Thursday, October 31, 2013


We had a quiet Halloween.  I took the kids to a costume party at a friend's house, but didn't end up with any pictures.  Andrew was a (train) engineer and Clara was an elephant.

The majority of our festivities involved carving pumpkins.  That's the best part anyway, right?  We asked Andrew what shape the eyes and noses should be, so these were carved to spec.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

October Highlights

First snow

 Throughout dinner, Andrew kept saying, "I love you, daddy," and "I want to give you a hug with my hands." Then he told me, "You should get the camera and take a picture of daddy and me." Can't argue with that...


Friday, October 18, 2013

Big Ships: Trip Data and Rationale

This trip originated in early April when Copa had a deal between NYC and Montevideo, Uruguay for $400 round trip, bookable through end of schedule. We had previously been to Uruguay, but only to Colonia, so it was an appealing new destination at a great price.  When we realized that it was possible to add a stopover in Panama City for just $40 more, it was a deal.   We eventually booked our positioning flights on United, to and from LaGuardia, knowing that we would need to do the usual cross-Long-Island waltz between airports.

For our hotel night in New York, we were originally going to use a Radisson Free Night cert at the Martinique in Manhattan, but when Priority Club (oops, I mean IHG) launched the Big Win promotion and NYC was one of my two target cities (along with Denver, go figure) we decided to stay near LaGuardia at the Holiday Inn Express.  Sure, the room was $200 (about the going rate in the area), but we got back more than that in points when it was all said and done (not really kidding).

For our lodging in Panama, we opted to stay the Country Inn and Suites by Carlson since it is located next to the canal and would give the kids a chance to watch some big ships.  Plus, with my Gold status and credit card benefits, we would be able to use 28K points for one night, and get the next night free – a really good deal.  We also expected a decent chance at an upgrade, and sure enough, we were upgraded to a canal view master suite, which was wonderful.  This was easily the fanciest Country Inn that we've ever been too and could probably pass as a Radisson. 

In Montevideo, we also stayed at a Carlson property, the Radisson Victoria Plaza.  This time we used Free Night certificates that we had earned in last year’s Stay One Get One promotion (stay at any Radisson in the US, get a free night at any Radisson in North America – we’re still not sure how they allowed these to be used in Uruguay, but hey, it’s not the first time we’ve seen loyalty programs fail geography, so we’ve learned not to question it!)  We used three free nights in total, including the night we arrived at 430AM and also the night we left at 11PM to go back to the airport.  So we were there for less than 48 hours, but somehow used 3 nights of certs.  (In reality, we weren’t too bothered by it because the certs were expiring soon anyway, and we had acquired them at a modest cost.) 

Just as in Panama, the hotel treated us as royalty, er, I mean like a diplomat, even assigning us an Ambassador Suite on the 21st floor overlooking the harbor.  It was very classic.  Wood floors, crystal chandeliers, dark wood furniture….  You name it, they made sure that you felt like you had walked back into the 70’s, right down to the welcoming faint cigarette smoke smell.  But we couldn’t complain because the sheer amount of space was awesome—probably close to 800 sq ft.  Breakfast was included, but based on our late arrival and change of time zones, we never made it up in time for it.  Parking was valet at $10 per day, but I was able to talk them out of it claiming that I thought it should be waived for Gold members.

For transportation, we rented cars in both countries.  In Panama, we thought it absolutely made sense to rent a car because we knew that the hotel was about a $40 cab ride away and then we’d want to go to the Canal.  When we found a mid-size SUV for about $100, it seemed like a no-brainer.  And it was, until they sprung the mandatory Panamanian taxes on us of about $40.  At that point, we probably broke even as compared to a cab, but with two kiddos (and their car seats) there is a certain convenience to having your own wheels.  We don’t regret our decision. 

