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Posts from the ‘travel’ Category

naked in a korean spa

When I was young, my mom would break out a little red mitt every few weeks and scrub my skin in the tub. The red mitt was like a sandpaper envelope that she stuck her hand into. She’d leave me soaking in the hot water, then pull out an arm, and then start scrubbing the shit out of it. And I’d watch as my dead skin would fall into the tub in gray rolls. Then I’d shower it all off, and feel reborn.

Ok, that’s a lie. When I was a kid, I didn’t feel reborn, I felt harassed—nay, tortured. But now, I crave that feeling. That feeling of being clean, stripped of all the dirt and grime and sweat that a body can accumulate, just from the business of being alive. There’s only one place you can get that feeling as an adult, and that’s at a Korean spa.

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I’ve been to Korean spas in Seoul, LA, and NYC, but I forgot about them until my friend Kathryn mentioned that she’d heard of one near Seattle. Around the same time, my mom and her friends started taking day trips up to Federal Way and would return with pink, glowy skin and bags full of Korean groceries. That’s when I really started paying attention. You know a Korean spa is legit if a bunch of Korean moms will drive two hours to get to it.

Kathryn and I started planning, and made the spa the first stop of a girls’ weekend up in Seattle with Linds. Linds was working on Friday and couldn’t go to the spa anyway because she’s preggers, but it was clearly for the best, because the first thing to know about a Korean spa is that you have to be nude in order to partake. There are numerous hot and cold pools and steam rooms and showers and everyone moves between these things buck naked. I’m not 100% clear on the reasons WHY you have to be naked all the time, but rules are rules. Anyway, Linds would rather pull out her fingernails than be naked in front of other people.

For some reason, I only remembered the nakedness on the day before the spa. I’d be naked all day with Kathryn, whose standards for personal grooming generally seem a lot higher than mine. I texted Linds in a panic.

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Too preoccupied with my own panic, I forgot to mention the nakedness to Kathryn until the drive up to Federal Way. Kathryn is pretty game, but she refused to believe that she would be required to spend a spa day naked with someone she’d have to see again. “Wait,” Kathryn said, shaking her head while navigating I-5. “I’ve been to a Korean spa in Santa Monica and they gave us these pajama things.”

Santa Monica? I didn’t have the heart to tell K that no self-respecting Korean would go for a scrub in Santa Monica. I highly doubted the spa had even been Korean. More importantly, my authority on the matter was being questioned. I couldn’t believe that K had the nads to believe that she knew more about Korean spas than me, a real Korean. It was as if she’d offered me a recipe for kimchee.

“No, you have to be naked the whole time,” I said. “That’s what my Mom said.” I felt proud of myself for leaving off the “So there.” K still wasn’t buying it. “No, but not the ENTIRE time, right?” I stopped being annoyed, and started to be concerned. Because she sounded nervous and unsure. And she was about to be naked in that mind state, for four hours.

Once inside Palace Spa, we were each handed a pink shorty pajama set. “See!” Kathryn said, the relief palpable in her voice. We received a tour of the facilities, and peeked into the wet area. “No clothing allowed in this section,” our guide announced.

Whatever. I was fully on-board with the nudity by this point. None of the women walking around were exactly hard-bodied. Plus I’d noted at check-in that the shorty pajama set had an elastic waistband and a high v-neck. I knew what I’d look like in that outfit, and what I’d look like, wouldn’t be female. I’d happily be naked all day if it meant I could avoid that outfit.

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you’re not entirely naked. you also wear this hat

Kathryn and I spent the next hour getting our skin nice and wet for our scrubs and trying to avoid one another. I steamed in the steam room, sliding around like a trained seal on the wet tile benches. Kathryn alternated between cold and hot plunge pools, where I overheard another woman asking K if she was a triathlete. I felt happy for my friend. Getting asked if you’re a triathlete while you’re naked has to be the equivalent of winning the damn lotto. I wouldn’t know. No one asked me if I was a triathlete.

