I’m often wrapped up in the Doing and Getting Finished of life.
Spontaneity is a struggle.
Plus, I’m a homebody. And right now, the two youngest are like having twin toddlers. So hunkering down is mostly a Life Necessity.
A few weeks ago, I woke up and decided to spend the day outside. Just a few miles over. Last minute. Except I still totally planned. At least by a several hour margin.
We visited the Monarch Grove in Pismo Beach.
It felt like a homeschool-y thing to do. Besides, it was a gorgeous day. Seemed silly to spend it inside.
The kids had dressed themselves that morning. A mishmash of colors and patterns. Hasty ponytails swooped back by hand. I thought about changing them into Socially Acceptable Wear, but decided that was a silly proposition. Just getting out the door with all four for an afternoon adventure is Enough.
I am often struck by how she loves to run her hand along railings.
Like every other kid in the Universe.
And I wonder how many years she has desired this very simple thing. But instead rolled past in her stroller.
And so I wait for her.
She runs her fingers under the words. Left to right.
I’m hopeful that one day she will be able to distinguish the words underneath.
Reading is a blessing. She teaches me to not take it for granted.
What looks like clusters of leaves, are actually thousands of gloriously orange and black Monarch butterflies huddled together.
They swirl around your head and float like bright leaves.
And you must watch your step.
But please don’t touch says the park volunteer.
Just beyond the small grove of Eucalyptus trees, a sight you will find throughout California, planted over a century ago by the Chinese workers who built the extensive railroad system. If you see Eucalyptus, thoroughly non-native to sunny CA, you’ll be sure to find a railroad track nearby.
We talk about this. As we talk about many things. Those tidbits of information stored deep in my frazzled mommy brain surfacing from time to time.
It still takes our breath away to see her walking along.
We find ancient trees with a bitty path cutting through the ice plant, begging you to take it.
It would have been so easy to say no. Let’s stick to the main trail. The one more compressed. The one Sister could walk on.
But how else were we supposed to climb, and touch, and run our hands along their trunks if we didn’t wander up the sandy, slippery trail?
She’s mostly too big, all lanky legs, to carry on my hip for more than a minute or two. So I scooped her up on piggy back and we slogged our way along.
Then we cut back over, feet burying with every step, to the old, gnarled oaks, limbs twisted and bent from years of beachy wind.
Branches that must be climbed.
I see a sliver of the RV park nearby. And I scold myself for not doing this more often. Others must travel miles to this very space. We take for granted our proverbial backyard.
She sits, content to dig her hot pink painted toes in the sand and play.
I’m proud of her. And I’m proud of our family. How we refuse to opt out of Life. Even if it’s harder sometimes. Lots of times.
She deserves sand in her toes.
Even if I’m out of breath.
Even the littlest tries.
He has no idea he’s only 2.
Brother Worship at an all time high.
They plead to keep going.
But only if the Biggest is willing to carry the backpack. The one with water bottles, a couple of towels, and my big camera.
The camera I made it a point to pack. The camera I haven’t used in months. I even charged the battery before we left.
Except that the battery was still at home, plugged into the wall. So instead we carry it around all afternoon. Thank you Steve Jobs for the iPhone, says All The Moms.
So piggy back we go.
I remind them “Hey guys. One mom. Four kids. You gotta help me. And Grace.”
They run back up to slide down the dunes.
I let them.
I wonder if they will remember this.
She finds herself a divet in the sand.
Just the right size for her blonde bottom.
The kids find an abandoned surfboard in the brush. Broken in half. Useless to the angry surfer who lost his board. But perfect for my crew to play with.
I quietly think of what a sweet blessing this silly thing is. How it might make it better if he knew that kids were still finding joy in it.
So thank you Mr. Surfer. I know you’re bummed, but it’s not really lost after all.
I turned to see her standing there.
But so grown.
And then the water.
I made them promise to not get wet.
Just their feet, okay?
It worked for a while.
As I knew it would.
Taking your kids to the beach and asking them to stay dry is one of those parenting things you realize are ridiculous, but Wishful Thinking.
Just to the right, is the main beach lined with shops, selling shells and neon t-shirts. Clam chowder in bread bowls with a line around the building. College kids ditching class to enjoy the California winter.
But here, we are mostly alone. Just a handful of locals who know the best place to enjoy the crashing waves and the distinctive scent of salt.
Eventually she joined them.
And eventually she sat right down in that chilly saltwater.
Eventually we slogged our way back up the sandy hill. And it was much much harder that time.
Henry found another set of kids playing in the sand. He passed along the broken surfboard, which they promptly dragged up the hill to slide down. I wondered how many kids have done that with this very board. How many years it has been unceremoniously passed. How many grins and squeals it has prompted. Like buried treasure every time.
About 3/4 of the way back to the car…a long way away on the other side of the butterfly grove…Owen decided he was done. He would not walk one single step more. Well beyond nap time, and worn out, he just froze. Refused to move. Wouldn’t hold an older sibling’s hand. Wanted the mama to carry him.
Jill, also exhausted from an afternoon of play wouldn’t walk a single step. No matter how hard I tried. So I carried them both. I was a sweating, out of breath mess by the time we got to the car. My arms quivering. On the verge of tears myself. Tourists stared at the Mom Who Had Lost Control. I half expected them to snap a photo with the camera hanging from their necks. In their brand new sandals and the souvenir shirt they bought the day before.
I buckled my whining, overtired crew into seats, and finally slumped in my own seat. I was so angry and upset. At how such a sweet afternoon felt spoiled by the end of it. I was such a sweaty, disheveled mess. But then I remembered Life.
And I drove through McDonald’s for soft serve.