Friday, March 11, 2011

Guest Post: Toddler Takes LA

How we puked our way across the country and lived to tell about it (in gruesome detail)

When Kim asked me to write a guest post about traveling with my then 15-month-old to California, I knew it would be amusing to her readers, if only because Kim seems so organized, calm and put-together as a multi-tasking, blogging, cooking, crafting Mama, and I am, well, not so much. Our family's week in Cali was a fun and crazy exercise in semi-controlled chaos. Lessons were learned, vomit happened, and peanut butter crackers were chucked at Hollywood moguls schmoozing at the poolside bar from our hotel balcony.
The crackers landed on some heads. The principal lesson learned from that was that my daughter is not allergic to peanut butter.

Anna, my daughter, enjoyed a meet-and-greet with this guy:

He was nice and friendly, if a bit taken aback by a curly-headed mini-person accosting him as he sipped his cocktail with his agent in a trendy hotel lobby.
Kim and her two boys and husband are now, as we speak, somewhere on the Left Coast, conquering the Family Vacation and taking Disneyland. I know she has ambitious plans to drive to Los Angeles to San Francisco and hit a couple national parks while they're at it. A formerly uber-ambitious traveler myself, my vacation plans with a sub-2-year-old were greatly reduced: arrive at LAX, alive, with live child.
I managed to accomplish my goal, but it wasn't pretty. I was flying by myself (husband already in San Francisco for work). My daughter is known around these parts for extreme activity and independence, wonderful traits on land, woeful liabilities at high altitudes.
I had to pack for myself and for her, for a week in a climate that requires both an entire hot-weather wardrobe for daytime and a winter wardrobe for after the sun goes down. I had to get to Newark airport (a mere two-and-a-half hours from home) a day early to avoid a snowstorm stranding us in New York, with a car seat, a butt-load of luggage, a stroller, an assortment of plane-ride entertainment, and a metric ton of whole milk. (My daughter subsists on a steady stream of milk. Almost entirely.)
I planned. I schemed. I made lists. I had exigency plans. I had back-ups for my back-ups and logistical maps. I conscripted my father to help drive us to the airport and man the gear. I borrowed a DVD player and stocked it with Wiggles. I had ambition. I checked in at the curb. Pep-talks were self-administered.
She puked. In the car on the way to the airport. This was her first stomach flu. This was her first airplane ride.
I briefly considered turning the car around (we were on the Verrazano Bridge but who cared, really?). My fight or flight instinct flared. I chose to fight. All I had to do was to survive six hours in crowded confinement with a vomiting baby. My daughter needed to meet her paternal grandmother, who lives in assisted living and can't travel and so had not yet met Anna, a year and a half after she was born. I was doing this for my husband. And for my daughter.
She seemed to perk up in the airport and aside from some nasty travelers who gave me a hard time that I didn't get through security fast enough with a huge car seat strapped to my back (so sorry, guys) all went well. I was feeling so optimistic and chipper that I gave her an entire bag of Cheez-It crackers (readers, please make note of the Cheez-Its. They will come back in the story. Yup. They will come back.)
Then boarding the plane by myself got hairy, and the flight attendants were nasty. I demanded help out of sheer inability to board everything myself and they reluctantly helped me (really, really reluctantly). I figured out the car seat installation, got her in, life was peachy. We played. She didn't cry during take-off. She was starting to doze off an hour into the flight and then...
Yeah. Who knew a 21-pound human could generate that much puke? She cried. She was terrified. She was soaked through her pajamas and then so was I. We smelled. Cleaning us off in the airplane bathroom was futile. We were sad, smelly, wet and defeated. I had no more clean clothes for my poor child and she had no choice but to fall asleep, in my arms, wet and miserable. I didn't move for two hours. My legs cramped. I had no entertainment. I was scared she would wake up and cry again, incurring the wrath of the business flyers (very wrathful types). I have never felt more love wash over me for my daughter than at that moment. I felt like a Mama Bear, protective over her sick, pathetic baby, as everyone around us tried not the retch at the smell.
Needless to say, that was the best airplane landing of my life. The trip itself was fun, but stressful as my husband was working most of it and I had to entertain a toddler in a fancy-schmancy downtown L.A. hotel all day. We visited my husband's family, saw sights, lounged by pools. Anna learned how to walk up steps without holding on by practicing for hours on the pool patio steps.
We did Disneyland like old pros, managing to get there at 8 am and leave during the fireworks (two words , people: car nap). Anna got a little Lindsay Lohan on us, charging down Rodeo Drive and wearing oversized sunglasses under the cabana, making calls on my cell phone (sorry, people whose names start with "L." She called all of you.)
The flight back was the ultimate cosmic joke on Mommy, as Anna was so delightful and easy that passengers remarked, "I didn't even know there was a baby on board." Since my husband was with me on the flight home, it was so incredibly easy, I'd even do it again sometime.
Maybe not by myself. But who knows? I did it once, right?

She went "Young Hollywood"

Strolling down Rodeo Drive, a little too purposefully

Jacqueline Sweet is my gorgeous and witty in-real-life friend.  You can find her blogging about everything from parenting to thrifting to Teen Mom at ThanksForNotYelling.  


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