Monday, September 5, 2016

doing our mom thing: tapas and sangria style

It's been over a year since Stephen started talking about the collaborative work he was doing with a university in Mallorca, a small island floating off the coast of Spain in the Mediterranean Sea. 

"Maybe they'll invite me to come, and we can all go to Spain," he casually mentioned.

I probably nodded, only half listening, with no expectations of such an outlandish thought coming to fruition. Stephen tends to casually mention vacations on a semi-regular basis, most of which are to destinations requiring four layovers and a six time zone adjustment. I've learned to smile, nod, and wait for the plan to collapse on its own.

I guess I figured if this university did invite him, I wouldn't have the guts to drag two toddlers along and would end up staying home. I never thought I'd actually go to Spain. Truthfully, I don't even remember agreeing to go. I think Stephen swept in during a frantic mama moment when I was just saying "Yeah, sure," to anything.

Even after the tickets were purchased, my enthusiasm remained minimal.

I didn't look at one travel book. I read nothing online. I didn't even get a pedicure. Instead, my thoughts were consumed with the hours I would be held captive in an airplane, forced to restrain a one-year-old boy whom the airline deemed a "lap child."

I suppose "thrashing, wailing, running down the aisle child" wouldn't fit on the ticket.

I'll spare you the details of the meltdowns and tears, mostly from me, and just say I wouldn't wish eleven hours on three flights with a one-year-old on my worst enemy. But indeed, we're here. We made it, and whenever I remember I have to do it again in less than a week, I drink another glass of sangria and consider the likelihood of a local school needing an English-speaking literacy coach. Might be worth investigating.


Whenever I am fortunate enough to find myself on the other side of the world, I am smacked in the face by my own smallness. Our first week in Mallorca was spent just blocks from the beach, our toes washed over by the Mediterranean Sea seven days in a row. The power of salt water far as my eyes can see reminds me that my life is such a speck on this great earth.

I need to feel like a grain of sand every so often.

Somehow the day in and day out of routine life leaves me drowning in myself - my town, my neighborhood, my home, my head, my comfort. I start thinking I'm it.  But watching a small, unfamiliar part of the world carry on its life brings me down to size.

On this trip, my eyes have been drawn to moms. There is something so grounding about seeing moms on the other side of the world doing their mom thing, especially because it looks so much like my mom thing.

We spent the morning walking around a small town filled with narrow streets, cute stores, and cafés galore. I spotted a mom walking the perimeter of a café, bouncing her fussy baby and pointing out each passing car. 

How many mothers have missed meals because we were entertaining a child who had no interest in sitting down for a leisurely lunch?

The other night we piled our two darlings into car seats that followed us nearly 5,000 miles across the Atlantic and into the backseat of a Mercedes Benz. This is what happens when the hubby is in charge of booking the rental car. We ventured into Palma, the capital city with just the right mix of urban flare, European charm, and historical beauty, including a massive 13th century Gothic cathedral overlooking the harbor. 

With the help of Google Maps, we wound our way through busy city streets and narrow cobblestone alleys to find a tapas restaurant. There was an outdoor seating area right in the midst of a busy square - two requirements when traveling with children. The meal was fantastic. Round one - quiche, meatballs, and a meaty, cheesy hot baguette. Round two - another meaty, cheesy hot baguette, bacon wrapped dates, mushrooms, and chorizo.

Our children's restaurant etiquette maxed out about the same time they devoured the last two bacon wrapped dates. Stephen hung back to pay the check, and I swept the darlings out before Andrew crawled under the table next to us, again. There was another family with three young children running circles in the plaza. Charlotte and Andrew quickly  joined, and I exchanged smiles with their mom as she sat on a bench, undoubtedly just as relieved as me for a few moments of easy entertainment - children squealing with delight, chasing one another with no hope of actually catching someone. 

It was precious. Too precious to last more than a moment. One of the girls fell, crying out in pain loud enough to catch the attention of nearby diners. She ran to her mom who responded with compassion and pulled a Band-Aid from her purse. But I could read her mom sigh. "Calm yourself. It's only a small scratch, and you're interrupting dinner for all of these people." 

How many mothers have pulled Band-Aids from our purses, comforting a screaming child while really thinking, "Oh good grief. Toughen up and quiet down?"

We ended our night at a park right in the middle of the city. It was nearing 9:00, but you'd never know by the masses of children still running wild. I stood next to our stroller watching Charlotte climb and Andrew spin a steering wheel. On the bench next to me was a young mom, cradling her newborn who was swaddled tightly and still wrinkly.  The mom was pretty, wearing a black dress with small white polka dots and cinched around the waist. Her shoulder length hair was strawberry blond, and her bright red lipstick told me she surely needed a night out of the house. I couldn't help but wonder if earlier today she was losing her mind.  Did she pass the child off to dad, announce that tonight they were getting out of the house, and go take her first shower in days, perhaps weeks? I bet she actually dried her hair before pulling out that favorite lipstick with no care for where they actually went tonight.

And here she was, on a park bench, struggling to get her little one to nurse. She spoke softly in a language I didn't understand, perhaps German. I decided it couldn't be her first child; new moms aren't confident enough to nurse a newborn in a park (well, maybe in Europe they are). Sure enough, moments later, a toddler came running to her leg, followed by dad, who slipped his arm around mom, peeking down at the baby.

How many mothers have thrown on a cute dress and sassy lipstick just to sit on a park bench simply because we had to get out of that house?

I love moms. 

We're all just doing our mom thing, even here, on this tiny island I'd never heard of until a year ago. In the midst of unfamiliar, surrounded by street signs I can't read, outlets I can't use, and people eating ham and cheese sandwiches at ten in the morning, I can still see the familiarity of motherhood.

I don't understand a word you're saying to your child, but I know your purse is filled with snacks and Band-Aides.

I can't begin to guess what you make your child for lunch each day, but I know you'd love to sit in a restaurant and enjoy your entire meal without a child to entertain.

I don't know what television shows play on repeat in your house, but I know you find yourself humming cartoon theme songs while washing dishes.

I don't know the books you read each night, but I know you sneak in to watch your child sleep even when you're exhausted. 

I don't know when your child will start preschool in this country, but I know you want your child to grow to be gracious, thankful, and kind, but you're also worried what an unkind world might throw their way.

I know there are days you love doing your mom thing and days you feel like a monkey could be doing a better job than you. 

I know because I feel it - in my town, my neighborhood, my house on the other side of the world. I'm just doing my mom thing, too. But maybe I need more tapas and sangria to get me through the day.


  1. This was such a cool thread in your family's woven story. Such beautiful insight, such an intuitive mind and gracious heart. You're such a stunning soul. And I'm glad you only live a few states away, and not an entire continent. Safe travels home. Your children are so lucky to have adventurous parents who build memories WITH them. 😘

  2. You are such a fantastic momma! I love your insights and observations. Just doing this mom thing here in FL, and I get to hear about sweet moms doing it in Spain. You're brave and I love you and we'll be praying for those flights home. Have another sangria dear! 😊

  3. I am proud of you every day. But few things make me happier and prouder than seeing a picture of you biting into a giant slice of tomato. Thanks for doing Spain with me, babe :)