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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Family Fun or Bust

I remember piling into our green station wagon as a kid and taking off for a two-week vacation almost every year. It seemed that’s what everyone did back then. Well, those of us without the money to jet to exotic locations or go on cruises.

I saw a lot of the country riding backwards in the back of that station wagon and came away from these experiences with lots of memories, like the time we took a wrong exit in Buffalo, NY on our way to Niagara Falls and ended up in a rough neighborhood complete with streetwalkers. My mom kept saying, “Don’t look at them. Stop staring,” as we pressed our faces to the windows and gawked. (Politeness has always been a priority in my family.)

I’m glad we have this, and many other stories, to laugh about now. I think of stories as the thread that holds a family together and gives us a sense of who we are and where we belong. Memories can be created many ways, but I really want our kids to have some of the same experiences my husband and I had growing up. Hence, we take road trips.

Most every year our destination is the same, my hometown to visit relatives. They look forward to it every year, which pleases me very much. I want our kids to have a connection with their extended family and know where they belong in this big old world. And I just know we are creating fun memories.

Going to the same place might seem a bit predictable and boring, but there is also some comfort in the familiar. One tradition my kids look forward to is receiving a goodie bag every time we cross a state line. We cross four state lines to get there and back. I started this practice when our son was a toddler and now he’s twelve. (Our daughter is seven.) It’s more work for me, especially with two kids, but it is something they count on and it makes the trip more fun.

This year was very enjoyable. Our kids’ personalities have blossomed so much and they both are incredibly funny and smart. (Yes, I know all mothers think that of their kids.) But they really are great fun to have around, and my husband is one of my favorite people in the world. Here are some of my favorite moments.

We played a game of “Unfortunately, Fortunately” where one person creates a bad scenario (Unfortunately, a giant hawk named Bob carried away the car) and the next adds something to get us out of the predicament (Fortunately, we had anti-hawk spray…). Our daughter kept coming up with these totally outrageous and almost nonsensical things.
When our son would say, “You can’t do that”, she’d respond with, “I can do anything with my imagination.”

Our daughter also wrote a story for us – “There was a lovely princess and a queen who loved her very much. The queen married and they lived happily ever after.” My son’s critique, “That wasn’t much of a plot.”

On the trip, our son developed an annoying habit of saying, “Or will I? Or did I? Or shall I?” at the end of everything we said to him. Just when I thought I might go insane, our daughter added dramatic music after each time he said it. “Dun, dun, dun.” Much to his chagrin, she continued to do this after he said anything for the next fifteen minutes. We were all rolling, and secretly happy for little sister revenge.

My husband told us about a t-shirt he’d seen that said, “Only you can prevent forest fires, Craig.” So, since every family needs a scapegoat and none of us wanted the role, we adopted Craig. And boy, did he get blamed for a lot. Who spilled the chips in the car, Craig?

At our destination, we did lots of fun things, like mini-golf, bumper boats and go-carts. And we watched Netflix movies at night. But probably one thing the kids liked the best was when we stopped at a hotel on our way home in a small Iowa town and stayed in the “suite”. It had a Jacuzzi tub in the room, which our kids called a hot tub. We donned our swimsuits and piled in then watched a movie on the flat screen. They kept going on and on about what a nice room it was. It was heaven for them and so cute.

I hope someday they will look back on these trips with fondness. I know I will.

What is a favorite memory you have from a family vacation (holiday, for our Aussie friends)?


  1. LOL about the streetwalkers! And the riding backwards! We have an old station wagon now that has the backwards-riding seat, and whenever we have a car full, that's where I end up riding.

    My daughter is only 3 so we are just getting to the point where road trips can be fun instead of merely exhausting. When we drove from NC to TX earlier last year, her favorite thing was to say "Silly dog!" and laugh maniacally whenever we passed a dog on the street. For some reason, that cracked us all up.

    We have our own Craig, only he is named Grady Niblo. I don't know why.

  2. LOL, Sarah. I can't believe you have an old station wagon. That's great!

    Don't you just love when kids laugh a full-belly laugh? It's one of my favorite sounds.

