Friday, May 30, 2008

The Holiday Weekend That Wasn't

I should've known.

I should've known, when I woke up the day before our long-planned, Memorial Day Weekend/Daddy's birthday holiday in Santa Barbara, and discovered I'd come down with pink eye, that the weekend wasn't going to go exactly as planned.

Foolishly, I maintained my optimism.

After a quick trip to the eye doctor, and the pharmacy (not quick -- is it ever?) to get some drops, I was still looking forward to a long, relaxing trip: quality family time, sunshine and yummy meals and a fluffy king-sized hotel bed.

But it was a long haul getting out the door the next morning. The kids were whiny. Daddy had to finish packing. Loading the car seemed to take forever. At the last minute, Daddy remembered the cat needed his medicine. The kids demanded bagels before we could get underway. And the skies were gray.

The car ride itself was uneventful, save occasional pockets of traffic.

But we still didn't manage to hit downtown Santa Barbara until nearly noon.

The kids were ancy after nearly two hours strapped to car seats. We stumbled out of the car onto a castle-themed playground I'd found on the web, Kid's World in Alameda Park. It was cold and threatening rain. But somehow that didn't dampen anybody's spirits, and after we'd zipped up our jackets, the kids ran happily amok.

The problem was, it was nearly lunchtime when we got there. And with three-year-olds, if you delay lunch, you do so at your peril. For a delayed lunch means a delayed nap ... and the onset of crankiness that can ruin the rest of the day.

After an hour at the playground, the kids were far from done. But it was well past their regular lunchtime. So we forced the issue, promising to return to the park later in the weekend. Then it was back in the car (after potty and some more negotiating) and over to a lunch restaurant where the food was beautifully displayed -- and way too accessible for little hands. The kids were grabby and insistent and impatient, and not at all ready to behave in what was clearly an adult foodie hangout. Daddy had the impossible job of wrangling them and stuffing their mouths with yogurt while Mommy waited in line to pay for what they were already consuming. The kids didn't understand why, after I'd paid, they couldn't just help themselves to more of that on-display food. They had to be bribed with the promise of a cookie in the car so we could get them out of the place without further ruining everybody else's lunch.

Then it was on to the hotel to check in. By now, we were perilously past the onset of naptime, and about to miss our window, beyond which overtiredness sets in, and getting the kids to sleep becomes impossible. Sure enough, the novelty of the pull-out couch bed, and the fun of putting their brand new sleeping bags atop it, kept them giggling and hyper and bouncing off the walls.

By this time, Late Blooming Mom's pink eye had progressed to pink eye with a full-blown cold -- runny nose and all -- and Daddy's patience was, well, well nigh exhausted. Mommy had to lie down and begged for a half-hour's peace. Daddy, realizing the kids were simply not going to settle down, grumpily took them on a walk around the hotel grounds.

When they returned, Daddy had gone from grumpy to furious. Mommy got up and coaxed the kids into actually laying down on the bed and being quiet. Then, at last -- at nearly five o'clock -- they fell asleep.

Which naturally meant dinner would be delayed (so much for our six-fifteen reservation), and the kids wouldn't get a long enough nap. We had to wake them to go out to eat, after pushing our reservation later, and only got them into the car after howls of protest and kicking, screaming fits.

Still I clung to the hope that, once pacified with pizza, the children would behave.

Dinner was a disaster.

Thing 1 insisted on sitting on Daddy's lap the entire time Daddy was trying to eat, as well as interrupting the meal frequently to be taken to the window to watch the man making the pizza. Thing 2 was briefly entertained by a new Color Wonder book and markers, but soon proved as restless as her brother.

The fun kicked into high gear when the pizza maker took a shine to Thing 2 and gave her a little ball of pizza dough ... which she promptly refused to share with Thing 1. After attempting to reason with her (my big mistake -- you can't reason with a sleep-deprived three-year-old who has been hyped up on pizza and stimulated by a total break with her usual routine), I finally resorted to taking away said pizza dough. The resulting howls caused every adult in the entire restaurant to glare at us, and pass summary judgment on our parenting skills.

Thing 2 was carried, screaming, all the way to the car, and Thing 1 followed in full-blown whining mode.

Getting them to bed was no easier.

