Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Traveler's Tale

While searching my bookshelf for the first Harry Potter book that Ethan is so desperate for me to start reading to him, I stumbled across a hidden gem that I had entirely forgotten about. An old journal from my last year of college and early months of marriage.

I started reading through some of the entries and realized I'd kept a detailed account of my trip to Europe with my two roommates (S. and V.) our senior year of college. What fun we had together traipsing around the globe without a clue as to where we were going. As I read, I was stunned by how quickly all those memories materialized. Memories I didn't even know I'd forgotten. All the scenes, smells and sounds I'd carefully recorded resurfaced, effortlessly.

I am itching to share these journal entries with you, so please stay tuned!

Monday, July 27, 2009

MckMama Monday

I'm not entrenched in the blog community, though do follow a few popular blogs. However, there is one in particular that I have been following, Her baby's heart is in trouble (and don't I know about heart trouble!) and so her family has been heavy on my heart. (Edit to add that having a husband who required an "easy fix" surgery is not even a teensy, weensy bit close to the same as having a baby with a serious and stubborn case of SVT). Won't you put Stellan in your heart today?

Prayers for Stellan

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The tides, they are a-changin'

I spent a rare hour or two on the beach today. It was rare because I was ALONE. It was heavenly. It was the end of the day and as the air cooled and shadows lengthened and the incoming tide lapped at my feet, families packed up to head home. But I remained where I was, feet in the sand, book in my lap. I didn't read much, just let my thoughts fade in and out with the foamy waves washing over the shore. I was abundantly content and happy listening to the ocean roar and the seagulls scream. But part of me was sad, knowing that I am living the best years of my life right at this very moment. The very best years. That these fun-filled, easy breezy days are fleeting and will be fond memories in the not so distant future. And part of me was also sad thinking about leaving my first "home", thinking that I have so much here that I love (my dad especially) and I hate knowing that I will soon have to part with it all.

As I packed my stuff up to return to the beach house and began trudging up the boardwalk, I realized that I probably have more beach days behind me than ahead of me and I sensed a bit of the blues coming on. When the boys and I return to our real life (as opposed to this life where my dad and gram cook for me, wash and fold laundry and my biggest decision is which bathing suit to wear to the beach) there are only a few short days that will bridge the gap between our idyllic, storybook summer and our new and bustling busy school schedule. Ethan's first day of Kindergarten is in August and days of studying the tide charts will have been swept out to sea. And the truth is, I don't know how our new days will be spent. Our schedule, our lifestyle, our routine...all of that is unknown to me. What I do know is that Ethan will say good bye to his "summer beach friends" and will be making new friends in his new classroom with his new teacher in his new school. The classroom that I can't picture, the teacher I've not met, the children I don't know. Boys and girls, can you spell a-n-x-i-e-t-y?

But soon, all of these questions will be answered, all that is unknown will be known, and my unfamiliar schedule will become a solid routine. And I'm sure all of this will happen in no time at all. But that doesn't mean I won't wring my hands a few times until then.

And for right now, I'm a nervous wreck. Which I, of course, won't share with Ethan. Luckily, he is excited about starting at his "five-year-old school", and truly, I am excited for him. But there is part of me that is longing already for the days of our freedom, where pre-school was optional if a more fun prospect presented itself. Where we could sleep in and snuggle if the mood struck. All of this school business just seems so....official.

So, in the meantime, I will officially enjoy the rest of my idyllic, storybook summer vacation. Because I'm still officially on it. And it has officially been marvelous, damn near perfect, in fact. I forgot how head over heels in love I am with this beach.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The best part of waking up....

One of my favorite places to wake up is at my grandmother's beach house. The sun shines brightly in the kitchen where we all gather around the old farmhouse-style trestle table and have breakfast while the sea breeze wafts through the open windows mixing with the aroma of warm coffee. The sounds of lawn mowers, seagulls and the screen door banging create a comforting and soothing soundtrack.

