Category Archives: Travel

From Rojo to Verde

Located on a charming stretch of Highland Street in between Rhodes Park and Rushton Park, Rojo offers a diverse menu of Latin and American food. We had stopped there for dinner the day we arrived in Birmingham. As it was a lovely day, we elected to sit at one of their many outdoor tables.

I didn’t even glance at the American side of their menu; their taco choices alone were more than enough to present me with difficult decisions. I cannot now recall exactly what I ordered, nor did I take pictures (for reasons which will soon be obvious). I do remember that I enjoyed whatever it was I had settled on, and everyone else seemed to like their food well enough, too (for the most part).

There is just one specific detail about the cuisine I can share: they put jalapeños in the guacamole.

Unfortunately, it was MeToo who discovered this. Their guacamole is rather chunky, and it apparently was a whole, large slice of jalapeño that ended up in her mouth. When she bit into it and started to panic, we assumed she had bitten her tongue or the inside of her cheek. In the moment or two it took us to realize the situation, MeToo had swallowed it whole in her distress.

The following five to ten minute period was a frenzy of intermittent vomiting. We’d think she was done, so we’d wipe off our hands and try to return to our own dinners when she’d suddenly start to retch out another mouthful. The biggest, and final, regurgitation happened just when the Wife had run to get more napkins. I ended up catching most of that in my hands as it overflowed the wadded, damp piece of paper towel I held under poor MeToo’s chin. (Gross, but still not the worst thing I’ve had to deal with in the past few weeks.)

After that storm passed, the Wife unexpectedly received an important business call. She went elsewhere to take it, and while she was away, MeToo announced in a weak but urgent voice that she had to go potty. Well, I’m not going to leave my five-year-old daughter and one-year-old son alone, unsupervised, and outside. In these situations, I’ve just got to gather the kids up and take them all to the bathroom with me. (Rojo has at least two unisex bathrooms and I’m happy to report that the one my three kids and I piled into did have a fold-down baby changing station — not that we needed it, but it’s nice to know it’s there.)

Although this phase of the adventure didn’t take long, by the time we returned to our table to finish dinner, some diligent waiter had cleared it. Oh, well. Not all of us were quite finished but we’d all definitely had enough.

Despite the distressing events that derailed our meal, I’d still highly recommend Rojo. It was family-friendly, situated in a lovely spot, and what food I did have was tasty. Just avoid the guacamole if you don’t like it spicy, and if you sit outside you should probably avoid the corner table.

ICAN, You Can, We All Can at Birmingham

We went down to Birmingham, Alabama a couple of weeks ago so the Wife could attend the ICAN conference there. ICAN is the International Cesarean Awareness Network, which seeks to (and I’ll just quote directly from their website here) “improve maternal-child health by preventing unnecessary cesareans through education, providing support for cesarean recovery, and promoting Vaginal Birth After Cesarean.” The Wife has long been a member, as we had tried for home births for our previous three children but, alas, ended up with a c-section each time. (We’re big proponents of VBAC as, well, we’re still hoping for a Vaginal Birth After Cesarean for Sprout.)

I can’t tell you about how the conference went, however, as my job was to wrangle the children while the Wife was at whatever sessions or events she wanted to attend. Instead, I’ll be posting a bit about a few of the places we went and some restaurants we ate at. Unfortunately, I took very few pictures over the weekend, so you’ll just have to use your imagination. Or look up the places I’m talking about on Google Street View, or something.

As for Birmingham itself, I had driven through the city a few times before and even spent the night in a hotel in town while on the way to Florida. However, on this trip, we got to experience a lot more of the city. Much to our surprise Birmingham is probably the loveliest place we’ve yet been in Alabama. I can’t speak as to how well it wears in the long-term, but there was plenty to enjoy on our weekend visit.

Reynisdrangar, and Other Metal Bands

The best part of our trip to Iceland was the beautiful, rugged landscape. The daily rainbows were spectacular, but the scenery delivered in all weather, rain or shine. It’s got volcanoes, glaciers, cliffs, geysers, hot springs, fjords, and waterfalls. Most of our vacation was just spent driving around looking at it all.

Is that Mount Doom in the background?
Is that Mount Doom in the background?

