Sunday, July 24, 2011


I wrote this a few days ago just before I left the country. I didn't get a chance to post it then, so I'm posting it now. We (obviously) have internet access at this incredibly fancy hotel - that used to be a palace forcryingoutloud - but only for the next couple of days. I'm pretty sure I won't be able to get online after that, until we get home. So I'll post this now, and later today or tomorrow I'll post an update with travel details. I can't post pictures yet (sorry!) - don't have a cord to download them from the camera. But there will be lots to come! (And btw, it's wonderful here!!!) 

I'm off to India later today. This will be the last of this nutso summer vacation. At least it's been a vacation for me. For my husband it's been lots of work, a dying and then dead computer, several presentations at conferences, and stress. I've had a (mostly) lovely time. In fact, today I was thinking that during this trip I've experienced more joy than I usually have in my life. I need to examine why that might be the case. Then, it might be as simple as I'm on vacation.

Last night as I put Frances to bed I brought up the fact I was leaving in a day or two. She seemed sad. "Will it be shorter or longer than when we stayed with Grammy?" she asked. That was the 5 days we were in California. "Longer," I said. I didn't tell her it will be nearly three times longer. Then I talked about how Grandma and Grandpa are going to take good care of her, and I talked about the fun things she will do (including swimming in the lake every single day. Three days ago Frances didn't much want to put her face in the water, and today they both were doing running cannonballs off the floating dock. They did have on their float vests, but would go under completely when they landed. It's amazing). I don't know if talking about it helped, but she does seem less easily irritated today. I've really made an effort to focus on the kids nearly all the time, to let them sit on my lap anytime they want to, to give them as much energy and attention and eye contact as I can. I'd like to fill their cups before I leave so they have some reserves. And I keep telling Frances, next time I want to bring her with me. This time, though, it's just the grown ups!

Friday, July 22, 2011


Bedtime is the pits. It's the time when the kids push all my buttons at once, try all their tricks, delay delay delay. The other night I was trying my best to stay calm and Frances was acting like a spoiled petulant 14 year old. Since we're at the grandparents', both kids were set up on air mattresses on the floor, with Mitch and me on the bed in the same room. Frances and I really got into it. Afterwards she wouldn't let me hug her, so I said that was okay, just said goodnight and hugged Clark, then I stood out on the hall to wait for her inevitable appearance at the door and to peek at her through the crack. At first she just sat on the bed and at the ceiling, the walls, the curtains. (I'd already threatened her with her life if her body left her bed).

"Clark," she said. No response. "Clark! I don't want Mommy to come back in here."

There was a pause, then "Why you not want Mama?" Clark asked, as if he hadn't just witnessed the conflict and subsequent wailing.

"Cuz she's bad."

Clark rolled over with his thumb in his mouth. Frances sat for a minute more looking up at the ceiling, then she started to make this funny loud grunting sound.

"Clark, I'm gonna make loud sounds to bother Mommy," she said. Which I thought was funny since she supposedly didn't want me back in there.

Clark sat up and looked at her. "But then I can't sleep good," he said frankly, and lay back down.

Finally she got up and wandered my way. She opened the door and saw me leaning there against the wall, and she just stood. I waited. Finally I said gently, "Did you need something?"

She waited another moment then said, "You're mean."

"I'm sorry you feel that way, honey," I said.

We stood and looked at each other a bit more, then I told her she could go to sleep on our bed rather than on the mattress if she wanted, and I would move her later. She turned and went back to her mattress. I kept watching. After a minute she got up and walked to the bed, where she curled up. I was getting ready to leave when she got off the bed and came back to the door. She walked right to me and wrapped her arms around me. I stooped down and hugged her, picked her up and sat her on my lap, and rocked her for a long time. I kissed her face and stroked her hair.

Finally she said, "I love you, Mama," and kissed me.

"I love you too," I said. "Are you ready to get in your bed?"

She nodded yes. Then she climbed off my lap and went into the room. At Clark's bed she leaned over to kiss him but he squirmed away, then she got in her bed, pulled up the covers, and went to sleep.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

wear and tear

Our summer travel is rather cumbersome. So far we've been gone 27 days, driven 2236 miles, and slept in 7 cities. (That doesn't include the transcontinental flight Mitch and I took, and that's because we did that without kids. It falls only into the joyandrelief column, not the trialforkidsandparents column, which is what this post is about.) We've left the kids twice with family while we went away for 3 or more days, and we're getting ready to leave the kids with Mitch's parents for two full weeks while we saunter across the world to India. For some reason I didn't think clearly before we began about the effect all this was going to have on the kids. I hope this next trip isn't terribly trying for them.

Clark (age 3) is having a hard time. Either that, or he's moved into some fabulous new stage that I do not relish the thought of enduring. Someone told me recently that boys age 2-6 have 10 testosterone spikes an hour on average, and I believe that. I am further reminded of it when he's been away from his own routine and universe for weeks at a time. And weeks to kids feel like decades; I remember. Poor guy. It's all coming out in uncharacteristic aggression. He's defiant, he's resistant. Bedtime is a power struggle of wholly new dimensions. He's taken to yelling "NO! I WON'T!' about many things. He bit his cousin at the beach, and he's never bitten anyone before in his life.

