Monday, September 2, 2013

Calvin and Daddy's Excellent Adventure

The child’s screams echoed throughout the airplane.  Passengers were giving each other looks that said “ wow, that parent can’t control their kid – what are they doing taking a toddler on a trans-atlantic airplane flight??”.  Flight attendants tried unsuccessfully to bribe the child with crayons and coloring books.  There was nothing they could do…

At the same time, I looked at Calvin, happily watching Ice Age on the in-seat screen and thought again of how lucky I had been so far and how good of a boy he had been.  I also reminded myself of the 4 as-yet-unseen matchbox cars I had hidden in my bag just in case I ended up in the same predicament.
And so began our 2 week trip to ‘merica!

When Simmons and Kirsten first got engaged and started planning for their wedding in Maine, we were excited.  At the time of the wedding, we would have been gone over 18 months from being back in the states, and it would be a perfect time for us to head back, visit with friends and family and relax.  Then we had to go throw a wrench in the plans by getting Lisa pregnant! While it wasn’t HORRIBLE timing because we weren’t especially worried about anything happening while I was gone, it did mean that Lisa wouldn’t be able to go – a long flight would be really challenging for her, and if anything happened while we were in the states, we wouldn’t have any insurance to cover us. When we realized what 8-9 months pregnant meant, we discussed whether Calvin should come with me, or stay in Sweden.  Two seconds later, we realized that both grandparents would make me sleep in the car or something if I didn’t show up with their grandbaby, so that was also a pretty easy decision.

We planned everything out sometime in Feb/March, with the wedding in August.  This gave us plenty of time to NOT think about the trip.  Once July came though, it became dawning on me that this trip would provide some “unique” challenges – flying ~15hrs each way between Stockholm and Boston, driving 700+ miles throughout the two weeks with a toddler who hasn’t traveled extensively in a car since 2011 (and has gotten sick when he has been), sleeping in 4-5  different places within a two week period, shifting 6 time zones (meaning that his normal wake up time at 6-7am would mean WAKING UP right after midnight boston time), meeting about 1 billion people that he is not completely familiar with at best and last but not least, BEING AWAY FROM HIS MOMMA FOR TWO WEEKS. 
If Sweden sold over the counter anxiety pills, I would have started popping them like candy at that point.

As we packed, my primary goal was to survive till Boston.  Once there, Calvin would have a grandmother in his life 24/7, and I would have some backup support.  So basically I just need to handle 15 hour door to door travel (8-9 airplane hours).  Lisa did a great job of prepping Calvin about the flight – for a few days before when he saw an airplane in the sky, he would say “head phones”, “daddy and calvin” and “watch movies”.  He also showed that he understood that Lisa would not be joining us by not letting her go for a day or two before the flight.  I prepped by basically carrying on the equivalent of a small Toys r us – I had cars, stickers, cars, books, cars, headphones, stuffed animals and the previously mentioned “new cars” that he hadn’t seen yet. 

When the day came, I was nervous, but prepared.  Lisa covered it in a previous post, but basically the flight went really, really well.  Calvin napped a bit, watched some movies and played cars a lot.  The only bad parts were the takeoff and landing (having to be buckled into his seat without movies / ipad) and then customs/baggage at Logan.  Evidently, he doesn’t really understand the idea behind switchback lines and why when we were SO CLOSE to the exit, we would then walk away from it – and then back – and then away – and then back.  All at a VERY slow pace.  But to be fair, adults in line were not in the best of mental states at that point either. 

just chillin somewhere over greenland
By the time we finally got out to Grandma and Pepe, it was 730/ 8pm ET, so almost 2am to Calvin.  He was still a champ though, and even played for a bit once we got back to Rhode Island. 
The next few days were great.  The biggest concern we had at that point was the time difference, and yeah, Calvin definitely woke up early 3am the first day, 5 the next but then he basically settled in to the 6-7am window that he is used to.  Besides that, he was a great boy having fun during a rainy day on Friday, a great cookout on Saturday (meeting a TON of new people) and then a perfect day at the beach on Sunday. 

