Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Where in the World is Vanuatu?

Vanuatu is an archipelago about 1000 miles east of Australia, which makes it an easy destination for Aussies and New Zealanders. They make up the majority of tourists there, by far, because it's an easy 2-3 hour flight for them. We didn't meet any other Americans during our five day stay, even though I hear that more Americans are visiting ever since "Survivor: Vanuatu" aired in the US. Matt and I knew absolutely nothing about this place before we booked our trip, but now I think it is a really fascinating little corner of the world. Vanuatu has only been an independent nation since the 1980's, and before that it was ruled jointly by the British and the French. That made life really confusing for a hundred years or so, but things seem to be sorted out beautifully now.

Port Vila

That's the capital city, Port Vila, on the main island of Efate. There are something like 80 islands in the archipelago, some of them uninhabited, and only a small handful have any kind of tourist infrastructure. Port Vila is a good-sized town, actually it's really the only town. The locals call everyplace else a "village." We stayed our first two nights at a place on the little island you can see in the harbor up there.

Here's the ferry coming to collect us to take us to the hotel on that island across the way. The boat ran between the resort and the mainland at any hour. You could summon it from the other side by stepping out onto the dock.

Iririki Ferry

Iririki Dock


This is the Iririki Island Resort. We had a little one-room bungalow that I loved. Following in my tradition of blogging hotel bedscapes, I offer you these. Actually, I loved the decor, and could not get enough of those bed sconce lights (which dimmed, perfect!), and the cute throw pillows everywhere. I believe, if you liked it then you shoulda put a pillow on it. (Except for on the actual bed itself. Odd, no?)

Our Bungalow

Iririki Bungalow

The view from our little porch. At night the sound of the water was lovely.

From Our Porch

This was kind of the plush part of the vacation. (The other part, to be shared in a future post, was more like mosquito nets and no ice cubes. I loved that part even more.) But for now, it's mai tais at the Bali Hai pool!

Mai Tai Slushy!


Here's a view back to Port Vila from the pool. This was the "no kids" section of the resort, just for mama and daddy time, don't you know, and it was a relaxing place any time of the day. We sat here and read a lot. We ate ridiculously huge meals in the adjacent restaurant. Like, crepes-set-on-fire at your table ridiculous. One night we came to the pool bar at last call, and sat down by the water until midnight, watching the harbor.

View of Port Vila

There are newer and bigger resorts in Port Vila, but I loved this location. Watching the water and the boats never got old. The town was just a three-minute ferry ride away, but we felt like we were on our own little Fantasy Island. And here's my Ricardo Montalban.

He Likes Pina Coladas

I'd ordered a beer on this occasion, and the waitress set down the tall fancy drink in front of me instead of Matt, then we corrected her, then we all laughed. He's sipping defiantly in this photo.

Okay, is anyone still scrolling besides my mom? I'll stop now! But there will be more, because we did do stuff besides drink and laze around, I think.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Babies LOVE Me


New Niece Grace

Here is baby Grace, sister Amy's newborn, and one of the main attractions of Sydney, Australia. And here I am frightening her with my large teeth. She is seven weeks old now, but in these photos she is a youthful six weeks.

Laura and Grace

When we weren't seeing the sights, we watched the cousins. Completely entertaining.

Cousin Love

Hank and Nate

Hank and Nate, who is also 3, were hilarious together. They spent many hours riding side by side in their carseats, and they would have these long conversations that were pure Samuel Beckett.

Hank: What's wrong Nate?
Nate: Nothing.
Hank: Did you say rainbow?
Hank: I win.
Nate: No, I win!
Hank: No, my mom wins.
Nate: Nooo, my mom wins!
Hank: My mom is a wife! A beautiful wife!
Nate: I win! I win! HURRAY!
Hank: Rainbow?

That's not an artful summary, it's a straight transcription.

Five kids is a lot, even if one of them is a baby. We took them places on trains, ferry boats, and cars, and every time I thought, "There's no way we can keep up with all these kids. We'll probably lose one." But they all managed to stick to us.

