So while the absence is not so unusual and while Easter is not a major holiday in our household, this news today really threw me. This year we will not be spending Easter with my aunt and uncle as we have every year for the past three. My uncle is having knee replacement surgery on Wednesday and will only be returning from the hospital on Sunday morning. My hubby is going to be on the road for almost two weeks then home for one and gone again for two more. Whatever the reason and I honestly cannot say what… all of a sudden I felt that I simply couldn’t be alone with the kids on Easter…
The next thing I know I’m on the phone with my father and Step-mother and telling them they have to hop on a plane and fly out here to be with me and the girls Easter Sunday. Even if it were not last minute and ticket prices were reasonable; even if they had the vacation time to just up and fly out here; even if all the stars were aligned, I have four siblings there and they wouldn’t leave four to see one - and I don’t blame them. Although, I must admit, there is almost anything else in the world that they would do for me. So as I am sitting on the computer with about seven screens open searching flights and different airports, different days, different airlines, et cetera, trying to find an affordable way to get the girls and me to Florida I stop…And I have to ask myself, am I really ready to go through all of that again?
No, the ‘all of that’ I am referring to is not the seventeen days of Fire Ant bites, Mono, Strep, Tonsillitis and Stomach Flu that we endured in February. No, actually the ‘all of that’ I am talking about is our flight home. Our return trip was quiet honestly one of the worst travel days of my life and when I was a flight attendant, a man had a heart attack and died on my flight. (Well, no one really dies on the airplane, but that’s simply because as a flight attendant I am not a medical professional and cannot legally pronounce someone dead- But he was dead) That day, that flight from San Francisco to Newark was the worst and longest day of travel ever… That is until March 6, 2010.
March 6, 2010
The day started at 6:30am. Rise and shine, shower, dress, wake kids, dress them, pack the car, say goodbyes and hit the road. Then… a three hour drive from Tallahassee to Jacksonville. Most of the three hours the girls, of course, slept. This did not bode well. In Jacksonville and once we made it through the security checkpoint, my father helped the girls and I get a few magazines and bottles of water. After that we kissed Grampa goodbye and he was off to meet my step-mother and the rest of her family for a wedding in Gainesville. The girls and now I had three hours to kill in the Jacksonville airport before our flight.
After the goodbyes I discovered a Chili’s and a chance to sit down, eat a meal, kill some time and attempt to bribe my kids with ice cream and fill the travel Tupperware with mac ‘n cheese for the flight… just in case. I made a bathroom pit stop before going to the restaurant. Changed an all too quickly wet diaper (it had just been changed right before the security checkpoint) and made Grace use the potty. Freshened myself up and we were seated with about two hours until they would begin boarding our flight. I ordered food for the girls, contemplated a margarita for myself, figured out what I would eat and took a deep breath and told myself “this wasn’t so bad.”
Famous last words, right? I might as well have said “piece of cake”. What was I thinking? No sooner have I assured myself things were not that bad, did the girls start. Grace didn’t want to eat, Lily wanted to get down and run around. My food arrives and Grace needs to go potty. Now… I am in an airport restaurant, with two small children all alone. I have two car seats on wheels a large backpack and a small carry tote. It’s not like eating out with two kids alone and under normal circumstances. If I have to leave the table to take the kids to the restroom, I have to leave the restaurant and take everything with me. Uugh, take everything out of the restaurant with me?? If I am going to have to do that, we’re done. We will not be returning table. So I shoveled food into my mouth, sucked down a diet coke as fast as I could, paid the check and after only a whopping 20 minutes we were off to the potty…again…
Now, what to do with the remaining hour plus until boarding? I let the girls run around a half empty terminal to try and get some of the ya-ya’s out before the flight. But they kept running off in opposite directions and I was lugging around my pack, a tote and the two car seats. I managed to keep the girls happy and occupied by climbing all over the rows of empty seats in a kind of follow the leader type of game. The last few minutes were rough when I had to strap Lily back into her car seat and ask Grace to sit in hers so we could get down the jet way, but I was so sure all would be okay after that…
