Tuesday, September 04, 2007

labor, what?

**This post has been edited at the end **

Because we have both been out of work for the past several weeks, most days, Charlie and I are completely oblivious to what day of the week it is. So although we'd heard people talking about their big plans for "Labor Day Weekend" we weren't thinking that it was this weekend.

Yesterday morning, we decided to head to Torrey Pines State Beach. We thought it would be a nice day for taking a walk along the water's edge and letting the children splash in the waves. It was a lovely Sunday morning in early September.

a large majority of the population would be off at church. Except the handful of people who go to church on Saturday, like us.

We were certain we'd have the place to ourselves.

While I was on the phone talking to my mother about Jim, who had recently had one of his knees replaced, I was also attempting to get the children dressed for our outing. Charlie meanwhile, was responsible for packing a picnic lunch and the beach bag. Our goal was to be out of the house at 9:30 AM.

When I hung up the phone, we started the process of loading the children in to the car. Midway through this endeavor, Henry was hungry so I had to stop and nurse him before buckling him in to his infant carrier. Fifteen minutes later, as I was loading him in to the car ... I recognized the familiar smell of a dirty diaper. I unloaded the two offenders, changed their diapers and reloaded them in to the car.

I then ran through the list of things we'd need for a day at the beach with Charlie.

Got towels? Check.

Got sunscreen? Check.

Got Mexican blankets? Nope. Run in to the house and find Mexican blankets. Five minutes later ... Check.

Got chairs? Nope. Run in to the house and find chairs in the back yard hidden behind the barbecue. Ten minutes later ... Check.

Got a change of clothes? Check.

Got clean diapers? Check.

Got pails and shovels? Nope. Run in to the house and search for pails and shovels. Five minutes later ... Check.

Got hats? Check.

Got lots of food and drinks? Check.

We finally pulled out of the driveway at 10:25 AM.

Arriving at the beach, we were initially surprised that there was no free parking in a convenient location. Because our last beach going experience was still fresh in at least my mind, I convinced Charlie to forgo parking two miles from the beach, and instead ... pay for parking in one of the State Beach lots that would put us a mere step or two from the sand.

Parking cost $8.00.

As luck would have it, Charlie happened to have $6.00 in bills and scrounging through the car while a line of vehicles waited behind us ... I was able to scrape together another $2.00 in dimes, nickels and pennies.

We drove around for a solid 30 minutes, wondering why in the world so many people were at the beach today ... when we finally clued in that it was Labor Day Weekend and the large majority of people in San Diego are obviously pagans.

That would explain the RV's that were parked across five stalls, smoking barbecues, brightly covered tents and awnings, and people lazing around in chairs sipping on beer at 11:00 AM. That would also explain the wall-to-wall of people and umbrellas covering the beach.

After not being able to find a parking spot, we decided to leave - get a refund - and see if we could find a less crowded beach elsewhere. The children were not happy with our decision in the least. They screamed at the top of their lungs while we maneuvered around the vehicles that were sitting idle and waiting with their blinkers flashing, for someone - who it turns out was just coming back to pick up their inflatable raft, to leave.

As we drove out of the parking lot, Elizabeth who had calmed down, was trying to console William and Carolyn by telling them that "Da beach is bwoken."

Half an hour later, we found another beach. A much less crowded beach, along the bay. It was perfect. There was a small sand strip for the children to play on - and no big waves that would crash on them when they went to splash at the water's edge.

We unloaded the beach chairs, blankets and food. The kids wasted no time beelining it to the water. While I was rummaging through the diaper bag looking for their swimsuits, the children were digging in the wet sand and kicking water on each other.

After a few moments, I looked to Charlie and asked "Where are the children's bathing suits?" Charlie gave me a blank stare for a moment and then said "I didn't pack them." To which I responded, in my lovely sing song voice, "Wha.... Why didn't you pack them??"And he responded "Well, because I wasn't thinking that we were going to the beach today."

I took a deep breath and said "Let's review. We woke up this morning. We laid in bed and for a few minutes, discussed what we wanted to do today. I think somewhere in there, we said 'Let's go to the beach today!' Am I right?" Charlie shook his head and said "No, we decided that we were going to go to Torrey Pines today." To which I prompted, "Riiiiight. And Torrey Pines is a .....???"

While my husband and I were having this chat, our three children, who were fully clothed, had walked in to the water up to their arm pits. They then came running out of the water towards us, while yelling "Dwimduit!! Me need dwimduit!!"

Of course we didn't have dwimduits and the children were extremely disappointed in their parents oversight of this critical piece of beach going apparel.

Instead, their parents encouraged them to play in the water, fully clothed. When that didn't work, we stripped them down to their diapers. And when their diapers swelled up and fell off ... we put forced our beautiful children back in to their sopping wet clothes.

Because there was NO way I was going to let them run around naked on a public beach. Especially when there was a creepy guy standing 50 feet away, sporting his vintage Ponch mirrored sunglasses, smoking a Marlboro and sipping on a Big Gulp.

Nothing says "High Class" like three kids that run around on a beach in soggy diapers. And then, parents who force these kids in to soaking wet clothes while they scream. And then, parents who realize that in addition to forgetting bathing suits, the only change of clothes that had been packed are two shorts and one shirt.

This is a very unfortunate situation for the children when three shorts and three shirts are necessary. This is also a very unfortunate situation for the father, who did the packing, when the mother is tired and feeling out of sorts.

After a very short time, we packed up and left with three very sandy, very cold, very unhappy and very loud children. Who were partially clad.

