We took a road trip to Italy recently. My husband needed make some basketball connections down there so we decided to make a longer trip out of it and visit Venice over the Easter weekend. It was our first time staying in Italy and we had no idea what to expect. The drive down was something from a dream. We headed south crossing our way through Austria where the scenic view made me want to capture everything we saw. It was only about an hour into our drive that the trip took a turn of unexpected events. Two out of the three girls got car sick through the winding roads, making us take frequent and longer stops along the way. After what was supposed to be a 6 hour trip turned into 9, all girls (including mama!) were completely done with being in the car. We naively thought we'd just go down and find a place once we got there. It took us a while after being told there was no way we'd find a hotel open, but we did (thank God!). The next day was Easter, which we later learned is the busiest day of the year in Venice (who would've known?!). We didn't know much about the city so everything we did there was on a whim, figuring it out as we went. We had to take a ferry boat to get to where we wanted to go on the island (ya, we didn't know it was an island either). After doing some problem solving in how we were going to get all the girls on and off a boat, we figured it out and headed out to explore. We packed up our double stroller with 2 car seats , 2 diaper bags 2 babies, 2 already exhausted parents and a toddler in hand. I guess I should mention too that Shane got terribly sick the day before and was even worse the next day.
We were tired, and cranky, and stressed. We were already expecting the trip to be a lot of work, but so far it wasn't turning out just as we thought. Once we hit the water and the boat took off down the middle of the city, for a moment every stressful event that had happened within the 24 hours prior seemed to diminish. The clear bright sky mirrored the crystal blue water as we floated along. Every building beside the river was unique and intricate in its own way. There were people everywhere. Every color imaginable was painted throughout the town. Gondolas drifted by with men in striped shirts and straw hats rowing alongside us. Birds from all over the world seemed to want to be in that place too. I'm pretty sure every country could be represented through each person standing on that boat with us. It was almost too much to take in. The beauty, the surrealism, the details. A 15 minute boat ride simply couldn't do enough to get the full experience of what we were seeing.
We arrived at the dock and lugged all the girls off the boat. Not sure of where to go next, we followed the crowd. We decided to head to the middle of the main plaza where every person in Venice had the same idea. It was freezing cold and windy. The twins had to eat and we weren't so sure if there was a place in town that would be accommodating to babies. If you took a look around, a family of 5 with 3 babies didn't seem to quite fit in. I was not being very nice, my stress attitude is not one people would really like to be around. I was questioning why we even came here, why we thought we could pull this off, why we thought it would be worth it. My insecurities were flaring telling me that I was being an irresponsible mom for bringing my kids this far. And this was only the beginning of our day.
The rest of it followed with Shane getting even more sick, pushing our way through crowds and crowds of people, carrying our double stroller up and down bridged stairways, and realizing they will get you for every nickel and dime they can just because you're a tourist. I had already forgotten about where we were, the boat ride over and the gift it was that we were able to be in this place. I was quick to forget that this time here was so short (we were only staying a day and half) and that I could choose to make this experience the way I wanted to remember it.
Soon enough we sat down in a coffee shop (coffee always helps!) and took sometime to regroup ourselves. I didn't want to let my attitude and exhaustion get the best of me. I didn't want it to trump enjoying the day and time we had there.
I guess I share all this to say pictures aren't always what they seem. I know that this little vignette of the internet can only portray so much of the truth, and it leaves far more room to skew it in a way that could make life seem fairytale like all the time. The trip to Italy was a dream, but not one I expected. It wasn't the ideal experience where everyone was happy and babies were sleeping when they should be and calm when they were awake. It wasn't relaxing or uneventful. But it was adventurous. It was challenging. And it was breathtakingly beautiful, because I realized that this was a gift I'd been given. It was a gift that we could be here with our kids (even if they won't remember it). I could stop in the middle of the chaos and remember that beauty is all around and right in front of us when I choose to look at it. I got to watch my daughter run through a crowd of pigeons and squeal in excitement as they flew away. I got to hold my babies on a dock under the sun staring at the colorful buildings and water beneath my feet. I got to drink coffee from the worlds oldest coffee shop. I got to be there with people I love the most in this world.
I'm not sure I would do it all over again with 3 babies in hand, but I sure am thankful we had the experience, as tiring as it was. The girls cried for hours on the way home, but we at least had a nice view to look at. I'm not wonder mom and I'm certainly not someone who has this baby thing all figured out. But I know that I'm figuring it out and taking on the adventure as I go. I get the gift of being in this place of motherhood, with the chaos and uphill climbs, and unexpected stops along the way to see that beauty is surrounding and right in front of me through it all.