I know it has been forever since I have posted. I didn’t fall off the face of the earth. It has just been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to sit down to write at my computer. And now that I am here, I have no idea where to start. I have a LOT of catching up to do.
October has been one of the craziest and busiest months for my family. I had a husband with a broken ankle, the family made a last-minute trip to the States for a memorial service for Annie’s wonderful great-grandfather, and we returned to Rome only to leave her less than eight hours later to fly to Poland. I had a jet-lagged baby and a jet-lagged self. Suitcase after suitcase, flight after flight, train after train… I didn’t find much time to sit down, let alone collect my thoughts at my computer. Anyway, I dropped the ball on the 31 posts and feel pretty bummed about it. I actually let myself get pretty down this month with all the chaos. I had some pretty ugly moments when exhaustion got the best of me and I may have taken it out on the people I love. Nonetheless, this October we were go, go, go. In sixteen days we were on seven planes and three trains. Here’s how our travels went….
Annie, Mike, and I spent a week in Chicago, just enough time for Annie to get herself on a U.S. time zone schedule. So on our last nights in Chicago, my precious baby was finally falling asleep around 10 and waking up just a little before 8. Perfect! We left Chicago on the evening of the 11th on an overnight flight to London where we connected in the late afternoon to Rome. We arrived in Rome around 8 p.m. and I was ready for bed. Annie was ready for lunch! Bed had to wait, we needed to be ready for a 5 a.m. pick up to take us back to the airport. Fed Annie. Thankfully her Aunt Kaylea was joining us for the trip and was there to help. While Kay played with a super energetic baby, I began the process of unpacking and repacking. By about midnight I was ready to go and, more importantly, ready to hit the sack. Annie was just waking up from her afternoon nap. Brilliant.
After a long night we were back at the airport, where my husband informed me for the first time (or at least it was the first time I listened) that we had a layover in Switzerland and wouldn’t be arriving in Poland until mid-afternoon. GREAT! Anyway, found out this day that Swiss Air is truly my favorite airline. We have flown with them before, both transoceanic and throughout Europe, and we have always had extremely comfortable flights. The service is always great. This day we learned they are awesome with babies too! They even had little baby gifts for our baby flyer! On the first flight a handsome young flight attendant handed me the baby seat belt and while handing me the baby life vest calmly said “We usually don’t need these!” It was pretty funny. Then he handed me a little package and said it was the “baby version of Hamlet.” It was just a little Swiss Air cloth booklet to help entertain Annie. But so sweet and cute.
Other than a few bumps with getting wheelchair assistance for my husband, we had two uneventful flights and a happy, but exhausted baby. After taking a taxi to the wrong Ibis hotel, we finally arrived at the right one around 4 p.m. Mom, Dad, and baby decided to skip site-seeing for the afternoon and opted for a much needed nap. Unfortunately, I woke up more exhausted than refreshed. And we had a busy 8 days in front of us.
Every October for the University’s fall break, my husband takes a group of students to Poland for a study trip. Last year I attended and loved it so much, I promised I would never miss it. Poland was never high on my “to see” list. But it is quickly becoming a favored spot. Every town and city I have visited in Poland is more beautiful than the last. There is such tremendous and important history in this country. The people are incredibly nice, generous, and helpful. The food is to die for. The only down side is that it is cold! The university has been running this trip for the past six years. It is fabulous and I will be writing a post about the wonderful details of the trip in the near future. But this post is about our little globetrotter and one tired mamma.
This year, they tacked on three extra days to the usual four-day trip. Plus, we decided to tack two extra days to our trip: one in Warsaw at the beginning of the trip and one in Krakow at the end. For the study trip we added a day in Warsaw, kept the normal two days in Torun (a small university town where we meet with Polish law students and professors to hold an annual symposium on human rights), and added Krakow to the trip for an extra three days. Of course I will be writing about all we saw and learned in all of these places on another day. But for the purpose of this post, what these three cities meant was three different hotels, three trains, and a lot of lugging of suitcases.
Thank goodness for our 17 wonderful students, Aunt Kaylea, and Cousin Kelly! We never would have been able to move all the baby luggage, stroller, car seat, diapers, or mom and dad’s suitcases if it weren’t for them. Dad on crutches with incredibly sore wrists was no help in the lugging process. On top of all this lugging, I had a baby whose bedtime was still in Chicago. This meant Annie didn’t fall asleep for the first three or four days of the trip until around 4 a.m. Which of course meant mom didn’t get to fall asleep until 4:05 a.m.
For being such a great trip, it was also the most difficult trip of my life. Exhaustion is too small a word for what I felt during my time in Poland. I still don’t know how we did it. But that’s our life…always on the go.
When we arrived back in Rome after a late night flight from Krakow, I turned to my husband rather crabbily, and said thank you for a wonderful trip, but NEVER again. It took two days of resting and one enthusiastic waiter to make me realize I really didn’t mean that.
On our second night back in Rome, we decided to take Kay to our favorite spot for dinner. It’s a family run place and we know the owner and his son who run it well. They were, as always, happy to see us and especially happy to see the baby. But since we hadn’t been in for dinner in quite some time, the son asked us where we’d been. My husband began to explain the travels of our family over the past two weeks. He stopped him mid-sentence and said, “Aspetta! (Wait!) How old is your baby? And how many flights has she been on?” We responded she will be seven months next week and two days ago she was on her tenth flight. This young man was so amazed he went on to say, “I am 29 years old, and I have been on half the flights as she has.” He then went into the kitchen and dragged out his father, brought him to our table and kept repeating “Sette mese e dieci voli!” He did this with the other waiter and a few diners too!
I share this story only because in those five minutes of astonishment on that waiter’s face, I realized how truly amazing Annie’s life already is. It’s so easy to get caught up in the chaos, to complain, to let exhaustion win. I spent too many moments upset and crabby with all we had to do that I forgot about what we were so blessed to be doing. I forgot to sit back and see all that my family is experiencing, all the places we get to see, all the love by which we are constantly surrounded. More often than not, it is someone else, (like the waiter) who is on the outside that reminds me how truly lucky my family is. When I am down and homesick or just plain sick of Rome (yes, it can happen), all I have to do is remember the time I was on the bridge of the Castel Sant’Angelo on the most beautiful day with the most spectacular view with my sister-in-law Ginny and she turned to me and said, “God, can you imagine what it’d be like to live here?” I had to laugh and remind her that “Yes, Ginny, I can, because I do live here.” But it actually was exactly what I needed to hear.
Sometimes we get caught up in the life we think we want that at times, sometimes – at the most important times – we miss the one we’re living. That’s what Annie’s teaching me everyday. Live in the moment, love every moment you can. They pass too quickly and you can’t get them back. Are we more tired than we would have been if we had skipped this trip and stayed home after our trip to Chicago? Definitely. But I wouldn’t trade all the memories we made and lessons we learned in Poland for the world. Seven months and ten flights.
Annie, your story has only begun!