What is that saying about “best laid plans”? They can sometimes go awry. Regardless of your intentions, events don’t always pan out the way you’d hoped. My friend, Sarah, shared a quote with me that I like to remember often: “Expectations decrease joy.” When we place our expectations onto a moment, chances are that we’ll be disappointed if life takes a different path. Can you relate? I sure can. It takes effort for me to adjust and shift my direction when things change. For example, I might have a picture in my head of how I want Christmas to be for my family. Obviously, with two tiny kids, I basically have no control, no matter how many times I say that Santa is watching! There are a ton of factors that can change plans- bad weather, too much sugar, unexpected meltdowns. But the trick when the situation changes is to change your perspective along with it. Maybe the new plan is better. Maybe memories will be made. Maybe I don’t have to control everything. Maybe I don’t have to know why things don’t work out and I can learn to trust that there’s a reason for everything.
Easier said than done, right? Our recent trip to Durango is a perfect example of plans that went awry. We’d been wanting to take a longer trip to visit my parents than we usually do and planned a 10-day vacation to Colorado. Instead of stressing about the 8-hour drive with small kids, we decided to break up the trip and stay at a hotel with a pool halfway there. We would tow Willie the Camper along with us and had reservations to camp for a couple of nights with my parents on a local lake. We’d also take a different route home and camp along the way. We would head to Silverton with my parents on the 4thof July to enjoy their cute, mountain town parade and rhubarb festival. We looked forward to spending time with friends (which we never have time to do), let the kids enjoy grandparent time (is there anything better?), and just be with my folks, especially because my dad had been dealing with health issues all spring (including a 22-day stint in the hospital). It would be our big trip of the summer!
Guys, I’ll cut to the chase. The trip was one mishap after another. Most notably, my dad went into the ER the morning after we arrived with pain that turned out to be internal bleeding after a surgery. He stayed in the hospital for 5 days! We spent the days doing our best to support my mom, visiting Pops, helping with Lucky the dog. We skipped the Silverton festivities. We weren’t able to see all of the friends we’d wanted to. When my dad was released, it was time for our camping reservation. We forged ahead with it, trying to salvage the time together. Meanwhile, we discovered that our trailer’s water line was broken. Then I woke up with a stomach bug that had me sick in the trailer bathroom or in bed for a full day. Tensions were high and forcing the fun wasn’t working. To top it off, I was experiencing the lowest point of my postpartum depression to date. (I’ll share more about this later.) Instead of camping on the way home, we went back to the hotel in Moab and vowed to have a do-over trip as soon as we could. It felt overwhelming to be worried about my dad’s health, worried about my mom as she supported him, feeling guilty for living so far away, wishing my kids had more time with both of them while we were there…I cried as we drove home. I was beyond disappointed that our family vacation was mostly a bust!
What was that about expectations and decreased joy? I was walking proof of that! It’s not easy for me to adjust when plans change and I was emotionally incapable at the time of shifting my perspective. Truly, it wasn’t a happy time for any of us (except my resilient and clueless kids!) and it was a shame that what we’d wanted for the time together didn’t pan out perfectly. But when I look back through the photos, I see all of the fun parts that were overshadowed by the fact that I focused on the negative stuff. I’d love to share the shiny side of the trip with you!
First of all, deciding to stay the night in Moab was a great call. The road trip with a super-active toddler and a baby who doesn’t love his car seat was a lot more manageable in 4-hour chunks! The Hyatt Place had a pool with a big shallow step area, perfect for Oden. It also had a splash pad, an unexpectedly tasty breakfast buffet, and allowed dogs. The room was spacious with two king beds plus a little living area with a couch, and the restaurant on site had decent food for take-out dinner. At one point, as I was feeling anxious about just getting to Colorado, I had an epiphany. The journey needed to be part of the fun, too. My 3-year-old was having the time of his life in the pool! The vacation wasn’t starting when we got to Durango…this WAS the vacation. I did my best to keep that in mind through the meltdowns, side-of-the-road nursing sessions, and multiple potty trips to the trailer over the two-day trip.
There’s a stretch of road as you come through Delores and head toward Mancos where the road leads you straight toward the La Plata mountains. Over the many, many times I’d driven from Utah to Colorado, it’s that bit of the drive that makes me know we’re almost there. When we pulled up to my folks’ house, the roses were in bloom and their gorgeous yard was green and lush. I hugged my dad a little longer than usual! We spent the afternoon letting Oden get his pent-up energy out. We visited the neighbor’s horses and munched on the popsicles my mom had thoughtfully made ahead of time. Mo had just learned to crawl and we took turns scooping him up before he got into trouble. At one point, I thought Oden was helping my mom make spaghetti, but I looked up to see him licking leftover brownie batter from a bowl with my dad! Pops wasn’t feeling great- he had some pain, but managed to kick around a ball with Oden before relaxing for the evening.
The next morning, my dad was in enough pain that they decided to get it checked out. He’d spend the next 5 days in the hospital, feeling better but under observation. Not what any of us wanted, but I felt so grateful that we were there to help support them both. While my mom spent the day with Dad, we made the best of our time. We walked the dogs around the beautiful neighborhoods and along the river. We took Oden on long Strider bike rides. When my mom came home, we’d all play soccer in the big yard together, or “bat and ball”, or catch with Cholula. Mo learned how to jump in the Jolly Jumper. Oden helped Uma make French toast one morning and Mo ended up in the kitchen sink for an adorable bath one afternoon. A highlight of the trip for Oden was helping Uma mow the lawn on the riding mower!
