Thursday, August 1, 2013

Camping with a toddler should be recognized as an Olympic sport!!!

We just got back from the Rhode Island Shore. However, instead of the relaxing beach holiday I had imagined, I found myself frequently overwhelmed and exhausted by my over energized toddler, who now shouts “No” at the top of his lungs when he finds any situation even mildly disagreeable. Additionally, I chose to camp in RI the weekend a hurricane was coming down the coast. Camping in the rain with adults is hard enough, but with a toddler, it is a form of torture.

My tiny human is under the impression that running is the only way to get anywhere and that holding my hand is an unnecessary restraint that only slows him down. Additionally, he believes that wrestling and pouncing on Mommy is a must when sleeping in a tent on an air mattress. And pausing any longer than five minutes to eat is a waste of precious day light, which should be spent chasing after some unsuspecting dog on a leash or hopping to catch a bird before it takes flight.

Were it not for the fact that I had already paid for 5 days of accommodation and it was non-refundable, I might have wimped out and come home, but I was determined to find some redeemable memorable experience to be gleaned and add to my son’s baby book.

Despite the fact that I was severely disappointed by a filthy city and an unusable rain drenched beach, and a shower which required quarters, like some sort of supermarket toddler ride, I was desperately trying to convince every molecule of my body to be make the most of every moment. I knew my Tiny Human had nothing to compare it to and would think it a great adventure, if I made it one.

On our way into Providence our first night (which I had hoped would be a less expensive Boston or what I had dubbed a “Poor man’s Boston”), we passed numerous churches all with signs giving their service times. One of my favorite things to do when traveling is find a local body of believers and worship with them. I look forward to and even crave it, so my friend Maria was curious as to which church I had picked for us. 

As we passed by perhaps our fifth church there was a large white sign next to it, which read, “Septic Service.” My friend looked at me with a confused look and said, “I wonder what kind of a service a “septic service” is?” Of course, being the granddaughter of a well driller I immediately busted out laughing and explained to her that the sign she just read did not go with the church, but the business next to it. However, I could not help thinking to myself how effective church services would be if we saw them as a “Septic Service,”…an opportunity to rid our self of our filth, be made clean, and fellowship with our Savior (The Well Driller), the one who promises that all who come to him shall never thirst again.

Finally around 10 PM, after travelling all day, we located a place to have dinner. A small casual Italian old world oven baked pizza shop. Maria, Samuel, and I happily engorged our self on the most delicious pizza made with goat cheese, pureed zucchini and some kind of edible flower. It was delicious and I was pleased that there was no cow’s milk used to make the pizza, since we have learned that my son is very allergic to the protein in cow’s milk. 

We left the shop and strolled along the city’s waterway.  When we were nearly to our car, Sammy grabbed his tummy and made a little whimper. Too late I realized that he had had diarrhea and it was leaking out his diaper, down his leg, and all over my blouse.  Could this day get any worse I wondered? Knowing we would have no laundry facilities for the next 5 days, I stripped my son of his clothing and changed his diaper on a park bench. Then, I tossed the clothing into a near bye garbage can. 

It is the part that came next that nearly had my friend in tears laughing as she ran for the car. Becoming completely grossed out by the diarrhea on my shirt, right there on Main Street, I tossed it also into the can. I figured my bra, ugly though it was, was not revealing any more to the poor unsuspecting passer byes, than a bikini would. However, as my friend pointed out, I have never worn a bikini.

On day two, we headed to the Zoo, despite the clouds looming over head and the clear threat of rain. The Zoo was in the middle of the worst part of the city, hidden behind huge trees, tall grass, and an enormous rusting black metal fence. If you did not know it was there, you would not have found it. Despite its initial appearance I hoped it would be like some sort of a secret garden. I hopped that hidden behind the over growth and a creaky gate we would discover a magical world like the secret garden.

One of my son’s first encounters was with the Crown Crane, more specifically known to Maria and I, from previous African safaris, as “The National Bird of Uganda.” The Crane was extremely interactive and curious. It would follow Sammy’s chubby little hand back and forth across the enclosure and cock its head from side to side inquisitively making my tiny human giggle.

 Our next great find was the Giraffe enclosure, where one giraffe proceeded to eat his breakfast over my son’s head, causing leafs and grains to fall like rain over us. Samuel thought this was great and tried to sign to the giraffe more, so he would keep doing it. Though I am pretty sure the giraffe did not understand sign language, he was happy to oblige my little squealer.

The animal enclosure that I enjoyed the most was the giant tank that contained three seals from Maine. They were very playful and happy to entertain their wide eyed on lookers. My son as well as other people's small children watched with there noses pressed tight to the glass. Every time they would dance and spin, Sammy would clap wildly. I wonder if the seals were under the impression that they were actually at the Zoo to see us, instead of the other way around.

However, the Zoo was not our only great adventure. Despite the looming clouds and wind, we headed to the beach on day three. It did not matter to Sammy that the water was freezing and the air barely warmer, he dashed into the water, pulling me behind. His sweat pants and diaper instantly full of salt water, making him several pounds heavier. We would run into the waves and then turn around and try to race them back to the sandy beach.  Swinging him through the air and into the dashing waves, he would shout, “Again Mama, again!”  

The fourth and best day, we went whale watching. A funny choice, I now realize, for a girl that gets severe motion sickness and an extremely active toddler.  We started the day with a seaside breakfast, pancakes, which Sammy ate with his dump truck.

Then we boarded Arthur, our whale watching boat. Samuel stood on his seat, way too excited to sit, between my friend Maria and I on the way out and would nestle into my chest every time we hit a big wave. He watched with wide eyes as a pod of 20 or so dolphins played alongside the boat and would periodically clap wildly.

Then just as three, 62 foot fin whales began to emerge from the deep, he conked out in the front pack, so Maria and I watched and waited for each new whale citing with all the other excited tourists from numerous countries, while Sammy snored on my chest covered by Maria’s fishing hat.

On the way back Sammy woke himself up with his congested snoring and was ready to leave the front pack behind and toddle around the boat deck with my friend. As motion sickness had finally gotten the better of me and I was starting to look a little green, I stayed put with my head on the cabin table. We disembarked feeling really blessed to have seen God’s amazing creation…and I was also happy that my little head was no longer swimming and my tummy was staying put.

We three drove back to NY, my son sleeping most of the way and Maria reading me short stories written by travelers with a sense of humor like none other. We laughed most of the way home, Maria to the point of tears.

Experiencing life through the eyes of my Tiny Human is perhaps one of God’s greatest gifts to me, it helps me find joy in every moment just as he does. And holding his exhausted little body at the end of the day, helps me forget the trials of the day and remember his fat little feet will only fit in my hand for a short time.

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