In Uruguay, we knew the economics were less in our favor.  We expected to arrive at 230AM, which would probably negate our ability to take the bus to the city.  And our research indicated that the taxi mafia is rather unpredictable, with fares to the city ranging from $50-$80.  So we again rented a car, this time from Avis at $135, as they were the only agency that stays open all night.  The problem here was that car rental in Montevideo is not a high-volume operation.  There is one agent and he both rents you the car (which takes forever) and then he goes out to the parking lot to get the car and drive it up to the terminal for you.  (The procedure is the same at Panama City, but they have  few more staff so the operation scales a bit better.)  The problem was that the agent had just left to get someone a car before we got there, so we had to wait for him to come back before we could even get started.  I would estimate that we blew ¾ of an hour getting a car, time that we could have been sleeping!  Interestingly, the car only had a half tank of gas (slightly less actually) – the agent explained that there had been a strike the day before so they couldn’t fill it up.  Thus, I was to return it with half a tank, something that is actually relatively hard to do.  (How do you tell the guy at the filling station that you only want half a tank of gas???  Now try doing that in Spanish!  In the end, we estimated the MPG of the car and got pretty close.

In reality, we probably didn’t need the car as we didn’t use it for anything other than getting to / from the hotel.   Montevideo is quite walkable and we really didn’t have time to leave the city.  By the time we got the parking waived, we might have broken even versus taking a cab, but again, it was nice to buckle the car seats in once and be done. 

Flying Copa was a bit of an adventure.  The good side was that we got upgraded on 3 of the 4 flights.  The downside is that the flight we didn’t get upgraded on turned out to be the worst debacle I’ve ever experienced in air travel.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Big Ships: None the Worse For Wear

After a pretty refreshing night of sleep, we headed back to PTY once again.  Amazingly enough, all four of our upgrades cleared, even after I wasn't on the list properly.  It was an "old config" plane, but it was hard to complain.  We left PTY late, Copa-style, so that we were delayed almost an hour into IAD, making our connection tight.  We had originally been put on the later flight, but decided it was worthwhile to make an attempt at the earlier one and get home before kiddo bedtime, so we had made a same-day confirmed change.

Between Global Entry (both immigration and customs) and TSA PreCheck, we basically got through all the lines as fast as humanly possible.  We had to take the train out to concourse C, and from there ran at a near sprint to the gate.  Miraculously, we made it while they were boarding the last 4 people.  And two of our upgrades cleared!  (Well, actually three, when all was said and done, but we need either 2 or 4 due to the kiddos needing supervision, so I gave up the third one and sat in coach with C).  I couldn't believe that we made it.

Of course, sprinting through the airport in 3-day-old tropical clothes didn't do anything great for my smell, so sorry to my seatmate.  She was actually en route from Geneva with her 4 month old, so we bonded over travel with babies.

Arrival went smoothly, the checked bags made it, the car started, and we pulled into our driveway just a few minutes after bedtime. 

A day late. 

But that's okay.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Big Ships: Days that Try Your Patience

Oh dear.  This is one of *those* stories.

The redeye flight from Montevideo went really well.  We only left a little late (it wouldn't be Copa if we were on time).  The kids fell asleep on the flight, and it seemed like they were going to get some rest. 

As we descended into Panama City (Tocumen Airport), it was raining and visibility wasn't that great.  It wasn't too shocking when the pilot pulled back on the stick and we ascended again for a go-around.  We flew around a bit, not really circling, but taking a sort of erratic flight path.  Once we started to descend again, T gestured from across the aisle: "Are we diverting?"  My brain went into overdrive - where could we divert to?  Bogota?  How would we get out of Columbia?   But I looked at the map and we were still definitely headed towards Panama, so I though, nah, we're not diverting after all.

As usual, T was right.  We landed at a small airfield on the west side of the Panama Canal called Panama Pacifico, which is apparently a landing strip in a former US military zone that's now an upscale living development.  But as far as I can tell it gets no commercial service.  They announced that we were going to wait for the rain to slow down over at Tocumen.  Five other copa planes were also diverted and collected on the tarmac at Pacifico.

