No Fair!

This morning my 6-year old Ezra woke up on the grumpy side of the bottom bunk. In his defense, it was a dark, rainy Monday, and none of us were really thrilled about the 6:30 am wake-up call. But as the morning progressed, there was a definite theme to his dialogue.

 

When I grabbed a pair of socks to give to his older brother Knox (Knox has a broken ankle, otherwise he’d be getting his own socks), Ezra said, “No fair! Knox has undies and socks in the same drawer! Why can’t my socks and undies be together?”

 

I mostly ignored this question due to its absurdity and hustled Ezra to the kitchen. I saw my husband eating what I assumed was a bowl of cereal, and I said, “I thought I used up all the milk last night,” and my husband answered, “This is yogurt.” Then Ezra said, “No fair! Me want milk!” To which I replied, “But you don’t like milk.” Ezra stomped back to his room in a huff.

 

After he eventually returned to the kitchen, Ezra overheard me talking to Knox (you know, the favorite child whose undies and socks get to hang out together in the same drawer) asking him if he wanted to bring leftovers in his lunch and warm them up in the cafeteria microwave. “No fair!” Ezra cried, “Why Knox get to use the microwave? Why me no have microwave at my school?!”

 

And so forth and so on went the morning.

 

It’s comical to think of his lamenting over such trivial stuff because he’s six and most likely forgot the whole exchange by the time he stepped into his classroom. I wish I could say that 6-year olds were the only ones who flew the “Unfair” banner so carelessly.

 

As adults, we may not whine over the same topics as children do, but the whining does happen. Claiming “No Fair” often occurs after we unnecessarily compare ourselves to others. “Why does she have that ___________ (insert house, car, weight, clothes, marriage, etc.) and I don’t?! It’s not fair!” Talk about feeling as gloomy as a rainy Monday morning–that line of questioning will ruin anyone’s day.

 

Other than the negativity these comparisons create, the other travesty is that there really is rampant unfairness in the world. And the people who cry “No Fair” aren’t usually the ones with the most valid reason to say it.

 

So instead of concentrating on the inconsequential issues that threaten to spoil what could turn out to be the most blessed day you’ll spend on this planet, take advice from the Book of Isaiah and look for ways to help those whose lives truly are unfair.

 

“Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.” (NLT) Isaiah 1:17

Fall Break 2017: New England

When our family of 6 recently toured New England, we learned a lot about history, geography, and regional customs, but we also learned a lot about ourselves.

 

We learned that some of us are like junkies looking for our next hit when it comes to searching for sweet tea at a restaurant. (This especially applies to taverns where George Washington ate.)

We learned that the White Mountains National Forest is impossible to improve upon. It is breath-taking and awe-inspiriting, even without the snow.

Along those same lines, we learned that my husband likes to stop at vistas when driving through beautiful landscapes. There’s something so adorable about how many pictures he took of trees and flowers and distant mountains.

We learned that the highway signs in New Hampshire have a profile of the Old Man of the Mountain, a natural formation that used to jut out the side of Cannon Mountain until it fell off. Apparently they were pretty proud of it.

We learned to fall in love with a cannoli, and we learned that Ezra prefers his meatballs to be bite-sized and not, in his words, “as big as my face.”

We learned that none of us are good at imitating a New England accent. We all come off sounding like a bad impersonation of the guy from the Pepperidge Farm commercials.

We learned that the first week of October is a great time to travel to New England…if you are over 65. We saw very few other children. This wasn’t a deterrent to our fun, and as a side bonus when my kids held the door open for all the grandmas and grandpas they got a lot of “aren’t you a sweetheart?” kind of comments.

 

We learned that the Newport Cliff Walk is one of the coolest places to take a stroll. On one side it’s pounding waves on a rocky shoreline and on the other side it’s palatial mansions and imposing college buildings and lush green spaces.

We learned that the sand in New England is different from the sand we’re used to in the Gulf. (My son said that when he stepped on the Kennebunkport beach it was like his foot was cracking through a layer of Magic Shell on ice cream.)

We learned that the insides of a lobster can be pretty gross.

 

We learned that a good tour guide can make anything interesting—burial practices from the Colonial period, how Ben & Jerry clean out their ice cream machinery between flavors, or even baseball.


  

We learned that walking across a pedestrian bridge with Boston traffic whizzing by is not for the faint of heart.

We learned that when our 6-year old sees sailors from the US Navy in their white uniforms, assuming they are karate ninjas, he bows to them as if he’s just entered their dojo.

We learned that the Trapp family (think The Sound of Music) settled in Vermont and built the cutest Bavarian lodge with just the right amount of schmaltz.

We learned that our son Ezra says “Nemo” instead of “Uno” when he has one card left.

We learned that covering 5 states in one week with 4 kids isn’t easy, but bucket list items are supposed to be a challenge, right?

Migrating of our herd

When our family takes a vacation that requires a lot of walking, we have an unwritten rule about how we line up. Whether it’s Disney or Dollywood, hiking the Chimney Tops in the Smokys or strolling along the Cliff Walk in Rhode Island, Boston’s Freedom Trail or touring the Coca-Cola Museum, Graceland or Biltmore Mansion or the White House or the security line at the airport, we have an assigned order.

 

My husband—the leader, the trip planner, the trailblazer, the guy who has an innate sense of direction—is always at the front. He may have his cell phone out with a GPS app guiding him or a map with detailed landmarks to watch for or maybe he uses the stars…I’m just not totally sure. It’s all mystifying to me.

 

Me, on the other hand, possess a different skill set than my husband. I bring up the rear. I chant phrases like: “Let’s catch up with Dad” and “Put the rock down” and “Well, I have to hold your hand because you’re walking so slowly”.

 

The kids that span the distance between my husband and me rotate according to their whims, but mostly I am at the back with the youngest and/or whiniest of our children. It’s up to me to create games to keep their minds off of all of the walking (oh, the humanity, so much walking!) we’re doing in some of the most fun (theme parks), most beautiful (mountains), most important (Washington, D.C.) places they’ll ever visit.

 

I tell them stories. I hum songs for them to guess. We play games. (Side Note: Ezra plays I spy like this: “I pie with my little bit eye.”) We keep a running count of the dogs we pass. Whatever it takes to keep their little legs moving.

 

I don’t question the left turns and right turns our Line Leader chooses as we cross busy streets or get off at subway stops. And he doesn’t glance behind to make sure I’m not slacking on my job, letting our smallest, most vulnerable members of the herd lag behind. This is how our herd migrates—sometimes in single file, sometimes two-by-two, but always with a clear-eyed leader and a dedicated closer.

 

When our children are grown, I hope they will remember these family vacations, the inside jokes and the amazing sights and even the not-so-great moments of car sickness or nearly missed flights or constant bickering that turns fully rational adults into sitcom-style parents who say things like “So help me I will pull this car over!” These are the stuff of family legend.

 

But I also want them to remember how we moved as a unit. How we relied on each other and played to our strengths. How he stepped up to shoulder the community backpack full of snacks and water bottles. How she volunteered to give her little brother a piggy back ride when he just COULD NOT GO ON. How they made the best of something difficult and tried something new.

 

Because you don’t get to pick your family, and for better or for worse, this is our herd.