On the 4thof July, we put on our best red, white, and blue and visited my dad at the hospital. They’d quickly fixed whatever issue was happening and he was now being spoiled by the nurses! Plus, he got things like meatloaf for lunch and watched baseball in bed. I was relieved to see him feeling better. Before heading home for naptime, we took a picnic lunch to a park with a huge playground along the river.
In the afternoon, I was determined to celebrate the holiday as a family. We were going to see a parade on the 4thof July, dang it! I definitely made it less fun for everyone by forcing the issue, but we managed to get to Main Street in time to get a shady seat at the start of the parade route. This was going to be amazing! Spoiler alert: It wasn’t. The parade was super short and uninteresting, even for a 3-year-old. After all of my pushing to GO HAVE FUN OR ELSE, the parade was a total let-down. It was a much-needed lesson in chilling out!
Another momentous occasion took place while we were in Colorado- Oden got his first big-boy pedal bike! The town is known for its mountain biking, so it seemed appropriate. When in Durango…! Oden chose the orange color and we had the seat fitted for his height. I will always remember watching John helping Oden try to ride it around my parents’ yard! Milestone moment. (Truth: We’re still working on actually learning to ride it!)
I guess it was the day before our scheduled camping trip that I started to recognize that dark cloud of postpartum depression creeping in. It’s not something I can control or talk myself out of, and once that downward spiral starts, it’s proven to be almost impossible to pull out of and it colors everything around me. I pushed through like always, but spent quite a bit of that day stuck in my head and feeling bad. The good news was that my dad would be released from the hospital in the morning! Truthfully, it probably would have been smarter to just let him rest at home, but I suspect that my mom is also not easily able to adjust when plans change. We. Were. Going. Camping. We packed up and drove to the beautiful Vallecito Lake. It would be our first camping trip of the year and baby Morrison’s first camping trip ever!
Maybe it’s because camping is in my blood, but the smell of pine is absolutely therapeutic. I loved setting up Willie the Camper, laying out two sets of cute little jammies, sipping wine from a tin cup. Oden, still potty-training, got cheered on for every “nature pee” he did and I was so thankful to have my dad sitting by the fire with us! Mo snuggled and snoozed on my chest and we had pre-dinner s’mores. Call it an appetizer. Hey, it was a special occasion!
An unexpected storm hit just in time for dinner, so we scrambled to change gears and eat in my parents’ RV. Looking back, it felt stressful, but should have been something to laugh at! We hit the sack early, with Oden and John in one bed and Morrison sleeping with me. I knew from experience that camping with small kids means basically no sleep for parents, and it turned out to be especially true when sharing a bed with a nursing baby. Unfortunately, before daylight, I started to feel extremely nauseous with sharp pains in my belly. I had no choice but to hand off the baby and spend the day indoors, alternating between the cramped bathroom floor or bed, nursing Mo every few hours. Not only was it miserable, but I was so sad that I was MISSING IT. While I was down for the count, John took Oden fishing. I’m so glad he took photos! Look at this cutie pie. At one point, I guess Oden fell into the lake and got wet enough that he had to be stripped down completely. He spent the rest of the fishing adventure in John’s oversized sweatshirt. Such an adorable memory!
At this point, John and I were seriously contemplating pulling the plug and heading home. We were worried about me becoming dehydrated and trying to keep the trip going felt like too much. Luckily, I woke up feeling better and was able to eat some of the yummy pancakes my mom made. I took Oden and Mo on a walk and soaked in the beauty of the lake that I’d missed the day before. There was even a slight chill in the air which felt great! There’s nothing like late summer in Colorado; the sky feels bigger and bluer than anywhere else. I enjoyed watching Oden explore in nature, thinking back to my own childhood in campgrounds just like this.
Because I was feeling better, we decided to stay at least another day before heading home. We went out for a family dinner at a Mexican restaurant with tasty margaritas. The next day, John was able to meet up with our old friend, Ian, for a quick bike ride while I took the boys to see Sarah and her kids. Our few hours together were brief, but I was so happy to spend time together. What a dream come true to have our children playing with each other! We took a walk to a playground and the kids had hot dogs for lunch before we headed back to my folks’ house for a nap, some dinner on the grill, and our last afternoon in the backyard.
With the trailer’s water line out of whack, John and I had already made the call to head back to the Hyatt in Moab. We snapped a photo of the boys with my folks before quickly meeting up with Ian, his girlfriend, and Sarah for a cup of coffee and a hug. Then we were off! We had a lot of time in the car to replay the events of the last 10 days in our minds, good or bad. We talked about how thankful we felt that we could be there to support my folks during health scares, and I finally admitted that I needed more serious help with my postpartum depression. We spent the afternoon in the pool, enjoying the red rocks and sunshine, and stole some of the glee coming off of our kids as they splashed happily around! Simple joys.
It was simultaneously hard to leave my folks this time, but also a relief to be home to our routine. Since the trip, my dad had more health issues, but is now feeling good! My parents just wrapped up a two-week trip in their RV from Colorado, through Canada into Seattle, and back. They stopped in Utah twice along the way! Time with family is so important and precious, and I’m happy we have photos and memories from our funky trip to Colorado. We’re looking forward to the next one- and this time, the goal will be to have zero expectations and be pleasantly surprised with whatever comes our way!
Bit by the travel bug? See more of our travels here.