Monday, July 9, 2012

Family Outings: Blessing or Curse?

Ah, summer. Three months of pure bliss with our perfect children, enjoying unstructured days of love, and of course, infamous family outings. Let's be honest for a minute here. Does anyone really like family outings? Is it ever really worth it to leave the house WITH the kids? No matter how adorable, charming and glorious they may appear on Facebook and blogs, I KNOW almost all family outings are actually exercises in torture in more ways than one. Do the few picture-perfect moments make them worth it? I am totally up in the air on this one. It's a good thing I have an adventurous, motivated, thrill-seeking husband who actually wants to experience life with the kids and makes the effort to see that it happens. Or I might never leave my house. Not joking.

Let's examine a recent little outing that had its fair share of ups and downs. I'm still trying to decide if the whole experience was worth the... effort.

It began as most of our outings tend to begin, with a hunting motivation in mind. Jason drew out for a deer tag out by Vernon, which is west of Lehi. Way west. What a perfect excuse to go on a little family picnic/fishing trip to Vernon Reservoir while scouting for deer and basking in our love for each other all at the same time. If you haven't been to the classy V.R. or heard of it, it's probably because you haven't gotten drunk, beat your kids and threw trash in a lake lately, because everyone we saw out there was doing all three of those things in random order. Also, public urination was involved in all three. And yes, there were two quite nice "porter potties" (as my kids call them) nearby. I'm assuming they were in such good condition because they never get used. Lucky for us.

Moving on. As we drove out through the lone and dreary desert on our way to the VR, we encountered an approaching train. A very long approaching train. We were in the middle of absolutely positively nowhere. I don't even know where the track came from. Suddenly it was just there in front of us, and there was a train on it. We were about two seconds too late to make it across, so we sat and merrily counted train cars. For a very long time. The train went and went and went. Until it stopped, never to move again. We couldn't see the end in either direction, which is saying a lot, because I'm sure we could almost see the north and south poles from our position in the vast wilderness. The husband was not impressed.

So, what does a huntin' man with an agenda do when he can't go over it, and he can't go under it or even through it? He must go around it. This, despite all obstacles, which include: a begging wife, frightened children, a sign that says, "DO NOT ENTER" and the absence of an actual road. "I'm sure we can get across somewhere," he says with bravado as he peels through the dirt onto the... path next to the train track. 

Tense moments ensued. I had the thought, "This is some mighty fine blogging material, I should get out my camera," but the thought was quickly squelched by a glance at the determined and, shall we say, humorless husband across the truck from me. We continued on the path of terror for quite some time. It didn't get any better. In fact, it got significantly worse. After about 15 minutes/years, we passed the front of the train. Unfortunately, we were now separated by a large barbed wire fence and a steep incline to the track, both of which made passage impossible.

"There must be a crossing somewhere out here," came the grumbles, admist Mormon curse words (ie. "flippin' shiz-bitin' monkey-liver crap-headed train drivers", etc), from the driver's seat. Against my better judgement, I used the time to educate my children on why patience is a virtue and how if you simply wait and think positive thoughts, all the trains in your life will eventually move out of the way and let you through unscathed (not true, but that didn't stop me). What did stop me was the same thing that stopped the whole adventure: a sudden series of giant holes in the ground, impossible to see in front of us because of the six-foot high sage brush we were barreling through at near sonic speed. 

Suddenly, the truck was leaping through the air, carrying six terrified passengers with it. There was a crash. A burst of light (not really). A shower of glass. Screaming (that was me). Then all was quiet in the jungle. What in the living heck just happened?
I guess the 4-wheeler in the back of the truck must have been feeling lonely and wanted to join in all the fun and love going on in the front of the truck, because it came right through the window and showered all of us in shards of glass, especially the three frightened little souls strapped into the back seat. That was a bad moment, I'm not gonna lie. 

Jason and I jumped out of the steaming truck and tried to calm the kids while we unbuckled them and lifted them out of their glass blanket and onto the dusty, thorn-covered ground. Thanks to the design of modern vehicle glass and the mercy of heaven above, there was not a single cut on any of the kids. We swept out the truck the best we could with our bare hands and broke out the rest of the window to prevent further tragedy. 

Now that we were stopped, we could read the sign that was looming a few yards ahead of us, which had been previously obstructed by the fact that we were in motion, sailing through the air toward it, aware only of a bright orange blur on the ground somewhere far beneath us.