At 2:00 pm, we met up in the communal scrub room, which consisted of a long row of massage tables. Kathryn was already face down on her table, being pummeled by a short Korean woman wearing nothing but a black bra and panties. I barely had a chance to absorb the indignity of it all before I was told to lay down on my table, by another Korean woman wearing surprisingly saucy lingerie. Don’t get excited. The women have to dress that way because for the next hour, they will be scrubbing your skin with wet mitts and sloshing hot water on you with buckets. Wearing clothes while doing that work would be pointless.

How to describe the scrubbing? Let me just say that at one point, when the lady was working on my shinbone, I imagined my leg gleaming like fine alabaster in the midday sun, to divert myself from shrieking in pain. Worse was when she unceremoniously threw my legs open and got her scrubbing mitt uncomfortably close to my lady parts. She flopped me over and scrubbed my back before shoving her elbows into my neck for some light reflexology. Face down, I wiggled my fingers and felt my fingers graze something. My eyes opened to see what I’d grazed. Little pieces of black stuff all over the table.

My dead skin. Nasty!

No longer part of me! Glorious.

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scrub glow. much easier to attain than pregnancy glow

That night in Seattle, K kept asking me and Linds to feel her elbows. “You guys! Feel my elbows!!” I understood her excitement. Every part of me felt immeasurably softer, cleaner, glowier. Not even Kathryn’s alarming discovery that her spa lady had scrubbed freckles off her chest could kill my buzz.

And all for $99!! We are hooked. And we’ll be back.

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mini las vegas

I got some funny looks when I told people that I was taking the kids to Vegas for Spring Break. Tom and I, despite our staid outward appearances, really enjoy Vegas. We don’t gamble, but we eat like pigs, and window shop, and walk around hand-in-hand gawking at how short everyone’s skirts are. Then we fall asleep at 10:00 PM after eating Doritos from the minibar and watching ESPN. It’s the best.

Our itinerary was so kid-friendly that it sounded completely lame when I’d tell friends about it. I started wondering why we were going to Vegas at all. We were booked at the Four Seasons, chosen primarily because it had no casino, and because it had a 18″-deep kiddie pool. Any parent who’s booked a relaxing vacation only to spend a nervous week worrying that their kid will drown, knows how important it is to have a kiddie pool.

The Four Seasons was predictably great but its kiddie pool is about as big as a hot tub. In fact, I suspect that it is a converted hot tub, because there’s a sign next to it about pregnant women hot tubbing at their own risk. The kids took one look at the kiddie pool, threw their shoes into it, and then asked to play with my iPhone. It worked out, though. We had access to the “beach” at Mandalay Bay, so we hung out there for the better part of three days. In general, everything was fine as long as we stayed near our hotel. Once we left the hotel, things got dicier.

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On our first day in Vegas, we went to lunch at the Rainforest Cafe at the MGM Grand, because it has fake animals in it and I stupidly thought the kids would just love that. After waiting 30 minutes in line, we sat down at a table surrounded by a group of animatronic gorillas who would beat their chests amidst strobe lights at regular, five minute intervals. Both kids began crying the first time it happened. Tom helpfully chose this point in time to remind me that the last time Finn had been to the Rainforest Cafe, he had hated it. The kids calmed down eventually but seemed too nervous to eat. Tom complained that his clam chowder tasted microwaved. Tense from the strain of showing my kids a good time, I bit into the cold onion ring sitting inexplicably on top of my burger, and wondered aloud why anyone would order clam chowder at a Rainforest Cafe.

After a nap and more swimming, we made our way to dinner at the Bellagio. On the way, our salty cabbie began waxing poetic about the “old” Las Vegas. The one that didn’t have kids. The one that had the bikini mud wrestling. Finn’s head, which had been focused on staring at the scandalous billboards outside, immediately snapped around. “What’s bikini mud wrestling?” I reacted as I always do when I’m confronted by a kid with a difficult question. I redirected. “Finn,” I said, pointing to the credit card machine in the back of the cab, “Look! It’s a computer.” Tate piped up from his seat. “Can we go to Rainforest Cafe?” “No,” Tom said. “It’s closed.” “For how long?,” Tate asked. “Forever,” Tom said.