In my last post, I said the area where the Blue Lagoon is located looked like Mordor by way of Disney. Really, the whole island felt like something out of The Lord of the Rings, once you get away from the city. If you’re a Tolkien fan but you aren’t up for a trip to New Zealand, you can consider Iceland an acceptable substitute. It doesn’t have the actual locations used in Peter Jackson’s films, but you’ll have no problems finding spots that evoke the same feel. (That’s probably why they’ve shot some Game of Thrones stuff there.)

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All it needs is some Orc raiders coming down from the hills.

To give you an idea of what it’s like, imagine someone has dumped a load of black rocks, jagged and freshly blasted out of a quarry, on the side of the road. Now, picture that everywhere, as far as you can see. After dumping all those rocks, someone has come by and sprayed a layer of lichen on them — but they just stood in one spot, so they didn’t get good coverage. That’s the view outside your window as you drive. And while there are more pastoral regions that aren’t just fields of volcanic rock, the whole place pretty much does look like it just got put there yesterday.

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Freshly coughed up by your local volcano! (Geologically speaking.)

When planing your route and navigating your way around Iceland, you really have to pay close attention to the designation of the road. Lots of the roads — nearly all of them in the interior of the island — are actually only passable if you have a four-wheel drive vehicle. These roads will have a number preceded by an “F” — such as “F151.” When you are looking at your map and you see something like that, don’t plan to go on it unless you have the right kind of vehicle.

Batman was here.
Batman was here.

We did not have an off-road vehicle to use on these roads and ended up on them by accident a couple of times. I can tell you from experience that they are not like gravel roads you may be familiar with in the states. As a teenager in rural Tennessee with a freshly laminated driver’s license, I did my share of reenacting Dukes of Hazard episodes, skidding sideways through turns and leaving clouds of dust as I drove way too fast down tiny country roads that had never felt the hot, sticky touch of asphalt. Try driving that way in Iceland on an F-road and your vehicle will shake apart like a second-hand space shuttle. Those fields of black rocks I described earlier? The F-roads I saw cut through them, and you could only sometimes tell where the “F-road” ended and “off-road” began. Mostly, it was just a jumble of fist-sized pieces of basalt with tire-shreddingly rough edges as far as you could see.

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Hmm… Maybe we should figure out how to turn around.

The Icelanders are paving their roads as fast as they can, though. When the Wife visited for a couple of days in 2006, she found that aside from the ring road that goes all the way around the rim of the island, there were no paved roads at all, and many bridges were only wide enough for one car.

There was one place the Wife visited on that 2006 trip that she particularly wanted us to experience. She kept referring to it as “the bird cliffs.” It was a good half day’s drive from Reykjavik, down on the southern coast. As she drove and I worked out how to navigate us there, I figured out she was talking about was a place called Reynisdrangar.

The cliffs at Reynisdrangar are easily reachable by paved roads, so no worry about that. If you have a guide book on Iceland, it will likely mention this place. The sign for it while you’re driving on the main road, however, is very easy to miss. The good news is that you can approach the cliffs from two different directions (though the view, and the whole ambiance, will be different as well) and if you miss the first turn-off, you’ll end up in the town of Vik, which has more prominent signage.

The Wife wanted us to have the same experience of the “bird cliffs” that she had years ago, when she had turned off the main road on a lark and had no clue what sight awaited her. The inevitable march of progress thwarted that somewhat. A brand new restaurant (with pay toilets) now sits at the head of the trail that leads from the parking lot to the cliffs. Also, there’s now a trail and a parking lot. Fortunately, once you take that trail around the corner there’s nothing to detract from the view.

And the view of Reynisdrangar is tremendous.

Waves pound upon a flat beach of black sand. A short distance from the surf, cliffs rise straight up, with the occasional cave worn out at ground level. Large black obelisks are thrust up out of the sea. One of them is a sharp blade of basalt that curves to a point, like God’s own combat knife standing just offshore.

RU and the Wife at Reynisdrangar
RU and the Wife at Reynisdrangar

 

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RU walking along the cliffs.

 

Apparently, during some parts of the year, you can also see multitudes of birds inhabiting the cliffs and circling overhead. They weren’t there during out visit, but I think my capacity for absorbing natural beauty was already in the red so I doubt I could have appreciated them. They must really add something to the experience, though, if after the Wife’s first visit to Reynisdrangar she came away calling it “the bird cliffs” and not “the jagged black rocks poking up from the sea.”