It is my idea of heaven. Apparently, my boys agree:

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Old memories become new memories

One of my greatest joys is taking my children to my favorite old haunts. Since I no longer live in my hometown, I don't get to do this very often, which is why my trip up here every summer is such an important event for me. I spend the other 11 months of the year thinking about the three or four weeks we will spend here. And though I miss Adam desperately while I am gone from him for so long, there is a part of being up here by myself with the boys that I find very special. Because I'm solo parenting, I might not have much down time during these precious few weeks each year, but it is worth the energy to be dashing here, there and everywhere to reconnect with my past and make layers of new memories that will now be connected to my future. These are the places I go to in my dreams. That I think about when I'm feeling blue, that make me wonder "what if I never left?". These are the places that I have attached significant love and emotion to, that I love fully and dearly. And seeing my boys tearing around them is abundantly rewarding. Seeing the connection of my past, present and future bridged together before my very that's what life is about.

* * * * *

On today's agenda: Newburyport (or Newton's Burm, according to Ethan). The playground has been redone since the days that I played on it, but as a mom I much prefer the new rubberized surface to the (messy) sand that used to be there. The rocks were the same as I remember, except the fountains weren't on, which was great because the kids could actually run around and play on them. Played outside, followed by lunch at The Grog, followed by more playing and then ended the day with a walk on the beach and dinner and a sleepover at the beach house. Stay tuned for more on my love affair with the beach house.

And the icing on today's cake. Does it get any better than this?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Post where I boast about inappropriate things

Day 1 of our trip has been just lovely. Spent the day at the Boston Children's Museum, one of my very favorite places on Earth. As a kid, my dad took me there quite regularly, so it is very meaningful for me to be able to go every summer (as a mother this time) with my dad and my own children. Eli was only six months old last summer so spent all his time in either the stroller or in the sling, but today, he was tearing around like a madman (pictures will follow later since I left my camera in the room basement where Eli is sleeping). I realized today (as I do every summer when I come up here), that I terribly miss the overly polite nature of southerners. I can't tell you how many times I got knocked around, pushed, shoved, or similar by a disgruntled museum goer. Despite that and the fact that it rained on our parade (apparently New England is the new Seattle with all the rain they are having this season) this foursome had a fantastic time.

Can I tell you again how great my children were during our travels yesterday? Is it getting old yet? It is? Oh. Alright then, well I do have to admit, when they weren't doing this:

and this:

...they were playing with this item Eli found in the restroom on the plane:

And Ethan spent the better part of our lunchtime today terrorizing the pigeons that kept landing around us. And I forgot diapers so had to ask for some at the museum's information desk. (You gotta LOVE a place that stocks diapers for morons forgetful parents!) And I didn't put Eli down for a nap. And I had to pretend to cough when I really snorted when Ethan asked me this question tonight: "Mommy, why do girls go to the bathroom a different way than boys do?".

You know, business as usual. Even on vacation that darn mother of the year award alludes me!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Leavin' on a jet plane

I may be speaking too soon and it is never a good idea to be smug, but as I write this post (on a cool blog application on my iPhone) my children are acting like little angels! I have never been more proud. Eating snacks, playing, watching movies...I should've brought a magazine.

Which leads me to my next point which is that if you have children on a plane with you and they are under the age of four, you should not be reading anything. Not even the safety pamphlet in the seat pocket in front of you. Especially if you have brought not one iota of entertainment supplies for your children. And if you are traveling with small children, why wouldn't you bring anything to at least attempt to entertain them with? This is the burning question I wanted to ask the family that sat across from us this morning. I have bad luck with aisle mates, as you may remember from my last trip.

Reading the Skymall magazine while your child asks over and over "are we in the clouds yet!?" irritates the other passengers. Especially those of us who have brought our A game and are working overtime to keep our little ones happy in order to avoid such behaviors as running up and down the aisles unsupervised or standing up on the seat and playing with the air conditioner vent.

