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Since our lake experience, we’ve been reluctant to go anywhere for an overnight stay. So it was with some trepidation that we finally took up an offer from a co-worker to stay at his weekend home in New Braunfels. And this past weekend was one where both the house was available and we had no other major plans.

Guadalupe River

Tubing was out on account of the cold weather, fast moving river, and, you know, toddlers that can’t swim. We felt rain in our palms, and in moments where the drops retreated, we searched out lizards, picked up sticks, and ran up and down hills with the WHOA! that can only be experienced hand-in-hand with a toddler. Plus, cold weather equals lots of books and laps and fleece blankets. Delicious!

Run!

On Saturday, Gamma (my mom) joined us from San Antonio. I made a rosemary pork tenderloin with roasted fingerling potatoes and steamed vegetables. And we almost got to enjoy it before the kids, as on cue, woke from their naps. Still, though.

I invited Annie up, who blogs over at We Are Fambly. Over a year of reading one another’s blogs and commenting and exchanging the occasional email, I up and asked her over, to which Jennifer said “great, strangers.” and my mom said “what if they kidnap babies?” And to think that I’m the introvert.

Nevetherless, Annie and her partner and their as-beautiful-and-tall-as-she-looks-in-pictures-but-taller toddler spent the better part of the afternoon and early evening with us. Mateo was Jude’s first older boy kiss, too. And after they left, we all agreed they were the nicest stranger baby kidnappers we’ve met.

Hey, Jude!

This year, after experiencing a not-so-relaxing trip with moveable toddlers, we decided we wouldn’t take any trips or vacations as a family until after the kids are at least two, save quick trips to the burbs to PawPaw Jimmy’s swimming pool or special occasion visits to San Antonio, both less than the maximum three hour drive limit. We’ve simply learned that unless we are staying at Grandma Gloria’s in San Antonio, it is not worth it to attempt to stay overnight anywhere other than our own home. And even then, we have to weigh carefully if the amount of work to pack, plan, and drive is even worth it.

So when Jennifer had the opportunity to go fishing in South Louisiana a few weeks ago, we decided she should go. Alone. She went. Fished for three days. Had a great time doing something she loves. Brought a whole bunch of fish back, most of which we gave to my co-workers, a bag of speckled trout which we kept for a fish fry for when the weather cools off.

Jennifer thought I should take my own trip, too. And hello? I agreed. First chance was Las Vegas for my sister’s 30th birthday, but the airlines wanted too much money for a flight on too little notice. So, no. A few days later, my sister told me she was headed to New York City on business and since I had never been, and had always wanted to go, can I crash in your hotel room, and by the way before you say “no”, I just want you to know I’ve already booked my non-refundable plane ticket.

It worked.

Also. My dad was going to be there. Random! And my sister’s husband. And my sister’s husband’s bromance from DC. But I hardly saw any of them. We each had different agendas and very different paces. Quite honestly, it was the perfect way for me to discover New York City, unbound by anyone else’s preferences or agenda, my nomadic self free to roam and get lost and be fine with it all. I hadn’t felt that adventurous since trying to hitchhike from Gunnison to Creede, Colorado back when I was a granola college student.

All I needed was four things: my MetroCard pass for the subway, my New York City Pass, a credit card, and my iPhone loaded with the following apps:

Safari – preloaded browser on the iPhone. What was the name of that restaurant? That store? I could search on Safari, get an address or phone number, and geolocate.

Open Table – a great resource for restaurant reservations, available both on desktop and as an iPhone app. With foodie friends having recommended dining locations, I was able to make reservations using OpenTable while on the go.

Maps –GPS locator with Google maps rocked. And in New York City, the actual names of museums and buildings show up if you drill down far enough. If there was somewhere I wanted to get to, I could enter the address, click on “directions”, and it would show me how to get there from where I was. Or I could just click on “locate” and it would tell me where I was. Because all those buildings in Manhattan? They kinda start to look the same.

CityTransit ($2.99)– Per the iTunes store, City Transit is a comprehensive guide to the New York City subway system. And it’s the only subway system guide that includes the official MTA licensed maps, line data, and GPS station finder and live service advisories. It freakin’ rocked and I didn’t have to carry a paper map all looking like a tourist.

Compass – While the GPS locator service didn’t work underground, the Compass did. And with all the multiple levels of the subway system, or how 55th street hits 5th avenue and you forget which way was south, the Compass was a nice thing to have.

TweetDeck – Live tweets and picture posts during my trip. And how my sister kept up with my activities while she was trapped in meetings discussing derivatives.

Facebook – mobile app for updating status and posting pictures.

That’s all I needed to navigate New York City. And here’s how it turned out:

08.19.09. HOU-BWI-LGA, arriving at 3:30. South Street Seaport. Taxi to Hilton Millenium. Walk around WTC site. Battery Park. Wave to Statue of Liberty. Subway to Times Square.

Times Square

Pick up New York City Pass at Planet Hollywood. People watch in Times Square. Dinner at Two Times Square with the crew. Marginal food, but nice views. Walk to Grand Central Station. Subway back to hotel. 08.20.09. 8:30a out the door. Subway north to Rockefeller Center. Walk around NBC Studios. GE Building. Top of the Rock observation tower. Pictures of Empire State Building and Central Park.

