Last Call {down to the very last minute}

I am the world’s biggest procrastinator that manages to expertly operate under the guise of a very organized and put together person. I’ve been planning and packing and repacking for this trip for weeks. And now? The night before I’m to load up the car and begin our journey? I’ve about fifteen more hours worth of things to do. And I promised myself I’d go to sleep . . . twenty one minutes ago.

Funny how that works, how the hours slip away. And then as those last few things get checked off the list at the very last second, it forces your hand on so much when there is nothing to be done about issues that arise. Case in point: My library card expired at the end of last month, which means I can no longer borrow books for the Kindle I got for the kids to use on this trip, which I specifically was motivated to get because of the thought that we could endlessly check out books for the voracious reader that E is. Nope. Too bad, so sad, shell out a thousand dollars for ebooks for her instead.

I’m sure I’ll give it a good effort for another hour or so and then simply give up and chuck everything in sight into the car. As long as every living being makes it in there before we pull away in the morning, we’re all good. And surely if we forget it, it wasn’t that important in the first place. Right?

Hooray for procrastination building a strong sense of “eh, whatever” into my character as I get so much older and wiser.

 

I’ve Found A Village {and it’s pretty nice}

The other day, M was bemoaning how it had been cloudy and he didn’t get to sit out at his apartment complex’s pool for very long. In response to that, which I got to hear about as snowflakes angrily came down from the sky and blanketed everything, I requested a lovely picture of his pool. He did not disappoint, and it is a lovely picture complete with blue skies, palm trees and a city view in the background. I was intending on using said picture as a side-by-side from when I went to dig us out of our frozen prison.

(I am not above exploiting the climate differences for a little sympathy.)

I never got my chance to post that miserable, snow covered, exhausted selfie though. Instead, as I slowly chipped away at the two feet of snow keeping our front door from opening, I heard a snowblower start up at the end of my driveway. I kept shoveling away as my kind neighbor worked hard on carving a path through the massive drift left by the plows. I had been dreading that part, always the heaviest and tallest and at the very end when even the shovel weighs a thousand pounds. Eventually, our steep driveway got the best of him and he apologized for only making it a third of the way up. Singing praises and thanking him for every single foot, I assured him I’d get the rest done eventually.

I finished the walkway and began working on down the driveway. The kids “helped” and scooped snow from here to there, more often than not dumping it right back into my path. ZZ, dressed in snow pants miraculously lent to us from another neighbor just as the storm had really started, did his best to be under foot and directly in the shovel’s path. Inch by inch, I cleared a tiny patch at the top of the driveway.

Shovel, shovel, yell across the yard to stay away from the road. Shovel, shovel, pick the baby back up after he slipped on the ice. Shovel, shovel, yell across the yard to stop fighting. Shovel, shovel, enforce a time out. Shovel, shovel, dig snow out of the baby’s hood.

Stopping to catch my breath and curse just once or twice at the thought of those palm trees in the picture, I saw a truck pull up, wheel chains rattling as it passed by. Out hopped my friend’s husband, in a full snowsuit and ready to pull his heavy duty snowblower down from the back of the truck. ZZ and I stood on the walkway and watched as the hours and hours of work in front of me were instantly taken care of.

I’ve never felt part of a village, never had anyone other than family looking out for me. Today changed that and things as simple as borrowed snow pants and snowblowers shaped the whole outlook on this winter storm. Instead of stressing about how to dress the baby, he was warm and dry to happily play in the snow. And instead of me fretting about how to get the shoveling taken care of in between trying to watch the kids and keep the baby safe, I got to enjoy the snow with them all. We came in tired, but not exhausted, and knowing that we weren’t trapped behind a wall of snow anymore.

A batch of thank you cookies is really not going to be enough but I can’t quite figure out what would say thank you for so much more than simply bailing us out . . .

Preparation {of every kind}

Apparently, there’s a gigantic snowstorm heading in our direction, ready to blanket the entire east coast with multiple feet of snow and cripple the area for days on end. We went to the store this afternoon for a routine trip of staples and found that the shelves had been ransacked in preparation for the coming apocolypse. I should have known there would be no bread, toilet paper or milk. Alas, we’ll rough it with tortillas, kleenex and coffee creamer if we have to. The last bit of the day, I rushed around in preparation. The last things were pulled into storage from the patio and the rest of the Christmas lights finally came down off the house. I set the snow shovel by the front door and the ice scraper in the front of my car. All the hats, gloves, snow pants and snow boots are in the hall closet. We’re ready and now we wait until Mother Nature decides to actually bring it on or not.

I did all this preparation rather grudgingly. I suppose I was completely caught off guard and far, far out of the mind set that we actually are deep into winter and snow shouldn’t be a surprise. My mind has been fixed on tropical beaches and humid cities, busy planning outfits that involve tank tops and strappy sandals. Snow boots are about to be the last thing I worry about . . .

Why?

Because, luck willing, at this time on Wednesday two weeks from now, I’ll be trapped in an airplane with four small children and a couple hundred other people that hate me, headed to the opposite side of the world.