A couple hours later, they announced that Tocumen was opening back up, and once we refueled, we could go - yay!  But no.  For unclear reasons, it took another 3 hours by the time all the planes got refueled (yes, for some reason we had to wait for everyone.  Maybe the fuel guy was the same guy who ran the control tower?) and it was our turn to take off.  Once we got to Tocumen, they didn't have a gate for us (are you shocked?) and it took awhile to get us to a remote pad and get a bus to pick us up.  Then they rolled the stairs up to the plane... and the hydraulics failed so they couldn't get the steps all the way up to the door.  So we had to wait for another staircase to be brought around.  You can't make this stuff up.

By the time we disembarked, we had been on the plane for an additional 6 hours on top of the original 7.5 hour flight, for a total of 13.5 hours.

This delay blew all our connections.  Though the Tocumen airport was shut down while we were at Pacifico, and our onward flight to JFK was delayed during that time, that flight left very shortly after the airport reopened. 

We headed for the Copa Club to get help.  It was swamped.  I called up United and had them on the phone - our onward ticket from New York back to Denver was on United, and since Copa and United are bosom buddies, we thought maybe they could work a miracle.  There was a United flight from PTY up to Houston leaving in a little under an hour, and it looked like it had plenty of space!

T took the kids and entertained them while I attempted to negotiate.  It took me about 15 minutes of standing at the counter waving my arms around to get someone to help me.  There was no line - anyone attempting to form a line was jumped in front of.  The agents completely ignored me. Finally I got it through that I had United 1K on the phone willing to help if they'd just talk to them. 

Unfortunately, the Copa agents had called the United gate in PTY and asked to put us and about four other people on the Houston flight, and United refused to open the flight up to make it happen.  The phone agent was helpless as the flight was under airport control.  So there was nothing anyone could do but let the Houston flight go.  Then it came out that Copa cancelled their evening flight to JFK.  This basically guaranteed that we would be spending the night. 

I had a really nice agent helping us, and she got us rebooked for the following day through Washington Dulles instead of NY, which was better for us in several ways.  She also said that they would be providing a hotel voucher and escorted us to the family room (with toys and bean bags) while we waited for the voucher. 

And wait we did.  Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but we then waited another two hours for the hotel voucher because they insisted on printing them for everyone who needed them all at once (like fueling all the planes at once, maybe??). 

By the time we got escorted through immigration, baggage claim, customs, and got put in a car, it was 5pm rush hour traffic, and the kids were super cranky.  We thought the hotel was an airport property and right up the road, but it turned out to be downtown Panama City.  To add to the chaos of rush hour, there was a big World Cup football match being played a few blocks from our hotel starting at 6:30pm, so there was game traffic too.  C had sacked out in the stroller while waiting for immigration, and D fell asleep in the car.

Once we checked in, we went down for dinner.  Since we were Copa guests, we got a dinner voucher for one of the restaurants that happened to be the pool bar - outside in the muggy heat.  We survived and got dinner.

At the restaurant, we ran into Ricky.  D had met Ricky at immigration, and Ricky practiced a few English phrases ("how are you?" "What's your name?").  Ricky is 3.5 years old.  His family was also stranded by Copa - they were flying from Caracas up to Chicago, said his mom.  When Ricky saw D, he exclaimed, "Amigo!  Amigo - hey!!"  I told D that "When he says 'Amigo' that means you!"  D and Ricky ran into each other and scrambled on the ground like little cubs, and then they ran around the pool area together, getting hot and sweaty, and giving the moms panic attacks.  I guess toddlerhood knows no language barriers.  They were a really sweet family.

We headed up to bed and totally crashed, exhausted.

Now this all seems like a terrible ordeal.  I will say, in full disclosure, that this went pretty darn well, and I'm pretty pleased with the whole thing. 

1) Our kids were *AMAZING* when stuck on the airplane.  There were no tantrums.  No crankypants.  They just played and napped and watched shows.  They were less bothered by the whole thing than their parents.  I was so incredibly proud of them.  What amazing behavior.

2) It gave us the opportunity to rest.  Coming off that redeye was going to really suck... since we had three flights to go.  A good night's sleep meant a good rest of the trip.

3) I was running out of diapers.  Somehow I had mispacked the diaper bag and only had two left.  This allowed us to claim our luggage and get the extras I had packed. 