Looking North over a Hazy Central Park

Sit in Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Taxi to lunch at Balthazar in SoHo. Excellent food. Have the skillet macaroni. Meet dad at a pub for a drink. Chinatown. Little Italy. Part ways with dad. Vintage European threads for the kids. Subway to hotel. Shower. Change. Taxi to dinner at Nobu Japanese on my own. Excellent food. Have the black cod appetizer. Chat up a model and her handsome hedge fund owner. Taxi to pub in Union Station to meet sister. Taxi back to hotel around 11:00p. 08.21.09. Subway north. Brunch at Carnegie Deli. Walk up 7th Avenue to Central Park. Through Central Park to Metropolitan Museum of Art. Mini Masters Board Books for the kids. Walk back through Central Park to the Upper West Side. Meet best friend from elementary school for drinks at 2:00. Catch up on the last 25 years.

Hadn't Seen Each Other In 25 Years

Tour the neighborhood after the thunderstorm. More drinks at The Blue Donkey. Wait for the motley crew to meet us. Dinner at Carmine’s Italian Restaurant in the Upper West Side. Subway to hotel around midnight. 08.22.09. Breakfast at Embassy Suites. Pack up.

Underpass

LGA-BWI-HOU flights. Two hours of delays. Home in time to see my sweet babies before they went to sleep.

Want to see more photos from my trip? Click here.

Xavier's First Birthday

Last weekend we took our third birthday trip to San Antonio this year, this time in celebration of my nephew Xavier’s very first birthday. Monkey cupcakes, two bouncers, a piñata, a water table, individually labeled lunch sacks for kids, yummy food, family, friends, and fellowship. My brother and sister-in-law can throw a party, you hear me?

The sweltering heat helped in that it assured a solid afternoon nap for Mateo and Harper (and Mommy and Matou!). That evening, we ordered takeout burgers and congregated at Grandma Yoyi’s house and watched all five nieces and nephews play together. Mateo was up until 8:00 p.m. hanging out with his night owl cousins, but despite the activity, Harper was all “EXCUSE ME! IT’S 6:30 AND I HAVE GOT TO GO TO BED!”

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Two weekends ago, in a flash of courage and insanity, I drove the kids to San Antonio for their cousin Sara’s first birthday party. Alone. This after a week of contemplating whether or not to it, and my sister saying “I would never drive with both kids alone, but I hope you will.” Jennifer had to work that weekend and was then off to another city for some solitude and vacation time to play in a golf tournament. So I figured I could venture out for a less-than-twenty-eight-hours-seven-of-those-spent-in-a-car trip, or stay at home. If it was great, then great, If it was horrible, well, blogging is cheaper than therapy.

My sister and her husband had Just. That. Week. finished putting in a beautiful flagstone patio, and leveling off the backyard playground, the location where one colorful butterfly piñata, caught in the web of fifteen or more children, would meet its fate.

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It was incredibly hot, but the only people who seemed to notice were the parents assigned to chase their kids around outside. Mateo and Harper’s gift to Sara was a big hit, though I’m not sure the other guests necessarily came prepared for wardrobe changes. Ooops. I’m putting that one down in the Cool Tia column.

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Other than driving alone with 14 month olds for up to four hours one way, I was concerned with how they might respond to more-people-per-square-foot than you’d find surrounding the ice cream truck in summer, but neither cried. Harper, the – of late – more shy of the two, stayed a little closer to me and grandma. But gosh darn it was she cute in her pink Converse All-Stars.

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And Mateo the ham basked in all the attention like a little pig rolling around in the mud. He was most intrigued by the big kids, seen here coming out of the room where they convened.

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The party was fun, except for the part where I had to chase down Mateo after he escaped from an opening in the gate leading to the woods behind my sister’s house. Were any other kids doing that? NO.

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And add to the milestones, I kept the kids out until after 6:00 p.m. – SHOCKER! – before heading back to my mom’s house. My sweet mom who got up at 6:00 a.m. on Sunday morning to make us homemade tortillas for egg and sausage tacos. Then again, she shut the garage door before I was out of the driveway, and was probably back in bed before I got to the end of the street.

Oh, the drive? Let’s just say DVDs are of no interest to the kids (though thanks two moms from my neighborhood group for letting us borrow the DVD player and Planet Earth DVDs). And that snack traps filled with baby trail mix attached to the carseats with toy links are no guarantee when you have a kid who can unlink those links. While mom is in the front seat driving seventy. The last hour of both legs of the trip were nothing short of horrible, but I am so glad we went.

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Fishing

Near sunset on Saturday, I snapped the above photo of Jennifer fishing off the dock trying to catch bass with no-MSG/no-nitrate hot dogs.

The kids didn’t care for them either.

What the photo doesn’t communicate is the sound of the portobello and yellow onions, and the lime and rosemary marinated ribs I had sizzling on the patio grill. Or the hum of tiny fans defeated and resigned to simply move hot air around from one space to the other on the deck.

