best present ever

I know, I know: shouldn't this have been written and posted before the holidays were over? What kind of a blogger am I? C'mon Chris, we've moved on! Sorry Internet, I was busy traveling, trying to relax, drinking beer, eating sugar cookies and watching all of the third season of 'American Horror Story' (witches, bitches!). Plus, I needed stuff to actually happen before I could write about it. Now that it has, I'd rather not bore you with the details... Ok fine, stuff happened. 

Where to begin? Let's start with the plane trip out to Indiana. If you'll recall the first time we flew didn't exactly go so smoothly. We almost missed our connection, Olivia was testy the entire time and another passenger's baby won an award for the best behaved child on that plane. We learned a lot from the experience which we hoped would make things go smoother on the next attempt. This time around we got direct flights going there and coming back, which was all sorts of awesome. Jodi packed plenty of activities in her carry on, while I provided the snacks and a Kindle loaded with Olivia's favorite feature film involving ice, a snowman dreaming of warmer weather and songs that will never, ever leave our subconscious. We had a plan and we were determined to make this flight our bitch.

It was the weekend before Christmas, and in my head all I could imagine was an airport filled with crazed flyers desperate to get home for the holidays. I convinced Jodi to have our car pick us up an extra 45 minutes early in case traffic was heavy and, of course, it wasn't. In fact, our cab driver commented on how amazingly fast we got to the airport. After getting through security we ended up having close to 3 hours before our flight was scheduled to depart. We cued up some Herb Alpert, grabbed food and did our best to kill some time in our terminal. Eventually Olivia wanted to go exploring and, wouldn't you know it, she and Jodi found a treasure trove of 'Frozen' merchandise on sale at one of the vendors. At first she latched on to a movie tie-in gumball machine that was almost too big to carry by herself, but Jodi somehow convinced her that she only needed a motorized lollipop which spun around while a character from the movie waved at you. You know, one of those in flight necessities that give parents a headache and should come standard with a mini bottle of alcohol. With that in hand, Olivia decided she wanted to listen to the movie soundtrack while we continued to wait. Once the headphones were on she began singing the songs out loud, not realizing that other people could hear her. It was adorable and plenty of people around us were smiling and watching her belt out the tunes. After a while I nudged her to turn her vocal volume down some, but since she still had the headphones on she thought she had to talk above the music. Me: "Ok Olivia, turn it down some please." Olivia: "WHAT? WHAT YOU SAY, DADDY?" 

Once we finally boarded the plane Olivia sat right down and let us buckle her in, which was a great sign. Then she wanted snacks and to be entertained. Once the jugglers and acrobats began to bore her, we brought out the Kindle so she could watch the movie. We were still sitting at the terminal waiting to taxi, but we figured the movie was long enough that it would keep her occupied for most of the flight. We started it up, put it in her lap and let her go (wakka wakka). Unfortunately she got fidgety and found the slider to fast forward and rewind the movie, so she kept moving it back and forth to parts she wanted to see. After about 5 minutes of this she exclaimed, "I don't want it anymore." People, we hadn't even left the ground yet and now our surefire, keep-the-kid-occupied-and-calm secret weapon was completely null and void. Jodi pulled out the Play-Doh, which we had bought months ago, but it turned out that it had dried up and was useless as well. Shit. 

I sat across the aisle (the rows were 1 seat, the aisle, and then 2 together) watching as Jodi pulled out every stop she could to keep Olivia occupied. I'd throw Olivia one of those patented parental glares every time she got a little too rowdy, but those only worked so much. Sadly, I also gave Jodi some glares when it looked like what she was doing was having the exact opposite effect that was needed to calm Olivia down. She was doing her best and I, admittedly, wasn't helping at all. There wasn't much I could do, given the seating arrangement, but I could have been more supportive. I'm not perfect, I was tired, my dog ate my homework, the sun was in my eyes, traffic was crazy, excuses, excuses. Lesson learned. 

Thankfully this flight was short and there were smaller kids on board who also got noisy, so Olivia's intermittent antics were short lived and not a solo act. The worst of it came in the last 5 minutes of the flight as we were coming in over the city. It was nighttime, so there were lights on everywhere, and I motioned for Olivia to look out at the view in my window. I then noticed a similar view out her window and told her to look, but she's still small and not big enough to see fully out the window. So she decided she wanted to take her seat belt off, stand up and check things out, but we couldn't let her do that because we were in the process of landing. So she very eloquently went off on us, expounding about how her basic human rights weren't being granted and that she would prosecute us to the fullest extent of the law once she was able to turn on her phone and contact her lawyer, Saul. Juuuust kidding. She cried, screamed, kicked and fussed until the wheels hit the ground and Jodi had to cradle her in her arms and calm her down. Once we got off the plane she was full of life and exuberance. She ran into the arms of an awaiting grandparent, squealed with glee, giggled and acted like she was the saintliest little 3 year old to grace everyone's presence. Kids I tell ya.