    And, oh, my gosh! You have your own scapegoat, Grady Niblo. I love it! We have another pretend person, but we don't blame him for things. His name is Flubber-head McGee. He just shows up periodically. :)

  3. Samantha, you won't believe this, but my parents and I TOTALLY got lost in Buffalo and ended up in a similar part of town! Actually, that happened in almost every city we visited. I'll never forget my mom and I getting lost in St. Louis en route to see my dad (he travelled for a living, so mom home schooled me in 4th grade so we could trail along with him). I was about 8 or 9 and totally thought I was black on the inside. My mom, being from Iowa where she knew one black person growing up, was terrified as I'd yell things like "These my people!" LOL!

    Road trips were a HUGE part of my upbringing since my parents have always hated the hassle of flying, and every once in a while (especially in the fall) I get a hankering to hit the road myself. I can't wait to take Bella apple picking upstate or on haunted hayrides out in the country :)

    But I also look forward to giving her things I didn't get as a kid...I really can't wait to take her to London and Paris or on cruises...all the things the rich kids did when I was a kid. LOL!

  4. Big smiles this morning, reading your post, and I think it's awesome that you're carrying on the traditions and fun memories for your children. They will most certainly remember, and more than likely carry it on in their families.

    I like the idea of knowing where in this big world you belong...

  5. Jerrica: Too funny! Like you, I want to take my kids other places as well and allow them to see the world. In fact, we're planning a cruise for next February with extended family.

    Heather: I'm so glad you stopped by. It's always great to hear from you. :)

  6. Samatha great post, it really brought a smile to my face this morning. We went to the beach for my son's 16th birthday two years ago. We let him chose what he wanted to see and he chose the USS Carolina and then we went to Medieval Times. It was probably the best trip I've ever been on. Had so much fun. We always play the car game where you cycle through the alphabet and find signs for each letter. Great fun. I have such poor vision that I never win lol. Good times. Thanks for the reminder, Samatha.

  7. That was a fun post -- it sounds like you have wonderful times together, and that's an amazing gift for your children. :)

    I remember the station wagon growing up. My sister and I would get into "the way back", and play Barbies as if it was a mobile playpen designed for our convenience. LOL

    I loved the "Unfortunately, Fortunately" game. Sounds like a good workout for the imagination. (Mmm, maybe it's a good plotting device!)


  8. Donna,

    I never thought of "Unfortunately, Fortunately" as being a good plotting device, but you're right! And I so wish I had a sister growing up to play Barbies with me. :)

  9. Great stories, Samantha. I think my favorite recent travel memory was on a trip to Yellowstone. Our car broke down out in the middle of nowhere, some part of Idaho near the Snake River where there's nothing but stickers and the rocks are so hot they burn your hands.

    My son, who had just starting teaching himself to play, got out his guitar and gave us a fantastic concert. I think that was the first time I ever realized how talented he was. We actually groaned when the tow truck pulled up because we wanted him to keep playing.

    Of course, now he knows I have a soft spot for his music. So every time he's in trouble, I get a concert. :)

  10. Oh the memories ... too many to count! Delighted to meet you today. I hope you don't mind if I splash around a bit to get to know you.


  11. Us Aussie's do use the word vacation! LOL :o)

    Favorite vacation memory? There are not too many to choose from during my childhood because my parents were farmers and couldn't just up and leave the livestock, but one thing does stand out. My dad was notorious for taking the long way home from everywhere!

    And somehow I've inadvertantly married a man that does the same thing. My dh likes nothing better than to see where "that" road goes - just because he's never driven on it before. It takes him ages to get us anywhere, but we sure have seen some great places in Australia.

  12. Clarissa,
    What a great story! And I love your son's creativity when he gets in trouble. He's a clever one.

    It's great to have you visiting today. Thanks so much for splashing around. :)

    What??!? You always say you're going on holiday. Are you just messing with me? :) There's a song, "Take the Long Way Home" by... Is it Supertramp? I've always liked that song, and what fun to just drive and explore a path you've never followed before.