Motherhood, Travel

The Mommy Van

mommy van

“Just do me one favor- whoever picks me up at the airport,  make sure they don’t have one of those Mommy cars with half eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwiches stuck to the seats.”

For a moment I wasn’t sure if the person on the phone was serious or kidding.

Was this person insulting the vans of mommies around the country?

I had hired this person to come out to do an event and that included transportation from the airport.

But the comment left me speechless.

Continue reading “The Mommy Van”

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Travel

Purple, red, two black, one oversized

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
5 by foot, 3 by stroller
Purple, red, two black, one oversized.

I keep repeating my little chant over and over as we unload the van and get ready to enter the airport.

It was the moment my kids were counting down for – starting from the day we returned from New York a year earlier.

The once a year trip to see all the cousins and family on the east coast.

Packing was done. But the trip was still ahead- and the need to make sure that all 6 carry-ons, 2 checked suitcases, 2 carriages and 3 car seats make it to our final destination.
Continue reading “Purple, red, two black, one oversized”

Travel

We ALL went to NY

familyplane

We all went to NY.

That just doesn’t do it justice, let me try again. We ALL went to New York.

WE ALL WENT TO NEW YORK.

When I say we all, I mean me, my husband, my kids, 7 carry-ons, 5 backpacks, 1 diaper bag, 1 food tote bag, 2 suitcases, 2 carriages, 3 carseats and one plastic shopping bag full of odds and ends that didn’t fit in anywhere else.

We ALL went to NY.

And we ALL came back, plus a third piece of luggage.

After purchasing 8 tickets – thankfully two are still lap kids – I decided to go the “economical route” (which I knew I’d regret) and pack a bunch of carry-ons and pay for very few pieces, my way of getting even with the airlines for charging for luggage to begin with.

In a way it felt more organized, a carry-on of coats, a carry-on of Shabbos shoes etc.

So there we were, all assembled and ready to go. One carry-on and one backpack per kid. One stroller, carry-on, suitcase and car seat per adult, and we made our grand entrance into the airport. All was good and well until we got to security. That’s always my breaking point.

We made it this far, we got all our stuff together, the kids are all pulling their assigned luggage pieces…and now we have to take it all apart.

One by one, it all unravels. Sweaters and backpacks and carseats and strollers and water bottles and snacks and laptops and cellphones…it doesn’t end. I was worried one of the kids would hop on the conveyor belt for the ride too, and I wouldn’t even notice.

The only saving grace that TSA has in my book is that they don’t require kids to take off their shoes. If we had to do that, we’d probably all travel barefoot.

Bucket after bucket, we pile the stuff onto the belt, all my hard work and organization going down the tubes. Then we start the marching-through process.

One at a time.

Right. Sure, you really think one child will go through at a time? It’s your rule, so you enforce it, I want to tell the agent. Don’t look at me for help.

But thankfully, she’s of the friendlier type of TSA people, and chats and jokes with the kids, and asks them if this is a school trip.

We make it through the scanners

And now the REAL fun begins.

Putting it all back together again. I suddenly have a whole new appreciation for Humpty Dumpty. I’m beginning to doubt if all the king’s horses and all the king’s men would be able to put this mess back together again.

It’s at this point in our trip that I typically stop looking at the time.

The kids scramble to find their sweaters and backpacks and work out who had which carry-on. It’s also at this point that I usually regret my “economical decision” and wish we didn’t have 7 carry-ons with us.

We work on redistributing all our bags and barely 20 minutes later we start the final trek to the gate. There once was a time when I’d get to the boarding gate and have the luxury of sitting down and relaxing. Maybe even have time to be bored.

Thankfully, not anymore. We arrive in time to skip the line and get onto the plane.

Those four little words – get onto the plane – hold a lot of weight.