It read, "Warning: Explosives Testing Ground. Do Not Enter." 

Ohhhhh. So that's why we weren't supposed to enter. Got it.

It was during this time that the train passed us by, mocking our misfortune with each clack of its wheels. We tried not to make eye contact. 

As we drove sheepishly back the way we came, Abby said, "Look, Mom, mist!" I turned around to see the truck being filled with clouds of heavy, lung-sucking dust. All I could do was smile in my heart as I pulled the neck of my shirt up over my mouth to ensure oxygen. It only took a small amount of self-control to not say a word about being right, right, right. I was able to do this because I was so relieved that we could finally just head home. Wrong, wrong, wrong.  
Later, after the mist had settled.
This didn't stop the family outing from coming. It came. Somehow or other, it came just the same. As we finally crossed the now-clear train track, I took a deep, dust-filled breath and prayed that we would someday cross this track again, on our way home, and that it would be sooner rather than later.

We arrived at the VR, stepped over feces, cooked up our tin foil dinners, fished whole-heartedly (some of us), were insulted by fellow reservoir-dwellers, and called it good.

Now it was time to drive through the hills and look for deer. The evening became very pleasant and the roads weren't quite as dusty. We were in good spirits because #1, we were still alive, and #2, the truck was still running. There were a lot of attractive bucks roaming the hills (according to Jason) and it was actually kind of enjoyable. We drove and drove and drove.

And then I saw it. A humble, wise creature, perched atop a fence post. An owl. A real owl! There to bless our fortune and misfortune and make the whole trip (possibly) worth it.

I made Jason slam on the brakes, and as we skidded through gravel and dirt once again, I exclaimed, "Kids, do you know how rare this is? We have never seen an owl in the wild before! Ever! And now there is one right in front of us, just waiting for me to take his picture!" I snapped away as he looked at us with pity and respect. A moment later, he took flight, probably to go tell all his friends about us.

We drove away with reverence at what had just happened. But that wasn't the end of the owl sightings. Suddenly, the kids were yelling that there was another one! Then a few moments later, another one after that! How could this be? Were we being blessed in owls to make up for our abundant misfortune/lack of judgement on somebody's part that wasn't mine? In the end we saw a total of eleven owls. Eleven!

We drove home as the full moon settled over the desert and it was finally too dark to spot any more deer unless they bounded in the road in front of us. We had a fun little stop at the one and only store/gas station in the town of Vernon. It was closed, with a hand-written sign on the door that read, "Sorry, we are out of gas until Monday." I'm very grateful that we were not also out of gas; otherwise, we might still be there. I was about to snap a picture of the quaint little note, but the owner of the gas station suddenly appeared, probably startled and astonished by the presence of actual humans at his store. He let Jason in to buy each of us our very own ice cream bar. I didn't even worry about the sticky bath of goo that my children were creating in the dusty back seat as they worked on their ice cream. I was just grateful to be going home. In one piece.

If you've seen the movie The Fantastic Mr. Fox, which I highly recommend, you are familiar with the closing scene in which Mr. Fox points out some universal truths. One is that all foxes are slightly allergic to linoleum... but it's cool to the paw. And that they say their tree may never grow back... but someday something will. In the wisdom of Mr. Fox, family outings might be pain and torture... but they provide memories. It might cost $228 to repair the back window of a truck that an airborne 4-wheeler sailed through... but now the new window has a convenient sliding door. I guess good can come from all things. But I'm curious to know... do YOU think family outings are worth it? Please answer my question: Family Outings, Blessing or Curse? You may reply with a simple B or C. Dish away.


Tommy and Lisa said...

What a great story, Anne Marie!
I must pick both. Family outings are a curse to parents and a blessing to the kids. Now that our kids are older, they remember all the "good times" we had when we went away as a family. They don't remember the hours of prep work, the numerous parent panic attacks, the "he's looking at me" fights and the 5 thousand loads of laundry upon return. They mostly remember that we went and it was a good memory. So, we do it for them. Your blogging about it just keeps it alive! Great job!

Jenna said...

This is a fantastic post, Anne Marie. Your writing just gets better and better. Very funny, very descriptive, I could totally see everywhere you described. Loved reading it! Sorry about your window. :( We always seem to have to take our cars in for something after every family "adventure". Gotta love these outdoorsy guys of ours--though yours seems a little crazier than mine. :)

Darcee said...

