Entries in pack your bags (76)
to travel across the country, with an energetic seven month old by yourself ... or if you just want a good laugh, this post is for you. remember our adventure in la guardia? well, apparently ellie means real adventure in traveling. here's our latest: so, back before ellie was born my sweet friend martha suggested we meet in idaho this summer. having never had a baby before, that sounded great! &, if we're going all the way to idaho, why not go through denver to see some good friends?! when one of our favorite couples set their d.c. wedding date in for the weekend this great western adventure began, that seemed perfect -- we'll just drive up there & fly in and out of those airports! right?! well, sort of.
even as i'm writing this, it sounds way crazier than it did in my head at the time. to recap, i started planning this trip before we had a baby, then booked the tickets when we had a three month old. what i know now is that i had never met the ellie i'd actually travel with! babies change SO quickly. three month old ellie slept on every flight! she LOVED being in her car seat! she weighed about 11 pounds! seven month old ellie is crawling and pulling up constantly; INCREDIBLY aware of her surroundings; about 15 pounds (those 4 pounds matter when you're carrying her four miles through the denver airport...); a social butterfly who refuses to miss the chance to meet a stranger; does not like being in her carseat for more than 30 minutes & she definitely does not sleep on airplanes. ever. no matter what you try.
so, the trip started with what should have been a three hour drive taking seven hours. honestly, it was so terrible i've permanently blocked it & have no idea how we both actually made it through. i remember lots of parking lots. and that my arm was twisted back trying to hold the pacifier for at least 78% of the trip. and that at one point, i accepted we were going to live in a 7-11 parking lot. the best part is, she had a blow out before we got out of our neighborhood & for a split second i thought, "you know, this might be a sign, maybe i should turn back around..." and the ONLY reason i didn't was how much time it had taken me to pack the two of us up! no joke.
so, after that drive, we flew the very next morning (super early) to denver. ellie was awake for the whole thing -- the hour to get through security/to our gate, the whole three hour flight, baggage claim -- she didn't sleep a wink. oh, and there was no changing table on the whole plane. (shouldn't that be illegal?) we both also managed to get horrible colds & as i mentioned before, spent most of our time once we got to denver in bed. nothing is sadder than a baby with a runny nose. she also did not sleep on the whole flight to boise a few days later. now, you must be wondering about the day we flew from boise back to dc (two flights, seven hours of travel time) -- nope, no sleeping. until we landed in dc. literally. she fell asleep on my shoulder as we were landing. it was unbelievable. this meant she was in my arms, crawling all over the place, making friends left & right, the entire time. y'all, my arms practically looked like michelle obama's after this trip.
on a bigger level, this trip was a real moment for me to wrestle with guilt -- i felt such tremendous guilt for dragging ellie all this way, for her getting sick -- and ryan was such an encouragement to remind me that she was just fine. that she was learning important things like no matter where we go, she will be taken care of & that life is about rolling with the punches. (what would i do without him?!)
it has taken me a few weeks to write this post/recover from the whole thing -- there isn't enough money in the world to have me to do the trip again, but having survived, it feels like a strange badge of honor. i will never, ever forget it & honestly it was such a bonding experience for ellie & me. i can't wait til she's out of college, living in some city & i get to visit her and recount this wild adventure we had out west when she was only seven months old. & let's be honest, we got to see these amazing people & go to a place this beautiful -- it was well worth the trouble.
i also learned some really, really practical things that i thought i'd pass along. honestly, in my most desperate moments of motherhood, i come up with my most creative ideas. brought to the brink, i figure something so simple out & sometimes it works! from the top:
1. put on real clothes when you travel. this is a good travel rule, here's why: i felt terrible in the photo above. i was scared about the next flight with ellie. had no idea how i was gonna manage getting all that stuff to idaho. but i had on bright pink pants, a fun new top, my hair in a braid & i even had a bit of make up on! a motherhood feat in itself. it made me feel like i was ready for the trip, even if inside i had some serious doubts. what i wanted to wear was sweatpants & my oldest t-shirt, but i would have felt like i was ready to curl up in a ball, not travel across the country! p.s. when i sent ryan this photo i told him it was my "western adventure" outfit -- he responded that the denim shirt fit the bill, but he wasn't so sure about the neon pink pants (even though he liked 'em). i told him the pink pants were so my friends could find me in the wild west. you gotta admit, they're hard to miss.
2. find a dark, cool place for your baby to sleep. newborn ellie could sleep anywhere! ellie at seven months will force herself to stay awake, no matter how tired she is, looking around the new room frantically -- that week of travel she slept in five different rooms. when there is light, she knows it isn't her room & is really upset about me leaving her there. when we were in denver, there was a big bathroom that had no windows and was really cool (it was 90+ degrees the whole time we were there). i found if i rocked her & put her down in there, she went down for naps just like she did at home. she has black out curtains in her nursery & is used to sleeping in a cool room. she took SUCH good naps on the trip when i made this happen! p.s. in one place i was so determined i figured out if i rolled up a diaper, i could temporarily disable an automatic sensor that turned on a light in a closet! i felt like james bond when i made that happen.
3. accept help, often. people just sort of know -- they see a mom with a baby & so many people are so kind -- they help you with your bags, fetch the toy that has dropped for the thousandth time, let you off the aircraft early, play peek-a-boo with your baby. i'm a can-do girl, but these trips are marathons, not sprints, so when people offered to do even small things, i let them & was profusely grateful.
4. travel light, make friends with flight attendants. i've found all you really want on the airplane is a well stocked baby bag & the baby. i checked as much as possible & packed that baby bag like a survival kit (do not forget food for you -- this all takes a lot of energy! thank you s'mores luna bar, for getting me through).
what kept ellie the most amused? my water bottle (at least 40 minutes of playtime). a pack of pretzels (i couldn't get them open & neither could she -- they make cool noises & are shiny). an empty cup the sweet flight attendant gave her. the safety card in the backseat (she had the thing memorized by the time we landed). chewbeads. lots of walking. hanging out with the flight attendants. minute by minute, you get closer to getting off the plane.
i practically kissed the ground when we finally got home. ellie squealed for the first 20 minutes we were inside. i thought seriously about never leaving my front yard again. so, we're staying put for a bit -- that said, there'll be another aventure & we have a few more tools for that journey.
so, we're back & have some good stories -- that's what life is really all about, right?
a three hour layover in the Atlanta airport with a crawling six month old could sound like your worst nightmare. but not when aunt lizzie & uncle nate show up with a big old blanket, snacks, a bag full of toys & so much love for ellie. then, it turns out to be the most. fun. three hours. ever. we brought the color to the airport & had the best time.
lizzie & nate, thanks for spending your saturday with us -- it meant the world to us. can't wait to hang out again soon!
p.s. i'll say it again, chewbeads are the greatest invention for traveling alone with a baby. i had two pairs so lizzie & i could both wear 'em!
phew, i have a lot to catch you up on, but for now i can't stop thinking about our weekend in the mountains of north carolina. it was the kind of weekend that lingers with you because it was just that good.
we can start with the view from the front porch. this was a front porch living kind of weekend -- it started with coffee & pancakes, and moved to chicken salad from scratch, local bread & rocking chairs, then onto homemade pimento cheese, potato salad & burgers... and finally just laughter & candles flickering as the stars came out so brightly. it was the kind of weekend where there were m&ms in a bowl on the counter & good conversation was just out that screen door on the porch. it was a weekend of naps, long walks & baby watching.