Thursday, May 17, 2012

Learning to Breathe

I have followed Heather's blog for several years now. She remains a favorite of mine because her content is beautifully succinct and full of depth all at once. This coming Monday her 30 Day Vegan course will begin. 

At first I thought the timing for my participation was all wrong. We're weeks away from wrapping up Second Grade. The littlest has decided to exit her second year of life with a bang (or rather a piercing scream). One of my very favorite people on the planet is returning from Argentina in fifteen days after being away for nearly two years; we have a bit of catching up to do. Can you see why throwing 30 Day Vegan into the mix might feel a bit counter intuitive?

But something kept nudging me to register. It occurred to me that maybe placing some of my energy in a direction other than homeschooling and two-year old's would actually be life-giving in this otherwise harried season. And so I did it this afternoon - somewhere between grammar and fractions. It still felt ambitious but also somehow calming. 

And then she invited me in. While the course doesn't actually start until Monday, Heather provided us with the most gracious, rich and encouraging welcome. The recipes look amazing, the tone so hospitable. 

I have little intention of turning my household into vegans in the next 30 days - or really ever for that matter. Instead, I think this course will allow me to breathe in ways I haven't in a while. I'll keep you posted on how things go. 


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Vacation 101

It is slightly embarrassing to admit that after nearly fifteen years of marriage and almost nine years of parenting I'm still learning how to vacation well with my own little tribe. 

We took another crack at it this past week - heading to Palm Springs and Joshua Tree. The hope was to enjoy warm weather and some pool time, visit another National Park, read lots of books (we knew this was ambitious) and generally have some restful and fun family time. Easy enough, right?

Instead of taking up lots of space describing where things went a bit off-mission, I thought I'd take a few moments to share a few key insights I'm bringing home right along with our dirty laundry.

Two year-old's can act especially their age when their surroundings and schedules change (the same could be said for three and four year-old's really). 

On one level this little lady can be incredibly flexible. In other ways, rigidity is her middle name. The more we fought to keep things "typical" with regard to eating, sleeping and mere existing the more we heard that two-letter word at painfully high decibels. 

While there are certainly times when you as the parent have to tow the line (no it won't work to forgo sleeping all night long) there is also ample opportunity to accommodate a bit - respecting all that a toddler is up against in this sort of scenario.

Almost nine year-old's have big ideas to pull off in four short days. 

It can feel insatiable, a slight-bit selfish and even irritating at moments. It's simply remarkable how quickly a girl can enter a hotel room after driving for four hours and be changed and ready to hit the pool (it was less than a minute for sure). Meanwhile I'm trying to peel the toddler out of the car seat and begin the process of nesting in our new home for the week. 

When turned on its head, this insatiability is actually childhood at its best - there's passion, excitement, a longing to squeeze in every last drop of fun and take everyone along for the ride. I love this. I really do. I'm just still wrapping my brain around the balancing act of it all. This week it involved more water sliding, boulder climbing and dark chocolate consumption than discipline. And there were also moments where I had to adorn my party pooper hat in hopes of reminding my enthusiastic travel companion that there were four other humans to think about.

Sisterhood is a beautiful, messy, rich, challenging and deeply edifying gift. 

There are times when these two love each other so tangibly and with such care. There are other times when they are in each other's way at every turn. I've never had a sister but I know with deep conviction that this is a relationship so worth fighting for each step of the way. 

We talk about this often - how they will always have each other. I see their bond and affection toward one another. I also see how hard it is to love one another selflessly when you're eight and two year's old. I sometimes feel like I am doing the splits as I work to foster this relationship while also trying to connect with each of them in their own little corners of the world. 

Sometimes the very best thing to do on vacation is the very thing that you would never do at home. 

By Thursday Phil and I were both feeling a bit discouraged. Hailey was refusing to sleep, was eating very little and was generally struggling which left the rest of us in a bit of a bind. 

By mid-day we knew that we needed to switch things up. Instead of working to preserve her nap, we opted to stay at Joshua Tree longer - knowing she'd catch a nap in route and that we could avoid the battle we'd been facing with her sleeping (or not) back at the hotel. We also decided to order dinner in and watch a movie in bed that night. We blew "bedtime" by two-plus hours. In its place we shared lots of laughs watching Curious George and ended up having our best night's sleep (Hailey bunking up with me and Phil sleeping on the couch). 

Sometimes divide and conquer is your best strategy. 

I'm all for doing things together - there are memories to be made for sure. And, there are also times when Phil and I can give each other a nod and set out with one or the other in specific and beautiful form. That happened more than once on this trip and I was grateful for it.

You might be surprised to learn what your kids thought of your vacation! 

In all, I'd say we had a good trip. I would also say that it was grueling at times. When we travel with my mom we look so forward to our evenings - once the littles are tucked in bed. We spend this time chatting, reading, eating and generally enjoying being adults.

This time our evenings were consumed by soothing, cajoling and ultimately becoming utterly flabbergasted by Hailey's lack of willingness to call it a night. I think I read a total of four pages in five days. While at Joshua Tree, we found ourselves on a trail inhospitable to the BOB and its passenger. I lugged the hot, sweaty passenger while Phil carried the BOB. Midway we set into motion our divide and conquer strategy so that Hannah and I could complete the loop and the rest of the group could return to BOB-friendly territory. Not ideal but also so necessary. 

In the end, when we asked Hailey what she thought of our vacation she said that she loved it. When I asked her what she loved, this is what she said:

-Sleeping with Mommy
-Climbing on the big boulders at Joshua Tree
-Swimming in the pool
-Singing in the shower with her sister

When I asked Hannah, she thought our trip was nearly perfect. She loved every minute and seemed to have blocked out the piercing screams and sporadic grumpiness of her little sister entirely. 

And so, I'm left both puzzled and inspired. I'm more and more convinced that vacationing with kids has everything to do with experiencing life together as a family - the good and the bad. I'm also seeing more clearly that moments forgive other moments and that cumulatively the very nature of getting away leaves a lasting and bonding impression on young hearts. 

What are your best tips or insights for making memories while traveling with kids?