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It's just this thing that seasons do

The end of summer always makes me very nostalgic and sad. I love fall and look forward to it, but when it's time for fall to come, I hesitate and look back. It's a strange feeling of loss. I know it's rooted in my childhood and leaving behind the safety and comfort of carefree summer and facing school and a lot of people, I'm not ready to see again.

Like everyone I feel the promise and excitement of school supplies, even decades after I last set foot in a school. New clothes, a new attitude... but I hesitate last minute. What if we could still play summer. Just pretend the warm weather has just started and that cool breeze at night is a just a short-lived cold front about to disappear in a few days... Summer lets me be. Fall makes me run.

Here's the rest of the vacation pictures... sigh.
Sunset in Marina

Posted at 08:58 PM on September 07, 2009

So. Cres.

Somehow I had it in my mind I'd written about Cres before and I was just going to repeat myself, but a quick archive search shows, I really didn't. Nevertheless, sometimes what holds me back from writing the most is the feeling that certainly what I have to say has no relevance for anyone else. And it's not that I need an audience or imagine one, but this is a public blog, so... I just don't want to be that idiot that mistakes the ability to reach people with the ability to say something useful. Well, relevant or not, here goes regardless. (What was the point of this intro? I wonder.)

During our four-week-vacation we managed to drive to Croatia for a week, to the island of Cres, where my family has vacationed since I was 5 or 3 or 2, depending on when you start counting. The coast of Croatia is extraordinarily beautiful and I say this now with a tiny bit less bias than years ago, just because I've seen a few more beaches since and feel that the Mediterranean in general but the Croatian Adriatic in particular has a certain something that I have not seen anywhere else. The insanity is that I spent basically every single summer of my childhood on this island up to two months at a time and took it all for granted in a way only a clueless child can. And now, decades later I am so grateful for it because I realized what role it played in my life. That's the only way it works. You can only recognize the experience once it's over.

My parents bought this old, old house in the town of Cres and so did virtually all my dad's siblings and then some friends, too. The houses were initially in bad shape, no running water, no public sewage. Then everybody fixed them up, sort of, but it didn't matter, we really didn't need to be in the house most of the time, so they are basically bedrooms with a kitchen and a bathroom (Cue Veronika this year: "Mama, this house is weird! It has a basement, a kitchen and beds! Where is the living room??").

On the ferry, the kids & me, 2009

On the ferry, my sisters & me, 1980?

We went to the beach every day and then for a long walk at night (oh, the mandatory walk!) and on Sundays we went to church and then had ice cream afterwards. And sometimes we had birthday parties and sat around singing songs with one of my (many) cousins playing the guitar. If this sounds like a sappy movie to you, well it really was that way, except with real people who are also really annoying at times and occasionally boring and in general not at all Hollywood-y. We repeated this every.single.year. I only started getting tired of it when I reached adulthood, but never completely. The miracle of going to the same (incredibly beautiful) place every year is that it takes out all the logistical problems out of vacation - you always know where everything is, you sleep in a familiar bed, you can count on familiar company etc. In addition to that the feeling of relaxation and peace is instantly restored, as soon as you smell the air and set foot on the cracked rocks. It was a little like an alternative life with all major life stresses removed. I see now that even though I never mistook it for "real life" it did teach me to just be and enjoy what we are given on earth in the most authentic and powerful - and non-dramatic way possible.

Me, 1978?

All by himself
Ivan, 2009

After church in Sunday best, my cousins and me, 1979

After church in Sunday best, Veronika and her cousins (one, once removed), 2009

Visiting this time around I benefitted from not having been there every year recently. The impact is much more vivid, much more new. Coming back with my own children is even better and makes me relive the past from its most favorable angle. And even though we had a wonderful time, I realize I don't feel the need to go back every single time like I used to. Not because I wouldn't enjoy it, but because by now those memories are so ingrained and the lesson about joy so well learned that I can recall it in other places, but most of all in myself. I truly hope my children get to have something of that sort. It's bad enough to know that children will have to cope with disillusionment one way or another in life, I want them to have had an experience of undisturbed joy they can draw from their entire life.