I’m sure everyone that has heard about it in any sort of way are already sick of every single detail, but guys? I’m flying four small children from the United States to Singapore, alone. Just typing that sends a strike of cold fear into my heart as I wonder what in the hell I have gotten myself into. This has to be the stupidest idea we have ever come up with.

I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to prepare – lists upon endless lists of clothes we need, schoolwork, medicines, entertainment, documents, reservations, gear, tranquilizers, etc. – while sleeping in broken fragments thanks to a perpetually teething toddler and having the very limits of my patience tested every time I turn around (which I’m sure is rather obvious from the general theme of my last couple posts). Two of the kids completely grew out of all their warm weather clothes from the last summer and just pulling together enough to last them a week in the equatorial temperatures has been a monumental task. Tank tops and bathing suits aren’t exactly well stocked in January. The baby has needed sandals, Miss E went up by two whole sizes, MJ needed a full body set of sun coverage, and Tater has needed some random in between size that just doesn’t exist and has resulted in a ridiculous amount of orders needing to be returned. Then there are all of the logistics involved in simply packing luggage for all of us and who is carrying what and how is this getting to there and what will this one eat and what will that one endlessly read. And then, there are all of the issues to take care of when leaving a house and bills and responsibilities behind for five weeks, which is an entirely new level of adulting that I still don’t think I’m capable of yet.

Oh, yes, did you catch that back there? FIVE WEEKS. We decided we might as well go big or go home when it came to hauling everyone around the world, and I suppose that if I am going to travel alone with the four of them for 28 hours each way, it should really count. We’ve got a little bit of the travel time on each end that adds on to our trip total, but we’ll be out of the country for a little over four of those weeks we’re gone from home. We’ll see Chinese New Year in Singapore, explore Angkor Wat in Cambodia, get up close with elephants and tigers in northern Thailand, and then finish with movie set worthy beaches in southern Thailand. I have a hand written calendar that is scribbled in to every minute detail I can possibly think of and just two short weeks to scramble around and conjure up everything I have forgotten to take care of. Things are a far cry from just winging it with a flight and somewhere to stay when we traveled so long ago before kids.

We’ve lucked out so much in that this opportunity moseyed on along in front of us, and that all of the big issues like tickets and passports and general health have gone along with few bumps in the road. Our school district is wonderful and practically thanked me for giving the kids this kind of education outside of a classroom, making sure the transitions out and back in would be as simple as possible. Now all we have to do it try and stay sane through me pulling the thousands of loose ends together without standing at the airport on Wednesday morning with nothing more than a giant knot in my plans.

Here’s hoping and packing and planning!

(By the way, I will take every single travel suggestion that anyone out there wants to throw my way. Reading article and blog and checklist after checklist has continually turned on the light bulb over my head and made me rush to add something to my running list!)

 

I Quit {if only for a few minutes}

I quit today.

A mere hour after we all walked in the door from an after school walk, combing the neighborhood for a classmate’s lost dog, I stood in the kitchen and quit. Or, rather, quit as much as one can quit while still needing to feed everyone dinner, prep for school, enforce bedtime, and watch over a 13 month old.

We had walked in the house, cheeks on fire from the cold wind outside, and immediately there was screeching and shouting and someone punched the other and this one stole that book and that one stole this chair and mother I’ve bloodied my nose because I didn’t listen to you to stop doing gymnastics in the living room and have cracked my face upon the tv cabinet . . .

There were time outs and noses on the wall and banishment upstairs with a book. The delivery man dropped off a package that looked like a hippo had slept on it last night, mangled beyond recognition, and a handyman company left a message that they were arriving at 8am tomorrow to work on a job that had yet to be actually discussed. The baby cried and clawed at my legs while I struggled to open the much anticipated package. He whined and grabbed at the phone while I held him during a ridiculous, stupidity-filled phone call to the handyman company about rescheduling to a time when I may actually be home to possibly discuss the work before they rip out the seal of my front door in freezing weather. He pulled open every drawer and emptied every cabinet, standing on his tiptoes in hopes of yanking open the hot oven door, while I tried to cobble a dinner together from near grocery day bare cabinets. Bickering started back up again in the other room, moving closer down the hall as I pulled out the plates. This one pushed that one, and the other shrieked at this one, while that one pushed this one, while two cups of water spilled and a chair scuffed the paint on the wall. There were tears and clattering of silverware and hot soup that sloshed out as it was set down with an angry force. This one wanted to sit there and that one shoved the other out of one chair while this one stomped their feet. Every word I said, every punishment I had doled out, it all just disappeared into their wrath against the world.

So, I quit.

I scooped up my plate, slid the high chair into the kitchen, and sank down onto a breakfast stool, leaving them still bickering in the dining room a few minutes until they realized I wasn’t coming back in. The initial shouts of protest turned to anger, then threats of retaliation and mutiny, then a quiet acceptance. The house was silent save for the clink of spoons against their bowls and soft baby chatter over his dinner tray.

It didn’t remedy anything once they scattered away from the table, and bedtime surely couldn’t come fast enough tonight, but those fifteen minutes of a quiet dinner were wonderful.