Because here’s what it entails; 3 car seats to be tagged and gate checked, baby to be carried on, 7 carry-ons to be wheeled on, and two strollers to be folded and gate checked. My husband and I are a few hands short. I carry the diaper bag and computer bag over one shoulder and hold the baby in my arms and the toddler marches in front of, while the rest of the kids are halfway down the aisle, wheeling their carry-ons over everyone’s toes, while my husband deals with the carriages and carseats.

When my toddler suddenly realizes what “airplane” actually means, now that we are standing in the center of it, he loses his excitement for this long awaited trip and starts to scream. Being that he’s glued to his spot, I have no choice but to carry him. Shifting the baby to somewhere in one arm, I hoist him onto my bag-less other shoulder and make my way down the narrow aisle, which seems to become even more narrow with every step I take.

I debate if I should acknowledge the stares and gaping mouths of my fellow passengers as they count all the little people (or maybe the carry-ons?)  that went on ahead of me. To calm their fears, I tell them not to worry, my husband is coming too, i would not do this alone.

By the time I make it to the back, there is a mountain of carry-ons clogging the whole area as all the kids make a beeline for the window seats, forgetting all the rules and regulations I had discussed with them. We did the “acdf” trick – reserving two rows of seats, minus the middles. Sometimes it works, and we get the middles too, and sometimes it doesn’t. This was one of the “doesn’t” times – the unfriendly stewardess let us know that it was a full flight. We had to do some adjustments of seats, the toddler was still clinging to me, there was certainly nowhere to put the baby down, I’m trying to kick these carry-ons out of the aisle and Unfriendly Stewardess is not helping me, even though this is Jetblue and they are supposed to be friendly.. My husband joins in time to help us sort it all out and our dear Unfriendly Stewardess does her best to be annoyed that it was taking us so long to get settled.

Thankfully they offered to gate check some carry-ons – I’m happy to oblige; it’s not really stuff I’ll need in flight … like everyone’s Shabbos shoes.

They are all seated. Everyone has a seatbelt on. Every last bag is stowed. Tray tables are up. And I breathe for the first time in a few hours.

Like I said, we all went to NY. And we all, every last shoe, sock and backpack, made it back. And there’s a reason we go on such a family trip only once a year.

Travel

Traveling light…just me and the baby!

carseat

Flying cross country with just me and the baby? That’s practically as easy as traveling alone!

Of course, I didn’t feel that way when my oldest was born… it takes traveling with the whole family, 2 carriages, 3 carseats, 8 carry ons, 6 checked bags, 2 diaper bags, 3 food bags and a few other random pieces to make flying with just the baby seem easy.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t for a happy reason; I was going to visit my family after my grandfather’s passing. I wanted to go, I needed to go, and flying with just me and the five week old baby wasn’t so daunting at this point in life.

I was traveling light, after all; just the baby, the carseat, the Carseat Canopy and  J.J. Cole fleece lined cozy bundle-me to combat the frigid east coast weather, the Graco Click-Connect wheels for the carseat, my overstuffed diaper bag, my handbag that barely closed and weighed more than the baby, my Baby Bjorn in case I didn’t have a seat for the carseat on the plane and my carry-on. I was being gone for barely 48 hours, I didn’t need much.

I checked in at the counter, doing my best to elicit some motherly empathy from the representatives for this brave mom flying with the baby.

They weren’t all that empathetic.

Instead they told me that coming January 15, you can only take one carriage piece with you to the gate.

I looked at them blankly, pointing to my Click Connect-carseat contraption (the best thing since sliced bread).

“Yup, you can’t take those two pieces. Come January 15, you can only take one.”

Umm, someone obviously is a bit clueless about traveling with a baby.

“You mean either the carseat, or the carriage base?”

“Yup, ma’am, come January 15, you can’t take that with you to the gate, you have to check in one at check-in.”

I’m not sure which is worse; imagining wheeling the baby in the basket of the stroller because the carseat is checked in, or lugging the carseat across the whole airport in one hand, while wheeling my carry on in the other…

Someone either doesn’t know what they’re talking about, or this is the work of the Surgeon General who is out to make moms across the country lose their sanity.

