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May 29, 2016

Packing obstacles

The whirlwind of the last few weeks culminated in our looming vacation plans.  There were just a handful of days after our big graduation party to prepare for our lengthy road trip to Glacier National Park.  

While in a sleepy haze post party on Sunday, I gathered snacks for the car . . . for eight people . . . for twelve days.  No small task.  I boxed out the children if they approached my growing pile centrally located in the kitchen.  Food wasn't the only item I collected.  I tossed flashlights, bucket hats, and draw-string bags onto the vacation stash.  

Laddie and I flew to New York on Monday to visit a division 1 water polo school.  Because there were issues with the TSA, my mom suggested that we arrive at the airport three or four hours early.  I suspected that Mom was starting to lose her marbles.  Since I hadn't tuned into the news while I busied myself making the house appear like we weren't complete slobs for a graduation/communion party the week before, I hadn't heard about the airport security dilemma.  I placed a call to O'Hare to verify that her information was accurate.  My shoulders slumped as I realized that I had to sacrifice my busy vacation-prep morning to arrive at the airport ridiculously early.  Shit.  

Without boring you with too many details of our 11th hour college visit to a school that I was begging Laddie to attend for water polo in order to dodge the intensity of potential college football injuries, I will share with you that we stood in the TSA line for under five minutes.  With hours to kill, we found a gate with charging stations and I typed away at a blog post.  Lad failed to bring anything to read despite my suggestion, so he tinkered on his phone for an hour before deciding to find some food.  When hunger hit me, I wandered the terminal searching for decent gluten free options.  No luck.  I settled for a grilled chicken breast at McDonalds minus the bun and ice cream with M&M's.  This just so happened to be one day of many in my life marked by a constant famished sensation.  

We moved to our gate as the boarding time approached.  My recent lack of sleep was catching up with me and I knew I would soon require a nap.  A situration I assumed I could rectify during the flight.  It was a sunny day.  There were no threatening weather issues, but the captain announced shortly after we boarded the plane that an indicator light wasn't working properly and a mechanic was checking it out.  We waited for thirty minutes before he announced that we must deplane and hike to another gate and board another plane.  Bummer.  We marched to the opposite side of O'Hare and boarded another plane.  A few minutes later the pilot announced more bad news.  There was a dark spot on the tail of the plane.  They needed to take a picture of it and send it to Dallas to be inspected further.  Less than a minute later his voice crackled over the speaker once again.  They wanted us off the plane.  He announced which gate we were heading to for our third boarding.  Incredible.  He vowed to take care of us.  A man sitting a few rows behind us called out that he just really needed a nap.  I was in good company.

My wilted posture, my watery eyes, and my empty belly were begging me to eat and sleep soon.  After a short nap the flight attendant offered me a complimentary drink.  Instead of taking off at 12:50, we had finally become airborne at 3:30.  All I could think of was the intense workout that I had skipped to arrive early not to mention the hours wasted in an airport when my house needed a whole week of attention before Saturday's party.  

After an uneventful return trip Tuesday evening, I called home to tell the kids to thaw some chicken for me.  I needed to start whipping up my dinners and casseroles that I planned to bring on our trip.  Mini answered the phone and agreed to thaw two bags of chicken.  Imagine my surprise when I arrived home and discovered two individual chicken breasts in the sink.  Ugh.  Without the AC on, the 80 plus degree temperature threatened spontaneous combustion while I browned about 25 chicken breasts and boiled a huge pot of pasta as I proceeded with my Glacier menu plan.  

Because Wednesday and Thursday are days I babysit, my packing time was split between caring for two little boys and checking things off my vacation prep list.  I managed to complete my five dinners, bake 5 loaves of pumpkin bread, package it all for our drive, and freeze it.  I dragged the little guys to the grocery store and whittled away at the mounds of laundry littering the laundry room floor.  Before and after school I reminded the kids to gather one pair of jeans, workout pants, and shorts.  Additionally they would need a few long sleeve and short sleeve shirts along with a couple of hooded sweatshirts.  Once all of the laundry was done I told them to supply me with 10 pairs of underwear.  Three pairs were allotted to the hotel duffel bag for the drive out.  

To simplify our quick stops at hotels en-route to and from Glacier, I informed everyone that we would only unload one bag from the car.  Underwear and toiletries.  That was it.  No one was excited about the prospect of wearing the same outfit layered over clean underwear for three days.  Coach kept threatening to remove a set of two seats from the benches in the back of our Chevy Express van that formerly served as an airplane shuttle.  Less seats meant kids would be sitting in closer proximity to one another for 26 hours.  Not a promising recipe for a smooth ride.  I was bound and determined to eliminate any excess to avoid that scenario.  

On Thursday, the day before our departure, I experienced moments where I was confident that my efforts were being timed perfectly and that a packing all-nighter wouldn't be necessary.  Unfortunately, there were moments where I flipped into extreme panic as I suspected that I couldn't pull it all off.  That was before I ran into a serious, time consuming issue . . .   

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