That said, he and Frances are in love with each other. They spent the last hour of the last car trip in complete hysterics, cracking each other up over and over. It was charming to watch in the rearview. They hold hands between their car seats; they soothe each other when upset; they hug and kiss and offer to let the other play with cherished possessions. Maybe it's a defense mechanism to help each other cope while under stress, but it also assures me that having two was good for our family, rather than the solo one I sometimes wish I had.

On a separate note: we drove day before yesterday up from North Carolina to Michigan, where it's lovely and really hot. At 12 hours it was our longest drive so far, but that included stops for gas and bathrooms and searching under the seats for a particular toy. On the way to the bathrooms at a food / diaper change / bathroom rest stop Frances said to me, "Why do you call it a damn tv?" "What do you mean?" I asked. "Why do you call it a damn tv?" she said again. I had no idea what she was talking about. "When did I say that?" I asked. "Whenever," she said. "Like you do." "Can you give me an example?" I asked. "You know," she said, "like when you say 'Fine. Just turn on the damn tv.'" Which I haven't said in at least a month, so you know. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

water sky sand guns

Well, my son has learned the word gun, and how to make one with your thumb and index finger. And with legos. Until now he's been calling things shooters, a word I do prefer, and often the shooting is done by blaster dasters; for example, belonging to Iron Man and someone I had to look up named War Machine (played by Don Cheadle in the Iron Man movie, which I'm certain I will some day view). Yesterday when he pointed his index finger gun at me and said pshw pshw, I asked who told him that was a gun. "Henry," he said. His six year old cousin. "He said you point this finger, then put up your thumb like this, and it's a gun." Uh huh. This is what we get for multigenerational beach vacations. That, and really good scallops and cherry pie.

I'm rather in love with both my kids right now, sweet stages all around. We're in North Carolina for a two week beach vacation (with cousins and aunts and grammy), though Mitch and I left in the middle for three days to visit friends in Durham. For the first time ever, I believe - excluding going back to work when Frances was mere months old - I missed them. Maybe they simply had to be more than babies for the missing to happen.

It took me two full days in Durham to relax. I couldn't figure out why I was anxious - just general floating anxiety - and I now think it's simply that I'm always tensed and ready to spring to action. I was still tensed, but with nothing toward which to spring, and so the tension just circulated like stale air. It reminded me of when I went to visit Boise by myself (when Clark was 15 months, Frances 2 and a half) and I cried for the first three days. About nothing. Everything was just so moving. (You can read about that trip here.)

So now the beach the beach. A week is never enough, but maybe two weeks is too much? Yesterday the kids came to blows, but perhaps that is to be expected and means little about how long we should stay. There are big tide pools here during low tide and some of them are deep enough for the kids to actually swim, and for the adults to lounge comfortably. I'm including pictures.

Tomorrow morning we will leave. Half the party left today because of the gray skies and rain, though Frances and I went and swam in it. When we were walking to the beach this evening, Frances asked if the cousins were already at the beach, then she remembered they had gone home. Clark expressed sorrow and Frances said, "You still have me, Clark. You will always have me. We will always be together. Forever. When you go to Harlan's house for a playdate I won't go, though. But other than that, we will always be together." They were holding hands at the time. It was the first time they had been alone together in two weeks. I wonder if they missed each other. Sweet.

kids are (left to right) 2, almost 5, 6, 3, 4.  

poopie jokes are hi-larious

fourth of july parade

tide pool

Sunday, July 3, 2011


I'm at the beach! It's lovely here. And hot.

I'm well aware it's been a long sad time since I've written here last, but I have excuses! After the last post I spent a full two weeks freaking out about getting packed for our SIX WEEKS of summer travel (will get to that in a minute). I mean, how do you pack for 6 weeks? Although there was little I could do two weeks before departure, I still dashed around the house in a state of mild panic which rendered me useless for things like fixing food and blogging. (And I do mean dashed. I found myself sprinting from room to room, as if walking was going to put me so much behind. Just a little anxiety.)

Then there was the first part of the travel itself (nine hour drive to Virginia with kids age 4 and 3, two night stay with my dad, four hours in the car to see more family, then four more hours to this lovely beach house.) We will be here two weeks - can you believe it? Two weeks at the beach. Yesterday Mitch and I floated in the ocean (temp of bathwater, so you know) while grandparents and cousins watched the kids to be sure no one ate sand or drowned, and Mitch said, "This is what it's all about," and then insinuated that all his crazy hard work and unavailability and stress is worth it so we can float in the ocean.

I don't know. It's hard to say.

Nonetheless, his hard work is indeed allowing us to not only hang out sunburnt for two weeks, but afterward we will leave the kids with my mom and go to California for five days (where he will have a conference and I will have a good time). THEN we will pick the kids up and drive to Michigan where they will stay with grandparents while we go to India for two weeks. Really! India! How awesome is that? I'm still trying to decide if I should haul my big fancy camera or take my mediocre tiny one....

So more to come, just an apology now for all the time between posts. It's hard for me to post when I don't have time alone, and it's hard for me to create time alone on vacations like this one. But there will be more. Soon.