Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Moment by moment

Life is made up of a sequence of moments. Some blissful, some filled with agony and many more in-between. Do you live in each moment you experience? Or do you live in painful memories of past moments and worry about the next ones? Or perhaps, better, in the memory of happy moments.

Vacations with young children can be harder than regular everyday life at home. Time changes, sleeping adjustments and meeting many new people, even if they are family, is stressful for them and therefore for us.

Things after Paris were thankfully uneventful. We traveled safely from there to a house on the ocean front in a small villaged called Piriac-Sur-Mer. Piriac on the sea. The house was very old and lovely. The view was of the ocean, sailboats and a seemingly endless coast lined with stone walls to keep the sea at bay. Our garden, or back yard, if you may, had a rope swing and a wooden swing for the children to play on. They loved it! Up the creaky stairs were three bedrooms. Two with lofts. The girls chose the room closest to ours and my little boy shared our room. And usually, our bed.

The girls were allowed to stay up late and dine with the adults and the little guy got to play until he seemed ready to fall right to sleep. When we completed our bedtime ritual and I placed him into bed he screamed. Every time. So, we developed a new ritual of him falling asleep in my arms and then I put him down into his cot. I would get an hour or two with my arms free and within a few hours of putting myself to bed, the little guy would wake, call out, "Mama," and be brought to sleep in my arms.

One for structure and routine, I was not happy with this new system of sleep. Naps were typically in the car, the over the shoulder carrier or very short in the cot. I did not work to correct it, as I was on vacation too. A vacation with young children, though, is hardly a vacation. Just a different location.

Our next location with a night another part of the coast called La Rochelle. The area is beautiful, with an island connected by a bridge. This island has been named by some 'body' in France to be one of the most beautiful and charming cities in the country. France is filled with beautiful and charming cities, so this one is quite special.

We left early for a long drive into the French countryside. A friend of mine from our time in Singapore offered the use of her second home, which is near a wonderful wine region called Cahors. After reviewing the vacation budget, we decided a trip inland was a great idea! And was it ever. The drive was just over 4 hours, which we broke up with a stop at a wonderful zoo near Bordeaux. The children loved it and they were each allowed to choose one toy. We left with a stuffed white tiger, the favorite of the boy; a stuffed baby black panther, my oldest's choice and an elephant shaped container of bubbles for my practical middle child.

As we drove on, the scenery changed. Breathtaking hillsides and conifers repleaced rocks and sea. Chateaus could be seen now and again and fields and fields of sunflours began popping up. How beautiful to look out and see an endless view of tall open sunflowers greeting us!

And finally, the house we were to stay in. An exact address could not be supplied, just the village and house name. The houses in this small village are named instead of numbered. Thank goodness for the GPS that guided us to the right area. A converted barn with a cinderella gate was enough of a description for us to find it. The old key turned the lock to the gate and assured us we were in the right place. The house looks nothing like a barn now. Remember, French barns are not red wood and rust, but stone and brick and style. The conversion of it to a house was nothing short of stunning, and much more than we could have ever afforded without the generousity of an old friend opening her home to us.

We all happily cleared the cobwebs and spiders who had made themselves at home in the absence of the owners, who live primarily in Zurich. We cleared and cleaned, ate and played until nearly 11:00 o'clock in the night when we all collapsed into deep sleep.

Yesterday, we wallowed in the beauty of the property and discussed the possibilities of staying a bit longer than we had planned. It is too lovely of a place to visit and leave in just a few days. The boy refused his nap, waking and screaming each time I tried to leave him in his own bed. There was no sound machine or lapping ocean waves to soothe him and cover the frequent squeals of his sister. Frustrated, I gave up. Finally, last night with the help of a radio tuned to fuzz, and complete exhaustion, he fell asleep and stayed that way. Just long enough for me to enjoy one glass of wine. Back to work.

But it was in this moment with him that my vacation began. A song from a favorite musical popped into my head, the lyrics, "This is just a moment in the woods... life is full of moments, many kinds of moments... all are worth exploring..." And I realized my real job was simply to enjoy the moment of my gorgeous son, comforted by his mother's arms.

Life is full of moments. Savor the good ones and simply wait for the bad ones to pass. Now, more than a week into our trip, I can finally relax.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Turbulent start

Today is Wednesday, our 4th day in France and finally things are starting to fall into place. It seemed that the fates were against us getting here.

We left for the airport with hours to spare. A 2 1/2 hour drive to another city's airport became a 4 hour drive. The only main route from the West to the East side of the State was closed due to a major accident that morning. Hours later it was still being cleaned up and the traffic backed up for miles. We took a detour of 20 miles that took us an hour and a half.

