Family vacation

lounging

Lounging at Drake’s Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore. How long it has been since I’ve done this. How luscious to have bare feet in January. How welcome the splash of freckles across my cheeks from this moment.

When you don’t get away for a while, you forget what a good vacation can do for you, for your family, for your marriage.

Brian and I laughed so much during the trip, which was plain awesome. Did we hit the "it" vineyards for wine tastings or have dinner at The French Laundry while we were in Napa? No, ma'am; we had two little kids with us and Brian doesn't even drink wine. But we did visit Thomas Keller's garden, which the boys loved. (Ok, and we also stopped in Bouchon Bakery because I'd been plotting a pastry smackdown for some time. It was indeed everything I'd hoped it would be.)

Brian and I laughed so much during the trip, which was plain awesome. Did we hit the “it” vineyards for wine tastings or have dinner at The French Laundry while we were in Napa? No, ma’am; we had two little kids with us and Brian doesn’t even drink wine. But we did visit Thomas Keller’s garden, which the boys loved. (Ok, and we also stopped in Bouchon Bakery because I’d been plotting a pastry smackdown for some time. It was indeed everything I’d hoped it would be.)

What has seemed like an impossible luxury since linking up with a mortgage, becoming parents of two and riding shifting career tides, at this moment, I go on record as declaring an official necessity. Travel and family vacations, be them close by and simple or faraway and more intricate, shall heretofore be enjoyed with regularity. All supporting rationale for our new family order can be found in this moment.

This moment, you come up over a hill and see a baby deer nibbling at a bush, or a roadside crawling with wild succulents, or a grove of redwood trees so tall and so magically like and unlike the skyscrapers to which you’re accustomed that you all whisper, “wow.”

Amazed in an ancient forest

Amazed in an ancient forest

This moment, you drop your jaws in succession because all you hear is the steady, mist-muffled roar of parallel sets of waves crashing into the shoreline below the cliff on which you stand. No words. Just open mouths and amazed glances.

Point Reyes

Point Reyes

This moment, you turn 360 degrees to find you’re the only ones within sight so, for miles around, it’s just you, your family, the decomposed granite beneath your feet, a bovine paradise of green hills and clear ponds spreading in three cardinal directions, the bright sky above, the cliffs dropping into the Pacific, deep blue for days and an unmolested deer family grazing just up the hill. This moment is no longer optional.

IMG_0194

This moment, your oldest son shovels pasta hungrily into his mouth with his head resting on his other hand because he’s so tired from running literally everywhere he goes and then crawls into your husband’s lap to lean into his broad chest for the rest of lunch while you cradle your sleeping three-year-old and drink wine–a delicious glass of deep red wine–and eat pizza covered in burrata, mustard greens and bacon. And then you drink a cappuccino without even wondering if it might keep you up tonight.

This moment, your three-year-old stands up, brushes off his hands, vows aloud to protect the family snack from one bold seagull and takes off running like a soldier into battle, seagulls erupting all around him. This moment when you’re all laughing—and laughing together—it no longer feels like the indulgent luxury it seemed when you were worrying about how expensive flights were, how much a dog sitter would cost, how he could take that many vacation days and whether your extended family would be a little sad you didn’t come visit them instead. This vacation suddenly falls into the category known as essential.

We may now hike the beaten path, but we have a blast doing it together.

We may now hike the beaten path, but we have a blast doing it together. Here, we strike a silly pose. (Kip struck his right after the camera snapped.)

These moments, as I know after today, are family fuel. They make you roll down the windows on the highway and put your hands out the window, yelling, “WOOO HOOOO!” a car full of gaping smiles reflected in the rearview mirror because Mommy never ever does that. They make you pull over just to stare at a still-as-glass pond reflecting the landscape because, if you had a schedule, it no longer matters; this is too beautiful.

This pond gobsmacked us on a road somewhere between Napa and Point Reyes.

This pond gobsmacked us on a road somewhere between Napa and Point Reyes.

They make you do cartwheels in the sand, leap over rocks and chase each other around like puppies. They make you close your eyes to smell the pine-and-eucalyptus perfume wafting in from the trees along the snaking two-lane road. These moments make you and your husband latch the entrance to your hotel suite, turn the cartoons up loud in the sitting area, sneak away to your bedroom and lock the door.

This vacation, this bit of traveling, it’s never seemed like less of a luxury and more of a necessity. Where I sit today (listening to the surround-sound cadence of three sleeping Quinn men), I have uncovered the fact that travel must be a family value for us, a non-negotiable investment in our us-ness.

The beauty of this rare family adventure was so obvious to me there amid the redwoods that I had to ask someone to take our picture.

The beauty of this rare family adventure was so obvious to me there amid the redwoods that I had to ask someone to take our picture.

I vow not to let as much time pass between now and our next adventure—be it exotic, local, foreign or familiar. I’d forgotten how much traveling expands us, thrusts us out of our habits, and gets us away from laundry and dishes and all the other things at home that distract us from simply being together.

I will admit it wasn’t all perfect. After all, we’re a family doing family things with two boys under age five, so a “family vacation” doesn’t remotely resemble the fancy free, adventure-laced, grown-up getaways of yore.

You can only explore so much. With our little travelers, we knew we had  to make time for good old fashioned playground action.

