Planes, Trains, and Hurricanes

It has been over a month since my last post, which seems like a long time, but when I think about all that we have crammed into these last several weeks I am actually surprised that it hasn’t been longer. It feels like we’ve been traveling more than we’ve been home, and now that things have settled down for us a bit, I wanted to document and reflect on all that we have done. Full disclosure: there is absolutely no mention of trains in this post (except for right now). I just felt it made for a catchy title. But the rest is all true!

It all started with Kevin finding himself having to take yet another trip to Seattle. Over the past few months, he has been flying rather frequently back and forth across the country, working on a Seattle based project and taking too many red eyes to count just to be able to see us for a few extra hours. It was wearing on him, and the girls were missing him, but I somehow managed to stay pretty positive about it (binge-watching Downton Abbey each night that I was alone helped with that). However, when I got a phone call from him on the night before he was due to arrive back from what should have been his last trip, I finally lost it (started blubbering incoherently over the phone to be more specific). Kevin told me that it looked like he would need to spend another 10 days out there, and we were all devastated. After talking it over, we decided that instead of suffering through even more time apart, we would use some of our sky miles and join him this time. We scrambled to find last minute flights, and Penny and I ended up getting seats on a different plane, while Kevin decided to take Lucy on his lap.

Because of our rush to pack for a 10 day trip in a very different climate, I had little time to worry about how the actual flight would go. Still, I was convinced that Kevin would have the rougher time, being that it was Lucy’s first flight and he would have to have her on his lap for the entire 6 hour trip. This was by no means Penny’s first flight (although likely the first she would remember), and it would be easier to keep her entertained with movies and crayons. Oh how wrong I was.

Getting Penny onto the plane while juggling with all of our bags proved to be no easy feat. As I pushed her ahead of me down the narrow aisle, her screaming in protest that she didn’t want to go on the airplane the entire way, I tried not to look at the faces of all the people we passed. I’m sure they were just as thrilled as I was about the impending flight. I eventually got her to calm down with Halloween stickers, and tried desperately to keep her entertained and distracted so she wouldn’t notice the take off. There were several trips to the bathroom, even more dropped crayons, and an untold number of stickers stuck in various places on both of us, but we somehow survived the journey. As I pushed my screaming toddler ahead of me once again to depart the plane (this time protesting that she didn’t want to get off), I wondered what poor Kevin would have to say about his experience.

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I shouldn’t have worried, of course. His summary went something like this: “Well, she kept busy playing with a straw for about an hour, then fell asleep on my chest for the rest of the trip.” Sigh.

The days went relatively smoothly from there. We stayed downtown and used public transportation the entire trip, so I didn’t have to worry about navigating the streets of an unfamiliar city by car all by myself. Our days fell into a routine of sorts- we would have breakfast with Kevin, then he would head off to work and I would go on an outing with the girls. Some days it was something more adventurous, like visiting Seattle Center to see the space needle and play at the children’s museum, and other days we kept it more low key, playing at the public library down the block from our hotel.

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One of our favorite mornings was walking to Pike Place Market, where we ate delicious donuts, gawked at the fish and shockingly cheap, gorgeous flowers for sale (I was super tempted to buy some dahlias but thought putting them in the drinking glass in our hotel room would just be too sad), and got free samples from friendly grocers of the sweetest and juiciest fruit we had ever tasted.

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There was lots of walking (up super intense hills, I might add), as I found it difficult to get both girls to nap in the hotel room and often resorted to walking the streets until they both crashed in their strollers, and there was coffee. Copious amounts of coffee. The cliches about coffee in Seattle are true- there is quite literally a Starbucks on every block, and I’m afraid I picked up a bad habit of drinking the stuff several times a day, a habit I am finding it difficult to break even now.

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By the end of our trip, we were definitely ready to head home, and almost forgot to dread the flight back. While we were able to sit together, Lucy decided to make up for her angelic behavior on the first flight by crying or whining almost nonstop. We were practically running off the plane when we finally landed, and I think I may have heard some cheering from our fellow passengers as well.

We didn’t have much time to settle back into our normal routine before the arrival of a hurricane threw us off course once again. As soon as we heard word that a mandatory evacuation was being put into effect because of Hurricane Matthew, we quickly scrambled to pack up our things and get out of town to try and beat the inevitable traffic out of Charleston. Our good friends in Charlotte were kind enough to take us in, in spite of being in the middle of a kitchen renovation, but we made the most of it with picnics in the yard and handing Kevin a sledgehammer. When the weekend rolled around, we packed up once again and bid our friends farewell, heading for the Asheville KOA.

Kevin had booked a cabin for us to stay in for 3 nights, and we all felt a little giddy when we got out of the car and surveyed our new surroundings. There were several cute wooden cabins set up, complete with their own porches and swings, and a kitchen pavilion in the center of them all. The bathrooms and showers were mere feet away, and were the nicest and cleanest campground facilities I had ever seen. We happily settled in for a long weekend of nature walks, cooking outdoors, and cozy campfires. We took some beautiful mountain drives (although I may have white-knuckled it the entire way up the mountain), made new friends, and visited some great breweries.

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It was a blast (except for one rough night when Penny found it difficult to fall asleep because of a rather noisy and terrifying cicada outside our window), and we left feeling refreshed and grateful for the unexpected vacation.

Now we are home for good (at least until Thanksgiving), and enjoying all this fall season has to offer. There has been plenty of Halloween crafting, pumpkin patch visiting, and daily viewings of “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”

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Penny has a major crush on Skeleton Jack, which is all well and good, but I can’t wait for the day when the girls discover the joys of “Hocus Pocus.” Penny and Lucy had a warm up trick or treating event at Hampton Park on Friday, where Penny debuted her Rapunzel costume, complete with flowers in her braided hair, and poor Lucy was stuck wearing a pumpkin t-shirt and the green pants to her far too hot for the weather Pascal costume (Rapunzel’s chameleon sidekick).

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As a parent who grew up in Michigan, where winter coats were often required to wear over our costumes on Halloween night, I clearly still have a lot to learn about planning costumes in South Carolina. Still, the girls are resting up for the main event as we speak, with dreams of melty chocolate and sticky lollipops dancing in their heads. The best of luck to all parents who will find themselves with sugar induced Halloween monsters tonight- and Happy Halloween!

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