Finally, we got checked in and made it to the plane in time for boarding. The flight was blessedly uneventful, if not comfortable flying with the 30lbs of the boy on my lap for 7-hours. He slept and so did my legs.

As we prepared to exit the airplane in Paris, I noticed my oldest looking a bit green. She came over to me and proceeded to vomit all over the floor and her shoes, just missing my lap. A bus was to take us to the terminal. I carried the boy and his shoeless sister down the stairs to the bus and we settled in for a very short drive. About half-way there the bus stopped and we had no information for several minutes. Many people began to shout for information, but no one was telling us anything. Our connecting flight's departure time was looming. There is always the possiblity of a strike in Paris! Finally, after another 10 minutes or so, the bus driver returned and we were on the way again.

Charles De Gualle airport is a crazy maze of a place. We rushed, 3 adults and 3 children, one still shoeless, up escalators, down escalators, through security and past gates where it seemed like passengers were both coming and going at the same time.  At last, we reached our departure gate, but the airplane was no longer waiting for us.

Once a smokers paradise, I was happy to discover that it was now easy to breathe throughout the airport. The children and I waited as my husband and mother-in-law tried to get us on the next flight. The floors were slippery, the furniture hard and full of corners, but my repeated cries to my children of, "Settle down! Calm down! Be still!" were ignored until finally my 2nd daughter split her lip on the arm of a chair.

As she rest her bleeding face against my shoulder my husband returned. We decided to scrap further travels and spend the night in Paris.

To be continued...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Nature Girl

My first-born is my little "nature girl." She astonishes me in so many ways. She will sit in our lovely back yard, which backs up to a protected woodland/swampland, for as long as I'll allow her to do so. Last week was an amazing week for her. One day, she discovered a turquoise bird's egg on the sidewalk that passes between our yard and our neighbor's yard. It ends at the forest, suggesting that one day they'll continue it all the way back to a path in the woods. For now, it ends at the tree line. I love trees. Our back yard is different from most others in the neighborhood, for we have planted Arborvitae and other Evergreens on both sides of our yard's borders. At the sidewalk, my first-born discovered the previously mentioned turquoise egg. It was slightly cracked. Cracked enough that we could see the developing bird opening and closing it's doomed mouth. Here was a lesson in nature. My love, I explained, it is unlikely this sweet bird would survive. She wanted to build a new nest for it. I explained the laws of nature as gently as possible, and we set the egg close to where we often see other Robins, where it might keep warm enough and safe enough to survive. She sat in the yard for hours. I could watch her from my deck or kitchen window when cleaning or preparing meals. She talked to the doomed bird in the egg and did her very best to help it survive.

A day or two later, only fragments of the egg survived with no sign of the baby bird. My daughter was at peace. A day or two after that a large snapper dug a hole in my back yard. We found it on the second to last day of school, vigorously digging and spewing dirt all about near the same sidewalk we found the egg. A raccoon who lived in a tree nearby was not shy, showing his interest. The turtle persisted and was nowhere in sight several hours later. Sadly, the next morning, the eggs were all over the grass and sidewalk. No eggs survived. This girl, who loves "Nat Geo Wild" and "Animal Planet" understood the course that Nature had taken. She was at peace. Sad, but at peace.

Then, a gift arrived for her 6th birthday. Caterpillars. Soon, they changed to butterflies. How lovely. This lesson of natures gifts and hardships. And all of this in one thrilling week.

More to come...

Friday, June 3, 2011

Ups and downs and choices

Between strep throat, colds, croup, choir concerts and birthdays it has been a busy month! Add to that planning a vacation and applying for various business licenses and formalizing other plans related to said business! Still, I apologize for going missing for so long!

Life if full of ups and downs, highs and lows. We can experience these variations of life and mood in a moment, a day, or over the course of weeks or even years. We can't always control the events of our lives, but we can control our reactions to them. This is the lesson I am trying to teach my children. This is the lesson I'm constantly trying to apply myself. It's a challenge at times, but the effort matters more than the outcome. Every action you take is a choice. Do you see that? Every reaction you have is a choice. Do you see that? How do you convey that to your children? Your spouse? My choice is to offer this viewpoint to my children. Think of the glorious amount of control it provides.

I need to make a choice between blogging and parenting at the moment. Guess which one takes priority? Thanks for reading and staying a follower while I weave in and out of the blogging world.

We can't always choose what we do, but we can choose HOW we do it. Happily or Grumpily!