I have never proclaimed to be mother of the year, but I have the flying thing down to a science. I have to, if I want to maintain my sanity, my kids' sanity and the other passengers' sanity. No one, including me, wants to be sitting near a screaming, whining, generally misbehaving child. Is it easy? No way. It is a meticulously planned, carefully choreographed and artfully executed dance that I do in order to maintain Eli's optimal traveling temperament (I say Eli because Ethan is really pretty easy going and almost self-sufficient these days. Sadly). So, while the lady across the aisle from me flipped through magazines while her son begged (for the fourth time) for her to "say YES! to take me to the potty!", and she snapped and sniped at her husband who conveniently had a "worksheet to work on" while their three-year-old daughter played with a - get this - kitchen timer that kept going off, I sweated. I smiled. I contorted myself to reach the depths of my diaper bag in order to get my hands on the precisely packed items that I would be able to hand to the boys at the precise time. And the precise time? Exactly 30 seconds BEFORE they need them. It is a heck of a lot easier to stave off a melt down than it is to recover from one. I packed that diaper bag as if it was my field bag and I was preparing to march into battle. I know exactly where everything is without having to cast so much as a sidelong glance. I pack the diaper bag in such a way that I can lay my hands on anything I need in about 4.4 seconds.

As I said, I'm not mother of the year, but I can usually pull off a long day of travel with reasonably happy children. But that doesn't mean tht I don't sweat. I do. A lot. (And not just on planes with my kids but that's another story for another day). While I may over pack the carry-ons, I don't really think that there is such a thing as being overprepared when it comes to traveling with small kids. I anticipate what they will likely need and then dig deeper to think about what they might want beyond the obvious favorites by staying a step ahead of them and trying to think the next most likely thought that they'll have.

For example, if I pack an acitivity book and Crayons for Ethan, he'll probably get bored of using the Crayons, but will still probably enjoy the activity itself. If I toss in some colored pencils, I've bought myself 10 more minutes because the change that the pencils provide will keep him interested. And if I throw in a pad of plain paper, I've bought about 10 more minutes since he will do some drawing once he is bored with the activity book. So the 20 minutes of entertainment that the original Crayons and activity book provided is increased to 40 minutes by throwing in a few colored pencils and a pad of paper. And today, I enjoyed a bonus...Eli used the Crayon box as a toy and entertained himself almost the entire time Ethan was drawing by taking the Crayons out of the box one by one, creating a pile on his seat, and then returning them back into the box. We did this about 30 times and though it was a little tedious, it kept him happy for 1/3 of the flight.

So with 1/3 of the flight spent on an activity, that leaves 2/3 of the flight where I'm left managing the kids. In an ideal world, I can divy these up by allotting 1/3 of the flight to personal neccessities such as snacking, having some milk or juice and using the potty and/or changing a diaper and the remaining 1/3 is allotted to some form of electronic entertainment. In today's case, Ethan's electronic equipment was his Nintendo DS and Eli's was our DVD player where he was able to watch 3 of the 10 movies I brought along. And yes, I did bring 10 movies for a 2-hour flight. But, again, I brought a variety. Most of them were geared toward Eli and at least 3 I knew were among his favorites, but I did throw in a few movies that I know both boys like and one or two that would just be enjoyed by Ethan. And while 10 may seem to be a little over the top, it didn't take up much more room than just one or two DVD's would have. I keep them all in a CD/DVD sleeve that is meant to be hung up on your car's sun visor, which slides easily into a backpack.

How can I get my hands on everything so quickly? Ziplocs. A Ziploc for each category of items. One for snacks, one for toys (if you have teensy babies, one for bottles, blankets, soothers, etc.). I put my diaper/wipe sack on the very bottom of the bag because typically, I am not trying to get my hands on that quickly from my seat. If I'm going to get up and change a diaper, I have a bit of time to move everything that's on top out of the way and I probably am not trying to grab a diaper with cat-like reflexes in order to stave off a meltdown. So, diapers/wipes at the bottom. Toys and snacks share the top, while books like the back of the backpack. Oh, and that's another thing...must have a backpack because it leaves hands free when chasing after, carrying and managing little ones. The pockets are also packed carefully...lollipops (for sore ears on the decent) are in a outside pocket that I can get to easily. Another pocket holds my phone and another one holds a sippy cup. It isn't just bag to carry diapers, it is base camp for triage.

So, in addition to being able to grab anything I need, I also watch my kids like a hawk. I don't read, I don't watch the inflight movie, I very rarely even order a soda because I'm usually not thirsty and needing to have my tray top down just adds to the chaos. When I'm traveling with my kids, there's no relaxing!

