My anal retentiveness cannot justify ending my travel posts with our final destination when we technically made more semi-interesting stops.
I promise this is the last of my vacation photos.
On our first night of our two-day trip home, we stopped just outside of Nashville. How could we not stop and see the Grand Ole Opry?
After seeing it though, I wished we hadn’t stopped. I had always envisioned a crusty old building filled with history sitting upon a road reminiscent of horse hitches and dust.
This was not the sight I expected as we pulled up.
But we took pictures anyway.
Then we headed to Memphis to peer over the walls at Graceland (not paying $20 a head since we are not huge Elvis fans).
Outside of Graceland there’s a wall where people write all kinds of messages to the King. Annika wrote her name and age. We mused about how cool it would be if she came back 20 years later and found it again.
Then we ate some ridiculously good barbecue.
I have a particular fondness for southern, melty mac ‘n’ cheese. It needed its own photo.
And now we’re home. It was good to sleep in my own bed after two weeks on the road.
In a few days, Toyin and I will embark on our first really long road trip with Annika.
First, before anyone gets too excited, no, this doesn’t mean anything. For those of you may not realize just how bizarre our relationship is, yes, we do travel together.
Since Annika was an infant, we’ve made several airplane trips together so he and Annika could visit his family, without making her sad and crying for me.
We’ve also taken a handful for short road trips together within Texas and once to New Mexico. That was the longest drive we’ve made with her so far. That trip was about 500 miles and should have taken 9 hours. It took 12. But we made it. At the time, she was only 18 months and we drove mostly at night so she slept for a lot of it.
For this trip, we will drive from Austin to Detroit. which is 1400 miles and according to Google, takes about 22 hours. In my experience it takes about 24 hours.
After about a week in Michigan, we’re driving to New York city and then Washington DC, then back to Austin. We will do this trip in two weeks.
I think that with some good preparation and a few tricks up my sleeve for the car ride we’ll do fine. We also plan to drive mostly at night. And by we, I mean Toyin. I am not a good night driver. But he loves it. And honestly, I’ve made enough night trips with him now that I’d say if you want make long treks with the best time, it’s the only way to go. There’s less traffic on the road. It’s quiet and peaceful and Annika sleeps for most of the driving.
One of the few things Toyin and I do well together is travel. And honestly, the actually traveling part is the only thing that we do well together. We argue about logistics of the trip every step of the way. We disagree about how long we should stay where and what kind of food to eat.
I like to take snacks in the car and splurge on one or two nice meals. He likes to hit up drive thrus.
He likes to make as many stops and get face time with as many people as possible. (Hence the tri state tour.) I like to visit one or two people and laze around a lot.
So anyway, this week I’m in search of good car games for a 4-year-old and thinking up ways I can entertain Annika when she’s not sleeping.
We’ll probably also play a lot of imaginary games, which will be thrilling for Annika and make me want to shoot my brains out.
For the most part I’m looking forward to this trip.
There’s just nothing like the open road for me. I feel more relaxed and happy when I’m driving along, toward a destination, with no daily worries. That part will make it easier for me to deal with the 4-year-old in the back seat.
I’m hoping to blog more while we’re on the road, not less. But who knows what I’ll do. I might spend a lot of time writing in the car. Or I might just stare out the window and fondle a paperback, which is pretty much par for the course when I travel by car.
So, by next week, check in. You may just get a blank screen for two weeks. Or you might get a blow-by-blow of our trip.
I’ve had my share of being alone during the holidays.
After my divorce, living in Detroit, 1400 miles away from my immediate family, I spent plenty of Thanksgivings alone. And truthfully, it’s not that bad.
Yesterday, I spent the morning by myself. So even though this one was not spent alone, being without Annika gave me a bit of that feeling early on in the day.
I took a long walk early in the morning. I’ve done this on most holidays when I was alone. I love it because the streets are desolated. Walking the empty streets gives you a true sense of the world. The sky seems bluer than usual. The air feels crisper. Wildlife sounds aren’t masked by too much traffic. Bird songs are sweeter.
It’s a little like being out in the country, or in a sci-fi movie where everyone has been killed off by an alien virus, only you’re immune to it and you’re left to wander the earth by yourself. At least, that’s my favorite scenario. I suppose the first one would be preferable to most people.
If you have to be alone on a holiday, I think Thanksgiving is the best one to do by yourself. Christmas sucks because you can’t exactly give yourself presents. But if you want to, you can gorge on a huge meal and fall asleep in front of the TV by yourself.
On past holidays that I’ve spent alone, I never cooked a traditional Thanksgiving meal for myself, but I always made sure that I had a favorite food handy and something to do, even if all I did was watch movies all day.
So yesterday I spent half of the day alone, pondering a world where I might wonder if I’d ever see another human alive, baking a pie, making some side dishes, and listening to the blues. There’s something about listening to the blues that makes being alone seem deep and meaningful. It helps change loneliness to solitude.
