Craig and I had an epiphany a few weeks ago, and decided to make a scheduled work trip into a full family trip to Juneau, with the girls spending day times with Grandma Sue, Auntie Amanda and Papa Lon while we both went into the office each day.
The house was filled with excitement, unsurprisingly, at the thought of 1) riding on an airplane; 2) going to the mysterious Juneau; and 3) seeing Grandma Sue’s house. In fact, over the past year these children continued to call us out about the lack of visiting the infamous Juneau, a detail that is problematic according to all three and cause for complaining.
Our household somehow made it through the entire month of January without catching any significant illnesses, which is a first in our journey of having children. January’s are typically sleepless, full of coughing fits and/or puking and of course darkness due to the dead of winter- all such lovely memories. Healthiness was very welcomed, as I’ve been working late every night for much of this winter, even canceled my rotating Friday off schedule (that I’ve worked for a decade) to accommodate more hours, and have definitely had a fear that something would take the whole family down for a week or more, like the RSV bout in November.
Of course, several days before our trip a new cough started with Emerie, and after a few days she felt better but Harper and Reagan presented symptoms. Luckily it wasn’t significant enough to cancel our plans, and off we went toward adventure! It would turn out that the girls would cough our entire trip- I even have one home from school today as I finish writing this from it- silver lining was when they were calm or sitting (such as on a plane), then one couldn’t even tell they had a cough at all.
We managed to fit the whole family’s clothes and toiletries into two suitcases on the way down, bringing also a carry on suitcase with the important essentials like Reagan’s stuffed pandas (all three), Emerie’s turtle from Dr. Winkle and its baby turtle as well as her purple blanket, and of course Harper’s spotted seal and puppy dog, and then packed an additional tote stocked with winter boots, snow gear and some toys for downtime entertainment at home. In true girly style, several dress-up dresses and the princess heels made the cut, so everyone could strut their stuff at Grandma’s house.
All three rocked matching cupcake themed dresses, Frozen princess coats and grey flower boots for the flight down; excited to show Grandma their outfits on arrival. Emerie demanded to wear her summer sunhat, you know, for all that sun we expected to see over the week in Juneau…
Anchorage received another snow dump the night before our trip, but nothing significant enough to affect airport operations and our flight schedule. With the heavy snow loads this year, we no longer bat an eye at six inches of accumulation; I’m not sure how I really feel about that, but at least it is beautiful out. What a year to enjoy that as a kid! We loaded everything into Craig’s expedition first thing in the morning, including three, folded car seats from my SUV. I dropped him curbside with everything but our kitchen sink, then parked and walked inside with the kids. They complained about the cold and snow as we descended the parking garage, and were instantly excited to see the escalator stairways going down and back up to the ticket counters. Needless to say, the airport is a pretty fun place (I know I am slightly biased but I’m not wrong!). Check in was simple, probably because Craig handled it all while the girls climbed around on the metal carts, a huge difference from our prior experience with Alaska Airlines booking our tickets incorrectly, and by the time we lined up for TSA, Emerie was already insisting she had to pee. Sounds about right.
They pestered the TSA agent with questions, including why everyone everything needed to go into separate bins and shoe removal. The girls were bummed they didn’t get to do the X-ray machine, but that rage vanished as moving airplanes and the snowplow crew came into view in the sterile area.
We rode the horizontal walking escalators a couple times before settling at the windows to wait for boarding. Reagan kept walking backwards on it and enjoyed going the opposite direction, even as we called her back. Of the three, she definitely seems to be the most stressed at the concept of traveling; I also expected Emerie to ask to go home immediately like she usually does. Harper and Emerie counted the parked Alaska Airline jets on the apron and others taxiing for take-off. A few stopped and then raced down the runway to go airborne, prompting everyone to ask a bunch of questions when one 747 cargo plane didn’t immediately start its ascent down the runway, listening to my response they were waiting for the”green light” from the tower controllers to proceed.
We boarded the plane, with the girls quite the hit walking down the aisle toward the back of the full plane. We all sat in one row, and after Reagan refused the window seat, let the lady sit by it instead of in the middle of our family. Reagan and I sat on one side and Craig took the aisle opposite, with Emerie in the middle and Harper looking out her window.
Ultimately it was an uneventful and smooth flight, much to my happiness. The girls were slightly nervous when speeding down the runway as the terminal sped by, and hollered quite loudly we are flying!! once we left the ground. Passengers around us had a good chuckle. Reagan held my arm until we were over the inlet, and then happily watched Aladdin the rest of the ride while the other two watched Monsters Inc.
Harper enjoyed looking out the window at the mountains for the first few minutes before deciding it was way too bright out with the sunlight over the clouds. Since it’s only about a 75 minute flight, we didn’t break out the real snacks and gave each the bag of pretzels. While Reagan snacked on some, she mostly used them to create letters on her tray table. We did learn that preschool sippy cups do pressurize in the air. I perfectly timed my restroom break during this realization, when Reagan went for a drink of juice and it shot all over her and the three unsuspecting passengers sitting a row back.
During the flight, all three undoubtedly had to see the tiny bathrooms, and practically made it back to their seats before either parent could push the flush button, as that was terrifying. And as I predicted, about ten minutes from landing and after one, in-flight relief, Emerie announced a pee emergency- for the record she survived AND didn’t have an accident.
Eventually rental cars were selected, car seats installed (by Craig) in Grandma Sue’s rig, and luggage picked up, and we were off like a herd of turtles for our Juneau adventure.
Each night the girls co-slept next to one another in Grandma’s guest room and then whoever fought the longest was able to sleep next to Craig. It became quite the debate and cause for consternation, until everyone had their turn to snuggle. Overall they all slept quite well, other than their never ending coughs, and didn’t have a night-night nummy (melatonin sliver) even once for the week, which we definitely relied on during past vacations. Only one night Harper wandered out to the couch to spend the rest of the night next to me.