Today's flight was textbook (a little preparedness and a little luck go a long, long way). And by textbook, I mean that my formula was followed to the exact allotted proportions. One-third of the flight was spent on an activity, one-third was spent snacking and using the potty and changing diapers and one-third was spent playing video games/watching movies. I couldn't have asked for it to go more smoothly. Now, whose taking bets that I will be wishing I could rescind my smugness when my kids' behavior horrifies all the passengers on the return flight home?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Twas the Night Before...

...our trip and for once, I am organized! I am not, historically, a light packer and while this trip is no exception, I have packed significantly lighter than I have in past summers. After my luggage got lost on our last trip, I realized how little I really needed to get by.

Typically, several weeks before our several-weeks-long trip to New England, I am packing boxes full of toys and winter-ish clothes to send ahead so I don't need to lug an extra suitcase when it is actually time for us to get on the plane. I skipped that step this year. Instead, I tossed two sweatshirts, two pair of jeans and two long-sleeve shirts for each of the E's (and for me, too). Last year, I became completely overwhelmed with keeping track of all of our stuff. I wound up doing laundry every few days (even though I had enough clothing to outfit us without doing laundry for several months). Having so much clutter kept me from being able to completely relax and I didn't want to do that again. Plus, the boys wound up wearing the same things over and over anyway because I just threw on whatever clothing items had been freshly washed and folded, rather than bother digging through my suitcases for new outfits.

The one thing that always throws me when we travel up to New England is the changeable weather. In the afternoon, it can be blazing hot while we're on the beach and by nightfall we (almost) could wear winter jackets. It is easy to pack light for a trip to Costa Rica, but not so much for a trip to New Hampshire during the summer.

And while this may not sound like packing light to you, this is the list of what I will be bringing when we head out tomorrow morning to catch our flight:

2 medium-sized duffle bags (one for me, one for the boys' clothes and toys and other necessities)
2 car seats
1 stroller
1 diaper bag
1 carry-on for me
1 carry-on for Ethan

I've, of course, thrown in a few items that I don't need but that make spending a few weeks away from home much easier. Here they are:

1) collapsible baskets for the boys to put their toys in (1 for each E)
2) dark curtains to hang over the windows in whatever rooms the boys happen to be sleeping in (as long as its dark, Eli will sleep! I usually bring thumbtacks but I imagine I can find some at my dad and grandmother's house)
3) my trusty DVD player which will, with any luck, entertain Eli for at least half the flight
4) white noise machines for both boys

Packing is a huge undertaking for me. I think my ADD contributes to that. I like the ability to know exactly where everything I could possibly need will be (and of course on a trip this long, I can't really do that). I also like to control as much as possible and when away from home (or even at home) that's hard to do. The other part of packing that adds more stress to me than it perhaps would to someone without ADD is that if I realize that I forget something when I am away, it is more than just a minor inconvenience for me but rather causes a great deal of anxiety and I often wind up needing to buy a replacement for whatever it is that I've forgotten. (This is why it was such a victory for me to be relaxed when I lost my luggage in Costa Rica. I'm not a go with the flow kind of gal, yet somehow, I did!) How badly does my ADD impact my ability to pack? Well, right now, I have about five lists sitting on my kitchen counter, some of them identical, some with various items that I need to get together tonight (my toiletries for one), and then items I need to get together in the morning (baby monitor), and whose bag they will go in (the Nintendo DS goes in Ethan's carry-on once it is finished charging). My lists are copious and detailed and also messy with words crossed out and arrows drawn (the arrows indicate that I've moved that item to another list but haven't yet packed it and therefore am not able to check it off). You see why it exhausts me to pack?But the lists, while perhaps illegible to someone else, are a form of therapy for me. Although, truth be told, the packing this time around wasn't terrible and I'm more worried about how Eli will manage the flight so when that's behind us, I will rest easy. Eli is a sweetie pie, but a good flyer, he is not.

Stay tuned for a post about the crazy sleeping arrangements that I have arranged in trips past. I wonder how different (or similar) I am to most traveling mothers with small children. I really will stop at nothing to create the perfect sleeping environment for my children while on the road. Spoiler alert: one of the lengths I've gone to includes using a desk blotter and the lid for a board game. And no, one of my E's did not sleep in the board game lid.

Bon Voyage!