In the afternoon I went over to my parents house where my two brothers and one sister-in-law were hanging out with my parents. My older brother had brought some friends. We laughed and drank and ate a shitload. Then I went to my brother’s house for more drinks and we channel-surfed and drank more wine. It was a fun day, all-in-all.
It wasn’t better or worse than being with Annika, just different. It felt more like holidays pre-motherhood.
So, would I choose to be alone on a holiday? Not really. But I’m sure this one is not the last where I will be missing Annika and hoping she’s having fun with her other family. But it’s good to know that I have the skills to get through it on my own.
In fact, not only do I have the skills to make it through a holiday alone. I have decided to look forward to them. Perhaps the next one will be spent going to the movies. Or maybe I’ll try real camping next time. Either way, I think that I’ll do my best to enjoy my holidays no matter who I’m with. After all, that’s what they’re for.
How do you like to spend holidays? What’s your favorite thing? The hustle and the bustle, or the afterglow, where everyone is fat from food and ready for a nap?
Annika is going to get on a plane without me for the first time tomorrow morning. She and Toyin are going to Michigan for Thanksgiving. They will be gone for three days.
Tomorrow marks the first of many things.
Our first holiday apart; her first trip on a plane without me; her first trip visiting her other family that I am not a part of; her first time in Michigan without me.
For the most part, I’ve been okay with it. But tonight, as I read her bedtime stories, she picked out a book I bought in preparation for going to school, Llama Llama Misses Mama.
I started to tear up a little as I read it, wondering if she chose it as a way of telling me something.
Logically, I doubt it. She’s pretty open about what she does and doesn’t like. And she has picked out that book several times lately. She’s even told me that she doesn’t miss me when she goes to school, like the llama misses his mama.
But I know she’s scared. When we first started talking about the trip, she told me, emphatically, that she did not want to go on a plane without me. She was scared. And she told me today that she was not scared anymore, but she is nervous.
I’ve been pumping up the trip, telling her how much fun she is going to have. We bought gum for the plane ride and filled her backpack with books and toys for the trip. I made sure she had one of her favorite stuffed animals. And I’ve given her a blow-by-blow of what things I know will happen during the trip.
It’s a small glimpse into the future of motherhood as I do my best to prepare her for situations that I cannot possibly predict, but hoping that I’ve given her enough information that she will be comfortable and happy.
And then there’s the other side of this trip. Me. Alone without her while she travels into a world that I will become less and less a part of.
To be honest, I am partly looking forward to having a full three days alone. Pre-child, I was mostly a loner. I liked my solitude. I craved it more than I can describe after she was born. This will be the longest stretch alone I’ve had since Annika was born.
But I’ve come to feel more complete when Annika is around. When she’s gone, even for one night, I miss her. Our tiny apartment feels huge and lonely when she’s gone. I simply miss her presence.
I don’t mind so much that she’ll be gone for a holiday. But I am glad that it’s Thanksgiving and not Christmas. I think I would be devastated if she missed her first big girl Christmas with me. I don’t even want to think about future Christmases without her, even though I know they are coming. I’ll probably just curl up in a fetal position when she’s gone.
So, in less than 12 hours, I’ll be either blissfully enjoying my solitude for the next three days, aside from the family dinner on Thanksgiving. Or I’ll be curled up in a fetal position, missing her terribly and counting the hours until she’s back.
I wonder what things will have changed when she comes back on Friday night. Will she be clingier than usual? Or will she have grown up, just a bit more than I can handle? Will she realize that, like the llama, that she can love me, and still have a good time without me?
So, I don’t normally write posts advocating any business, but when I got a message from one of the marketing peeps from Chuck E. Cheese asking me to write a post in exchange for free pizza and games, how could I resist? I mean, every kid should experience gorging cheesy goodness, along with an overstimulating experience of the action-packed game room at a pizza place, at least once a year, right?
I asked one of Annika’s friends’ along for the ride to Chuck E. Cheese yesterday, and they had a blast!
At first they didn’t get it.
Annika, who doesn’t know that the rides at the grocery store actually move if you put money in them, was unsure about a few things initially.
But it didn’t take long.
They rocked out.
We ate pizza.
Overall, a fun time was had by all. Thanks Chuck E. Cheeeeeeeese!
I wrote this in exchange for pizza, and gold coins, which were eventually turned into two rubber bugs, a temporary tattoo, and two packages of Sweethearts.
I’ve been reading about how it’s becoming more popular to have kid-free restaurants and kid-free flights. Is the old adage, “children should be seen and not heard” becoming popular again? Since they can’t literally silence them, they are now choosing to force them out. And with them, their parents.
Let me back up. Before I had Annika, I was one of those people, complaining about the loud children running rampant in the restaurants and avoiding them in airports. I was not a fan of children. I totally get it.
When I was married and living in Japan, one our favorite restaurants was the officer’s club where they had a kid-free section. We’d wait an extra hour to sit in there, if necessary. Military bases are rampant with children, so it was a haven from the noisiness of the few restaurants to choose from.
