I am a woman who must enjoy punishment. What else could explain my decision to plan a European vacation that included our then 16 month old daughter, Zara? But at the time it all seemed like a wonderful idea. Club Med. Portugal. It'll be fun.
Well the reality of the vacation was not fun, not relaxing...I think the best word would be interesting. It's a long story that I'll tell in parts. Let's begin with reliving the drama we experienced in getting there. And so starts our tale of Travels with Toddler...
Would it surprise you to learn that despite all my attempts at preparation for our trip, as the afternoon that we were to leave progressed, we found it getting later and later and and we, unfortunately, were not anywhere near finished our packing? To make matters more troublesome, the weather forecast for Albufeira, Portugal was all over the place. We could need both shorts and long sleeves. For a person with OCD like myself, such a forecast is a disaster. What if we need...fills my head like an incantation. God forbid that I forget something important! (The perfectionism also kicked in.) I was in mental distress.
So I put out all Zara's clothes, shoes, lotions, hair needs and other goodies and AdoringHusband said he would do her packing while I finished my own. What I didn't realize at the time was that packing for him meant throwing everything into a suitcase, including entire packages of diapers (not just the amount we needed), entire bottles of body wash (he ignored the travel bottles I left for him to fill), and putting everything into space occupying gallon sized Ziploc bags. Before I knew it he was telling me that we needed to bring the suitcase we teasingly refer to as, The Death Star. That suitcase is so big that it has its own gravitational field. At this point I am like WTF?! There is no way that we should need to take that ginormous suitcase. I've dealt with the pain-in-the-assness of traveling with that suitcase: Tales of the Traveling Giant Suitcase. I don't think so!
A shrieking and yelling exchange follow (something that only happens with us during moments of extreme stress).
"The Death Star is too big, too heavy and too unwieldy," I try to explain. But AH has his stubborn face on. He wants it and so it will be. "There's no room for it in the car," I tried. Again, it is like talking to a brick wall. I even go back to Zara's suitcase, discover the…gulp…packing he has done and repack so that there is more room. He's not listening. I give up and go back to closing my suitcase. A few minutes later he comes up to concede defeat. He packed The Death Star and according to his nifty luggage scale, it was way too heavy. Quelle suprise! The overflow gets packed into a 22 inch suitcase instead, while I send him told you so vibes and he grumbles.
We went downstairs to pack the carry on bags last before we left. The carry on decision was our first major mistake for the trip, as we would later learn. AH had gotten some great wheeled 22-inch suitcase/backpack things in which we packed toys, books, the DVD player and discs, as well as a change of clothes. As it turns out, these puppies were a bit too big to really be useful as get in and out multiple time carry ons on the plane. In fact, it took some doing to get them into the overhead compartment in the first place, so we never managed to unwedge them during the 8 hour flight to Frankfurt at all.
Finally we were standing outside with 6 suitcases, a stroller and one Gogo Kidz car seat carrier trying to figure out how we were going to get all this stuff into one car. As I watched the minutes tick by, AH put suitcases in the trunk and took suitcases out. He did this again and again. I guess he was looking for the magical configuration that would be just right. All I kept thinking about was our plane leaving without us. Was this some suitcase origami? Did his superior spacial abilities mean that all this in and out was a necessary part of the process? In and out. In and out. It was maddening. I pleaded. He snapped. Finally the magic configuration was found and we were on our way to pick up Jubby (Zara) from daycare on the way to the airport.
During the drive, I let him in on the next problem we were going to face. We planned use an airport valet service for the first time. The problem is that the way it normally works is that you drive to them, they get into your car and drive you to your terminal, help you with your bags and then take your car back to park. Yet as we could clearly see, unless the guy had the ability to shrink himself, he would not fit into our car. Thus we would now have to have them drive us in their van back to the airport…another time sink. I just knew that the plane was leaving without the C/S family.
By the time we had picked up Jubby, we had run through a couple of "well can't they just" scenarios unsuccessfully. I thought that perhaps Jubby and I could be dropped off at the terminal so that we could check in, and then AH could go to the valet for the whole drive back with the guy, but then I wasn't sure whether they would allow me to check luggage for AH when he wasn't there. AH, on the other hand, did not want to split up. I think he had some vision of Jubby and I on the plane and his wandering around Terminal A lost and confused. Anyway...
The fates turned out to be merciful and the Blue Route was clear that Friday night. Despite the whole valet-van-changeover thing, we made it to the terminal and checked in before the cut off time. Jubby enjoyed riding through the airport in her car seat/GogoKidz contraption, where she got to wave to people like she was on a Rose Parade float. We even did security without too much trouble, other than the standard toddlerism of you put the toddler down and the toddler will wander aimlessly rather than moving forward like you want her to. At last we made it to the gate, and there came mistake number 2.
Food. We were hungry. AH is definitely not a fun person to be around when his stomach is empty. We arrived at the gate 5 minutes before boarding was supposed to start and we wanted to make sure that we got our chance to preboard with all the crap we were lugging. So the debate was whether or not we should risk one of us running to McNasty's for food. Yet since the flight crew hadn't even gotten on the plane themselves, we decided that we had more time than was being billed and AH ran to the Golden Arches.
He returned a few minutes later with 2 meals. "Where's Jubby's food?" I asked.
"I didn't get her anything," he said pitifully. Somehow AH still seems to see the Jubster as a baby who needs a bottle and not a little person who eats food. I will admit that as she is now 17 months old, this misconception is getting a bit old.