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In the three hours leading up to this veil of relaxation, however, there was much tripping and falling and tears and redirecting attention. Babyhood is full of firsts, and this was our first overnight trip away from home or grandma’s with walking toddlers. And one does not appreciate the conveniences of a babyproofed home until one stays in a home that isn’t. Mateo was constantly drawn to the cabinets that had household cleaners and bug killers. At least he was kind enough to bring me the stainless steel spray bottle from who knows which room. Harper was fond of the cabinets with pyrex glassware, and of hanging on and rattling the wrought iron console table. The one with fifteen photo frames and two lamps on it.

It was quickly culminating into An Early Bedtime but from 7:15 to 10:00, Harper woke up screaming no less than six times, be it the unfamiliar shadows, or her brother’s rhythmically thumping his foot to fall asleep, or who knows what. Each time, we had to go in and hold her, and she’d fall asleep and then we’d put her down and then she’d wake up screaming shortly thereafter. The kids and I have colds, so I started to think Ear Infection, but no, I think it was being overtired combined with a new environment. She’s our more sensitive sleeper.

Somewhere between cleaning up the kitchen and showers, Jennifer and I had decided we were headed back home after breakfast the next morning. Our plans had been to stay at our friend’s lakehouse through Sunday afternoon, maybe take a dip in the lake, and generally relax with our children. BUT WHO WERE WE KIDDING?

We were home by 10:30 a.m., less than twenty hours after we had left.

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We went to San Antonio for Memorial Day weekend where you got to visit with all your cousins, even giving X a ride on your wagon. We went to Sea World and let’s just say that that went as well as can be expected on a too-hot-no-breeze-past-the-naptime-thunderstorm-approaching-overcrowded-holiday-weekend. We lasted the Shamu show and time enough to snack on some peas and polenta. It’s a good thing we have season passes, otherwise we would have forced you stay and have a good time. Because that’s what parents do.

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In and out and in and out and in and out of the sliding glass door at Aunt Stacie’s lakehouse, Lake Londa Lynn. June 14, 2009.

We inadvertently dropped the last remaining bottle that Saturday morning, the one you’d been getting before your morning nap For. Like. Ever. It was our intention to wait until after the trip to yank your chains with a change in routine, but, well…oops. So since we forgot it that day, we just kept forgetting it. And you hardly noticed but for the fact that you wake up hungry from the nap. Nothing some milk and a graham cracker can’t cure. And now we can mark 13 months and 6 days (May 23rd) as the last day you got a bottle.

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A well deserved respite, coupled with goldfish crackers, after successfully climbing onto the chair on Aunt Stacie’s deck. Lake Londa Lynn, June 14, 2009.

This was also the weekend, Mateo, you decided you were done with crawling. Your grandma Yoyi will tell you that it is because you were at her house. She believes eeeeeevery grandchild milestone happens at her house. And that’s when I remind her it was on her hearth that you got your first Ouch! above your left eye. Your manner of transportation has become all chest out, one foot in front of the other, and at least one thing in your hands, usually a plastic strawberry or a plastic golf club. You’ll say “HAR-puh”, the last syllable like the airy “p” in the word “pull”. It’s cute. And surreal.

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Not even a week after that, Harper, you started walking. Everywhere. Just. Like. That. It’s like you spent months and months observing, studying, and then boom, okay, you can do that. Combined with you calling out to your brother, “TAY-oh!”, it’s pretty clear who is calling the shots right now. Getting you up in the mornings is a hoot. You’ll usually play in your crib for fifteen or so minutes before we come get you. When we open the door, you’ll see us, then start to gather all your Woobies and your blanket into your arms and mouth and then stand up, ready to be picked up. We oblige. At which time you immediately point to the clock and say “wha da?” and we say “Clock”. On the wall is a charcoal picture of John Lennon, a piece of Matou’s artistic talents. You will point to it and we’ll say “that is John Lennon!” And you will scream and cheer and kick your feet against us and grab my neck tightly. For this, we know what it must be like to be stars.

Around the same time, I had to replace my camera lens after a little mishap.

And just this past weekend, we went to a friend’s lakehouse where you went on your first boat ride. That did not go over well. What with the constricting life vests and us refraining you from climbing over the boat wall and into the water. Yes, we are THAT MEAN.

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I found a green shoe, it’s one, not two, from me, to you. Lake Londa Lynn, June 14, 2009.

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If you enter the house from the garage, there is a tiny foyer and a coat closet. On the entry wall, there are hooks for our keys and for the toy rings that we use to hook your snack traps to your stroller. Immediately to the left is a door leading to the former guest room, now Harper’s room. If you instead continue forward, you walk down a long hallway with the washer/dryer closet housed underneath the stairway. At the end of the hall is a small landing for the stairs. To the left is a tiny foyer with the former nursery, now Mateo’s room to the right, and the bathroom to the left (across the hall from Mateo’s room). If you intead continue forward, you end up in the former office now play area. And then there’s a door leading to the back yard. In the bathroom, there is the room with the sinks and to the right is the door leading to the area with the tub and toilet. If you are standing at Mateo’s doorway and the bathroom doors are open, you can see into Harper’s room.

I give this layout because it is important in explaining your flight patterns.

