Posts tagged ‘vacation’

No Matter Which Way You Slice It

It really is still a nine-hour drive from Portland to Missoula. It seems that driving during the night doesn’t change that fact. Although, we were able to effect a change in the incessant discontented moaning from the toddler. She whimpered in her car-seat shaped sleep instead. On that front we were successful. With three slumbering girls tangled in the back seat Nathan and I finished several conversations, munched on trail mix, and zoned out, which proved to be a refreshing shift from the constant snack fetching, squabble settling, and nursing gymnastics of the previous trip. Now, the three hours of sleep I got upon returning home? Not so refreshing.

But we are home. And, the gods really are smiling on us. Clean sheets, a clean fridge, a clean house, more than one could ever wish for upon return. Either we picked a stellar house-sitter, we got a little help from sympathetic and awesome friends, or both. As soon as the sun rises a bit more I intend to find out.

The last portion of our trip included Pickathon, a music festival that stretches across a warm, sweet-smelling, gorgeous farm right outside of Portland. Emily traded several of her Filly dresses with the founders of the festival in exchange for a vendor booth and tickets for all. This meant that not only did we get to listen to music, gaze at Mount Hood in the distance, and people watch, we also had a home base in the heart of the action where we could help beautiful women try on clothes, cook a meal in our makeshift kitchen, and lounge with my sister. The girls were equally content. New friends, kid activities, favorite foods, caring adults always ready to grab a snack or wrestle, and the freedom to run wild, knowing they could always find their way back to the Filly booth.

I also have never seen dirtier children. At night we methodically wiped farm dirt from between fingers and toes, scrubbed watermelon juice from chins, and washed unknown sticky streaks from necks and forearms before unzipping the tent flap. Like dead weights they dropped into their sleeping bags, glow bracelets adorning far-flung arms, faces slack with exhaustion. Nathan and I stepped back into the musical dark each evening knowing that we’d stuffed enough fun into those skinny bodies to last them a lifetime.

And I am filled as well. There is such exquisite pleasure in the company of our friend-family. Our children are theirs, the closest they have to their own, and they treat them as befits that honor. They smile at their antics, know their personalities, and see their histories in each twist and twirl. And as the girls wove in and out among our sandaled legs we ate berries, drank tea, and laughed. We discussed topics that only friends of many years get to discuss in mixed company: sex, relationships, embarrassing moments, the past, the future, our dreams and concerns. I wore my sister’s shoes, and got to be next to her, to watch her face and delight in her crinkly smile.

Pulling away from the curb was tragic as always. They stood on the lawn, mustard yellow sweaters, red jeans, dusty blues and greys, a rainbow of everything good and sustaining. My sister’s face was puckered in that sad way that if we lingered, or said anything at all, would crumble into crocodile tears. My throat tightened around a yo-yo and we drove away.

I sure do love her.

I love them all, and I am grateful that we got that splendid summer week in their company.


August 10, 2010 at 9:33 am 2 comments

ooh doggie, aka: pew

One of these days I will get really smart and set ourselves up for the return. As we scamper about getting ready for a trip I’m always too busy, or too preoccupied to prepare for the fact that we will actually come back.

Well last night we did just that. Our toddler was dead to the world, asleep in the plane, asleep during the van ride home, and still asleep when we plopped her into bed. The older girls were desperate for bed as well. Missing their Nana, travel weary, and freaked out by the way-out-of-the-norm-fact that it was nearly midnight and they were still awake, they simply couldn’t crawl under their covers fast enough.

Our trip was fantastically wonderful, but the day after? Not as fun. I guess it’s mostly the fridge I’m talking about. Milk, beans, and lettuce left by their lonesome for ten days? Pew. Leftover airplane snacks for breakfast? No thanks. Next time perhaps, after contracting the three pet sitters, (dog, snake, and hamster all went separate ways), a plant waterer and cat feeder, and a substitute shipper for Feeleez, I will remember to contract a fridge cleaner-outer and refresher. Someone that comes in the day before and fills the fruit bowl, dumps out stinky milk, and fills the cupboards with fresh staples would be dreamy.

