Breaking Dad

San Andreas site in El Salvador

Mayan pyramids at San Andres site in El Salvador

Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a month since my last blog entry. There were so many things that I wanted to write about here but it seemed like every time I thought I was going to have a few minutes to sit down and type something else needed my attention instead. I guess I made the choice (multiple times) to spend my time with my family instead of with my keyboard typing out my thoughts. I’m not going to make any promises to “do better” this year or blog a certain number of times each week or month. Ultimately, I choose to hug my sleeping baby a little longer instead of laying her down in her crib. I’m experienced enough to know that such times will be gone all too soon.

So, on to today’s blog of “Breaking Dad”. I chose that title because my wife and I recently returned from a week-long trip (a “break”, if you will) to El Salvador to see a colleague of my wife get married in her native country. My mom flew to Washington from Wisconsin in time to celebrate Christmas with us and do some other sightseeing in the area before we departed on our trip a week later. Here’s the kicker: we only took one of our kids with us. That left my mom in charge of our other four kids, ages 14, 12, 9 and 3. It was the first time in over three years that we had traveled as a couple without all of our kids. Traveling with only our seven month old baby ended up being pretty easy as she slept for most of both of the flights on our way there. Once at our destination, we were able to really have a nice break from the busy-ness of our daily lives. We opted not to have international minutes on my cell phone and there was no internet in our room. It was weird. And nice. We kept in touch with our kids and my mom using FaceTime from the free wi-fi in the hotel lobby. But the rest of the time we were able to relax and be on vacation.

Our first meal in El Salvador was memorable in that it was the first time we ever ordered room service. And it was our 21st Anniversary to boot! During our time there, we took a couple of sight-seeing tours to see excavated Mayan ruins and pyramids (see above photo), followed the Ruta De Las Flores (Flower Route) through several small villages, watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean and celebrated the wedding of our friends. My wife got to sleep in almost every morning and very soundly at night as our baby snuggled me all night (I chose a room with two double beds for that very reason). Even though I couldn’t sleep in like them I was able to enjoy the beautiful view out our hotel of city of San Salvador and some of the surrounding volcanoes/mountains…and the peace and quiet. We were able to reconnect with one another again without the distraction of “real life” – kids, jobs, cleaning, cooking, laundry, etc. Yeah, we had our baby along but it was so different than the regular routine that it was no big deal. In fact, having just Baby J with us was rather fun. One day my wife put her in the baby carrier on her back while we walked around some of the streets near our hotel and they received many comments of surprise and astonishment.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for weddings. I’m an incurable romantic at heart and I get teary (and even cry!) at weddings. This wedding was by far the best one we’ve ever attended. The outdoor mountain setting in the late afternoon, bilingual service, the vows, the pastor’s message….all of it. Simply. Amazing. And then the reception, dinner and dance. I won’t go on and on, but if you’ve ever been to a Latin American wedding you know what I mean. The food was great. But the music. Dancing. Mariachi band. The people. What a great afternoon and evening, celebrating life, love and happiness. Not just the newlyweds, but all of their family and friends as well. The bride was from El Salvador and the groom from Pennsylvania (in the United States). So even though there was a little bit of a language barrier we all were friends for those few hours, celebrating together.

After the wedding was over and we had returned to our hotel, I left my wife and baby in the room and went to the lobby to chat with our kids. After we had finished my mom texted me to say that the kids had all been doing really well during our vacation. In fact, they had been “very helpful, cooperative, and talking in nice inside voices. Their behavior has been really good, and most of the time, maybe 90% of the time, their behavior has been excellent..”. Wait. WHAT?! Whose kids was she talking about? I have to admit that I felt pretty proud of them when she told me that they were helping out around the house, often without being asked. (Can I get an AMEN?) After all, when I’m home they often give me no end of grief when I ask them to do even one chore. Maybe all my hard work in getting them to help out around the house was starting to pay off. At any rate, I’m counting that good report as a small parenting win and another positive reinforcement that what we’re doing is producing positive results in our children.

We left the 90* sunshine of El Salvador on Wednesday afternoon and arrived in chilly and rainy Miami that evening. And after getting rescheduled on a direct flight to Seattle the next day we arrived home at about 11:30 pm, tired and ready to be home. But the mini-vacation we had together with our baby went a long way in helping this dad to relax and recharge a little bit. In the few days that we’ve been home again I’ve found myself being a little more patient with my kids than I might have been before the trip. So, a huge THANK YOU to my mom for stepping up and helping with the kids so that we could not only celebrate the wedding but also have a relaxing time together.

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