Each evening after your baths, we’ll close the door to the tub area, but leave the bathroom door and the two bedroom doors open. Matou and I will sit in the play area and we’ll talk about our day while you go about your evening routine which goes like this:

One leading, one following, you will go through the bathroom, maybe try to open a couple drawers, move onto Harper’s room, play your version of peek-a-boo on the side of the crib, ending with one of you falling onto the mattress on the floor, giggling until the other of you does the same. Then we’ll hear a brief silence. And then bare feet clapping against the stained concrete. Within moments, you’ll appear at the far end of the hall and make visual contact with us. Which you think, of course, is hilarious. The invisible starting gun will fire and here you come, walking towards us, picking up speed as you go along. You’ll descend like crop dusters, arms out for balance, and take a sharp turn that teases us and just barely misses walls. When you do that, you might split, one heading to the bathroom again in a big rectangle, the other to Mateo’s room to toss yourself onto the mattress in his room, meeting back somewhere in the middle with more squeals. More often than not, you both go into Mateo’s room, do the giggle and laugh mattress bit, and then start the process over. Sometimes, instead of crop dusting, you’ll have picked up so much speed from walking down the hall that you’ll kamikaze into us from about two feet away. We have to be prepared for this because what usually ends in kisses and laughter can instead end in tears if your start your descent from too far away.

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This may go on for a couple rounds until during a pass of crop dusting, we’ll sign the sign for Milk. At which time you will put on the brakes – drop to your butts – and walk giddily towards us for your cup of milk. It’s during this time that we can read to you. But the vision of you sitting on our laps as we do so is not yet a reality. Too much to do. So basically Matou and I just read to each other.

When your milk is gone, we’ll let you go a few more rounds of playing and walking and sometimes we’ll make up songs for you. We can tell you are getting tired when out of your bedrooms you’ve now grabbed Raffy and Woobie. It’s then that we can call for “let’s brush your teeth” and you will both meet us, from wherever you might be, at the bathroom sink waiting to grab your respective toothbrushes. We’re long away from mastering the actual brushing part, but we sure do let you suck on them while we get you into your nighttime diapers. Keeping the peace and all that. After that, it’s kisses all around and we’ll each take one of you and put you down to bed.

This thirty minute or so ritual is surely a sacred part of my day.

It’s been a month now that we separated your sleeping quarters. The first night was much harder on me than it was on you, but since then, all has been well. One of the neat things about having you in different spaces is how you’ll look and listen for one another each morning. And when you see each other for the first time in the day, a smile will come across your faces so new and tender. Being witness to this is better than watching the sun rise.

Soaking up every moment we can,

Mommy & Matou

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A little boat ride.

Thank you to all who have expressed your condolences in comments and calls both public and private. I write this blog as an outlet for the jibberish in my head and as a tool to share photos of the kids. It is a joy to come to know you, even if only through this medium. It’s not that I forget I have readers, it’s just that I’m stood still by the compassion that can be shown from folks whom I only know through the internet. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

It’s a tough week emotionally. The first reason, obviously, is the death of my grandfather on Sunday. Jennifer and I had organized everything the night before because Sunday was going to be a big day with church plus leaving the kids in the church nursery, plus going out to her parents’, plus managing naps away from home, plus trying to get them to eat surrounded by too many strangers at Easter lunch, plus getting home in time for bedtime routine. So when the kids went down for their morning nap, I went ahead and packed up the car, including my cell phone. Which is why I didn’t answer any of the 5 calls that came in within a span of two hours- all from my mother. It wasn’t until 10:30 that I began listening to the first voice mail when the phone rang again and it was my mom telling me that my grandfather had passed away at 9:26 a.m. As I’m listening, my left brain was throwing punches at my right brain saying “don’t cry. stay strong. you’re not wearing smudgeproof eyeliner.” And this was one moment when I was grateful for Jennifer’s Starbucks addiction because right there in the glove box was a napkin for me to dab with.

Jen offered to go home, but I didn’t really see the reason, so we kept driving. We had gone early to give ourselves time with the kids IN the nursery before going to service. They haven’t been too keen on staying with anyone besides our nanny, Matou, or Mommy. And I can tell you Jennifer and I often wonder where we rank in their preference. All that planning, however, didn’t help. They were on to us, and we had to leave them crying. It gave me a cover to do the same.

Easter service was nice. There was a huge thunderstorm that passed through, causing the lights to flicker and the copper roof to crackle and pop. The music and sermon were beautiful, but I cried intermittently, uncontrollably, and unpredictably with my now falling-apart Starbucks napkin constantly at my face. People around us probably thought “awww, she’s so moved by Easter, look how much she loves Jesus,” but in reality it was hard to focus on the joy when every other word in Easter service is DEATH, DEATH, DEATH, TOMB, DYING, DEATH, DYING.

My grandfather was something else, I tell you. Always laughing or making a joke. He would say “call me on my cell phone because I don’t know where I’ll be.” I know people half his age that complain about cell phones and how they don’t know how to use them. He was on the golf course as often as possible (though I think the one in Small Town, Texas doubles as a cow pasture half a year and desert the other). There are so many stories, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. And I shouldn’t right now, since I still don’t have the smudge-proof stuff. He was diagnosed only a couple months ago, but succumbed quickly. The cancer itself was treatable, but when combined with diabetes, old age, and chemotherapy, it became too much for his body. Honestly, I think he would have lived longer without treatment. My grandfather has always been about quality AND quantity. He loved his full head of hair, loved to paint and draw, loved golf. And once treatment began, he lost the ability to do those things. Cancer is cruel like that. It was then that I knew it wouldn’t be long.

