This week we returned from our first real family vacation in six years. I have to say there were some hiccups, as one might expect when traveling (and traveling and traveling) with three little kids, but it was pretty awesome in general.
We woke up bright and early on a Tuesday (4:15am, yay!!) and threw all our junk in the back of our truck. The kids were sleepy but excited, although Sashka kept complaining he had a headache. We arrived at the airport, and Art loaded himself up with nearly every bag we had and we made our way to the ticket counter.
Hiccup #1. The woman behind the counter says we have to have a copy of Malcolm's birth certificate or shot records to fly with him. What?? Has anyone else EVER heard of this rule? I've traveled with two other kids in my lap on airplanes and there's never been an issue. I tried not to panic. Finally the woman relented and added Malcolm to my ticket and we were free to go. We got through the security fine, except that Art left my backpack there (which had our boarding passes and all Mal's diapers and our food in it). Ha ha. I noticed later while we were waiting to board. While we were sitting there eating the bagels and cheese I'd made the night before, Sashka got paler and paler. Suddenly my mom instinct kicked in, and I told Art to run him to the bathroom. Five feet from the toilet he barfed everywhere. Hiccup #2.
We got on the plane and Sashka seemed to be feeling better, but Hiccup #3 was Malcolm screaming. And screaming. And squirming and screaming some more. The WHOLE flight. Okay well he did sleep for about 20 minutes, but the rest was all screaming. I couldn't tell if it was that he had gas, or two molars about to pop through his dreadfully swollen gums. Whatever it was, it was unpleasant. This is Art's face after a few hours of it:
Oh wait, he always looks like that. Nevermind.
We finally made it to California, where my mom was waiting to pick us up. Now, don't ask me why, but I'd worn my giant Uggs on the flight because my feet are usually really cold when I fly. But with it being almost 100 degrees in California I was dying in those hot boots. Right when we got to the car I started to get weak in the knees and Art had to take Mal away from me so I wouldn't drop him on the hot blacktop. As soon as I got my sandals back on I was okay. Boy that sounds pathetic. Oh well.
Back at the house Sashka started barfing again. And running a fever. All our grand plans to hurry up and grocery shop and pack up our stuff to leave for camping the next morning went down the tubes. Instead we tried to relax a little. Ilya played in the pool with my stepbrother Stephen. Sashka slept on the couch, Art went to get a fishing license, and me and Mal laid in my mom's backyard and enjoyed the dry weather and cool grass and the yummy cherry tomatoes growing like things from a horror movie all over. More on that later.
The next day Sashka still had a fever, and then Ilya started throwing up, too. The whole day was a rush of barf duty, packing, and my mom and I shopping for enough food to feed 7 people for over a week. We decided to just proceed as planned figuring the kids could barf at a campsite just as easily as at a house. The next day everyone felt mostly better so we loaded up in the cars and started our LOOOONG drive up north.
Mal started off optimistic, but that soon degraded into no sleeping and, you guessed it, more screaming.
We drove through so many different areas it was weird. Ugly industrial valley, rolling golden hills dotted with oaks, and signature High Sierra pine trees, granite boulders, and crazy breathtaking vistas. Hours and hours and hours and lots of bathroom stops later, we got to Kaiser pass. I didn't get any pictures because it was just too scary. Seventeen miles of a crazy switch-back one lane road with no guard rails, sheer drops off the side...and when I say one lane I mean barely big enough to fit one car, so when another car came down the road our butts were pretty much suctioned to the seats, ha ha. It took over two hours to go that 17 miles, that's how crazy it was. But finally we arrived.
The campground was mostly empty, so we got to pick the best spot in the whole place--right on the lake.
The kids enjoyed being out of the car, and we explored the shore while Art and my mom set up camp.
I'd never seen a lake like this in the mountains--the shore was like a beach, and there were tufts of grass, boulders, and tons of cool looking driftwood lying around everywhere.
We ate a hurried meal of oatmeal and crashed for the night. The next day (and for a few days after that) we mostly sat around and enjoyed the peace and scenery. Art took his fishing gear for long romantic walks on the beach while the boys played in the cold water and me and my mom read or played games or cooked.
Mal wasn't too keen on being trapped in the playpen, but he got over it.
This was a trip of firsts for us in a lot of ways. It was our first time camping on the west side of the Sierras, the boys' first time camping where they'd remember it, and also it was their first time fishing.
Mostly it was a whole lot of eating candy and me and Art retying on weights and hooks and trying to keep Ilya and Stephen from putting hooks in our faces with their spastic casting. Strangely, I enjoyed myself. I originally had no intention of fishing, I was just going to watch and maybe help out, but I ended up catching a few good sized trout and that made it pretty fun. Everyone caught at least one (though in Sashka's case it was more like he felt it tug and I did the rest but don't tell him that) so everyone came back happy. I discovered something else on this trip: trout is actually pretty tasty. I'd made some lemon parsley herb butter before we left and kept it in the ice chest, and Art used that on the fish before he pan-fried them...oh, so yummy.
This was a really DIRTY trip. Every day the kids had the grossest faces, which we pretty much ignored till bedtime, when we would give them a good dousing in the jerry-rigged outdoor shower my mom and Art set up. I myself opted to just jump in the cold lake most days, but I did on occasion feel the need for something a little less bracing. Plus my mom made me feel bad for shampooing my hair in the lake. What? There weren't any fish in there anyway....
Those pictures don't even do the dirt justice. Some days they looked like Al Jolsen, it was crazy.
On Sunday Art went off on a scouting trip, trying to find a good trail for our traditional "let's get away from the kids" hike. Hours later he returned, scratched up and with crazy hair, toting the hugest mushrooms I've ever seen.
Apparently these are shrooms that Russians go nuts trying to find. In the interest of us not having to take him to the E.R. (on a windy scary one lane road--yeah, he'd be dead before we got to a hospital) he opted to dry the mushrooms and try them at home. Man did those things stink. I won't say like what.
To Be Continued...I know I know, it's long.