Day 2 – Valentine’s Day!
I still chuckle that my advisory board work trip corresponded with the holiday of love. While Craig and I had a long work day, the girls had a fun filled day with Grandma Sue, Auntie Manda and Papa Cliff. They conned the adults into some good treats (probably more than we even know at this point!), extensively played with pink balloons, and sported their heart boutique dresses I lugged down from Anchorage. They rocked new beaded necklaces and “purses” from Papa Cliff and Grandma Sue attempted heart hairstyles. Everyone decorated heart shaped sugar cookies with sprinkles and licked the sprinkles and icing off a cookie afterwards. The unlicked cookies circulated both the DPS and DOT offices.
During the day the girls ran around town with Grandma and Amanda, made custom cards and drawings for Mom, Dad and grandparents, and dressed up as princesses. They snuggled with Papa Lon and watched some television, once the coughing increased. It was pretty much like a standard weekend day at home. We went to Bull Winkles for dinner, where the girls ate absolutely nothing Craig ordered. And the pizza was pretty good! They did enjoy the arcade games, where we watched them win first place on the motorcycle racing, quite impressive. Who knew they could steer so well?! The girls also demanded to watch Lion King with Amanda later that night.
Day 3 – Clearly going south wasn’t going to equal warmer or less snowy weather, with slushy precipitation falling almost the entire visit. Enough accumulation allowed the girls to make a fancy snowman, and Sue to text me she was teaching the girls how to use spray paint. By nightfall it was melted into a pile of spray paint slop, and the girls called it a flat snowman. Everyone “helped” Papa Lon plow the driveway on the four wheeler, like they do with Craig at home.
With the advisory board meeting taking up my entire work day as well as the entire evening, it was great to know the girls were out having fun with family and keeping their grandparents on their toes! The house wasn’t even on fire by the time I made it home and all kids were fast asleep, not that I harbored any doubt of Grandma Sue’s abilities!
Day 4 – I don’t have a lot to report on this fun day, except that “fun” might not be the descriptive word Craig would use for his day. Grandma and Amanda brought the girls downtown to visit Daddy at work and then headed to lunch. About halfway through my work lunch I received a text from Craig that Reagan puked the contents of her stomach all over him after a cough; getting almost nothing on herself. Luckily Sue and Amanda were able to handle cleanup and kiddos in the moment, and keep any other lunch goers from turning too green in the process.
We enjoyed a deer roast for dinner that night that Lon hunted earlier this winter, with potatoes, veggies and rolls. Emerie scarfed down two servings immediately while her sisters took a bit more convincing. It was delicious!
Day 5 – I took a few hours of leave on Friday in attempts to take the girls to the beach with Grandma and Auntie Manda. Mother Nature didn’t receive the memo and we saw continuous, slushy snow the entire morning and temperatures hovering around freezing. After a Costco run the girls continued coloring at the table and watching movies inside. Their coloring creativity continues to expand and it’s cute to see the little people, animals and flowers that emerge on paper. Harper makes a really cute sunflower! We never made it to the beach, and will have to table that adventure for our next, more summery visit.
We did hit up a couple stores around town to burn some time, and managed to get ourselves immediately kicked out of the only kid play area in town. The lady claimed the girls were coughing too much; but if she had given them five minutes to settle in, they would have calmed down and been fine. Instead she followed them around with sanitary spray and then demanded we leave. Amanda and I took them around the other mall and let them look through a couple knick-knack stores to burn some time. They conned me into purchasing bunny ear headbands in their colors, some kid jewelry (such as the tiara Harper wore the rest of the visit), pretend paper money and click together markers (that were really cool!). After walking out of the first store, Emerie instructed us to wait, Mom, I have to say goodbye to my husbands, turned, and hugged all the mannequins. So random!
Also random, walking down the freezer aisle at Three Bears, we met the aunt of one of the local triplet sets in Juneau that we’ve never met before. It really is a small world; this is the second time this month I’ve met a new triplet family member randomly at the store!
After painting a custom picture at Papa Cliff’s house later in the afternoon, we enjoyed family dinner with cousin Chatum and Auntie Salena. Much to my happiness, Sue made my favorite chicken fried steak, green beans and potatoes, and the kids ran around wreaking havoc.
On the flight home we switched up the seating chart, with me at the window, Emerie in the middle next to an older gentleman who talked about Frozen and Elsa with her, and Craig on the aisle with Harper and Reagan next to him. While the girls asked several times over the week when we would go home, they wished to stay with Grandma when we arrived at the airport. Even with the laid back schedule and crummy weather, they know she makes everything fun and exciting and they greatly enjoy her visits.
We ended the flight with Emerie’s announcement she had to poop, but not before I jotted down some of her ridiculous questions throughout the trip:
- When does this plane go upside down?
- Are we going to land on the water?
- When are we done driving on the clouds?
- Where are the clouds? (as we were flying in them)
- Why is that light on (the fasten seat belt sign)? I don’t like it; turn it off.
The girls slept nearly twelve hours on the first night at home, indicating their level of travel exhaustion. It was a great trip and easier than our adventures last year. Not lugging around strollers, a diaper bag and diapers, not to mention easier scheduling without needing to fit naps in each afternoon, made the whole trip much more simplistic. The new headphones were a hit, in their colors of course, so everyone could watch a movie on our iPads. It’s a blessing that they sit that long now, and the plane ride went by pretty quickly because of it. I also learned I should pack more snacks; they didn’t eat any on the way down, but our afternoon flight on the way back, cleared out the whole bag. If it was a longer flight, I would definitely need more.
We are already looking forward to the next one!