Friday, June 5, 2015

First Big Family Vacation - Day 5

Here we are, already on the fifth day of our Seattle vacation , or as I affectionately call it, the day we learned that GPS's don't work well in a concrete jungle.

After spending the first four days of our trip driving all over creation to see various family and friends, we finally took a day to head to downtown Seattle and enjoy the touristy stuff. As a huge bonus, Dave's aunt (the one who surprised us with her presence on day two) decided to tag along for part of the day! We were all very excited about that, especially given the intense cold shoulder disappointment we experienced the day before.

We made our way to the downtown area after breakfast, with much excitement! Aidan had been begging for days to go to the Space Needle, and since that particular place is such a huge and happy childhood memory for me, I was dying to take him. But first, we were to meet our auntie at the Seattle Aquarium. I couldn't wait!

As we neared the core downtown area, I started noticing that Emily, the lovely British woman inside our rental car's GPS, seemed to be getting confused.  She wasn't sure where we were, nor which way we should go. The bigger issue was that her uncertainty did not cause her to stop giving us (what ended up being poor) directions. We got a bit turned around. She even told us to get out of the car once and walk the rest of the way. True story! We were not amused. Oh, and how about some road construction to further complicate navigation? Why not?

With all that said, though, I do love downtown. As a sheltered Alaskan kid, I'm always so blown away by the massive buildings. I think they're pretty.

We finally found our way with the use of two iPhones. We read there was a parking garage right across the street from the Aquarium. We found that and ventured in, only to learn it was cramped, damp, creepy and smelly. The smell of urine was a lovely distraction from the fact that the doors seemed to have locks and bars on them where they shouldn't have. By some miracle we made it out of there alive and wandered across the street.

While Aidan was totally captivated by the Aquarium, I was flooded (see what I did there?) by childhood memories of the place. It was just wonderful to be back there.

Did I mention it was a good time?  The Seattle Aquarium is actually not all that large, which might be my favorite thing about it. You can see everything in a couple of hours, and still leave feeling impressed and like you've done something to connect with nature.

After the Aquarium, we wandered down the boardwalk not-very-far, looking for lunch, and found the Crab Pot restaurant.  I thought the place was cute and I felt inexplicably compelled to buy a tee shirt there that said something like "I got crabs at the Crab Pot!" I talked myself out of it just in time.

After we filled our bellies and said goodbye to our auntie who had other commitments for the afternoon, it was time to tackle another attraction. Aidan first spotted the Great Wheel last winter in a skyline shot of Seattle during a Seahawks game on TV. He asked if we could go on it when we went to Seattle. To say he was excited about this would be an understatement...

I'm proud to say the kid had no idea that was really nervous about this! I definitely wanted to do it, but I'm not big on confinement nor being way off the ground, and on top of that I have balance/vertigo issues sometimes, so it was a bit scary. But we climbed into our lovely enclosed private gondola and off we went! It felt pretty weird at first since the gondola was rocking, but after the first couple times around, I got used to it and felt comfortable enough to enjoy it and take some pictures.

That last one has been the wallpaper on my iPad since the day it was taken! I just love it.

Any guesses as to what came next?!

YUP!  Finally!

It was like walking up to an old friend - except the whole area has changed so much from what I remember 30 years ago. Of course when you walk into the base of the Space Needle, you walk immediately into a giant gift shop, where I spent more than I should have but far less than I wanted to, so I call that a victory! Tickets to ride to the top are spendy, but really, how often would we get this chance? And I certainly could not deny my kid a trip to the top of the Space Needle he'd been begging to visit for over a year. So, up we went.

I had forgotten just how stunning the views are up there.

There's a little cafe up there and tons of info about the Space Needle and Seattle in general. I absolutely loved it, even if I felt a bit dizzy most of the time thanks to my oversensitive ears. I also am certain the thing kept swaying back and forth slightly when we were at the top, but Dave insisted it wasn't. I still think it was! At some point it occurred to me how much I would NOT want to be at the top of the Space Needle in a big earthquake. I quickly shoved that thought away and laughed at how my brain works sometimes.

After descending from the sky, we decided to hit one more attraction, even though we were getting tired and ready for some relaxation. 

