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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Full Suburban: Vacation dreams can sometimes come true

Diamond Head, on the island of O’hau, is one of the iconic sights in Hawaii to greet visitors.  (James Eschrich)
Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

Pretty much from the moment they each learned to talk, our kids have been begging us to take them to Hawaii. I don’t know why they think that going to Hawaii is a completely normal family trip to take, like driving to Yellowstone or spending the day at Silverwood. It’s really quite exotic, we tell them – a really big deal. You don’t just “get” to go to Hawaii as a childhood rite of passage.

“My parents always promised that they would take my brothers and me to Hawaii,” I tell them. “And guess when I first went? LAST YEAR.” They remain undeterred by this sad story.

And now, with some big family changes looming (one kid heading back to college and another leaving for a two-year church mission) – along with some major free airline miles – Logan and I decided to bite the bullet and plan a family trip to Hawaii later this summer.

If you’ve been reading this column for a while, you know that Logan and I are not exactly the most adept trip planners. We’ve gone on several family vacations that have been successful, but we also have a couple stinging failures under our belt. We were a little nervous about pulling the trigger on something as big as a trip to Hawaii.

But one day while the kids were at school, Logan and I hovered over the computer until we managed to figure out all the logistics: flights, Airbnb, rental car, and – most important – how to surprise the kids with the big news.

The idea we came up with really just screams “you’re in for a fun time!”: a PowerPoint presentation. Later that night, we sat everyone down in the living room for a special family meeting.

“You all know that we’ve been hoping to take one more big trip before Lucy and George leave,” Logan began. “Our summer schedule is already pretty packed, but guess what? Mom and I managed to carve out a few days for a family vacation!”

The kids all cheered and started making their guesses.

“I think it’s Hawaii!” one said. “I bet we’re going on a cruise,” said another.

Logan paused before the big reveal and then flashed the first PowerPoint slide up onto the TV screen; it was a map of Washington state, with Walla Walla County highlighted in red.

“We’re going to Walla Walla!” we shouted in unison.

Like children who get a book instead of a bicycle on Christmas morning, our kids did their best to appear excited. They only hesitated for a split second before they burst into moderately enthusiastic cheers.

Logan started clicking through the rest of the slides to show what we would be doing on our trip, and we both chimed in with commentary: a vineyard (“We don’t drink wine, but maybe we can try some grapes!”); a community baseball game (“I hear the high school has an amazing team!”); hot air balloons (“All the rides are booked up, but we can probably watch!”).

As picture after picture flashed on the screen, the kids shot furtive looks at each other, hoping beyond hope that this was a joke but pretty convinced by our exceptional lying that it was not.

We ended our presentation with a slide showing the dates of this supposed trip, which we purposely chose to coincide with the dates of a much-anticipated family reunion.

George instantly noticed. “Wait, that’s when we’re supposed to be at the reunion!” he said.

Logan and I looked at each other, as if we were completely shocked by this oversight.

“Oh no!” I said, glaring at Logan. “The reunion wasn’t on your calendar!” This was a completely believable lie, as Logan keeps a digital calendar, I stick with paper and pencil, and never the twain shall meet.

Our kids moaned, in sympathy for their idiot parents who had managed to screw up yet another vacation, and also for the loss of this family trip, however low-key it was going to be.

We let the agony soak in for a minute while we all stared at each other in disbelief. And then Logan spoke up: “Well, we did have this one other idea …” Up on the screen flashed a beautiful picture of Oahu. The cheers were deafening, the relief palpable.

The remainder of our slideshow was of people surfing, snorkeling, and eating giant cups of shave ice. Our kids asked over and over again if this part of the presentation was for real.

“Oh, it’s for real,” we told them gleefully. And just like the day they each learned to talk, they babbled about Hawaii the rest of the night.

Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at