Laura with the Sydney Cousins

In the Blue Mountains

These cousins have never lived in the same place, or really even on the same continent, so watching them play and be together was a real highlight of the trip.

This has been another postcard from Oz, the Cousin Edition.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

My iPhone Got Dropped in the Toilet

Did I tell you this? I think I only told Facebook. Last week in Sydney, in an effort to coax Hank to sit on the potty (traveling toddler's constipation, whole 'nother story), I told him he could play a game on my phone while he sat there. Because why? Because I am dumb as hair. Because I ignored decades of experience with HOW THE WORLD WORKS. So I totally deserved what I got.

Which was that Hank dropped my iPhone in the toilet. My iPhone. In the toilet.

Matt was supervising the potty situation, and all of a sudden I heard a big commotion and Matt saying, "Noooooo!" I rushed into the room, and when I entered, the patient had been plucked from the toity, and Matt was holding it between his palms, towelling it briskly like it was the runty newborn puppy in 101 Dalmations.

I seized it and then did what anyone would do. I turned it off right away and then updated my Facebook status. My cry from the heart was:
Oh god y'all, my child just dropped my iPhone in the toilet. Even though it was
quickly rescued, I am filled with dread. (I turned it off promptly.) Anything to
do but just hope? And say ugly swear words?
Advice, anecdotes, and commiseration flowed in. I'm sharing it in case this happens to you--if you filter out the smartassery, it seems to be a compendium of everything I have ever heard about how to save a wet phone, and people are reporting a 100% success rate:
  • Bag of rice for a week--works wonders.
  • I've heard something about using cat litter to draw out the moisture from the phone (not from the child- unless you so choose).
  • Is there an app for that? [Okay, that one made me laugh.]
  • My friend says to air it for a few days. She jumped in a swimming pool with hers in her pocket (grabbing a child).
  • I ran my old phone through the washing machine by accident. I let it dry for a week and it was ok. The iPhone has a "got-wet" sensor in it so Apple won't give you a new one for free.
  • My niece's iPod got soaked after it was outside in a puddle during a rainstorm. i googled what to do and we put it in a bowl of rice to absorb the moisture for a few days. after this it worked just fine. i gave this advice to a friend who used it on his cell phone and it also worked.
  • The other week Linc dropped his phone into the lake and we managed to find it at the bottom, in the sand, because the light was still on. He turned it off, dried it, and it's fine now!! Good luck ;)

So, in summary, the number one most important thing to do is to turn the phone off right away. Then take it apart as much as possible. With an iPhone, this is not much. But with a conventional cellphone, take the battery out. Then choose your drying method. I didn't have kitty litter, and I was going to do rice, but I didn't think much water could be inside, because it was a quick dunk and not a prolonged soak. (I would also worry about winding up with grains of rice and junk inside the phone.) So I opted for taking out the SIM card, sitting the phone, under a desk lamp, screen side up, and leaving it for three or four days.

Then I told myself that if it didn't work when I turned it on, I would move on with my life and buy a new iPhone 3GS. I cultivated an attitude of mental detachment, which gave me the courage to power it up. It worked, and I whooped, then I wiped it all over with a babywipe, 'cause that thing had been in the toilet.

So, that was a close one. My dad sat down in a hot tub with his phone in his pocket, and he dried it for a week and it was fine. I am surprised that those phones are so robust. Has this already happened to everyone else?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Friday, July 24, 2009

Things to Love in Oz: Kiama

Kiama Lighthouse
A couple hours south of Sydney, on the Tasman Sea, is the town of Kiama. While other little beach towns near Sydney reminded me of California, this place has kind of an English flavor, maybe because it was built up during a Victorian boom (that lighthouse has been there since 1887), or maybe because the weather just seemed English the day we visited.

Kiama has a famous blowhole in the volcanic rock at the beach. The waves come in and water shoots up through a narrow opening into the air.

