on the trip. They’ll sleep better.
6) Never ever buy ice cream cake in Arizona.
By Brandy Black
It’s that time of year, when the sun pops out from behind the clouds and we all begin to think about traveling with our families over summer vacation. I found that planning a trip to Hawaii is daunting. I scoured through websites looking for the perfect house to rent and either ran into red X’s on the preferred dates of travel or simply couldn’t find anything in our budget. After much angst we settled on Hilton Waikloa Village in Kona on The Big Island. We stayed in a two bedroom suite with a balcony overlooking the ocean in one direction and an open lawn with a hammock in the other.
Although this resort is huge, so spread out that you can take a tram or a boat to get to dinner, it was a blast for the children.
At night we played freeze tag with the kids on the grassy grounds. Once tucked in and with the babysitter we had picnics by the water.
There were several restaurants to choose from including Chinese, Italian, Mexican and the children’s favorite, the morning buffet!
It was a great place to stay with kids and although we struggled traveling with three little ones. The resort did not disappoint. If you are off to Kona with kids you must check this place out!
By John Jericiau
I just returned from the birthday party of a classmate of my eldest son Devin, who is deep into kindergarten. The party was held in the city’s only bowling alley, which happens to be just a few blocks from our house. Twenty-two boys and girls enjoyed a game of bowling, which took just under two hours, along with some pizza pies and veggie platters. The game was not competitive at all; however, I was pleased to see that Devin came out of it with the highest score (87).
Devin seemed to have a great time among friends, and I have to say that I did too. I had our 5-month-old son with me, looking as adorable as ever, and during an early-in-the-party conversation with other parents he abruptly nodded off to sleep, snoring angelically for the duration. I enjoyed immensely the other parents and their jokes, and sensed that some of us had bonded, now that there’s eleven weeks left in the school year. Topics included summer camps, the kindergarten teacher’s recent elopement, and the desire to plan a “Parent’s Night Out” for all of us that are “barely hanging in there.”
One of the best (and the worst) experiences that goes hand-in-hand with having children in school is meeting new people, all who share a common bond. I love getting to know how everyone else’s family works (or doesn’t work), where they’ve come from, and where they are going. On the downside, there’s the gossip, judging, and backstabbing, but you have to take the good with the bad. You have to hang in there, if nothing else but for your kids. So you force yourself to talk to others, even if you don’t particularly want to.
Fortunately for me, I’ve always been fairly outgoing with people from a young age, and have tried to instill that curiosity and openness in my own kids. I was lucky to be this way when I made my way across the country alone on my bicycle at age 22. I had no problem meeting new people as I stopped in a city or rural town at the end of my day, which was fortunate since I had 60 ends of days. No sooner would I be chatting it up with someone outside a grocery store or fruit stand or mall when I would receive at least one invitation to spend the night with a roof over my head instead of ants beneath my body. Once we got to know each other, my new friend would expand their offer to include dinner, a shower, a clean comfortable bed, breakfast the next morning, and a packed lunch to last me through half of the next day. Occasionally I’d receive even more extras like cash, gift cards, hotel accommodations set up for the following night in a town along my proposed route, and yes, even a massage.
One of the most unique encounters I had was with Native American Indians right smack in the middle of the country. I ran into a family of them in a kind of rest stop along the main highway that bisects this midwestern state. The highway is peppered with connecting roads that lead to reservation after reservation.
The family quickly offered to let me stay with them, and although I felt some hesitation, I found myself slinging my bike onto the back of their pickup truck and hopping in. We arrived to their very modest house in no time, and upon entering through the front door I was greeted by a living room that had nothing but a brand-new, large color television right smack in the middle of it, with children and young adults alike gathered around it like a campfire.
I was offered a beverage, the choices being either water or beer, and then was shown my sleeping quarters, which turned out being a mattress in the basement with a rather large collection of cats. Needless to say the place smelled like cats and their byproducts. I wished everyone good night and laid my sleeping bag atop the mattress and hunkered down for a much needed rest.
