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The Most Unwonderful Time of the Year…for Traveling

j0438374On December 17th at 5 AM, we set out for a long trek across the country with our one-year old in tow.  God bless the flight attendants who were willing to hold our dear one and prevent him from continuing to yell out of sheer boredom.  Steve and I were just plumb tuckered out from waking up at 3 AM, and our little guy didn’t fall asleep until the last hour of the 5 hour flight across country.  Gee thanks, buddy.

We ended up with an “internet special” on airfare, purchased kindly by the relatives who hosted us for holiday fêtes.  That special meant that we would end up traveling on 4 different airlines round-trip and that we’d encounter 6AM departures on the initial leg of travel each day.  That “special” also meant we’d hop from multiple cities on the way home without even a hope of a direct flight home.

But, it’s for Christmas!  We could deal with anything . . . even weather delays . . . right?

After traveling to the northwest multiple times and encountering traveling woes on each trip, you’d think I would have learned my lesson by now.

Slight annoyance, but not a deal-killer was the U.S. Airways policy to charge for EVERYTHING on the 5-hour cross-country flight.  Want water?  Expect to pay $2 for an itty-bitty bottle.  Didn’t get your water at the airport before your connecting gate?  Tough luck, better have cash on hand to shell it out for the precious H2O on board!  Peanuts and pretzels?  $3 or $5 per pack, depending.  Seriously.

Our connecting flight gave us 5 minutes to RUN to our gate before we boarded our cross-country flight.  So, no, there was no time to buy water.  We did plan ahead and purchased cheese sticks and bananas to get us through the long travel day.  Calvin never went hungry, and he still loves bananas, but that’s all he ate the day we traveled!

Finally, when we were at Sea-Tac airport awaiting our final flight to Spokane, WA, we were delayed.  Just as we were about to taxi to the runway, an elderly gentleman got out of his seat and high-tailed it to the lavatory.  The flight attendant scolded him to get back to his seat or we’d miss our only go at take-off, but he said he HAD to go or there’d be problems (our take off had already been delayed over an hour, so we weren’t on time anyway).  So, instead of just letting him get his business done (we still had an awful long way to taxi), the attendant called the flight deck to tell them what was up.  So, flight deck pulled to the side of the taxi way to make sure everyone was buckled.  Then, the flight attendant muttered under her breath…loud enough for those of us in the back to hear, “Great!  Now we just missed our only chance to go!”

She said that because weather was already sketchy and Spokane was having some weather issues.  Before long, they told us the Spokane airport had closed and we were returning back to the gate.

Everyone groaned.

We were told to hang out for the next 30 minutes before they’d decide what to do next.  We asked about getting a direct flight into the city where we’d have to drive to from Spokane, but they weren’t ready to let us off the plane.  Seriously!

Finally, we all re-boarded, and took off.  They had plowed the runway at Spokane, and our flight deck was hoping to get us there within a window of time before more snow piled up.

We landed safely.

The entire cabin erupted in applause and sighs of relief.

Once on the ground, we realized why there was such a plight.  There was a TON of snow everywhere.  Major roads in Spokane had been closed.

My brave uncle and aunt picked us up in their large and heavy SUV that could face any winter blizzard, and that’s exactly what we drove through to get home 3 hours later.

I’ll post about the exceptionally wonderful Christmas parties, joyous time with family, and precious memories with Calvin in a future post.  But, I do want to mention the return trip.  I think that sealed the deal for me to avoid winter travel from this moment forward…for the rest of my life.

We had a 6AM departure from Spokane.  Do the math for arriving at least 1 hour early to the airport plus road travel, and we might as well leave from the house at midnight to make it happen.  Instead, my grandparents put us up in a nearby hotel with my aunt and uncle.  We’d take the hotel shuttle to the airport in the morning and catch our flight.  Sounds perfect?  It was a good idea.  Found out the next day that the roads to Spokane were closed for 2 hours due to weather.

That lovely winter weather accumulated 5 feet of snow in 3 weeks in Spokane.  There was snow plowed into the medians and sidewalks.  Cars that had parked overnight at the hotel for travel were plowed in with 8 foot WALLS of snow.  It was intense.

On December 30th, the Spokane airport was extremely busy at 4:45 AM.  Packed out.  It took us FOR-EV-ER to get through security.  There was no consistency to how the various TSA folks were scanning IDs and boarding passes.  The only thing to note is that one line had 3 people checking IDs, and the line we were directed to get in had only 1.  Hmmm…THAT makes sense.