Though I would love for Jennifer and the kids to be with me, it would be a logistical nightmare: driving would take an entire day (it’s a 6 hour drive from here without kids/diaper changes/feedings). If we flew, we’d be broke. The rosary will occur during bedtime. The funeral will occur during a nap. And if there is one thing I am inflexible about, it’s their sleep because it will make or break the rest of the day and usually half of the next. Jennifer could fly out with me and we’d still be broke, and be broker because we’d have to pay for overnight care for the twins. So, yeah, the smartest thing is for me to go alone. And by the time this post gets published, I’ll be in the air.

I will be flying out on Wednesday after a half-day of work, arriving in one city, and hitching a ride to Small Town, Texas in time for the wake and the rosary. The mass and burial will be on Thursday, April 16. After the reception, I’ll hitch a ride back to San Antonio and catch a flight back home, arriving at 8:30 p.m on the 16th. It’s too short a trip when I consider how I feel I’m failing my mom by not being there for her longer. The appearance that I’m just rushing in for the services, check in with the extended family, hugs, kisses, tears, and head back home. But it’s the best I can do what with the responsibility of my children and family and that increasingly unstable job situation. I hate it when my best isn’t good enough.

And while I’m thinking about it, write a will. It is the single most important document you’ll ever have. And it is the most selfless gift you can give to those you’ll leave behind. In all his greatness, my grandfather was exceptionally stubborn and he refused to write one. I am lovingly pissed off about that. Assets freeze, everything has to go through probate, loved ones have to simultaneously mourn while scrambling for funds for burial. Sadness and pain often manifests itself in the form of survivors bickering over tangible objects. It’s just plain unnecessary. When you don’t write a will, the state and the courts effectively decide what goes where. The family has almost no say. So bow up, people.

April 16 is also MATEO AND HARPER’S FIRST BIRTHDAY.

And I won’t see them AT ALL that day due to travel.

That’s the other emotionally difficult thing this week. It’ll be harder on me than it is on them. And I know I’m being all sentimental about it and that they won’t remember it and all that. But I will, and it leaves me a little bit nauseated. You wouldn’t think you could have the wind knocked out of you when your chest is already hollow feeling, but it can.

Around March some time, I began thinking about the kids’ birthday and the post I would write. And as I got to thinking about it, I’d get to crying. Why, one might ask? I’ll be able to explain it better sometime in the next. . .Never.

In memory of my grandfather, I’ve set the post to publish at approximately the same time as my grandfather’s burial, which is approximately the same time as their birth a year prior – their birthday forever shared with the great-grandfather they never got to meet.

Oh, but the stories we’ll tell.

A couple weeks ago, my niece E! turned two. It seems that it was just yesterday that I was posting her birth announcement, and now here she is all toddler and talky talky talky. To celebrate, my sister arranged for a birthday party at a place called Fiesta Farms in San Antonio. There, there were three covered areas and a barn, each packed with a party of of cuñados and primos and abuelos and hermanos and a couple white people scattered about.

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E!, the birthday girl.

And let me just say, albeit a bit windy and chilly, it was a spectacular place for a party for kids in the 2-5 age range. The farm was basically a bit of a petting zoo and safari all within walking distance for the toddle crowd. There were pony rides and chicken feedings and staring down llamas and cuddling bunnies.

Jennifer had the ingenious idea of bringing the wagon that her dad and step-mom gave our kids for Christmas. Riding in it allowed the kids to be transported without being carried, and with more freedom than a stroller. And their cousins got in on the ride, too.

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Baby S, E!s sister.

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X, my brother’s boy.

Harper and Mateo got in on the fun and pony rides, too. And I’m just smitten to have shots like these to remember their babyhood.

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Harper and Matou.

Cowboy Up!
Mateo on the pony.

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It was a quick trip, less than 24 hours. But it was really nice to see my siblings and their families. Of course, we couldn’t leave without the obligatory photo of my mom with a tossed salad of her grandchildren. They’ve all grown in just a few months, and I can already tell things are going to get really fun as they grow up together.

Oh, and one more thing, I’ve been playing with iMovie, trying to teach myself how to make videos from still photos. I am less than pleased with the transitions, but given that I won’t get to play on the computer any evening soon, I’m posting my first attempt which contains all the photos from the Fiesta Farms party.

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Grandma and the kids.

Part I: PLANNING & PACKING
Part II: THE AIRPORT EXPERIENCE
Part III: YOUR FINAL DESTINATION

This is Part III of a Three Part Series on Traveling By Airplane With Twin Infants. Parts I and II can be found by clicking on the link above.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

So you made it there, congratulations. I know when we arrived intact I half hoped someone would offer me one of those Miss America sashes, some kind of runner-up award for Most Improved Traveler With Twinfants or something. But no, everyone went about their business. And I might have given myself a pat on the back, but there was the issue of using those hands to wrangle a couple kids, luggage, and my sanity.

I now introduce a few things to think about as it relates to your final destination. And keep in mind that this assumes you’ve had your shit together as it relates to the adult packing and planning, because here I only address those kid-related things to consider.

MEALS

Things to consider: making your food, taking your food, purchasing food there?