My mom used to take me on the monorail in Seattle when I was a kid and I thought it was so cool! Naturally we had to take Aidan too. It's a short ride - maybe five minutes each way - but since he loves all things train-related, he loved every second. We had hoped to have time for a couple other fun things at Seattle Center, but it just didn't happen this time. 

In hindsight, we should have stayed there for just a bit longer, because our next adventure shall forever be known as 'that time we tried to get out of downtown Seattle at exactly 5:00.'  Oh my goodness, what a mess an adventure that was! I can't remember how much time it took us to get to Mukilteo, but I remember being quite frazzled by the time we did.

Thankfully, we had another opportunity to visit with not only my Grandma and Pop, but my uncle and aunt were there too, so we got to see them for the first time in about ten years. That was really wonderful! We had a great dinner together and I so enjoyed getting the chance to catch up with them. I adore them both.

That wraps up a very eventful day five! We truly had a blast. And once again I was grateful for the very nice hotel to go 'home' to that night. I was exhausted, and again, fell asleep in seconds.

Monday, June 1, 2015

First Big Family Vacation - Day 4

By the fourth day of pretty much any vacation, I am usually beginning to feel a little fried and ready for a mellow day. Thankfully, that's exactly what we had in store for day 4.

From our hotel in Mukilteo, we decided to head north a little to explore. My mom had told me repeatedly there was a quaint little town up by the water, with a little lighthouse. She was right! We saw Ivar's - though never did make it there to eat, unfortunately - and then found the park with the lighthouse and ferry terminal. 

Aidan loved walking on the beach collecting shells. It was a chilly, gray day - my favorite - but I had neglected to bring a jacket, and it was extremely misty out. It's unlike me to wimp out because of cool weather or rain, but this time I did, as I didn't want to look like a drowned rat for the rest of the day. The weather on our trip sure was a lovely contrast to what was happening back home, which was 6" of snow the night before we left, wind, and cold.

After exploring the waterfront area for a little bit, we headed south of Seattle to visit our company's location there. It is a regional service center type place, so we deal with the people there on a daily basis, but had never met most of them. We got a nice little tour, met lots of great people, and had a lovely visit.

At this point, we began trying to contact Dave's sister about the day's plans, as she lives right near the place we had just visited. She had told us the night before to text her in the morning and we'd hang out. We weren't shocked when she didn't answer right away, as that is fairly typical. So, we decided to seek out some lunch in the area while we waited.

For the 18 years we have been together, I have been hearing all about hubby's childhood fondness for a particular fast food restaurant in the northwest. I don't believe I'd ever been to one. So, what better time than right now? I googled it, then entered the address in the GPS. Within minutes we were sitting down.

Okay, yes, not the healthiest option in the world. Shush, we were on vacation. I must say it was rather delicious for fast food! I especially loved all the emphasis on recycling and not generating more trash than is necessary. I'm happy to spend a couple more bucks and not contribute much to the landfill. 

We left there with full bellies, and decided to explore the area a bit while waiting to hear back from Dave's sister.

I could tell you a long, frustrating, and sad story about how this whole thing played out, but I honestly don't feel like giving it the time and effort. I'll just go ahead and skip to the end. She completely ignored all of our attempted communications and stood us up. And my husband, who is much better at giving people lots of chances than I am, and who had his heart set on seeing her, wanted to wait around for quite a while hoping to hear from her. 

So, long story short, we blew half a day of our vacation wandering around her area hoping she would reach out. No dice. Super fun with a 4-year-old in tow, I tell you. Sometimes I don't get people. I was sad, but more ticked. I don't like seeing my husband crushed. It makes me very angry. But, I'm realizing that you can't make people give a darn about you, blood or not. Sad, but true. Thankfully we had tons of other people who DID want to see us, and we had great times with them instead.

On another upside, during this time, we found a nifty shopping center just chock full of stores that we don't have in Alaska. So, it was not altogether a waste, though we'd much rather have been spending time with family. I stumbled across a clothing store that I would give a limb to have in Alaska! It is very hard for me to find off-the-rack clothing, but this place was full of it! I spent an hour in there and $300. Oops. But so worth it! The clothes are fantastic and I very rarely buy clothing because I hate shopping so much. So that was great.

