Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Beach and the Birthday Boy

Life is always a great teacher, if we pay attention and don't mind the lesson.

Last week, we took a much-anticipated trip to the beach. This was the longest trip we've taken as a family for quite some time, and for four nights we shared a large, albeit unusual, studio. We like the place because it's literally right across the street from Fun Beach (our name for it anyway) and not a hotel. The last time we stayed at a hotel, we had The World's Fussiest Man in the room below us... he complained that our then-toddler was making too much noise running around at both 6:30 in the evening and again at 7 in the morning. It made me want to dance a few jigs just to see if I could make him totally lose it and freak out, but then again, someone in the equation had to be the adult....

In any case, the beach studio apartment has served us well but for two things: first, the bathroom and kitchen are in the same room. Yes, there were rules about 'who can do what, and when'. Second, the studio was a studio. I think I've realized the importance of having at least one bedroom to escape to, even if only for a half-hour or so.  The kitchen consisted of a microwave and a fridge and no counter space. While I'm sure this helps the owners in limiting smells that might set in (fried fish, anyone?), I won't lie: I am a person who highly values the ability to boil water and make a proper pot of tea. This was not even close to happening.

So, Lesson Number One: rent a place with a full kitchen and at least one bedroom next time. The ability to wake up and make a cup of Yunnan Fancy cannot be underrated. The ability to go to a separate space is beyond value.

Lesson Number Two: well, I screwed myself on this one. Remember that we had paper chain links and a calendar to count off the days before we left? This excitement resulted in a nearly four-hour chant of "when will we be at the beach?" on the drive out, disappointment because it was dinnertime when we arrived and it was raining, and then a 3:30 wake-up call from our Little Mister: "I want to play at the beach now". If you know me, you know I usually parent along the lines of "I'll tell you what's going on when we get there" and not telling Kiddo about things too far before they happen. I broke my own rule and paid the price. Ass kicked, lesson learned.

Lesson Number Three: Do not try to be well-intentioned by taking a trip the weekend before Kiddo's birthday as a Special Birthday Treat. 

In a nutshell: I've been working since last Monday to make this all possible. Making lists for packing, lists for food, making food to take, etc. etc.Laundry. Coordinating kitty care. Coming home on the day before the birthday, then having to turn around and make sure we have all we need for preschool birthday (thank goodness they keep it real and only allow fruit, so we put strawberries and blueberries in cupcake cups) AND wrap presents... well, it's a lot. Last night I spent about two hours sketching out and painting a full-page watercolor card, complete with the beach, sea anemones, starfish and a cute puffin, a birthday greeting and a big five. I am glad I did this. This morning I prepped the birthday fruit cups and off we went.

So, what's on deck for today?
Well, in a minute, I'm going to make myself a nice artichoke. That's my treat. I also bought myself some flowers (Alstroemeria-- they last a long time and aren't expensive). I'm going to have a glass of wine with my lunch, try to get dishes done, and then putter for as long as I can, putting so many things away. I have four bags to unpack. More laundry.This afternoon I've promised Kiddo that we'll wash our seashells and rocks in the big washtub, then add the small ones to his 'sandbox' in the living room ( a block enclosure he made last night,  filled with other collections of rocks and shell bits from previous beach trips); the big ones will go outside in the Dinosaur Garden. We're doing a small birthday fete with a neighborhood family on Saturday; tonight, we're having strawberries and ice cream as the birthday treat. He is happy with this idea--after all, it was his. He got some delicious oatmeal with raisins, vanilla, cinnamon and brown sugar for his birthday breakfast and has a few more presents to open. 

All in all, I think we did pretty well. Next year, we'll pace ourselves. No beach trip right before the birthday. No Beach Trip Hype. No "Can't Get Away from Each Other--Can't Cook Properly" accommodations. Lessons learned, and it wasn't too painful. I'm thanking my very lucky stars that I have a great husband who didn't complain about a thing, just nodded off to sleep a lot. And that I have a wonderful little guy who insists that "We should call it our Dinosaur Garden, Mommy, not just mine" and who loves the beach, even in the middle of the night. Maybe next time, I'll just bundle us up and walk out there with him, if the moonlight is right.

And an especial thanks to my dear friend Lissa, who came to our house and kept our Gus Kitty company. That was one thing I had NO worries about. Lissa, My Love, you are an awesome woman and everyone should know this! Everyone!
 

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