please note: wordpress sucks balls and I will be moving this blog elsewhere when I can summon the strength to bother. Formatting is fucked and this is likely rife with spelling grammar/errors because I’m so scared to edit it, lest wordpress fail and I lose all the text -for the 3rd time. My apologies. 
 
It was a cold day. A really cold day. That day, back in January was reaallly cold. That day, when Marc, Alicia (the sister) and I all agreed to go on then booked a holiday with our four combined children. 3, 4, 5 and 7 – I’m not counting, that’s how old they are. Even though we’re the ones who make the sandwiches, we’re not despots, and also don’t pretend it isn’t a bit of a  game. Kids vs. Grownups. Generally we’re competing together, as in everyone wants to eat enough, sleep enough, play enough. The only wrinkle is that in the game of Kids vs. Grownups, they (the kids) generally want less, less more. While we (the grownups) generally want more, more, less. 4 children + 3 parents + 1 week = This could go either way.Cooking on vacation makes me want to cry. I feel this requires little explanation, and when it was suggested that we rent a house on a beach somewhere, strolling daily to a charming little town, enjoying the local fare, markets and people, it was all I could do not to hide under the table. Until 3, 4, 5 and 7 can make their own breakfast, happily eat the aforementioned sandwiches for lunch (every lunch), and not bitch continuously about strolling to the charming little town, we’re pretty much going to let someone else do the cooking. This narrows things considerably, and on that freezing day in January we decided to go to a resort in Mexico. In April.As the kids counted down the number of days until we left “how many more sleeps,” we all seemed to get infected with the buzz of our impending holiday: Alicia packed the week before we left, I was so excited I had butterflies in my stomach waiting for the airport limo, and 3, 4, 5, and 7, of course, were practically on fire with anticipation by the time we got to the airport. I remember thinking fuck, things are going to go really, really badly.Armed with two iPads, an iPhone, iTouch and Nintendo DS, we felt prepared for what we-hoped-woudn’t-be-but-knew-could-be excrutiating wait then flight. A trip the day before to the local Dollarama also proved invaluable as I loaded up 4 mini backpacks with never-before-seen crap to be occupied and amused by. Everyone fortified by snacks and juice (also in the backpacks) I tested the waters of tolerance and took their picture.
 
still. momentarily.
 

It was fine. It took Marc standing in the background jumping around making faces like a madman to get them all to look in the same direction at the same time, but that’s how it is when kids are 3, 4, 5 and 7. Mostly they didn’t complain, and we took that as a win.

We filled the hours before departure with more food and investigating the contents of their backpacks. Deciding to leave all screens locked up until departure, when 3, 4, 5 and 7 would be strapped into seats, seemed like a wise way to minimize arguments, and, er, screaming. And unbelievably it worked.  4 was asleep at take off, with 3 and 5 not far behind. 7 didn’t really sleep, but she happily occupied herself with all the screens 4 wasn’t playing with while he snoozed. At some point the captain announced we were 25 minutes from landing and were beginning our approach, prompting Alicia to look back at me perplexed. Really? That’s it? And that was it.

There was only one point when things almost went terribly, terribly wrong: Cancun airport is a complete gong show. We were spared some of the madness by taking an afternoon flight on a Monday, but were still forced to have all our bags re-scanned. What the hell was meant to happen to them in the belly of the plane 30 000 feet in the air I’ll never know, but no one asked me what I thought. With our bags x-rayed and children coralled, we sidled up to a small woman on a stool sitting beside a big… thing. With a button. “Push the button” she said to me. Fuck that, “you push the button” I thought. Images of every season of Lost flooded my head, what would happen? Will the airport blow up? Does pushing the button open a door unleashing a monster? Mostly I thought it was stupid and didn’t think I should have to push a button just because someone sitting on a stool tells me to. Without knowing why, why would anyone push a button. That’s when two men dressed in army fatigues, with drug dogs walked toward us. That didn’t bother me so much, but the automatic rifles so large the distasnce between stock and muzzle was nearly the length of their bodies, pretty much had me convinced. I pushed the button. Turns out it’s for random searches. Green = no search, red = search. There ought to have been a sign.

That was it, the big problem, the 2.5 seconds of internal deliberation I always go through when someone tells me to do something “just ’cause.” It could have been terrible. I could have told that small woman sitting on stool that I don’t push buttons. Thankfully I’m almost as well behaved as 3, 4, 5 and 7.

You’re probably bored and skimming at this point, I’ll relieve you of the minutiae. In just a second. I want to quickly note  the complete and utter absence of shells on the beach, a natural consequence of perfectly soft sand. This was only a problem because 3, 4, 5 and 7 all promised to return home with shells for friends and after exhaustive hunts, were only able to turn up a few shell fragments among the vast, white sand. In a moment of inspiration Alicia suggested buying shells from the gift shop, leaving them on the beach for the children to “find.” And there I was, the morning of our departure, tearing into mesh bags of perfect shells, distributing them across the sand. People stared. Once I finished spreading the shells across an area large enough to the kids wouldn’t bonk into each other but not so large I coudn’t effectively marshal my shell fifedom, I waited. I cannot tell you the stress of protecting the shells that belonged to me on a beach that didn’t, or how hard I hoped no other children would stumble upon my territory on this hither to shell-less beach. Thankfully fellow beach-goers ignored me. Or they were scared of me as I paced up and down the 15 feet of sand which without saying a word, clearly belonged to me. A few minutes later Marc and Alicia arrived with the troops, who descended upon the ocean’s apparent midnight bounty, announcing their luck at the shells arriving on the very day we set to leave. It was perfectly magical.

hunting.

bounty.

 And the summary:

We held crocodiles, snakes and fed monkeys.

7 holding a crocodile, age 3.

4 holding a boa, age 1.   

3 feeding mowgli.      

 We jumped waves, built sand castles, swam and swam.          

gilligan and 7.

     4 beating the ocean.              

startling white. day 1.

5 conquering his fear of “the deep.”

3 being… herself.

 

They cried sometimes, sometimes even a lot of the time. They bickered, complained, refused to eat then complained of empty tummies 15 minutes later. But that’s just kids, and as professionals we were unphased because mostly (honestly), they were awesome. It’s true the kids won the game of less, less, so they could have more, but I can’t help but think we all won.

beach kung-fu.