I never considered it a form of discrimination. But I was recently on the other end of that kind of attitude. And I see just how wrong it is.
A playgroup, that Annika and I attend, was lambasted by the manager of a coffee house that advertises itself as kid-friendly. One morning, one of our members walked in the door and was met with a laundry list of complaints about how our children were too noisy, and disruptive to the other customers. She made it very clear that we were not welcome anymore.
This playgroup has been meeting at this coffee shop for about four years on a regular basis. Not every week, but during the summer months and too-cold winter months, it’s been our regular hangout. We’ve always been received warmly by the staff, until this particular manager came on board. We are paying customers and we buy food and drinks. The barista who is typically on duty during our usual playgroup said he enjoys the children, since he was one of nine children.
But since that morning a couple of weeks ago, we’ve stopped going. Several of us left nasty reviews on Yelp about the place. They have a kids’ section, and hold kid-friendly musical acts on Sunday mornings. This place is supposedly, kid-friendly. But one manager has derailed all that because she doesn’t like children being children.
But here’s the thing, we live in a society. Children are part of that society. We teach our kids that we don’t always get what we want. We teach our kids that sometimes we have to get along with people even when we don’t like them. We try to teach our kids compassion for other people, even when they are behaving in a manner that we don’t like.
Is the rule of society that when you’re a child you have to put up with other people you don’t like, but when you’re an adult, if you complain loudly enough and toss money at the problem, they will go away? Seems pretty backwards to me. Kids are the ones who aren’t mature. They shouldn’t have to be the ones who have to follow all the rules. We were all kids once.
If you want to look at it another way, I can remember a time in history when there were laws in this country that said certain people couldn’t eat in certain restaurants (and many other things).
Okay, that might be going a tad too far. But seriously, if restaurants and airlines start giving people the option to pay enough to avoid a certain group of people, then really, what is that? It’s discrimination.
Parents are isolated enough as it is. If all the airlines start forcing families to sit in their own sections, then does that mean we will have fewer flights to choose from? I’ve never been on a flight where there were more than three or four families with kids (and that’s being generous). Annika is typically well-behaved on flights. She cries when her ears pop, but overall, she’s a good passenger. Why should she be denigrated, along with her parents down to a second class level?
If this trend continues, will we be forced to the back of the planes?
We’ve been traveling and Annika had her third birthday in the past week. It’s funny. How the things I want to sit down and write about prevent me from sitting down to write.
We went to Detroit over the weekend.
I’d be okay if they wanted to search Tigger.
As we were traveling back to Austin we were talking about how Annika has traveled by plane more often than many adults ever do in their entire lifetime.
All in all, Annika has taken seven total trips, which means she’s flown on more than 14 planes (some were trips with layovers). That’s kind of insane for a 3-year-old.
This was our first trip since the body scanners have been put in place in the airports. Austin doesn’t have them yet, but Detroit does. I was so paranoid about the possibility of Annika getting searched or violated in some way. I fretted over how to avoid any potential trauma occurring. I had decided that she should wear a dress so that if she got searched, they wouldn’t have to go down her pants. We ended up skipping it on the flight back, as you can see her in her jammies at the airport.
I recently saw a Youtube video of a 6-year-old getting searched and the person searching the kid kept sticking her fingers down the kids pants at the waistline. She was quick and not really all that invasive, but she did it like three times and the entire time the kid was whining and sounding worried.
It totally freaked me out. I had already decided that I would drive home in a rental car before I’d let Annika be put through that.
I mean, sure, adults understand that the person is just doing their job. But little kids don’t understand that. It’s violating even when you do understand it.
Luckily, we did not have any such encounters. Actually, we had the exact opposite.
In Austin, everything was business as usual.
When we left Detroit, we were standing at the back of an ungodly long security line, but with time to spare, so we were not concerned. We stood easily, waiting, with everyone else, when a security guy with an earpiece and a formal jacket came up to us and motioned for us to follow him. My heart started to pound as we followed him.
I was quickly put at ease when I realized he was just letting us go through the line they designate for families and disabled persons.
Phew! What a relief.
It’s funny. I used to worry about what might happen in the air. when I flew. Now I worry what might happen in line at the airport. Not a very secure feeling at all, considering that all this is in the interest of national security.
On our way to Port Aransas this weekend we stopped in the tiny town of McCoy, Texas. We stopped so I could use the facilities at a little barbecue joint where a guy was settin’ outside actually cooking the meat on a grill. The owner of the place was super friendly and made sure to tell us all about the tree to the side of the restaurant.
“That’s a Dolly Parton tree you know,” she said to us, pointing to the magnificent 200-year-old tree on the side of the restaurant. I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the place, but if you get off at the exit for McCoy and head east you’ll come up on it after about two miles. You can’t miss it. It’s the first sign of civilization. It’s sexy, huh?