I can only imagine what they were talking about 
On Monday, Julie drove from Albany to RI and picked up Calvin and I late morning.  We got to his cousin’s place on the Cape for lunch and he was able to play with Leah and Megan for a few hours.  I hadn’t seen my nieces in a long time, so it was really nice to play with them and see how they’ve grown up.  Luckily, my puppet game is STRONG due to a gift from Auntie Laura, so I was able to entertain both girls by playing both a pirate and a dragon. 

Grammy playing good D
Tuesday we played some imaginary basketball (WAY more fun than you would expect – Leah and I basically ran the nash-era SSOL suns offense to perfection, while Calvin did suicides and Megan looked at us like we were crazy), then Poppy showed up and we had some more fun.

On Wednesday, Julie, Calvin and I headed off to the wedding in Maine.  I think it was scheduled to be a 3-4hr drive, so we tried to time it with Calvin's nap as much as possible.  That actually worked out perfectly, and he slept for the first 90 minutes of the drive.  Once he woke up, we played “look at that car/truck”, “what animal is that in cloud” and “stinky gorilla” (don’t ask).  As we were pulling in to the campground he started to get a little upset, but in general he was great.
If we drove in Paules' car, he wouldn't have complained at all

except to argue that he should drive
At this point, I would love to tell you more about how great of a family place Point Sebago was (non-sarcastically referred to as “better than Disneyland”), but I basically became a deadbeat dad for a few days.  I KNOW that Calvin had fun with his cousins, his Uncle Donny, Auntie Jill, Grammy, Grandma and Pepe, but outside of playing for a little bit each day, I was primarily busy with my best-man tasks for the wedding.  Those tasks were basically all bottled in Kentucky if you know what I mean, so it probably worked for the best for everyone that Calvin was not my primary responsibility those few days.  The wedding went really, really well though, and Calvin nailed his role as ring bearer.  By “nailed,” I mean that he wore his sneakers, went tie-less and I carried him down the aisle, but he didn’t cry and sat quietly in Grandma’s lap for the whole wedding.  Sounds like a win to me.

Sunday morning, after 4 days of intense wedding-ing, I was ready to leave this particular vacation-land.  Unfortunately, that meant a full day in the car as Julie, Calvin and I drove from Portland to Albany.  If it was basically any other time of the week, it wouldn’t be bad, but I think all of Boston and NY left Maine at the same time, so we were stuck in traffic FOREVER.  Not a problem at all if Calvin slept for 2-3 hours, but when he only sleeps for 30 minutes??  NOT GOOD.  Luckily, as is the recurring theme, Calvin nailed this.  All he wanted was to be tickled in his car seat, to play peak-a-boo and to make funny faces.  After about 3 hours in the car, Julie and I were ready to pull over and let Calvin run around a bit, but every rest stop we just kept pushing it because he was doing so well, and eventually we made it home!  And all it took was 6-7 hours!

Monday and Tuesday were a blur as we visited Lisa’s elementary school playground (which looked like my elementary school playground, and what I’m guessing every elementary school playground built in the late 80’s / early 90’s looked like throughout the country),  visited with the Dwyer/Howland clan (Calvin got to play with the girls while entertaining everyone else) and Don and I tried to recover from our Dinosaur BBQ feast.

We also had a GREAT time at a minor league baseball game on Tuesday night.  We got there right as the gates opened, and went down to the dugout section to watch some batting practice.  Calvin was loudly chanting “Base-ball, Base-Ball, base-ball”, (he was actually upset cause he thought HE would be playing, not just watching), and then a clubhouse manager gave him a ball, which was awesome.  We then found our way to the grassy part of the outfield and played catch for an hour plus (catch, or chase, whatever you want to call it).  By the time the game started, we were exhausted (and it was 7pm, his bed time), but we managed to watch 1 full inning before heading out.  He was still doing great, but we figured it was better to leave an inning too early rather than an inning too late.