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waiting for the pirate show

After dinner, we took off on foot for Treasure Island, where Tom assured me there was a fun, kid-friendly pirate show. Even better, it was free. We showed up at 6:30 for the 7:00 show and staked out a front row spot right in front of the pirate ship. While we waited, I killed time by watching an electronic billboard overhead advertising a show called “Sirens of TI.” It featured a bevy of scantily clad women and I turned the boys away from the screen to prevent more awkward questions. I wondered, idly, what “TI” was. Ah! Treasure Island. I watched more of the video. The scantily clad women were gyrating on a stage that looked like…a ship. A pirate ship. I felt a warning bell go off in my head, and tugged on Tom’s sleeve. “Tom. TOM. Are you sure this is a kid show?” But it was 7:00, and Tom was already focused on the stage. “The show’s starting!,” he said.

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I don’t know. Maybe the show was kid-friendly back in the 70s when Tom was a kid. The 2013 iteration is pretty spicy, and features a main character/stripper named “Cinnamon” who says she’s called “Cin” by all the seamen who have entered her cove. That was an actual line from the show. I squeezed my eyes shut and prayed that Finn wouldn’t ask me what a seaman was. When the rest of the sirens joined Cin on stage to start their number, I started panicking in earnest. But Finn and Tom seemed transfixed by the spectacle. Tate was less impressed. “There’s only one boy,” he complained to no one in particular, in the middle of another dance number/group striptease.

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The show only lasted about 15 minutes and involved several explosions, so it wasn’t a complete waste of time. After Cin and the Pirate Captain made out and slunk off to have sex in their “hideaway,” we began walking back towards the Bellagio to check out the fountains. The traffic on the Strip was a bear, and we were walking the same speed as the cars were driving. The car that was moving in pace with my family was a moving billboard advertising naked girls delivered to your hotel room. I put my body between Finn and the billboard and did my best to keep his eyes to the hotel side of the sidewalk. We stopped at the Mirage to look at the Volcano. We finally got to the Bellagio, where we got ice cream cones and cheered the fountains.

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The third day, we made our way to Circus Circus, because Circus Circus sounds like a place that would have stuff for kids. I had never been to Circus Circus and Tom tried to warn me ahead of time, but he did a really inadequate job of describing what a complete shit hole it is. It was by far the scariest place I have ever been in my life. Unlike the rest of the Strip, Circus Circus feels like it was built a long time ago, before concepts like ventilation, fire codes, and emergency exits came on the scene. Predictably, my kids were delighted by the nasty chaos and ran through the hotel, running their hands along all available surfaces, ignoring my pleas “not to touch anything.” We waited around for the free trapeze show. It was like 13 minutes long and I swear I could do most of those catches and releases if I went to a week of trapeze school. But whatever. My kids dug it.

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And that was the beauty of this vacation. My kids dug it, from start to finish. And Tom and I had so much fun seeing all the insanity through the kids’ eyes. That’s what vacationing with kids is all about, right?

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winning legoland

For the last three years, I have successfully avoided traveling with my children unless absolutely necessary. But given that Finn is now almost six, what I had previously justified as self-preservation began to feel a little like I was robbing my kids of formative experiences. So I booked a trip to Legoland.

When traveling with children, I find that it helps to build up the dread beforehand until it’s well-nigh immobilizing. There’s no way your trip can end up being as horrific as your imagination, so you’re left with the conviction that you nailed the vacation, and nailed it but good. I also recommend having a parenting partner as organized and goal-focused as mine. Of the many epiphanies I experienced on this trip, the most profound one was the realization that I had somehow ended up marrying my dad.

My dad was a master planner and organizer. But he had nothing on Tom, who views planning and organizing with the glee that most of us reserve for birthday cake. At Legoland, I saw Tom in his element. The morning of our visit, he hurried the family through showers and breakfast, having heard that the parking lot at Legoland can fill up well before 9:30, when the park opens. My rational mind told me that it didn’t make sense to drive to Legoland at 8:30 when the park didn’t open until an hour later, but the thing about panic is that it bears no regard for the rational mind, and is contagious to boot. So I followed Tom’s lead, yelling at the kids when they failed to shotgun their orange juice with appropriate speed, and snapping at the valet who brought our car around two minutes behind schedule.

