We returned last Saturday from a wonderful week in France with our "urban family" (of the Woking, Kilburn, and Melbourne clans). I then spent a lot of this past week thinking about astronauts. I vaguely know that the astronauts' return to earth after a stint in space can be a very difficult time, as their bodies become reaccustomed to earth and not being weightless - and presumably their minds become accustomed to the fact that they've been to bloody space!
Matt and I were both pretty exhausted last week, even more so than after a normal vacation with kids. One of the things I've had to do since becoming a mother is re-adjust my expectations about leisure time, and in particular vacations. Yes, vacations with 2 small children will be fun, and they will be a change of pace from normal life, but no, they will not for the most part be relaxing, and no, there will be none of this coming back refreshed and rejuvenated after catching up on sleep, lying by a pool, drinking lots of frozen cocktails, etc. At least not for the next decade. And this is what got me thinking about the astronaut's re-entry from space and comparing it to my re-entry into normal life, and thinking that this particular switch from vacation mode to real world mode was particularly hard.
We had a fantastic time in France. After departing for Stansted airport over 5 hours before our flight was due to leave (I probably don't have to remind loyal readers about what happened the last time we flew), and then navigating the evil forces of budget airline RyanAir's baggage policies with flying colors (ha ha, pun not intended!), the under-two-hour flight was a breeze compared to our usual long-haul trips which require a lot more entertainment and energy. We landed in Biarritz in southwest France and then made the short drive in convoy to our home for the next week, Le Luc in the little village of St Marie de Gosse. I was delighted to see that the huge old chateau had a ping pong table, which I got to use during the week to explain the rules of Dartmouth beer pong. Over the next seven days we had lovely meals, lots of laughs, frequent checking of the baby monitors toward the end of each dinner ("monitor roulette" it felt like - whose would go off first and signal the end of their evening?!), too much wine, a few games of Uno, a special 4th wedding anniversary celebration for Matt and me, more than several cheeky snack breaks of Nutella on bread, not enough sleep, and a very good time. Blake was very funny - enjoying his toast and jam for practically every meal - and did seem to get that we were on holiday - apart from when toward the end when we started talking about flying home, he said, "Mommy, are we going to go on holiday to France on Saturday?" Umm, son, in case you haven't noticed, we're not in London! Since we've come back he's started saying that Noah "talks French" which makes me laugh, and we overheard a guy in the park yesterday talking on his phone to someone in a different language, which Blake proclaimed was French.
Then, the lovely week was over, and we were back in the busy capital. All the traffic was a shock, since I had gotten used to not encountering any cars on the short drive to the local boulangerie for our breakfast pastries and baguettes. Not being able to hear the village church bells or feed the local chickens who came looking for food around dinner time, or hearing the roosters crowing in the pre-dawn hours - it was clear we were back in the city! The combination of the late nights and the early mornings - and the fact that Noah did not get the memo about vacations being the ideal time to catch up on sleep - meant that we were really dragging last week.
I had one regret about the time away (apart from perhaps not thanking Anna, Chris, Diane, Jamie, Raina and Will more often for their help with the boys - it was so nice for all of us that there was always usually at least one pair of free hands to help with a child), and that was that I didn't once, after one of the delicious evening meals we had, think to go outside and look up at the night sky, which I imagine would have been big and bright from where we were in the country. If I had, I might have even seen a spaceman headed home and picked up some advice about how to cope with my re-entry into the real world.