As I walked through the metal detector with Calvin strapped to me in the mei tai, the TSA nob told me to get rid of his pacifier.  Calvin would’ve stayed peacefully asleep amidst the noise and bright lights if he could’ve had that.  Even after we separated out our shoes, coats, liquids/gels, and laptops, they STILL needed to scan through my carry-on one more time.  I guess the raisins and bananas didn’t scan well.  I have no idea, it just took for freaking-ever.

Some people like to travel without carry-ons.  They feel less encumbered.  I’ve traveled often enough to know you’ve gotta keep a few basic essentials on you, because you may get stuck in an airport for longer than you expected, or you may end up stuck somewhere without your luggage.  We encountered BOTH.

We ended up stuck in Minneapolis International Airport for 9.5 hours, when it was only supposed to be 3.

We were switched from one airline to another because otherwise we may not have made it home since weather was also supposedly sketchy at Chicago International (our NEXT supposed connection).

Finally, after one tired baby struggled through the final flight (after his numerous times flying–this was the one time he had difficulty clearing his ears), we ended up back in Richmond at 1:30AM Eastern.

Unfortunately, our luggage made it back before we did through a different airline carrier.  We could see all 3 of our bags locked behind a glass wall.  No one at the airport had the key to the baggage office for United airlines, and we flew in on Northwest for the last leg of our flight.  We could either wait at the airport another 3 hours for someone to help us at 4:30 AM, or we could drive BACK to the airport later.

With tired baby after 21 hours of traveling, we drove 1.5 hours home.  After we woke up, we spent close to 2 hours dealing with the worst customer service of all time on the phone.  Neither Northwest nor United would ‘fess up as to who was responsible for getting our luggage to us.

Finally, after being a squeaky wheel, United put in my request which was submitted to Northwest who was indeed responsible for getting us our luggage.  It was delivered to us at home by 10 pm on December 31st, free of charge.

In the future, I think I’ll stay put for the holidays.  It’s much nicer to visit eastern Washington in the summer months, anyway.  Calvin loved the holidays with family, but I think the long flights and long time in the airport were wearing on him [and us].

Hope y’all had a wonderful time with family and friends.

Happy new year!

Three Little Women and a Baby

We returned home from Pennsylvania later than we’d expected Wednesday night.  In fact, we got home just in time for Calvin’s bedtime.  After being strapped to a car seat for almost 8 hours, we needed to give the little guy time to run around wreaking havoc on his toys (a.k.a. claiming his territory).  Calvin traveled like a trooper, but he definitely needed some cuddle time and stretch breaks along the way.

My favorite stop, other than the naked Homewrecker at Moe’s was the Virginia Welcome Center.  Not only does it have a statue of Thomas Jefferson and a flatscreen TV with the live weather forecast, but it actually had child/toddler friendly toilets in the women’s room!  Parents in the throws of potty training with your little ones, take note.  Whenever possible, stop at one of VA’s state welcome centers.  You’ll be glad you did!  Calvin happily did his thing, and I happily gave him hugs, kisses, and a fresh diaper.

Potty training is cool when we’re at home and we’re in a routine.  It totally goes awry when we’re out and about on errands.  Cal and I spent over 2 hours today runnin’ around from store to store in the truck.  Before we headed home, I changed his diaper on the tailgate of the pick-up in the parking lot.  No potty there, so I just put on a clean diaper.

As soon as we got in the truck and stuck in 5 o’clock traffic on Highway 29 South, Calvin started screaming his head off.  He’d pretty much been crying all day long, and I knew he wasn’t feeling well, but we were in a truck–in traffic–and aside from giving him various toys to play with (which he immediately threw with full force) there wasn’t anything else I could do to help him.  So, I did what any good mother would do, I turned up the volume on the radio and tuned out the top-of-his-lungs cries.  I had no idea what was wrong aside from the fact that he didn’t want to be in his seat and he wanted me to hold him, but neither of those were options until we got home.  As soon as we exited the bypass for home, he stopped crying.  Complete silence.  Then, he started giggling.  I was baffled, but glad he was suddenly in a great mood.

As soon as we got home, I realized what had happened: his diaper was completely full.  He had wanted to go potty, but wasn’t given the opportunity.  He had been crying in desperation to sit on the potty, and when he finally got it out of his system, he was good to go.  This is the child that will wake up from a nap and start crying because he wants me to put him on the potty.  Lesson learned: the next time I’m about to get entrenched in rush hour traffic, first, find a potty SOMEWHERE, and give Calvin the chance to go.