Dave finally gave up on his sister around dinner time. We'd seen a Sizzler on the way in, which I know is not exactly high-brow dining, but we used to have one back home and it closed many years ago. So it was a place that both of us had a lot of childhood memories. It was fun to go to the modern version. The food was good. After that, we headed the 45 minutes back to our hotel. I must say, I love the Seattle skyline! (Pardon the crummy moving iPhone pictures through car windows in the dark...)

I could stare at that night skyline for hours without getting bored.

My husband sighed a lot when he got in bed that night. I tried to hide my anger. Neither of us slept worth a darn.

First Big Family Vacation - Day 3

This second full day of our vacation will probably go down in Aidan's memory as 'the day we learned the hotel has free make-your-own Belgian waffles.' Oh my heavens, this kid was excited.

All joking aside, we did find out that our hotel had a really good free breakfast - not the mediocre-to-disappointing sort of thing we've found at most other places. I felt really good about that since the hotel was quite a bit more expensive than we usually go for. At least we were saving money on food?
Enough about breakfast!

After that was done, we hit the road south to Tacoma to visit my cousin and her family. She and I had not seen each other in something like 25 years! We used to write letters back and forth as kids, back when long distance phone calls actually cost something and we couldn't really call. Of all the dozens of cousins I have on that side of my family, she and I have somehow always had a special bond even though we've never seen each other regularly, having never lived in the same state. I was SO excited to be headed to her house.

Thankfully we only had one unplanned detour on the way from north Seattle to Tacoma thanks to some confusing road signs. (That's our story and we're sticking to it.) But it was no big deal, we ended up back on the interstate soon enough and saw some cool stuff in the interim that we wouldn't have seen otherwise. Eventually we made it to my cousin's house and had a lovely reunion.
I finally got to see her house, which was lovely, and has a great story to go along with it. My uncle, my cousin's dad, helped her get into a house before he passed away years ago. As luck would have it, she ended up falling in love with the guy selling the house. He moved back into it and they got married! Speaking of her husband, after only communicating with him on Facebook for the past few years, it was wonderful to finally get to meet him and spend some time with him. He's great and so perfect for her.

We headed out almost immediately to this awesome place! Neither hubby nor I had ever been there, and being a bunch of animal lovers, we were very excited. The adventure there was a bit rushed, but still marvelous. There were elephants and sharks and monkeys and my favorite animal on the planet (sea otters) and baby tigers, need I say more?!

After the zoo, we went back to my cousin's house. The boys (her two and my one) and the men (hers and mine) played with toys and video games while us lady folk got to spend some time in the kitchen together. She wouldn't let me help with dinner, so I stood there and pretended to be useful while we got to catch up on 25 years of life lived too far apart. We had a lovely dinner before heading an hour back north to our hotel. We had to use Netflix on the iPad to keep the kid awake that long, as he was completely worn out from the day's activities.

Actually - we did take one little detour on our way back to the hotel. Dave's sister, who is hard to reach via electronic means most of the time, works about halfway between my cousin's house and our hotel. We hopped off the interstate and after getting turned around a couple of times, found her work and waited outside, as she was due to leave work any minute. We got to surprise her, which was really fun. We made plans to spend time with her the following day, and then took off to the hotel.

Again we all collapsed into bed at the hotel, exhausted, but so happy.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Some Heavy Stuff

I must interrupt this blog series about our family vacation to get some things off my chest.

First, let me be very clear. This blog is my space to write about anything I wish. Writing is very cathartic to me. I am somewhat careful about keeping this reasonably anonymous. I'm sure people could find out who I am if they tried hard enough, but you'll notice I often omit names or details in an effort to just be a little bit faceless on the big ol' Internet.

It is not my intention - EVER - to offend, hurt, or call out anyone on this blog, on any social media site, or anywhere else. Especially not anyone I love. By nature I am not a spiteful or malicious person, with very few exceptions. Those few exceptions would be people who have done really awful things to me personally or those I love. My default disposition is rather sunny with periods of anxiety, worry and generally putting too much pressure on myself.