But really, despite the compost fumes burning our nostrils, we can’t complain. We are filled up. Ten days of tender grandparent care, long drives that made for intimate conversations, beach sand between our toes, and damp southern air sifting onto our shoulders, made a mark. We are content human beings.  And coming home to Missoula keeps our souls buoyant. Green trees, a river that cuts straight to the heart, and the embrace of favorite-est friends makes for a sweet transition.

July 6, 2010 at 3:03 pm Leave a comment


During the last ten days I:

slept in until ten, for the first time in three years.

ate dessert almost every single night, like slices of seven layer caramel cake or homemade ice cream sandwiches.

slept from eleven p.m. until five a.m without nursing.

watched the Sound of Music for the first time.

ate perhaps more than my weight of blueberries and fresh fish.

drank a virgin daiquiri, pool side.

toasted a twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.

went to the movies for the first time in three years.

celebrated the wedding anniversary of a plastic dolphin and a plastic whale.

kept swimming while a hurricane passed nearby.

combed my hair and found seaweed in the brush.

held a stick bug.

took daily, crowded showers with all five family members.

bought a bikini and came away feeling better about myself.

chased a shi-tzu puppy into a strangers backyard, multiple times.

taught my children the stand-still-until-the-waves-bury-your-feet game.

went to a country club.

spoke in a southern accent so as to be understood by neighborhood children.


felt fortunate beyond my imagining.

Heading for the hills(mountains) tomorrow. To friends that are family, to a yellow dog, and to the river, please let it be ready for us.

July 4, 2010 at 4:34 pm Leave a comment

too much information

We’ve been doing a lot of wave jumping and froth riding, loving every minute of our seaside vacation. But guess what I read in the paper?

It seems one of the problems with oil spills is that it deprives the water, and the fish that live in that water, of much-needed oxygen. So what sea animals do to combat this is congregate in the shallows, where the waves churn and gather oxygen from the air. Apparently fishermen have seen sharks near shore, lots of sharks, big sharks.


This is not the kind of thing I like to hear. Tar globs, 80% humidity, scorching heat, and hurricane threats, big whoop, but SHARKS?

It’s funny because our usual parenting strategy is to meet each situation with empathy and information. When our children fret over something we first listen closely and carefully to their feelings, repeat it back to them and rub their backs until they feel completely heard, then we follow through with information that might be useful, or might open up the child’s perspective just a little bit.

For example:

Echo: Papa! Bella hit me! Grrrrr!

Papa offers empathy until Echo feels heard. Then offers:

I think Bella was trying to squeeze past you to get out of the door. Did her goggles swing into you when that happened?

Echo: Yeah and I didn’t like it.

Papa: No you didn’t. She didn’t mean to hurt you, are you okay?


Echo: Mama! Aaaaah! There is a fly near me!!!!

Me: Oh shoot! Are you scared? Want me to hold you? That really startled you huh?

Echo: Yeah.

Me: Did you know that house flies don’t bite people?

Echo: No. What do they eat then?

Me: Oh, things like poop and rotten things.

Echo: Oh.

That being said, when the girls, floating about in their fluorescent green and pink tubes, worriedly asked Nathan if there was anything in the ocean that could hurt them, and his mind screamed SHARKS!, he gave them lots of information about tides, and waves, but not a word about aquatic predators.

I guess some things are best left unsaid.

In any case, so far so safe.

June 29, 2010 at 6:06 am 4 comments

bikini shopping

I really love Nathan.

I mentioned that we are on vacation… at the beach. All the ladies can pretty quickly do the math to figure out what that means… bathing suits, as in wearing one in front of lots and lots of people, but even worse than that it also means, shopping for one.

Fluorescent lights and three-way mirrors. Hell.

I have put off shopping for a suit because I currently am enjoying my body, for the way it moves, for how it feels, and for what it does for me every day, and I was exceedingly hesitant to threaten that appreciation. I knew full-well that an afternoon of trying on too tight, unflattering suits might affect my feelings towards myself, and a week of beach time, amidst boob jobs and southern beauties, was not going to help a self image made fragile by traumatic swimsuit try-ons. Nor would it be the time for some kind of diet or exercise.