We’ve been making their baby food since they started eating solids. At one myopic point, I actually wondered how I would transport frozen baby food to the location, or would I purchase fresh food there (we were staying at a friend’s home) and cook at night? And then I remembered my parenting method: Non-Extremist; and in a flash of genius (a flash brought about by friends who slapped me into reality), it occurred to me that I could – holy crap – buy jarred baby food for the three days.

A couple weeks before we left, I fed them some jarred baby food to see if they’d like it. It was heartbreaking to see them eat it up indiscriminately given all the time I had put into making their food up to that point. But guess what – that’s practice for parenting through the teen years, right? Anyway, we packed up jarred baby food in our checked luggage, wrapped it with some of that leftover stretch wrap from our last move and nestled it among our clothing. Oh, sure, I could have pre-shipped frozen food, packed up frozen food (domestic flights only), made fresh food there, or purchased jar food there, but our time was limited and I really didn’t want to spend it at a grocery store. Aunt Susu was kind enough to stop at the grocery store in advance of our trip and picked up some rice cereal and some fresh fruit for us, but for the most part, we served jarred food.

TOILETRIES / MEDS

When we travel away from home, we always take a small bag with the following items: Tylenol, teething tablets, nasal bulb, nail clippers, saline mist, Motrin, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and bath gel.

Because we weren’t about to travel with a bath tub and because where we were going did not have bath tubs available, we simply took a two-foot section of drawer liner leftover from some move. It was enough of a ‘bath mat’ to provide some stability as we bathed them. However, a towel would have been fine, too.

GEAR (aka creatures of comfort, aka comforts of creatures)

How much you take, or rent, or borrow, or beg for, or steal, hinges on where you are staying (a home? A hotel? Other?) The placebo effect on us is likely stronger than the kids’ absolute need for consistency, but we wanted to offer as much consistency as possible. Which mean we needed crib-like sleeping quarters for our kids. They’ve occasionally slept in a pack-n-play, but we didn’t want to risk throwing them (or ourselves) completely off orbit, so we wanted to have the best possible sleeping arrangements for them. Through a suggestion from my local mom’s of multiples club, I found affordable crib rentals through Babysaway.com They aren’t in every city, but holy crap it was totally worth it for the two cribs ($12/day), two high chairs ($6/day), and one exersaucer ($4/day). Prices vary depending on location, but the convenience of someone delivering all that gear and having those comforts of home at our friend’s home was totally worth it.

This might appear to be contrary to my Non-Extremist parenting style, but we also took with us a sound machine (something they are used to, and easily packed), my iPod and a speaker (they’re used to music during the day), and their respective woobies. Our idea was to provide as much consistency as reasonably possible, while staying flexible to the circumstance of our destination.

OUTINGS (Snack & Gear)

Packing for this is not unlike any outing that you would take from home, the only difference is you either need to pack it with you or plan to purchase there. We had a great outing doing the 5K and another outing to the French Quarter. For us, the main things in our Survival Kit were cheerios, water, light jackets, diapers, wipes, and desitin. And we had wheels in the form of their stroller and a baby carrier just in case.

That about wraps it up. I’m sure there are other things to consider, but (a) we’ve traveled by plane exactly once, and (b) if we missed it the first time around, we didn’t miss it badly enough for me to recall for this posting.

I am told that traveling with toddlers is easier (less crap to think about), but harder (they’re more mobile and verbal). So if we ever get on another plane, I’ll write another post with those lessons learned.

Happy Travels!

Part I: PLANNING & PACKING
Part II: THE AIRPORT EXPERIENCE
Part III: YOUR FINAL DESTINATION

This is Part II of a Three Part Series on Traveling By Airplane With Twin Infants. Part I can be found by clicking on the link above.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

THE AIRPORT EXPERIENCE

In general, COMMUNICATION is an absolute necessity to have a stress-minimized airport experience. Communication with your adult passengers, communication with your kids, communication with security, communication with the flight crew. If you communicate your situation, your needs, your desire to make as burden-free as possible for the staff and fellow travelers, the more likely they are to be helpful, accommodating, and FORGIVING.

EARLY CHECK-IN
If at all possible, print your boarding passes BEFORE YOU LEAVE for the airport.

TRANSPORTATION TO/FROM AIRPORT
Decide faaaaarrrrr in advance how you intend to get to and from the airport. Ideally, you own two carseats per child. If this is the case, then let the kids ride in the car in one set, and have the other set in the trunk/storage area for easy transport on/off the car. This is most helpful if the carseats are attached to some kind of rolling device. And if your car has the space to hold extra carseats and luggage. Otherwise, it’ll take about 5-10 minutes to deal with the carseats. This may not seem like a long time, but with multiple children and inclement weather and mealtime approaching, every minute saved is a week longer that you get to live.

You Drive Yourselves In Your Car – If you’re going to drive yourself and there are two adults going, go directly to curbside check-in. Both adults unload everything, including the kids, and one tries to corral the kids while possibly simultaneously checking-in, while the other adult goes and parks the car and enjoys five quiet minutes. Catch a skycap QUICKLY and TIP WELL.

