Monday, August 17, 2009

(Trying to) Get Away From It All

Last week Wednesday morning, I bribed the girls with two episodes of Little Bear while I frantically packed up everything I thought we might need for half a week at the cottage. By 10:30, we were on the road. We stopped at my parent's for lunch, and my mom read Snow White to the girls on the couch before we drove the rest of the way. The weather was sunny and 80, and I had high hopes for skipping naps, spending hours at the beach with the girls, putting them to bed at night all tired and happy, and drinking a glass of wine on my deck, maybe even getting a little writing done.

But the girls played in the water for twenty minutes, and then they were cooooooooold. They wanted to play on the mooooooooonkeeeeeeey baaaaaaaars. They wanted to "fing." They were huuuuuuuungry. So packed us back up (towels, chair, sand toys, sunscreen, crocs, beach bag) and we went into town to pick up some pizza. While we were waiting for it to be done, we spied a new candy store, and I let the girls fill a plastic baggie with mix-and-match Jelly Bellys for later. We went back to the cottage, ate our dinner, tried one of each color jelly bean, played on the swing set. I did the bath/brush teeth/story/song routine, kissed each of them good-night, shut their doors, and went into my room to change out of my bathing suit.

Suddenly, there's Jemma, standing quietly and casually behind me as I step into my yoga pants. "I vant to sleep in your bed," she says. She has climbed out of her Pack N Play - for the first time ever - and she refuses to go back in her room. There is a mattress on the floor of her bedroom, too, and she wants to sleep there, in "a big-girl bed." Wait, she wants ME to sleep there. Wait, she wants me to "snuggle her" on that mattress. I lie down with her for a minute, stroke her back, sing her the night-night song again, and try to leave.

She throws a fit. I try to make her understand that it is Time For Bed, that big girls STAY in their big-girl beds, but she's having none of it. She's following me out of her room every time I try to walk away calmly. She's making so much noise that Annie starts yelling from her room. "Mom! Make her stop! I can't get to sleep!"

At one point, I settle Jemma in the Pack N Play, then dash back to my room and fake sleeping in my bed, hoping that Jemma will come in, see me "asleep" and conclude that there is nothing left to do but go to sleep herself. Instead, she comes in, sees me, and goes back to her room to retrieve her big blanket, which she lies down with on the wood floor of my room.

I end up lying with her in her room until she falls asleep, which is completely against every sleep philosophy I've ever followed, mostly because I imagine it must be confusing and alarming to fall asleep with your mommy beside you, then wake up hours later to an empty room.

By 8:30, I am on the deck, cracking open a beer and checking my voicemail. It contains a message from the parks and recreation coordinator, informing me that the rooms I booked for Annie's birthday party (for which invitations have already been mailed) may not indeed be available, sorry for the mistake, call her back and let her know what I want to do.

While I'm pondering this, my phone rings and it's the principal of Annie's school for the fall, informing me that, even though she herself assured me earlier this summer that I could call her anytime up to when the class lists came out at the end of August with our request for Young Fives, now that I have actually done so, she is sorry to tell me that there are not any spots left at Annie's school. Our choices now appear to be kindergarten at Annie's school, or young fives at another school. In the afternoons. She is apologetic and patient with my distress, but I have to get her off the phone as quickly as possible, because I am about to start crying.

By the time I get ahold of Jason (who's still in GR with the rest of the week left to work), I'm crying so hard that he later tells me he was afraid someone had died. We have a tearful, inconclusive conversation that ends with me wailing, "I just don't want to make a bad decision for Annie." My back hurts, my mind is spinning, I still have my bathing suit top on. I can't fall asleep that night until after midnight.

The week improves. On Thursday, I take them to the park. We have a better time at the beach. I ruin their dinner with ice cream, which turns Jemma's face completely bright blue. Jason comes eventually, and the weather remains glorious. We pick glorious peaches at Crane's, dig giant holes in the sand, and spend the most time actually swimming in the 70-plus-degree water than I can remember. The Chandlers come down for the day on Saturday, and all the girls get along fabulously. We stop for dinner at the Saugatuck Brewery on the way home, and Jemma dips her finger in Jason's beer. We come home late Saturday night, happy to be back in our own beds, crossing our fingers that Jemma stays in her crib (and her room) better here than there.

On Sunday, we wake up late and take stock of the mountains of vegetables languishing in our fridge, some from our CSA, some from our own garden. We make up a menu and start cooking at 11:00 a.m.; we call all our neighbors and tell them to come over late afternoon, to not bring anything but their forks and their appetites. There is zucchini bread, grilled vegetable salad, asian chicken and vegetables, greens sauteed with bacon, cheesy potatoes, pasta with pesto, and peach cobbler.

My sweet pipe dream of getting away from it all didn't quite come true. Turns out, my little crises followed me there. Turns out, I guess I am that parent, the one who appeals to the district superintendent when things don't turn out the right way for her child (wrote a letter; waiting to hear). Turns out, one of the best parts of our beach getaway was the coming back, the community in our front yard at 5:00 last night gathering around good food and great people.

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