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.