Like many adventures, mine started with a crazy idea. An idea that, on its head, didn’t seem so crazy but the more you thought about it, the more impossible it became. I decided to take advantage of the military flight “Space A” stand-by option and come back to the states with my three (and a half) kids. Several months ago, I was so overwhelmed at the thought of taking a 12 hour flight to Japan and here I was considering doing a round-trip alone.
Well, like all impulsive decisions, it was a great idea. After getting the necessary paperwork, we decided to try for the end of January and hope for a return flight at the end of February. It’s been insanely difficult and soul-stretching and mind-bending. It’s been so fun and rewarding and deeply gratifying. I know that as time sifts out all the kinda bad but not traumatizing memories, it will all have been worth it.
June looking the part of a seasoned traveler.
Even trying to keep things pretty minimal, it just requires a lot to travel with three kids.
My flight out was about 9 hours long and the girls slept soundly for the majority of it. William was in and out and cranky as can be during those transitions. I like him, but he’s the worst. I discovered some great tricks for keeping mean little 20 month old boys entertained:
1. Hex bugs
2. Play dough
3. Tiny plastic animals
4. Animal flashcards
5. Mini flashlight
Sweet Ivy and...lovely June.
He took a good little nap right off the gate.
Ivy and June measuring all the things with some tiny measuring tape...
...then we settled in for the long haul. All the apps and shows.
One of the huge lessons I learned with all the traveling we’ve been doing is to really just embrace who your child is. June is a TV addict and Ivy needs to change activities frequently. So for this leg of the journey, I am letting June watch her favorite movie on the Kindle for the third time and before she fell asleep, Ivy was working on her 5th or 6th activity. If you have a wildcard (like William) who doesn’t seem to stay content for long, I would suggest bringing many small things in small bags within a big Ziploc bag (no books or big toys). Unless they actually like shows or apps. In which case: that.
Seriously, though, navigating and maneuvering through the airport is 20 times as bad as a plane ride.
Our flight out was pretty ideal in many ways – we got on the plane, which wasn’t full, and settled into our seats at the very back and after a few hours, my girls fell asleep for the night. William was next to me in his infant carseat, which he felt was offensive considering he upgraded months ago. It was wonderful for naps, though, and I was so glad to have it.
Getting off the plane was rough. June wasn’t ready to join the land of the living and was only persuaded when I assured her that the stroller would be right there as soon as we got off the plane. Which it wasn’t. A long walk to the international baggage claim later, we got our stroller and our two huge bags and booster seats and everyone was happier (except for me, since I had to push everything, but I was at least happy to not be scraping June off the floor every few paces when her sense of hopelessness bubbled back up to the surface.)
Customs, done. Immigrations, done. FINALLY we were ready to leave. It was so fun – we ran into some friends from college who were also trying to Space-A to the states, so we hung out with Dasha and her girls while her husband got their car and we waited for Grandma and Grandpa. I wish I had gotten a picture, but it made the whole thing much more enjoyable.
Then we embarked on the next leg of our journey – my mom and dad drove us to their house in Deer Park about 5 hours away and we enjoyed the hellish effects of a 16 hour time change. For about 5 days, my kids woke up at 2 AM, regardless of their bedtime. The second week was much more fun for all of us.
Here's a picture our fun night parties. Luckily we had lots of fun distractions from our plane ride.
We had fun outings to Spokane, saw good friends, made good food, and played in the snow.
Ivy and June subtly asking for the attention of their funnest uncle.
Ivy loving every second of being outside.
June, who kept grabbing the snow with her ungloved hands and freaking out, warming up, and then doing it again.
William unequivocally hating the snow.
Hating it, that is, until Aunt Marielle made it into ice cream.
After two weeks in Deer Park, we flew to Salt Lake and were picked up by Luke’s parents. His mom is known to my girls as their “hot chocolate grandma” because of her hot chocolate maker and liberal nature when it comes to using it.
Utah was a whirlwind of fun and exhaustion.
Seeing so many friends and all the family in the area! I feel so blessed that so many people made time for us. I would have liked two or three more visits with everyone, but I suppose it’s always good to leave wanting more. I was also able to attend my niece’s bridal shower and endowment session at the temple. She is getting married this weekend! I wish we could be there, but this was the next best thing. During one of our play dates, Ivy played outside and got about 20 small burrs all up in her hair. Maybe that should go in the "not good" category, but they came out without too much trouble (just about an entire bottle of baby oil).
The disheartening discovery.
Mikelle drove up and stayed with us for a week! It was so wonderful and ridiculous to have 6 babies under 5 but we had fun. Lots of adventures tempered with even more loungey down time and This is Us binge-watching.
More snow watching with cousins.
William feeding his sucker to the taxidermied animals at the Bean Museum.
And of course a stop at the creamery for lunch was in order. Though June preferred to save her appetite for the ice cream and poked all her fries into her cheeseburger instead.
Natalie was so great to host family gatherings and watching kids and she has become insanely good at lettering. Her kids were so pleasant and accommodating. It brings me little pangs of sadness that we don’t all live right down the street from each other.
AMERICA! I got little thrills driving down the wide, spread-out streets and just knowing what everything was. I could buy things without that awkward moment where a cashier probably asked me if I want a bag and I just look at them cluelessly and smile like the dumb American I am and they smile because they work in retail and that’s how you keep yourself from strangling someone. None of that!
FOOD! Oh my gosh, I love food. I like Japanese food, but I have been eating in America for much longer and my preferences still lean heavily (haha) in that direction. We had Chick fil A, Café Rio, Zupa’s, and a few other favorites a few times and now I’m very satisfied and happy to come home and start cooking again.
SHOPPING! Guys, do you have a Target nearby? Get in your car, drive there, and just give that store a hug for me. I went the morning we left for Seattle to get a few things for the plane and ended up with so many perfect, adorable, totally great things from their dollar and Easter section. And their kids clothes? And their fun snacks? I didn’t even look at home décor because it would have just made me sad.
The not good:
All three kids got some gross virus with lasted way too long and ended with an ear infection for Ivy. I don’t think she’s ever been so miserable.
Just…travel. And doing it alone. And doing everything alone. But even that has some silver lining. I’m going to launch into a bit of a preachy moment, so be prepared. It was so insanely hard, but it was totally doable and the only reason not to do it was the insane hardness. Which means that I was the only reason – the limits of what I perceived I could do. I could tell you 20 times off the top of my head where things were just impossibly difficult, but now I know I can do it.
Would I do it again? Mmmmmm. Ask me later. All I know now is that it's great to be home and I can do hard things.