It’s a good thing we hurried, because, as you can see, the parking lot was almost full when we screeched in at 8:40 AM.

I had a few pithy comments for Tom at the moment that I was surreptitiously taking this picture, but I kept them to myself, partly because we had made a pact that we would be especially nice to one another that day, but mostly because I felt sorry for him. Not that Tom himself was fazed. Tom doesn’t second-guess himself. Tom also doesn’t feel embarrassment, like normal people do. Here, opening up the stroller, he was probably congratulating himself on the prime parking spot that his efforts had secured for the family.

We moved to the entrance, where we couldn’t even burn time off the clock by buying tickets, since we’d already purchased them beforehand to avoid the lines that we discovered to be non-existent at 8:45 AM. So there we were, with 45 minutes to kill at the gates, with a 2-year old and a 5-year old. As any parent can testify, 45 minutes in bored toddler time is roughly equivalent to 17 adult hours. We hadn’t even entered the park and I already felt exhausted, and scared. How would I divert them for 45 minutes, when my iPhone batteries were good for only another 25?

Thankfully, Tom had plans for that time. Laying out the park map, he began planning out the day’s route with the boys. Convinced that the commoners would start their day by moving to the right through the Imagination Zone, Tom insisted we would begin by going left, through Dino Island and DUPLO Village. I listened to Tom mutter to himself that if everything went according to plan, we could be at Star Wars Miniland by lunch.

Once the route was all planned out, Tom asked me to stay with the boys while he got tips from Guest Services about the best way to rack up points on his Lego VIP card (below). For those not in the know, the VIP card is the free membership card you get at your local Lego store. You accrue points with your Lego purchases, to be saved up for rewards, like free Legos. Tom remembered to pack and bring the Lego VIP card all the way from Portland to Legoland, which requires a level of foresight and nerdiness that I’m at a loss to put into words. The closest thing I can compare it to is bringing your Benihana Chef’s Table membership card with you when you go to Benihana on your birthday. I always have the intention of doing that but inevitably decide that my pride is worth more than the cost of a meal. Anyway, Tom thought he’d rack that VIP card up with a ton of points from the day’s purchases. So I’m really proud that he kept it together when he came back from Guest Services to tell me that the VIP card doesn’t work at Legoland, because Legoland is not, it turns out, owned by Lego.

Once inside the park, Tom got over his disappointment about the VIP card and turned his attention to his ultimate goal: getting Finn on Legoland’s marquee ride. At Legoland, there are a bunch of rides, but the most popular ride of all is the Volvo Driving School, which is essentially a large plot of land with a bunch of streets on which kids aged 6-13 can drive around in little Lego cars. I have no explanation for the popularity of this ride, which is like bumper cars without the excitement of the bumping. But it is highly touted in the guidebook literature as one of the featured attractions at Legoland, and as such, Tom wasn’t about to let an age requirement keep his firstborn from getting into one of those cars.

The end result was hardly certain, as everything hinged on Finn’s ability to lie to an authority figure, something he had proven himself incapable of doing a year ago, when, as a tall four year old, we asked him to say that he was five in order to get into a day camp at a lawyer convention that we had dragged him to. Finn nodded solemnly as we explained that if he wanted to play with the other kids at the convention, he would have to say that he was five when asked his age by the camp counselor managing the check-in desk. As we waited in line, he gave off the quietly confident air of the star athlete who has been entrusted with the final play of the game and is guaranteed to deliver. So it was a complete and utter shock when we got to the front of the line and, without even being asked his age, Finn said in a ringing voice: “I’m Finn. My daddy says that I’m five today, but I’m really four.” I’m told that many parents feel like they suck at parenting. But I suspect that I feel that way with a lot more regularity than the average mom.

This time around, when asked to lie about his age, Finn made the play and won the game.  And the win was particularly impressive because Legoland doesn’t station the average carny at the Volvo Driving School.  Only the best and brightest are selected to operate the marquee attraction, and these ringers have clearly been trained that when sufficiently intimidated, a child will always revert to the truth.  Completely ignoring my ingratiating smile, the ride operator crouched down next to Finn and fixed him with a stern expression.  “How old are you, little man?”  But Finn rose to the test.  Motivated by the desire to drive a tiny plastic car, he shouted “I’m six, I’m six!!”  And then, he was off.  To the car of his choice, for two minutes of driving bliss.

