Since Charlie and I have both decided that after spending the past 2.5 years funneling our resources in to fixing up the house - we need to take a break from any and all home improvement activities and instead do things that the kids will also enjoy. And yes, while I'm sure they'd really LOVE new baseboards and crown moulding ... we suspect they'd love a trip to an amusement park a little bit more. So one of our two new year's resolution this year is to do a lot of fun things as a family.
In honor of President's Day - yesterday - this past weekend was a three-day weekend for the kids. And because there was a monumental flub-up with our last long weekend (which to our credit, was later redeemed the following weekend) I really wanted a do-over. I wanted to take Monday off from work and do something fun and totally unexpected with the family. A grand day trip adventure, of sorts.
When we'd gone skiing a few weeks ago, we picked up several brochures in the hotel lobby for "attractions" around town. Attractions that would constitute day trips for us, because we live in the general area. One of the brochures was for the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Another brochure was for Medieval Times. Both looked like excellent possibilities for a fun outing with the kids.
And thus we made plans for our three-day President's weekend. We planned that we'd leave on Sunday afternoon and drive up to Maryland. We'd first have lunch at Medieval Times and then we'd drive to the Inner Harbor of Baltimore where we'd spend the night - and enjoy the aquarium on Monday before returning home so the kids could be back in school on Tuesday.
But those plans?
They were only in our mind.
It's been brought to my attention by Charlie that I'm unable to make "real" plans. It is physically, or at least, emotionally impossible for me to commit to anything that requires for me to be somewhere such as a hotel on such-and-such a night. Because ... what if? What if ... the kids get sick and we can't go?
What if ... the dog gets sick?
What if ... the car breaks down?
What if ... something critical comes up?
I've had some experience with this and have since learned my lesson. A few years ago, Charlie bought the most amazing tickets to see the Indigo Girls in concert to which we had nearly front row seats. But because I was in the hospital with pneumonia, our babysitter - instead of us - went to see the Indigo Girls. With our tickets. The same experience played out with tickets I had bought to go to the Lawrence Welk show in California. I've decided that instead of buying tickets ahead of time - buy them at the door. That way, you know you'll be going. Or, if tickets aren't available, you can always go see a movie.
Movies are great!
Charlie, meanwhile, was chomping at the bit to make plans. Him: JEN, how can we say that we're going away for the weekend if we have no plans to be anywhere?
Me: We do have plans, they're just in our head! Remember, you're talking to someone who planned a seven thousand mile, three week cross-country adventure on less than 48 hours notice and didn't make a single reservation the entire time. My method works, you just have to have faith and believe! Come on! Where is your sense of ADVENTURE?
Him: ......... eye roll.
Sunday morning rolls around and Elizabeth is sick. Aha! I say. Aren't you glad we didn't make non-refundable reservations for a hotel or at the Medieval Times restaurant?
By noon she was feeling better.
Aha! Charlie says. Don't you wish we had guaranteed reservations for the show this afternoon? What if we drive all the way up there and it's sold out?!
Our house is cleaned, our bags our packed, our pet sitter is summoned. We leave at 12:30 and arrive in Baltimore 30 minutes before the show starts. We procure tickets for the entire family. We upgrade those tickets to the "King's something-or-other" because Charlie believes that if we're going to be there - and spend that kind of money to see the show - we may as well spend a little bit more and sit on the front row. As I making the transaction we both realize that the tickets at the window are considerably less than they'd be if Charlie bought them on line.
Aha! I say. Aren't you glad that we waited until we got here to get the discounted rate?
We sit on the front row and see the show. The talent of the "knights" was amazing, in a full canter, they were able to put their lance through little hoops. (New year resolution #2 = learn how to actually use my camera.)
The children love it. The costumes, the horsemanship, the jousting, the medieval human torture...
The overall tournament experience!
We determine, however, that all of the seats in the house are great and the upgrade to the "King's something-or-other" for $20 per ticket may not have been worth the price. Even though Elizabeth was handed a carnation by our knight and Carolyn was crowned "Queen of the Tournament." Or, maybe it was worth the price since I think the kids will remember this experience forever.
On the way out, we walk through the gift store and the crazy "we're on vacation!" generosity bug hit me and I buy the kids little medieval costumes (and the accompanying paraphernalia) that they'll wear for Halloween and when we go to the Renaissance Faire later this year.
(Oh yes we are! The whole family is dressing up! Wait 'til you see my gown!!)
We then walk more than a half mile to our car in the minus zero temperatures (with wind chill) and by the time we arrive - all of us have frostbite. I've since decided that only crazy people live where it is cold like that consistently and there is no way on earth I'd ever move to Canada.
Hopping in to the car we try for 20 minutes to wedge our bodies in to the heating vents. We then drive 30 minutes to Baltimore's Inner Harbor. By the time we arrive, it is 6:30 PM. In my mind ... the mind that PLANNED this trip ... our timing was impeccable. We would unload the car, check in to our hotel room, and let the kids swim for an hour in a lovely hotel pool, before we brought them upstairs and got them in to bed. In the morning, we'd enjoy a free continental breakfast before our fun adventure at the aquarium that was within walking distance from our hotel.
This sequence of events is totally logical. We've stayed in no less than 100 hotels over the past several years. What with driving cross-country three separate times and business trips - I know what to expect when it comes to hotels.
When we arrived at the hotel, I was NOT expecting that the rooms would be $350 per night and we'd need two rooms because no suites were available. I also didn't expect that parking was an additional $50 and there was no swimming pool, nor free breakfast.
Charlie shot me a look. Aha! Maybe if we'd CALLED we would have KNOWN that the cost for a hotel in the Inner Harbor would be akin to the $400 a night room that we forked out when we stayed in New York. And Boston. And San Francisco. Or any other MAJOR city.
Okay, so my method hit a snag.
Not wanting to spend a small fortune for a single night in a not that fantastic of a hotel, sans a swimming pool, we opted to drove home. We could have stayed in a hotel outside of the city, but all of a sudden, I had a funny feeling. A whisper in the back of my mind, "This isn't the time. Go home..."
The children were disappointed. Their bags had been packed and they were looking forward to staying in a hotel and making waffles at the free continental breakfast. But they got over it before we were back on the freeway headed south. On the drive home, Charlie informed me that from this point on, he's going to grab the vacation bull by its horn and make reservations, whether I like it or not. "Get used to it, baby." He told me. "This is the NEW AND IMPROVED Charlie. I make the plans and you go with the plans. We clear? I can't survive with this 'seat of my pants' stuff anymore!"
Long story short, we arrived home 90 minutes later and got the children ready for bed. Within an hour, Carolyn was up sick to her stomach. An hour later, Charlie was sick to his stomach. The rest of us were fine, so I'm not sure what happened. But all day Monday the two of them spent recovering.
I'm not saying my method is right, exactly.
I'm just glad that they weren't sick when we were in a hotel room that cost us $800/night.