I file away the info to google later, and continue on my way.

Security.

Although I know that the baby needs to come out of the carseat for security, I pretend I don’t. He’s in a deep sleep, can’t they see? Don’t they know you don’t wake up a baby when they finally fall asleep??

“Ma’am, you have to take the baby out.”

I think they’re talking to me.

I pretend they’re not.

He says it again.

Pretending is over.

“Ok, I’ll take him out, but only if you promise you’ll put him back to sleep after the carseat goes through.”

He chuckles. What do you know, a TSA agent with a sense of humor! But still he tells me no, he won’t put the baby back to sleep. I knew that. I just never give up trying to get out of it…

And time to take apart everything I stacked so well…off goes the handbag, the diaper bag, hoist up the carry on, take out the baby, hold baby and disconnect carseat from base with two fingers, lift it up with my pinky, click the base closed with another two fingers, clumsily pick it up and dump on the belt, still carrying the baby…

Only to walk through the metal detector and 30 seconds later reassemble it all back together, only this time the baby is not sleeping.

I don’t like going through security. It does not make me feel secure. It makes me crazy.

Off to the gate, still silently praying I’ll have that extra seat near me on the plane…I approach the desk…and there’s no seat for the carseat on the plane.

Oh there is a seat, if I want to buy one. No, I don’t want to buy one..

Baby Bjorn, here we come.

I’m not a big baby-carrier fan. I find them quite restricting and borderline claustrophobic. But Baby Bjorn it was. I started the strapping process, eight clicks in total, and baby was secure. I couldn’t breath, but that’s not relevant. Baby was comfortable. I could barely bend down to get the diaper bag and handbag on my shoulder. I felt more like a walking baggage rack than anything else. I leave the carseat at the door, and then stop. The Carseat Canopy and the bundle-me…it needs to come off if I ever want to see it again..

And so, velcro by velcro, I disconnect it alI and add the two pieces to my ensemble, somewhere between my elbow and my shoulder.

I make my way onto the plane. Of course, I’m in row 30…and so I try to pretend no one is staring at me as I make my way down the aisle, diaper bag tapping each person on the head.

I sit down and stay still, trying to figure out how I’ll manage the flight. It’s the first leg of the trip, only an hour until the stopover.

And this delightful stewardess, who is either clueless or also in cahoots with the surgeon general, says; “Oh ma’am, for takeoff you have to hold the baby, can’t keep him in there.”

I just stare at her, because now that I’m stuck in this carrier, I have no idea how to get out.

She’s so helpful.

“Just slide it over your head ma’am and you can hold him.”

She’s obviously never been inside a carrier; once those 8 clicks are clicked in place, it’s pretty much as a part of you as your head itself; there is certainly no sliding it over.

I smiled and thanked her for her sweet advice, with a “it’s not so simple” half laugh.

Only half a laugh, because I didn’t think it was all that funny.

And so I started unclicking.

1 click,  2 clicks, 3 clicks…held him, take off, 1 click, 2 clicks, 3 clicks…

I silently hope that the baby won’t have to nurse during this flight, because as experienced as I am, I couldn’t figure out how I’d do that.

And the flight went well, other than the fact that I couldn’t reach my food bag at my feet.

Off the plane and time to reassemble; click stroller base open with one hand, click in carseat, unstrap baby from carrier and breather again; on goes my bags in perfect order; I’m good at this by now.

Off to the the next flight; I make my way over to the ticket counter.

The guy looks up. He smiles; “I know what you want; let me check if there’s a seat.”

And Otto is my hero of the day, we get a seat! Actually, a whole row!

I settle on the plane, feeling as if I won the lottery.

Fewer things can make a mother happier than having an extra seat on the plane.

It’s good I traveled light; with a whole row to myself, there was room for everything.

