We are in the midst of a maelstrom, yes yes. It started innocently enough, with my husband and I thinking it would be nice to take a winter holiday with the kids. Something easy, fairly close. No planes please.
But even the easy option comes with complications when travelling with a 6, 4 and 1 year old, especially when your spouse is only being able to attend for half of the holiday in the middle. From packing clothes, gear, food and kids on my own the morning of departure (I fell asleep with the baby the night before at 9:30am), the trip was a solid brick of work. It was fun, though.
Coming home, less so. During our absence, we planned to get our kitchen floors refinished. They were not finished on time, so we stayed at my in-laws unexpectedly for three more days, and came home only on Sunday.
Brilliantly, my husband and I did not clean before returning home with the kids. There is dust everywhere, throughout the house: walls, carpets, and inside all cabinets, on food, on plates, toys, everything. I am going at it one wall, one shelf, one item at a time. Instead of saying, “we’ll cover the entrance with plastic, don’t worry about dust”, why don’t the workers say, “tape and cover everything or you’ll go down in flames”?
Bonus feature: I am without a car. I took it to the mechanic during our trip for repair and the back windshield got smashed in by a vandal. The damage is not covered by my mechanic’s insurance and, because the other repairs are extensive, we are considered buying another car from the mechanic (not yet ready) and are holding off on repairing the back windshield. So I am car-less, taking taxis to school to pick up and drop off my kids.
All this to say that it is not that much fun over here right now. We have not yet finished unpacking from the winter holiday. We cannot cook much because of the state of the kitchen and frankly, there are other pressing matters besides food. I am panicking about the toxic dust my kids are inhaling by the gram, and praying that it is not as damaging as my imagination says.
There really is not much to do but to hunker down and get through this spell, one moment at a time. If I were really enlightened, I would evenly experience them all, including the one where I reached up to dust the upper frame of our doorway, caught a snag, and splintered off part of the frame with my rag. I confess I prefer the easier moments, like when I herded the boys upstairs where the dust cover is thinner, and put the baby in the bath to keep him out of the older boys’ play. In the middle of the bath, we added some hot water, and my 4 year old suggested we put in some bubbles, and that’s just how my baby had his first bubble bath. He stretched his fingers wide, over and over again, at the novelty of the bubbles. He really liked them.
And after his very long bath, we had dinner. I had thrown some frozen tilapia fillets in the oven, boiled some edamame (no vegetables, but at least these are green), and also some baby potatoes from my CSA in the fall (I pulled off the roots they were sprouting with my 4 year old). I carried up these items, plus a single tall glass of water, butter, and three forks, on a tray to the older boys’ shared bedroom. We huddled around our fare on the floor. I had the baby wrapped in a towel in my lap, and he was uncharacteristically still and quiet, letting me feed him. The children were very hungry – I hadn’t prepared a proper snack after school – and there wasn’t enough fish (only three fillets; I shared one with the baby). But the children had no complaints about anything. They focused on the food, and ate steadily for a long time. When they did speak, it was mostly to talk about how good the food was. It was one of the nicest meals I have ever had.
The soft focus of that dinner came to an end, and we were all back to reality soon enough. But the meal was real too, and so surprising. I’m recording it so that when I look back on this messy period, I will be sure to remember that meal, in its proper, prized place.