4) Going through Dulles allowed us to maintain our east coast (mileage earning) routing, while cutting out a flight segment (LGA-IAD) and a cross-Long-Island cab ride.  Saving the $40 fare is nice, but avoiding the hassle was the real key.

So although I ran out of clean clothes and smelled pretty bad by the end, and though it was fatiguing, I really believe there were good things to come out of it.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Big Ships: Meat

We slept in past breakfast again.  This was in the plan, since we needed to leave around nominal bedtime for the airport.  But that story comes later.

When traveling with kids we try not to place too many demands on what we "have" to see or do and try and go with the flow.  However, as I mentioned, we really wanted to try some Uruguayan beef, and T had heard about the Mercado del Puerto, where there was a large collection of parillas - open grills.  So that was our objective for Monday.

We walked down through the old town to the port.  I will say that we had beautiful views of the port from our hotel room.  After seeing the container ships at the Panama Canal, D was really interested in watching the cranes unload containers onto trucks and the tugboats pushing the ships around in the harbor.  Montevideo is not that big of a port, so it's easy to watch all the goings on.  But it's big enough that you get some container ships in there and there's some action to watch.  It was a really nice dovetail with our trip to the canal.  Almost like we planned it that way...

We found Mercado del Puerto easily, and indeed, it is a large collection of parilla restaurants housed in a classic market building.  I had thought it might have charcuteries or butchers interspersed with the restaurants, but no, it was only restaurants.  I assume that in historical times the Mercado housed mainly the former.

We browsed the selection of cafes and chose one.  We ordered the mixed grill for "2-3 people."  I honestly didn't know if that would be enough.  Ha - the pile of steak and short ribs we got fed us for two meals!  It came hot off the parilla grill, on our own individual table-size grill, and was served with french fries and green salad.  I liked the rib cuts the best, and the flavor was amazing. 

We walked back to the hotel the long way around, walking right next to the port yards where we could see stacks of shipping containers and various lifts and cranes scurrying around to move them.  After we passed the port, we got onto La Rambla, which was a wide sidewalk overlooking the ocean.

We got back to the hotel hot and tired, and the kids took naps - again a brilliant part of our plan to prepare for a late bedtime and redeye flight.  We packed up, ate all of our remaining leftovers for supper, and then headed off to the airport around 11pm for our redeye back up to Panama city.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Big Ships: Time to Chill

After our late bedtime, we slept as long as possible, and the kids obliged.  We decided to stay mostly on Denver time at this point, since we all needed the sleep anyway.  Sleeping in very late meant that we missed the breakfast spread at the hotel - well worth it to get a little bit of shut-eye as the reviews indicated that the food wasn't that great; the real reason to go to breakfast was the view!  (And our view from the 21st floor in a suite was already incredible.)

When we all finally awoke we ventured out in search of food and adventure.  Unfortunately, on Sundays, most of Montevideo shuts down, and particularly the government / financial sector where we were located.  We were able to find a pizza chain shop open and shared a delectable pie among us for "breakfast."  We also located a small grocery store, also open, and picked up some items for snacking and light lunch/supper, if necessary. 

We explored the Independencia Plaza square in front of the hotel.  The centerpiece of the plaza is a large statue of General Jose Artigas, a national hero who helped secure Uruguay's independence from Spain.  Some stairs lead down underneath the plaza, and Artigas's remains are interred there in a mausoleum, attended by national guards.  D was a little unnerved by the guards -- he would burst into the mausoleum, see the guards, and stop in his tracks.  We talked a bit about showing respect in places like this, and he seemed to get it.  But mostly he enjoyed using some of the stonework as a slide just outside the entrance to the mausoleum (he soon had about 3-4 other kiddos following him down the slide.)

We continued walking through the old town over to Plaza Constitucion, where the kids had a good time chasing the pigeons.  (It makes sense that you start with Independence and progress to Constitution, right??)

After our walk in the very pleasant spring weather, we headed back to the hotel, had a light lunch from our grocery purchases, and suited up for the pool.  This one was deep (too deep for them to touch) all around, so they relied on floaties.  Both of them are getting really confident in the water - jumping in, going under, floating, even swimming (albeit inefficiently) to the wall or ladder.  Love it!

