Today we headed back home, concluding our first ever (10-day) family vacation. And to sum it up, it was anything but typical.
We broke the vacation into two parts, the first part was just the five of us and then we joined Lisa’s family at a beach house for the rest of it.
We had been planning this trip for months. We had been stressing about this trip for weeks. We were packing for days. And it took us SIX HOURS to load everyone and everything into our XL SUV and hit the road.
We’re a complex and unorthodox family. Nothing in our lives comes easily.
So off we went. Our kids have always been phenomenal travelers and this trip proved to be no different. They were so excited the entire trip.
During my childhood, we vacationed every summer at a cabin on Shuswap Lake between Sicamous and Salmon Arm. I have many fun memories of different things we did and the different places we explored. So I figured, it was time to start introducing MY kids to some of these same things.
First up: D Dutchman Dairy. If you haven’t had their ice cream, if you haven’t drank their milk (especially the chocolate milk) you haven’t even lived.
To our complete shock and amazement, Ethan ate an entire Ice Cream cone. If you’ve missed it, Ethan doesn’t eat. Like literally nothing. And typical unhealthy processed kids foods... he doesn’t eat those either. Nothing except veggie straws and a few other random foods. So for him to demolish an entire cone caught us by surprise!
From there we continued on to 3 Valley Gap. Now this has been on my bucket list for a couple decades. It’s always intrigued and fascinated me as I’ve flown past it at 110kms/hr. I’ve always wanted to stop. Finally, I made it happen.
If you’ve never heard of 3 Valley Gap, look it up. It’s this tiny ghost town from 1862 with a 200-Room hotel attached to it, all on the edge of Three Valley Lake.
This is the first time we are all staying in a hotel together. This is the first time Liam and Ethan have ever seen a hotel! Liam lost his mind. I have NEVER seen him filled with so much wonder and excitement before.
He claimed his bed, he put all our drinks in the fridge and then he asked where the pantry was so that he could put his goldfish crackers away.
It was the perfect start to the vacation. I tucked extra pillows under the fitted sheets along the edges of the beds creating a barrier so no one would fall out of their “grown up beds”. Then for Madison we tucked her in on the floor between the boys two queen beds. This was the first time ever that all three siblings slept together in the same room. And it actually worked out perfectly. It was a great night and Lisa and I had our own space in the other semi-private room of the suite.
The next day we explored the ghost town. Liam had insisted we do this and while we didn’t have enough time to explore it ALL, the parts we DID see were fun and the boys loved it. Unfortunately, because Madison sleeps until 10AM, she missed out, but had some fun quiet time with Mommy back in the room. We concluded we are definitely coming back to 3 Valley Gap. But next time we’ll spend two or three nights!!!
From there we headed into the forest… the Enchanted Forest! Again, a blast from the past as I remember going several times as a kid myself. This time Madison was with us and the five us literally burst through the gate! I wish I could have seen it through my kids’ eyes. The wonder and excitement in their eyes was evident to everyone, as complete strangers smiled at us as we came screaming by.
If you’re planning on going, it took us a full two hours to explore the forest and the kids were completely exhausted by the end. But this was strategic. See, I started by telling you we are a complex and unorthodox family, meaning we have to carefully plan out every little detail and factor in each kids’ unique schedule.
So, with the bulk of the driving still ahead of us, we pushed the kids through the forest during the two hours leading into their naptime in hopes that as soon as we got back to the vehicle, they would crash and sleep. And sure enough, within 15 minutes of being back on the highway, the vehicle got very quiet.
It wasn’t until the final hour of the drive that I pulled out the tablet and created a back seat movie theatre for the kids. They loved it! And just like that the drive was over. We pulled into Invermere, BC and drove down to the lake, stopping just before we hit the water as we arrived at our beach house.
Lisa’s parents, brother and sister-in-law with their three kids were already there. We unloaded and the excitement began. This was the first time that all the cousins met each other - and more than two years since the older cousins had last seen each other. Six kids under the age of 7. What could go wrong?
Our week was (obviously) filled with going to the beach, playing at the playground on the beach, going mini golfing, eating ice cream, barbecues on the deck and unfortunately, lots of indoor games and activities as it was cold and raining every single day. Somehow, my brother-in-law still managed to get fires built every night to sit around as we concluded the day.
That’s the sugar coated, polished, filtered surface level view. Here is the exit ramp if that’s all you stopped by for.
But for us we seldom remember that surface level view. My sister-in-law asked me on the last night around the fire what my best memory of the week was, and I blanked. I blanked because I knew I wasn’t viewing the week like she was with her three typical kids. I blanked because my memories are going to be that of literally laying in a single bed beside Ethan for over an hour each night because he was terrified of this new house and his new surroundings; while hearing the sounds of talking and laughing coming from around the fire outside knowing I was missing out on the S’mores.
I’m going to remember NOT going mini golfing because someone had to stay back with Madison as the course was anything BUT accessible for special needs kids - especially those with mobility issues.
I’m going to remember watching my kids frantically search for a quiet, calm space to regulate their bodies and emotions as the common area living room became too much for them to handle.
I’m going to remember that in a weeks worth of meals, we never once ate together because of the impossible logistics to get everyone (primarily OUR kids) to the table at the same time.
I’m going to remember packing a suitcase full of new board shorts and swimming trunks but then only wearing my one pair of jeans for six days in a row due to the weather.
And then I’m going to remember the drive home. The 6 hour drive that turned into 13. The horrible feeling… the kick in the gut watching the highway safety team unload a “road closed” sign in front of us as we tried to make our way back home. Then learning there was a fatal, multi-car accident on Highway 1 that would leave the highway closed for over five hours.
We panicked as we watched thousands of people frantically try to figure out what to do, knowing we had three little kids. We met some other parents with little ones in the same predicament as us and we tried to support and encourage each other.
We’re not sure how (short of an amazing battery life on our newest tablet) we survived, but once again our kids proved to be more resilient than most as they adapted with us and compromised with us. It was possibly the longest day we’ve ever had in a vehicle… but we opened the play book and used every idea we could think of to ensure our kids made it.
In the end this was what our entire vacation was like. Coming up with creative ways and ideas to take the difficult situations and make them work for our family.
I couldn’t wear my shorts and enjoy sunny warm weather… so we played hide and seek inside.
I missed some fires with the adults but I got to make a very special connection with Ethan in his bedroom, culminating in what might be the highlight of that week for me as we were packing and he asked to sing our special song one more time just minutes before we left. This final time we made it all the way to the end, as opposed to the other nights where he would usually drift off when I got to “K”.
The trip home was inconvenient to say the least… so, I taught Liam how to pee on the side of the road for the first time. He thought that was the greatest. Or when Madison needed food in the 3rd row and we didn’t have the time to unload everything to get to her, I found another way to ensure she was fed.
Our life is anything but typical and with that comes unique and modified vacations. But it’s in those moments, it’s in those unorthodox ways of doing things, in the unique twists and turns that the most precious memories are made.