It was hard to read what my son wanted/needed today because if he wasn’t napping or nursing, he was crying.  He desperately wanted to be held at all times during the day.  If I put him on the floor for even an instant, he got fire-alarm-red-mad.  Such a strange response from a boy who is usually content to play by himself for 30 or 45 minutes at a time for several times during a typical day.  Was he unusually clingy because he’s still teething? [runny nose, red cheeks, and enough drool to fill a gallon jug]  Or was he having separation anxiety because he was suffering from attention withdrawel?

Over the past week, Calvin had been getting more attention from people than most Hollywood stars.  Wherever we went, he was at the center of the spotlight receiving smiles, laughs, hugs, and kisses from EVERYONE.  He had friends and relatives tending to his every need.  Want to walk around the store/house/funeral parlor/cemetary?  Ten-year-old Maddie was there in a heartbeat carrying him around and entertaining him with such love and tenderness.  Not far behind Maddie, two-and-a-half Livia was there patting Calvin on the head, feeding him snacks or offering him his toys.  I even left him in the church nursery with his Aunt Vicky and Cousin Emily during church.  Em said she kept him entertained by keeping his gaze.

Calvin ate up the attention and adored his lovely cousins.  Whenever they were with him, the looked like little mommies-in-training.  My favorite moment over the week was at the lunch after the funeral.  Calvin sat in his high chair enjoying turkey and green beans.  Soon enough, he was surrounded by Emily, Maddie, and Livia who handed him food, laughed with him, and totally provided his dining entertainment.  After all that adoration, of course it’s so anti-climatic to return home and spend all day with just me.

Forget lunchtime laughs and giggles–I was just happy to get him his meals on time.  Between wiping his ever-running nose and changing my shirts (a.k.a. my son’s giant tissue), I tried to comfort my son and unpack and do basic chores that had been neglected all week.  Well, doing dishes and laundry were NOT okay with my son.  He wanted me all to himself every minute of the day.  By the time his naptimes rolled around, I kept chugging away at the chores, but I was spent.  I took those moments to sit down and relax.

I miss those three little women.  They’re love and attention for Calvin was a glorious blessing last week, and I wish they could hang out with him every day!

Virginia is for People Who Love Babies

We spent a week in Virginia: job hunting, apartment hunting, and commercial site hunting.  We found a pretty ideal location for my future practice at a reasonable price, some apartment options within walking distance to my future practice, and the best pizza in the world.  Well, at least Crozet Pizza is considered the best pizza in the world according to National Geographic and the best in the country according to Frommer’s.   Still TBD, the whole job thing.  The funny thing is, in order to get approved for an apartment lease and a bank loan for a small business, you already have to have a job.  It’s this weird Catch 22 that makes it tough for a young married couple fresh out of grad school with a whole lotta potential to actually get started.  Oh, and did I mention it’s really tough to job search in an area when you’re living 6 hours away in another state?

But, hey, small steps.  Steve interviewed at a couple of employment agencies (typical remark was that he was overqualified for most of the positions he was applying for). . . he just had to reassure them that he just wanted to meet our budget needs . . . he wasn’t looking for an equivalent career shift to what he was doing and earning in the military.  Anyway, maybe some temp work will come up.  Meanwhile, he’ll explore some federal jobs in the area.  When the economy hits tough times, federal jobs are almost always secure and pay well.

OK, enough about THAT.  We were staying with friends in central and northern Virginia.  Calvin weirded out a few times in the middle of the night, “where the heck am I?”  But, we did succeed in breaking him of the swaddle habit.  It took 2 weeks, and yes, we even went swaddle free while traveling.  But, he’s cool now.  I can nurse him at 10pm and put him back down to sleep and he zonks right out again.  Sweet!  He’ll sleep with arms totally splayed out on the mattress or he’ll bring ’em in tight to his chest.  Either way, he’s comfortable and sleep happy.

Calvin had the chance to play with a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old.  Rather, they played with him.  He’s smaller, younger, and fun to shout at.  Calvin didn’t mind.  He thought it was fun.  He’s definitely a social little bee.  Our little creeper can now push himself backwards pretty quickly.  Therefore, we either need to move VERY soon so I only have to kid-proof 1 house, or I need to keep him confined in a playard when he’s not in his crib or sling.