It wasn’t more than an hour into the smelly night when someone opened the door to the basement and began their tiptoeing descent toward me. I could hear heavy breathing and a few cat cries as the person got closer and closer. With two feet to go I could see that it was the mother of the house, Ruth, who was feeling a little tipsy and very amorous. I had to fight off all 275 pounds of her for what seemed like an eternity (but was probably no more than a minute or two) before her keen-hearing brother dashed down the stairs and saved the night. After they left, I kept watch until the morning, but the coast remained clear. And I hightailed it out of there at the first sight of the sun.
The rest of my bike trip was eventful and memorable. Everyone has a story to tell, but for the times I had other interesting encounters, the cat’s got my tongue. At least for now, that is.
By John Jericiau
We just returned from a last-minute trip to Palm Springs to cap off Spring Break. Yes, I was content to stay home and enjoy the stay-cation and go to all the local activities and play dates that I had planned as part of Camp Daddy. And yes, having to search for and book a hotel room, pack for five, and clean out the minivan was going to add stress to my already stressed schedule. But my husband, hard working as he is and preparing for his medical board exam (a passing grade is required every ten years to keep his medical license), felt that a short trip out of town was just what the doctor ordered. Plus the boys love going on trips and staying in hotels. Also, our nearly five-month old had yet to spend a night in a hotel room. So I quickly hotwired and kayaked until I found a hotel with lots of pool activities and a fun twisty pool slide for the boys, and a workout gym for the fathers, and off we went.
I must admit I was looking forward to the weather. Our beach community refuses to let go of the thick marine layer these days that keeps the temperature in the low 60s, so I did find myself salivating at the 90-degree predictions showing up on my iPhone. Although the days of lounging by the pool, alternating between napping and reading as my skin soaks in the rays of the sun and my tongue laps up an ice-cold drink, were a fantasy right now due to parenthood, it’s still quite enjoyable to hang out by the pool and watch the boys enjoy the things that I used to enjoy.
As I drove my family the 114 miles east to Palm Springs, my thoughts drifted back to all the fun I’ve had there. In the late 80’s and early 90’s my friends and I would spend New Year’s Eve there in sprawling all-gay resorts and hotels, dancing the night away to tunes such as Like a Prayer (Madonna) and Miss You Much (Janet Jackson). One year my physical therapy program at USC offered a short internship at a Palm Springs hospital, so I quickly jumped at the chance to spend the first two weeks of the year in a school-subsidized three-bedroom apartment. I requested an early arrival, as in December 29th, thinking that I could secretly bring my friends along and they could enjoy the apartment with me (and we wouldn’t have to pay for a hotel that year) as we celebrated New Year’s Eve and a few days of after-parties.
My request was granted. “Just pick up the apartment key at the management office down the street from your apartment”, I was told. My plan was working. I would drive my carload of friends to Palm Springs, park around the block from the management office, and run in and collect the key. Then it’s on to partying like it’s 1999, only a whole decade earlier.
The woman at the management office was very nice, giving me advice on where to run and exercise and eat and catch a movie. She removed my apartment key from the top drawer of her desk, but instead of handing it to me she says as she starts heading for the door “Okay, let’s go check out your place. Should you drive or should I?”
“My car is packed with stuff, so can you please drive?” I begged. “Just let me run back to my car for my wallet.”
Despite a puzzled look, she agreed and said to meet her out front in the parking lot where her white Toyota Tercel would be waiting. I sprinted back to my friends in waiting, briefed them on the situation, and told them to follow the Tercel to the apartment where they could park and wait for further instructions from me. I ran back and squeezed into her car as we drove the half-mile to the apartment. We walked up to the front door of the apartment as I glanced behind us and saw my friends park across the street, anxious to start their Palm Springs experience. As the woman slipped the key into the hole to unlock the door, I heard her say, “You’ll have the back bedroom, and your roommate’s name is Josh, a PT student from Colorado.”
