Kitty Kiddos

Have you ever watched a cat knead their paws through a blanket? This is what my children look like when you place a "slinky blankie" in their little hands. Their eyes glaze over, the lids halfway closed in ecstasy, their little mouths turn up in the corners and their breathing slows to a regular purr. Their tiny dimpled fingers grip the satin material in a rhythmic caress and they both bring the material to their cheek. No one showed Shelby, my first daughter, how to rub the material between her fingers or slide it alongside her cheek while she held a bottle in the other hand. I am amazed at how she's perfected her sleeptime ritual since birth. And my second child, Ana, now 8 months, practices the identical soothing routine. It is truly a sight to see when you hand them each a bottle and a blankie. Like synchronized swimmers in a food coma, one a smaller version of the other, their movements perfectly timed as they glide their little fingers along the blankie to the beat of a silent drum. They bring the satin to their little cheeks in unison and their eyes flutter closed while their little lips pump milk from a bottle. Part child, part feline, 100% mine.


The Oldies

I'm at a point in my life, 31, that is, where I've realized I'm aging. By skin standards, faster than many of you, thanks to my ruddy Irish heritage. Nonetheless, with age has brought a few iotas of wisdom. One of which is the fact that I finally understand that old people were once young people. That my feisty, often head strong personality, I think is all my own, is really channeled from my now senile grandmother who once ran a household of 9 children and her own real estate company. That my parents will one day be that crumpled couple shuffling down the plumbing aisle at Home Depot, clutching the shopping cart and looking for the vitamins. That although I like to think I'm the "young mom" at preschool surrounded by a pile of haggard, middle aged mothers who pride themselves on their up to date knowledge of the latest cleaning products and fastest diaper changing techniques...I AM the middle aged, haggard mom who usually shows up in her pajamas to drop off one of my TWO kids. Who really does know a thing or two about speedy diaper changing, who actually considers dinner recipes and feeding schedules to be a valid topic of conversation, and yes, who every so often catches a glimpse of herself in the mirror and goes, "Whoa, who's that wrinkled old hag looking back at me?" My newest habit is to find the youth in every face I meet, especially really old men. Because you know they didn't spend their life with giant ears and a set of double chins. Where is your real face, the face of a handsome go-getter? Oh, I see you now. It takes a few seconds but I admit I'm getting better at it. My middle aged self is also realizing that doing the best with what I have is good enough. And living life is even better than spending my time trying to preserve my youth. I'm earning my wrinkles (thanks, girls) and living life one iota wiser.

The Things I've Learned

Since surviving our family camping excursion last weekend I have taken the time to reflect on some things I've learned about myself and my little brood.
1. When the going gets rough, find the parade. After we'd botched the directions for the umpteenth time and crossed the Bay Bridge into San Francisco gridlock, we accepted the fact that turning around was no longer an option and continuing Northish towards the Golden Gate Bridge was our best option. Just when I thought John was going to reach across the front seat and strangle my over compensatory optimism with his bare hands as I assured him "crossing the Golden Gate Bridge will be fun!", the traffic in front of us parted to reveal an enormous pink ruffled parade float covered in painted Asian women wearing turquoise kimonos and waving sparkly fans right in front of our car. Shelby broke into a high pitched giggle and practiced her own princess wave as John couldn't help but crack a smile at the sight of it all.
2. Always pack a swimsuit. As we pulled out of the driveway to meet our doom last Friday, I lamented about how little I'd packed for myself in the way of clothing when John interjected, "You didn't bring a swimsuit? You ALWAYS bring a swimsuit camping, no matter what." Well, when Sunday arrived and we agreed to turn the car on and let the girls thaw out in it while we packed up, I caught a glimpse of the thermometer. 39 degrees. My teeth chattered and I rubbed my raw, numb fingertips before laughing aloud as I said, "Well, John, I'm sorry I didn't bring my bikini this weekend. I could have worn it as earmuffs!"
3. What is wrong with THESE PEOPLE? The temperature never broke 47 the entire time we were in Big Basin. I don't claim to be a big camper, hiker, mountain person. Sure, I like to rough it every now and then, I don't mind a little dirt, but I've never worn zippered pants that convert into shorts and I don't own a $500 backpack. My camping fashion consisted of running shoes, 3 pairs of socks(one pair on my hands), striped pajama bottoms, 4 shirts of various style, under a hoodie and a fleece, followed by a sleek dress coat of John's. My perfume of choice: Eau de Campfire. I forgot a beanie of my own so I donned the girl's striped beanie, which would have been okay except for the giant crocheted yellow flower on the forehead. Camper Runway, here I come. This being said, I was in no position to judge anyone by their sense of style, but seriously, it's shady and windy and 40 some odd degrees and these crazy Nor Cal Natives are rollin around in Tevas and cargo shorts!
4. Hotels and room service. I guess I really am a girlie girl when pushed. Given a few freezing nights in a tent cabin followed by a lush hotel with room service and heavy cotton bathrobes, I'll pass up camping any day of the week! Upon checking into the hotel I slowly made my way around the room taking in the piles of plump feather pillows, the adorable little highball glasses with their paper caps, the rolled hand towels, I caressed the complimentary bar soaps, admired the carefully creased toilet paper roll, and kissed the mini bar. I AM IN HEAVEN!
5. My husband rocks. He didn't complain about the cold coffee I served. He bought overpriced firewood and burned it like a millionaire. He slept on the cold side of the bed, the one against the wall, under the drafty window and didn't hog the covers. He kept two fires roaring all weekend, in the tent and outside, so we could pretend the weather wasn't that bad. He didn't notice my terrible fashion sense and kissed me after two showerless days without deodorant. He poured me wine when I complained the beer was too cold. He held my hands when I said they were numb. And he washed all our clothes at a seedy laundromat while the girls and I lounged in a hot bath at the hotel. And on our way to his emergency meeting he encouragingly pointed out the outlet shopping before we dropped him off. Did I mention my husband rocks?


