In the few short days we spent at the beautiful Harris Beach State Park in the southeast corner of Oregon, I experienced some of my favorite and some of my least favorite parts of the trip so far.
The drive from Crater Lake to the Pacific Ocean proved to be quite the adventure in itself. We already found ourselves breaking our 3 hour rule, and struck off on what Google estimated to be a 4 hour drive (which with trailer & children was closer to 5-6 for us). A couple of hours into the trip after a quick pit stop, I offered to take the wheel from Brad for awhile. Our default mode is for Brad to drive forwards and I drive backwards, as that is how we are both most comfortable. But we each want to be able to stay somewhat comfortable with the other’s role so that we can switch when needed. It turned out that I had inadvertently volunteered to drive the stretch of our route that included a piece of Interstate-5 as well as Hwy 99 from Oregon to California & back up into Oregon again, which was some of the curviest, narrowest roadway I have ever experienced. Slow vehicles were required to use the turnouts provided every 5 miles or so, so about every 10 minutes I would do some final zigging & zagging around a tall cliff on one side & large trucks passing narrowly on the other side and come to a rest in a small paved pull-out area. Anywhere from 2-6 cars would gratefully zip past us, a couple of them beeping their thank-you’s as they passed. I would take a deep breath and start again. Some of the road was so narrow and the cliff so close, that I braced myself for the top of Stumbo to scrape, but thankfully it never did. At one point we passed a sign that said “Road Narrows” and both Brad & I started laughing out loud….”It gets narrower?!” A few more feet down the road the next warning was “Grooved Pavement”. The next was “Rock Slide Area”. We burst out laughing again…”What’s next for us, California?!”
“Hail, Fire, & Brimstone!”
After the worst of it seemed to be past, we saw a roadside cafe who’s permanent marque read, “Give a hug. Get a hug. Liquor. Soft serve.” We decided that was brilliant because it was all the things we wanted after traversing this stretch of highway. We breathed a sigh of relief, and Brad offered to drive. But I had it in my head that I was getting us as far as Crescent City, and turning over the wheel before that point felt like giving up. So we continued down the highway…..and then the ziggy zaggy, crazy, narrow, insanity started all over again!! It would have been horrible had we not had the presence of mind to decide it was all hilarious instead. Although at one point I did forbid everyone from speaking for awhile – the girls excitedly turned on their “game phones” (remember how those were just supposed to be cameras?….) and we all managed to get through it without even a scrape.
The joke ended up being on me, as our route didn’t even take us all the way into Crescent City, so I ended up driving for about 3 hours straight and got us all the way into our new wonderful campground at Harris Beach. It was close to sunset when we arrived, so we hurriedly reheated some leftovers for dinner, threw a bunch of stuff into a tote, and struck out for the beach trail. Just as we crossed the road and started down the beach trail, the colors in the sky were turning from a beautiful clear blue into yellows and oranges that grew darker & deeper & more beautiful by the moment.
We hiked down a narrow, rocky, shrubby trail around large rocky parts of the hillside which opened into possibly the most beautiful Pacific Beach I’d ever seen.
Giant sea stacks dotted the horizon, and as the sun dropped lower in the sky it hid behind these giant black rocks making shadows of their magnificent shapes, and sillouettes of my delighted, car-crazy, spunky little girls dancing and spinning and running and jumping into the sand.
There were driftwood beach shelters scattered across the shore which made great forts, and a sand shelf left over from a high-tide made a perfect natural jungle gym. The girls were so busy playing that they didn’t even stop to eat. Brad & I sat on our picnic blanket, ate all 4 dinners we’d prepared, and then proceeded to take about 300 photos of the rocks, the waves, the sun, the colors, and our giddy children.
We continued to play and take in the wonderful scene until it was almost too dark to see and thought it best to head home. This time between sunset and dark, the dusky golden hour, is often my favorite time of day in a lot of settings. But this was quite possibly the most amazing Golden Hour that I’d ever seen. Pure magic. Praise God from who all blessings flow, ya know?
But then, let’s fast forward a couple of days.
Worst day yet. I slept longer than I’d meant to (shocker) and Brad was slightly annoyed that I didn’t get the day started earlier with the girls. Then he made a couple of innocent suggestions about homeschooling stuff. It left me doubting everything that I’ve done with the girls so far and toppled my fragile little tower of feeling like I’m figuring out how to manage all these new responsibilities. We had to move sites within the campground and what should have been an easy site to back into proved more of a challenge to me than I’d hoped and I felt discouraged. The girls were wild so I took them to the beach to let Brad get some work done. Have I mentioned that one of my little dears gets an “owie” about every 12 minutes? Before we’d even made it to the beach, she had plopped down in the middle of a roadside trail on a hill down to the day use beach area to empty her shoe & cry a little about the latest injury. A nice couple was heading up the hill trail and stopped to chat. “If you think you’re tired now, just wait until the hike back up!” the man said to her. I just nodded & took another sip of my coffee. “Are you gonna be OK, Mom?” he asked me. Should I be embarrassed or moved by the fact that strangers can tell I’m overwhelmed by my own children? “I’m just going to finish this coffee before I say anything else, ” I replied. Sometimes the same child would be crying on the beach about a new injury (I usually have to start to respond by asking, What hurts…your body or your feelings?) and I wouldn’t even respond. I mean, it just happens SO DANG MUCH. People walking along enjoying the beautiful, and on this day foggy, seaside would turn and look at her with some worry and an expression that read, “Do you have a parent here to help you?” Yes. I’m here. But I’m all out of helping hurt feelings and invisible owies. The girls played together in the sand awhile, but playing on this afternoon quickly devolved mostly into arguing, crying, and whining.