I have been struggling lately. There are people in my life who have said and done things that, whether I should or not, I have taken personally. I know this is on me. I'm just really tender hearted, like it or not, so when someone accuses me of being cruel or doing or saying mean things, or rejects me, especially for reasons unknown, I take it harder than I probably should.

Combine this with the realization a while back that I don't need to feel obligated to keep people in my life who are toxic, have a negative effect, or who just don't truly care about me, and there's just a shift happening. I really don't make any apologies for my feelings on this. Life is just too short. Thanks to some recent drama that I can't even begin to understand, I have been thinking about pulling away from people in general to try to protect my feelings a little bit.

The first step of my plan was to deactivate my social media accounts. I really didn't want to do that, as there are people that I communicate with primarily through social media and who I would not want to lose touch with. For example, kiddo's birth mom. I definitely don't want to risk losing that tie, and sometimes she is hard to reach any other way but Facebook.

During a much-needed talk with a friend today, I realized something. Well, she made me realize something. Not only can I not control other people's thoughts or behaviors, but people who behave this way will always find something to take issue with. If it's not a post on social media (which I am careful about; I'm not a passive aggressive jerk on social media)... it will be some other random thing.

The whole point is - the issues are theirs, not mine. They can try to make the issues mine (which I believe is usually unintentional), but I don't have to take them on. That is a choice that I have to make. I can be dragged down into the mud, or I can stay upright and just do the best I can to be gracious and forgiving and to love unconditionally. I feel like I have allowed other people's words and actions to dampen those qualities about me. And that's not okay with me. Time to take control back.

As much as I wish I could fix all of this damage and make things better and keep it that way... oh how I wish I could do that... I just can't. The only things I have control of are my thoughts, my words, my actions, and my reactions. So from now on, I am choosing to work on re-sharpening my forgiveness, my gift for putting myself in someone else's shoes, my understanding, and my knack for giving people the benefit of the doubt.

I will be happier and maybe I can make others happy in the process, too.

Win win.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

First Big Family Vacation - Day 2

I don't normally sleep that well in hotels. The bed is never quite right, there are weird noises, the temperature is usually a little off, and so on. But that first night in Seattle, I slept like the dead. It was incredible. (I blame exhaustion and stress!) I woke up feeling rested, relaxed, and so excited for the day ahead. Several times that morning, I thought, "wow, no wonder people go on vacation so much, this is awesome!"

It's possible that I need to get out more.

Anywho, on this the second day of our trip, a Sunday, we had breakfast with Grandma and Pop. Pop made 'basted eggs' - something I have never heard of but found to be delicious - and bacon. This is the day that I learned, at thirty-odd years old, that you can microwave bacon and it turns out decent! How did I never know this before?

After breakfast and another great visit with Grandma and Pop, we headed south to Issaquah to meet up with hubby's cousin (part of his 'new' family that we just discovered a couple of years ago). We adore her, so we were really looking forward to the day. I actually enjoyed the drive through/around Seattle on the interstate. The day before, I was still so stressed that I didn't pay too much attention. This time, we were in no particular rush and I felt like I could enjoy the sights. One of my favorites was this:

As a huge lifelong Seahawks fan, who booked this trip well before knowing her Seahawks would be going to the Super Bowl the day after she would be coming back home from Seattle, I was thrilled to see so much blue and green around the city. Actually, 'thrilled' doesn't even cover it. I was completely geeked out. I told Dave at the time that I had found my people!

After an hour on the road, we arrived at his cousin's house. It was a lovely place at the end of a cute street. As we approached her driveway, we saw someone standing outside. I didn't even pay attention to the person in the driveway, because the only other person we'd hoped to visit that day was Dave's aunt, who we were told would be in California during our visit. We were sad that we were going to miss her. As we got closer, Dave said, "there's my aunt!"

I may or may not have screamed in excitement! More than once! What a great surprise, and we had a great reunion! We visited and had a pancake party, which is one of Dave's cousin's trademarks. It consists of multiple griddles set up on a table with bottles of batter scattered about and tons of different toppings/mix-ins for pancakes.

Everyone gets their own spatula and it's just a lot of fun. I can honestly say it would never have occurred to me to try sausage, mushrooms and feta in a pancake before... but it was delish! I also had one with peanut butter and strawberries. Also very good.