Oh Anne Marie, you poor soul. Why does Jason remind me of Rob??? Famiy outings are so very worth it. They are the glue that binds your family together- providing you live through them, of course. This story will still be bringing tears to your eyes 30 years from now. But with the passing of time, they will be tears of laughter.

Shelly said...

I love to hear how you handle life's stresses with such ease. I think family outings are a blessing in most cases. When parents take time to spend it with their children, I think it helps them feel a sense of security and love. I also think its good for kids to see their parents having a good time, communicating with each other and working together. Its hard work to plan a family outing but in the long run its worth it cause you have created memories that can never be taken away. You are such a good Mom! I am so grateful for your example of patience and love.

Bryce and Amy said...

Hi Anne Marie - I can totally sympathize with you. However, we actually really like going to Vernon Res. We were just camping out there last week. Good fishing and lots of fun trails all around those mountains. But we have learned a few things. . . first of all, never go on the weekends (for the exact reasons you listed)and if you do, camp far away from the reservoir. We no longer camp near the reservoir at all unless it's the middle of the week and no one else is there. There are some really cool campsites scattered around that Bryce has marked on his GPS and they are away from others. And yes, we spend the whole time scouting for deer, which we saw a ton of last week and some good bucks. Bryce will be jealous Jason drew out for that hunt. He'll want to go with him. You described your story so well. I could completely picture your family stuck at those train tracks. We actually had to wait for a train to pass on our way home last time. But I totally agree with you about family outings. . . and camping trips. I finally told Bryce I'm not camping anymore until we no longer have toddlers. Too much work. He'll probably have me out camping next weekend though.

Tiffany said...

Annemarie you should write books. You make me laugh and cry all in one. Seriously I think you have a great talent for writing. On the other note I've been there plenty of times but something always seems to heppen to make all the bad outings seem good. Maybe it's the sweet looks on all the kids faces when they see something the've never seen before or the get to do something so facinating that they just glow. I've learned long ago that I do all the packing and cleaning and torture stuff just to have my kids say remember when... They are a bleesing and a curse but so are kids right?

Hubba's Thoughts said...

Though I hate to admit it, they are a blessing... Gary likes to take off and go on little outings too. I don't love going, but the kids love going. If we can all be together without fighting and make good memories at the same time in the long run they're a blessing. You're a great wife!!!

Jilleen said...

A cursed blessing! You deserve an award or something! I am dying laughing. I'm glad you survived and I hope the new sliding window and the owls out weigh all the trauma! ;) Best of luck for the next time... because you know there WILL be a next time!

Emily said...

This makes any family adventure we've had pale in comparison. You win, hands down. Amazing story and even more amazing storytelling.

P.S. Glad everyone is safe. :)

Tomatoes said...

I agree with everyone else that you need to start publishing. I was dying laughing from the amazing site of the white trash people (you know I would have loved some pics of those peeps), stepping over feces and how the owl looked at you in pity and then DID go tell his friends. But my favorite is that it is (very often) the significant other that is like "oh this is no big's gonna be GREAT" and the wife/gf who is has to stay silent, but her heart KNOWS that disaster is around every corner. You have to think maybe our pregnant moms were thinking similar thoughts when pregnant with five kids tossed in the back of the datsun. You know our dads LOVED it though...

Sparkling said...

Somehow, I thought you had parked and were making this trek on foot, and that you had to WALK the whole length of the train to get around it! I'm not sure if that would have been better or worse than your serious offroading that sent the 4 wheeler flying. I am so impressed that none of you got hurt! I managed to scratch myself today while vacuuming up broken car window glass, so you are all amazing! found you at finding the funny.

Tara said...

This may be your best story yet!! Hilarious and realistic at the same time. And may I just say the Mormon swear words were my fav part!! Still LOL! But when your kids are older and you're retelling stories, this may be their favorite. You are great parents!

Jenny W said...

I've been catching up on your blog and loving it! You are hilarious and have such great ideas, too. I bought the quinoa yesterday at our favorite place, Costco :) Couldnt bring myself to get the salmon patties, though. I struggle with all things seafood, but maybe sometime :) And congrats on doing your marathon!! Wow!! When I saw some of my family finish theirs, I just cried. It is such an amazing accomplishment. Glad you guys are doing good and surviving the outings and all!