Roommate? I had no idea about a roommate. My heart sunk as I thought about my friends outside. I took a brief tour of the apartment and was told Josh would be home from his internship later in the day. I thanked the woman and told her I’d hike back to my car later, since I was a fitness buff. When the coast was clear I collected my compadres and we infiltrated the apartment, all six of us, like bees to their hive. I explained my dilemma but it didn’t appear to faze anyone, as margaritas were already being served in the kitchen. We brought in our suitcases from the car, squeezed into the two remaining bedrooms, and waited for our new roommate to arrive.
Josh arrived to find six sloshed guys who had taken over his space, but since he had just spent the past five weeks bored and alone in the apartment, he was happy to have the company. We all ended up having the best time.
“Daddy! How long until we get there?” a voice yelled in my ear, waking me from my daydream. I looked over at my husband reading on his iPad, back at my boys playing on their Nintendo, and at my new son sleeping away under his blankies, and I realize how much has changed. Not everything, however. I still want a Margarita when I get there, and I still listen to Madonna.
By Brandy Black
I should have known what direction my 40th birthday trip was going when I woke up the morning of our flight with a terrible cold. If I knew then…
Our first day in Hawaii was spent at the pool with all the kids. I hadn’t quite thought through how challenging, even with three adults, it would be to manage twins and a five-year-old. Just getting out of the room was exhausting, the sunblock, floaties, diapers, wipes, bottles, snacks, the list was endless. Then I had the bright idea of purchasing an oversized (literally as big as I am) turtle for Sophia to float around on. I wasn’t thinking, didn’t consider that we would be toting that damn thing around for the entire week. I just saw the smile on my daughter’s face when I agreed to her plea. Once all kids were finally in the pool and on our floats, we quickly realized the water was freezing cold. I know it’s always warm in Hawaii but on the occasional 70 degree day it sure would be nice if the pools were heated! Our water is warmer in California and frankly the weather too! My oldest said “I thought it was supposed to be like summer in Hawaii?!”
“Me too baby.”
After about an hour of freezing our asses off in the pool just to say we did, we decided to have lunch and that is when it all began. Sophia complained of a tummy ache. At first it was minor but it continued to escalate and by the end of the day she just wanted to be in the room. We scrambled to think of what might have caused this and came up with the natural solution- constipation. She has struggled with this in the past because of her deathly fear of pooping (that’s a whole other blog) but all was typically resolved with a little MiraLAX. And shit! I didn’t bring it! I brought the entire house in our three suitcases but didn’t think to bring the MiraLAX! So off Susan went on a 40-minute walk to the nearest grocery store while I juggled three kids with the nanny. When Susan returned she happily held up a box of ExLax! “Why did you get that?” I say, with an instinct that five is a little young for Exlax. It turns out that’s all the market had and there were no other stores anywhere near us. I asked to see the box, convinced it wasn’t safe and Susan read aloud “Yep, it’s fine, it says half a pill for five.”
Reluctantly I agreed. Suddenly a few hours later the pain was worse. Our daughter was officially not enjoying the vacation. We eagerly awaited a poop to make it all better. The next day, no poop and still serious belly pain. By the afternoon we had to call the resident doctor onsite and she advised us to race to the hospital for fear that it was appendicitis. Now I was in a panic. Not only had we discovered at this point that Susan read the box wrong and Exlax is not for young kids but it can also make appendicitis burst! We left the twins with the nanny and called a cab to the hospital which was 40 minutes away. Sophia at this point was screaming “take this pain away, please why aren’t you fixing this?” and I in a full-blown panic. On the way to the hospital Sophia finally fell asleep spread out across my lap. What a relief -until I realized that I was wet, she was wet, the cab was wet and it really smelled! Yep, she shit all over everything and get this: I didn’t bring back up clothes.
