Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Family Travel 2009: DONE!

I knew going into this weekend that it could be hectic, and I accepted that and tried to make the best of a not-so-comfortable travel situation (less than two days in Tulsa, a half-day of travel on both Friday and Sunday, dragging a toddler across the country all by myself), but never in my wildest dreams did I realize how bad it actually could be!

Things started off well enough. My packing didn’t take as long as I had thought the night before. I got everything into one suitcase and my backpack (including all diaper bag essentials, books, DVDs, and snacks), and I got to bed at a reasonable hour (about 10). I woke the next morning early and got the car packed, jogging stroller to boot, and everything fit in nicely. I got Kensie up and dressed, her Bear Backpack stuffed with passies and a slinky, and got her safely transported to Nonna’s (Nonna is Makensie’s home-care provider). I got to work and had a very productive day trying to tie up loose ends before heading out, and I was even able to go home and take a short nap before picking Makensie up and heading to the airport (which also gave me a chance to eat a decent lunch and do some last-minute stuff at home). All was going well, and I was amazed at how relaxed I was.

Something I should share with you before going any further: I am not a good flyer. I do it because life wouldn’t be fulfilling to me without the option of traveling to new places and experiencing new things, but I certainly don’t enjoy it. It terrifies me to think about how high up we are and how fast we’re going and how, if anything goes wrong, we’re not likely to make it out alive. When I was younger (in my 20s), it took Xanax to get me on a plane; but the older I get, the more I realize that even though I’m a bit more relaxed after taking Xanax, I’m still terrified we’re going to crash and burn, it’s just not quite as apparent to those around me. So now that Kensie is in my life, I figure drugging myself up to get on an airplane with her in tow is not such a great solution and may not go over well with the passengers and flight attendants who would end up being baby-sitters. Surely a toddler can keep my mind occupied!

So we did well at the Birmingham airport, and our first flight was pretty uneventful (other than my typical neurotic fear). But in Dallas, we had to run to make our flight (I think this may be typical at the Dallas airport from my experience), as we were running a little bit late due to weather issues and having to sit on the runway to wait for a terminal at which to unload. But we made it, got on the plane, and . . . nothing . . . for an hour and a half! Our flight crew had been delayed, also due to weather, so they had to scrounge up a new crew to fly us to Tulsa. So we sat, and we sat, and Kensie got restless and tired (it was already past her bedtime), and I got even more nervous with anticipation (the view from my window showed the weather increasingly getting worse), and finally, we took off.

This flight, however, was far from uneventful. It was raining lightly, but what I worried most about were the massive black clouds and the lightning that flashed all around the plane. This flight was a short one, less than an hour, but it seemed to last forever! We flew the entire way surrounded by a lightning storm. Luckily, Kensie fell asleep, which allowed me to order a mini-bottle of wine, but right as I poured a little bit into my munchkin-sized cup, K woke and began to scream at the top of her lungs in that tired-not-quite-awake-but-can’t-figure-out-why-I’m-mad state! Thankfully the lightning and thunder outside (and the fear that seemed to plague many other passengers on the flight) drowned out much of her tantrum. We landed after experiencing only heavy turbulence and a few gasps from the passengers who also thought we were about to die. We were more than an hour late, but we were on the ground, so I was happy. My mini-bottle of wine ended up in my backpack never to be drunk.

My mother and cousin picked Makensie and me up, and after dropping my cousin at her house, we, GPS in hand, headed to find an all-night Wal-Mart to get some earplugs and a couple of essentials for hotel living. Of course, we got lost. All of Tulsa’s streets are named with numbers (110th St., 81st St., 94th Ave.), and it can really get confusing (though my cousin enjoyed pointing out that it’s actually quite simple and that every street is separated by a mile). At 12:30 a.m., we arrived at the hotel only to realize that Makensie was in pain and required a trip to the hospital (which turned out to be right around the corner, one positive of the trip). After more than two hours there and a diagnosis of a possible bladder infection, we were back at the hotel by 3 a.m. Sick kid + Hotel bed + Post-Flight Trauma + Late-Night Hospital Visit + Impending Family Gathering = Very Little Sleep.

The next morning began with another sickly meltdown by Makensie, but she finally perked up when I told her we were going to see Pa (she adores her grandfather), and we headed to my aunt’s house for breakfast. It was pretty uneventful (but, of course, great to visit with my aunt), which I’m realizing can be a good thing. Then we headed back to the hotel for a much-needed nap. (This was the best part of the weekend! I actually got to nap!)