We cleaned up and got the girl a short nap before heading out in search of dinner.  We found a cafe/cervezeria (which I guess is a brewery?) open (miraculous!).  We settled in for a steak and a pork chop.  Steak had been on our minds this whole trip as the Uruguayans boast that they have even better steak than the Argentinians.  We had no trouble putting that to the test.  Sort of unfortunately, the Uruguayans have the same tendency to overcook their wonderful steak as the Argentinians, so the world may never know whose steak is really better.  (One waiter at one restaurant asked us if we wanted our beef "medium, medium well, or well done."  When I responded, "medium rare," he looked confused.  Sigh.)

We stopped for some artisanal ice cream (including two different flavors of dulce de leche, of course!), before returning to the hotel with happy tummies and happy family for a decent bedtime.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Big Ships: On To Uruguay

Our flight to Uruguay was scheduled for 3:45pm, and we wanted to ensure plenty of time to get across town and everything.  So we spent Saturday morning after breakfast hanging out at the hotel.  The sun was out, so we headed back out to the playground, but it got too hot pretty fast. 

We left plenty early for the airport, so we had lots of time to make the transit, get gas, and figure out how to return the rental car (not obvious - just leave it at the curb and take the keys in to the desk).  We checked in, found the Copa Club, hung out, then headed to our gate.  While we were walking from the club to the gate, it started to storm pretty hard.

We boarded the plane late, as per Copa's standard procedure (at least it seems that way), and settled into our upgraded seats.  After everyone had boarded, they came on and announced that they suspected the plane had been struck by lightening, so we had to get off and get a new plane.  Grumpy and grumbling, with kids that were ready for nap but not going to get one any time soon, we disembarked and waited for another two hours before we finally got another plane.  This one was an "old" configuration, not the Sky interior, which meant subpar seats with subpar recline. 

C was way overtired, so instead of going straight down for her nap like she is normally able to do, she screamed inconsolably for 10 minutes before finally crying herself to sleep.  Lovely.  D fell asleep on the plane and managed to stay mostly asleep in the stroller through disembarking, immigration, car rental, and driving to the hotel.

We ended up arriving a little over 1,5 hours late into MVD.  I forget what time it was - 3:15am?  You would think that the airport would be empty and not much going on, and yet we still had to wait 20 minutes for the car rental agent to come back inside from helping someone else.  Then it took him a good half hour to rent us our car.  Why does everything need to take three times longer than necessary??  Unlike in the US, car rental in these countries is not a scalable process -- AVIS only had one guy working, and he had to rent the car, go out to the lot and get it, and then drive it up to the terminal for us to take it. 

We easily drove downtown and found our hotel, the Radisson Victoria Plaza.  Due to our Gold status with Carlson, we were again upgraded - this time to an Ambassador Suite.  This room was ridiculous.  It sported a living/dining/common area the size of two normal hotel rooms, a foyer with a door that closed leading to a guest lavatory/powder room and a small kitchen with a fridge and sink, a master bath, and a bedroom.  It was truly amazing.  D slept happily on the couch in the living room, and we put C's pack and play up in the foyer that had a closing door, so miraculously, everyone had their own room!  The hotel has a lot of old school charm - embossed wallpaper, dark wood, crystal chandeliers.  It was really beautiful and felt luxurious, in a throwback sort of way. 

Due to all the delays, we ended up going to bed around 6am, Montevideo time, which is 2am in Denver.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Big Ships: The Canal

After a great night with D on the pull-out couch bed, C in a pack-n-play, and Mom and Dad in *their own room*(!), we woke up to discover the incredible view from our suite.  We had a large balcony overlooking the Pacific entrance to the canal.  To the right was the "Bridge of the Americas," and to the left, we could look out to sea to watch the big ships queuing up for their canal transit.  It was a foggy morning and visibility wasn't too great, but it was definitely enough to impress us.

