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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

holding on to the young years

Sandi and I have had some money tucked away in a vacation club account at the bank that we were saving to do something special as a family while she was in school.   Watching both girls growing so fast right now, especially observing Ella outgrowing so many things beyond her pants and her shoes, we decided to go to Storyland with them before it was no longer a fun place for her. 
Last year the girls and I went with my sister and her family  and it seemed like my then nine-year-old niece had maybe outgrown this magical place a bit.  With a feeling like the clock was ticking, an unexpected few days off around the Fourth gave us the opportunity to take the trip.  We asked Ella if she really wanted to go (she had brought it up at the start of summer) and she was very enthusiastic.  We found some last minute lodging in the beautiful White Mountains of New Hampshire and held our breath a bit, hoping it would all be worth it and it would still be the delightful experience it has always been for our family.
As a result of our last minute trip, we sort of skipped the Fourth of July. It was insanely hot on the Fourth and we were all exhausted coming from Camp Winni and a new clincial rotation.  We had mountains of camp laundry to do plus packing for our turn around trip to Storyland.  So we hung low and near the air conditioner on the Fourth, all of us in bed before nary a firework was shot into the sky.  
The short story about our trip is that our family really needed this time, just the four of us, to play and frolic together.  It was worth every penny, every minute spent packing, planning meals, grocery shopping, strategizing, and driving.  I got 3 1/2 hours of undisturbed time to just talk to Sandi in the car which would have been worth it.
The long story will be told in pictures. (Prepare to be inundated.)
Ella was a little grumpy about the obligatory Humpty Dumpty photo.

But Maya was a good sport.

It was something like 200 degrees when we got there Friday afternoon. (Storyland has a bonus admission where if you come 3 hours before closing you can come back any other day of the season, including the next day, for no extra charge.)    Before a passing rain shower cooled everything off, we made an essential stop at the make-your-own slushy stand.

When did Ella grow these great big long legs?

 And this knowing, joyful smile?
What about a license to drive?

And is this our shy, discerning girl who now rides roller coasters with her arms in the air??

For that matter, how did our baby outgrow the panda statue?

And how is she big enough to be solo on a ride, let alone drive me around in a tractor?
When we hit Storyland early for a full second day, Sandi and I both commented on how grateful we felt to be out of the stroller stage of parenthood.  While it is true that the stroller-pushing parents had a handy place to put all their crap, it was nice to be able to carry a lightweight backpack with everything we needed.
I told Ella that I was so glad she wasn't too old for Storyland.  She replied, "I'm having even more fun than I thought I would."  This was just the balm I needed over the cuts of motherhood as I watch her grow and outgrow nearly every day. 
Maya was happy to take Sandi for a ride in the flying shoes...  
whether she liked it or not.

The girls had some really beautiful moments as sisters.  This is why sometimes it is crucial that they are forced to spend time only with each other (and us, of course).  We were so proud of how they did.  It was hands down one of the most successful family trips we have taken. 

To add drama to an otherwise laid back trip, Maya woke up with a barking, croupy cough the day we left for Storyland. With lots of careful dosing of medication, we had her coughing under control.  But the second day, running all over Storyland, she coughed way too much.  (Excessive coughing inflames her airway and often starts the cascade into airway crisis for her.) Added to this was the fact that the air conditioner didn't properly cool the room we were sleeping in and she had struggled overnight the first night.  We dosed her with everything we had before bed the second evening, including giving her steroidal nebs over a family game of Go Fish.  We put her to bed with crossed fingers and said the prayer that all parents of compromised kids say.   Sandi looked up the closest ER and programmed the hospital's address into her GPS.  We strategized what an emergent trip would look like and tried to relax.
Then something really cool happened. 
As we sat all but wringing our hands at the potentially terrifying night ahead of us, fireworks began to go off in the valley below.  We were in a condo high up on a hill surrounded by wooded mountains.  Out in the dark abyss, color and light exploded and bloomed in the sky.  We sat out on our condo balcony and had our Fourth of July after all.

We woke Ella up to watch the fireworks.  We let Maya sleep since she had finally stopped coughing and was sleeping.  I had to drag poor Ella out of bed.  But I was motivated by the guilt of depriving our eight-year-old of fireworks on such an iconic night by putting her sorely overtired body to bed 2 hours before they began.  I finally got her out on the deck and sat her on my lap snuggled in a blanket.

In the morning, she remembered not a thing.

In other news, Maya, finally FINALLY decided she was ready to discard her floaties and swim independently in the pool.  She has been ready since last August but would hear none of it from us.  As stubborn as a mule, she had to come to it on her own.  The trick for her?  A mask so that she can swim underwater.  Suddenly, she is a floaty-less fish who comes up to us and whispers her secret: "Guess what? I don't think I need my floaties anymore."

For some reason, Ella was witness to several unsafe things by random people around us- from riding a bike without a helmet on the wrong side of the road to risky traffic manuevers.  Ella pronounced, "The people in New Hampshire just aren't very safe!"

As we drove from the gates of our complex up to our condo we let the kids unbuckle and ride free in the car, a luxury they are never afforded.  As Ella stuck her arm out the window she shouted:  "Look at us!  We are just like the people of New Hampshire now!!!"

 Thanks girls for not being too big yet.  Thanks for only fighting a teeny bit and for taking our threats to go home seriously.  Thank you for being your unique and amazing selves and for playing with us. 
Thanks, most of all and always, for choosing us to be your moms.

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