Our visits with both sides of the family went well. We ate, drank and chilled to the fullest extent that Indiana law allowed. We are incredibly lucky to have the families that we do, who cared for us and gave more than they should have. There were way too many presents under both trees, and we're very grateful and fortunate to have had the holiday that we did. There were also way too many 'Frozen' themed gifts under each tree, complete with thematic wrapping paper. Parenting pro-tip: don't bother telling the grandparents to not buy something for their grandchild during the holidays, especially if it's something that annoys you the parent or that your child has way too much of already. Scientists have discovered that the day your child is born there is a structure in the grandparent's inner ear that deteriorates and causes them to only hear, "Please buy more of this stuff for your grandchild. Especially if it lights up, makes noises that repeat over and over and will generally cause a parent to lose their mind." I'm trying to figure out how to make this either disappear from Olivia's memory or have her get tired of it quickly. I'm thinking of either taking the 'Total Recall' approach and erasing her memories or simply switching the language on it to Spanish. I predict that in the very near future I'm either going to hear, "Give them back the Elsa, Cohaagen," or my child belting out, "Libre Soy."

During our visit, Olivia developed a bit of a cough, runny nose and an affinity for beer from the Three Floyds brewing company (ok, that last part was just me). So of course she passed this on to Jodi, which turned into something she needed to visit a clinic for the day before our return flight. She was prescribed antibiotics, told not to exchange saliva with friends, relatives or reindeer and advised that there was an oh-so-slight chance that the fluid built up in her ear canals could be affected by the pressure changes during our flight and her eardrums might rupture. Have a safe trip back! We decided to risk coming back as planned, but Jodi was going to need to rest as much as possible, which meant she was going to need to sit by herself for the flight. I informed Olivia that she would be sitting next to me while we were in the air, explained why, then reminded her every so often throughout the rest of the day. Then I prepped more snacks, activities and loaded up the Kindle with a few kids shows she watches, hoping that these might work better than the movie. We packed our bags with as much new stuff as we had room for, left the rest to be shipped to us and settled down to an early bedtime because, oh yeah, our flight left at 6 a.m.. We were going to have to wake up by 4 at the latest to get out the door and to the airport, which meant that our child would also have to wake up that early. 

I know what you're thinking: Olivia went right back to sleep after we got her out of bed and also slept the entire flight. I love your optimism, but our child has other plans and is programmed to do the opposite of what we intend her to. She was completely awake from the moment we got her out of bed, but thankfully in enough of a daze that she was calm and barely raised a fuss as we made our way to the terminal. I got her seated on the plane, popped a couple of granola bars to fill her belly and then turned on a show for her. Dudes, can I just tell you how AWESOME she was? She stayed calm the entire time, placated by the promise of more treats to eat and moving images to keep her entertained. Every so often she'd share a glance with Jodi (when she was awake) and exclaim, "Mommy, I sitting down!" or, "Mommy, I watching a show!" She made it all the way home without any hijinks, shenanigans or fussing. I made sure she knew how proud of her I was because, honestly, I didn't think it could get any better than that. But then we got home...

Before we left for our trip, Jodi and I bought a few stocking stuffers to open up after we had returned. Jodi grabbed candy and some 'Doc McStuffins' figures for Olivia, while I bought the little one some Star Wars mini figures (Han Solo with Chewbacca, and C-3PO with R2-D2. Once we finally got home and settled in we opened everything up and Olivia wanted to play with all of her new figures. We had watched the first half of Star Works (how Olivia says it) Episode 4 the week before we left, so I "suggested" (ok, I geekily hoped she'd want to watch more) that we finish the rest of the movie. Olivia was not only enthusiastic about such an endeavor, but wanted to sit close to me while we perused this fine cinematic delight. Yes people, I was in heaven. I was floating on a cloud of fatherly pride and bright eyed at the thought that maybe, just maybe, she'd become a geek someday (like her father before her). Then, just as things were getting hot and heavy between the Rebels and the Empire, Olivia scooted off the couch, grabbed a few of her new Star Works figures and brought them back up on the couch to watch with us. It was as if George Lucas showed up on our doorstep and said, "Merry Christmas, Chris. Here's a gift from me to you." The kiddo was into it, and I was beaming. Christmas time is truly magical, my friends. I hope it was as special for you as it was for me. As long as it wasn't 'Special Edition' special. Because fuck that noise.