Blowhole at Kiama

In this pic, it's only kind of burping. Visitors a hundred years ago report seeing it shoot up higher than the lighthouse, but as the opening has widened and eroded, it doesn't go that high anymore. It's pretty fun to watch though.

The kids loved climbing all over the rocks in the harbor, and I loved the scenery. You can climb way out there and get a good view back to the town.

Matt and Hank <span class=

Kiama Coast

Kiama Coast


Laura and Dad


It's hard to believe that we were there one week ago today. A sign at an overlook said that we were 3800 miles from the South Pole, and we were over 9000 miles from Atlanta. Whoa. And down there, you can believe that you're close to Antarctica. I mean, there are penguins. Just feels like the bottom of the world somehow. Geographically, that was as far as our tether stretched, and then we started to reel ourselves back in.

This has been another postcard from Down Under.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Well, Nevermind

Yesterday I told you about my assumption that Frenemy Neighbor had straightened my living room when she came in to check on my house. It didn't seem that crazy to think that--it's the kind of thing I might do. So today FN and I were exchanging texts about getting the girls together. I had written to her to tell her we were back, and I said, "Thank you for straightening up the living room! You didn't have to do that." And she texted back:
I don't move people's things around--just in case something is in a spot for a reason, unless I'm asked or tell that I did.
Okay then. So I either misremembered how cluttered we left the house, or there really is a Good Fairy of Tidying. But I guess this means I don't owe Frenemy Neighbor a cake.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mitch the Shy Landscaper, Returned!

Speaking of returned, we rolled up to our house this morning at 2am, after 27 hours of travel from Sydney. Somewhere around hour 18, I realized that other people, smarter people, break up these kinds of itineraries. Like, after our transpacific flight, we could have spent the night in LA, then come on to ATL the next day. But maybe that just means longer in-transit time and not a more restful experience overall. Whatever, we're tough. Matt sat awake for the entire 12-hour flight from Auckland to LA, holding a sleeping Hank. And I actually watched Dragonball: Evolution, and even enjoyed part of it. Take that, air travel! Is that all you got? Next time, try kryptonite.

So as we were approaching the house, I said, "I wonder what our grass looks like?" I was thinking it hadn't been mowed in four weeks, and would now be a knee-high refuge for possums, or even could have sprouted a Trans-Am up on blocks. Imagine my surprise and wonderment when we rounded the corner and saw that it was neatly cut. And edged! And the laurel bushes were clipped! What Good Fairy of Lawn Care did I have to thank for this? My first thought was, believe it or not, of Frenemy Neighbor. I had left a key with her, because none of my non-frenemized peeps were going to be home this whole time, and at one point I asked her to go in the house and have a look around. So when I saw the grass cut, I thought maybe she had arranged for it to be done in the name of neighborhood beautification or just plain kindness. Then, I got into the house and saw that she must have straightened up our living room when she came in. We had left it somewhat cycloned on our way out the door, but it was now plumped and neatened. This confirmed my hunch that she'd arranged for grass cutting, and my heart filled with appreciation for her. I felt like such an ungrateful wretch, making blog sport of her character eccentricities! Such a kind and thoughtful neighbor! Oh reader, in the dark of night, humbled and travel-weary, I vowed to be a better person and a kinder blogger!

Then, we all woke up very late today and found that the mail lady had delivered a crate of withheld mail. In it was an invoice from Mitch the Disappearing Mowing Dude! The invoice bills us for that time he mowed-and-ran, and claims that he did our yard three times while we were gone. Fascinating! I am happy to pay him, of course, and I'm happy that the yard didn't return to jungle while we were gone, but it's funny, because there was nothing in our interaction that one time that suggested we were agreeing to a weekly relationship, AND he didn't come the week right before we left, but apparently came each week we were gone. So, hmm. He didn't know we were about to leave town, though, so I don't think it's some kind of fiendish plot to get rich by only mowing our yard twice instead of four times.

