Parent Skill: Pack Mule

I am once again scrambling to get the family packed and on the road before dinner. The amount of energy required to jaunt off for this long weekend is staggering. Of course loading the car wearing a 14 lb baby strapped to my chest on a hot, humid day was a bit much. But we do what we must.

The truth is I find it insanely gratifying knowing I could go head to head with a pack mule’s ability to haul stuff and hold my own. I may look ridiculous to some (ok many). But you fellow parents know! When kids are in tow, being able to load or unload a car in one trip is an invaluable skill! I am proud to say I can carry 5 grocery bags, a car seat (with baby) and purse or diaper bag in one arm, hold my 2 year old in the other, and still unlock the front door.

On that note, I see another pile of bags waiting to get loaded into the car…

Swaddled in Sound

It’s 11 something at night and we are making our way back across the country. It has been a hectic week full of long days and sleepless nights.

I have been dreading the drive home knowing I don’t have the anticipation of our vacation to propel me forward. So it is surprising that tonight of all nights is when I find myself truly feeling on vacation for the first time this trip.

Sure it was a long car ride today. Haiden cried the last hour and of course we hit construction traffic 5 miles from the hotel. By the time we unloaded and checked in it was 10 pm; way past the kids’ bedtimes.

But now I’m tucked into bed. Haiden is asleep in his crib at the foot of my bed. Amelia is asleep in bed next to me. This is a major rule breaker, but she was terrified when I turned out the lights and I figured…”it’s vacation.” I’m finally drinking my glass of wine and blogging, albeit in the dark to a symphony of white noise (talk radio, bathroom fan, and white noise machine).

What I find extraordinary is the realization that I am a mom on vacation. With my children. And despite my anxiety about this trip and the long drive, we are all happy and drifting off to sleep.

Aunties Not Aunts and Chinese Pants

Before I get on to today’s post I want to commend those who post daily while traveling with children. I had envisioned a nightly blog ritual of wine and relaxation as I shared my thoughts on the day. A moment of “vacation” each day in the pre-children sense of the word. (I bet fellow parents are falling off their chairs in laughter right now).

In my head I am still relaxing on a comfy sofa as I post with wine in hand. The realty though is I am sitting in my car in a Target parking lot at 7:45am waiting for the store to open. I have been driving Haiden around for an hour so that he doesn’t wake up the relatives. This is my moment of relaxation.

On to my post.

I do not have aunts, I have Aunties. They have always been a blend of familiar and mystery to me. On one hand the Aunties use many of the same facial expressions, phrases and customs I associate with my mom. If she is a portrait, they are the background. The story of where my mom began.

On the other hand I’ve always felt like an outsider to the Aunties’ world. My mom moved away from home when she was a young adult and, after several decades of living in the Midwest, she’s adopted more American habits than the Aunties. Visiting them means getting a concentrated dose of Chinese culture.

The Aunties got to meet my children this past weekend. As I watched them play with my fair-skinned, blue-eyed babies, I thought about how different my children looked. I’ve often felt neither Chinese nor white enough, caught between the two cultures. My children will probably not have that struggle, and I was shocked to realize a part of me wished they would. Then I saw Amelia walking around in the little Chinese outfit the Aunties had brought her; an adorable vision of blond hair and red satin. I smiled as she proudly showed me her new outfit. My sweet girl was being embraced not just by her Great Aunties, but by her Chinese heritage.

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That’s Interesting

My mom has a way of conveying dismay/disapproval without ever saying more than two words: that’s interesting. For example, when I am showing her something I just bought and she doesn’t care for it, she’ll think about it then say “Hmmm…that’s interesting.”

So in the spirit of Bill Engvall’s “Here’s your sign” bit, the following is what I found “interesting” about the first day of our Road Trip.

I had loaded the car with everything we needed. I went to pick up the kids from daycare and discovered that Haiden’s car seat would not click into the base because I had jammed too much stuff around it. Hmmm….that’s interesting.

Halfway into day one’s drive we ended up stopped on the interstate for two and a half hours because of an accident. Believe it or not it’s actually possible to go only four miles in 150 minutes. Did I mention it was in the high 80s and I kept having to shut off the car for fear of running out of gas? That’s interesting.

Sidebar to the point above: You know how a baby’s cries will get increasingly loud and hysterical if you don’t respond fast enough? In case you ever wondered “What if I couldn’t rush to the rescue? Would the baby ever stop crying?” I can now tell you yes it will stop. After 45 minutes….also interesting.

Later that night we were driving the last leg of the day’s trip when we were stopped again in traffic. This time it was a Hazmat spill and all traffic was being rerouted off the main highway and onto an eerily dark and obscure country road. That’s interesting.

I could go on, but instead I’ll end on a positive note. Both kids did very well given all the traffic issues. They surprised me with their stamina and patience. We were even able to have a bit of fun along the way.

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How Onesies Are Like Pasta

Please forgive the poor quality of my photo.  It was taken late last night when, overwhelmed by the task of packing, I had succumbed to the distractions of my iPhone.  If you can make out the details of the picture you’ll see piles of baby clothes spread across my bed.  I imagine you might be thinking “Wow.  That’s not too bad for an 11 day trip.”  Or maybe you’re laughing because you know I’ll need more than one suitcase for all those clothes.  What you can not see are the four bags laying on the floor and all the gear already loaded into the car.  That’s right.  This is everything still waiting to be packed after I’d run out of space.

I’ve always enjoyed packing.  I love making lists ahead of time so I can check items off as I tuck them into my bags.  Think Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets.  Adding Amelia to our vacations in 2010 meant more gear, more lists (and in my mind) more fun.  I think Husband was equal parts impressed and dismayed watching me scurry around the house making piles of “to be packed” items, lists in hand.  (After all it was his unfortunate job to load the car once my piles were neatly tucked into their bags).

That was one baby.  And that was when we traveled for a few days at a time.  Last night I realized my reliable “be prepared for anything” style of packing was not working so well for this trip.  Neatly packing our bags quickly turned into stuffing onesies and baby socks into any space I could find.  After a few hours I thought this baby stuff is like a never-ending bowl of pasta!  At which point I threw in the towel and grabbed my phone to take a picture.  Temporarily defeated by bibs and footed pjs, I stayed awake just long enough sweep everything on my bed into a laundry basket to be tackled in the morning.

I’ll be going home in just a few minutes to finish packing whatever else I can fit and then it’s off to daycare to pick up the kids.  I think I got all the important items: medicines, diapers, bottles, etc.  Do I really need everything else?

I’ll let you know.

Traveling Mom Will Write

This coming Thursday I will embark on an eleven day vacation with my 5 month old son Haiden and my 2 year old daughter Amelia.  Not one to overlook an opportunity to try something new, I have decided to incorporate into this vacation my first public writing project.  What I post on this page may not be more than a few words each day, but I promise I will post something.

Bon Voyage!