After the pancake party, we piled into the rented Charger and headed off to this place. It was so beautiful there! It was also crowded, since it was a sunny Sunday afternoon and unseasonably warm. We stayed there enjoying the view and taking pictures for a while before heading out.

Our next adventure took us back into Seattle to a place called Alki Beach, which as it turns out, is where some of those incredible Seattle skyline photos come from. I was completely in awe at the view from this place. We went to Pegasus Pizza for dinner, which I highly recommend by the way and so does hubby, who shocked me by consuming a pizza with spinach on it.  We then went for a stroll on the beach. By then it was dark, so the skyline was stunning.

I wish I'd had my tripod, more time, and that I'd felt a bit safer setting up in a spot to take some good pictures there! As you can see, the few I got were underexposed and a bit blurry. I must say, though, I love that I was able to snap my own pictures of the Space Needle lit up in green for my Seahawks.

We headed back north to our hotel and retired for the night. I collapsed into the bed and fell right to sleep again as I wondered how I could get that bed on the plane with me to take it home...

Friday, February 20, 2015

First Big Family Vacation - Day 1

I bet you thought I fell off the blogging wagon after all that talk of trying to write every day in 2015, didn't you? No posts in a couple of weeks... oops. I should have warned you that would happen. But, I did write before about the big trip that I was super nervous (and excited!) about. I had hopes of writing my posts ahead of time and having them auto-post while I was gone, but that just did not materialize. Maybe next time.

It's my intention at this point to write in detail about our trip. In some cases probably great detail. Much of this might be boring to you, but it was such a big deal to us that I want to document it all while it's still fresh in my mind.

Our flight was scheduled to leave at 9:45 on a Saturday morning. Because we've only lived here for a year and change, we'd never flown out of this airport before and we weren't entirely sure what to expect, especially having never flown with a kid before. (Well, hubby and kiddo did make one short flight before we moved here, but that was kind of an entirely different thing.) Aidan had to find creative ways to pass the time as we finished up our last-minute packing…

We arrived at the airport plenty early, which is an absolute must for me to keep me from getting completely frantic before the trip even starts. It's good we were there so early, in fact, because we had a rocky start. We found long term parking just fine, but getting three suitcases, three backpacks, a car seat and a 4 year old from there to the terminal was not fun at all considering there was 4" of fresh unplowed snow, it was windy, and we had no idea which way to go. We ended up taking some very chilly inadvertent detours. I nearly threw up twice from the combination of shivering and nerves.

We finally made it into the terminal, checked our bags, and learned something nifty - when it comes to getting through security, traveling with a small child makes things quick and easy! The kid was with me for this first trip through security, which meant that he could leave his shoes on and we both got to go through the old-fashioned doorway-type scanner instead of the body scanner. Easy peasy. (As a side note, I had read multiple suggestions that transracial families especially should bring their children’s birth certificates with them for proof of identity at security, so I did. However, we were not asked for Aidan’s. The nice lady at security asked him for his first and last name, compared that to his boarding pass, and that seemed to be good enough.)

After making our way to our gate, I was able to eat a little bit of breakfast, but not much. My anxiety always goes to my stomach and this was no exception. Sitting at the gate and seeing how excited the kid was, though, did help me feel just a little bit calmer. About a half hour before boarding was to start, I took a low dose anti-anxiety med in hopes to feel more comfortable for my first flight in a decade. Before I knew it, it was time to board the plane. It kept hitting me over and over again as we waited to board: "I cannot believe I am getting on an airplane." My heart raced, my palms were sweaty, and I secretly hoped for a freak blizzard so the plane could not leave. Okay, maybe not. Or maybe just a little.

I thought more than once (only half seriously) about staying home and just sending the boys. Every time I thought of that, I thought of having to call my 95 year old grandmother, who I have not seen in 11 years and who has never met my son, and telling her I was too scared to fly. That thought was even more daunting than getting on the plane, so down the jetway I marched. A rogue wave of panic hit about halfway to the plane door and I wondered if this airplane would be where I would die. I wish I was kidding, but I’m not. I shoved that thought away as quickly as I could. Anxiety is such a powerful thing.

