June 2015

In Flight Entertainment

Air travel with four young, spirited individuals is its own special form of torture.

Just before take off, Zachary, who hasn’t been feeling quite himself for a week, started begging to “just get off and go home”. The fat, silent, crocodile tears slithering down his cherry red cheeks and his pleading eyes, told me he wasn’t kidding. 

 Crap. 

This dreamy Hawaiian vacation has been locked into place for 12 solid months. The very idea of relaxing on the pristine Hawaiian beaches, cool, crisp Lava Flow in hand, has been the sole reason I’ve survived most days leading up to today. 

Five minutes into the five hour flight, Mr. Grey Hair With Glasses, in front of Lauren wormed around, while peeking between the seats, and with a tight, I’m-so-peeved-to-be-seated-in-front-of-the-ten-and-under-crowd, leathery smile, lectured her about how to gently close her tray table.  
 Really?

I’m seated next to Cinderella’s step sisters. Help me. I cannot fathom why they perpetually argue with each other. But, argue they do. Nonstop. I’m ready to ask to be seated elsewhere. Would that be weird? 
 Meanwhile, the brothers behind us are actually behaving. The children’s chewable Advil for which we paid top dollar in the airport bookstore seems to have kicked in. Zachary is holding on. 
 During drink service, the flight attendant takes pity upon us. 

“How many do you have?”

Four. 

“Ohhhhhh my gawwwd!”

I force a small laugh. This is a scenario that has repeated itself dozens of times over the years.

“How old are they?” 

I politely list their ages, and don’t even have to pause awkwardly to recall this time. Jovial flight attendant shakes her head and erupts in laughter. She grins a big you’re so nuts, grin.

“What’ll you have to drink?” 

Wine.

She reappears with the biggest little bottle of airplane vino ever. I think it’s nearly full sized. And she’s not even charging us for it. I look behind me, she’s deposited four free beers onto my husband’s plastic tray table. Four?Four! 

 Woah

We must really appear to need outside assistance. 

Time passes by shoveling copious amounts of chemically enhanced edibles into our mouths. By the time the fasten seatbelt sign has disappeared, we’ve plowed through gummy bears, Cheez Its, Swedish Fish, Juicy Fruit Starburst flavored gum, strawberry icebreakers, s’mores fishies and Reese’s Pieces. 

I hand out the surprises. A My Little Pony coloring book, An American Girl chapter book, level 2 Planes Fire and Rescue reader and Matchbox cars. They devour those too. 

Soon we are all jumbled up. Everyone’s playing musical seats. Some are here. Some are there. Lauren, in her sparkly pumps, has been playing flight attendant for the past hour. The sharing of ear buds proves to be a poor way to save a buck.   

  

I tell the kids we aren’t that far away from heaven, way up here. The boys stare at me.

“We’re like an hour away?”, asks Zachary.

I think so.

He adds, “So, God can actually smell us?”

Probably.

Finally, we start the descent. The 757 floats down. Little blinking eyes peek out the tiny airplane windows. Through the clouds. Down, down, down. With a giant thud onto Earth, we’ve landed. Hello, Hawaii. 
 I carefully avert my eyes from those around us. Yes, I’m their mother. Please, stop judging me. I tried. Really, I did. 

I over hear the man behind my husband say, “Well, it was a pleasure sitting behind these kids”. 

Say whaaa?

He doesn’t know. 

The kind gentleman doesn’t realize that I’ve reprimanded my daughters 496 times in 300 minutes. We bag it all up. Hurry. Let’s get out of here before we ruin the well behaved children perception that this misguided sole has.

Aloha. 

 

In Search of an Awesome Summer

Why I’m Decluttering Our Summer

A few weeks ago I sat hovered over my phone, intertwining four summer schedules into my calendar. I had it all figured out. Everybody’s camps and classes were carefully arranged in my trusty phone. 

It certainly wasn’t an easy task to configure the master schedule. But, I’d done it. I should’ve felt content. I thought I’d feel relieved to have my quad of kids actively pursuing an awesome summer.

But, no.

Instead, I looked at that calendar and found myself growing increasingly frustrated. Nearly every single summer day was accounted for. Each glorious, free flowing, lazy summer day — for which we’d awaited since September — was reserved. After our family vacation, we were left with a mere handful of freedom. Those weeks were threatened to be swiftly snatched up by enticing activities. Dance camps, church camps, musical theatre camps, surf camps, swim team and Junior Guards were the culprits.

As a kid, I never had the opportunity to partake in a vast buffet of recreational delights. My childhood summers were low key. My two younger brothers and I spent our endless summer days playing mailman, swimming in the neighbor’s pool, frog hunting in the creek (until my brother unearthed the towering stack of Playboys near the murky water). My friends and I would ride bikes on the bike trail, alongside the canal. We tirelessly perfected our cartwheels and handstands on the cool front lawn at dusk. We’d thunder through front yards during heated games of tag and hide ‘n seek. We built majestic indoor forts — using every single blanket and bed sheet in the house.

There were plenty of boring days too. I remember my dad warning us that if we stayed inside watching cartoons any longer, people would forget that kids lived in our home. Mom bought me a thick “Big Book of Things to Do”, so I’d stop bugging her about it. It worked; for a short while. I developed a love of simple things. Reading. Crafting. These slow days of summer empowered us to entertain ourselves. We learned to decompress from the quicker pace of the school year.

