Monday, July 27, 2015

Tile Floors and Birdcages

There's an understanding among parents with small children that sleeping away from home offers it's own set of challenges. Add in a single room with lots of unfamiliar noises and uncontrollable barriers and you may be met with looks of terror. Sleep time is often the break you need at the end of the day; a few precious moments to reset away from the crying of babies or incessant questions from toddlers. Hotel rooms offer none of these respites; hotel rooms trap you all together to cry it out in one large symphony.

I found myself laying on the floor of our hotel room last night, whispering in our son's ear as I stared up at the hems of our dresses and coats, feeling the cool of the tile against my bare shoulder. He often sleeps in the closet when we travel, the doors offering a small barrier against noise--both for him and me. My daughter was snuggled into the provided crib, which we had draped with a blanket on the sides facing the bed, an attempted barrier against visual distractions. One evening as she fell asleep she talked about her "little fort". Though she protested the birdcage-esque covering during her first nap time, that evening when she returned she requested the brown blanket as she bedded down, needing it to complete the ensemble.

Children have a way of bringing you down from whatever semblance of pride you would normally exist within. Lying on floors to awkwardly shush a baby to sleep is only the beginning. I have walked around for hours without realizing I have a waterfall of spit up decorating my front. I have paraded through grocery stores with one child crawling and the other proclaiming each and every detail of our lives to each shopper that passes us by. I have made plans and cancelled them at the last minute, made plans and shown up and then left prematurely, made plans and totally forgotten about them. I have flown on airplanes while covered in vomit, been urinated on more times than I can count, and held chewed up food in my hands for far too long while searching for a place to dispose of it. When you're caring for children, it's what you do. 

Two years down, so many (I hope) to go.

Even as these little people take me down a notch every time I get my act together. I can't help but love them. And even as vacation is more exhausting than normal life, it's nice to change things up once in a while: see new places, exist in milder weather, and spend time a bit less distracted by everyday details. This is why falling asleep on a tile floor doesn't bother me as much as it might have two years ago--it's just for a couple days, and then we will be back to normal life.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Unanticipated Delight

The sun hangs late in the sky these days, the lingering effects of solstice three weeks past. Our young Alaskan children know nothing of daylight (or darkness) as indicators of times to wake or sleep--they are arbitrary details for now, thankfully.

We ventured to the park this evening after dinner since the sun was still bright, a common activity when the rain has subsided and the hour is not too late. Our daughter circled the equipment confidently, familiar with all the routes and options. After watching her go up and down a slide several times, I told her I would take her brother down the slide too, and she shrieked with delight. She rushed up the stairs to the spiraling red slide, muttering "Both! Both!" to herself as she climbed. When I reached the top she was poised at the top of the slide, scooting as far to the left of the arch of the slide, letting me know there was room for both of them. 

"I'm going down with him," I tried to explain to her. She was so disappointed. She wasn't interested in going down the slide with her brother AND her mom--she just wanted to go with him. In her mind, I would set his 3.5 month old body next to her and they would spiral around to the bottom in perfect harmony. 

Thankfully, this is how she sees the relationship she has with her brother most of the time. This baby that monopolizes meal time and play time with his need for me to sit and feed him. This baby that cries for reasons she doesn't understand and is perfectly stationary wherever we lay him. She adores him. She lays on the floor to talk with him while he lays on his belly. She cheers when he rolls over; she shrieks with delight when he laughs. She rocks his car seat when he cries and runs to his room to keep him company until I can retrieve him when he wakes up from naps. 

As we approached the park this evening, our son began to cry. I knew it was because he was ready to be fed, but my daughter was sure it was because he had grown weary of how long it was taking us to get there. "It's okay," she spoke to him in soothing tones from her side of the double stroller, "we're ALMOST there." And she repeated this mantra for several seconds as she sought to console him in his misery.

These are the moments I didn't anticipate when the chaos of having two children unfolded. I knew there would be twice as many needs. I knew there would be much less free time. I knew the love for my son would match the affection I have for my daughter. I never stopped to think about how she would fall in love with him too. It is truly precious. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Testing Our Limits

There are days when I pack up snacks and both babes, and head to the beach. The sun is shining, warm on my neck as I soak up as much as I can while shielding the delicate new skin of my son from exposure. The sun hat falls in his face constantly, and I simultaneously adjust it to improve its effectiveness while wondering if it's worth the effort. 

Meanwhile, my daughter plays. She sheds her rubber boots and galavants in the creek that feeds into the ocean, stepping on the rocks and letting the water  run over her toes, crouching to examine the details and letting her skirt soak up cold water like a sponge--a reality she wont realize until she stands minutes later. She climbs the boulders and slides down their slanted fronts, proclaiming "Wheee!" for her own entertainment, looking up to confirm that I'm still nearby before getting lost in her own world once again.

In these moments I wonder why we ever go to the playground, why we ever choose anything but the ocean shore for entertainment.

Then, there are days when we pack everything up and head to the beach only to find that the wind is colder than it seemed at home, the temperature much more brisk. My daughter still sheds her boots, and this time her shorts as well--since they will surely get wet anyway. She digs in the sand with her shovel while I huddle under the towel for warmth, my son curled against me wrapped tightly in the blanket I brought for him. I tilt the brim of my hat against the chill and watch as she kicks a ball around, intermittently coming over for a snack or to ask for assistance in going to the bathroom. Then, for no reason I can see, she declares, "All done." She's cold--an unsurprising declaration given that she's been frolicking around in the sand in a t-shirt and underwear for nearly an hour. We pull on her boots and shorts and trek back. I'm disappointed our efforts to get out were so short-lived, but also impressed we lasted so long given the conditions. 

In these moments I wonder why I put forth the effort; it took as long to prepare and gather and get out the door as it did to sit and (not) enjoy the sun and sand and waves. 

Occasionally a friend or acquaintance will comment to me that they are impressed I am out: to dinner, to the beach, to the park in the rain, to track practice, to run with a double jogger. I feel the same way when I see photos of friends on facebook and Instagram: out camping with their toddler and baby, road trips with three kids and without a spouse for hours on end, climbing a mountain with a baby on their back. I guess we all have our limits, and we all have our needs. I need to get out--to the beach, or the park, or the track. Fresh air--with or without rain--keeps me sane...even as the effort of getting there may occasionally make me crazy.