Traveling with kids–traveling with four kids, one too young to carry his own stuff–is an ordeal. They want to help with all the packing, and unpacking, and transporting, but they don’t know what they’re doing. And they have crazy ideas, like stuffing all the bags full of toys, and rollerblades, and pita chips.
So, now that we’re home. And the four giant suitcases and six backpacks are unloaded of all the clothes, iPads, cameras, and memories. Slowly, after seven days away, we have finally reacclimatized ourselves to Central Time, going to school and work, and not staying up late, eating our own weights in delicious hotel food.
This massive effort could seem like a lot of wasted work. Two weeks later, we’re finally back into the nice routine we had originally. Why even take the time to travel? Why go through all the effort?
Because we got to see our families. Because traveling changes you.
Because traveling gives perspective on your daily grind.
Throwing ourselves into a foreign place, with new foods and schedules and people and traditions, helps us to better understand what foods and schedules and traditions we are floundering around in here at home.
Traveling, more than anything else, teaches us who we are.
Here’s what we learned:
1. Kids Adjust.
This year, when Catie transferred schools at the ripe old age of eight, we expected psychological scars. But nope. Not even a blip on her radar. Effortlessly, she left her friends and teachers and routines and moved to new ones. This taught us a huge lesson. Kids adopt really well.
Same story on this trip. Our family moved from a fairly rigid schedule of sports practices, homework, dinner at 6:30, and bedtime at 8 to a crazy free-for-all. Our kids embraced the sudden late bedtimes, living in a hotel in the mountains, and being tourists all day like champs.
Seriously. M and I were the ones dragging, asking for naps. Kids can rock the schedule changes like the little chameleons they are.
(See picture of Sam riding a Clydesdale bareback. I know, right?)

2. Texas is Warm.
We were late for almost everything we did while on vacation. Besides our kids uncanny knack for only having to potty in the middle of the woods, or when it’s five minutes later than we were supposed to be leaving, we had clothing issues.
Eleven months of the year our Houston wardrobes consist of flip-flops and shorts. But New Mexico is cold, so we had to put on actual shoes and coats, not to mention hats and scarves and gloves. This process took our kids about three hours every time we went anywhere.
Hello friends who live in cold places…how do you do this? Do you start getting ready to leave thirty minutes early, just to bundle up? And then do the kids get hot and complain-y. I’m afraid I couldn’t effectively parent in a cold place. I would just give up and let my kids wear flip-flops to avoid the coat fights.
All that said, the kids loved the snow. Free entertainment!

What is the etiquette for greeting a stranger’s dog?
This is how our kids handle spotting a dog in public…running over to it, putting their faces right next to the dog’s mouth, and squeezing the life out of the poor thing. Pit bulls with spike collars and chain link leashes, Dobermans foaming at the mouth, and homeless mutts, it doesn’t matter, they hug and kiss the dog.
This is when I come screeching over. “ASK IF THE DOG IS NICE! ASK IF YOU CAN PET THE DOG!”
The owner always says the dog is nice, either so I will stop screeching or because they don’t want to scare the kids. But let me tell you, one thing I learned about our kids: they have a serious dog addiction. If they’re not draping themselves all over our own dogs at home, they will find a substitute.
Even if that dog’s name is Cujo.
On this trip we got to see all our families. Not only Mike’s branch of the family tree, including his parents and the kids’ aunts and uncles and only first cousins, but also my whole side. My mom and dad and brother drove down to New Mexico to see us and my aunt and uncle and all my cousins, who all live in Albuquerque. It was a Festival of Family and we all loved it. We heard ancient stories of my grandparents, who I never met. And we made really funny new memories. Our favorite was on our last night at the hotel. Sam convinced the waitress we were celebrating Grandma’s birthday. Sure enough, she surprised us with a decadent chocolate cake, just enough for every grandchild to gorge themselves. The bad news is that Sam is a scheming criminal. The good news is that the whole experience was really funny, as we had to keep singing “Happy Birthday” to Grandma–almost five months too late.
The most obvious lesson we learned on vacation? Our kids can put away the food. We all can.
At home, I cook pretty good, pretty healthy food. And our kids eat pretty good. But take them to a hotel that serves all you can eat Peanut Butter White Chocolate Pancakes? They will eat like linebackers at the execution stand. And an hour later, they were asking for a snack.
New Mexico is a tour of delicious food. And since so much of our time was spent with family, it seemed we were always meeting up for a feast of enchiladas or red chili omelets or BBQ. We plowed through it all.
Which might explain why we gained way more than perspective on this trip.
And why all my jeans seemed to shrink in my suitcase.
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