Wednesday was ANOTHER busy day – we went for a really fun hike by the Erie canal before getting in the car and driving back to Rhody.  The hike was fun – it was a nice little forest and Calvin was leading us on a “bear hunt” as we jumped over roots and rocks on the dirt path.  Then all of a sudden Calvin yells out “DEEEEEER”!  Considering we had already been chased by 2 bears, an elephant, pirates and diggers, we didn’t give it much thought, but then we looked and he was right!  There was a little doe having breakfast about 15 feet from us – and it stayed there as long as we did! Eventually we had spent enough time there that Calvin was getting bored watching the deer and started commanding it to come play with us – “Come Deer, COME”.  Shockingly it actually did come closer, which made us start calling him the Deer Whisperer. 

The drive back to RI was long, but Calvin slept for 90% of it, which gave Julie and I some actual quiet time to talk.  It was different spending so many days with Julie and Don without Lisa, but I think it worked out really well – I think everyone had a lot of fun. 

We got back to RI mid-afternoon and Auntie Laura had been able to come home a day early. We just hung out a little bit on Wednesday before we had a full day on Thursday.  That was my mom’s birthday, and we know how much she loves giraffes – so we decided to visit Roger Williams Zoo first thing in the morning.  Calvin LOVED the zebras, giraffes, elephants, camels and everything.  He’s been talking about those animals every day since then and is playing with those stuffed animals that he had ignored for a while.  Due to our flight later that night (leaving RI around 530), and calvin’s need for a loooong nap beforehand,  we had to press through the zoo to make sure we could see the high-value animals.  Even still though, we had a really nice time and I know I really enjoyed Grandma’s birthday this year!

The only negative to the day was the stress bubble growing over my head about the upcoming flight.  The whole trip had gone SO WELL, and Calvin was such a champ for everything, but I was still getting really nervous about the last step of our trip.  We had begun to prep him for it, by telling him that we would get on 2 airplanes and then we would see Momma.  That was a BIG carrot for him, but he thought this was like the number of Curious George movies he could watch before bed, and so he tried to negotiate – saying “one plane!!”  Eventually we came to an agreement that it would be “one plane, but we would get off for a little bit in between flights”.  This flight took off at 9pm ET (3am Stockholm time), flew for 5 hours, had an hour layover in Iceland, then a final 3 hr flight until we landed at 6am ET (noon Stockholm).  I always hated my redeye flights when I was doing consulting – this would be something totally different.  

Luckily the schedule for the day went perfectly – by the time we got up to Logan, we had plenty of time for Grandma, Pepe and Auntie Laura to play with Calvin until it was time to go through security.  Security was a bit of a hassle – evidently you can’t walk through with a gallon worth of juice boxes, but once we got through (with more than a few tears and subsequent bribes), we just played planes until the flight took off.  Calvin fell asleep before we were off the runway, and luckily no one was next to us, so he could have two seats to lay on.  He slept for the vast majority of this leg, and then cried a bit once he woke up until I found Ice Age on the seat screen.  We then played cars in Iceland for an hour before boarding for our final leg of our journey.  He AGAIN fell asleep right off the bat (in my arms this time, which might have been against FAA rules) and I had to wake him up once we touched down in Stockholm.  Again, he was NOT a fan of luggage, but he just kept chanting “momma, momma momma”.  By the time we finally made it through, he leaped out of my arms when he saw her and started telling everyone in the airport who she was.  He (we) were so excited to see her – it had been a really long trip.

3am cuddles....
Looking back on it, it was a really great trip.  It obviously would have been better with Lisa there, but as Don said, that would mean that we probably wouldn't visit again in November.  Also, I think it was a great opportunity for Calvin and I to grow our relationship (as his only parent there, he became a little attached to say the least), and it was great for him (and I) to see friends and family we hadn’t seen awhile.  We were really nervous about leaving Lisa alone in Sweden (especially due to the pregnancy), but felt 100x better once Samantha showed up and the girls were able to have a nice relaxing trip in Gotland. 

In summary, the best trip I hope to never have to do again (kind of like the trip Lis and I took to the Amazon jungle)

I could say more about the trip and how much everyone helped us, how much he loved seeing everyone and how great it was to catch up with everyone, but I think my fingers are about to fall off….

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