Sunday, July 27, 2014

Flying


Here is the thing about flying: I hate it. I hate everything about it: the operations, the uncertainty, the germ infested airports, the time spent trapped in your seat. I hate all of it. The only thing I hate more than any of this is doing all of that, but with my children.

Flying with young children is a test of your personal fortitude, the strength of your marriage, and a direct challenge to your belief system in all that is holy and right. It’s fucking exhausting.

Do you ever wonder what Hell looks like? It looks exactly like that spot where the families wait to pre-board a flight. The children run around bouncing off the walls and the parents cling to each other, weighed down by excessive amounts of travel gear for children they know will be incapable of using any of it for more than 5 seconds. The only thing more terrifying than the look on the parents’ faces is that of the other passengers who know they will be stuck with you. It is a dark moment made even more macabre by the look of glee on the children’s faces as they prepare to taunt you for hours on end with nonstop requests for gum and books and movies and pillows and potties and anything at all really that they want and you can’t even escape it. You are stuck. For the next 6 hours, you will parent by any means necessary. You will be their butler.

Any time before Phil and I prepare to begin any kind of long journey with the children involving air travel, we literally do the same thing every time. We commit to love each other no matter what for the entirety of the day. We do this because after like hour 6 of being stuck in a flying tube with them they are just so insanely irritating that when someone drops their raisins for like, the seventh time and you just go to lose your shit on your spouse, you’ll remember that pledge of love and that they are cunning enough to try to turn you against each other.

There are certain things I know will happen each time we fly. I suppose by now it should be comforting, sort of like the airplane version of Groundhog Day. It is not comforting. All of it still sucks. And all of this happened when we flew across country with them this weekend.

I over pack our carryon bag. I stuff it with leap pads and iPads and pencils and stickers and Legos and cards and extra clothes and snacks and headphones (that no one will actually use) until you can hardly recognize the shape of the distorted and bloated bag you think once was the North Face backpack you took with you on your honeymoon. Inevitably we will be something like 10 minutes into the flight and someone will ask Phil to retrieve an item from the bag that is completely hidden from the naked eye. As he furiously contorts his 6 foot 3 body in the 4 inches of space the airplane hilariously refers to as “generous leg room” to locate that hidden Dora book that someone desperately needs, the entire bag will erupt in a blur of Frozen themed extra underpants and cheddar bunnies. When a bag like this explodes, I imagine it is roughly what it would like if a toddler exploded. Lots of electronics and applesauce and extra underwear, a lone lollipop, things to color with. Phil growls at me. I remind him of our pledge.

I also know that as we run to catch the flight with 3 carry-ons and the stroller and the 3 kids Phil will inevitably decide he is in dire need of the world’s largest hottest cup of coffee. This will render him incapable of actively doing anything other than very slowly drinking this insanely ginormously hot drink. Because I am fond of the children having flesh on their bodies, I will tell him that he cannot bounce the baby on one knee and the coffee on the other. Picture it: today, 10 minutes to get from one gate at the Denver airport to the next before our flight leaves. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Perfect time for a jumbo sized cup of caffeine roughly the temperature of hell! Because it’s easy to run through the airport with all of the children carrying that! Of course!

Other things I am certain of: that no matter how many times I ask Ruby if she has to pee she will wait until the exact moment that we start to make our descent before she decides she definitely has to go.

That Dylan will have no trouble declaring he has to go to the bathroom, but will become obsessed with locking the door properly and almost certainly get locked inside the bathroom.

That the baby I have been trying to get to sleep for the entire flight will only close her eyes the second we are wheels down at our destination.

That even though I have to pee I will try to hold it so we can make our flight. Once on the plane I get so wrapped up putting on Wreck it Ralph and soothing the baby and feeding the baby and then HOLY SHIT I FORGOT TO PEE. And like a 3 year old I have to run to the bathroom before I have an accident. Without fail, this will be the exact moment we experience terrifying turbulence. Because what better place to catch MRSA than bouncing off the walls of the airplane bathroom.

There were many other fun moments too. For some reason, when the baby has a particularly explosive diaper situation Phil and I are fond of saying she “bombed” us. I have no idea why we say this. So today as we flew somewhere between San Jose and Hartford, the baby that didn’t have any desire to poop while on the ground decided to take the most ridiculous poop of her life in mid-air. I turned to Phil and without a thought about where we were or what I was saying yelled to him over the engine, “Phil! She bombed the airplane!”

Note to self: don’t mention bombs on airplanes even if you are joking about diarrhea and babies.

Finally, we landed. I thanked the good lord or any lord for putting us back on the ground again safely. Honestly, all things being equal my children are pretty good fliers. But that’s just it: they are children and their behavior doesn’t suddenly change if they are in the air or at a fancy restaurant or whatever. They are one speed at ages 6, 4, and 6 months. That is, they are high speed. All the time. It’s our own fault for creating any kind of scenario where we expect to get anything back from them other than that. Which I suppose is really how it should be. I love their energy, most of the time.

As we piled out of the plane with our disheveled, yet surprisingly still high spirited children in tow, Ruby took note of the terse look on my face. She extended her hand, as if for a high five. Reluctantly, I answered. “Now that’s the sugar!” she said.  

God I love my kids.

I just love them more on the ground.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Vacationland

It is my last night here in vacationland. I know it is time to go. I am sad. 

