Monday, July 29, 2013

Vacation? What Vacation?

When you come home from vacation with your kids do you feel rested? I don’t. I feel relieved. We made it. Nobody got hurt, lost, sick, or too upset. I also feel stressed. Now we have to pay for that! Mostly I feel tired as I look around at the gardens gone wild, the horses filthy with old sweat, the chicken pen that is beyond ripe, and the living room carpet that will now need to be shampooed multiple times to remove the smell left from our incontinent aging dog who stresses out whenever we are gone. (Actually I’m just glad she’s alive – that was one of my biggest worries while we were away.) And then of course, there’s the laundry dumped from bulging suitcases, the mostly empty refrigerator (except for the Tupperware containers hiding on the lower shelves holding frightening concoctions left from weeks ago), and the endless messages and mail to process. Ugh.

We just returned from two weeks in California for long-overdue visits to family, hikes in the Redwoods, and kicking around San Francisco. It was quite a production to get the five of us fed, housed, transported, and entertained for two whole weeks on the road. I still can’t quite believe what it costs to feed three teens (the youngest may not be a teen, but he eats like one). Someone recently passed around a cartoon on Facebook that had a beleaguered mom sighing, “Again? But I just fed you yesterday!” That’s how I felt. They eat and eat and eat and then we get in the car and have gone only twenty miles when one of them declares, “I’m starving! Do we have any snacks?”

I sorted through the pictures last night and felt defeated. The age of digital cameras is a good and bad thing. It’s great because you can take all the pictures you want, never worrying about wasting film, but it’s bad because 1200 pictures is entirely too many to digest in a sitting. That’s nearly 100 pictures a day. Was it really that exciting? Granted these are the pics from three cameras and the youngest just discovered that he “loves” taking pictures. His subjects and angles are actually quite brilliant, but mostly blurry and hilarious.
I am confident that with time, this vacation, like childbirth, will seem worth it. I’ll be glad for the memories, the bonding with relatives, the new worlds discovered. But right now I’m thinking vacation is not vacation for most mothers. It needs a different name. 

It seems ridiculously arrogant to be complaining about vacation. I do appreciate that. I’m grateful that we can afford to take the trip we took. I’m just pondering, while it’s painfully fresh on my mind and heart, if it is worth it. Call me a homebody, but I might be just as happy to stay home. I like my home. I like my quiet days in the garden and at the keyboard. I like cooking in my kitchen and lingering on the porch over dinner. I even like the stolen moments playing games on my phone while I wait to chauffeur a child to yet another game, practice, lesson, or gathering. I like the routine. Maybe going away is necessary once in awhile if for no other reason than so we appreciate home. I’m going to go with that.

Vacation is defined by Webster as “a respite.” The definition of respite is “an interval of rest or relief.” Hmmm. We all need a respite. I’m not sure that’s what you get on vacation, at least not if you’re traveling with kids. Or with anyone for that matter. One person’s respite is another person’s torture. I’d consider it a respite to sit in a beautiful, quiet place with a glass of wine and a good book, with a cat curled up beside me. Or to hike all day until my legs quiver with exhaustion before floating in a lake and eating anything cooked over a fire. I doubt my kids would go in for more than a few hours of that kind of vacation. They were happy with the days that involved water of some kind – beach, pool, stream, hot tub. Our vacation had plenty of water. But they are also happy with a vacation fueled by a steady stream of junk food, screens of any kind, games, rides, and cousins. Not me. The cousins were great, but the rest not so much.

So this was one for the kids. Like much that I do as a mother, this was a vacation for the children. It’s a time in my life. Someday I’ll get my respite, but until then I’ll just count my blessings and sort the pictures.

This is "Zabu" the cat that came
with the cottage we rented.

The Redwoods - at a an angle.
The photographer
A Redwood from an 11-year-old's perspective
This pic just cracked me up. My kids are such
country bumpkins!
Trying to rearrange the California coast.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Use Parental Judgment

I have spent my life surrounded by nerds. I don’t say this as if it’s a bad thing. In fact, I prefer nerds. They are honest about who they are and unafraid to be true to themselves. That they are maligned by the popular crowd is not lost on them. It registers and I believe it does inflict some pain, but not enough pain to compel them to seek fashion advice, join a gym, or start watching mindless television. And we all know that the nerds win in the end which is what matters most.

When I was younger my brothers played a game called Dungeons and Dragons. They played it for hours on end. My friends and I found it odd, but we didn’t ask questions because the mainstream Christian establishment had labeled it the devil’s game and to our teenage minds that made it kind of cool.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


I was nine months pregnant one hot June Sunday when I walked out of church with an elderly member of our congregation. She had raised ten children herself and inquired as to how I was doing in the heat. I told her I was scheduled for a C-section in three days and she shook her head at “technology today.” Then she asked, “What number is this one anyway?” It took me a minute to understand that she was referring to what number child I was due to deliver. I told her it was my third and she said, “That’s the back breaker honey, good luck!” before ambling off to her car.

I puzzled at her remark, but a few weeks after I returned home from the hospital with my new baby, I understood exactly what she meant by "back breaker." I have never been as exhausted as I was in those days. For some reason going from two kids to three kids was an exponential jump rather than simple addition. Suddenly I didn’t have enough hands or laps or food or time or energy. And it certainly hasn’t let up. I don’t know how she managed ten. I was done at three.