1. Managing to make it out of the door, into the car, without forgetting a single essential item or suitcase and thereby finding no reason to turn around the overstuffed vehicle should have provided my anxiety more comfort. Yet, the suspicion only welled, leaving me to wonder when, where, and how the difficulty of traveling in a crowded airport with three kids, a nervous mom, and a super calm dad would occur. With barely a hiccup at the check in counter, and strangely obedient children agreeing to hold my hand and carry their own things, I began to prepare myself for what had to be the worst security line experience of my life. Yet, we were “family of small children profiled” and put into the line that no longer demands the removal of shoes, laptops, breast milk, or requires a rather intimate feel up. Even if I was unwillingly participating in a TSA research experiment, only one of my kids ran around the metal detector and it caused more laughter than tasing, so again, seamless. Personal experience then led me to discover that a fearless toddler, overly cautious and rather clumsy 4 year old, and a jumpily anxious mom in the middle is perhaps the worst combination for a ride on an escalator. We still had several minutes before boarding and enjoyed a happy and considerably quiet family airport meal during which the kids ate the cheese and chewed the turkey before they managed to spit it back out almost undetected. Then, the difficulty came. The evening flight, scheduled perfectly for a bedtime arrival, delayed by twenty minute increments for a total of two hours. The first delay was spent setting up and refereeing relay races in empty gates leading me to finally experience a bright side of my city’s airport losing major airline hubs. Next, we ruined an entire restaurants meal at TGIFridays and ordered the most dissipointing $7 ice cream dessert I have ever seen. With chocolate on my pants and ice cream in my hair, I begged the good Lord to get us on a plane, as the kids jumped along empty gate seats chasing planes taking off saying, “WE MISSED OUR CHANCE AGAIN!” indicating zero understanding of the process of airline travel or plane destination. At two hours past beditme we boarded and were asked to seek refuge in the last two rows of the airplane, also known as the baby ghettos, where all children under three who could potentially throw a tantrum or freak out when they can’t figure out how to pop their ears are forced to sit and repeatedly smell the altitudes effects on bathroom users. The bright side of landing 5 hours past bedtime? No matter how poorly behaved and bitey a baby is, several passengers will comment “she did so well!” And when we finally rent a car and make it to our destination slightly past 1:00 am, the kids sleeping in the back will be so knocked out that they wake up the next morning positive that it was magic that put them in their Florida beds.
Rita tampering with a stranger’s luggage.
And in hour 2, the parents just take pictures when their baby grabs a knife on the table of an airport restaurant.
2. No matter how exhausting a travel experience is, even when a trip is only three days long, after 7-12 minutes spent in the sun, playing in sand, together as a family, while Rita and the birds run away from the waves with almost the exact same scamper, every delay, cold weather day, and recent annoying experience, will be forgotten and feelings of rejuvination will overwhelm. Even if the kids begin purposefully throwing sand in each other’s eyes at minute 13.
3. The Brightest Side: Without a doubt my favorite memory is the flawlessly planned night away given to me as a birthday present by my husband, and favorite dinner partner. As I nervously explained needless details to the kid’s babysitter, their big cousin, he whisked me away and gave me so much quality time my love tank almost exploded. First, a stop at a coffee shop where even the ice is made from coffee making every sip better than the last. Then, all my dreams came true as he pulled over at Nordstrom Rack and gave me free reign. One pair of Kate Spade heels coming in at pennies later, we arrived at our hotel and stuffed our faces with delicious food, more food, and more food, because, apparently, what parents do with a night away is eat like there will never be a tomorrow. There was a tomorrow, and we ate again. It was our first night away from the children in a few years and it was truly wonderful. I thought for sure I would be welcomed home with an open armed hugged from the baby I’ve never spent a night from. But, instead, she gave me an open palmed push to the face and ran to Daddy with excitement and cheering.
4. With a promise of a boat ride and conditions much too windy and wavy for a sane dad to take toddlers on a boat, we went anyway. The pontoon boat, made for smooth seas and low speed, met knew limits and high pitched screams. As the children begged, “daddy why are you doing this to us??!! Please daddy save us all!! Go back, daddy, go back!!,” and the raging rapids of the ocean drenched us all over and over again, I do not believe either parent has laughed harder in months. It wasn’t so much that we found the paralyzing fear of our children to be that funny, but more the fact that we realized how dumb we are and were so soaking wet with a continuous flooding of sea water on a boat designed for turtle speed. We turned around and survived with a few family member beach onlookers wondering why God ever decided to entrust us with children.
5. 3 days of sun later, it was time to return to the frozen tundra of Pittsburgh on the 28th anniversary of my birth. With several birthday treats already had, Josie was the first to greet me in the morning with “mommy, its my birthday, where is the cake?” and soon after James said,”did you get me toys today for the birthday?” A card signed by each with the ever special message of “thank you for feeding me lunch and wiping my bum when I poop,” made a mom feel extra noticed. While driving late to the airport amidst a baby/toddler/little boy brawl of the century carried on nice and loud, my patience was lost and out I blurted, “ALL I WANT FOR MY BIRTHDAY IS FOR YOU TO STOP FIGHTING!!!” Silence ensued and as soon as my guilt cued the internal soundtrack of, “Its my party and I’ll cry if I want to,” James broke it up with “Sorry mom, but we were already planning on getting you a flower so….I think we can keep fighting.” And when the return flight is delayed just as much as the departure in a much too crowded airport followed a much too turbulent flight for a crazy person like me to handle, the mile high diaper bomb was generously disarmed by my husband. 13 decades of the rosary later we safely landed and I began to breath again. Then some lady named Sophia Loren accidentally stole our luggage mistaking it for her own. Maybe a diaper fell out along the way to indicate it was not hers but just as we were finished filing a missing luggage form, she brought it back. Also upon her arrival, the continuous cries of James regarding his “favorite football underpants being gone forever and stolen by a mean person,” were quieted. It was the GREATEST birthday and the BEST trip. Back to snow.
6. On Wednesday, sweet Josephine celebrated her “beast day,” also known as the Feast of St. Joseph. To mark the occasion we froze them with ice cream and played for two hours outside at a park. Her excitement for simplicity and fashion sense flare will forever make a mom smile. To Josie: May you always find a reason to dump out an entire bag of tortilla chips to “celebrate the morning.” May your humor keep your worries light, and may your big brown eyes always continue to look to God with the very same wonder and delight. Thank you for teaching me how to have fun and open things.
7. This week I learned to never let a baby near freshly squeezed orange juice, a container of strawberries and that no marriage has truly been tested until the sink breaks. A very special thanks to my husband Jim for his dedication to solving the problem with the Walmart special bathroom faucet. While the kitchen has never looked better, I hope the only plumbing issue we attempt to ever again fix together is playing Super Mario Brothers.