Now I love a good family vacation as much as the next person. The family closeness in the 15-passenger van for 17 hours, the five fast food meals in a row, the decisions about whether to wake up the kids to go potty while we get gas, or stop at the next gas station 30 minutes away after they've woken up, and carrying three pack 'n' plays wherever we go are all part of the rip-roaring family fun we have together. But seriously, all kidding aside, I do love to travel with my family. Even though there is still laundry to take care of and meals to provide and messes to clean up, at least I am doing it in a different and exciting place and we are creating memories for the kids that will last a lifetime, or at least a few weeks. In fact, just yesterday, the twins, using their newly-formed language skills, were reminiscing on the trampoline while eating sweet peas they'd picked from their daddy's garden about the trip to California we took this summer.
" 'Memmoh wen Dally toot us wide weally, weally bid wale????" (being translated: Do you remember when Daddy took us to ride on the really, really big whale?), said one, and...
" 'Memmoh wen Nanny pu' me in women pool? An' I plash weally, weally bid? (Do you remember when Landon pushed me in the swimming pool and I splashed really, really big?")
It was a joy to listen to them as they remembered the fun times we had and it made the myriad sacrifices spent planning and implementing the trip well worth it.
On the other hand, traveling alone can have its rewards as well, and certainly did for me last week.
It had been about ten years, or even longer (because I actually can't remember the last time I traveled alone), since I took a vacation by myself, and I had been looking forward to my trip to Utah for weeks. For years I had had this fantasy of what traveling alone would be like. I would wear a cute suit and heels, shucking the stretchy breastfeeding t-shirt and practical shoes. I would carry a laptop and watch movies instead of packing board books and crackers. And I would not, under any circumstances, carry a diaper in my purse.
When the big day came, my fantasy was fulfilled, but in a bit more practical sense. I didn't wear a suit, but I wore slacks and a really cute and crisp pink pin-striped button-down with a darker pink tee under it. I wore the cutest pink and silver chandelier earrings and matching necklace and rather than heels, I opted for flat black boots, which look equally awesome and were much more comfortable for walking through long airports.
When packing my purse, yes, I took out the diapers and the Cheerios and I almost left the wet wipes in there, but then I thought to myself, "Self, you are not messy. You do not need to pack a box of wet wipes in your purse. If you should need to wipe your hands, you can use a napkin or go to the bathroom." So I tossed out the wipes, which made room for my Kindle and yes, my laptop.
As I walked into the airport, I did so unencumbered, with a purse over my shoulder and a carry-on bag with all that I would need for the trip, including my Medela breast pump. I did not have to strap a car seat to my back, sling a baby onto my hip, then trip to figure out how to pull my suitcase behind me and somehow carry my backpack with the baby supplies. I felt like I was in Heaven.
But I'm not finished. During the first flight, a fellow passenger asked if I had a long layover and I answered that I did. She offered her condolences, but I said, "No! It's wonderful! I have two hours to just sit and read quietly. I can't wait!" After I told her I had ten kids, she smiled and nodded knowingly.
During previous layovers, I have often walked by fancy airport restaurants in which fancy people in business suits sat, mingling or working on important papers, or of course, their laptops. I had always longingly looked into these restaurants, but had had to keep trudging by like the pack-mule that I was to the nearest fast food center with a high chair.
But not this time! During my layover in Phoenix, I saw a Mexican restaurant called José Roux. See, the name José speaks to those who love a good Mexican meal, but the name Roux is just Frenchy enough to make it sound really classy and sophisticated. So I went in and I ordered the most delicious chile con queso I have ever had, and I ate a salad with ceviche and drank agua mineral and then doughnuts for desert. I leisurely ate and read The Secret Garden for nearly one and a half hours, and was almost sad when it came time to leave for my gate.
During my flight from Phoenix to SLC, I sat next to a fellow-Mormon, and we hit it off so well that we told each other all of our deepest secrets because we knew we would never see each other again, and when we got to the baggage pick-up, as we had walked together from the plane through the airport, she looked at me oddly and said, "Didn't you say that you didn't check any bags?" I hit my hand to my head and said, "Oh my goodness, Yes! I was having such a good time with you that I guess I didn't want to leave!" So we hugged and bid each other well, and I easily walked outside because I wasn't carrying a car seat and a baby and a stroller, and met my daughter who was already there waiting for me.
We drove directly to a raw vegan restaurant and ate a delicious dinner together, one filled with good, healthy vegan food, reminiscing, planning the future, and just laughing. After we had stuffed ourselves with goodness, she kindly drove me to my hotel..... where I did whatever I felt like I wanted to do, which was walk around in my underwear, because you can't do that at home when you have seven boys, and turn the heat up really high, because I can't do that when I share a room with someone as hot-blooded as John, and read my book.
Strangely, although I thought I would sleep like a rock, I didn't sleep well, I think because it was too hot.
The next day was filled with more good food at restaurants, the mommy blogger meeting, which was the purpose of my trip (read more about it HERE) and my daughter even set up a massage for me in a massage/coffee shop that smelled of essential oils and roasted coffee beans and had walls covered with inspirational sayings and shelves stacked with crystals and books and oils....
The massage therapist was only 20 years old and a self-proclaimed psychic, and I think she was because she was so in tune with my body and knew exactly where I was hurting.
The best part of the trip, I think, was what happened between me, my daughter and her boyfriend on the way back to the airport. I wish I could tell you all about it, but my daughter's boyfriend is somewhat private and probably wouldn't like me to blast our conversation all over the internet. Suffice it to say, we have a somewhat, shall I say, "tense" relationship, but in the car on the way to the airport, we talked with and listened to each other and both genuinely seemed to enjoy and benefit from the conversation. I left Salt Lake City with such a feeling of well-being, both spiritually and physically, and I enjoyed equally wonderful, solitary flights on the way home to El Paso.
And might I say THANK YOU to John, my dearest husband and friend, for encouraging me to accept the invitation to the mommy blogger meeting and for making it possible, both financially, and by taking time off work to care for the dear children. I love you and I really appreciate what you did for me. :) Let's take a trip together sometime, without the kids, and I promise I won't turn the heat up too high!
Thanks for listening!