Sunday, July 07, 2013

Vacation 2013 Part I: The Drive Out

Hiking through Moraine Park towards Cub Lake

This year our vacation was a replication of one that we took almost five years ago when we drove to Utah for my sister Ruth’s wedding.  We have found that it’s easiest to drive through the night on the way there & then stop to camp in Rocky Mountain National Park.  If you just cringed at the idea of a 26-hour drive and a camping trip with 5 children, including a newborn, I have a few tips that were lifesavers for us on this trip: 

1) Melatonin.  It’s the natural hormone that your body produces when you’re going to sleep, and it’s available in synthetic form.  After talking with my pediatrician and a pharmacist, I purchased some in gummy form and gave it to our kids about half an hour before bedtime (the four older kids, but don't use it on babies!!).  I didn’t give it to them every night on our trip, but I did use it pretty regularly.  It was AMAZING and made such a huge difference to have kids who drifted off to sleep while I was singing to them in the tent and rubbing their backs rather than children who were bouncing up and down and hopping around in their sleeping bags for hours.  I would definitely recommend talking to your pediatrician about it (mine said it was great for short-term use) because it was a boon.  Having well-rested kiddos makes all the difference when you’re traveling and they’re sleeping in unfamiliar places.

Abigail and Neil hanging out at a rest stop playground in Nebraska at 3 AM

2) Packaging everyone’s clothes by outfit in Ziploc gallon-sized bags.  When you have 7 people in your family, it can be a madhouse trying to dig through duffel bags and match up outfits.  I put a complete outfit in each bag and wrote each child’s name on their bags.  It made it really easy for them to find their own clothes & I knew that their outfits would always be matching rather than the um, exciting combinations they sometimes create themselves.  This also made it much easier to find the correct clothes for all the different activities—wedding day, swimming, hiking, church, hanging out at home, etc.

3) Prior to our trip, I recorded a few weeks of storytimes on my iPod (I even made a little beeping noise when it was time to turn the page).  When we were in the car, I plugged the iPod in and broadcast the stories through the car.  It was really soothing to the younger kids because it was my voice and helped things to feel a little more “normal.”  I also packed up the books that I’d recorded myself reading and brought those with us so that they could look at the pictures while the story was playing (again, the page beeps helped out here).  I think we ended up with about 8 hours of Mommy-read stories (I also brought lots of books on CD, all our Classical Kids CDs, etc.)
We used industrial-strength velcro to attach our book boxes to the interior of the car

Coming in to Estes Park--spectacular as always
 Anyway.  The trip.  I’ll try to be less verbose.

We left our home about 3 in the afternoon and drove until about 1 pm the next day, stopping every few hours to feed Nathan, stretch our legs, etc.  The longest stretch that we managed to drive was 2 hours!  It was definitely time-consuming but we really enjoyed ourselves.  All of the kids slept well and we arrived in Estes Park, CO as well-rested as could be expected.

We found our campsite, ate lunch, and decided to go hiking.  We then spent the next FIVE HOURS hiking in Colorado in a heat wave.  I was amazed that the kids kept going (even though they were pretty grumpy about half the time—we were so not used to the heat and elevation, since we’d been having a serious cold snap at home!)  We drank tons of water and bribed the kids with Skittles, pumpkin chocolate-chip muffins, and granola bars in order to keep them moving.

The Tot on his first camping trip.  He slept a solid six hours that night before waking up to eat!

We camped just in front of this steep little hill--the kids made up an incredibly elaborate game and played on it for hours.

Driving the Trail Ridge Road

My favorite memories from these hikes: 

1) Watching the kids splash happily in a stream crossing the trail.  We let them take their shoes and socks off and I loved watching them gasp at the icy-cold clear mountain stream.  It was beautiful.  And when we took Luke out he was furious…he picked up a handful of rocks and threw them one by one at Neil’s turned back.  Nailed him with every one.  Have I mentioned that Luke is crazy coordinated for his age?

The stream the kids went wading in
 2) The complete joy of my children in the abundance of sticks and rocks along the trail.  I finally had to make a rule about the size of boulder that they could lug up the mountain with the intention of throwing it in the waterfall at the top.
Jooj hiking up a rock outcropping

I took a picture because I thought it was funny how dirty Abigail was already.  Little did I know.

3) The kids were SO FILTHY.  Like unbelievably so.  I had sunscreened everyone thoroughly and it made a perfect base for all of the dust and dirt.  And then Abigail got tired, laid down on the trail, and everyone followed suit.  Isaac lay right in a pile of horse droppings and I’ll let you imagine how well that realization went over.  Luke, in particular, was so incredibly dirty that the kids nicknamed him “The Barbarian.”  We had to give everyone a “bath” with diaper wipes and we went through SO many.  They were so dirty that I could run my fingernails over their arm and make tracks in the grime.

 4) We had such an awesome time together.  I love my little family so much and even though it was hot and dusty and dirty, it was just wonderful to all be together.  As we were walking back from the water pump around 10 PM Abigail slipped her little hand in mine and we looked up at the full moon and the sparkling stars and I was so grateful for the opportunity to be the mother of my five little people.  I told them as we were setting up the tent that I had something very important to tell them, and that I needed everyone’s attention—and then I told them how much I loved them all and how grateful I was that we were a family (and Abigail promptly said, “Oh, I thought you were going to say something actually important.”  Hah!).  We all slept SO well that night after our long day of hiking.

Can you tell who just got reprimanded for going too close to the edge?

The kids taking a quick break while Neil & I set up the tent

Luke in all his filthy glory

Luke woke up in the tent, looked around, and just started laughing in joy.  It was one of my favorite moments from the whole trip.

Bundled-up Tot at the top of the mountains--about 2 miles in elevation.
It was cold up there!

The Quarry Wall at Dinosaur
 The next day we quickly broke camp—the kids were super helpful and it went really fast.  We drove the Trail Ridge Road over the top of the Rockies, which was breathtakingly beautiful and the kids were thrilled.  We stopped at the Alpine Visitor’s Center hoping to be able to hike to the top, but it was so windy and cold that Nathan kept choking on the wind and the kids were cold even with their parkas, so we got back in the car and drove on through to Dinosaur National Monument, where we stopped and took the tour of the Quarry Visitor’s Center and the kids enrolled in the Junior Paleontologist program, which they had been talking about for weeks.  Fun times. 

And then we drove on until we arrived at my sister’s home late that night and were greeted by a wonderful welcoming committee—my sisters, their husbands, my parents, and my grandparents!!  Can you believe that my wonderful sister and brother-in-law hosted all 7 of us, my parents, and my grandparents in their home for our entire stay (plus my sisters Mary Beth and Elise stayed there a few nights, and Elise & Paxton stayed there when they returned from their honeymoon before their apartment contract began?)   Ruth and Jordan were AMAZING hosts, and I couldn’t get over Ruth’s attention to every last detail.  They had just moved into their home a few weeks before we arrived, and one of the first things Ruth had done was to purchase new bedding and beds to accommodate all of the guests.  The bathrooms were fully stocked with incredibly luxurious products and my mom and I joked that it was like checking into a high-class spa.  And they had the most beautiful backyard with a pergola that my brothers-in-law had built the previous weekend, and we ate every single meal outside and roasted innumerable s’mores and had a wonderful time.  More pictures to come in later posts.
Isaac proudly sporting his Junior Paleontologist badge


Anonymous said...

Wow! Fun times! Great post & pictures! Thanks for sharing.
Aunt Pam & Uncle Kevin

Anonymous said...

Oooh. Makes me want to go camping!

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