On the drive home, Charlie and I had a discussion about the days events. When I asked how it was that he forgot to pack bathing suits and a full change of clothes for each of the kids - I was surprised that he told me he sometimes needs to figure out which land mine to step on.

Of course I asked him to elaborate.

He said that when we go out, he tries to pack by thinking what it is that I would want for him to put in the bag and that regardless of what he packs, it seems that he always forgets something. Which - I will berate him about.

Like the time we went to the mall to see Santa and have lunch when the babies were 13-months old and he forgot the diaper bag. With the bottles.

I told him that if he feels that way, perhaps it would be better if he just tell me "Jen, I would prefer that you pack the bag. That way, if something is forgotten, you'll only have yourself to blame." Charlie laughed and said "Yeah, well - that sounds good now. But when the time comes, you'll be upset that I didn't at least help you and then, I'll have to listen to you run around saying "I have to do everything around here!!" and that's just as bad as packing an incomplete bag."

It seems to me that hypothetically - assuming I did complain - the less of two evils would be to listen to someone say they have to do everything - because then at least - they would only hear it once. As opposed to going somewhere, realizing the deficiency, and hearing about it for the rest of your life.

When we arrived home, we let the children run around ... still wearing only their diapers ... while eating popsicles. It made me realize that the only thing less classy than seeing a child run around in a soggy diaper ... is to see them in a soggy diaper with popsicle dripping all over their face and chest.

I would have posted a picture of us at the beach, but as it turns out, I forgot our camera. It was right next to my wallet that contained money which would have been useful for parking.

And wouldn't you know - Charlie didn't bring it up once.

Nor did he question my need to swing by the mall, on the way home from the beach, to pick up a few more things for the kids rooms.

That's right. I could have paid for a week vacation to Hawaii with the amount of money I've spent in that store over the past week.

So, while I have become proficient at bemoaning my husband's shortcomings, he never once complains about mine. That is a true labor of love.

And something that I need to work harder on.

** Edit: I probably should have mentioned that at our house, it is usually standard operating procedure to put a bathing suit on BEFORE you leave for the beach. And considering I was responsible for getting the children dressed, this responsibility would have fallen under my jurisdiction. But, Charlie being the good guy that he is - didn't throw this back at me. Which, had the tables been turned, I definitely would have been tossing back in to his court. Although it troubles me that I can remember with painful accuracy the things that he has done wrong - he doesn't bring up my shortcomings. Like the time ... well, it would clearly help if he did remember them because I certainly can't recall anything that I did wrong.

Sure, he forgot to pack extra clothes. But we do enough of a job beating ourselves up over our shortcomings. We certainly don't need to have others - especially our spouses - remind us of it again and again. And again.

I know of no other man that could do the things that Charlie does on a daily basis. And with the utmost respect, I know of no other person that could also do the things that he doesn't do. He's a good man, that Charlie.


  1. It IS good to be forgiving--but geez, forgetting the SWIMSUITS and the CHANGES OF CLOTHES, and then acting as if you set up a minefield for him and the poor guy doesn't know which step will blow up next? Yeah, because there is NO WAY HE COULD HAVE KNOWN that you'd be upset if he forgot the swimsuits! Every day is a new adventure with the crazy fickle wife! I don't like it when guys (even really good guys who don't complain about Pottery Barn stops) act as if women are irrational when they (the women) require a minimum level of human competence and mental ability. They want to be treated like grown-ups and partners, but then they act like---

    Okay, I'll stop now.

  2. aww... you are one lucky woman, Jen. And so am I, as my husband is exactly like your Charlie. Wouldn't trade him for the world. And I know you wouldn't trade yours either.


  3. Ah yes, the creative packing. My dear sweet (idiot) husband decided to forget bottles for our 11mo's on an 11hr flight from Cape Cod one year. That was priceless, as was my land mind blowing in Georgia while we had a 2hr stop over and not one gift shop had a bottle let alone three. I honestly thought that I was going to see Charlie Gibson report on the absolutely irate triplet mom who told off her incompetent husband in the middle of an international airport. Luckily nothing horrible happened and the children are still here as is my husband.

    Sadly I didnt get to go to Pottery Barn Kids on our way home. ;) That would have really made the whole screaming child thing much better in my opinion.

    Huh, that wasnt cool, this wasnt about me. Um, good post, love the visual of the kids up to their armpits in the water. Happy Labor Day.

  4. I love your edited version of this post. I know Charlie is a great man. He is so incredibly hands-on with your children. I've said before that your Charlie reminds me a great deal of my Paul.
    You are truly blessed.

    But so is Charlie.

  5. Yes, even with the occasional shortcomings that seem very crucial at the time, your Charlie sounds like he does his fair share of parenting and there aren't many men around (that I am aware of) who are as hands on as he is! It also sounds like you are aware of all that he does for your family and I hope he gets some BIG kudos from his loving wife every once in awhile. Plus, the fact that you are willing to own up to your wifely faults on your public blog should count for something!!! My husband breaks out into a cold sweat when he even thinks about watching our 2 year olds for a couple of hours by himself...you are a lucky woman.

  6. Having never been in a PBK before, I had no idea until I was discussing YOU with another triplet mother that you spent as much as a trip to Hawai'i in there. OMG! YOU ARE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN!

    Jen, I had no idea it was Labor Day yesterday until I drove into Sam's Club and thought HUH????? Why so many cars?

    Poor Charlie. Poor Greg. They never get it quite right, but they sure do try hard!!! They get brownie points for trying!