As he watched Finn lap the track, Tom’s happy smile said it all.  It was a great day.  I didn’t even lose my composure when some punk kid doused me with a water cannon on a pirate ride at 10:00 AM, completely deflating my carefully voluminized hairdo and soaking my jeans.  Anyone who knows me, knows that there was serious magic that day at Legoland if I was able to enjoy the day despite looking like I had swum to the park from Japan.  But ultimately, I just didn’t have the heart to ruin the day for Tom.  He had planned and organized, and for that, I was grateful.  As we left the park with exhausted kids in tow, we looked at each other and locked lips in a passionate kiss.  Victory gets us hot, and we’d done it—we’d won Legoland.

animal lover

My family returned today from a week-long trip to Southern California.  Lots of blogging material there, but today, I’m going to write about what I learned about myself on this trip.  And what I learned about myself on this trip is that animals are really boring.

Before we left for California, I did my research.  Practically everyone I know told me that if I did not visit the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, I would be sorry.  I heard it so often that I started to feel guilty that I’d not taken my boys there already.  Busy planning the rest of the trip, I put Tom on safari detail, and asked him to reserve one of the safari park’s tours for us ahead of time, which he did, at $82 a pop.  That’s right, $82 per person.

good luck finding the non-boulder

At $82 per person, I had expectations of this safari tour.  It sounds dumb in retrospect, but for $82, I believed that I’d see, like, a lion chasing and eating a wildebeest.  But it was not to be.  After settling into our super-sized golf cart with two other families, a couple things quickly became apparent.  First, this was a “conservation” park, meaning that they keep the predators and prey apart—lame; and second, without some predator-on-prey action, I had about a 0% chance of keeping my sons under control for the duration of the hour-long tour.

After the tour guide drove us up to our third herd of antelope chewing hay, I began to panic in earnest.  At the fifth stop, Finn started asking, loudly, if he could play Fruit Ninja.  Even Tate, who as a f-ing TODDLER should be way into animals, lost interest.  At the zebra stop, when I turned my back for a moment to teach Finn a lesson about gratitude, Tate just walked off the golf cart, apparently headed back for the gift shop.  As for his dad, Tom had entered the semi-catatonic state that he enters when faced with a kid-related situation that is not being handled.  That doesn’t mean he wasn’t working.  From the expression on his face, I knew that he was calculating the number of snacks in his backpack, and how far apart he would have to space them in order to keep the boys from going entirely AWOL.

if you’re wondering why i made tate eat this fruit roll-up hannibal lecter style, it’s because that is the slowest way to eat a fruit roll up

The situation would have been stressful enough without having to worry about ruining the $82 safaris of the other six people on the golf cart.  But then some of the other adults started asking questions like (true story) “Why did that giraffe sit down?” and “Do all these animals age in dog years?”, and I decided that these people deserved to have my children inflicted upon them.  So instead of stressing, I sat back, and tried to enjoy the animals.  And that’s when it occurred to me that I derive no pleasure whatsoever from the viewing of animals.  The highlight of the tour was the white rhino, which, as the tour guide somberly informed us, will become extinct in our lifetimes.  I put on my sad face, but it was hard to feel terribly torn up about the loss of this particular rhino species given that the rhino just sat in the mud for the 7 minutes we were parked in front of him.  I couldn’t even tell he was a rhino for a while because the safari park has cleverly designed his habitat to include a bunch of gray boulders that look exactly like the rhino.  Did I mention that the tour cost $82.

When all else fails, I enjoy animals when I can get really close to them and take photos that I can post on Facebook to show how close I was.  But I was even foiled there.  I mean, this is as close as we got.  If I told you these were claymation animals, you’d be like, “Yes, I saw that movie, and it sucked.”  I mean, those would have to be some pretty tall giraffes to be impressive from this distance.  And they weren’t.  They were really small giraffes.

