Over the next three weeks, we'll spend more than 28 hours on an airplane with two squirmy five year old girls. We've done long flights like this several times before and survived pretty well but it's never something we look forward to. It's stressful and uncomfortable and exhausting (I never sleep on planes). Sometimes the only thing that knocks the sharp edges off of my misery is 2 or 3 plastic cups of delightful airline brand Chardonnay.
The girls are veteran air travelers but a lot of thought goes into keeping them happy during a flight this long. I always make sure they have plenty of snacks and art supplies or games to get them through the flight but it seems like I'm constantly called on to retrieve dropped or stowed items. Just when I get comfortable, someone's iPod falls off the tray table or someone wants some Cheetos... or their 'lovey' or their purple crayon or some gum or a tissue. Or I need my computer or my reading glasses or something that is always more than an arms length away from me. And these search-and-find missions are made more frustrating by the extra challenge of reaching around and under kids legs and dealing with tray tables and the reclined seats of the people in the row in front of us.
By the end of the flight, I feel like I've flapped my arms all the way across the Atlantic.
I can't tell you how many times I wished there was something I could attach to the upright tray table. Something that would organize all of our stuff and keep everything at our fingertips. I really needed to solve this problem - even if I had to invent something myself - so I was thrilled when I found this:
It's the Nirvana Travel Organizer by Zen Class. It's designed to fit over the upright tray table on the airplane. You just slip it on and lock the table in place. I couldn't wait to test drive it so I hung it over the back of my kitchen chair and started filling it up. Man, it holds a TON of stuff! Including a bunch of things you can't see in the photo. It even holds a large laptop computer!
When the flight is over, the whole thing folds in half (minus the laptop, of course) and zips closed to make it easy to tote.
There are so many extras on this that I'm sure we'll use it for every flight. Even (gasp!) when we travel without kids. So far, the only downside I can see is that you can't really use it when the tray table is in use (down) but we plan to figure out a work-around to solve that.
I bought two. One in black and one in brown.
|We started our weekend with a trip to Daddy's work. Yes, he has a ball pit at work. No, he doesn't work at Chuck E Cheese.
Next, we went to Santana Row where Gwen and Maddy befriended some kids and they all played a nice big game of chess.
The next day, we drove up to San Francisco, picked up Michael, and headed to the zoo. The peacocks are really tame and this one was happy to pose for a close up. Exactly two years ago we were here and we were treated to a very special view of this beautiful creature! (See that cool photo, <here>)
The squirrels were a big hit too. I know these things are rodents and considered pests by many people but I think they're cute. The girls can't really tell the difference between a zoo animal and a party crasher that just chooses to live there because the food is free. Penguins and pigeons are all equal in their eyes.
In the photo below, Gwen and Maddy are enjoying a little snack break in the stroller. We bought
this stroller for our upcoming summer vacation because we needed something
portable that can hold two jet-lagged children. It's not
designed to have a child sit on the back like this but it works great
and we've learned from experience that this particular brand of stroller can easily carry twice the recommended
payload. When you have a tired child, you have only a couple of options and this stroller gives us one more. Thankfully.
Michael will turn 22 this week. Loving him all these years has made me appreciate my little girls more because I know first hand just how quickly they'll grow up. We're so honored that he wants to spend time with us even though he's a grown man and not obligated to hang out with us at all. On top of that, he puts up with this Momma constantly sticking a camera in his face!
After a very long and busy day, we settled into our hotel room at the Hyatt (Embarcadero). We found this hotel last Christmas and made a mental note to call them for a reservation next time we were looking to spend the night in The City. We thought the beautiful lights hanging from the ceiling were part of their Christmas decor so we were kinda excited to see that they're still up and, presumably, permanent.
Up in our room on the 6th floor, we got the kids situated into their' Aerobeds and we all settled in to watch "The Spy Next Door" with Jackie Chan. Probably the most stupid movie ever made but the girls didn't seem to care.
After the movie, Mommy and Daddy went to bed while the girls giggled and whispered and played in the dark. Since they don't share a room at home (their choice), sleeping together at the hotel was a real treat so we let them stay up late and dared to look forward to possibly sleeping in as a result. Nope. That didn't happen. But it's okay and we got a nice early start on the last day of our 3 day weekend!
Monday morning, Michael and Kelsey met us at the hotel for breakfast and then we took Kelsey to work and the rest of us headed to Lands End Trail (west of the GG bridge). The trail is long and winding and steep in some places but the views are spectacular! It was a bit overcast so the sky was white and not really conducive to good photography so we left the big camera in the car and I just tucked our little point and shoot (S90) into my pocket.