I'm annoyed but I go into immediate mommy-mode, "I'll give her some of mine." I hand her a fry that she gleefully consumes, but then she immediately points to the cup of whatever beverage came with the meals.
"What did you get to drink?"
"Diet Coke? No lemonade? No water? She shouldn't drink Diet Coke."
"No, I just wasn't thinking," He admitted, "should I go get her something else?"
"We don't have time." Of course by now Jubby is pointing and doing the stompy dance because she wants what's in the cup. We relent. I give AH the stink-eye. She has a few more sips with the rest of her food before I see that we do have time for me to run and get some bottled water. Of course she prefers the Diet Coke. Little did I know at that time how much that decision would come back to haunt me.
Even with preboarding, I discovered something very important. There is no way to carry a toddler, a diaper bag, and a car seat down an airplane aisle without seriously clocking someone in the head with said car seat. I'm talking major concussion here. So instead I put down the toddler and urged (wheedled, entreated, cajoled) her to walk in front of me so that I could carry the car seat high enough to avoid concussing another passenger. AH arrived in the row long before us and was like, what took you so long? I was trying to explain about the car seat and Jubby walking speed, but he wasn't getting it.
We tried to install the car sear rear facing. It took 2 nanoseconds to see that this idea was a no-go. Front facing it was. Luckily the seat in front of hers was occupied by a nice 6 year old German boy who made friends by playing peekaboo with Jubby. The flight started off OK. Jubby was in her seat with Rae Rae (stuffed bunny) and Puppy. She got Triaminic spray for takeoff and a lollypop. Things were cool for about an hour. And then things were not so cool.
This is not to say that things became horrible. But they did become much more difficult. It was sort of like this was going on in Jubby's head: I don't wanna sit in the car seat and I don't want Mommy to hold me because Daddo should hold me but now I want Mommy to hold me, no, not really, I want to smack Mommy's head, but where is Rae Rae? Put me down I've got to get away. I see shoes! Look shoes and feet! My favorites! Let me go touch them. I think that early on she thought I was preventing her from going and playing DOWN THE HALL, so after tiring of the struggling and writhing, I put her down and followed her as she toddler-ran down the aisle into the next compartment. She had been laughing that she had managed to escape, but as she faced a sea of people in more seats, she stopped dead in her tracks and gave me a look that all but said, where have you trapped me?
We took a moment in the bathroom to regroup, but she still wanted to explore everyone's feet when I tried to get her back into my lap. And the wonderfully interesting people we were flying with...they were so European. Yes she's adorably pointing to your feet and saying "shoe" with gusto, but that doesn't mean that you should stick your socked foot out to touch my darling munchkin's hand. That I really could have done without. You just don't put a footpart, covered or uncovered, onto a child's hand. Is that really such a bizarre concept?
So for the majority of the 8 hour flight, I found myself wrangling the foot-obsessed caffeinated whirling dervish of a child. And where, pray tell, was my partner in equally shared parenting? Most of the time he was sitting with his noise-canceling headsets on either sleeping, watching the movie or looking at me blankly when I hissed at him to do something with the Foot Girl. Yeah it was a mess. I think that I handed her to him during the last two hours of the flight and somehow they managed. But let me tell you, my child was the only one on that flight who was awake all night.
We landed in Frankfurt and had a 4 hour layover before our flight to Faro. I was exhausted and annoyed. And of course, AH chooses that moment to be, well, AH. I say the following to him, "Let's find someplace to eat and then see if there is a US Air club that we can hang out in. We need to eat first because the lounge usually doesn't have a lot of food other than snacks and we have to find something for Jubby to eat. OK?"
His reply, "So, we're looking for the US Air club so that we can relax and get something to eat."
People can you tell me how what I said suddenly morphed into what he said?
Of course his statement results in my sniping, "No, we're not looking for the club. We're trying to find something to eat. Didn't you listen to me?"
To which he snaps, "well why can't we eat in the lounge?" And I must explain once again about snacks, no outside food and the rules of the club while my blood pressure skyrockets. Then he does another AH annoyance endearing thing. He asks, "why can't we bring outside food into the US Air Club?"
I'm sorry but did I suddenly turn into a US Air representative? How the hell would I know? Why are you asking me this question?! Arrgh!!!
So while I play 20 questions with AH, I also have to put my child on a leash since she seems to think that it is the greatest thing in the world to dash away from Mommy and Daddy in the middle of the Frankfurt airport. I said I'd never put my child on a leash, but damned if I didn't have her by teddy tail with the quickness:
(And the really sad/creepy part is that she seems to love her little mutant armless teddy backpack thing as if it were a regular stuffed animal.)
Eventually it's time to board the plane to Faro. I only brain 2 people with the car seat on the way in. I'm alone with Jubby as AH scored a seat across the aisle. I spend 45 minutes attempting to convince her to eat the pasta and not throw it, extrude it, or beat Mommy in the face with it. Daddy has his noise canceling headset on again. I'm so tired...like on call tired. But not Jubby. She want to go and see more shoes! At least the clouds outside the window capture her interest for a couple of minutes.
We land in Faro. I have visions of a bed in our near future. We collect our 7 million bags and drag ourselves to the arrivals area to find our transport. Hmmm, no sign of my name. I call the number given by Priceline to contact the company...disconnected. I call the emergency number...disconnected. I'm beginning to pray that someone just shoots me. Instead I go off on explain my plight to the representative for the transport company that I found. Thirty minutes later we are on our way to Albufeira. Zara is unconscious before we get to the highway. It figures.
Stay tuned for Part II