|Papu and Jonah, watching the waves|
|Nana, helping Ella down to the beach|
The first night, no one slept well. Our kids were all up multiple times. At one point Aidan came to find me, saying he was scared of the dark. I took him back to bed and comforted him, and only once he was all tucked in again did I realize he had been coughing so hard from his asthma that he had thrown up all over his pj's. He hadn't told me that! So I got him all changed and cleaned up, and snuggled into bed next to me. A little while later, Jonah came to find me saying he'd had nightmares. Back to Jonah's room we went. We played Musical Beds all night the first two nights. Not so much fun for Mama. Alex slept with Ella, who didn't sleep well at all the whole vacation. Not so much fun for Daddy either.
Even though our kids were thrilled to be seeing their extended family and be in a new area with new activities, our challenges followed us on vacation, like they always do. The kids had tantrums and meltdowns. Ben and Jonah had a frantic undertone to the whole vacation..."When are we going to the beach?" "When are we having lunch?" "What is for lunch?" "What are we doing after lunch?" "What time will that be?" "When will we be going to the pool?" "Who will be there?" "When will we have to leave?" On and on. All day. Every day of vacation. It was draining. Changes are hard for my kids. Being away from home is different, and different is not good for them usually. We still do occasional vacations so that the kids get to experience new places and sights, but when we go we know that Alex and I will come home much more exhausted than when we left. Managing all our special needs at home is difficult, but away from home it's even more of a challenge. It's worth it, it's worth the great times with family, and that's the important thing. That's the thing I want my kids to take away from vacations.
Another thing we did was to take all the kids to a petting zoo where you can feed baby goats, pet kittens, milk a goat, and see all kinds of other farm animals. I was excited to show the kids this farm, because I love zoos and animals. The minute we stepped into the farm, Aidan started shutting down. He thought he saw a bee, which terrified him. He saw the baby goats running around and started to cry. I couldn't figure out what was wrong until he said he was afraid they would bite him like the other goat did. I remembered several years ago at a petting zoo Aidan had stuck his baby fingers into a goat's pen, and the goat had bit him. That goat just clomped onto Aidan's little chubby hand and wouldn't let go no matter what I did! So then it made sense to me, why Aidan was afraid of these goats that seemed so cute and innocent to me. I put Aidan and Ella into a wagon and pulled them around the little farm zoo. That helped, having the wagon as a security object for them. But poor Ella. Every time we went to a new area, an animal would make a loud sound and startle her. She and Aidan spent the whole time at the zoo with their hands over their ears. They were scared of the goats. Scared of the turkeys, who were VERY loud. Scared of imaginary bees they thought they saw. Scared of the donkeys. Scared of everything. Ella and Aidan did attempt to feed a baby goat with a milk bottle, which impressed me. Sometimes they are very brave. Aidan enjoyed looking at the kittens, but Ella was afraid. She shut down in that little barn, finally turned to me and tearfully mouthed "Go. Out. Now." So Nana's arms wrapped around Ella, creating a circle of security and love to protect her from the donkeys, the calf, and the kittens that were running around that barn. Mom took Ella to the doorway of the barn and they watched while Aidan and I looked at the kittens. Nana would ask Ella if she wanted to go back in, but Ella would say no. Slowly, Nana inched her way into the doorway of the barn, and as long as Ella felt her Nana's embrace, she was ok with being that close to the noisy, smelly animals. I thanked God for Nana. Mom is so good at being a solid, loving, peaceful presence when you need it most. And Ella felt that and was ok.
So Aidan and Ella saw the farm zoo, but kept those little hands firmly clamped over their ears, and their tushies in that wagon, most of the time we were there. Other kids ran around full of zest for the animals and the freedom of a farm. Other kids milked the goat. Other kids made silly noises back to the loud animals. Other kids splashed water from the windmill onto each other and giggled.
Aidan and Ella woke me up this morning at 5:30. They were holding hands as they came to my side of the bed. They ceremoniously presented me with one almond from the kitchen that they had found. I thanked them for the almond, and told them that perhaps it was a teensy bit too early to be waking Mommy up. (They were so insanely adorable and serious, holding hands and whispering about their surprise for me, that I couldn't be very angry that they had woken me before any human should have to open her eyes.) Every morning of our vacation, we were all up by 5 or 5:30am. Gone gone gone are the days of sleeping in for this Mama. The phenomena of "sleeping in" hasn't been around in this house for the past 10 years. How I miss it so. I've found that if I'm well-rested, I can handle the kids' crises much better than if I'm exhausted and sleep-deprived. Unfortunately, I'm pretty much always sleep-deprived. This vacation was no exception. Very little sleep, between all the kids' issues all night long. So that made it more difficult for Alex and I to be patient with them during the day when they had issues. At home, there are times when the kids will go outside and play with friends in the backyard, or ride their bikes, or play basketball. They're outside, and I monitor them, but we're not on top of each other all the time. During vacations, the kids are always with us. They don't do any activities by themselves because they're too young and it's a new place, etc. So we had a lot of issues. And with the sleep-deprivation, the issues seemed more complicated and frustrating than I'm sure they were.
We finally made it home. I wasn't sure it would happen, but we did make it. Vacations are always such a wonder. New sights, smells, sounds, seeing new people...but there is nothing as great as coming home. To our messy, lived-in, loved-in house. Comfort. A sigh of relief that we made it. I'm grateful for the times we can go on vacation and show our kids a different piece of the world. And I'm grateful when we make it home at the end of the vacation, to the known routine of our life. I'm grateful for all the hugs our whole family shared this past week, all the giggles, all the walks on the beach looking for sea shells. I'm grateful for the times in the pool watching my kids and their amazing cousins swim and play and have fun. I'm grateful for Papu's wisdom that helped Ella learn to listen to the waves, and Nana's secure embrace that helped her participate in our farm day. I'm thankful that as I put Jonah to bed tonight, he said he wishes Papu was here. I love that Aidan's favorite part of his vacation was playing with his cousins. I'm glad that Ben wants to do this all over again, "as soon as possible." It was a great vacation.