I lured the grouchy little souls back to the trailer by promising a movie night with popcorn – for one because in their already-turned-into-pumpkins state I wasn’t sure how else to motivate them back up the hill to the campground, and for 2 because I was super done interacting with them and having a movie babysit for a couple of hours sounded marvelous.
Once the girls were in bed and I had a chance to debrief with Brad uninterrupted (that’s a joke…the girls still needed to get up because they needed to use the bathroom, needed water, needed a snack, and their eyes hurt) we had quite the miserable conversation about how I was feeling like he was disappointed in my…everything. It was an awful conversation that involved rare tears on my part, Brad at a loss, and no real resolution. It was also one of those particularly evil conversations that have a way of working backwards and taking joy out of things that have already happened. Brad even said, “I thought the trip was going so well so far but it sounds like it’s been horrible for you the whole time.” Communication Failure.
The trip has gone really well so far, but I feel like I have to be honest in my writing about the parts that have been difficult. For one, because I don’t want people to feel jealous – I want to be clear about the challenges and that it isn’t all coming up roses all the time. But also because writing about it helps me process these things which is the only way I’m going to learn anything from them. If I only write about the highlights, then that’s mostly what I will remember, and the cycle of unrealistic expectations will be continued. I also read an interesting piece this morning written by a mom blogger who realized that she had been over-sharing about her kids and violating their privacy. This article gave me a renewed resolve to share and write about MY experience, and even though that often includes what my kids are up to, I want to respect that they have their own lives and their own stories to tell. She also mentioned that turning everything into stories for her blog helped her to survive the challenging years of parenting small children, and that really resonated with me. I think that’s absolutely one thing that this blog is for me – it’s helping to pull me out of my own experience somewhat to become the narrator for this story. And turning everything in my head into a story or lesson – whether it’s a treacherous road or a grumpy child or a miserable day or a fight with Brad – helps me stay calm and work toward the ending of that little story. Hopefully this won’t pull me out of the in-the-moment experiences too much. Or even if it does, hopefully it will be worth it because I might keep my head about me a little bit better – be slower to yell at kids or be offended by an off-hand comment or whatever it may be. I digress…
I am realizing through the awful day yesterday and the icky, unresolved fight last night, that I really need to work through some of my insecurities in my new life. This is not a plea for compliments (that’s what I text my girlfriends for…) this is just an honest self-realization that I need to work on. I have filled a lot of roles in my life – daughter, sister, mother, wife, worship leader, friend, coworker, subordinate, boss. And the roles where I felt the most confident, the most in-control, where my leadership abiblities could really shine and I was filled up inside, were mostly left behind in Wenatchee. I knew this would be true going into this trip, so whether I had great foresight or it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy I can’t say…but either way I’m living it out. I am spending most of every single day performing tasks that overwhelm me and make me feel inadequate. Namely….parenting, and backing up the trailer.
That’s kindof a joke, but also very true.
But also planning meals, planning & implementing homeschooling, breaking up fights between children, cooking, and cleaning. I’m just not great at managing this kind of thing, because it feels to me like no matter how well I plan it, it doesn’t happen that way and someone ends up crying. I also spend a lot of time in my head, and my moments of zoning out to think never seem to be at convenient moments for my children. Of all the roles I’ve ever filled I feel the most inadequate at being a mom. I’m just not the mother I pictured myself to be. Who knew that these little people were so impossible to control? Why can’t they just be decent little people and obey all the time? This morning we started memorizing the portion of 1 Corinthians 13 about love (Love is patient. Love is kind, etc…..) so that I can YELL IT AT THEM AT THE BEACH WHEN THEY ARE BEING LITTLE JERKS! I feel like I am a pretty self-aware, emotionally mature person that is somewhat easy to have a healthy relationship with. But the arguments I get into with my 6 year old have my brain bending over backwards to try to figure out how this whole loving-mother thing is supposed to work.
Anyway – I am not sure exactly why I got into a fight with Brad or even what we were fighting about, but I realized that #1 – making my life into stories for this blog may be my tether to sanity at times on this trip. and #2 – I need to work through my feelings of inadequacy in my new roles so that I can perform them for all of our sakes. I need to be strong enough to take suggestions without it feeling like criticism. I need to reach toward improvement without picturing myself in a pit I need to climb out of. I need to figure out a way to frame that last sentence so that it doesn’t end in a preposition.
I’m getting there. I’m getting there. Maybe I just needed one grumpy day with a big cry at the end of it because so much change has happened so fast. It’s not 2 steps forward, it’s been like 12 steps forward and 1 step back.
I will say that I feel like I’m experiencing the same number of fits & melt-downs & hitting-the-wall type moments with my kids as I did when we were in Wenatchee. The biggest difference is that now I get to spend way more time with my kids when they AREN’T acting like that. Being a 8-5 full-time working parent creates the cruel reality that I only got to see my kids during the few hours of the day when they are generally at their WORST. So I’m trying to focus on all the good I am seeing, and give each day an opportunity to recover from the miserable moments. At least in theory…
And because I feel like all of us (but mostly me) need these posts to end on a high note, I’ll share this story.
Kids running to me, hands extended…”Mom! Mom! Mom! Smell our hands! They smell delicious!”
Me, sniffing. “Mmmm….what is that?”
“Well, we thought this thing was just a pinecone, but it was poop. And we touched it. So then we washed our hands in that bathroom over there and the soap smells so good!”
These are independent children making decisions on their own & knowing when they should wash their hands. They’ve both been lost on their bikes alone and each found their way home. And you know what one of my favorite sights at these campgrounds is….playgrounds full of children and no parents. What a rare opportunity for these little birds to flap their wings. But if they ask you to smell those wings…..don’t do it.