After breakfast buffet at the hotel restaurant (included), we suited up to enjoy the hotel's playground and pool, even though it was raining on and off.  (It's a rainforest, after all.)  Unfortunately, shortly after we started exploring the play structure a storm rolled in.  At first, it seemed like the thunder was well off in the distance, but soon we were seeing cloud-to-water strikes pretty nearby, so we ditched the pool, packed the kids up inside, and got ready to head over to the Miraflores Locks.

I think we were expecting a much more "Disney-fied" attraction over at Miraflores.  The access road to the locks is the official, hard working access road, that winds through the locks' hydroelectric station.  There weren't too many people there when we arrived in the rain, and this was amazing for being able to see the place.

We headed straight outside to the observation deck.  There were many Panamax cargo ships transiting from Atlantic to Pacific, hailing from all over the world.  There was a guy narrating the goings on in both Spanish and English.  We got to see the ships get into place in the lock, the water drain out, the lock doors open up, and then the locomotives on rails pull the ships through.  D liked the locomotives very much, as he's really into trains - he called them "chuggers."  And what do they do? "They chug."  Well, of course.  We watched three ships make the transit, and then we got some hot dogs and empanadas at the snack bar and watched some more. 

After lunch we went through the museum at the locks.  It's a really well-put-together display, going up four floors.  Each floor has a different theme: building the canal, canal and rainforest fish and wildlife, the controls for both the locks and the ships, new construction and new equipment.  D was really engaged through the whole thing.  Then at the end we went up onto the "roofdeck" for another perspective on the working locks and a lot of space to run around. 

At this point, we'd been there for a good long while, but we hadn't yet viewed the 3D movie, so we decided to pass the time until the next showing before leaving.  We went back down to the lower observation deck where it seemed quieter and there were chairs to sit on.  About two minutes after we got there, a very large school group from Colon arrived and took over the seating area.  Andrew got caught up in the middle of them, and ended up sitting in the middle of the top rows, surrounded by 7-10 year old kids.  The kids thought he was absolutely great.  He got tons of hugs and tickles and hair ruffles.  The kids talked to him in Spanish, and he was just soaking in all the attention. 

C had her own smaller fan club of little Panamanian girls who wanted to hold her, tickle her, etc.  They spoke no English, and kept wanting to tell me things, and I felt bad that I had to say, "I don't understand."  One girl noticed that C had a mark on her forehead where she had bumped it earlier (the hazards of being a 16-month-old walker), and pulled a pot of Vick's VapoRub out of her little purse.  It was such a sweet gesture that I let her put some on.  The chaperones who did speak some English told us how enthralled the school kids were with D and C.  It was a sweet experience, and I love that our kids are ambassadors.

We went in to go see the movie, which was only 10 minutes long, so I figured our kids could handle it.  I hadn't factored that it was pretty late and they'd had no nap.  Needless to say, they didn't have much patience for the movie, even though it was a super cool 3D presentation.

All in all it was a fantastic day.  We spent far longer there than I had expected too, and the kids, especially D, really seemed to learn some things and enjoy the spectacle.

We grabbed some dinner at the TGI Friday's connected to the hotel.  Not sexy, but easy, which is what we needed at the time.  After that, we put our suits back on and finally got in a little bit of pool time after dark.  The hotel had a shallow wading pool that was really perfect for the kids to splash around in.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Big Ships: At the Copa, Copa Cabana

Sorry I got that song stuck in your head.  Now you can share my misery. 

Our flight didn't leave until the afternoon, so we had plenty of time to sleep in, have a leisurely morning, and then make our way across Long Island to JFK.  We had forgotten to bring nighttime PullUps for Big D (he's daytime potty trained, but not nighttime).  Even though he successfully stayed dry overnight at the HI Express, he requested that we pick some up for the rest of the trip, so Daddy had time to walk out to the store and do that.  Crisis averted!

We flew Copa airlines from JFK-PTY.  Copa is a Panamanian airline, but they were formerly almost completely integrated with Continental.  So now, they are almost completely integrated with United.  And by integrated, I mean they share a frequent flyer program, which makes our status good.  The result is that we got complimentary upgrades on this flight and the flight to Montevideo.

