Is it possible to have a relaxing vacation with small children? Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy we've taken a break and flown to the UK. My accent has already sunk back into it's northern vowels, and my waistline is fighting a losing battle against fish and chips and curry.
We're a week in though, and I still feel like I need a holiday.
Let's just say that Lucy is not quite the seasoned traveller her sister is. On the third flight it took us to get to the UK I had already dismissed the idea of having a third child and ever going anywhere with my youngest daughter again. Lucy was a nightmare. It didn't help that we were re-routed to the south of Ireland to avoid volcanic ash, making the third flight (did I say third flight? I think it bears repeating...) even longer than anticipated.
Anna worked her way through a sticker book, watched endless kids movies thanks to the touch-screen TVs of Continental Airlines, then she announced the need for a nap and fell asleep. Lucy on the other hand wriggled, and screamed, and pulled hair, and kicked her sleeping sister. She spat out the Benadryl we tried to dose her with. She threw countless dummies into inpenetrable corners of the aircraft and then cried for the want of a pacifier. She slept. Fitfully. Gaining an impossible 30lbs every time she dozed, instantly cutting off circulation to my lower limbs. Of course they both chose to gravitate towards me whilst sleeping. I was covered in an impenetrable pile of leaden limbs. LK pretended to be absorbed in his ipad while I tried to spirit my book out of my handbag with my one free hand. Instead I watched the sun rise over the Atlantic and gazed at the cloud of volcanic dust hovering over Ireland, trails of yellow smoke snaking underneath the plane. I tried not to think about ash turning to glass in the engines and killing us all. I tried not to think about murdering Lucy.
When we landed at Manchester, to cold grey skies and rain, we were told that one of our two trains was delayed due to vandalism on the tracks and that we'd have to be bussed between Huddersfield and Leeds. I was so dizzy with tiredness that I managed to lose our train tickets somewhere on the platform. Our ticket collector said the upcoming week was predicted to be 'unseasonably cold'. That is never a good thing in the North of England. I started wondering whether LK and I should have just taken a week off and stayed in bed at home, only venturing out to drop the girls off at school.
Jet lag and small children make a difficult combination and the first three days of holiday were a blur. The girls were not as badly affected as we were. They sleep when it's dark, seemingly oblivious to time zones, but their nap and eating schedules have been thrown off leaving two very irritable girls and much whining. My family have been doing sterling work trying to entertain them, but it's exhausting work. My Mum fell asleep on the couch yesterday afternoon and you can tell my Dad is wishing he could go back to work for a bit of a rest and relaxation. My old bedroom smells like a hospital after an unfortunate projectile vomiting episode last night with Lucy. Who knows what triggered it; tiredness, over-excitement, British soy milk? She exploded in a torrent of liquid. LK dragging her off to the bathroom as she liberally doused everything in sight. What fun.
It sounds horrendous, except with the benefit of a week behind me I am thankful. Grateful that we didn't get stuck in New Jersey due to volcanic ash. Happy that some kind soul at Manchester handed in our tickets and they were returned to us. Thankful for every kind English coffee shop that doesn't sell milk but will happily fill up your baby's bottle for free. Anna turned to Lucy at the train station and said 'Lucy, now you need to know that we are in a country called Manchester and that we're going to England. I get to play with the horses first. It rains here and it's green and they call candy 'sweets.' When she wrote a postcard to her friends at school the first thing she said was 'I know you all miss me but I am in England where the farms come from'.
It's hard work, not relaxing, but it is rewarding. I love showing the girls where I grew up, playgrounds I used to play on, flowers I used to pick, sweets I used to eat. I love seeing the roses they are getting in their cheeks from the cold air. Lucy is going bonkers signing 'bird' as there seem to be so many more of them here than in California. I know we're not going to get a vacation, there will be no lying back with a good book, no unwinding, no rest - but I already have a photo album of memories to make up for it. Who has time for sleep?