So anyway, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.  Go, if you’re into that sort of thing.  Or save your money for Legoland, where you can see beautiful animals, up close and personal.

welcome to hell

No one likes to fly with kids. But most parents do it anyway, to teach their kids how to travel and in order to travel themselves. Tom and I are not those parents. We used to travel, to interesting places. No longer. Now, there is almost nowhere I need to be so badly that I am willing to fly with my kids to get there. At this point, I won’t even drive anywhere further than two hours away with my kids, because two hours is exactly how long a 90 minute DVD lasts after you’ve kept your hounds at bay for the first 30 minutes of your car trip using fruit leather and window stickers.

Finn, my older kid, has been interfering with our travel plans since he was in utero. A long-planned fifth anniversary trip to India coincided with Finn’s 12th gestational week. I ignored my doctor’s advice and got on the plane for the Subcontinent, where I experienced a sustained bout of nausea and vomiting the likes of which, I am convinced, have yet to be experienced by any other human. Not to get too graphic about it, but if one vomits too forcefully, they will break blood vessels in their face. That’s the kind of vomiting I’m talking about. I vomited that way for four weeks.

India is an amazing country, but it’s not the country you want to visit if you are in the throes of morning sickness. We had scrimped and saved to spend two weeks in a series of Oberoi hotels; I made it to Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur before Tom put me on a plane for home halfway through our trip. I recall almost nothing about the trip except the Taj Mahal and the fact that each hotel had lovely and intricate tilework surrounding the base of the toilets. Because Tom was flying on to Kazakhstan for work at the end of the trip, he got to spend a romantic five nights in Mumbai, by himself.

Just as Finn started to reach an age where the prospect of flying did not make me want to gouge my eyes out, things got exponentially harder, because Tate came along. I say exponentially, because Tate, unlike Finn, is a bolter.

Here he is in his launch pose. Most of our other photos of Tate are blurry, or only include one foot in the frame. Combine Tate’s bolting with Tom’s generally distracted nature, and you have a situation ripe for traveling disaster. It’s not just Tom–I once turned my head at an airport and found Tate riding the baggage carousel by the time I turned it back.

But, I can’t avoid flying with my kids forever. Tom’s family has been kind enough to come out to Oregon for the last couple Christmases, and now it’s our turn. So, here I am, packing for North Carolina. And the dread I feel for tomorrow’s flight is palpable. The packing itself is stressful, as we have to make certain that we have packed each of the 39 codependency objects my kids require when they leave home. Like the sound machine. That’s right, a sound machine. You snicker, but try getting your kid to sleep without a sound machine when his cousins are out in the living room playing video games. Also essential: carseats, for the rental car that you’ll be driving when you land. Our carseats weigh approximately 80 pounds apiece, and were designed specifically to frustrate parents who have to lug them from the car to the terminal, as they have no handholds or grips. For those who have not had the pleasure, carrying such a carseat is comparable to carrying an 80-pound metal safe covered in Crisco that you can’t quite get your arms around.

Speaking of portability, don’t forget the ratty yet voluminous blankets your kids need in order to fall asleep, because sleep is the holy grail when flying with kids. My kids’ blankets trail behind them on the airport floor, picking up SARS and Ebola virus on the way. And it’s all for naught, because it turns out those blankets don’t work their magic on the plane. Your kids will be awake for the entire flight. If you’re tempted to try Benadryl to get them to doze off, don’t bother. God laughs at you. I tried it with Finn once and his system reacted like I’d given him speed. So why bother with the blankets, right? Right. Try leaving the blankets at home and see how your kids handle it. Just try. I dare you.

Once you’re on the plane, the fun really starts. If you don’t have kids, I’m going to explain something right now that may blow your mind. And that is this: there is no possible way to prevent a child from kicking the back of the seat in front of him. There just isn’t. It’s a bodily impulse for a kid that cannot be stopped. Before I had kids, I was the asshole who would recline their seat all the way back and then bitch loudly about the kid behind me kicking my seat. As a parent sitting next to such a kid, the best you can do is continually hound them to stop, even though you know he’s as powerless to stop as you are powerless to fly the plane. The hounding is not for you, or for your kid. It’s for your audience–the people around you–to indicate that you really are trying to stop your kid, even when you know you can’t.

