I’m not really a “motivational-quote-on-the-wall” sort of person, but when Susannah, my third child was born, I found that I needed a new mantra for my life. It is, “Embrace the chaos!” I haven’t embroidered it anywhere . . . yet . . . but I haven’t let go of it in the almost four years since. As a shift worker, rotating twelve hour night and day shifts, change and chaos are just our norm. The “routine” in our days consists of little pieces that we fit in and around the schedules and activities of any given day/week/month. So when it came time to pick a day to document for this day in our life, I opted for an extra chaotic summer vacation day trip this August. Why not?
Most mornings, my hubby is the one who is up with the kids, not JUST because he’s a super hero stay at home dad (though he is) but because I’m usually either long gone when I work days, or fast asleep after night shift.
On my days off, I gratefully snooze while he kid wrangles, though they often come looking for me. He claims that most mornings, they come in to check my side of the bed, then little feet patter back down the hall. They never patter away when I’m in the bed.
This day, he was kind enough to deliver my camera as the kids came peeking. Susannah crawled in bed with me and happily accepted the distraction of the much coveted phone. This particular morning she was feeling magnanimous, and shared. Sorta.
My first stop after bed is usually coffee. This summer, I was developed an obsession with cold brew coffee. I’m usually not allowed to prep my own if there are kids around to help.
With a vacation day road trip planned, snack bags were packed and water bottles filled.
Some days I feel like parenthood is 90% tops and toes. Wrangling kids for hair time, finding brushes and combs, filling spray bottles, discussing hair styles, then storing/finding/tripping over shoes. Is your hair done? Where are your shoes?
My kids dress themselves in whatever they wish as long as it’s weather appropriate. This sounds very parenting Zen of me, but it really just means we jump straight to debating the weather-appropriateness of rain boots sans socks in late August.
Drawing on my best “not arguing with three year olds” skills, we settled on rain boots in the car and sandals for fort climbing and all was well. Shoes tied for the first of many times for the day, and we were off!
We stopped by the coffee boat – it’s not really called that, we’re just creative that way – for breakfast.
With nothing more than a general plan to make it to Whidby Island and Fort Casey, we couldn’t resist stopping at this fruit stand to check out their wares.
And their elephant.
I’m so not above an “everybody smile and look at the camera” pic. Everybody say CHEESE! No? Everybody say PEANUT BUTTER POOP!!! Got it!
And last, but not least, we checked out their ice cream!
We stayed a little longer than planned but finally arrived at our destination. Fort Casey! Fort Casey was one of three forts built in the late 1800’s (completed in 1901) designed to defend Puget Sound from attack by sea. They were considered obsolete almost as soon as they were constructed, in part due to the invention of the airplane. Fort Casey is now a Washington State Park and historic district.
First stop… bathrooms. Of course. A little sign reading, hand washing and parking lot parkour and we were off.
Nothing says family fun like concrete bunkers, minimal railings and hidden drop-offs. Whose idea was this again?
After a little climbing, leaping, and exploring, Oscar rubbed his eyes after rubbing the walls (and probably licking his fingers as well… shudder…) and started to wail. This is not an uncommon occurrence. Bruce rushed him to the bathrooms for an eye rinse while I found a death-trap lite area and let the other two play.
Reunited with a much recovered Oscar, we explored a lookout station and watched a Ferry come in.
Another shoe check request, “Please tie your shoe before you trip and die, Bubba!” and we were on our way.
With attitudes flagging, we headed over to Coupeville for a very late lunch. When I announced our destination, the kids promptly dissolved into giggles.
Giggles all around, and they unanimously decide they prefer “poopville.” I have no idea where they get this stuff. We wandered to the end of the pier for a lunch of corndogs, Thai food, stir-fry and fish and chips. I refuse to cook different meals for my kids, but I sure do love a restaurant that will do it for me!
After lunch, we checked out Rosie the whale and wandered through town, picking up a few novelty items before heading back to the park.
With the day fading, we decided to skip the lighthouse visit and just flew the kite for a few minutes before heading out.
Somehow, impossibly, it was dinner time.
Then back into boots, the only acceptable car tripping shoes, and headed for home. With a heady mix of thousand yard stares and a little manic laughter mixed in, we offloaded our very tired basket cases just as the sun was going down.
After an arguably too-short play time to check out new toys (and boy, did they argue) it was time to brush teeth, and inspect them for sugar bugs.
And one more story. No matter how heavy the eyelids.
These nights can be rough, when we’ve used up every last bit of energy.
As an adult, my tendency is to privilege the endings. I get frustrated by the tears and chaos that end the day and let those color the experience. But time and again, my kids are teaching me to hang onto the highlights from the rest of the day. More often than not, after a good night’s sleep, they remember the highlights and not the end of day frustration. The next day began with, “When can we go back Mama?!”
So, at the end of days like this, exhausted and truly spent, that’s what I choose to hang onto as well. The promise of the next day, starting fresh. And, every so often, at the end of the most chaotic days, I hang onto one of these.