People in Virginia (like anywhere else) love babies.  They love to talk to Calvin, shake his hand, and tell me how cute he is.  Of course, I just beam and nod in agreement.  Charlottesville is truly a great place for families.  We can’t wait to move there and start up our own practice.  I think I’ve only written that same sentence 50 times in 50 other posts over the past few months.  Say it enough times and it’ll happen.  We’re praying for things to fall into place.  We’re trusting God to provide for our needs (a JOB for Steve) and remaining positive.

West Coast Highlights

For a teething 5-month-old, Calvin traveled so well. It was a lifesaver to have Steve with me to help keep him entertained. But, most of the time people sitting next to us were extremely accommodating. When nursing, his long legs would often bump up next to the person next to us. If I was sitting in the middle, that meant that at least half the time, that person wasn’t Steve.

While checking in at the airport in Lewiston, Idaho, another passenger in line wanted to hold him while I was digging out a pen for luggage tags. I saw my grandmother walking up toward us. And, I said aloud “I’ll let grandma hold him”. The nice woman from Louisiana who’d offered, opened up her arms wide and said, “oh goody!”. But, I corrected myself and said, “his real grandma” who swooped him up with hugs and kisses. But then, of course, Calvin was the center of attention and my grandma got to brag on him to the nice woman who wanted to hold him.

While at his great-grandparents ranch in eastern Washington, Calvin enjoyed looking at the fish and waterfall, and he had fun checking out Mema’s chickens.

Calvin was the center of attention. He showed off his cool tricks: smiling super bright and big for anyone who held him or spoke to him face-to-face. That smile will light up anyone’s face and mood! He also hit a couple of milestones while we were there: he got his second tooth (bottom left incisor), and he was finally able to roll from his back to his belly. After he did that once on his own, he’s been doing it non-stop.

Aside from hugs and kisses, he also had to be subject to family traditions and torture for babies: we just HAD to get a photograph of him in the Native American papoose. My sister had been photographed in it as a baby, so of course, all the great grandchildren must be photographed in it as well. He was a little long for it, but we made it work. Then, he tried to sit up (the papoose isn’t made for babies to sit up) until we distracted him enough to play with the beads dangling from it. Calvin’s great (x4) grandmother was from the Cree tribe in the Quebec area of Canada. It’s possible that there were more Native American relatives on my grandmother’s side, but that wasn’t ever recorded.

Calvin attended his first Sabbath School and enjoyed the interactive Bible story about the shepherd and his lone lost sheep. He was the youngest child, by several months, but he had just as much fun as the older children.

We got a picture of almost every relative who held Calvin while he’s still little. I anticipate our next trip out west, he’ll be running everywhere!

On the Fly

Calvin traveled amazingly well yesterday.  He endured some very long flights, being around LOTS of other people, and the loud airplane.

My gripe is Northwest airlines wouldn’t let me select all seats for all our connections when I booked our tickets online.  I called them in advance to tell them we had a baby and wanted to have our seats together.  We were told just to check in at the gate at our initial airport and that they’d take care of us.  Yeah, right!  Instead we were assigned middle seats apart.  We got that corrected in Detroit, but 2 legs of the trip we were in non-reclinable seats in the aft of the plane.  NOT fun.  So, I plant to call Northwest airlines with comments and suggestions for our return flight home.

When in Seattle-Tacoma airport, we had a 3 hour layover.  The food court was jam-packed and finding an available table wasn’t an option.  So, we found a table with another family with small children and asked to join them.  Of course, we talked about kids ages, what they were like traveling, and our various destinations.  As with any other public place, having a baby is an instanst conversation-starter wtih complete strangers.  Babies are cool like that.

Calvin ate pretty frequently on the trip . . . he wanted to nurse about every 2-3 hours . . . and he was HUNGRY.  I think he’s having another growth spurt.  He’s about due for one, it’s been at least a month since the last one.  Nursing also helped him with the altitude changes. 

One family in front of us had a young girl (less than 2 years old) who slept the entire 2.5 hour leg of one flight.  Afterward, the mom turned around to talk to us and asked us if we used dramamine or motrin with our son when flying.  We said no.  Then, she insisted that it helped them with their ears and helped them to sleep.  We told her we just breastfed during take-off and landing to help him clear his ears.  She was still persistent and told us how it helped her daughter and that they ALWAYS used it when they flew.  Steve told her he never got upset during the flight, he just got a little loud when he wanted to be playful, but that only lasted a few minutes.  I wanted to say, “no we don’t dope up our son to make flying more convenient for us.”  But, I didn’t, I bit my sassy sarcastic tongue.