So many other pleasures to discuss, but my packing awaits. I will end by saying that if you have a baby and the baby is flying in your lap, I have special sympathy for you. I flew to Cabo once with Tate on my lap, and he was a leggy one year old at the time with elbows like Bill Laimbeer. He kicked and screamed the entire way, much to the delight of the entire cabin. At one point I just let him walk up and down the aisle unattended, because I had no other recourse. None of my efforts to get him to sleep worked–until, that is, we landed in Mexico. Upon deplaning, Tate promptly fell into the deep, silent slumber that I would have given my left kidney for during the flight.

If you’re traveling with kids this holiday season, best of luck. I sympathize with you, and hope you will sympathize with me if I happen to be on your flight.

leaving on a jet plane

It’s likely a sad state of affairs at home if you’re looking forward to an upcoming business trip.  Or, it may just be that, like me, you’re a working parent, and looking for whatever opportunity you can find to escape the reality of your life.

Tom travels for work more than I do, and for a while now, despite his protestations to the contrary, I’ve suspected that his trips are less onerous, and more enjoyable, than he has led me to believe.  There was the trip to Anchorage that he returned from blabbering on and on about how he could spot bald eagles and orca whales from his office window.  The rigorous retreat in Scottsdale from which he returned with a tan.  The recruiting trip to Ann Arbor, coincidentally scheduled during the week of the Wolverines’ home opener.  The trip to Chicago, from which he returned heavily conversant in both the architecture of that city, and deep dish pizza.  After a recent week-long trip to Seattle where he was supposedly working so hard that he managed to call home only four out of six days, he came back looking like he’d spent the week at Canyon Ranch, with bright blue eyes popping out of a face glowing with health, and five fewer pounds on his frame.

And why not?  Anyone who tells you that spending a night in a hotel with room service is rougher than dealing with the daily reality of a 5 and 2 year old, is yanking your chain, and yanking it hard.  Tom texted me the photo above during the aforementioned Anchorage trip, from his twilight run along the water.  I can only assume that he was rendered momentarily senseless by the natural beauty, because he is well aware that the only thing I want to hear from him when he’s traveling is 1) how much it sucks, and 2) what gifts he will purchase to make it up to me.  When I received this photo on my phone, I was mopping up the second glass of milk my toddler had spilled on our rug, while simultaneously trying to pick every piece of cilantro out of my older kid’s beans and rice to prevent a meltdown.  Basically, by sending me this photo at that stressful moment, Tom managed to ruin for me, not only the entire state of Alaska, but also, nature itself.

Why so tense, you ask?  Because, when Tom is away on business, I’m back home, wasting away from stress and exhaustion, and being eaten alive by my offspring.  During Tom’s trips, I go through stages, and those stages look a lot like this:

Day 1: Invincibility.  I got this sh*t in the bag.  If only I had more kids and a night shift at work, to really challenge myself.

Day 2: Martyrdom.  I am working hard so that Tom can work hard.  I am a good wife, and deserving of jewels.

Day 3: Anger.  I have my own damn job, and my own deadlines, and why have I never noticed before how much I hate making lunches?  Also, if these kids want another book read to them, they should try their dad, except I guess they can’t, because HE’S NOT HERE.

Day 4: White hot rage.  Yes, it does feel good to throw all of Tom’s cufflinks and stupid collar stays on the floor.  Think I’ll put them back in their stupid little tray and do it again.  And yes, I think I will clean the tile grout with his Sonicare.

Day 5: Surrender and acceptance.  This is my lot in life.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Perhaps I can dull the pain with online shopping.

Anything longer than five days, and Tom simply risks returning home to my dead body, drawn on by washable markers, covered in cheerios and yogurt, with one withered hand gripping a half-finished legal brief and the other clutching the remote control, frozen in the act of searching for just one more episode of “Dora the Explorer.”

So today, it’s my turn.  I’m in a shitty hotel, after a turbulent airplane ride and two missed exits on a California highway.  And I’m loving every minute of it.

Now, if only I could stop missing those boys.