Family Vacation

We set off towards Santa Cruz for a camping experience with the two kids. The minivan was loaded down with all our gear, firewood, food and the 80 pound Labrador wedged in the trunk to the tune of expletives and cursing by John. "Why do we have to bring the dog? I hope your tires have air in them by the time we get there! What is a TENT CABIN anyway?" John was perplexed by the idea of renting a tent cabin mostly because he couldn't tell by it's title whether it was a tent or a cabin and was unable to picture anything in between. The lure of Big Basin's Tent Cabins, http://www.bigbasintentcabins.com/index.php, in the mountains of Santa Cruz was inspired by the fact that these tents came with a wood burning stove inside and so I wrongly assumed that we would be warm and dry no matter the weather. Well, our low rider minivan pulled into the campground just after dark and we were greeted by a lukewarm host and $10 bundles of firewood. The campsite was wooded and lush and full of gigantic Redwood trees with trunks recently burned to create huge tunnels and "playhouses" for Shelby. Our particular site peered over a deep ravine where a small creek babbled through the ferns, trail heads were everywhere, sunlight could be seen at the tops of distant treetops, and the bathroom was conveniently located across the road. The fire pit was down wind from the picnic table so we spent the entire weekend playing musical chairs to keep from choking to death(this would have been better had we actually remembered to pack chairs!). We made the beds on the crude sleeping platforms and fired up the little stove inside as the temperature plummeted to the low 40's. John and I put the girls to bed and lingered around the fire outside with hot toddies in hand, savoring our quiet time together. We retired for the night when we agreed we were numb from our toes up. I spent the rest of the weekend shaking from cold, dressed in John's work coat and lamenting my less than fashionable get up as I watched "NorCal Natives" wander the campground in shorts and North Face fleeces in 44 degree weather. We set off for a hike on Saturday only to discover that our dog was not allowed on ANY trails, paved roads only. Lucky dog was curled up in the warm car while we hiked along at Shelby's short legged pace to the sound of my chattering teeth. When we left on Sunday, we had spent over $100 on firewood, every piece of clothing we owned wreaked of smoke, we hadn't seen direct sunlight in three days, I learned that it is possible to wear three pairs of socks at once, our gear had somehow expanded leaving even less space in the car, I feared I'd permanently lost feeling in 4 of my fingertips, and just as we descended onto the quirky streets of Santa Cruz John's phone rang. Being the easygoing, accommodating wife I aspire to be, we agreed to turn the car around, abandon our homeward direction and head a few more hours North toward an emergency meeting in Napa for John's work. Next thing I knew we were checking into the Napa River Inn (dog friendly, thank god), hot showers and clean crisp sheets. Now this is the way to end a camping trip! The girls and I lounged around in fluffy white robes watching Sesame Street over a glowing gas fire while John dragged our luggage to the Laundromat. We enjoyed a lavish dinner, warm beds (turned down and dotted with Godivas), feather pillows, and hot lattes with the newspaper in the morning. We're home and happy to have survived what we've learned to be the coldest damn weekend this year. Maybe we'll unpack the car tomorrow. For today, I'm celebrating Earth Day by avoiding my vehicle altogether. Camping is a distant memory and not one we'll repeat until hell relocates to the state of California and firewood is free. Here's to room service and thermostats.