So Frenemy apparently did not cut our grass, though she did straighten the living room, which was very sweet. When Matt and I were heading from Sydney to Vanuatu, I emailed her and asked her to go into the house and check things out. When we got back to email, I had a note from her that said only this:
We checked on your house & everything looked fine. A bee entered when the front door was open so be aware.
Is she not kind of adorable? I laughed so hard when I got that. It seemed like such a world away from everything we were doing. We had recently stood on the rim of a volcano that was shooting lava into the air. Just so incongruous. And we weren't due back for over a week, but she thought she'd better let us know about that bee. When we got in last night, I sent a "we're back" text message to Amy, and I added, "There's a huge bee in here! Why didn't somebody warn us?"

What was that about being a kinder blogger? I do owe her a big thank-you. And we are glad to be home, even jet lagged, and glad the crape myrtle is still blooming, and glad the grass is cut, and glad to have had a wonderful trip. You'll be hearing more about Australia, I'm afraid, and Vanuatu, because I've got a backlog of stories to tell and photos to share. I hope y'all are having a wonderful summer. I'm looking forward to coming by everyone's blog and getting caught up.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Skinny Mirrors

In my living room at home I have a skinny mirror. Somehow it makes me look thinner. Other people have noticed the same thing. And then, at the Target near my house, the mirror outside the dressing room is most definitely a fat mirror. Are you familiar with this phenomenon?

Last weekend, we all went out to the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, and stayed in a hotel for a couple of nights. Nothing fancy, just your basic Best Western. But the mirror in the bathroom was the skinniest mirror I have ever seen. It would have put the dressing room at any Prada store to shame. The effect was so striking, without being carnival-mirror distorting, that I pulled my sister into the bathroom to show her. Then I pulled down my jeans so she could admire the miraculous reflection of my thighs. I don't think that was weird at all, do you?

I looked around on the interwebs to see what people were saying about the skinny mirror situation. I turned up a story of a woman who regretted breaking up with a boyfriend only because he had an especially skinny mirror in his apartment. Lots of people pointed out that department stores somehow have skinny mirrors in their dressing rooms. The consensus seems to be that a mirror that tilts back against the wall will make you look longer and leaner. That's not what's going on in my living room or in the Best Western, so it remains a mystery. I don't know if science can explain it.

I am writing this post to distract myself from two sorrows: it is our very last day in Australia, and my laptop stopped working. Matt is working on the laptop, but there is not much help for the other situation. Hope y'all are having a good weekend and are surrounded by skinny mirrors.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ask Suburban Matron

Halloo! Matt and I just got back to Sydney from our Vanuatu adventure. I missed you desperately, even though we had a wonderful time. I will have much to share about that, but while I get my photos downloaded and clean the island funk off my body, I wanted to give you something to chaw on. A troubled reader needs our help. She writes:

Dear Suburban Matron,

I need your help with a domestic etiquette issue. Some friends gave us a $100 gift certificate toward a photo session--a unique and thoughtful baby shower gift, or so I thought and still think. A mutual friend of the gift-giver keeps asking when we are going to do our session. We haven't had time and I need to get my roots done first, but yesterday I finally looked into it because we are starting to run out of excuses. The total price for a sitting is $300. My mate's response is, "Who gives a gift that requires you to spend $200?" True enough, but clearly they think we can afford it. Nevertheless, $200 is a lot of money and right now is not a good time to spend it on something we would never choose to spend it on--you see, we are not really the kind of people who do portraits. Not because we don't like them, but because I am patently unphotogenic when it comes to staged portraiture. The husband says, "No way we're doing it." I think that it's more delicate than that. Our friends will know if we don't use the gift certificate. It will hurt their feelings and make them feel as though they wasted their money. As you can see, this is a serious dilemma in need of your keen insight into human behavior and domestic bliss.


Candid in California

Hmm, Candid, that is a pickle. Thank goodness you wrote, as I know the SubMat readers are a savvy bunch and will help you through. While I do see the thoughtfulness of their gift, it was also a little presumptuous to give it to you knowing what the total tab would be. Maybe better to avoid those kinds of presents? But they didn't, so here you are. As I was collecting my thoughts, I polled the extended Matron family. They had various responses.