Posted at 02:03 PM on August 25, 2009 | Comments (3)

Summer Breeze

I feel as if I've become terribly lazy lately. I might be confusing lazy with relaxed, I can't quite tell. I don't seem to feel much pressure or intiative for housework. I make dinner and I don't detest it. I sew every minute I get. I've already started and completed whole projects. I am in a good mood and play with the kids. When I'm not completely ignoring them, that is, which is quite often and I don't feel all that guilty about it. So which is it, lazy or relaxed? Both, maybe.

I know I'm lazy because I haven't had to do barely any cleaning or cooking since my mom came in May (!) and then I stayed at her house for another month, where I didn't do anything besides eating desserts and cured meats and drinking a ton of delicious coffee. I also did not have to be alone with three kids for the last three months, there was always someone else and sometimes there were groups of people and other children, too. I think there were days I didn't even see my children. I think the consequence of all this was relaxation. I relaxed. This is significant. Relaxing has become difficult for me. I am always amazed when I manage to feel this way and even then I can't quite shake a tiny tension in the sense of "when is the other shoe going to drop, this surely can't last..."

Now I'm back and I am alone with the kids during the day, BUT there is no school and no dance class or swimming class or CCD and whatnot. Things are so unstructured, and I have lost such incredible amounts of tension that I am just not convinced I need to put much effort into anything. I'm just coasting. It's a nice, unfamiliar feeling.

Part of me thinks maybe this isn't just external. For some reason I find it easy to be me at the moment. I could analyze this, but I don't want to poke around too much. You know how you only really see things clearly after the fact... and I'm thinking I am looking at the possibility of me one day. When things are not so hard and when I am not in such inner struggle to make it through the day. I wish I could say I stayed calm and confident during the stormy parts, knowing it would pass and I would rise above blablabla... but I wasn't and I doubt I will in the future. I struggle and I negotiate and I resolve and I fail and then I sulk and then I repeat it all again. I lack the strength for dignified suffering.

Instead I will breathe this in and hold on to it while it stays.

Posted at 03:17 PM on July 28, 2009

The flight. And miraculous stuff.

We survived. In some ways it went really well, in other ways it was somewhere between nightmarish and funny. Those two things are really close turns out. Some impressions:

- As I frantically bounce around in order to keep Nikola happy in the carrier on the back, I inquire at the check-in counter how to obtain the front row reserved for babies as it always seems booked anyway, no matter how hard I try to have a baby every time I intend to fly. How many children will it take, how many?! The lady seems very sympathetic but her hands are tied. I submit and give up - a short psychological process I have practiced a lot in the last few years. Besides, I anticipate lots of it awaiting me in the following hours. When we arrive at the gate, our names are called and as it turns out the check-in lady's hands were not tied all that much as she hands us new boarding passes! Front row for everyone! Miracle #1.

- We arrive at our seats and settle down as the rest of the crowd comes in. Within minutes a tall blond and very nervous looking woman plants herself in front of me claiming this was her seat. "I'm sorry, this is my seat. I need an aisle seat. I NEED AN AISLE SEAT!!!" I am a little flustered and disappointed that the nice check-in lady didn't bother to notify the passengers she kicked out of our seats and calmly explain that I can't help, that these were the seats assigned to me... "I need an AISLE SEAT!" she maintains. The flight attendant appears, checks our boarding cards and asks blonde lady to follow her. Blonde lady takes it up a notch: "I need an aisle seat!!! If you are going to reseat me, please move me to business class!" This is where I drop the last ounce of concern and sympathy like a bag of rocks. Oh no, she didn't! In my book if at a slender age of 40-something you are going to throw a fit over an aisle seat on a 9-hour-flight, you most certainly do not deserve it let alone in business class. It's one of those moments that seem to reveal the essence of the last six years of my life in terms of... I don't know, something like "How I learned why what I want doesn't matter. - Over and over again." I will be happy if I leave this flight with a. something in my stomach, b. with an empty bladder and c. without being stoned by an angry mob. Lady, you are a waste of space, what with your freedom and your pony tail and your unstained shirt and your fancy-jeans-clad behind, which you may sit anywhere but an aisle seat, oh agony of agonies! It's not that I'm bitter...

- Nikola was fine until we.. .didn't leave. We didn't leave for almost three hours. Hanging out by the runway, waiting for the rain to subside. He was furious, completely out of control for having to sit. Just sit. He is 13 months old and sitting is precisely the thing he does not do. The entire plane was silenced by his outburst. It was the most annoying irritating and incredibly loud noise. I would've been the first one to leave the plane mumbling about a lawsuit had I had the choice. Eventually I was allowed to get up in order to give him some respite. Only me. In the front row of the plane, with nowhere to go, facing all the eyes of economy class fixed upon me, pleading to shut him up. It was a very unique experience. I don't know what other word to use. Then a lady sitting behind me yells out: Haben's keine Baldriantropfen? (Don't you have any sedatives?) I gave her a look. Something between 'Really?' and 'If I wasn't a Christian, I'd call you something' She looked away and shut up. Eventually he stopped screaming and the rest of the people were allowed to get up and roam when said lady comes up behind me, gives me a hug and looking at Nikola says the following: "Oh poor guy. Why is he so upset? I wish there was something we could do. Did you hear me yell for Baldrian drops? I bet at that moment you wished I would take them myself!" And she started laughing. And I said "I did." And I laughed, too.

And this is miracle #2. I wish I had gotten her name. I want to write her a letter and award her for demonstrating the most spectacular public apology/change of heart/self-humbling and honest repentance I had ever witnessed. What are the chances? Not in a million years was this what I expected to be the second half of her interaction with me. Which makes me think I should've cut blonde lady some slack. Maybe she has a bladder issue and has to go to the bathroom ever 5 minutes or some other extenuating circumstance that would warrant an aisle seat. As it turns out it's nearly impossible to judge people if you want to be fair. It's quite annoying.

The rest of the flight was fairly peaceful with most of the kids sleeping almost until landing. I got to do a. and b. and c. never happened. In fact most people smiled at us as they were exiting the plane. As we stepped out of the airport, a bunch of pigs flew by.

Posted at 03:25 PM on June 25, 2009

Preparing for Takeoff

Analise skirt

So my mom has been here for almost two months and I sort of fell off of the face of the earth. Not entirely but real life company offers a nice opportunity to lay off the computer, which in turns makes you discover that you like it and then you spend whatever time is left at the sewing machine. I made two skirts for Veronika, one of them a rather elaborate patchwork thing but it was a ton of fun to make, plus she loves it!
I'm still working on a last-minute project just because I'm dumb and start things about a week before I'm supposed to fly to Europe. That's right. In two days we're leaving for Austria for a 4-week-trip. I'm excited but it is currently totally overshadowed by my mental and emotional preparation (read:terror) for the upcoming flight. My mom and I will weather ninish hours of transatlantic overnight flight with one semi-reasonable child, one toddler and one insane infant who generally doesn't like to sit. At all.

Friends who recently became parents (Hello Tim & Katie!) have asked for some suggestions or/and advice about taking infants on planes. They are understandbly nervous of taking a 6-month-old on a 3-hour-flight. I don't think I was very helpful. What it boils down is the readiness to live through it knowing that time passes and so for sure will that flight. Sometimes things are easy and there is no major incident (like hourlong screaming, kicking hot coffee into other people's laps, incessant whining, refusal to sleep etc. - all of these are unfortunately personal examples) and it makes you feel really good as a parent. But I'm not sure of my definition of "easy flight" would qualify for those who are just newly arrived in parenthood and have not had a range to build an average on. Any flight with a child is always incredibly annoying and tedious compared to sitting there by yourself and - the concept alone makes me swoon - feeling bored!

Remember when you were a kid and your parents made you sit through all kinds of unbearably boring or awkward or uncomfortable situations? Like visiting those terrible friends who always, always embarassed you, or sitting through a two-hour-long classical concert or a choir performance or waiting at the bank or the doctor's or eating Mrs. Soandso's awful excuse for a meal "just to be polite". I shudder at the memory. But anyway, remember that and then understand that being a parent it's often just that: your kid making you sit through hours and hours of agony only it's just them providing the torturous elements. I shudder at the ... anticipation.

It's not going to be so bad, right? Shush!

Posted at 01:35 PM on June 17, 2009 | Comments (3)