 

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Blue Lagoon

Papa, give me all your cash so I can keep it in my boot.

          -RU

Our trip to Iceland included a visit to the Blue Lagoon, which we had scheduled for our first night.

I didn’t see Brooke Shields or Christopher Atkins anywhere. Instead, the Blue Lagoon turned out to be a geothermal spa with milky blue water. It’s situated on some lava fields and is created by water output from a nearby geothermal plant. A swanky spa has been built at the lagoon to provide a classy environment for separating people from their money.

That isn’t to say that the Blue Lagoon itself lacks natural beauty. On the contrary, like pretty much everywhere in Iceland outside of a city, it has natural beauty out the yin-yang. To get to the spa entrance from the parking lot, you walk down a stone path between two walls of black, volcanic rock. Steam billows from cracks in the earth and from pools of hot water, murky and mineral-rich. The whole place looks like Mordor after it got fixed up by Disney.

After we got there, we were informed that Z was too young to partake of the lagoon. This meant that someone had to sit with him while everyone else got to enjoy it. If we’d known that ahead of time, we probably wouldn’t have gone. As it was, the Wife and I ended up taking turns but it severely cut down on the amount of time we got to enjoy the main attraction. Z wasn’t happy about missing out, either.

I, personally, was less than happy with the process for actually getting out into the lagoon. There are men’s and women’s locker rooms where you are to change out of your clothes and get a shower. Faced with the prospect of my father-in-law and I accidentally seeing each other naked in there, I waited in the restroom for several minutes before choosing a locker and disrobing. Once I’d had a very brief shower and set the world’s speed record for getting one’s bathing suit on, I had no clue what to do next. I wandered back out into the hallway and realized that I was the only person around who wasn’t fully dressed; no one else was coming out of the locker rooms wearing their bathing suits and dripping wet. So I went back in and eventually discovered a door near the showers that lead out to the lagoon area.

The place really should have provided some sort of orientation or instructional video for how one is supposed to navigate about the place. You might say that it would have been easy enough for me to note what everyone else was doing or perhaps read the signs posted at the exit. You’d be right if it wasn’t for the fact that I was in a room with other men taking off their clothes. I deliberately don’t pay attention to the people around me in those situations and do my best to keep my eyes from actually focusing on anything. That can make it difficult to see where the exit is.

My experience of the actual lagoon was much more pleasant but all-too brief. The air was cold and the water was hot. We stayed near entrance where it was shallow enough that the girls could just about touch the bottom. The lagoon seemed more than large enough for the crowd that was there, though I didn’t get to wander around much (nor did I partake of the bar that’s right there).

All in all, it seemed as though we were there a long time yet I didn’t feel like I’d spent much time indulging in the actual lagoon. Well, somebody had to stay with the baby; that’s just how it is sometimes. I’m not sure we would have gone to the Blue Lagoon if it hadn’t been included in our trip package, but I am very glad I got to experience it. I’m not the sort of person who goes to a spa or does much self-pampering of that regard (these days, just finding time to take a shower or a nap is a luxury). This, however, really helped us to relax into the vacation and soothe any nerves still jangling from the flight.

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Arrival

(Note: This post picks up immediately after “Flying… With Children (International Edition) left off.)

Our flight landed at the airport in Keflavik, Iceland before dawn. And I mean “dawn” for a normal day in a part of the world further from the pole, not just that mid-morning dawn that you get in Iceland in late autumn. We landed at the airport, but for some reason there was a change of plans and we were going to have to disembark from the plane on the runway and be shuttled to the actual airport building.

It’s 6am. We’ve been awake for hours. There’s a howling rainstorm outside and the temperature is near freezing. All our winter clothing and coats are packed in a suitcase we don’t have access to. And we have to move a baby and two kids in pajamas, a baby-elephant-sized diaper bag, two backpacks, and three carseats through the airplane and down rain-slick steps. Remind me again why we are doing this to ourselves?

Oh, yeah, and we were sitting in the last two rows. It was a load of fun hauling those carseats down the entire length of the plane the first time; I can’t tell you how much I was looking forward to doing it again. Unfortunately, the crew thought we looked so pitiful that they needed to let down the rear stairs so we could exit that way. So I didn’t get to struggle down the aisle with those seats and bags after all. Dang!