My aunt had mentioned at our breakfast that the only thing she could think for us to bring to the party was wine, and my cousin reiterated that sentiment when she called by stating that all they had was tea, water, and beer. So we stopped for wine, which became an issue when I came out with five bottles. The way I see it: When you go to a party, and someone mentions something you can bring, you don’t just grab enough of that item for yourself, you get enough to share with at least a few others at the party. So that’s what I was thinking when purchasing the wine, but my mom was not on the same wavelength (likely because I bought it with her credit card). Luckily, after a bit of discussion, she accepted my decision, and we headed to the party. (Just FYI: I’d only had a glass and a half of wine when I realized that the bottles I’d bought were gone, so I think I was right about this one.)

Upon arrival at my cousin’s house, my mother and I quickly realized that something was amiss. What gave it away? Let’s see, the shorts, the T-shirts, the countless kids running around and swimming and splashing (yes, there was a pool, which Kensie noticed immediately and wanted into, but alas, we had no suits), the table full of barbecued meats and chips and baked beans (and, yes, hunks of bologna, which I have never in my life seen). To be fair to my cousin, whom I adore, maybe I missed it on the invitation to this “after-wedding party,” but a pool party was just not what I had expected. So instead of hors d’oeuvres, wine, jazz music playing in the background, and a little adult conversation (which is truly what I expected and all I’ve ever experienced at an after-wedding party), we had an outdoor pool party in the blazing heat, me leaning over the pool trying not to get wet while my daughter splashed about in her dress and got soaked, my glass of wine heating up in the sun whilst not a sip is being taken, sweat seeping out of every pore of my body, pop music blaring from the speakers, kids running and screaming and splashing not only themselves but everyone within striking distance, and more tank tops than I have seen in one place since playing in the summer softball league when I was 12! Relaxing it was not, but once I got a little wine in me and wrapped my brain around the fact that this was something very different than what I had expected (and accepted that I was going to be forced to be outside in the 90-plus degree Oklahoma summer heat in dark blue jeans and a black silk shirt that showed every bead of sweat), the party turned out to be a nice get-together for our family.

So about 9 p.m., we headed back to the hotel. Kensie was extremely tired at this point but seemed to be feeling a little bit better. But after waking five times in the night screaming, I realized she wasn’t. The next day, after a nice breakfast with family at my cousin’s house, we headed to the airport. My parents drove me (they drove to Tulsa from home while Kensie and I flew), and being in the car with a GPS and a father who thinks he’s a GPS (and that the actual GPS is always wrong) is not fun. Needless to say, I was ready for an uneventful travel day and to get home. But it was not to be.

I left my check card at the check-in counter and my laptop at security, both of which I had to retrace my steps to retrieve. Both flights were overbooked, so Kensie had to sit on my lap during both trips. We nearly missed our second flight in Dallas, and when we got there (door closed and plane about to leave), I was sweating profusely and gasping for breath. (Have you noticed a common theme here? I’m a sweater.) On the flight from Dallas, we were in the last seat at the back of the airplane with no visibility out the window (which, to me as a bad flyer, is unsettling). When we arrived in Birmingham, of course our bag did not. But to top it off, I had to wait in line to file a missing luggage report behind the entire University of Alabama track team! We were there for two extra hours, and Kensie was beginning to get tired (being it was almost her bedtime, and we were nowhere near the house).

I had the genius idea of ordering a pizza (sometimes a single working mom just has to do what she has to do, especially when she’s been traveling for two weeks), so once we got home (sans luggage), I was sure that it was all downhill from there. Our luggage was supposed to arrive that evening (all of Kensie’s sleep gear, including her fishies that calm her before she drifts off and when she wakes in the middle of the night, were in that bag), so as long as we got that, all would be right with the world. I fed Kensie (she eats organic, not Domino’s), got her ready for bed, decided to skip freshening up (I looked like a worked football player after three-a-days during summer training—frizzy hair pulled back in a bun, sweat glistening on my nose, face, and chest, disheveled clothes, flops with my toenails looking like they hadn’t been touched in months) and instead sit down with a glass of wine and wait for my pizza. When the doorbell rang, I expected nothing but to grab the pizza box and pay the deliveryman, then sit back, relax, and enjoy the peace and quiet with my wine and pizza. But instead, the deliveryman was a guy I used to make out with in high school. Of course he was! He was very sweet and did not look at me like I was a monster (which I appreciated), and we caught up for a few minutes before I actually, finally got to sit down and eat. At this point, my appetite was pretty much gone, my eyes were half-mast, and my body was begging for some TLC. So I ate one piece of pizza and packed it in for the night.

The moral of this story: Expect the unexpected, and if the unexpected happens, try not to lose your mind because, no matter what, if you don’t stay positive, it’s just gonna get worse. I’ve decided that my fear of flying set this weekend into a tailspin, and I had no way out. No more travel for me this year, and I’m OK with that. The beach is only four hours away, and I’m in control when in a car.

We finally got our luggage two days later, dropped off in front of the garage at midnight in the pouring rain.