Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Looong Trip Home (And Why Do I Do This Every Year?)

Aidan has a former teacher who is bicycling from Barcelona back to her home state of Oregon.  I think that while it will take her over a year to make it to her destination, I prefer her mode of travel over mine when going back to the States.  Yup, it is time for our annual pilgrimage back home to Boston.

Liam was understandably nervous all of this week leading up to the big day.  Not nervous about being in "Bosty" as he calls it, but nervous because he remembers that he vomited 11 times on the journey last year.  And hey, who can blame him - I was equally nervous for the same reason!!  But I was much more prepared for class this year with extra wipes, extra clothes and puke bags at the ready.

However, I didn't need them.  Nope, not one.  Ok, I used the wipes but that's only because he's a messy eater ;)  He was a superstar when it came to not puking on the whole trip.  I think it revitalized his love of travel.  However, it reminded me that at least when he's puking, he and Aidan aren't fighting which is what they did in all 3 airports we were in yesterday making for a looonngg trip home.

Here's the thing, as you probably know from previous posts, I hate to fly.  Like hate it.  It's strange because I used to just not like it but would deal with it, but progressively over the last year it has become a downright fear of flying.  I have no idea why.  I haven't experienced some horrific flight that has caused this.  But I really don't like to fly.  However, I do it because I won't let it stop me from living.  And normally when I fly just myself and the kids, I do pretty well because I have them to occupy my focus rather than on my fears.

But I can tell when I'm nervous because, like Aidan, I tend to act out and when I woke up on Tuesday morning, I was a total bear.  Lashing out at everyone and even telling the kids I had no desire to go home and that this was all for them.  Way to go right?  Proud mom moment there.  However, my guess is that I sparked an attitude in each of the kids and they became a bit on the moody side and fought the entire morning.

Instead of their usual excitement as we got to the airport I was faced with constant bickering and "he touched me, he punched me, he said something mean to me" battles.  Ahhhh, can't wait for this 16 hour day to get started!!!  The line in Barcelona airport to drop our baggage was probably the longest I've ever seen.  We were in the line for a good 45 minutes which is so not the norm.  However, it meant less waiting at the gate.  And in fact, we only waited about 15 minutes before we were able to board so at least the time went by quickly.

In Barcelona Airport, ready to go HOME!!

Puke free so far!!

We are going home!!

The flight from Barcelona to Amsterdam was uneventful.  I got a handle on my fears about 30 minutes into the flight and so no one was allowed to talk to me until then.  Ok, they could talk but they got laconic one word responses from me until I could get a grip on myself.  Why am I such a mess these days??  The kids were awesome on this flight - they watched their ipad and itouches and were perfectly content.

We landed a few minutes early in Amsterdam and for that I'm thankful.  I had flown into Amsterdam before but never connected there.  And I think this will be my only time (well except for our return flight of course) because it's a pain in the ass to travel thru.

While we only had an hour and a half to layover, we needed pretty much every moment of that despite the fact that it is a small airport.  I still say that Dublin is the best place to layover when traveling to Barcelona from Boston.  Heathrow you need at least 3 hours and Amsterdam was just difficult.  Why so?

First off, it's not well marked.  It took me a while to figure out where our connection was.  There was no master screen with all the flights and what terminals they were in.  You had to go to the start of each terminal to see where the flights were going.  I finally found a kiosk where you could enter in your info to figure out where you had to be.  But that was after a bit of walking before I found that.  We had to go thru customs, which is normal.  And for the first time I was asked where Mr. Marcus was - and thankfully he believed me (and why shouldn't he as I was telling the truth - but I'd heard once long ago that you should have a letter from the spouse giving permission to travel with underage kids out of the country and I did not have this letter from Josh).  He also asked if I had a visa to be in Spain and so I had to show him our Irish passports and thankfully brought copies of our NIEs (social security papers) with us.  Whew!!  That part was over, the rest should be easy, right?

Thankfully our gate was right after customs so in all, the walking we did thru the airport was less than 15 minutes unlike Heathrow where we need close to an hour to get from point A to point B.  However, at our gate there was a separate security screening where they pulled each passenger aside, inspected their passports, asked each passenger questions and THEN you still had to go thru security with your carryon AND go thru the xray machine AND every person was patted down.  I thought Heathrow was bad.  On the plus side, I felt pretty secure that if the plane were to go down, it wasn't going to be for security issues.

The kids of course, were acting out while in line.  An American couple actually spoke to them and said they should really listen to their mother.  I couldn't decide if I should be happy that they spoke up, thereby making my kids think twice (yeah ok) before acting out again since a stranger pointed out their behavior, or if this was a judgement on my (lack of) parenting skills.  Regardless, they continued on as is.  Fabulous.

So another thing I learned is that KLM is not as accommodating as British Air.  While technically seated all in a row on the plane, there was an aisle between myself and Liam and Aidan.  So Aidan was on his own in the middle section.  I told him this was good because both he and I got an aisle so we would both have lots of leg room and Liam wouldn't puke next to anyone since I would be the only one next to him.  However, that wasn't good enough for Aidan and so I asked like 5 different people between Barcelona and Amsterdam (I had realized this issue when doing the online check in the day before and even called KLM) and they basically said I just had to ask the people on the plane.  At least I felt good knowing it was a safe flight!!

In the end, there was a couple that was sitting in the 2 seats next to Aidan that agreed to change with myself and Liam.  And why shouldn't they?  They got a window and an aisle in exchange for 2 middle seats.  But somehow I still screwed myself despite taking one for the team and sacrificing my leg room.  Shortly after take off I leaned Liam's seat back only for the guy behind him to push it back up.  Um, excuse me?  I ignored it for the moment. But then I went to move mine and the woman (who was quite large) pushed my seat back.  Really?  She said they didn't have much legroom. Seriously does anyone in coach have legroom?  Why don't you pay for business class if you want legroom?  Not my problem. I did tell them I thought it was unfair that I pay for the seat and then can't put it back for the 7 hr flight.

And while I'm not a big believer in karma, I also was about to embark on a 7 hour flight across the ocean which I was already anxious about.  So not wanting bad karma, I sucked it up and left my seat upright but not without a look to them for ruining my flight.  Thanks to you old lady for the migraine I had the entire flight because I was unable to put my seat in a comfortable position...

We had only one other incident on an otherwise perfect flight (as far as the kids go).  The first 2 hrs were fine til I had to pee.  So I put my water on Liam's tray table and Aidan held his own as I climbed over him. That's when Liam decided he needed to get up too.  He was impatient and knocked my water all over my seat.  Then in the process of climbing over Aidan, bumped his too. Aidan of course let out a string of expletives only a mom could be proud of (yeah right) and hit Liam.  Awesome.  Just what I needed with almost 5 hrs left.  Thankfully they calmed down and the rest of the flight was fighting, tears and puke free.  However, during that moment of expletives spewing from my 9 year old's mouth, I was questioning why I torture myself year after year - not just with the kids but my gut wrenching fears. 

And as we arrived in Boston last night, I remembered.  The look of joy on both kids faces as they raced thru the concourse to get our luggage and to see Nana and Papa as they picked us up from the airport. To the look of happiness that I saw in Aidan that equals no other during the year.  As we drove home from the airport in 5 o'clock traffic, I did remember the pluses to living in Barcelona but as we neared my childhood home, I couldn't help but smile too... yeah, it's worth it.


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