We are still in massive holiday hangover mode. We’ve been home for four days and I’ve yet to unpack or open all the mail. Vacations are a lot of work.
Before we left, I was pretty stressed about the trip. Our first plane ride with four kids would be followed by our first road-trip with four kids. So in the week leading up to the trip, I did what I do when I’m stressed: I strategized and hyperfocused on minute details, to give myself the illusion of being in control. The magical thinking is this: if I plan this out enough, flying with four kids will be easy.
So, I planned and schemed. We got the bigger kids new suitcases, thinking that they could each pull their own suitcase to avoid all the luggage fees. They came with matching carry-on bags, so each kid has their own bag full of treats and toys for the plane. I spent endless hours gathering the perfect toys and gadgets to make the flight exciting. And I laminated their initial onto each bag. Surely this attention to detail will make this a seamless trip. RIght??
So, to review. Faulty logic #1: ENOUGH PLANNING CAN PREVENT CHILDREN FROM ACTING LIKE CHILDREN ON A PLANE
This was followed up by faulty logic #2: IF YOU TALK ABOUT TRAVEL LIKE YOU ARE AN EXPERT, NOTHING CAN GO WRONG.
In a bizarre twist of fate that only fueled my irrational sense of confidence about this trip, I was asked to appear on tv AND on the radio to talk about keeping your sanity while flying with kids. I think initially I saw the irony, but somewhere along the lines I started believing my own words. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, people.
(Can I just point how how sickly and pale I look in this shot? The host of the show is basking in a warm sunset of pink lighting, and I’m sitting in front of a wall with a camera, looking like I need a nap and some oxygen.)
In my sleep-deprived, panicked, and overly-confident pre-trip state. I also completely lost sight of the macro details. For example: I spent about five hours shopping and packing up things that will keep my children interested on the plane. But preparing or shopping for the winter weather that awaited us in Atlanta? Er . . . not so much. Planning an alternative strategy if the children were not able to pull the suitcases themselves? Meh. Didn’t think about that.
You can probably guess how this ends.
Yes, despite having successful practiced having the children walk the length of the kitchen with their bags and suitcases, their abilities to span the lengths of the Santa Ana, Dallas Fort Worth, and Atlanta airports were not successful. Which left Mark and I with 5 carry-ons, 3 bags, a purse, a diaper bag, a stroller, and a toddler to carry between us.
To make matters worse, when we left our house on Christmas morning we forgot to pack our stroller – a fact we didn’t realize until we were exiting the taxi. So Mark had to pay the taxidriver to drive him home and then back again – making what should have been a $25 ride a $75 ride. And I got to go through TSA with all of the children ALONE. WIthout a stroller.
He made it to the gate on time, but it made for a hairy morning. The good news is that the bags I packed really did keep the kids entertained on the flights. The bad news is that the kids could not stand under the weight of said bags, which made for a lot of chaos getting on and off the planes. At one point, we were trying to figure out how to carry all of the crap after we had to abandon the stroller at the gate, which had just become a sort of pushcart for all of the bags. While we were trying to fold the stroller, he kids just ran onto the plane without us. And we are both just standing there surrounded by suitcases and bags and Karis, going, um . . . what do we do right now? WE DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH HANDS.
There was also a point where Kembe melted down in the DFW Chili’s because I would not let him lay down his head and take a nap. Because DANGIT, if there is going to be sleeping, it’s going to be on a plane, and if there is going to be eating, it’s going to be the $25 chicken tenders we just paid for. Merry Christmas, children!
Not one of my finer parenting moments.
All the chaos aside, we arrived in Atlanta to SNOW, which was really fun. Jafta kept talking about how we were finally having a “real Christmas” . . . which just secures his disappointment in all future, snow-free Christmases.
I think I’m doing Karis’s picture face in this photo. Notice the way the kids are staring at the snow. They cannot be bothered to look at the camera with white stuff on the ground that can be hurled at others.
We spent two days in Atlanta, visiting with my aunt and grandma who we have not seen in WAY too long, and with my dad and my sisters and their kids.
Then we drove to Florida – our first road trip as a family. I tried to pitch it to the kids as an adventure. Look how excited they are!
(India got to ride in the van with my sister Kim. The van with the DVD player. In other news, India puked).
A couple hours into the trip, my sister Brooke mentioned she was getting a little tired, and asked if I wanted to trade seats and drive her car. It was a hard decision, to leave behind three of my children and drive in a car with my teenage nephew and his girlfriend. Mwahahaha.
Austin (my nephew) may be a bigger musical theater geek than I am. I DO NOT SAY THIS LIGHTLY. I got to spend most of the road trip singing at the top of my lungs to his Broadway playlists, he and I fighting over the harmonies to Rent and Spring Awakening, while Mark figured out how to keep our children from fighting in the backseat.
We had a lot of fun in Florida, but I just don’t know that I can accurately call it a vacation. There were still diapers to change, meals to prepare, piles of laundry, and bickering kids. I had envisioned these ten days away as this time when I would recharge and relax, and maybe even catch up on some work. I brought books. I fantasized time alone playing Angry Birds. I pictured me clearing my email inbox.
I think I completely forgot that I would just be in a different place, with the same amount of children and writing deadlines, only with no childcare and increased social expectations.
Don’t get me wrong, there was still a lot of Quality Family Time, and that was so nice. But you know how it is when you build up an expectation in your mind. Like FLYING WON’T BE SO BAD SINCE I PLANNED IT OUT. Or I’M GONNA JUST RELAX AND KICK BACK FOR TEN DAYS. Hahahahahaha.
So . . . yeah. It was kinda stressful. I love my kids and I love my job but neither one really works as well away from our home and our routine. Next year I am going to work really hard in the spare time I have leading up to Christmas to get all my writing done early.
Our time in Florida was filled with great fun with the cousins. I wish so much that we all lived closer. We tried to do some of the more touristy things Orlando has to offer. We went to the Animal Park Lodge because there is a lookout where you can see some of the animals from the theme park without paying for the theme park.
And then there was some face-painting going on, so we decided to join in.
Then we stumbled upon some djembe lessons.
And then, what is this? Free cookie lessons?
And then we might have gone back and done the very same things the next day.
Paying for Disneyworld is for suckers.
We also got to see my nephew Derek play in the regional football championship.
Derek is only 13 years old. If I were a mom of a smallish middle-schooler on the opposing team, I would have been afraid. Very afraid. You can imagine that there are a few high school football coaches vying to get Derek on their team next year. The boys think he is the coolest kid ever. These are their football moves.
And it wouldn’t have been a trip to the South without paying homage to Waffle House on a late night. I have a love/hate relationship with Waffle House, but it is pretty much love/love for everyone else in my family.
The kids got in lots of grandma time and lots of cousin time, and before we knew it, it was time to pack up our 15 carry-ons and fly home.
Today, out of the blue, Mark looked at me and said wistfully, “I still think it was good that we had all the kids pull their own suitcases”. But it was said in that defeated way that one might describe their decision to buy a minivan. Or the decision to move stocks from Pepsi to an internet-based grocery delivery service. WHICH WAS A GOOD IDEA. In theory.
Phew. It’s good to be home.