Boy was I wrong… My children… Well before I go there… The first flight was a one hour flight to Charlotte North Carolina. It was a Regional Jet so there were two seats on either side of the plane. I had two options, put Lily in the car seat in a window, Grace next to her and me across the aisle or, because Lily is still under the age of two, put Lily in my lap and sit next to Grace. I chose the latter. Okay, so… My children scream almost the entire flight. And I mean screamed! I do not know why they were crying. I don’t know what the problem was but they kept feeding off of each other. I was that mother… That mother with the children who are just screaming. Just as the flight began its descent I took a firm hold of Grace’s leg while trying to get Lily to stop and sternly said to her. “Grace Elizabeth, you need to stop crying right now and take a deep breath. This is unacceptable.” To which Grace replied in a tone I have never heard from her before and am not sure what I will do if I hear it from her again. “You…Are not…The-boss-OF ME!!!” The plane fell silent, the two people behind us started to laugh. I swear, if they wouldn’t have called the feds on me, I might have slapped that kid. What?! Who are you and why do you think you can EVER speak to me like that? At least that’s what I’m thinking…Now I am that mother, head hung and ashamed of my children’s behavior. As we landed all I could think of was the Bill Cosby routine when he talks about the flight with Jeffrey and his mother. Little Jeffrey was a nightmare unleashed on Bill and the rest of first class, flying alone with his mother. Upon deplaning and meeting up with Jeffrey’s father his mother passed her finally sleeping child off to her husband and punched him square in the face! I always loved that bit and now fully understand… I just never wanted to be Jeffrey’s mother.
Charlotte, North Carolina
On terra firma again and my girls are happier and hungry and while still crying for their daddy pretty pleasant to be around. This day is turning out to be hell in three hour increments. The running theme of three hours just doesn’t seem to stop. The funny thing is 3 is one of my favorite numbers. With three hours to kill in Charlotte before our flight takes off I am looking all over a very busy airport for a way to kill time and entertain the kids. First stop- a rest room. Lily’s wet and Grace needs to try and I could use a good hand washing and maybe splash a little water on my face. Of course the changing table is not in a convenient place. Right in the doorway, in the way, middle of traffic, with the kids, seats, bags, blah, blah, blah. Grace keeps walking out the door and around the corner. I am frustrated!
After the bathroom I find, surprise, surprise a Chili’s. Once again, it’s the only sit down restaurant in the airport. Okay, I’ll try again; I could really use that Margarita now! I try chicken nuggets for the girls, chocolate milk and ice cream. I order my salad and see if a diet coke and some food will suffice before I resort to alcohol while traveling alone with the girls. The girl’s food comes out first and they seem okay. Chicken nuggets and french fries sare doing the trick. My food arrives and both girls are pooping in their pants. What did I do to deserve this??? So I eat my salad as quickly as I can, try to forget about the fact that once again I have killed almost no time in the restaurant and still have not had my margarita. As the hours tick past I am going from wanting that margarita to really needing that margarita.
Back to the bathroom to clean the girls up and formulate the game plan until our flight departs. I decide that the first thing I should do is clean up Grace. I wheel both kids and the car seats into the handicap stall and try to maneuver us all in. I think I have us all in and I turn to shut the door. It doesn’t quite close but I’m annoyed already so I force the lock into place. Well, I know that I am no longer in the running for Mother of the Year, but… I kind of shut and locked Lily’s fingers (all four of them) in the stall door. I didn’t realize until she started to scream and when I finally opened the door and looked at her hand all four of her fingernails were purple. I felt 2 inches tall. She stopped crying within a minute and no real injury resulted from my lack of attention. Grace gets cleaned up, uses the potty and we move to the changing table to clean up my poor Lily.