As we crossed the threshold from the jetway onto the plane, I was slapped in the face by a smell that I had completely forgotten about. I don't even know how to describe it. It's just the very distinctive smell of the inside of an airplane. A wave of terror washed over me again. I nearly threw up right by the cockpit door. Eventually I overcame that and continued to shuffle down the aisle.

We settled into our seats at row 15. Right by the wings. I had spent an embarrassing amount of time researching where to sit on an airplane to feel the least amount of turbulence and that seemed to be the general consensus. I was grateful to be traveling as a family of three; not having to rub elbows with strangers definitely helped my anxiety. I made sure to dig out my foam ear plugs right away, as I'd been told to put them in prior to the plane door being closed and leave them in until we reached cruising altitude.

So there I was. Body frozen in fear, clinging to the armrests for dear life, having to concentrate to keep breathing. Taking deep breaths to keep the anxiety from getting worse while also trying not to throw up from the airplane smell. I replayed the 'fear of flying' YouTube videos I'd watched over and over in my mind.

"It's just the door closing."

"It's just the air coming on."

"It's just the overhead bin doors being closed."

Takeoff time came and went. No takeoff. I secretly hoped something was wrong with the plane and our trip would be cancelled. A few minutes later, we were finally informed that takeoff was being delayed because the water in the plane was frozen. Oh, great! My anxiety climbed up a notch. A few more minutes passed and a mechanic came on board and walked to the back of the plane. Oh my goodness gracious. Anxiety climbs another two notches.

More deep breaths. Finally it starts to look like we might take off soon. Then, those dreaded words...

"Daddy, I gotta go potty!"

ACK. We had taken him right before boarding, but that had now been well over an hour prior. We called the flight attendant. She was visibly annoyed when I asked her if we had time to rush the kid to the bathroom, but she gave us the go-ahead. As soon as hubby and kid came back and were belted, we were able to push back from the jetway. I felt my body tense up even more. I squeezed Dave's leg. He told me everything was going to be just fine. He repeated lines to me from the videos. He reminded me of the next few things that were going to happen. He tried to distract me with thoughts about all the fun we would have in Seattle. It wasn’t working.

Finally it was our turn to take off. The engines roared and off we went down the runway. I think I may have actually said out loud, "just getting up to speed, just getting up to speed, just getting up to speed." I felt my stomach drop as we lifted off. I changed my inner chant to “planes like to be in the air, the wings are made for this.” Part of me was a tiny bit relieved as soon as we left the ground. I'm not even sure why. As we traveled through the cloud layers and encountered a few little bumps, I clung tight to Dave's leg. Poor guy. He kept reassuring me that everything was fine. “Just little bumps in the road.”

The plane eventually leveled off and the captain took the seat belt sign off. He made the usual announcement about the flight. Then, I heard magical words!

"We're expecting a smooth flight today."

Yessss! I relaxed a little more. I took out my ear plugs. I realized I'd forgotten how noisy jet engines are, and probably even moreso since we were sitting right next to them. I forced away thoughts of 'how on earth does this thing even stay in the air?'

Half an hour into the three-hour flight, I was still paralyzed with fear and had not dragged out my iPad or anything else to occupy my mind. Hubby to the rescue! He set me up with first episode of the season of Friends I had downloaded the night before, and my Bluetooth earpiece. I immediately calculated the number of episodes I'd need to watch to get me to landing time. Then I remembered that inside my head, the flight really only lasts until descent begins, so I subtracted my count by one episode. Once I feel that plane begin to drop, I begin to celebrate.

We ended up encountering some pretty minor turbulence, which was tough for me just because of my previous flight, but thanks to hubby’s reassurance I got through it and realized that – yes – I CAN fly. I just hate to. Though I had promised myself to learn how to enjoy it, not to just survive it, I was now seeing that aspiration swirling the drain. “I think surviving it is a sufficient goal, forget about enjoying it,” I thought to myself.

