Last week, I bought five tickets to take the Moe family to Japan this summer. I'm going for work, and I really want them to tag along. Stow has never been, Pink P doesn't really remember it, and Sky needs to brush up on his elementary-school boy Japanese. Plus, Ren's mom isn't getting any younger, and the kids hardly remember their cousins.
The last time we were there, Sky was five, Pink P was two, and there was this moment when I was weaving my way through Ikebukuro Station (the second busiest train station in the world with nearly 3 million visitors every single day) with Sky tripping along behind me and Pink sitting in her stroller singing some silly song at the top of her lungs, and I thought, "Next year they'll be 6 and 3, and this will be a lot easier."
Hahahahahahahahahaha ha ha ha!
Sometimes I crack. my. self. UP!
I mean, we all know how things turned out. A few months after that trip, we learned we were expecting Stow, Sky got diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, and Pink developed serious asthma. A couple of months after that, Ren's back went south for good. Then I defended my dissertation and we moved again. In other words, the next year was definitely NOT easier. In fact, it was much, much harder.
Before the extra kid and the various diagnoses and the bad back, we were on the move a lot. Sky and Pink logged thousands of airline miles, visited all sorts of places, and lived in one of the biggest cities on earth. We spent a year in a 150 sq. ft. apartment commuting to preschool on bike and spending our weekends wandering all over the back alleys and side streets of Tokyo in search of the new, the exciting, and the bound-to-keep-the-kids-entertained-ing. But the year between our last family trip to Japan and my dissertation defense was the hardest year of our lives. It stopped us in our tracks and forced us to rethink everything we thought we knew. All of it.
It has taken us awhile to figure out how to move on from there. We've had a lot of fits and starts (you know, like the three back surgeries and all the weird stuff with Stow's health; not to mention the trip to Mayo to see if maybe Ren had some kind of rare nerve disease--he doesn't), but after learning that Ren is just going to have to live with the bad back, we decided it's time to get going again. Smaller this time.
Step one: An overnight trip to Chicago during spring break.
I'll be honest. I didn't want to go. I wasn't sure Ren would be able to get around. I didn't know how we would handle all the food restrictions and allergies. I was sure the boys would be overstimulated by all the sensory input and spin away in a thousand different directions. I could imagine a million different ways things could go wrong. Plus, I desperately needed to make up for lost sleep and lost grading/class prepping time after a stressful week at Mayo. But I'd promised the kids we'd take them to a hotel with a pool during their spring break, and since I hadn't kept that promise during the summer (because we moved) or around the time of their birthdays (back surgery #3), I didn't have the heart to cancel on them again.
By the time we were all in the car and on our way to the city, it was already clear we had to simplify our schedule. So, instead of trying to go to Legoland and swim in the hotel pool, we went straight to the pool with a promise to visit the Lego store the next day when we went to American Girl Place (a stop I'd promised for Pink). And instead of trying to make it through dinner at our favorite restaurant, we opted to stock up on bentos from Mitsuwa and eat as many meals away from crowds as possible. The following day, instead of trying to see every exhibit in the museum, we limited our visit to three hours and got the kids out before they were too hungry or too tired to behave like human beings. By slowing down and focusing our efforts on just a few stops, we managed to have fun and avoid several (though not all) meltdowns.
At the end of our 32 hours in the city, Sky summed up the best and worst of our trip:
Rainforest Cafe with new friends
Seeing tall buildings
Staying in a hotel
The hotel pool
Watching TV in a hotel
Lots of noise
Expensive parking (he may have heard me complain a couple of times)
The positive certainly outweighed the negative, despite the unfortunate incident where we waited for 40 minutes in 34 degree temperature because Daddy didn't pick us up at the pre-arranged meeting spot and instead waited for us a just around the busy corner where we didn't think to look (which is somehow a metaphor for our marriage, though I'm not sure how exactly).
Are we ready for Japan this summer? I have no idea. But I'm pretty sure we can't just sit at home and worry about how things will go.