Dear internet, I missed you so. The vacation was exhausting. It was fine. Let's take it in parts.The Part Before
: where Jammies was at a conference and I was single-parenting and single-packing, and I do not have the proper faculties to single-pack for a trip like this. It turned out fine but I felt anxious.The Drive to Orlando:
We left Wednesday afternoon and spent the night in Baton Rouge.
On Thursday, twenty minutes away from the hotel, both Ace and Rascal's diapers exploded everywhere. We were on the Florida Turnpike, where they nickel-and-dime you every mile for another handful of change. Honestly, Florida, it's super annoying. We stopped at a rest stop and cleaned up the best we could. That was super gross.The Family Weekend
: Far exceeded my (very low) expectations. The hotel had big pools with slides and sprays. The cousins adored each other. The older cousins were very sweet and affectionate towards the little cousins.
There was a small incident which brought out the worst in everyone. Don't be coy, Heebie, what happened? I feel like I can't share, lest the siblings and wives ever find this journal. (Future me will be pissed at Present me, because future me will be dying of curiosity and unable to recall. Is there a coded way to signal the keywords to Future me that would fly beneath the radar of siblings and wives? No, but PLAYGROUND, PHOTO, WINK WINK.)
I don't think our kids ever suspected we were near Disney World, which is kind of funny. We didn't explicitly set out to keep it a secret, but it never came up.Single-Parenting at my Parents' House
: Jammies flew back to Texas to work from Monday-Wednesday, so that we could extend our vacation. I had the kids at my parents' house. It was kind of awful and tiring.
On the drive from Orlando to Gainesville, all four kids fell asleep in the car. I felt like a winner. Then Rascal woke up and started screaming, and I panicked, lest he wake the rest up. I could not reach his pacifier.
There was a weigh station for semis, and I impulsively turned down it, and then immediately regretted it. Clearly this is not a rest stop for frazzled ordinary mothers in their stupid minivans. I did stop, leap out and put Rascal's pacifier in, because that needed to be done, and he fell back asleep. Then voices came over the intercom, wearily telling me to drive through and not to stop. They sounded exasperated. I felt like a colossal idiot.
At my parents' house, there is a dog gate separating the playroom and kitchen from the main entrance and stairs upstairs. It is a major thoroughfare. If the dog gate slams shut - and it naturally does, you have to actively restrain it from slamming - then the rattle of the slam knocks over the fragile miniatures in a curiosity cabinet mounted nearby on the wall. Then my mom rushes over, frazzled, and rights the tiny glass chairs and tea set and little trees in tiny Ming vases and exclaims, with an edge in her voice, that the gate must be shut gently
. That is symbolic of the worst parts of this stretch.
Parts were great - my parents made a big effort to stay around. We saw some friends with kids and it was briefly relaxing. But mostly it was a lot of relentless diapers, naptimes, fixing sandwiches, ignoring squabbling, and no time to myself. (What do I like about parenting? I like talking with the kids, having discussions and interactions. That part is fun. Also I like the cuddling.)
Ace saw her first movie in a theater, Inside Out
. She talked at length about the red guy, and how Riley felt mad, and generally seemed to grasp the premise of the movie.
(She has seen plenty of movies out of the theater. After watching Frozen with cousins, she said "Don't shut me out, Daddy! Don't shut me out!" as we took her to bed. "You know, like Elsa shuts Anna out," explained Hawaii.
"We would never shut you out!" Jammies consoled her.
Then we put them to bed and shut the door. "You shut me out! You did shut me out!" Ace bellowed from the bedroom. We realized what she meant. "Oh well, that can't be helped," we shrugged.)
Hawaii pushing Pokey and Ace and other assorted kids on the merry-go-round.We took the kids to the Natural History museum and its gift shop. Hawaii got little pink earrings. We changed her earrings for the first time. She has several small cardboard jewelry boxes and elaborate organizational plans. Ace got a molded plastic pig, and Pokey got a molded plastic Tanystropheus:
They were semi-aquatic giant lizards, not actually dinosaurs. They used that head to catch fish.
On Wednesday morning, I put Rascal down for a nap just as my mom's friends showed up with their baby and toddler. I made pleasant smalltalk. The father held out the baby for me to take. Clearly I would want to cuddle their baby, clearly I have an insatiable appetite for small children.
So I sat there, holding their nine month old baby, seething because they were monopolizing my break with my arms unoccupied. "Why the fuck would I want to hold your baby when I'm single parenting four very young children?" I did not say this to them.
Their baby was in fact very cuddly and sweet. Much more cuddly than Rascal, who has newly discovered his muscles. He arches and squirms and grunts and grizzles in your arms (yet does not want you to put him down).
It rained a lot. Jammies flew in late Wednesday night.The Part Where We Met My New Family
- on Friday, we drove to Mobile, and met our new secret family. M. Aaron had one sister, who had one son, Eli. Eli and his wife Rae live in Mobile. They have four grown sons and seven grandchildren, and they put us up for the night.
Our children were Stepford Wives for a day, playing sweetly in the rec room, using gracious manners and complete sentences, and we unexpectedly looked like Parents of the Year.
Eli and Rae were great - easy to talk to, relatable. They seemed plausibly like part of our family - not exactly the same, but relatable. Eli believes that my grandmother Bea knew about his family, but this does not seem to be rooted in fact - he can't generate any instance of actual contact or proof. Rather, since they knew about us for all these years, I think he is failing to grasp how thoroughly unaware we all were of his family's existence. There were not little clues. Nobody was gradually piecing anything together. His existence was a wild shock. It was fun to talk about.
They fed us continuously, gave the kids odd toys that they had lying around, and it felt familiar and casual. We had bagels and lox for breakfast. It felt like a respite.The Part In The ER
: Saturday, the 4th of July, was the 100th anniversary of M. Aaron's birth. We celebrated by driving home.
We stopped in Houston for dinner. Afterwards, I told the kids to run to the end of the sidewalk and back, to burn off some energy before the last stretch of driving. Pokey tripped and screamed and screamed, and his forearm had a C-curve. It was freaky and my stomach turned inside out.
We rushed him to the children's hospital, which happened to be nearly next door. Jammies stayed with the other three, while I carried Pokey into the ER. They took him back immediately.
The next hour was awful. Pokey was in a lot of pain. "I just want my cast so it feels better," he wept. "Why isn't the doctor running?" piteously. They gave him some codeine, but it didn't seem to take the edge off for a long time.
Eventually they took us to a room to do the reduction. "Reduction" refers to the angle of the break, from 30° to 25° or better. They put an IV on him and put little monitors all over his body, and sedated him with ketamine. They cut off his shirt. They warned me that he might seem to be in a lot of pain, but it was a dissociative state and he wasn't experiencing the pain. I don't want to think too closely about that statement.
(The next day we asked, "Pokey, do you remember the hospital last night?"
"Yes," he said, "They put me to sleep so that my cast would be a surprise." That is a nice spin on it.)
They wrapped his little arm up in a splint, took new x-rays, monitored him for an hour after the sedation was over.
Sitting up and stirring. His hair is mussed up from me combing my fingers through it while failing to provide actual pain relief.
They then sent us on our way with a groggy, irritable kid. In total, the detour set us back only four hours, which is surprisingly little for breaking both bones in your forearm. (If it had been his elbow, he might have needed surgery. We were lucky.) Same arm that he fractured last fall, in case you remember that.The Part Where We're Home Again.
We got home around midnight. Today is Sunday.
Tomorrow Jammies flies out of town for work again, for yet another week of single parenting. I'm trying not to be a crabby mess about it.