Tag: camping

A Different Sort of Family Vacation

For several decades, family vacations were defined in a certain way. But as with all of life, things change.

My most recent vacation to the South was a different sort of family vacation for me. However, that means next to nothing if the “norm” of family vacations remains undefined.

Welcome to the earlier definitions of “family vacation.”

The Childhood Definition

A vacation in my childhood involved a canvas tent, sleeping bags, a cooler and camp stove and public forest camping.

And I didn’t complain because I can count on one hand the number of times my father, mother, sister and I went on a trip together. The most memorable one involved a road trip from Oregon to Oklahoma in 1976 for a family reunion.

I wanted to become an Okie after that trip. But that could have been because I did NOT want to get back in the car for three days of solid driving through hot Kansas without air conditioning, no bathroom breaks, sleeping in the cramped back seat with my sister…and the switch.

Because there would be NO fighting. And Dad wouldn’t have to pull the car over thanks to the switch he cut and could handily whip between my sister and my’s bare legs with Indiana Jones precision.

So, I didn’t really know what a family vacation was all about.

The Definition I Adored

And then I married Mr. Wonderful whose family went to campgrounds with neighborhood friends and relatives every summer with regularity. And they slept in RVs. And girls showered and fixed their hair and applied makeup.

So that was a huge culture shock for the girl who caught her dinner in the creek, went to the bathroom in a bucket and washed her face upstream (if you get my meaning).

But once we had kids, we began our own traditions. And when the kids were old enough, we planned a fantastic Spring Break trip…just the four of us. Sometimes we asked friends to tag along, but when you’re jetting across the country that’s not always possible.

Most memorable to me: Washington DC and Disney Orlando

During our RV years, there were plenty of summer trips too. Of course, these were road trips. And the large-bladdered men in my family jibed me for too many bathroom breaks, but no one ever said I had to hold it for another two hours.

Some places we went in the summer: Yellowstone, Redwoods and Disneyland (we even got to fly to this destination-yay!)

Most memorable road trip during this phase: to Colorado.

This was the trip of the Piggyback Hike and the Boot Removal of Death. I’m pretty sure any man in my family can recall exact (and exaggerated) details of those events.

But, kids grow up. And now our “family” has grown to six and our vacations together are more sporadic and occur in December near Christmas. Generally to tropical climates.

A New Dictionary Entry

This past week, I visited family. That’s the new sort of “family” vacation. Rather than going somewhere with “my boys,” I planned an entire ten days around a special someone: my Aunt Betty.

Aunt Betty is an amazing lady. A real Renaissance Woman (and if there isn’t such a thing, now there is). She pursued a career when women were “expected” to marry young and fill a house with babies.

When a man didn’t deserve her faithfulness, she divorced him. Yes, in the Bible Belt in the 1950s. Unheard of. And highly unpopular.

She’s a true survivor. At the moment, she’s surviving her third diagnosis of breast cancer. And she’s over 80, so she knows she’s living on “blessed time” (see Psalms if you don’t know what I’m referring to here).

I tried to plan a trip in May to the College World Series in Oklahoma City (where Aunt B lives), but the ticket prices…stunned me. When I could take a Caribbean cruise for less money, I had to pass.

But we have a condo in Branson, MO. And they have great shows there and amazing Christmas light displays. So, I planned our vacation around visiting Aunt Betty in OKC and then taking her on a road trip to Branson.

And we all know how I feel about road trips.

What’s your idea of a “family vacation”? Am I all wrong with my three definitions?

Budget vacations and how a timeshare spoiled them for me

Like many people, my life drastically changed when I had children. In fact, I don’t think I went on anything resembling a “vacation” for the first four years of my children’s lives.

I’m not complaining. We had our own home, and I was able to quit my job after my second son was born and become a full-time domestic engineer. My situation blessed me and my sons. I know plenty of other mothers wish they had a similar option.

Recently, I posted about scrapbooking some of our family vacations. The first one in the book is a camping trip my husband and I took with our six-month-old son to Fort Stevens.

This trip never would have happened if: 1)Jeff’s parents hadn’t loaned us their camper; 2) gas prices were then what they are now: and 3) renting a campsite cost as much per night in 1991 as it does in 2014. Good grief! Even for just water and electricity it’s as much as half a hotel room back in the day.

My childhood vacations were few. They never varied. We would take our canvas tent into the woods and pitch it near a stream where we could fish for trout. We dug a hole for our “bodily functions” and ate what we caught.

Okay, one time we took a road trip to Oklahoma. Best time I ever had once we got there, but the trip itself is probably why the idea of being trapped in a vehicle for a thousand miles gives me stomach cramps.

My sons have great memories of camping. Sleeping in a tent is an adventure to every boy on the planet. Seriously. They would ask us to set up the tent in the yard so they could “go camping” at home.

Image from tripadvisor.com

Because this was our main vacation outlet, my husband and I purchased a trailer. (Need I mention that we had to purchase a new TRUCK first because the old one didn’t have enough torque to maintain the speed limit up steep inclines? *rolls eyes*) Camping is fine, but camping in an RV is my preferred method.

 

Top reasons why I prefer an RV:

  1. I always have to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. Walking a few steps in the trailer beats clonking across a spooky campground. Nothing wakes you up faster than coming face to face with glowing eyes in the middle of your sleepy-eyed trek to pee.
  2. Cooking with an RV is much easier than fighting with a propane-powered camp stove. Also, a microwave expands snacking options. Yes, we still want a campfire for making s’mores.
  3. Sleeping on a real bed makes for a more alert me. Even with an air mattress, sleeping in a tent on the ground is sleeping on rocks. Yes, I am the Princess and the Pea princess. Plus, have you ever known an air mattress to hold its shape and size under the weight of two grown adults?