You can only be adventurous for so many hours a day. With our little travelers, we knew we had to make time for good old fashioned playground action.

Meltdowns, whining, brothers picking at each other in the back seat, walking the paved trail instead of the backcountry one, looking at the ocean instead of getting in it, irritation with one another, moments of frustration, it all showed up to our party. However, the challenges faded in the wash. Being together, being awed together, laughing together, talking together, playing together…this is some of the loveliest stuff there ever was.

Cheers to always, always remembering what travel can do for a person, and for a family.

Cheers to always, always remembering what travel can do for a person, and for a family.

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24 thoughts on “Family vacation

  1. I love this I’m so glad you guys had a great trip. You definitely made me miss my old stomping grounds, I hope one day to take our little family there!

  2. Family fuel, indeed! I love the pictures.

  3. This brings tears to my eyes! I’m so happy it was a great vacation.

  4. LOVE this! I usually get so intimidated by the packing and actual TRAVEL aspect of vacations that I freak out and whine and have mini-anxiety attacks, but if I can remember that I actually have FUN while I’m gone, it helps. Your pictures are so lovely, looks like you all had a great time!

    • Thank you so much! I totally identify with your travel-prep panic attacks. The week/s before a family trip seem to demand a ridiculous level of precision planning, which takes a lot out of a mama. But if you can get through that…so worth it. (and, hilariously, the vacation itself can be a lot of work with little ones, too. but i’ve decided it’s still worth it.) I so enjoy your blog, too. Need to make another visit to catch up on my reading. Thank you so much for reading my blog!

  5. What an amazing trip and eloquent description of the adventure. Kyle and I went to Napa, Point Reyes, etc. in ’07 so it was nostalgic seeing some of your photos. I am happy seeing all of you so happy! The redwood family photo…incredible. Well you have made me more excited for our own first family vacation/road trip to Destin, FL this spring! It should be unforgettable, in many ways. 🙂

    • Kylie! So excited for your first family vacay! And a road trip, no less…you are really doing it up, classic-American-style. I love that so, so much. No matter how it goes, you guys will have a complete blast. I also love knowing that you and Kyle tread some of the same paths we did in Napa and Point Reyes. What a beautiful trip that must’ve been for you guys, all newlywed-ish. Thank you so much for writing, and I can’t wait to hear how your trip to Destin goes!

  6. Wow those photos are beautiful! I love trips like these reminds us of the beauty of the world. 🙂

  7. Love the family photo! What a beautiful, happy-looking family! I think in every family photo ever taken while I was growing up, I was rolling me eyes. 🙂

    • Ha! I never think of you as an eye roller…you live with so much heart that I wouldn’t have expected that. Alas, we were all teenagers once, weren’t we. Thank you so much for writing. I owe you a FB message. 🙂

  8. I totally agree that family vacations are something to treasure. I loved reading about your wonderful trip with your family…Memories last a lifetime and vacations are expensive, but in the long run they are the best “bang for your buck”! I’m so glad you and Brian found each other too!

  9. Us ness ! So important! Get those passports!
    Meltdowns perfectly acceptable but quickly forgotten ! ( I am talking about Mike ) hahaha!
    Glad you guys went for it!
    Great pics and thanks for sharing !
    Miss and love you can’t wait to someday meet the boys!
    Uncle Mike will keep them busy!
    Sherry and Mike

    • Ha. I’ve heard tales of Mike Meltdowns…hoping never to see one. (which is one reason why I’ll never pick up a fishing pole on the Ambar…) 🙂 So awesome to hear from you, as always. I miss you tremendously and just love getting notes from you. A Mexico trip has to be in our near future. I’m pining away for the Sea of Cortez and all its BCS coastline like nothing else. Would be amazing to see you and have the boys meet “Sherry the mermaid who rides manta rays.” (see? you have a defined identity in their minds already.)

  10. Wonderful, Delightful,Necessary Us-Ness Time!! Emily the vacation for you and the Quinn men sounds awesome – I am so happy for you all!! Your photos and prose filled me with memories of being there with Dennis, Megan and John. Point Reyes was a Fraher Family favorite while we lived in the Bay Area. Oh and picnics in Napa!! Plenty of places to be with kiddos in Napa….doesn’t have to be the 5 star restaurant when there are plenty of open spaces for picnics, soaking up sunshine and letting the little ones run amuck and LAUGH! Thanks for sharing!!

    • Joanie! Thank you so much for this. I thought of you sooo much while we were there, picturing your life with young kids in the Bay Area. I bet you took full advantage of picnic spots, sunshine and running around–can’t wait to do some of that with you in April. 🙂

  11. So glad that you found so much joy in this trip. I can tell from your post that you were able to stay focused on how important us-ness is amongst the busy-ness of life. Thank you for sharing your journey.

  12. “Travel must be a family value for us, a non-negotiable investment in our us-ness.” BEAUTIFULLY stated. Jim and I don’t have kids, but I totally get what you’re saying — and Point Reyes is on our list of places to visit. Miss you.

    • Oh, thank you for the sweet compliment. And I miss you, too! I don’t believe one must have kids in order to be considered a family, so I definitely appreciate that this resonated with you. We all benefit from going on adventures. You and Jim seem to do a fantastic job of getting out and about in the world. And definitely hit up Point Reyes. So much raw beauty. You’d love it.

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