So what to do?

I brought Nathan with me.

He loves me. But even better for this situation, his vision holds the most flattering view of my curves. He doesn’t see cellulite or improperly placed bulges, he sees loveliness.

We picked out options and sizes, and I tried them on with my back to the mirror and Nathan’s body blocking my front view. I lifted my legs, bent my knees, and twisted side to side with each, trying to get a feel for how I would feel in the suit. And I closed my eyes when Nathan moved to get a sense of how the suit actually looked. I occasionally opened my eyes a bit, not to see my reflection in the mirror, but to see my reflection through his deep, honey-brown eyes.

And I was beautiful.

It was the most satisfying, loving, and gentle-on-my-soul, shopping trip of my life.

June 28, 2010 at 6:23 am 1 comment

no oil…

The way it works around these parts is that all driving is done on highways and county roads so completely flanked by towering trees and vines that it’s impossible for me to get any bearing. No towering mountains indicating East or West only a green electronic “E” near the rearview  mirror letting you know where you’re going. If you look at the map there are many occasions in which the road closely follows the coastline… but you wouldn’t know it.

So it wasn’t until after packing everything humanly possible, driving a couple of hours, (complete with more window seat negotiations and toddler-boredom management), unpacking everything, lathering three squirmy girls in SPF 345, and a short trek, that we actually felt ocean breeze and saw….


No matter how many times I go to the beach it feels like a miracle. And this time was no exception, except that it had the added miraculousness of white sand, blue-green waves, and no oil.

We rejoiced, frolicking like mermaids, scooping up clear healthy water in delight. I was filled with gratitude and happiness, and struck with grief that anything this beautiful and frankly, incredible, could ever be sullied by black tar. But body surfing and bobbing about felt a bit like doing the lindy-hop in front of someone who recently lost their legs, because while we bobbed about, just a few miles away there were families yearning to swim and play, looking hopefully out of their beach front windows only to see black globs, rust colored tides, and dead fish.

I come from a beach town. Surfing, “laying out”, skinny dipping in frigid waters, ogling sea lions on the wharf, and wading through tide pools were all a regular part of my childhood and adolescence, but visiting this part of the country I am still impressed by the role the sea plays in the lives of the people who live here. The gulf is everything. The culture and the economy is based on the riches and beauty of these waters. So while we merely feared having to alter our beach vacation to accommodate a natural disaster, the people who live here are having to alter their very lives.

The blue skies, white sands, and clear water, create a landscape gorgeous beyond belief under ordinary circumstances, but with the awareness of conditions just a few miles away, the beauty becomes heartbreaking.

And lest we forget…

… to remind us, amid the bikinis and sun hats, there are men with blue plastic gloves and orange buckets on the lookout for globs.

June 27, 2010 at 7:56 am Leave a comment


We made it.

I feel like flying with children is like an extreme obstacle course.

Challenge One: Hear the alarm.

Challenge Two: Get the kids and suitcases out of the house and into the car on time.

Challenge Three: Pass through airport security with at least seven bins, five pairs of shoes, and a cast iron piggy bank packed into a carry-on (unbeknownst to the parents) that triggers all manner of airport security.

Challenge Four: Negotiate turns at the window seat.

Challenge Five: Manage in-flight toddler boredom and nursing without freaking out the southern gentleman on my left.

Challenge Six: Absorb the parenting from fellow travelers which I enjoy, while steadfastly ignoring the arm pulling, yelling, and bossing, that I don’t enjoy.

Challenge Seven: Get as much people-watching done during layovers as possible while keeping an eye on frisky, itching to wrestle, spin, and run, girls.

Challenge Eight: Don’t trip on the abstract pattered airport carpeting while running toward the out-stretched arms of the grandparents.

Challenge Nine: Hustle three wired, out-of-their-minds-excited-to-finally-be-here-girls into bed before full meltdowns commence.

Final Challenge: Take a deep breath, feel the warm air on our skins, and finally realize that we are on vacation!

They really should make a reality game show out of this kind of thing.

June 25, 2010 at 2:27 pm 2 comments

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