A few episodes of Friends and some snack food later, I felt that plane slow a bit and start to point downward a little. My heart jumped, not in fear this time but in pure excitement. It’s almost over!! I’m going to win the battle!! (Heck, I guess I really did that when I climbed on board.) I quickly ran to the restroom, returned to my seat, and put all my stuff away. People looked at me funny, but I didn’t care. I was too busy waiting eagerly for touch-down!

Minutes later, I could see Seattle.

AHHH, my very favorite city. As soon as I saw it, a wave of relief and pride washed over me. And maybe a little bit of disbelief, too, that I was actually there again for the first time in fifteen long years. I saw landmarks that I remember looking at from the airplane window when I was a little girl, and some new ones too. (I must say the Kingdome was conspicuously absent…) I managed to hold it together until the Space Needle came into view. My very excited preschooler saw it at the same time I did and I’m not sure who squealed first. Tears began to roll down my face as I flashed back to taking this flight dozens of times with my mom when I was little. I was always so excited to see the Space Needle! I may not have taken my kid out of Alaska until the age of 4, but by golly I put my fear aside (sort of) and did it.

I had just mentioned to Dave that I could remember those childhood trips and that it always seemed like as soon as you came out of the clouds on final approach into Seattle, you were on the ground very quickly. Just as I uttered those words, the clouds disappeared and the runway was right there. I told the kid we were about to land and he watched intently out the window as I pointed out the stripes on the runway. The landing was like butter. I wanted to kiss the pilot. Dave vetoed.

More tears. I did it!!! After a series of bad experiences, years of anxiety and even more years of completely refusing to engage in this experience, I DID IT.

Just that quickly, I became one of those annoying people who just can’t wait and turns on their cellphones while the plane is still taxiing. I didn’t want to be one of those people, but I was just so darn excited to be alive. I wanted to let my support people know that I made it. As soon as the cellular signal came on, I had dozens of emails and texts from people wishing me luck and reassuring me that I could do it. I sent a mildly profane but highly triumphant text to my closest friends and family to let them know that I conquered the flight. Then I wiped my eyes. A lot.

My whole body quickly relaxed and fear and anxiety were replaced by pure excitement. I was hardly able to wait until the plane was nearly empty to deboard, as we had planned to do, just to avoid the chaos. The first thing I saw when I stepped off that jetway was this out the window of the terminal:

I’m a die-hard Toyota loyalist and a lifelong Seahawks fan. I instantly felt like I had found my place… again. I always did feel so at home in Seattle. A small part of the reason for this trip was to see if I was still in love with the city and might still want to eventually live there. In the first three minutes, I had my answer.

As we made our way to the baggage claim about six miles away (or maybe it just felt like that), I felt like a little kid on Christmas morning. The airport is lovely and I enjoyed seeing all kinds of new sights even in the building. What can I say, I'm a sheltered child. We got our bags and followed the signs to the rental car area. We remembered that on our last trip to Seattle, the rental car counters were just across the street from the terminal. Imagine our surprise when we walked out to the sign for rental cars and found… nothing.

Except a bus. Hmm.

I continued to look around for a moment, puzzled, before I noticed the giant words “rental car shuttle” on that bus. DUH! We made a run for it and climbed on – Aidan’s first bus experience right off the bat. It’s a good five minute bus ride to the rental car complex. The kid and I waited while Dave picked up our car, which apparently was an experience full of denying upgrades and add-ons. I wouldn’t know, as I have never rented a car myself before.

We made our way to the parking garage, where the attendant pointed to a row of standard size cars and said, “pick one, get in and go.” Hmm. White Chevy, silver Chevy, white Ford… blah. Then, just like in the movies when the main character finally finds the object he’s been adventuring toward, one car stood out and the angels sang in the background.

There it was. A deep blue/purple Dodge Charger. Muahaha! We looked at each other and grinned. “Why not? We’re on vacation.” We piled all of our stuff in, Dave installed the car seat (and now I see why people told us to bring our own, and I’m glad we did), and off we went. As we found our way out of the garage, I quickly programmed the hotel address into the GPS. Dave requested I change the GPS language to English (UK). I rolled my eyes, but laughed, as he headed for the freeway.