One strong current of opinion is that you don't owe the gift-givers anything further than a heartfelt "Thank you," which you surely have already delivered. That is technically correct in Etiquette Land. Giving someone a gift does not come with the right to ask about it in the future. But I feel, as you obviously do, that this will not serve you in your present situation, where your mutual friend seems determined to find out when you set up your portrait sitting and how it goes (and what you wore? She must be a curious soul, because who would ask about such a thing more than once?).

My sister points out that, since it is your mutual friend and not the gift-givers who is asking, all you really need is something to say to her. That could be right. In the real world, what I would really do, probably, is to say to the mutual friend something like, "I think we'll wait until the baby is a bit older (or walking, or married, something) and do it then." That would defer the photo shoot until some vague future, and it seems unlikely that it would ever be brought up again.

Or here's an alternate response: Matt says Candid's friends didn't give her a gift certificate, they gave her a coupon. He feels that they won't be out any money if she didn't use the present. I don't know where he gets this certainty, and Candid, you know better than us if this could be the case. Just throwin' that in there. Often dude is right about these things.

What do you say, sensitive and tactful readers? There is also the straightforward and direct option, where Candid could say to the gift-giving friend, "You know, this is so sweet of you guys, but we just won't be able to take advantage of this. I want you to take it back and give it to someone who can use it." I mean, that's the direct way, but would any of us really be able to do that? I am eager to hear what y'all think, and I know Candid is too.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Heading Into the Sunset

Sunset in New South Wales
The sunset from Amy's porch.

Friends, just wanted to pop in for a moment. Today the whole extended clan is heading to the Blue Mountains, to a place called Katoomba. It looks like this.

Then, THEN, on Saturday Matt and I are leaving our kids with mom and dad and going here, Vanuatu.

For a little of this.

Or maybe this.

Yes, we will probably look just like that.

I hope y'all have a good weekend! Back next week.
Suburban Matron

Things to Love in Oz: Birdlife

In addition to Vegemite! and Jackets! I am loving on these birds they got Down Under. The trees in Sydney are full of feathered things that look like they've escaped from pet stores. It's so much fun to see these guys all around.

cockatoos on porch

These are sulphur-crested cockatoos on my sister's front porch. On her porch. You see these everywhere--they're as common as mockingbirds--and it blows my mind.


At the koala park near her house, you can feed these guys, and lots of other birds, and the cockatoos say cute things like, "Hello Darling," and "Wanna treat?" Sure, maybe this is not their pristine natural behavior, but it is totally adorable.


You can feed an emu too, as Matt is doing here, even though an emu would just as soon kill you as look at you.

Kookaburra at State Forest

That's a kookaburra. They are ubiquitous and wonderful. Remember the song, "Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree, merry merry king of the bush is he"? Dad took this picture today at a state park near Amy's house. They really do make a sound like laughing. But here's my fave, the rainbow lorikeet. These are super common too. There were two of these in a bush next to where our car was parked this afternoon.

Wild Rainbow Lorikeet

Peacock at Koala Park

Sorry peacock, the lorikeet makes you look so BORING. (Kidding, dude, you know you're my bird.)

This concludes today's postcard from Australia. I thought y'all needed an avian update.

UPDATE, commentary from my Dad:
I talked with an Aussie on the street in Paramatta yesterday and he asked what would bring an American to his little river town. When I said that every tree held amazing birds he seemed surprised. He seemed to think about it for a minute and recalled a travel ad for Australia that he had seen while in California. He said that the ad talked about Australia being world-famous for parrots. He said, "I didn't know that." I told him that I had seen a King Parrot just that morning. He didn't know what that was. I guess it proves that we don't appreciate the common place things in our lives.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

What's Cooler Than Bein' Cool?

Ice cold, y'all, that's Mom and me. I give you. . . Team Awesome: World Police!