In all seriousness, getting our stuff and our kids and ourselves off the plane and onto the bus (and then off the bus and into the airport) in that freezing rain and blasting wind was one of the two or three really bad experiences we had on our trip. It was brief, but it was not a fun way to start our vacation.

After an interval in the airport wherein we got our luggage and struggled to remain conscious and civilized, we picked the awfulness right back up with an unhelpful shuttle van driver, more driving wind, and freezing rain.  He literally just walked around an abandoned cart blocking the airport exit and waited patiently while we struggled with bags and carseats until the last thing was left and a “can I help” feebly emanated from his offensive face.  Luckily, the ride was literally across the parking lot and into the next building.  So close, in fact, the Wife asked if the kids could just stay in the van.  She would soon discover that one of our two vehicles had been canceled.  Which did not really matter because they did not have a second van even if they had kept the reservation.  No one seemed to be responsible for it. The teenagers who appeared to make up the entire staff of the organization would point to their monitor and tell us that they had received a cancellation. The Wife certainly hadn’t cancelled anything, so who had? They didn’t know. Who can say? Sometimes car rentals get cancelled.  But that is no problem because they don’t have another van anyway.

We were tired, hungry, uncaffeinated adults with tired, hungry, bored kids who could only keep themselves awake by whining and hurting each other. This kind of SNAFU was not what we needed. At this point, I had to get the kids and all our stuff out of the shuttle van, so I missed the details of how things went down after that. However, after about forty-five minutes of the Wife being pissed at them and clearly unwilling (and, considering the amount of stuff and people I brought in from the shuttle, perhaps unable) to depart without both the vehicles she had rented, the high schoolers running the show managed to find that, yes, they did actually have a second van.

It is critical, Dear Reader, that you understand one thing about this two plus hour horror fest: we met our goals. NO ADULT CRIED. NO ADULT SWORE.  We are 2 for 2 with international travel involving copious jet lag, car seats, and car rental with NO TEARS and NO F BOMBS.

Finally, we loaded up our two vans (really, they were only slightly larger than a Honda hatchback but had sliding rear doors!  Oooh!) and headed out, just as some light was beginning to creep into the sky.

Which was when we discovered, as we suspected would be the case, that the GPS in our cell phones wasn’t working. Nor could we call or text each other — at least, not without it being a big, expensive, international communication. We had a fold-out map that had the whole of Iceland on one side and Reykjavík on the other, and we had the maps in our guidebook. However, none of that told us how to get out of the airport and headed in the right direction. The Wife and I were in one van with the kids, while Granma Cake and Granpa Shim were following us under the mistaken belief that we knew where we were going.

The Wife had a plan though (she typed that)!  Breakfast!

After driving around in the dark, squinting at the long, Nordic names on roadsigns, the Wife spotted a bakery that seemed to be open. By the time we had coffee with some ham, cheese, and the most amazing orange cardamon donut holes, the sun was rising and the world seemed a much better place.

Our first day of adventure had gotten off to a rocky start but caffeine and fried baked goods helped us shake that off and begin anew.  Our first day of adventure awaited!

 

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Why Are There so Many…

This part of the year is considered the off-season for Icelandic tourism. Typically, people prefer to travel there when it is warmer and the sun is out nearly all day. Of course, visiting during the off-season was why we got such a good deal on our package. There was another, unexpected, benefit to being in Iceland in November that turned out to be one of our favorite parts of the trip.

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The sun would rise around 9:30 or 10 in the morning and set between 4 and 4:30 in the afternoon. It hovered close to the horizon all day and peaked only halfway up the sky.

 

This is what noon looks like.
This is what noon looks like.

 

Photographers and cinematographers like to shoot landscapes during the last hour of daylight. The sunlight is softer and brings out the colors of the land better. They call it “The Magic Hour.” In Iceland, that magic hour can last for about a quarter of the day.

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The weather was frequently rainy, though the rainclouds came and went pretty quickly (or we were driving out from under one and into the next a lot). The upshot of this was that because of the low angle of the sun, any time it was rainy — or even a little misty — you could see fantastic rainbows. Big, huge, full, and often double rainbows, everywhere, all the time, every single day of our trip!

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It was spectacular. The landscape was already amazing to take in; the constant rainbows upped the experience all the way to “magical.” The girls will tell you this was the best part of the trip.

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Flying… With Children (International Edition)

The challenges of an international flight can pretty much be boiled down to this: you’ll be sitting down for more than five hours.