I had to choose.

The proposed line up was impressive. Hours of shuttling over-heated, complaining children in a smallish, motorized rectangular box on wheels, was not. And I was to blame. If I signed them up, it would be nobody’s fault but my own that our summer was over scheduled. I’ve had to convince myself that my kids don’t need these extracurricular activities. They would survive without over-the-top camps and classes galore.

So, I’ve decided not to.

I’m decluttering our summer. It’s going to be simple. Easy. I refuse to make my summer an extension of the hectic school year. I want my kids to have a fun summer. But, I also want my kids to experience a boring summer.

My kids weren’t exactly thrilled when I announced we’d be participating in minimal planned activities this summer. There were tears; and lots of moaning. At first I felt guilty about their disappointment. Not for long. They’re going to have an old fashioned summer; the kind I experienced as a kid. They’ll have to learn to love it.image

I’m not going to omit every single planned activity. A few will remain. Last summer was Sarah’s first year of Junior Guards. It was nothing short of magical. She has looked forward to JG since last summer and will be returning in August for her debut leap off the pier. Bi-weekly swim practice will continue for both boys. Other than that, let freedom ring!image

I want my kids to know what it feels like to play outside all day, barefoot, with toes sticky from Popsicle drippings. They can stay up too late on a hot summer night, with no place to be the next morning. Swim in the pool so long their fingers and toes become shriveled like raisins. I want them to play in the warm sand all day at the beach. Hunt for sand crabs. Boogie board in the salty sea. Learn to surf.imageimageimage

After this summer experiment of stripping away excess, I may find that it wasn’t a good move. Maybe I’ll be going slightly nuts after spending many hours with my kids every day. At the beginning of last summer I’d considered homeschooling. By the end of the summer, boarding school seemed like a better option.

No matter what, we’ll make an abundance of memories. I’m hoping those memories aren’t of sisters tattle tailing on everything that moves and brothers thrashing everything in sight.

I believe that we can pull off a simple summer to remember.image

A {Sleep} Walk in the Woods

I’ve never had any reason whatsoever to think my child would rise from her bed and vanish into the night. 

But, that’s exactly what Lauren did. 

My 8-year-old daughter was discovered sleepwalking outside of our cabin, well after midnight. She was barefoot and in her pink pajamas.

Our family had driven for hours to a picturesque stretch of untouched forest, located between Yosemite and Lake Tahoe. We were in town for our friends’ wedding. It was their long-awaited wedding weekend. Guests stayed in rustic cabins, clustered around towering pine trees and a trickling stream. The serene lake was only minutes down the road. The entire site was filled with wedding attendees.image

Every minute was packed with fun activities. The couple had met and fallen in love at a nearby summer camp, as teenagers. After losing touch for years, they’d recently reunited. The couple wanted to provide a summer camp atmosphere for the families that weekend. We boated on the lake, picnicked, sang songs and roasted s’mores by the campfire, hiked and kids made beaded crafts.image

The wedding day was ideal. It was a simple, beautiful and heartfelt ceremony, followed by a lively reception. After hours of dancing, eating and frolicking it was time to head in. When our kids could no longer keep their eyes open, we ushered them back to the cabin.imageimage

Lauren was obviously exhausted. After a power struggle over staying out longer, she angrily heaved herself on the futon, near the front door, and quickly fell asleep. Since my husband, Paul was still at the wedding, I left the door unlocked.

The next thing I knew, I was awoken by a bright flashlight in my eyes. My friend, Mrs. S, was breathlessly telling me she’d found Lauren, wandering 50 yards from our cabin, behind a laundry shed. She said Lauren seemed disoriented, and kept saying I have to go over there. In my own sleep haze, I was trying desperately to make sense of it all.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, “Sleepwalking, formally known as somnambulism, is a behavior disorder that originates during deep sleep and results in walking or performing other complex behaviors while asleep. It is much more common in children than adults and is more likely to occur if a person is sleep deprived.”

Lauren had cooked up the perfect recipe for sleepwalking. She was thoroughly exhausted and we were not at home. Kids under age eight tend to sleepwalk when they’re over tired or in a different sleep environment. While there is no real treatment for sleepwalking, precautions can be taken. It might be wise to install an upper latch on doors leading outside at home. A heavy object could be pulled in front of the door, while traveling.

It’s truly amazing that our sweet friend happened to walk by at that exact moment. Mrs. S happened to notice a little girl walking alone off in the distance. As she shone her flashlight into the inky night to investigate, she was shocked to see that it was Lauren. Thankfully, Mrs. S walked Lauren back to our cabin, and she easily slipped back to dreamland. I moved Lauren into my bed and keep a close watch on her. She slept soundly and barely moved a muscle for the remainder of the night.

It baffles me that Lauren had opened our cabin door, climbed the spiky metal, snow proof stairs barefoot and kept walking straight into the forest, while sleeping. Had she walked 25 yards more, she would have met the windy mountain road. Beyond the road, is the vast open forest.

The next morning, we eagerly told Lauren all about her midnight escapades through the woods. She thought we were teasing her. After some convincing, she began enjoying her newfound fame. With any luck, this will be her first and last sleepwalking adventure in the great outdoors.image