We finally pulled up to a small driveway and I was convinced we weren’t in the right place. It looked like a Veterinary Hospital. We finagled our daughter out of the cab and walked into a dingy little waiting room full of a family of Hawaiian people sitting around talking. We signed in and then had to wake our finally peaceful daughter. She began yelling “What are you doing? Why are you doing this to me? My belly. My belly.” I insisted the doctor give her something for the pain but logically they wouldn’t, they needed to see what the problem was first. They wanted Sophia to pee in a cup but she refused to drink water because she knew the pain it would inflict. After much yelling and getting transferred into a private room because we were bothering the other patients, Sophia finally fell asleep again. I began calculating the hours that we were going to sit by her side watching her sleep with no real answers since she was certainly not going to wake up and pee in a fucking cup. After convincing the doctor that she had to come up with another plan she decided to do x-rays. Sure enough we identified the problem, Sophia was 100% constipated. The nurse came in a few minutes later with an enema and handed it to me.
“Do you want to do it?”
“What? No, I don’t know how to do it!”
We agreed that she should do it while Sophia slept and I would be standing by on the gurney in case she woke up. I was above Sophia and with no warning from the nurse, shit came spraying out of my daughter, all over me! “Well that happened fast” the nurse says with a friendly tone.
We got back to the room at 3AM and hoped to wake to a better day.
Suffice to say, the days didn’t get better. Sophia still struggled through pain, our twin daughter threw up on me, I think because the food in Hawaii was a bit different for her. The wind was howling, making our beach trip a disaster that culminated in our double stroller toppling over and hitting a woman in the face. We were dying to go home early from our never-ending trip but the doctors actually advised staying because travel only makes constipation worse.
The final leg of the trip, a red-eye flight which had been recommended by veteran friends with twins, was a nightmare. The kids didn’t sleep well, Sophia shit all over herself in her sleep on the plane and I swear the flight attendants sent in a Hazmat team to clean up after us. Oh and after arriving back at our house at 7am, I had scheduled a work meeting at noon that same day. I think I’m still recovering.
By Brandy Black
I remember my first plane ride as a child. I made an X on each calendar day counting down to the moment I would fly high up in the sky. It was so exciting. I was thrown back in time today when my 5-year-old daughter told me that tomorrow she would have a big smile on her face because the day after we will be going to Hawaii. But the part she is most excited about is the plane ride. She doesn’t recall every being on an airplane, which is funny because she’s been on several but I guess it’s been a while for air travel since the twins arrived.
Tonight I walked Sophia through every detail of arrival at the airport, security, seatbelts, the lights that turn on and off with instruction to the passengers, the flight attendants, the food, the drink cart! She practiced what she would order. I can’t wait to watch her experience all these “firsts” again. I am bracing myself, thinking about holding a baby on my lap the entire trip while trying to juggle ipads, drinks, food, and toys for Sophia. I won’t even have Susan next to me as we are not allowed to have two infants in the same row. I worry about the passengers around us. This trip could be incredible or an utter divorce-inducing disaster. Susan and I travel really well…without kids. Vacations with kids is like Space Mountain—lots of dizzying twists and turns never really knowing where you’re going to end up. One minute the children can be happy and grateful and the next they are screaming at the top of their lungs in a public place and Susan and I have nothing better to do than take it out on each other.
So we venture forward, creating lasting memories. Celebrating big birthdays and watching our children grow up. Wish me luck as I zoom through the friendly skies.
By Brandy Black
It’s a family tradition to see snow around the holidays. Typically we’ll drive somewhere for the day but this year we decided to get a cabin in Big Bear, CA at Christmas. This turned out to be a great destination for our family because it’s only 2 hours away from Los Angeles, which is perfect if you are traveling with little ones. We have three kids! I will warn you that chains are a requirement to have with you over the winter season (this I did not know) and those switchbacks can be a bit dizzying, but once we got to our quaint town and adorable cottage in the snow, we were thrilled. Chalet Devora was a prime location for skiers, just a quick 10-minute walk to the slopes. We were set up on a hill, which was a little intimidating to drive on ice, but worth it for the sledding around the back. Fully equipped with Christmas trees (yep there were 2) and festive holiday décor, the place was lovely. It even had a hot tub! Although when we all got in one snowy night it was about as hot as a lukewarm bath so you might want to warn them to crank up that heat!