We’d brought along lots of things to snack on. The Wife portioned them out into little ziplock bags which meant (among other things) they could easily passed along from the parent with the big carryon bag to the kids. Our kids pretty much only get goldfish crackers on flights or long car trips, so that is a special treat they look forward to. The Wife had also put together bags of mixed nuts and raisins. The one downfall of these kinds of little snack foods is that kids will drop anywhere from thirty to ninety percent of them. Flight attendants who have been helpfully offering you extra pillows and peanuts for your young’ns may be unable to hide their horrified expressions when you finally remove the carseats and reveal all the debris lurking underneath.

While I have noted that nothing is as boring as being on an airplane, international flights often have little TVs on the backs of all the seats with free movies and shows to watch (note that my experience here is pretty limited, but our Icelandair plane certainly had this feature). You’ll want to bring plenty of activities along, anyway, because no one can watch the same four episodes of Dora the Explorer over and over for seven straight hours.

RU’s backpack had been crammed with toys and stickers and gewgaws. Once again, the Wife put an extra special twist on things. The activities were divided up into bags or envelopes and the girls were told they could open one every hour. This added a celebratory air to the proceedings, even if the “surprise” was a toy normally shunned at home rather than a shiny new one.

When assembling your sack of in-flight distractions, the first rule is to not bring anything you or your kids really care about. Books may get torn and doused in juice, toys may get dropped and left on the airplane, and the whole bag might get lost in the shuffle somehow. If you are taking things from home, pick a few small, cheap toys they don’t play with much (ideally ones that do not make noise). Those little books you get in kids meals that are floating around in your van? Gather ‘em up and bring ‘em along. If you are buying new items, stick to things that are similarly inexpensive and disposable. Those shelves at the entrance of Target where they try to unload a bunch of crap for one or two bucks is a great place to start. You’d be surprised how much mileage you can get out of just a pack of sticky notes and a ballpoint pen from the hotel.

Finally, don’t neglect your big guns: the iPad. As I’ve said before, we don’t normally rely on electronic devices to keep our kids quiet and busy. Plane trips are a big exception. Make sure you have your tablet charged up, and if your kids are going to have to take turns you’d best figure out ahead of time how to make sure that goes smoothly.

(Don’t neglect to pack something for yourself, too. My motto is “always have a book with you,” but I failed to follow that dictum on this trip. Since I was the parent sitting in the row with our girls, I did not anticipate having any time to myself at all — either I would be busy with them or they would be sleeping, in which case I would be sleeping, too. As it turned out, there were several stretches on both flights where I had whole, consecutive minutes where no one wanted anything from me. However, as I was sitting right next to my kids, I didn’t think it was appropriate to indulge in watching Mad Max or The Shawshank Redemption or any of the other in-flight movies I would have found entertaining. So, yeah, a novel would have been very welcome.)

Our flight from Denver to Iceland was going to be seven hours long. We’d be leaving in the afternoon and landing in the wee hours of the morning, Iceland time. This was a pretty good timetable for us. That put us getting wheels up around nap time, so if the kids could sleep the whole way, they would wake up acclimated to the time change. Plus, they’d be asleep for the seven-hour flight, which ’tis a hibernation devoutly to be wished.

Once we were in the air, we gave the kids a dose of melatonin. It was their nap time, anyway, but we wanted to make sure we put the final nail into the coffin of their wakefulness. July had fought off sleep on the flight from [Undisclosed] to Denver like a mother wolf fighting off a grizzly bear. No fooling around with that business this time; the sooner she went to sleep, the sooner I could go to sleep.

Oh yes, I took a dose of melatonin, too. I needed to adjust to the time difference as well, after all. Besides, two of my three children wake up at dawn every day; I can always use some extra sleep. Unfortunately, while it did make me very drowsy, I could not completely seal the deal. Instead, I sat in that gray, blurry zone between sleep and wakefulness for a few hours, too groggy to entertain myself.

Then the girls woke up.

Hoping I could still manage to get some shuteye in, I gave them headphones and turned on Dora for the rest of the flight.

Things to Do in Denver When You’re Superheroes

Our flight to Iceland left out of Denver, Colorado on the first day of November. We had decided that it would be a good idea to fly into Denver a couple of days early. The kids had never been there and had never seen the Rockies. Uncle Apple and Aunt Megan were going to be in Denver during that weekend as well, so we could get together with them. Breaking up our flights just seemed smarter than doing them both back-to-back, anyway.

