The Cross-country Trip, Itself
This was the first time we've gone on an airplane since Eleri joined our crew. And actually, of the six times Soren had been on an airplane before this trip, I think a grand total of twice we'd had Tom with us. So though I was a little nervous about how we'd handle the journey with two wee ones in tow, I was also really excited about having Tom along to help with the baby wrangling.
A few words of advice about traveling long-distance with one or more kiddos. First, it is extremely helpful to figure out, by hook or by crook, how to minimize the amount of crap you must bring with you. Did you know, for example, that there exist $50 car seats? (When I looked in September, they were on sale for $40.) They're not especially fancy, but they're safety certified, and they cost (depending on the airline) approximately what you would pay to check your own car seat, round trip. If it can be arranged, having a seat waiting and installed in the car at your destination upon arrival is infinitely preferable to lugging, checking, collecting, lugging some more, and installing in a rush at the airport after a long (long!) day of traveling.
Also, having somewhere to do laundry while on your trip is a godsend. I was able to cut in half the amount of clothes I would have otherwise packed. Between that and the car seat trickery, we were able to get away with one large checked bag, one carry-on backpack each for Tom, Soren & myself, and Tom's garment bag for our fancy clothes. We left the stroller at home and managed to avoid paying for more than a week of parking at the airport by using public transportation (another major advantage to living where we do!). Soren was super excited about the assortment of shuttles, buses and trains that we rode.
Something I did notice about myself on the trip is that, since I've done so much traveling on my own, I am really accustomed to doing things my own way, and having another adult along who cannot read my mind and make the same logistical decisions I would make really throws me off my game. I think it's gotten worse since the kids came along and I've had to, like, step up and be ultra organized and responsible, but I suspect I've always been this way to some extent. So if I'm not in the position to be a travel guide, making all the decisions about where/when/how we get from point A to point B, I can be kind of a bitch to travel with. Go me. (Sorry, Tom.)
My general irritability notwithstanding, it was really not so bad journeying to the other side of the country with two small children. Eleri mostly slept on the plane, and even Soren - the nap averse lad that he is - slept a fair bit. There were some mildly harrowing moments. We had just boarded one of our flights, when Soren let fly with the #2, and Tom had to change his diaper in the airplane bathroom. Somehow he ended up in the one bathroom (of the three) on the plane that was not equipped with a changing table. I didn't envy him that rather challenging task. Another time, I'd gone to change Eleri's diaper at the airport about ten or so minutes before our flight was due to board. In the bathroom at Denver, they don't have the usual little plastic changing tables attached to the wall, but rather a big granite counter kind of tucked in a corner of the bathroom with a mirror. When we got in the bathroom, there were two ladies at the counter, bags spread out all in front of them, primping and preening, applying and re-applying makeup, fixing hair, taking their SWEET TIME, all while I stood a ways behind them, holding Eleri and glowering. I should have said something, but I kept thinking that surely one or the other of them had to be almost done. But no, they just kept on digging into their bags and pulling out more friggin' makeup. Once one of them finally deemed herself fit to continue on her merry way, I elbowed my way to the counter and got Eleri changed lickety split. But by the time I got back to the boarding area, Tom and Soren had already gotten on the plane. Which would have been no big deal, except that they'd taken my backpack. Into which I'd tucked my boarding pass.
I tried calling Tom's cell phone, but he'd already turned it off. I went over to the service counter, fully expecting a major to-do, where they'd have to pull Tom off the plane or send someone on to retrieve my backpack, etc. etc. But when I explained my predicament to the guy at the counter, he cheerfully said it was no big deal, asked to see my ID, and re-printed my boarding pass. Easy as you please. Whew!
One last thing, and then I promise I'll shut up and move on, since I've already rambled on far longer than I intended. Our final flight, the second leg of our trip back home, was the only one for which we hadn't been assigned seats all together in the same row. Eleri and I ended up one row ahead of Soren & Tom, and it turned out we were seated right next to Mike Isabella (from Season 6 of Top Chef). Poor sucker, slumming it in coach, and in a middle seat, no less. Despite coming across as kind of an asshole on the TV show, he was actually quite friendly, patient when Eleri kicked him while nursing or grabbed his shirt while standing on my lap, and letting me set my drink on his tray table when El was passed out on my lap, preventing me from putting my own tray table down. He smelled like garlic. Midway through the flight, Eleri started letting fly some exceptionally noxious farts. I kind of hoped the garlic on his own person would be strong enough to overwhelm the toxic baby gas next to him. He probably thought I was the one with the intestinal distress, though. Ha. Oh well.
...is coming in a separate post because, holy crap, I just previewed this one and realized that (of course) I've already rambled on way more than I intended. So we'll make this a multi-part series. So much for brief and simple. ;)