Michael herded Gwen and Maddy along the first part of the narrow path while Andrew and I dragged along behind them. As the terrain got more steep, Michael casually turned around to inform us that there would be "lots of stairs" to which Andrew immediately (jokingly) replied "That's okay, we usually just tell people that they're adopted". Get it? "Lots of stares"?? Funny! See why I married him? He always makes us laugh.
Daddy amused the girls by pretending to be their prisoner -- a game our daughters never grow tired of. Gwen handcuffed him with her hot pink hoodie sleeves and made him march along while Maddy stood guard with a rifle (aka a stick). At one point, Gwen was fed up with her irreverent and unrepentant captive and ordered Maddy to just shoot him! You really had to hear her say it in that super sweet tiny voice of hers. It was really funny.
Several times Daddy got away and was pursued relentlessly by his pint size captors and the funniest moment of the day happened when he was instructing them (in a wizard/professor fashion) on the more intricate details of escape and evasion and matter-of-factually insisted that he could magically disappear from view at any time.
Then he demonstrated by swiftly leaping off the path and throwing his jacket over his own head. And thus, he was "invisible"! I was too busy laughing to take a picture of it. Our smart girls didn't buy it at all and attempted to explain to their silly Daddy/prisoner why he wasn't really invisible and that amused the heck out of me too. Obviously they're old enough to understand that they're not invisible when they cover their head but I wonder when they'll be old enough to figure out that we know that too? They believe EVERYTHING we tell them. Oh, if only that could last forever.
We've been having fun with geocaching ever since hearing about it from our friend, Scott. We correctly assumed that this spot would be rife with caches and discovered one less than 200 feet from where we stood. Below is our two greatest adventurers returning from their quest. They didn't find the cache (we lost our cell phone signal so we couldn't track it) but had fun searching for it anyway!
While they were searching up behind that huge tree -- off the main trail -- Gwen found a rock with letters on it (R. I. P.). She thought it was incredibly cool and wanted to keep it but Michael made her leave it alone. Later, I explained to her what those letters meant and a few hours later (at bedtime) she had more questions about it.
It was a really nice weekend! Beautiful weather, fun places to see, surrounded by people we love!
We headed West this weekend. First we spent two hours at the beach then the boardwalk then the birthday of a certain little cricket and her mommy. We forgot the camera so you'll have to just take our word for how fun Saturday was!
Sunday, we returned to hike the Fall Creek Trail. It was beautiful and this spot quickly rose to the top of our list of local favorites.
The meandering paths are flanked by a creek and towering Redwood trees and several varieties of ferns, ivy and clover. I especially loved this clover because the leaves looked like hearts.
There were big bright spots of these blue flowers too!
Our girls love to hike and search for sticks and bugs and this trail really delivered! We found fantastic walking sticks right away and Maddy spotted a Banana Slug immediately after that. From that moment on, they searched for more banana slugs and counted 7 before we turned around and headed back.
On the way back, Gwen collected 'orphaned' banana slugs and carried them on leaves or sticks until we found another slug. Then she'd lovingly place the "lonely" slug next to its new "friend". She was especially on the lookout for young (small) banana slugs because she thought they might be babies and even more in need of families.
Obviously, she's not squeamish about slugs and bugs and other icky stuff. And even though I was repulsed by these disgusting things, I hid my contempt because I knew they were harmless and I really admired her courage and compassion for them. After staring at them for two hours, I think they might actually be pretty (in a slimy mollusky kind of way).
Once again, I'm making a mental note to double check the presence of that second x chromosome in Gwenny because I could swear she's actually a boy. I had to stop her from picking these things up with her bare hands!
On the way back to the van, the kids said they were hungry and we said we had a snack for them and jokingly suggested that it would be the banana slugs and Maddy announced that they'd be gross because they tasted more like slugs than bananas! As if she knows what a slug tastes like? We got quite a laugh out that that!
Here she is at the base of a huge kiln constructed in the 1870's. It was designed to fire limestone into powder and it was operational until the 1920's. Now it's overrun with ferns and moss and its' really beautiful.
After a few hours on this trail, we headed downtown for lunch and sightseeing and shopping. Then home where the girls resumed their search for gastropods in the backyard and complained when it was time to come inside for the night.
Dinner consisted of ravioli and cheesy toast but, for some reason, there were no takers for our favorite fruit: Bananas. :)