Once again, while I am trying to clean up Lily Grace is walking out the door and around the corner. I’m tired, frustrated, feeling like a heel for what I just did to Lily and have been traveling for nine hours already. I am not proud of what I did next but it did cause the funniest moment of the day. If the day ended on this note I might look back on the entire ordeal differently. Out of fear and frustration and I can admit mostly frustration I turned away from Lily, got down to Grace’s level. Grabbed her by both arms, looked her square in the face and said; “If you keep walking away from me someone is going to think you are lost and they are going to take you away from me!!!” I then told her to sit in her car seat and returned to Lily’s diaper change. About 30 seconds later I hear Grace behind me say “I’m sorry. Please don’t take me away. I really love my mommy.” When I turned around a woman was looking terrified as if to say “I didn’t touch her! I swear!!” I couldn’t help but laugh out loud! It was just what I needed. I exhaled and felt a huge weight lift. Roll with it. It’s been a long day. What are you going to do?
We finished in the bathroom and just headed right for the gate. We kept ourselves entertained at a row of window seats watching the planes take off and waving and saying “Bye! Have a good flight!” But that could only last so long. I have my laptop and some DVDs in my backpack. Even though the DVDs did not work in Jacksonville it’s been a really long day and maybe, just maybe…. I set the two car seats up in front of the row of seats. I gave each of the girls a banana, a snack trap of goldfish, and a sippy cup of water. Then I put the computer on the seat in front of the girls and they quietly, happily watched A Bugs Life. Please God, let them just fall asleep on the flight, its 4 and a half hours to Phoenix. We’ve already been on the road almost 10 hours.
Sure enough, we board, and the girls seem to settle right in. Okay… Okay… Sleep girls, sleep. They do! Lily is asleep before takeoff. Grace is snuggled right up against me and is asleep within a half hour of takeoff. Wheew! Why do I do that?? An hour and a half in (that leaves THREE hours left of flight time) we hit some turbulence. Grace is asleep with her head on my lap and Lily starts coughing in her sleep. Lily has been sick almost all of the seventeen days but this cough has my full attention. Something tells me to scoot closer to her to check her out. I put Grace’s head down on the seat, remove my belt and sit on the edge of Grace’s seat. Lily’s cough has her gagging now and I can smell that she’s covered in diarrhea. You’ve got to be kidding me!?!After another bought of coughing I was quick enough to use her blanket to catch the vomit that her coughing caused but she, we, our neighbors… cannot sit here with her smelling like that and I cannot make her sit in all of that…
I get up, kowtow to the flight attendants who were just about to yell at me for being up during the turbulence. Ask for a trash bag for Lily’s clothes and thank god that I always pack extra clothes in the carry on for just such an occasion as diarrhea down into the socks and vomit on everything else. Cleaned up, back in the seat and I get her to fall asleep on me. Okay, I’ve had my fill. I’ve learned my lesson, whatever that lesson may be.. . Could the next three hours please go by without further incident? Please?
It did, the girls slept, we landed in Phoenix at 11pm and I was so happy to be home. That is… Until we got off the plane and I went to put Grace in her car seat. The car seat that I check at the jet way so as to reduce the amount of stuff I have to lug on and off of the plane with two kids (2 kids and 1 car seat is enough, especially when I’m alone!) WOW!! This story is getting long! Do you feel like it’s getting long? Well it was longer living it! Trust me! Where was I? Oh yeah, I was getting off the plane in Phoenix and the car seat was sitting there and I could see the wheels I attach to the car seat sitting next to it. But I did not take the wheel s off. It’s a big production and I cannot imagine that the baggage handlers did, but I’m exhausted and at home and at the end of my rope so I pick them up, annoyed that I have to put them back on when I see it… They’re broken! The damn airline has broken the damn wheels and it’s almost midnight, I’ve been traveling with the kids for SEVENTEEN HOURS! I am about to KILL someone! So I take it out on a poor wheel chair assist guy! How am I supposed to get two kids, two car seats and my bags to the other side of security where my husband is waiting if I cannot wheel the kids in their car seats? The poor Wheel Chair guy is so afraid of me he loads the car seat and the broken wheels into his wheel chair and takes me to my husband, where I seriously contemplated punching him square in the face. I kissed him instead. It wasn’t his fault and I always say… “He works, so the girls and I can travel.”
Maybe it’s like child birth…even after all of that…even after that day from Hell… I’m ready to hop right back on a plane with the girls as if it never happened! Live and learn…or don’t…