Needless to say, freeways are not the most relaxing experience for a couple of sheltered Alaskan kids. Dave has driven on freeways plenty when we’ve been on trips, but never for long enough to really get comfortable with them. He did great, though, and we mostly enjoyed our scenic tour around the edge of Seattle and up to Mukilteo. I’d never been to Mukilteo before although my grandmother has lived there for many years now. It was a cute little town and seemed to be a nice mix of light industry (including a ginormous Boeing facility, more on that later) and average and really beautiful luxurious neighborhoods.

I had done (again, an embarrassing amount) of online research about hotels. Two had been recommended to us – one was budget friendly, the other not nearly so much. The cheaper one, I read online, apparently had really thin walls and people reported having trouble sleeping due to noise. Normally this would not scare me off, but in the weeks leading up to this trip, my thought process went something like, “if I’m going to do the thing that I am petrified to do, and go on my first out of state trip in ten years, I am going to stay in a nice hotel where we will be comfortable and feel like we are on vacation!”

Therefore, I had booked a suite at the spendy place so that Aidan would have his own sleeping space in the form of a pull-out couch in the living room. We’ve learned that this just makes travel so much easier for our family, since he has never been a fantastic sleeper. Otherwise, we have to go to bed when he does and try to lie silently in bed to avoid waking him up. I don’t love this routine and neither does my bladder!

We were pleasantly surprised by the condition and layout of our hotel room, and since I love good hotels anyway, I was doubly delighted. We got checked in and got the basics unpacked before jumping back in our Charger and heading to Grandma’s house, which was conveniently only about five minutes away.

I was so excited I had trouble sitting still. My guilt about not seeing her in eleven years and having never brought my son to visit began to fade away as we walked up to her front door. I could see her sitting right next to the door eagerly awaiting a knock. As soon as she saw us, she donned the world’s biggest smile and I’m sure that I did, too.

After lots of hugs and kisses, we settled in for a wonderful evening of catching up and enjoying each other’s company. Grandpa made Chicken Marsala, which was delicious especially after a long day of stress and traveling. We chatted about everything under the sun and I really enjoyed watching my son get to know how great grandparents at long last. They really hit it off, which was the icing on the cake.

After an entirely too-short visit, we made our way back to our hotel and we all crashed hard for the night. I was exhausted and completely overjoyed. For the first time in many years I felt like I was truly on vacation and I could not wait to get the rest of the fun underway.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Quirk # 572 - My Ears

Here we are 2/3 of the way through January. I said I was going to try to write here – something – every day. The key word, of course, being ‘try.’ So far, if I had to grade myself, I'd give myself a C. I've missed some days, for various reasons. I’m thinking that every other day might be a more realistic goal. I’m afraid if I try to do 365 posts this year, I’ll be scraping the barrel so hard for things to write about that I’ll lose any chance at good substance.

So that’s where that stands.

Our big trip is now only a few days away. I vacillate wildly between panic and good, healthy coping. Today I went to the drugstore (gosh, it’s still weird to live in a place with a drugstore) and picked up not one but TWO kinds of ear plugs in an effort to hedge my bets as far as my ears possibly causing a problem on this flight.

A couple of friends told me about these Earplanes. One of them insisted that his wife had horrible ear pressure issues when flying until she started using these. Now she won’t fly without them. Being the obsessive creature that I am, I read a lot of reviews online about them. Most said that they work very well, but a significant number also said that because they’re silicone rubber and not foam, they can be a little uncomfortable when wedged in the ear for long periods.

I don’t even like to use ear buds for that very reason, so I decided it might be wise to pick up an alternative so that I have options when the time comes.

No, I don’t care that they are pink or that they are “women’s.” Actually, I’d prefer they were purple. Ha! I chose these solely because they say “ultra-soft” instead of just “soft.” Someone who knows what they’re doing as far as ears and planes told me that super soft foam ear plugs are wonderful for

It seems ridiculous to need to buy two kinds of ear plugs for a simple three-hour flight (let alone to write an entire post about it). However, I know myself well enough to know that the better prepared I am, and the more options I have with me, the less anxious I will be. And since I’m fully aware that at least half of this problem is due to anxiety, I find it worthwhile to go to some hassle to bring that anxiety down a bit.

I do have one more weapon in my arsenal – that’ll be another post! Do you have any tips for flying with finicky ears?