Over the years Jason and I have had to define and redefine what it means to take a vacation.  We grew up in very different families and our definitions of vacation were not exactly compatible.  His mom took him and his sister on a trip around the world when they were 10 & 7, which included a near kidnapping of his sister in Vietnam over a disputed cab fare and subsisting on a loaf of bread a day, whilst my family soaked in the sun and snorkeled in Hawaii for a couple weeks each year.  So after many squabbles and disagreements over how to spend our time on a “vacation”  we finally determined that for us there is vacation and there is traveling.  These are not the same thing.   Traveling means heading out and seeing the sights, exploring all the amazing things that a certain city or location has to offer.  Museums, churches, gardens, self-guided walking tours, historical sites, must-sees, and so on until we crash back in to bed and start afresh in the morning.  Vacation, on the other hand, means slowing down.  Usually in the form of camping.  Spending our days on a river.  Or our bikes.  Walking in the woods.  Cooking food over the fire.  Perfecting our s’mores-making capabilities.  And lots and lots of reading.

But all that was before we had kids.  Now we’ve had to redefine yet again.  Traveling is out for the time being.  A bazillion hour flight to, say, Hong Kong, sounds masochistic with two toddlers.  So we have put our traveling aspirations and dreams on hold for a few years.  But we still want to vacation as a family.  And we’ve been trying for the last few years to figure out exactly how to do that.  What makes a vacation a vacation now?   We still have to get up at 7am (or 4:45am, like I had to do with Gryffin last weekend at our annual church retreat – I guess I’m still a little bitter about that one).  We still have to schedule around naps.  Still have to get them in bed by 7pm.    Still have to figure out their breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.   Sometimes it feels like we have just moved our daily operations to a new location and we haven’t been able to rest at all.   We’ve admittedly forfeited money on more than one occasion in order to come home early from a “vacation” which turned out to be anything but.  But we’re getting the hang of it.  Honing our vacation skills.  Here’s our list of must-haves for vacation these days…

  1. No camping for another year or two
  2. A house with a view and a few other amenities (ie hot tub!) so that while the boys sleep, we can actually relax and read in a peaceful setting, rather than sitting in the bathroom of a dark hotel room
  3. Walkability, if possible.  It’s great if we don’t have to jump in the car every day if we want to go explore with the boys
  4. Eating out.  One of the more tedious aspects of daily life is preparing food for little people who won’t always (ok, rarely) eat what you’ve prepared and so you spend the entire meal getting up and down from the table to satisfy their desire for “granola!  yogurt!  cheese!  bananas!”  So we eat out for several meals when we are on vacation, if only to break that cycle of make a meal, clean up a meal, start making another meal…
  5. No work of any kind (duh) so that we can truly let go all those things that stress us out and weigh us down

In a few years I’m sure we’ll be out with our tents and skewers but until then, this is how we roll.   Today is day 1 of the Rust 2011 Portland Vacation and so far, it’s been exactly what we were hoping for.   We’ve lined up all of our must-haves, minus number 3, but we’re on a river (literally) so we aren’t complaining.  The ride down yesterday afternoon could have been a lot worse, the floating house is incredible, the boys slept great last night (score) while we ate out on the deck and watched an episode of Mad Men, and the hot tub is hot. It’s shaping up to be a good week.

Here’s the view from the main room.  And there’s a huge firepit so we can even make some s’mores.

Gryff found this little antique bike and spent the whole morning pushing it around the living room (and attempting to ride it once)…

Isaiah was very busy with his blocks this morning while J made us all pancakes…

We headed into Portland and walked along the waterfront this morning.  That’s J and his mom with Z in the backpack

We stopped to get some coffee and this is how I found the fellas when I returned with my latte.   Isaiah was somehow able to reach the crayons and color a little even though he was still in the backpack.  Kid’s got skills.

Some ponds along the waterfront…

Watching a crane at work on a barge…

Isaiah finally free of the backpack and ready to explore

Things admittedly got a little harried as we grabbed lunch from a couple of the food trucks famous in Portland’s downtown.   

I was in charge of entertaining the boys in the backseat as we headed home for naptime.  Resources were limited but I made do with what I had.  

Gryffin really likes to do things “too-ge-der” these days and I hope that’s what we’ll bask in the most this vacation week.  No rushing here and there, no Jason working, no rushing off to a birth at 3am, no follow up emails with clients, no preparing for our Community Groups, no men’s group, no book club, no figuring out babysitters for a night out… as good and as fulfilling as all those things are.  Just hanging out together, resting together.     For a few days at least.   And on Saturday, about 16 friends (mostly from our community group) are going to descend upon our floating vacation house and spend Labor Day weekend with us.  Some will be racing in a half-marathon on Sunday (J included).  But mostly we’ll just be doing more of the same.    Enjoying long, lingering meals (after the boys are in bed anyway).  Laughing.  Talking.  Resting.  Too-ge-der.