I just spent hours trying to corral clothes and toys and shoes and all of the other accoutrements of family life into eight suitcases. Well, seven really, because the eighth piece of luggage is actually our Baby Bjorn portable crib. Although, it's pretty stuffed with assorted goods, as well. Each actual suitcase weighs just about 50 pounds, the airline limit, and it took a good bit of juggling after the very last one came in at almost 60. Luckily, I had packed the others to about 48 pounds or so and left myself a bit of room. At least according to my mother's bathroom scale. . .It was a maddenly, thankless, horribly necessary task, and I'm so glad it is done.
We've spent the last month on vacation (living out of those same suitcases that I've just repacked), and now it's actually time to move to South America. I can't believe the time is here. We've had a pretty amazing month off--lots of really traditional American experiences for my girls. There is a fair chance that they will spend most of their youth abroad, and I want to be sure that they grow up as American as possible. I want them to feel well-connected to this country. So our summer vacation was full of things like Hershey Park and days at the lake and a small-town Fourth of July parade and cookouts and walking into town to buy ice cream from the stand that's been there for decades and boatrides on the lake and. . .it was just lovely. They played so long and so hard in the lake every day, even in the rain, that they took three hour naps, and still went to bed and rose at their normal times!
Although SB is just 16 months now, she absolutely loves the water. She won't be satisfied with sitting at the water's edge and playing in the sand. Oh no, she wants you to take her out where it is a bit deeper, so you can support her stomach and let her kick her legs and paddle with her hands in the water. It is amazing that she has the instinct to do it. She also delights in being raised into the air and bounced down into the water, as though she were in a jumparoo. She laughs hysterically, and when my arms burned with exhaustion and I returned her to the shore, she would try to grab me by the hand to drag me back into the lake to do it all over again. It was wonderful.
Miss M also adored the water. She has an amazing sense of balance, and was able to stand on a boogie board as though she were a surfer, unsupported. We would tow her down the beach in waist-deep water, until she finally fell or jumped off (although, while moving she needed a bit of support). We definitely have to arrange for swimming lessons once we are settled, because she is all about doing more, more, more!
I can't say that it was the most relaxing vacation for me personally. Spending weeks on the lake with a 3.5 year old and a 16 month old kind of stressed me out. I had to watch them like a hawk. Even when there were people around to help me out, I constantly felt like I had to make sure they weren't distracted from the task at hand and were still watching the kids. I realized that I kind of have a fear of water when it comes to the kids. It's funny, given that I grew up spending summers on a lake, and did crazy things as a kid. You'd think I'd be more relaxed. T also helped, of course, but since we were staying with his family, he often got called away to do this or that. Actually, my MIL had an entire list of projects for him to accomplish when he arrived! But aside from the constant vigilance over the kids, it was really fun to play with them.
Unfortunately, it was also a tough time to be home. Just after we arrived, the doctors decided that there is nothing more they can do for T's sister, who has been in declining health for the last few years. They have put her in hospice care, and only expect her to live a few more months, at best. She is only in her early 50's, so it's been really hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that she is going to die. And frankly, I've been angry with her, because she didn't have to die. When she first started having problems 4-5 years ago, the doctors warned her that she could die and told her she needed to make changes, and she didn't. She's had a million chances to change her life, and she refused. She still could try to fight this, although her chances are diminished at this point, but she's refusing to cooperate with her care. It's pretty awful. It breaks my heart for her kids and my MIL and T. Because we are moving so far away, it's unlikely that T will be back to see her again before she dies. He went to see her in the hospital, and had to say goodbye to her and let her know he wouldn't see her again. It broke my heart to see him go through that. It was truly awful.
I didn't go to visit her, because I didn't have anything productive to say to her at the time. I was really angry while I was up there near the hospital, but there was no point in saying what was in my heart. I don't think anyone has ever yelled at her during her illness and told her to cut the crap, and that's what I would have done, had I gone to see her. And that's just not my place, and it's not productive at this point. She's in hospice care and facing the end of her life. I wrote her a letter, and then ripped it up, because I decided it was a bit too frank. After I wrote the first draft, I found that my anger really dissipated. I wrote a kind note, enclosed some recent photos of the kids, and left it at that. She has done some really awful things to the people that love her, but even she deserves some kindness and support on this journey that she is on.
It was also painful to watch everyone try to come to terms with her situation. She's been in the hospital for about five months, but her family and friends did not visit her until the doctors decided she was near the end and should enter hospice care. No one believed that she was that bad off, and everyone was really angry at her for all that she has done to herself and to those around her. Her family is in varying stages of grief, and many feel guilty for not doing more to save her. It's just so sad. But hopefully, it brought some sunshine to everyone to see the girls.
And on that morose note, I'd better be off to bed, as I'm sure the girls will be up bright and early in the morning. We've got some driving to do tomorrow to get to where we fly out of, and we're going to meet up with friends for dinner, so it's going to be a bit of a long day. When we get to their place--full of toys and child-proofed--I will be able to have a glass of wine and exhale from this long month of vacation.
Oh! And I have so much on my mind that I almost forgot the most exciting thing that happened on our vacation! Miss M is POTTY TRAINED!!!!! I really wasn't sure we'd ever get there. But basically, she needed to have lots of accidents to learn how to do it, and in her bathing suit at the beach, she managed to learn. I guess I just didn't realize that the kid was going to need to have a lot of accidents, and I never created a situation before where that could happen. I can't even tell you how many times she realized too late that she needed to poop, and pooped halfway in her bathing suit. It was disgusting. And she peed in the lake ( and on me) countless times. But she managed to perfect her timing to give us a bit more notice, and she is wearing underwear every day (pullups at night until we get settled in our own house again). She even naps in underwear, and was successful in underwear during a 7 hour car ride a few days ago. I did sweeten the deal by promising a La.la.loop.sy doll, toward the end, just to speed up her compliance. We were just about there, but sometimes she'd get lazy and ask for a diaper. She became obsessed with the damn dolls (I think they are kind of scary looking) while playing with her cousin at the lake). Of course, the one she wants isn't in stores, and now I'm trying to track it down. But anyway, SUCH exciting news.