We drove four hours each way for a five-day stay at the coast and both girls were totally peaceful for pretty much the entire car trip.

We spent three big chunks of mornings on the beach with Iris strapped to me like a good little hunter-gatherer baby and Ingrid running wild in the sand. This was the best part: seeing her take off across the open, open space, just her and the sand and the sky, like I remember it feeling as a kid, so free. We stood at the edge of the water together and ran from the waves. We collected rocks and razor clam shells and gull feathers. We threw rocks in the creek.

We went for two long walks (at least a couple of miles), and Ingrid wowed us by walking the whole way (and then some, as she did a lot of shuttling, at a run, from the front to the back of our big family) with her own strong little legs. Up and down big hills and across the sand, begging for huckleberries and blackberries from whoever could reach them.

There were rough spots, and by spots I mean days, and by rough I mean full of reasonless screaminess and one disconnected interaction after another between Ingrid and me. But I learned a lot by spending time with my mom and A, seeing how they handle things with her, ways it can be better. I’m starting to see that I’ve been pretty clueless about what it’s like to be two, and I’m starting to understand some things that can make it better.

And it was just exhausting to be away for so long.

We walked in the door yesterday to find a truly filthy house: crumbs on the counters, an empty yogurt container on the coffee table, cobwebs everywhere, laundry—clean but not folded— in three baskets on the living room floor. Had a slovenly criminal taken up residence in our absence? No! We had left the house this way, counting ourselves lucky just to get out the door with clothing and diapers and snacks for everyone.

And still, I’m so happy to be back here. So much depends, these days, on routine, or what passes for it: knowing there will (probably) be some quiet alone time at nap time, having dinner early so everyone can get to bed on time, going places we all are familiar with so it is already clear what can and can’t be touched and messed with. It’s good to be back to the place where all that unfolds: the unkempt, disorganized, overgrown, unweeded place where are lives are really happening.


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