Someone Else Drives You In Your Car – This, to me, is the ideal situation. You get dropped at curbside check-in, three adults help unload everything, one adult leaves with your car, and two adults remain to wrangle kids and check stuff in. This option offers the most hands resulting in the most efficient drop-off/check-in experience.

Someone Else Drives You In Their Car - Are you sure you can’t let them drive your car? Because it would be a lot easier. If not, this option isn’t too different than “Someone Else Drives You In Your Car” except you may or may not have storage issues based on the number of car seats and the number of luggage pieces.

LEAVING WITH ENOUGH TIME

This goes without saying, but it is still one of our biggest challenges. How early? Here’s a rough estimate of things you might want to consider and then tweak according to your own commute situation.

  • Recall the average amount of time it takes to get to your airport, in our case, 30 minutes.
  • Double it if you’re traveling anywhere near rush hour.
  • Multiple that number times 1.5 to account for normal traffic/accidents.
  • Are you driving yourselves? Add another 30 minutes for the loading and unloading and shuttles and parking and waiting.
  • Didn’t/couldn’t pre-print boarding passes but you aren’t checking luggage? Must be a quick trip, lucky you. Add 5 minutes to find one of those check-in kiosks
  • Checking luggage and may or may not have pre-printed boarding passes? Add 5 minutes per checked piece to accommodate lines and those super-sticky tags to print, and the labels you forgot to put on the luggage.
  • Add another 10 minutes per traveler for going thru security, taking shoes off, being asked questions about your carry-ons, standing in miscellaneous lines, and getting to the gate.
  • In our case, that was (30 * 1.5) + 0 + 0 + 10 + (10 * 4) = half an hour earlier than we used to leave for the airport.

    GETTING THROUGH SECURITY AND TO YOUR GATE

    Speaking of security, don’t wear a belt or lace-up shoes. It’s just easier not to wear this stuff when you have to remove the items to go through the gate. If at all possible, for kids that can’t walk, just keep them in socks and put those cute Robeez in the carry-on bag because you’ll have to remove their shoes, too.

    At this point, we had checked our luggage and we were left with one double-stroller, two car seats on rollers with a baby in each, and two back packs. Some people will choose to luggage-check the carseats (because they have lapchildren) and just transport the kids in a simple stroller through the airport. Others luggage-check the carseats and do not take a stroller. If you do that, at least take a baby carrier (we have an Ergo), though you will most likely have to remove it to go through security.

    DECLARE YOUR POWDERS AND LIQUIDS. It’s my understanding that they will want to see your water and formula powder, but since our items were in the backpacks that were going through x-ray, and since there was a long-ass line behind us, they didn’t even flinch or ask or sort through the bags. Declare it anyway.

    Some (Most? All?) convertible carseats will not fit through the xray machine. (Although I think most infant carseats will). Request that they be “wanded” by security. Since we took our very large Double BOB Revolution that was going to have to be wanded anyway, they might as well wand the carseats, too.

    We took of our backpacks, put them in the bins, along with our shoes. Took the babies out of the carseats. Security then directed us to leave the carseats and stroller and pass through the gate with baby in hand. Jennifer beeped so she and Harper had an extra special wanding while I passed BACK through the gate, as directed by security, and helped get the stroller and carseats through the area. Where they wanded and powder-checked and whatever they do with that Star Trek box near the back.

    While the carseats and stroller were given a twice-over, Jennifer and Harper were cleared and we all approached the bins, picked up the backpacks, sat down and put everybody’s shoes on. By the time we were done with that, the carseats and stroller were ready, so we put the kids back into the carseats attached to the Travelmate’s, tossed the backpacks into the stroller, and one of us pushed both babies, while the other pushed the stroller and backpacks.
    Airport Stroll
    And we leisurely strolled to the gate, a bit overwhelmed by what had just happened, and stunned that it went relatively smoothly.

    THE WAIT AT THE GATE

    Depending on when you arrived at the airport, how long security took, and the number of unexpected circumstances blown your way, you may or may not have a lot of time before boarding. We had about 30 minutes.

    If you are gate checking any items, go to the counter, SMILE, and ask for some gate check tags. While they’re tapping endlessly onto their keyboards, chat them up about whether or not the flight is full, and if not could you get on before everyone else so you can be sure to sit in the same row, and your inexperience in flying with infants and how you want to do things right and pretty much make them feel like they know everything. Not only are you doing this to butter them up to avoid situations like this, but because every airline and possibly every crew will respond differently so you shouldn’t assume how things went with one flight will work for another. Take their lead and be respectful and adjust your plans and gear accordingly.

    Once we had gate-check tags and knew what the process was for this crew and for this flight, we had about 15 minutes. This was just enough time for me to go ahead and make their bottles (shielding this process from their view because HEAVEN FORBID they see a bottle that isn’t immediately going into their little suckers that close to naptime!). Jennifer kept them entertained with the couple rattle toys and the There-Are-Few-Better-Inventions-Than-Cheerios. After the bottles were made – and hidden in the bag – we changed their diapers right there on the floor at the gate. Five minutes left.

    TO PRE-BOARD OR NOT TO PRE-BOARD?