On the 4.5 hour flight from Detroit to Seattle, a woman was behind us in line preparing to board with her 3 month old baby girl decked out in cool sunglasses and at least 2 snowsuits.  She said the baby’s grandma nicknamed her pterydactyl and she just hoped she’d be somewhat quiet on the flight.  She didn’t explain the nickname thing, but we learned ALL about that soon enough. 

Once we were on board, this other young mom was seated in the row behind and across from us, and pterydactyl presumed to make loud, shrill, shrieking cries and eardrum piercing screams.  Steve and I looked at each other with an “oh no, I can’t believe that sound, and why are they near us?” desperation.  A young man behind us smiled and laughed (he was a veteran dad to 2 youngsters at home).  A middle-aged woman and man in front of us were frantically scanning the packed flight for available seats in ANY other part of the cabin where pterydactyl wasn’t within earshot.  They even asked the flight attendant numerous times for other seats.  Fortunately, pterydactyl napped several times during the flight, but when she was awake, her prehistoric cries pitched through the cabin.  I thought there had to be something wrong with that child to sound like that!  I was also grateful Calvin didn’t delve into empathetic cries.  He was pretty content, and when he was upset for brief moments (mom, you’re not feeding me FAST enough!), I think the comparative sounds from him and pterydactyl caused those seated around us to not mind Calvin’s noises too much.

Pictures from the travel and from our stay in Washington will be updated on our flickr account soon enough.  Stay tuned!

Jet Setters

Calvin has fun on the potty . . . I think mostly because he gets a LOT of attention from us when he does go in it. As in the photo above, he is full of giggles and smiles (and drools) when he’s on his potty.

Even though we JUST got back from a long road trip to and from sunny Florida, we leave tomorrow morning for the other corner of the United States, Washington. We’ll spend just over a week there so many of my relatives have a chance to meet Calvin. Even though he won’t remember his first trip in a jet and a prop plane, hopefully the photos of him with family members will be cherished by Calvin in the future.

Since we’re not going to have a lot of extra packing weight to deal with, we’re going with disposables instead of cloth for this trip. I hope to be able to do diaper changes at airports, because I can’t imagine having enough space to change my long legged baby boy on an in-flight latrine. Also, I plan to nurse him on take-off and descent to help prevent ear pain from the altitude changes.

I recently read in Domino magazine a few tips for the trendy and savvy traveler on airlines. It was obvious that the author wasn’t a parent of a young child nor super concerned with saving money. As a result, I’m going to post my own traveling with baby tips with a series of a couple of posts (some will be from my lessons learned after a long day of travel with a 5 month-old).


It used to be easy to pack a fairly large wheeled suitcase to the max with everything the 2 of us needed for a trip. With reduced luggage weight restrictions (now 50 lbs. instead of 80 lbs. back in 2002), packing with fewer bags is essentially not an option.

One day, we’ll be able to get sturdy, lighter weight luggage that can hold a lot . . . until then, it’s duffle bags, military issue helmet bags, and backpacks.

Diaper bag: I’d recommend a spare t-shirt for mom & dad since turbulence can make baby more motion sickness prone than a car . . . and who wants to smell and look like baby spit-up for a 13 hour sortie? Along those lines, I’d also recommend several bibs and spit up cloths and microfleece towels to boot, along with at least 4 changes of clothes for baby (onesies and pants seem to go further than single pajama outfits).

I’d also recommend minimal toys for the younger baby. One plush, multi purpose toy (built in rattle sounds, pulls and it jiggles, etc.) as well as at least 1 hard plastic toy for those who are teething (plastic rings . . . perfecta!). Need to distract baby during flight? That’s what those in flight mags are for. . . colorful pictures and you can make up your own story to go along with the Skymall photos . . . time for creative storytelling on your part!

Since Calvin’s teething, we’re also bringing along Hyland’s Teething Tablets. Also, when Calvin gets gassy, he gets MAD! To soothe him, us, and those traveling within ear shot (the entire cabin), it won’t hurt to bring a 1 oz. vial of the Bubble-B-Gone gas drops by Nature’s Answer.

For my travel ease, I always travel with a zip up sweatshirt which not only helps with nursing, but it keeps me warm in the snowy cold jet cabins. Also, I ALWAYS take spare undies, hairbrush, toothbrush, and deodorant. With those, I’m prepared for lay-overs, cancellations, luggage loss, and just long days on the road.

As an inexpensive alternative to the pricey captive audience booksellers in airports, I went to the local library to pick up a paperback read that I’ve been wanting to flip through since grad school. My pick, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell.

For all of you traveling with a baby in the near future, I wish you happy and safe travels!