What to do with kids in Big Bear
There is a great little ski camp at the slopes that we enrolled our daughter in for 2 hours. It was her first time skiing and she came out with a good snow plow and the desire to ski down her first bunny hill. I couldn’t believe I was more terrified than she when we all went up on her very first chairlift.
There are a couple nice inner-tubing places that are great fun for kids. We spent the afternoon making snow angels, having snowball fights, and sliding down the hill.
I wasn’t sure if there would be much to do with the babies (they are one). People thought we were crazy motivating with twin babies, but they had a blast. We took them to Big Bear Village and bought a sled and pulled them around in the snow. We happened upon a tiny hill that every toddler in town has spotted and had great fun listening to them giggle as they traversed through the snow.
What to Eat
If you are a foodie, you might not be terribly impressed with the restaurants, but I thought it was just what you’d expect from a lovely little village town. I couldn’t get a good sidecar to save my life but I enjoyed my meal and fireside table at Captain’s Anchorage. They even had the 80’s salad bar.
We had a great trip and will surely do it again, although my next ski destination is Mammoth. Any recommendations before we go?
1. Gas station attendants are fairly generous with plastic bags—especially when you tell them you have a puking child in their parking lot.
2. You can toss a child’s puke-saturated clothing in a gas station women’s room and it will in no way alter the aroma of the place.
3. Per the laws of mathematics and physics, sleeping with two 35-pound children in a queen-sized bed should be fairly equivalent to sleeping with one 70-pound child in a queen-sized bed. It is not.
4. The removal of wet sand from a six-year-old’s butt crack must be done one grain at a time.
5. It is possible to get sick of eating a delicious dinner out every night.
6. My children never eat enough in a restaurant to make it financially feasible to buy them food. Alas, it is illegal not to offer them food occasionally.
7. Collecting shells on the beach is enjoyable in theory, until you have to figure out what to do with the three full buckets of shell shards your children collected and insist on transporting the 1370 miles home.
8. The person who invented portable DVD players should be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.
9. Pelicans are freaking huge and scary as shit.
10. My children are not, nor may they ever be, the “outdoorsy” type.
11. Hiking straight up the side of a mountain is strangely less exhilarating than it sounds.
12. My daughter has to pee exactly every twenty miles while travelling. It is a mathematical and biological wonder.
13. For the purpose of peace and tranquility, you should never travel with fewer handheld electronics than you have children.
14. The Toyota Camry has unbelievable trunk space. Seriously. I could easily fit three children and all my luggage in there. Luckily, it never came to that.
15. Children do not care in the least to look at the breathtakingly beautiful mountains when cradling a handheld video game in their hands. Insisting they look is pointless, as they will not sufficiently appreciate the beauty and it will just piss you off.
16. My youngest son is either slow or annoyingly defiant, as he absolutely refused to play on the beach—he lay around in a beach chair whining about how he preferred the pool—until the very last day of our trip. On the last day, we had to drag him kicking and screaming from the beach.
17. Applying sunscreen to every inch of exposed flesh on five pale, pasty Minnesotans takes longer than I had initially imagined it would.
18. I can and do peel.
19. I have a great deal of respect for people who bathe their children every day. (I am normally not a believer and justify my laziness by telling myself that the cold Minnesota winters dry out the skin enough to make a daily bath an unnecessarily torturous affair.) With the combined salt and chlorine of the beach and pool—not to mention the aforementioned ass crack sand issue—my children received a bath every single day of our trip. It is freaking hard work.
20. Despite everything I have ever believed, my family in no way has my back. This was glaringly evident when they all stood around giggling like little school girls rather than helping me as the ocean waves knocked me down over and over and over again until I eventually had to crawl on my hands and knees out of the ocean like some primordial sea creature.