All of my contentment with camping changed when we bought into a timeshare. Seriously, no packing up all your dishes, towels and bedding and then unpacking and washing it all on your return. Isn’t that a big enough selling point?

Of course, there have been drawbacks to the timeshare – not getting into the place we wanted. No condos near a destination we wanted to travel. Thousands of dollars up front and then yearly maintenance fees that keep going up year after year.

As far as the accommodations during an actual vacation? We have never been disappointed with either the property we owned or one we rented by exchanging ours. We have been in condos in Palm Springs, Phoenix, Anaheim (and it superseded the earlier trip staying at the HoJo by a landslide), Orlando, West Yellowstone, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Newport, Leavenworth, Long Beach and Seaside.

Other than the whole laundry landslide, having a kitchen so you don’t have to eat out every meal is the biggest plus (aside from clean sheets and a private bathroom).

What is your idea of a “budget vacation”?

My Vicarious Vacation: Gone Scrapbooking

Remember those old photo albums with some sort of strange clear glue and the plastic pages that screamed when you placed a photo behind them? You know, the ones from which all the pictures fell after a few months. So much for that awesome glue.

Now, there are photo boxes and photo sleeves to help you organize your photographs. Who wants them organized? Not me. I want them somewhere accessible so I can pull them out and stroll down memory lane.

Enter scrapbooking. Don’t ask my sister about this. She will spill some story about how I grumbled and complained when she first asked me to scrapbook pages for an album she was making for our mom.

Scrapbooking makes my back ache. I need more tools to make cooler pages. It would be cheaper and less painful to throw all the photos in a cute box somewhere.

Yep, but I love to put those pages together. It gives me a chance to relive those moments vicariously. As a fiction writer, living vicariously is something I adore. This is why I highly recommend reading.

Lest I ramble on about two of my favorite subjects, let me get to the point. Behold: my process for  preserving memories and my ponderings while scrapping two different family vacations.

Pick out pictures

A tedious aspect for me is selecting pictures. Not because I don’t like shuffling through the photos on my computer. I adore making the fingernails size extra-large and scrolling through to find the best ones.

I despise clicking on the plethora of numbered folders on our hard drive. This is how my photographer husband set them up when he downloaded them from his camera.

What do you think? Does folder 584 sound like it might be the trip to Washington D.C.? Oh, you mean you can’t tell by a number! Hmmm.

Just look at the date, you say? What an excellent idea! Except most of the file dates are meaningless and less than helpful.  Why? Anything taken before 2008 has the same date. That would be the date he created this directory on the external server.

Very helpful. I know.

Decide on paper and accessories

Once I have finally printed the 8 – 12 photos out, the real fun begins.

No, I wasn’t being sarcastic. Sometimes I even start with this step.

I mean, what girl doesn’t love to accessorize? There are stickers, borders, letters, words and all manner of shapes that could make a ho-hum layout into WOWZA.

Those big books of 12×12 sheets that have 50 or more different types of paper are incredible. When they’re on sale, I literally want to purchase one of each. You’ll be proud to hear I avoided buying any the last time I was at the craft store. They were even half price.

It’s best to make a list of what you want to scrapbook before you decide on purchasing stickers. I will use the entire sheet of Disney Orlando stickers when I make those pages. In fact, I used a couple when I scrapped our Disney 2000 vacation.

The boys were so little: 9 and 6. Tanner’s “muscle” shirt showed off half his chest. The scar on Thaddeus’ cheek, still pretty new, crinkled like a dimple in nearly every picture. *sigh*

Time flies when you’re roaming through memories this way.

Place the photos in a dozen different locations

The most tedious and time consuming step is planning the exact layouts. I use the two-page spread, lying the blank sheets next to each other as they’ll appear in the album, and try to make the pages balance each other out. Or not. Sometimes imbalance suits me the project better.

This is the step I generally enjoy taking at a friend’s house. It can be a hassle to transport everything. I recommend a large plastic tub or a totally cute bag from Thirty-one.

Once the date is set and the menu planned, we bring our projects and tools and spread out on the huge dining room table (a major requirement for scrapbooking of any sort). This way,  I lay out my plans and my crafty friends tweak them so they look a hundred times better. Side benny: they have great tools and paper they’re happy to share with me.

Cut, glue and admire

Once I’ve nailed down the layout (figuratively speaking, of course), I start cutting all the pictures, background paper, borders and frames I’ll need for the pages. Right now, I think my cutter might need a new blade. The edges are looking a little raggedy and the cuts don’t always go through.

Once everything is the perfect size, I use glue strips to affix photos. A couple of these tiny tabs in each corner of the picture does the trick. Much less messy than glue, too.

Of course, for the heavy cardstock frames, borders and background accents, only glue will do. I use a fat glue stick made especially for paper to paper bonding. Speaking of bonding, isn’t that what family vacations are all about? Oh, and hanging with friends to scrapbook is another way to promote bonding.

What was I talking about? Oh, yes. Accessorizing my pages until they take on the personality of the trip they depict. That means it’s time to place the stickers, accents and photo tags. Presto! Your glamour girl is ready to go.

Stand back and admire your handiwork. My hands massage my lower back during this step and I try to stretch my shoulders without groaning. Usually, I need to down a glass of water. Who knew this was such a thirsty and back-wrenching hobby?

Coffee-for-Your-Heart-150

Whoever said scrapbooking was easy must use a different method. Claims of fun and the offer of something rewarding in the end? Those are spot on.

 

What is your preferred method of preserving photographic memories?