One upshot of this plan was that, although we wouldn’t be at home for the holiday, we would still be able to do something to enjoy Halloween. The Wife had bought secret new superhero pajamas for the kids that could double as Halloween costumes. RU’s was Wonder Woman, Z got Spider-Man (although he was usually in the carrier strapped to the Wife or I, so there was never any point in putting it on him), and, despite the fact that her costume included a sparkly skirt and had a bow on it, MeToo was Superman not Supergirl.

While casting about for something to do, we stumbled upon the Colorado Railroad Museum. The museum was going to have a “Trick or Treat Train” on the 31st. The train, so we read, departed every thirty minutes and you could “visit all the town’s special shops” to get treats. Somehow, we convinced ourselves that this meant the train would actually travel to different places outside of the museum, perhaps some of the little former mining towns that are along the old railroad lines as you go into the mountains. We imagined a leisurely ride inside “vintage passenger cars” to three or four not-too-spookily decorated stops where the kids could get out and get candy.

The reality was that we made two loops on a track that circles around the yard of the railroad museum, giving you a view of the various machines and locomotives scattered about. The Halloween-themed locales were small areas around the place — a pumpkin patch just big enough to stage a picture in, a boxcar draped with fake spider webs.

Given the disparity between what we had imagined and what it was actually like, the experience ought to have been utterly disappointing. However, there were two things that saved it. One was that one of the “special shops” was a face-painting booth. The girls had been wanting to have their faces painted since… Well, pretty much all year, I think. Somehow our efforts to make that happen had been consistently stymied, but now we’d finally succeeded in making it happen and the girls had masks and tiaras painted on to accompany their outfits. The biggest factor that kept the outing from being an enormous waste of time, effort, and enthusiasm was the same thing that makes every lame Halloween activity fun: seeing other people in their costumes.

A constant stream of families poured into the museum, despite the fact that they seemed to know better than we did what to expect there. We saw Ninja Turtle families, Elsas and Anas, other superheroes, and one girl in a dress that evoked a rebel pilot’s uniform from Star Wars. That’s the part of Halloween that I have always loved the most. I enjoy getting to see what everyone is pretending to be, admiring the really imaginative or elaborate costumes, and the overall sense of play that seems to come with it all. It’s like everyone is part of an enormous parade (or attending the same Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror convention).

So that was the Colorado Railroad Museum.

The Wife and RU on a short hike
The Wife and RU on a short hike

That evening, we were able to actually go trick-or-treating for a little while. While planning for this trip, Granma Cake had the brilliant notion that we should rent a house to stay in together rather than all have separate hotel rooms. The house sat in a quiet, suburban neighborhood that was just perfect for getting in a little of the traditional All Hallows Evening candy shakedown. We hit a few streets until the Wife and I felt that we had enough sweet things to snack on during the flight to Iceland. Then, having made sure that our kids had experienced just enough seasonal fun to not feel cheated out of their childhoods, we returned to the house to prepare for the following day’s adventure in international travel.

To The Airport!

We possess the efficiency of a Medieval army. We’re slow and we have to bring the kitchen sink.

-The Wife, on our flight to Denver     

The rule of thumb is to arrive at the airport thirty to sixty minutes prior to your flight. That way you’ll have plenty of time to check in, go through security, and get to your gate. Once you have children, though, you need to add on additional time for potty breaks, meltdowns, and the simple fact that they have real short legs and no interest in standing in lines. Babies will inevitably need to nurse and have their diaper changed. On top of that, you also have more luggage when you’re bringing children along — possibly including carseats, strollers, and diaper bags — yet your additional personnel are next to no help when it comes to hauling all this extra stuff around.

By the time you have three children, you need to plan on getting to the airport eighteen hours prior to your flight. I’m only kidding a little bit. On a different occasion, our flight was one of the first ones of the day and we ended up getting to the airport so early that we had to wait for it to open. Really, if you have an upcoming plane trip with your children and you’re not sitting at the gate as you read this, you’re already running late.

