“Vacations are so relaxing and easy!”—said no parent of young kids. Ever. We recently spent four days in Newport, Oregon, which was lovely but not restful in the least. On top of all the prepping and packing and passing back of 18 varieties of snacks on the drive to the central Oregon coast, neither kid sleeps that well away from home. Somehow, though, despite feeling a bit run down on vacation, my creativity remained intact, and I am now obsessed with the parenting hack I pulled off to make my kids sleep on vacation.
Like on most vacations we take, I couldn’t make my kids sleep on the first night. Although I had brought noise machines and loveys and special blankets, we didn’t have the blackout curtains we rely on at home. Once morning dawned, with both kids wide awake, I knew I had to try something different.
My protests of “it’s too early” didn’t cut it.
Peeper opened the blinds and begged to differ. “Look mama, it’s sunny!” She said. “It’s not too early!” So we spent the early-early morning semi-conscious on the couch, praising the geniuses who invented Saturday morning cartoons.
Then on my way to the drive-through coffee shop (OMG CAFFEINE THANK YOU), I stopped at the dollar store down the street. I’m not sure where the idea came from, but I dropped $2 on aluminum tin foil and pulled off one of my best parenting hacks yet—which not only helped make my kids sleep on vacation but also stopped me from swearing off family vacations entirely. (Win!)
In the depths of winter, when every day as a mom of two felt too hard to endure, I had this kids-free fantasy: I’d check into a hotel, I’d lie down in the king size bed, and there would be no one there to touch me. I would take a shower and eat a meal someone else cooked. Maybe I’d watch some TV. But mainly I’d be away.
The fantasy always felt cruel because it seemed utterly unattainable. I had a toddler who cried whenever I picked up my baby. I had a baby who was often in pain from reflux, who hardly slept, and who wouldn’t take a bottle. Even though we had the means to pay for a hotel for a night, I couldn’t go.
I felt trapped.
I remembered this fantasy a few weeks ago when—wait for it—I spent an entire kids-free weekend at the beach with friends.
I remembered the pain, the desperation, the dark hopelessness of those teary days. But the memory didn’t sting like a fresh cut; rather, it was an ache of a more distant pain. And the salt water of the Oregon coast helped heal me. Read more
A few weeks ago, Spring Break released most of Oregon’s students—and, importantly, their teachers. After a rough stretch of classroom management right before the vacation, Eric was in desperate need of some time away from school.
Although we spent much of Spring Break doing things around the house and taking care of business-y tasks, we made a point of leaving town for a night. And boy, am I glad we did!
We hit the coast on a gorgeous day. We drove straight to Fort Stevens State Park at the tippy top of Oregon, west of Astoria. We’d never been there, and we adored the wide, enormous beach. I was disappointed at the number of cars on the beach (who does that in Oregon?) and the place was packed, but a short walk away from the parking area got us a clear stretch of ocean and sand.
Luckily the weather was warm because—predictably—Peeper just wanted to play in the waves. After a few frustrating and teary minutes of trying to keep her semi-dry, we gave up and let her play in the surf as much as she wanted. We were all happier for it. Read more
There’s no denying it: This child is a water baby—or, in the Ryan family lexicon, a water weasel.
Peeper loved swimming lessons from her very first trip to the YMCA. If she had her way, she’d spend hours in the bath, pouring water from a toy watering can and holding onto the sides of the tub to kick as hard as she can. It’s a constant battle to keep her dry at the Oregon coast. And she makes any unsuspecting water source—a sidewalk puddle, the dog’s dish—into an instant source of fun.
But her love of water at home has nothing on the passion she uncovered on vacation.
During our vacation in Mexico, Peeper spent almost every waking minute in the water. After breakfast, we headed to the pool or beach. Then bath and nap. After waking up, we returned to the pool or beach. Then bath and bedtime.
Rinse, wash, repeat. Read more
I just wrote about how I prefer to wear a bikini even though I’m pregnant. I think my growing belly is beautiful, and I don’t mind letting other beachgoers see.
Another pro to wearing a swimsuit while pregnant: You can eat a giant burrito and not worry about slipping into a tiny suit. You can be all, “Hey, that’s totally my baby bump!” and it’s true.
But as I’ve discovered, bikinis while pregnant are not all fun and games. The inside of my poor belly button, which has pretty much never seen the light of day, is a bit sunburned.
So along with putting vinegar on the tops of my feet (gah! I always miss that spot!), I’m using the sunburn-soothing home remedy on my belly button, too. Now I smell like Easter eggs from belly to toes.
Back in high school, I worked at my town’s country club in the pool snack bar. I spent two summers flipping burgers and mixing milk shakes for members’ kids (most of whom were wonderful, excluding one brat who ended an order with, “And make it snappy.” Wish I could’ve served him a slap upside the head alongside his fries.).
From the deep fryer-scented cubby of the snack bar, I had a great view of the pool deck. Even though at that time in my life I swore I’d never have kids (the thought of childbirth completely freaked me out), I admired the pregnant moms who lounged in the sun or chased after sunscreen-streaked little ones. I especially admired the mothers who bared their bumps in itsy bitsy bikinis.
For some reason, that image of beauty stuck with me. A big ol’ belly sticking out for the entire world to see says, I am confident. It says, I am growing a whole new life inside me, and I don’t mind who notices. It adds, I may have stretch marks and a new outie, but I don’t care.
So when I was pregnant with Peeper and outgrew my suits, I bought a new, bigger bikini. I loved wearing it in my prenatal water aerobics classes and to the river in the sweltering days before my July baby was born.
I’ve loved wearing it on vacation this last week, too. I’ve alternated with a more modest tankini suit, too, but whenever the little stripey number isn’t too sandy or wet, I pull that on to play at the beach or pool.