This week, we were out west to see my sister and her family. We did lots of really important things here like eat donuts at 10AM with the rabbit and guinea pig. We made dust out of chalk and used a paint brush to turn the colored dust into art. We rainbow loomed by the ping pong table. We swam at 5 o’clock and ate hot dogs at 7pm. We made ice cream and ate it twice a day just because we could. We went on roller coasters and long slides and watched cuddly movies with cousins. We drank wine early and often. These are the unspoken rules of summer in wine country. 

Every day in moments big and small I got to laugh and talk and mother alongside my sister. We won’t get time like this together again until November. I truly savored it.

As if knowing she won't see her again for quite some time, the baby picked this week to tackle a big milestone by cutting her first two teeth. She was slow to make her shift from east coast time to west coast time. On those early mornings when we were the first ones up, I would quickly hurry her out of the guest room we’re all sharing so as to keep her from waking the others. Often, we'd go outside to the back of the house. Mornings in northern California can be chilly but if you bring a blanket they are just right. In the back they have one of those old swings, a two-seater that you can just lean back and sink into. I love these swings. They are perfect in every way. Not too fast, not too slow; your feet just touching the ground to keep you slowly moving back and forth. Phil’s family is originally from the middle east and I haven’t picked up many Arabic words from them but I have learned this: the Arabic word to describe such a swing. In Phil’s family just about everyone has one. They call it a Jallala. 

So every morning Hope and I had our Jallala time where we swung back and forth. We would travel the space from here to there and back to here. To a baby and to a mother at 5:30 in the morning, this can seem very far. Most importantly, we would stay quiet. At that hour of the day there is sun but not much else, mostly birds. We humbled ourselves. We stayed small. We listened.

This very special week I have felt so far away from the rest of the world. Like many of us, the strife in Gaza has been weighing on my mind. The world is just so much right now. So much pain and blood and sadness and hate. Vacationland is the world of just right. There is magic here in the small  and decidedly un-glamorous moments of simple and sweet and morning quiet. I wonder what would happen in this world of noise, if we could all shelf our collective rage and egos long enough to just listen. I wonder if this quiet we seek will not be won so much as earned, like on the Jallala. A little bit forward, a little bit back. Lots of listening and humility. The chance to slow down, find your footing.

Steadying myself for a return to noise. Praying for a lasting quiet and peace. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Water

Details.

This weekend I’ve been swimming in the details. Sometimes even when life is really good, it can still be overwhelmingly transactional. This seems true whether you are a parent or not, but it felt particularly true these past few days as little tired humans wrung out from pools and BBQs and late summer nights needed more and more of me.

It wasn’t their fault. They are young and tired. Their patience is short and they get cold and hungry and hot and thirsty and itchy and sad and bored. I understand. I am feeling all of that too, while I carefully maneuver their transactional minefield littered with delicate young feelings and fragments of my frayed patience. I tend, I kiss, I cook, I clean, I tuck.

This morning we decided to venture off to a state park we’d never tried before which promised waterfalls and a small lake to swim in and a little beach area and picnicking: a new spot to enjoy one of the finest days that summer had to offer.  But there were bottles to make and a beach bag to pack and a cooler to fill and where are the chairs and do we have food for the cooler? And so for two and a half hours straight I ran around like a mad woman looking for cold cuts and sunscreen and swim shirts and diapers.

By 11:30 we’d cobbled together what we needed for the world’s briefest roadtrip. For the 20 minutes in the car, I casually sipped gingerale and bit my tongue, trying not to snap at the next person who asked me for more air, or less air, or more radio or no radio or a snack or a bathroom or directions. Because honestly, it’s not them, it’s me.

And all the while I was sipping and breathing and muttering to myself: this is water.

It’s a reference from a speech I’d read given by the late author and essayist David Foster Wallace at the Kenyon College commencement back in 2005. Titled “This is Water,” (which you can read HERE) the speech was later published as a book by the same name (there is also a youtube video you can WATCH). In it, Wallace argues that all of our collective “default” settings in life are to just hum through hard and detail and transaction and just stay bogged in it, dead to perspective, to what is real, to what matters. As Wallace describes: “… the real value of a real education… has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over: ‘This is water."

Wallace argues that the real work of life isn’t exciting and can sometimes and often times be monotonous, but sometimes that is all of the stuff of life and if you think of it as anything less than the holy work it is, than you will spend the rest of your life angrily sipping gingerale missing this amazing picture perfect blue sky day with your family who will never again have this moment, this day, this place in time together. You will miss it. You will get stuck in the garbage-y minutiae that you think is what all of “it” is really all about and in doing so you will miss all of it. You will miss this life.

We arrived at the park and piled out. There was more schlepping and changing, lugging the stroller onto the banks of the sand; slathering of sunscreen and sticky fingers and bathing suits. And then there were giggles and splashing. Dylan found a tadpole. Ruby practiced her swimming. The baby needed me, she needed to be held. Unable to settle, I scrambled out and back in to the water, one hand under the baby, the camera around my neck. There was lunch and someone wanted peanut butter, turkey but no mustard, more pretzels. I sat at the edge of the lake and passed and sorted and chewed while Hope sat peacefully on my lap, squishing her little fat toes in the wet sand.

This is water, I thought.

This is water.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

My Jenn-eration on Momastery.com


This week we were so pleased to join with Glennon Melton’s fabulous community of monkees over at Momastery. Momastery was the first blog I ever read, and truly still one of my most favorites. When days are hard and long, I often crave Momastery’s special brand of humor and brutiful honesty.

We’ve got a little guest post up as part of Glennon’s Messy Beautiful summer. So pull up a chair (and some chocolate!) and enjoy this piece on authenticity.

Happy 4th!