Both were told they were ruining Daddy's birthday (tomorrow), and threatened with the prospect of being packing up and driven home first thing in the morning.

The threats didn't work. Neither did the yelling that followed the unheeded threats. Daddy finally lost it and left the room.

At long last -- maybe at 11 pm or so -- they finally succumbed to actual sleep.

Being able to shut the door and crawl into the king-sized (but too soft) bed was little consolation. Late Blooming Mom and about-to-turn-a-year-older Dad were in a state of extreme grumpiness. We didn't want to be with them, and we didn't want to be with each other.

Daddy's birthday dawned cold and gray again -- not exactly typical Santa Barbara weather. The bathing suits we brought, and the blow-up pool toys, sat unused -- and would remain so for the entire trip, despite our going to the trouble of paying for a hotel with a pool. The kids were irritable and fussy over breakfast. Thing 2 refused to have her hair brushed. Thing 1 refused to leave the room. By the time we dragged them to the famous annual street-painting festival (I MADDONARI) in front of the Mission, they were only mildly tolerable.

Thing 2 perked up considerably at the prospect of getting chalk and being allowed to decorate a square in the kids' area. But Thing 1 continued to be a pill, demanding his own square and chalk, then refusing to do anything with them except break the chalk.

Finally, promised a ride on the carousel, they lightened up and we managed to get them into the car. At the carousel, they relaxed: this was an environment they could understand. Though Thing 1 nearly managed to come unglued because he wanted to ride the horse Thing 2 had already chosen, once the ride got underway, the morning was salvaged.

Lunch at a beachside cafe was a little trying -- there was fighting over the Color Wonder markers, and Thing 1 insisted he didn't want the guacamole even as he shoved chips laden with it into his mouth. There were repeated, lengthy trips to the bathroom: now that they're out of diapers (except for nighttime), every restaurant bathroom is an amusement park. But after the meal, the kids got to play in the sand, and mommy and daddy got to collapse, weary and nearly out of juice, and just watch them.

That day, though it involved more coaxing and threats, they napped a little earlier.

They still got up to miss our five-thirty reservation at our favorite Santa Barbara restaurant. Getting them into the car to go there was another horrid chore, and we had to promise a trip to the bookstore (and prospect of buying new books) to pull it off.

But as we waited on the line to get into the restaurant, salvation arrived in the form of the blues guitarist and drummer who set up shop outside to entertain us. And the free buttermilk fried chicken pieces the restaurant distributed to us, on cute plastic sword skewers, helped too.

Dinner was a bit frantic, not the leisurely affair we'd enjoyed many times before in our pre-children days here. The kids tore through the basket of mini muffins on the table, but rejected nearly all of them after biting into them and then putting them back in the basket. But the food came fast (perhaps they took pity on us). We had to order the dark chocolate bread pudding souffle to go -- concealed in a bag -- so the kids wouldn't see it and demand sweets before bedtime.

Back at the hotel, bedtime at the hotel was yet another interminable struggle.

By the time they nodded off, Mommy and Daddy were again too grumpy to do much besides turn out the light and hope tomorrow might be better. The dark chocolate bread pudding souffle sat uneaten in the hotel fridge.

Miraculously, that morning was okay. The kids were their picky selves at moments during breakfast, but being allowed to watch some TV seemed to pacify them, and after we'd checked out, we found ourselves in real sunshine, for the first time on the trip. Too late to save our hopes for swimming, the sun at least made a long enough appearance to make for a pleasant morning at a beachside playground. We'd stopped first at a bakery/restaurant to get some sandwiches for a picnic, and treat the kids to a morning snack of fresh baked goods.

So they were well-fueled for playing, and we knew we wouldn't have to tear them away from the playground to go to a restaurant since we'd gotten the sandwiches. Free to climb and run and jump and get wet (the playground had a water feature), the kids were, well,PERFECT ANGELS.

Just in time for us to pile in the car and go home.


Mark said...

Now you understand the difference between a vacation and a trip.

Anonymous said...

Just remember that the worst vacation I had with the kids resulted in the marriage to each other of two of my dearest friends. So sometimes good things come from crappy vacations. 'Nuff said.

latebloomingmom said...

JK --
ah, indeed that puts things in perspective.