What's Cooler Than Cool?

Matching Mother-Daughter Jackets!

It takes a certain amount of savoir-faire to get off the ferry in downtown Sydney, buy the first "Australia" warm-up jackets you see, and wear them proudly right that minute. Kind of like walking into Disney World and immediately donning mouse ears, when you are not yourself a child. And if your mom did it with you. We rocked it, friends, and we did not stop it.

I wanted Dad to get one too, but my sister said she would not walk around with us, and I think she was almost serious. Just a little postcard from our day for you, from Australia with love. That's Circular Quay in the background, and we saw very beautiful things and places today, but I'll post pictures of those later, because. . .jackets!

Monday, July 6, 2009


Several of you guys mentioned Vegemite, and who doesn't love that old Men at Work song? So when I saw it in the supermarket, I was curious. The package says that it contains "yeast extracts, mineral salts, and malt extracts," plus so many B vitamins that it will "keep your family bright and alert." Okeedoke. When in Rome, right?


The package is cute.


Thanks are owed to Amy and Jason for telling me that people eat it smeared very thinly, with butter, on toast or crackers. I might have just squeezed it on my toothbrush otherwise.



I Kinda Like It!

You know, it's good! It has a really strong flavor, definitely yeasty, and the butter is the right complement. I can see how it would be a way of livening up bland toast, especially if times were hard and you didn't have savory meat or something. And it really does have a ton of vitamins. I'm taking my tube of vegemite home with me.

I still don't know what "chunder" means, and I'm embarrassed to ask the locals. Kind of like how Amy told me they don't make jokes about that "The dingo ate your baby" skit from Seinfeld, on account of, you know, how horrible that was.

So there you go, let it not be said I don't take risks for this blog. Can't you hear, can't you hear the THUNDAH!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Getting There Is Less Than Half The Fun

We had a four-hour flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles, then a three-hour wait at LAX, then a 14 hour flight to Sydney. It was more difficult than I thought it would be, but not in the ways I expected.

Here's what went right:

  • I had good plane activities for Hank. I figured that now that he's three, we wouldn't be in for the potential nightmare that traveling with a younger toddler could be. I knew he could be reasoned with (mostly) and that he wouldn't wail the whole time or kick the seat in front of him. In my tote bag, I packed a few flap books for him that he'd never seen. I learned when Laura was little that regular books are nice for toddlers, but flap books, or books with something extra for them to manipulate, like stickers, are even better.

    I had two little Transformer robots that I bought just for this trip, and I didn't let him get his hands on them 'til he was strapped in his airplane seat. A smashing success--he played with them continually.

    I had also sprung for a new portable DVD player, because neither of our laptop batteries can go the distance. I got Hank and Laura each a set of child-sized headphones, because I learned the hard way once that the little earbuds they give out on the plane will not fit in a kid's ears.

    Finally, I had some snacks and candy, as a last-resort child-muting device. As it happened, we barely touched the candy.

  • Both kids did great and behaved wonderfully. At age 8, traveling with Laura is like traveling with another adult. She totes her own carry-on, reads a book on the plane, takes herself to the bathroom, and puts up with Hank's feet in her lap or in her space. She whined and complained less than I did.

  • Both kids slept about half of the long flight. Actually they were both asleep before we got off the ground in LA. Hank is small enough that he could lean over, put his head in my lap, poke his feet a little into Laura's seat, and zonk out. Laura made a stack of pillows on her armrest and snoozed her way west.
What did not go so great:

  • We started this journey with Matt sick. Actually, he's still not back to normal. You may recall that early last week I was on my own with the kids while he went to California for work. He had a good trip but arrived home at 3am Thursday morning, exhausted, with a little cough. This blossomed into a full-blown respiratory infection, with coughing and fatigue. Swine flu? I don't know. But by the time we were setting off on Friday afternoon, he was in bad shape. It meant that he wasn't really able to do his share of the parenting logistics, locomotion, and kid-management. In the airport, every time I would leave him to take the kids to the bathroom or something, when I came back he'd be sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall with his eyes closed. That is not normal. And here he is at our gate in LA. That's not normal either.