For this trip, we started packing in earnest the day before our flight. Even so, we were rushing to be ready the following day, with the Wife zipping the suitcases closed as I was strapping the kids into the van. We brought along five suitcases, three carseats (one with a base that traveled as a separate piece), two backpacks, a diaper bag, and a belt pouch. Thank goodness for curbside check-in!

We checked as much as we could, but decided that we needed to keep all the carseats with us. If our stuff got lost or delayed, not having carseats would result in the biggest hurdle — can’t leave the airport without a safe way to transport the kids, after all. So one carseat got hooked onto the handy rolling frame we have (and highly recommend for anyone needing to get a carseat through an airport), with another flipped upside down on top of it. Z’s bucket seat, minus the base, is pretty light and easy to carry by itself. Z himself was strapped onto the Wife. The backpacks were strapped onto the kids (for as long as they could maintain forward momentum). The Wife wore the pouch. I carried the diaper bag which bulged like an elephant pregnant with another elephant. Whoever wasn’t dragging the carseats would hang onto the kids.

As usual, getting through security at [Undisclosed]’s airport was no more onerous than it had to be. There’s no getting around the fact that you have to unburden yourself of all your party’s carefully balanced crap (and your shoes) and then gather it all up again without seeming like a maniac, which can be a challenge. The Wife is usually able to keep the kids from darting into secure areas without making sudden movements herself. I’ve almost perfected a way to heave the diaper bag onto the scanner’s conveyor belt that will simultaneously flip me out of my shoes — for, y’know, efficiency’s sake.

The [Undisclosed] airport has gotten rid of the play area it had between some of the gates and replaced it with a bar. Because with all those bored kids sitting around with pent-up energy, the adults are gonna need to do some drinkin’. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait too long before getting to lug our circus onto the plane.

We had an uneventful flight. That means we had a couple of hours’ respite from carrying our stuff but had to spend it keeping the children entertained. We’d brought a whole backpack of things to keep them distracted with, but that was for the big flight to Iceland.

It couldn’t have happened to a nicer kid.

-The Wife, regarding MeToo passing out on the plane after having kept herself awake for 45 minutes.

Actually, I lucked out and didn’t sit next to the rest of my party. The Wife sat with MeToo and Z (who was able to have a seat as the flight wasn’t entirely full) while RU sat in the row behind her with Granma Cake and Grampa Shim. I sat across the aisle and got to occasionally hand them things from our carryons. For the most part, though, I had elbow room and some time to myself.

That was reversed once we landed in Denver. The Wife and Granma Cake immediately headed to get the rental cars, which required a shuttle ride to somewhere far from where the kids and the bags were. Once we’d reassembled our mountain of luggage, Grampa Shim “remembered” that he was carrying the IDs that would be needed at the car rental counter and headed for the shuttle. That left me to get the kids and all the luggage outside where we could eventually be picked up.

I have commented before about how boring airplane rides are. Airports, too, are some of the most boring places on earth. Maybe there are things to do or see or shop for if you are on your way to the gate or waiting to take off. Once you land somewhere, though, the place is just dead. They don’t bother to put up a bar or a souvenir shop next to baggage claim. Everyone’s on their way out. So Heaven help you if aren’t able to leave right away and have a couple of entertainment-starved children in tow.

When the other adults finally felt like coming back to pick us up, there was a flurry of activity. Only two of the carseats and most of our suitcases could fit into our car, so one of the girls and a bag went into the grandparents’ vehicle. This would set the precedent for the rest of the trip for the girls to bicker over who got to/had to ride with grandma and grampa.

All of this was something of a warm-up for our flight out of the country a couple of days later. In the meantime, though, we were in Denver. More importantly, we were done with airports and airplanes for the day.

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Icelandic Saga

We have just returned from our adventures, Dear Reader, and I am happy to share them with you. 
Last week, the Wife and I, accompanied by her parents (Granma Cake and Granma Shim), took the kids to Iceland, by way of Denver, Colorado. Uncle Apple and Aunt Megan were going to be in Denver on Halloween, so we took the opportunity to break up our flying and spend some time enjoying their company and the locale. 
There’s a lot to talk about (and lots of vacation pictures to bore you with) and I’ll be writing our travelogue as quick as I can. However, I’ll have a couple of jet-lagged preschoolers and a baby with an upside-down sleep schedule to contend with, too, so “as quick as I can” may not be all that quick.
Until then, enjoy this preview, showing the ugliest, most squalid sight we came across: