I always want to take more trips in the summer. I have grand ideas of what an “ideal” vacation is. I miss the beach and I want the girls to have adventures in new places. There’s an endless list but time and money usually do not allow. So I take mental snapshots of what is, try to make time to appreciate, and here are a few of those…
We’re driving down (or is it up?) Highway 99, north, towards Sacramento. Yes, we’ll stop over for a night at Grandma Linda’s house, but our final destination is Medford, Oregon, for our friend Adam’s wedding. It’s been about twenty minutes since we left the house and Keana asks for a snack. “Me too!” pipes in Aliya, followed by a, “Me too!” from Maia. Three more hours until Grandma Linda’s and another 5 to Merced tomorrow.
It was actually pretty smooth sailing to both Grandma Linda’s and to the Holiday Inn Express we stayed at in Medford. As they get older, the kids handle longer stretches in the car, taking naps and entertaining themselves with games—Aliya often says out of nowhere, “I spy…with my own little eye…”—and I admit, we’re not a family above a little digital entertainment. My favorite is when they complain about not being able to hear the movie they have playing in the back seat, and we attach it to the car stereo (via one of those old-ass tape converter thingies) and our traveling soundtrack for 95 minutes is Gru sharing funny and heartwarming scenes with three little girls and those silly minions (the soundtrack by Pharrell is actually pretty good).
What makes these long car rides easier is also how far Sarah and I have come in accepting them. It’s going to take us at least two hours to get the house wrapped up, car packed, and out the door—even after packing the night before. The kids are going to be hungry along the way. They are going to bicker with each other. They may also cruise through it just fine. It is what it is. We also try and allow a lot of time so we’re not rushing, pack snacks, and pipe a movie’s sound through the car stereo if need be. Sure, each of us still struggles on the long car ride from time to time, but it is getting easier.
It’s 106 degrees outside. Keana and Sarah are at the store, and Aliya, Maia, and I are left to our own devices. Literally. It’s too hot to be outside so we turn on the Xbox for some Adventure Games. I’m always impressed by the technology of the Kinect sensor, the robot-like camera that reads our movement and makes the characters on the screen flap their arms to float up to pop bubbles, or jump to move a river raft over a bump in the river, or kick a leg out to plug a hole in our underwater chamber. We take turns playing and when Aliya is taking a break, she falls back on the couch in a moment of whimsy, inadvertently squashing an unsuspecting cat. Fluffy jumps up and runs away and Aliya jumps up too, hiding herself in Maia’s chest. Maia sweetly puts her arms around her and gently talks her down. Aliya’s crying and as we try to figure out if she’s scared or worried she’s in trouble, Maia notices a couple scratches on her arm. Maia has her sit down on the couch and tells her about the time she got scratched and how Mama fixed it up. I go and get the hydrogen peroxide, bandaids, and Neosporin. Maia’s got her calmed down now and says, “Hold my hand Babe-in and you can scream as loud as you want if it stings.” Aliya squeezes Maia’s hand, breathes deep, and gets through the process calmly, supported by her big sister. I’m humbled by how caring and gentle Maia is and thankful for everything the afternoon has brought.
Much of the summer has been spent with the three girls sleeping in (to varying degrees), watching some of their favorite shows in the morning, and eating toast with honey on it, sometimes followed by some form of yogurt. Then it’s play time. Sometimes all together, sometimes in pairs, sometimes each separately getting lost in their imaginative play around the house. My days working from home are punctuated throughout by squeals, songs, and even menacing tones of an evil villain coming to thwart the happiness that’s been established.
The final scene (for now). It’s 108 and we venture outside for some pool time before making dinner. The pool’s not very big, just big enough for all five of us, and just deep enough to submerge in. I like to use the opportunity of the agitated water to clean out any particles and bits of bugs that have settled on the bottom. The girls pretend I’m a “net monster,” coming to capture them. We make whirlpools and they float along the perimeter while I steady myself in the middle, slightly nauseous from going around and around and around. Sarah’s inside making a chimichurri to go with our flat iron steaks, having already put a peach pie in the oven. We trade places so I can start the steaks and set the potatoes boiling. At some point, Aliya decides to get out, and she and Sarah pick tomatoes from our planters. They sit by the pool where Keana and Maia are still shouting, laughing, and splashing, and Aliya pulls the green stem thingies off and puts them in a special spot on the cutting board for Sarah to chop up. They are making a salad with tomatoes and basil from our little garden, and fresh, mini mozzarella balls.