  • We were misdirected in LA, causing us to walk all over creation with increasingly tired kids and a barely functioning Matt. The dude at our check-in in Atlanta said, "When you get to LA, you'll have to go check in with Air New Zealand for your flight to Sydney. You'll come out of the Delta terminal and go to the left." So we made our way to the Air New Zealand check-in, and they had no knowledge of our reservation. The dudes finally figured out that our flight was actually operated by United, even though it said it was ANZ, so we needed to go check in with United. They told me that if I had read my itinerary more closely, I would have known that, but I swear to the Lord, it only said "Air New Zealand."

    So, if the airport were a clock face, we arrived at the 2, and walked to the 5 to check with Air New Zealand, and were then told we needed to go back to the 12. To the kids' bodies, it was about 1am when we got that news, and it was all Matt could do to stay upright. A couple of times, Matt broached the idea of just staying overnight in a hotel and flying out the next day. He was just looking for an escape hatch, he was feeling that bad. I told him that if he could just get himself to the gate, I would do everything else.

    When we were almost back to where we needed to be, Hank complained of blisters on his feet. His crocs had rubbed both feet raw, so I started carrying him. When we got into the check-in line, I took his shoes off of him and let him go barefoot. So yes, I was the person in the airport with the barefoot child. I was just thrilled he wasn't having a meltdown, because he was pale with tiredness. When the self check-in didn't work for us, even though they told us we HAD to start in that line (I hate air travel now), a really assholish guy told us that he couldn't help us and we had to get in another line, the line for people with special problems. I moved my sick and exhausted brood into the other line, the line of the damned, and my generally positive attitude began to crumble. Normally, I am all buoyancy and flexibility when in transit, but for a moment I understood how those passengers on the reality show about the airline wind up screaming and having to be restrained by airport security. I just thought, "Um, this is really hard."

    But we just kept on chugging. The barefoot Hank sat on the floor and played with his robots, scooting forward in line when I told him, Matt remained vertical, and Laura hung in there. Then somehow we all kept chugging through security, then we made it to our gate and Matt grabbed a nap. It is crazy, but the getting on the plane to start a fourteen-hour flight actually seemed like a relief. At least it meant we were all in the right place and could stay there a while.

  • I never really got to sleep on the flight. It's just not that easy to sleep sitting up, even with a magical neck pillow. Hank fell asleep with his head on my lap, and you know how it is when you want one of your kids to sleep at all costs, even if it means you have to stand on your eyebrow and hold your breath. I just didn't want to disturb him much, and then when they turned off the cabin lights, they left the big video screen on. That thing was so damn bright that it was boring a hole in my skull. I felt around as best I could. I didn't have anything I could use for an blindfold. I felt my pocket, and remembered that when I had changed Hank into a pull-up before boarding, I'd stuffed his underwear into my pocket. I was desperate, people. So that's how I found out that his underwear won't fit over my head. Or they did fit, but the waistband was uncomfortably tight over the bridge of my nose.

  • Early in our day, I let Matt put a bag of leftover garlic bread from Sbarro into my purse. Ladies, do not let someone put leftover garlic bread into your purse. The entire trip, whenever I opened my purse for anything, a noxious cloud of garlic wafted out for the enjoyment of those around me. I share this so that others may be spared.

But you know what? We made it. Matt had an empty seat next to him, and I relieved him of parenting duties for the duration of the flight. I think he slept okay. And we all got here. Of course, I lied on our health declaration forms, because I was afraid that customs would quarantine all of us. And indeed, since we've been here, the rest of us have come down with Matt's affliction, and we brought the Black Death to Amy and her family. They're so happy we're here! But all is well, and next I'll start sharing some of the sights.

Happy Fourth of July, y'all! I hope you have a great weekend. Strangely, the holiday is not such a big deal here.