The plane was a brand-shiny-new 737-800 in the "sky" configuration (all together now - oooooooooooo).  The business class seats were great with tons of legroom, footrests, and decent in-seat IFE.  The set up greatly surpassed our expectations based on reviews of the old configuration, as did the food quality.  C really enjoyed her rice, and D was all about the vanilla ice cream for dessert.

We were delayed out of JFK for goodness knows why.  While we were waiting, D was playing with a new Panamanian friend at the gate, named Valentina. A big Delta jet was taking off and the girl's mom told the kids to look up. Daddy asked D 'what kind of plane is that?'. D took one glance and said '40-47' (his name for a 747). He was right, of course, and the girl's mom was amazed!  She said, "I just thought he would say 'airplane'... Wow! That's amazing!"  Daddy didn't bother to tell her that D would have said 40-47 for anything from a Cessna to an A380....

All in all the flight went really well, especially thanks to the upgrades.

Once in Panama City, we picked up our rental car, and due to the late hour and lack of traffic, sped across the city.  Our hotel was the Country Inn and Suites Amador, situated just at the Pacific entrance to the canal.  Due to our Carlson Gold status, we got upgraded to a canal view master suite.  This was absolutely phenomenal, as we not only got to watch the ships coming in to transit the canal from our own private balcony, but we got to put the kids to sleep in their own room (yay pull out couch for D), and have some adult relaxation time on our own. 

This is, incredibly enough, starting to feel a lot more like vacation and a little less like work with these little peanuts.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Big Ships: A Whole New Game

The last time we traveled internationally with kids was in April.  We had a 10 month old and a newly minted 2 year old.  Baby C wasn't yet sleeping through the night and was still nursing - both pretty huge draws on this mama's energy.  And we weren't sure how to get the 2 year old to go to sleep.  This usually resulted in the answer that he didn't.

Fast forward through a self-imposed summer high season furlough, and we've got a nearly-2-and-a-half year old and a 15-month-old.  This, my friends is an entirely new ballgame.

We were supposed to be on the late flight to NYC out of Denver, but we got real smart-like (and put in some extra hours at work) and confirmed onto the 3:45pm flight.  This should get us to the hotel right at kiddo bedtime - perfect. 

Well, the best laid plans, as they say...  Our flight went mechanical after an ATC hold.  They ended up bringing a new aircraft in, and we arrived at the hotel late with cranky kids (although still an hour earlier than we had originally planned). 

Thanks to a mattress run/staycation from a few weeks ago, we knew how to get the kids down for the night.  In an elaborate dance, little C was put to bed in her pack and play while daddy and big D went for a walk.  Ten minutes later, C was asleep and D could "sneak" into his big boy bed - the second double in a two double room.  He is finally old enough to stay put in his own bed - hallelujah!  T and I hid out in the bathroom internetting and such for a few minutes while he settled down, then we got to bed.  Phew! 

Believe it or not this is a drastic improvement in the hotel bedtime routine since Norway.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Seat belts

This story from our awesome nanny is too priceless not to share:

"I have been having an issue with Andrew staying in his chest strap. He has been continually unbuckling it, or screaming because his buckles "are too tight" (i.e. he cant wiggle out of them). I have been pretty frustrated with pulling the car over lalalalala, as much as we talk about how they are for safety and we must put them on, nothing was working.

"Today driving to Costco we passed a Morrison police officer and I had a bright idea. We circle back to where he was hanging out and pull behind the cruiser. I jump out as he is getting out of the car and ask for a favor. I tell him that I have an extremely bright toddler in the back seat resisting seatbelt safety. He was super nice and happy to help. As he approaches, Andrew instantly starts fiddling to re-snap his chest strap. Officer Mac told Andrew how important every part of his carseat was and that he needed to stay buckled and remind everyone in the car to buckle up for safety, He then check his seat and the "tightness" and told Andrew that it was the perfect tightness for safety. So now, Andrew is saying, "We have to stay buckled while the car is moving for safety just like Officer Mac said." He is also checking clara's seat and buckle the way Officer Mac did to make sure it is safe. And he is not getting out of his chest strap clip, sooo success!!!!"