    Do you have assigned seating? Then you might be better off waiting. Unassigned seating (like Southwest Airlines)? Then you better have printed your Boarding Pass from home 24 hours before so that you can be in the first group. Then, it’s like trying to get the best seat on a roller coaster, everybody rushing, vying for position. Just consider that once you’re on the plane, it’s still a good 15 minutes or so before you take-off. So when to board becomes a game-time decision based on whether or not your seats are assigned, the demeanor of your children, and the number of adults traveling with you.

    JETWALKING

    How you get from the waiting area to the plane depends on the amount and type of gear you are gate-checking and carrying on. For us, and given the size of our stroller, we put the kids in the stroller and the other of us rolled the empty carseats down. This allowed for the least amount of bending and unbuckling and keeping others waiting. Even if we had had no carseats, I still would have rather strolled than carried because it saves your arms for a few minutes.

    BOARD ALL AT ONCE OR BIT BY BIT?

    Again, it depends on (un)assigned seating and demeanors and number of adults traveling with you.

    All At Once – On our flight there, at the plane entrance, I began unbuckling babies while Jennifer collapsed the Travelmate handles and set the car seats along the wall. She then unbuckled the second baby and held both kids while I folded down and bungee cord strapped the double stroller. This did create a bit of a traffic jam for those waiting behind us, BUT, (a) it didn’t really take but 2 minutes max AND (b) it allowed the people who had boarded ahead of us to get a seat and therefore out of our way.

    Bit By Bit – On the flight back, the flight was going to be full (something I learned from the representative at the gate when I was obtaining gate-check tags) so Jennifer wheeled the empty car seats and boarded ahead of us in Group A, with the intention of getting our seats saved and then meeting us at the entrance of the plane to grab a baby once I got down there. She communicated this (SMART WOMAN!) to the flight attendant, who suggested that was not going to be a good idea, what without the contraflow lanes and all. I, of course, did not know this. So when I walked down the jetway at the back of Group A, I began unbuckling oblivious to the fact that Jennifer wouldn’t be there. HOWEVER, the flight attendant told me what was going on and said she and the pilot would hold babies while I got the stroller folded down. How sweet is that?? I would venture to say that they just wanted an excuse to hold two of the most adorable kids ever. But I digress.

    THE FLIGHT

    So you made it this far, you’re not sweating too badly, the kids aren’t totally freaking out, and there are no delays. Congratulations. Seriously. Now the clock slows down because here you are essentially trapped in a space that barely fits your elbows with kids that could conceivably erupt at any time and you’re surrounded by strangers and other people breathing your air in an environment your kids have never been in. Oops, am I projecting?

    The first thing we did was take out those couple rattle toys, string them to some plastic rings/links, and hook them to the tray table hinge. Now you don’t have to feel around the floor if the toy gets “dropped”.

    Actually, that wasn’t the first thing. The FIRST first thing we did was say our respective silent little prayer of desperation for a speedy and uneventful flight.

    The third first thing that we did was say to one another (within earshot of the nearby passengers) that we had all the things we needed for the kids and that they had been in good moods and things were going well and make sure you have everything you need so we don’t have to bother the people we’re sitting by. And the point of this was to purchase some goodwill for the just in case it all goes to hell situation. And because placebos really do work for lots of folks.

    The first second thing (I guess actually, it was actually the fourth thing) is address that age-old directive of “all you have to do is give them something to drink or eat on the way up and on the way down.” I was really worried about their ears and all that, so we pulled the bottles out as we backed out of the terminal, at which point the kids began hyperventilating for their formula and throwing their heads back to lay down in our arms. We purposefully booked the flight near a nap time with the hopes that they’d take a bottle and sleep a bit of the flight. DIDN’T HAPPEN. Not only did sleep not happen, but baby girl sucked down her bottle BEFORE WE WERE IN THE AIR. And Mateo finished his before we reached cruising altitude. I’ll time that one better next time. Neither seemed to really be affected, though.

    Then it was hold babies in laps and play and try and push Time along. An eternal 30 minutes into the flight, we began our descent. The tricky part on a short flight, however, is getting them to eat on the way down. Mateo as all “awesome, I get another bottle, this is exactly as it should be.” But Harper was all “don’t EVEN try to make me eat when I don’t wanna.” At which point my blood pressure rose a tad and I watched her like a hawk waiting for her head to explode or something worse because SHIT! What about drinking ON THE WAY DOWN? Her head stayed attached, though she did tilt it to one shoulder quite frequently. So cheerios – which make your mouth all dry and gooey – followed by some water in her cup seemed to suffice.

    At last, we had arrived.

    GETTING OFF THE PLANE

    Pretty much work backwards from “Board All At Once Or Bit By Bit?” and “Jetwalking” and “Getting Through Security And To Your Gate”. One advantage of traveling with kids is that by the time you get them strapped into the stroller or car seats and maybe even take turns going to the bathroom, by the time you get to Baggage Claim, not only is it a clear shot to the conveyor belt, but it’s likely someone has placed your luggage next to the carousel in a ready-to-go position.

    TRANSPORTATION TO YOUR FINAL DESTINATION

    So much of this depends on what plans you made. Is someone picking you up? Are you renting a car? Do you need a taxi or a shuttle? Depending on the length of your flight and the amount of time to your final destination, you might want to take this time to go to the bathroom and/or change the kids’ diapers.

    Up next, Part III: YOUR FINAL DESTINATION

    More Photos!

    The Aforementioned

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