Travel

Hotels – it’s not what it used to be!

hotels

Once upon a time I used to like going to hotels. I liked walking into a freshly done up room that wasn’t prepared by me.

I loved seeing the linens that were fresh and crisp, and not because I did the laundry. I loved the freshly folded towels, not folded by me. I loved the little adorable essentials that I didn’t shop for.

I felt like a queen.

And then I went to a hotel with all my kids. And we stayed in one room. And then we did it again. And again.

And no longer did a hotel have the same appeal.

It started innocently enough. We got to the lobby to check in. We asked for two connecting rooms. Oh, they don’t have connecting rooms.

Can I put kids ages 6 and under in their own room? No, not going to work.

So how bad can it be to be in one room?

Pretty bad.

We piled in. Us and all our 45 pieces of luggage of every shape, color and size. And suddenly the hotel room looked different than it had for so many years.

The drawers opened and closed so easily, waiting for little fingers to close it on themselves. Twenty lamps to flick off and on. Alarm clocks to set and beep every couple of minutes. A phone to call room service as many times as you please. A blow dryer in the bathroom, accessible to all. And the beds; those mattresses were way more fun to jump on than the house ones.

The abundance of pillows! Not just any pillows; but pillows that are so fluffy and puffy they make great Frisbees, balls, airplanes and anything else that can sail across a room. And a swivel chair. All a mom’s nightmares in one room.

That very first time we did it, we needed 10 extra blankets and 6 more pillows.

I opened the door just a crack when room service arrived; no point letting them see just how many kids can fit into one cramped hotel room.

And then bedtime began. I wheeled the baby up and down the hall, praying for him to sleep and trying to be intrigued by the non intricate detail of the carpets, while my husband tried to get the rest of the gang to bed. When baby was finally sleeping, I quietly went back to the hotel room and switched him in for the rowdy toddler who kept climbing out of the pac ‘n play; up and down the hall I went…but it didn’t work.

I brought him back to the room and took the energetic four year old out, hoping my husband could do his magic and get the toddler to sleep.

By 11:43 pm, all the kids were asleep. It was pitch black. My husband and I didn’t dare turn on a light, whisper, or breathe for that matter, out of fear of waking up one of the kids.

I quietly tiptoed into bed, not without tripping over a little shoe and stubbing my toe into those useless hotel desks.

At 1:03, the baby was crying; I didn’t give him a chance to see if he’d fall back asleep, I grabbed him and nursed him, out of fear that someone else would wake up.

2:10 my 4 year old whimpered; I held my breath; no one wake up!!

Phew, they were all still sleeping.

3:25 I was nursing again.

4:15 I had a stiff neck from those over fluffy hotel pillows.

4:45 I started thinking about bedbugs.

5:05 I was nursing again.

6:01 the guy next door was starting his day early and the slam of his hotel room door was deafening.

Everyone was still sleeping.

6:15 I heard a whisper.

6:16 I heard two whispers.

6:18 and they were all up. And I was still trying to fall into a peaceful sleep.

Why oh why didn’t we just stay home?? Whose idea was this anyway? I’m never doing this again! Ever! Even if it means doing my own laundry and folding my own towels!

But of course, we did do it again. Many times.

Last weekend was our most recent hotel adventure; although my memory changes with time, the experience doesn’t. It was a weekend retreat with 25 other families. And for the second year in a row, my kids won the kids-who-wake-up-earliest award, and my husband continued his winning streak of dad-who-gets-up-earliest-with-his-kids award.

And I got to sleep in an extra 2 hours, convincing myself it was a solid sleep, despite the uncomfortable, over-fluffy pillows and dreaming of bed bugs.

And I know we’ll do it again.

And even though we unplug every outlet, put away blow dryers, bring our own pillows and use our suitcase full of tricks we’ve accumulated over our many hotel experiences, I know it’s not going to be a vacation stay.

I just add it to the many things I didn’t notice in the fine print when I signed up for this wonderful and crazy thing called motherhood.