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I Think We Needed More Pack Mules

I knew going into our recent vacation that
a) it wasn’t going to be much of a vacation for Mommy; and b)
the amount of gear required would rival an Everest expedition. I
thought I was mentally prepared for that.

Alas, you can never really be prepared for that.

Here is a (partial!) list of what we brought with us for our
three-day vacation. Keep in mind that we were in a friend’s
house, so we had her toddler’s toys at our disposal but had
to fend for ourselves meal-wise:

Pack ‘n Play for Cora

Sheets for Mommy and Daddy

Sheets, nap blanket, special pillow, and all bedtime stuffed
animals for Maddie


Bouncy Seat



Towels for the beach

Towels for the house

Maddie’s car seat

Cora’s car seat

Beach mat

Sesame Street videos

Box of food

Cooler of food

Toys for the car

Snacks for the car

Bedtime books for Maddie

Extra Silky (which we needed when Maddie decided to bring it in the
tub with her)

Three kinds of diapers: diapers for Cora, diapers for Maddie, and
swim diapers


High chair

And oh, yes, clothing for four people, sunscreen for an army, and
general toiletries.

The sad thing is that if we’d extended our trip from three
days to, say, two weeks, the pile-o-crap wouldn’t have grown
appreciably: we would’ve added a few more t-shirts for
everyone and called it a day. But once you’ve got babes and
toddlers in tow, there’s no such thing as “packing
light”. We even borrowed and SUV just to get all the crap
there, and still ended up being squeezed into the car.

For the most part, the vacation was a huge success. We all had fun
on the beach, went on exploring walks, took naps, and rarely looked
at a clock. Maddie loved all the “new” toys in our
friend’s house and the hours she frittered away on the beach
digging for treasure. Cora was mesmerized by the ocean (what she
could see of it from her shaded car seat), and Brian kicked back
and relaxed in the sun.

I enjoyed myself as well, but couldn’t help but long for
those days of spontaneously throwing a shopping bag full of
necessities in the back of the car and taking off for somewhere for
a carefree weekend. Every step of the way this vacation was about
keeping one step ahead of what the girls needed; mornings were
spent juggling breakfast and getting dressed and putting on
sunscreen and packing lunches and assembling beach towels and not
forgetting Silky and averting a meltdown when Maddie’s
offered the wrong cereal and . . .I was worn out by ten a.m.
I’d find a few minutes on the beach to relax while Cora dozed
in her car seat and Maddie combed for shells with Brian, but then
it was back to cleaning up for lunch and corralling Maddie
homewards and getting through a bath and reading books and feeding
Cora and getting Maddie down for a nap and . . . the work felt
never-ending, and by the end of the vacation I was exhausted. And
after two days of fun, I had to squeeze all our crap back into the
suitcases, pry a sobbing toddler out of the “fun house”
and into the car to go home, comfort an infant long past her nap
time, feed the sobbing toddler a snack in the car while begging her
to nap . . . home never looked so good.

I know part of it was dealing with an infant who still gets up at
night and a toddler sleeping in a strange bed. Part of it was
simply that being a mom is hard physical labor and there’s no
getting round it. But part of it was also that I felt so many
people’s happiness was riding on my shoulders – did I
remember Maddie’s favorite toys? Did I bring the most comfy
swaddling blanket for Cora? Did I forget the book Brian asked me to
grab? – and that wears you down. I was constantly looking
ahead, working to avoid crises before they came up. I simply had
very little down time, and absolutely no pampering.

But there’s a flip side to bearing the weight of
everyone’s happiness, and that is this: when you see your
family happy and enjoying themselves, you can point to them and
say, “I did that. I made them happy.”

And that’s pretty cool.


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