We really WILL be home for Christmas this year

This year, for the first time since embarking on this adventure, we’ll be going home for Christmas.  It’ll also be our first trip home in 2013, and our first trip home in nearly a year and a half.  (Most of my family didn’t get to see Liam at all while he was 2 years old.)  It’s been way too long, and we’re all really looking forward to it.  I absolutely cannot wait.

Of course, the reality of it is a bit overwhelming.  In addition to all of my normal Christmas preparations (except maybe for getting a tree — I don’t think there’s any way to ensure it doesn’t spontaneously combust during the 2 weeks we’ll be gone) — decorations, gifts, wrapping — I also have to pack for a 2 week trip.  And, since we leave on the 20th, I have 5 fewer days to work with than usual.  Eek.

That’s ok though.  Whatever effort it takes us, it will be worth it.  It has been much too long since we’ve seen our family, and entirely too long since we’ve spent a Christmas together.  (I know that Liam doesn’t have any memories of Christmas anywhere other than Vienna, and I doubt that Benjamin does either.  And although Christmas in Vienna is pretty wonderful, being together with family is the most important part.)

Putting aside the stress I feel about the logistics, the mildly insecure worry I have about the gifts we’ve chosen for everyone (only in my head — we haven’t actually shopped yet), and the flashes I keep having of the scene in “Home Alone” where they run through Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris at Christmastime (we’re connecting through Paris on the way home and on the way back) I am completely beyond excited.  The boys, too, can’t wait — Liam asks, almost daily, if today is the day we’re going to Grandma’s for Christmas, and Benjamin has asked excitedly for many details about how Santa will know to deliver our gifts to Maryland instead of Vienna.

I already know the visit will feel too short.  (Just 2 weeks?!?  How can we possibly get all of the visiting, talking, playing and general merry-making that we’d like to into that time?)  But now that the visit is less than 6 weeks away, and Vienna is full of festive Christmas preparations (the Christmas markets open this weekend) it feels real.  And I am so excited.

Pilot and copilot

I can’t say for certain, but I’m pretty sure that we travel a lot more than average with our kids.  My boys have each already logged more airborne miles than I had by the time I was 30.  But for some reason, we’d never done the whole “visit the cockpit” thing — I’m not sure why.  It might be that we haven’t flown airlines that are likely to invite a child to stop by, or that we often have felt stretched pretty thin while flying, or that we were always supposed to be the ones that suggested it, and it never occurred to us.  (Is it something that even happens anymore in the US these days?)

A few months ago, a friend posted pictures of her grandson sitting in the copilot’s seat of an airliner, and it seemed kind of odd to me that it was something that my boys hadn’t yet experienced, so I made a mental note.  But I didn’t know how it would work.  Who should we ask?  When?  The first day of our most recent trip involved too much stress and literal running to even think about it (besides, one plane actually waited at the gate for us while we raced through the airport and had our Legitamations cards scowled at by German passport control, so they’d already done plenty for us).

But on the second day of our trip, early in the morning, we were the first to board, the cockpit door was open and the flight attendant was immediately friendly to the kids, so we asked.  She said we couldn’t do it before takeoff, but she asked the pilot and he told us to come back after landing.  B was so excited.  He started telling me about how he couldn’t wait to see the front of the plane, and how he needed to learn how to fly it because he’s going to be a pilot one day (the first time I’d heard that particular aspiration) followed by Liam’s enthusiastic, “Yeah!”


After a quick trip to Edinburgh, we stopped by after landing.  The pilot (who looked closer to Benjamin’s age than mine) was happy to have both boys visit.  The kids were so happy.  B was a little overwhelmed by all of the buttons and levers, but Liam wiggled his way right in and started pushing buttons and flipping switches.  I was afraid they were going to do something catastrophic, but the pilot assured me that everything was off and that as long as the parking brake stayed on, we were good.  After a moment, both kids had made themselves at home and were completely thrilled by the experience.  They loved it.


We had such a good time that the next time we flew, B asked — all by himself! — if they could go in again, and again, they got to go — they even got to bring their dinosaurs along.  This time, the pilots seemed a bit wary of Liam’s desire to mess mostly with the foobig red buttons (the ones that seemed like maybe not the best choice for operation by a 2 year old), but they were still great about showing the kids around, and even demonstrated what all the warning lights looked like.  (We tried again after our next flight, but they said no — and I was impressed at how well the boys took it.  They seemed to completely understand.)

Both boys already love flying, and I have the distinct impression that this is something they’re going to make a habit of.  I expect that flight attendants around the world will now be subjected to the sweet, polite, super cute requests of Benjamin and Liam.

Lost luggage

It was bound to happen eventually — after 9 or so international journeys (I’m losing count) our luggage was lost on our trip to the UK. It’s easy to see how it happened. We arrived at the airport in plenty of time, and we got to the gate without a problem. Then, just at boarding time, our flight disappeared from the monitoring screen at the gate — never a good sign. Then “all passengers connecting to London” (us, plus a woman named Dorothy) were called up to the desk. Our flight was delayed, and the airline was worried about us missing our connection, so we were rebooked on another airline, connecting through Cologne. We were assured our luggage would be rerouted, too, and of course we were only ACTUALLY booked from Vienna to Cologne, but we had to go “right now” to make our flight, and so we did.

We were only booked standby on our new flight, and although we got seats, they weren’t together. But while the first person I asked to switch so B and I could sit together actually said no (Dan worked out seating for himself and Liam), another passenger switched with me, and yet another switched so that B could have a window seat, and all was well.

Until THAT flight was delayed by about 45 minutes, which resulted, after a trip to the check-in counter for another booking, in a flat-out “Home Alone” style sprint through the Cologne airport while they actually held the plane at the gate for us while we got through security and passport control. Of course, we didn’t have seats together on that flight either, and the plane was literally backing away from the gate while we sorted things out. (Again, one person gave up their seat so B & I could be together while another volunteered to switch so that B, who wasn’t even whining, could have the window. People are awesome.)

So, sweaty and exhausted, we made it onto a plane bound for Stansted airport, and, 2 hours later than we’d planned, we finally arrived. But our luggage did not. So there we were, day 1 of an 18 day trip, with two kids, no bags and an early morning flight the next morning to Edinburgh (after which we planned to rent a car and drive 3 hours further away).

On the bright side, everyone we talked to from the airline was thoroughly helpful. Also, we didn’t have much luggage to drag to our hotel. And, I got to do a bit of unplanned shopping for the family at a mall outside of Edinburgh. By late the next evening, our bags had been located, and, with our carry on stuff, the fruits of our shopping excursion, and the kids’ clothes kindly lent to us by our bed & breakfast hosts (who have a 4 year old son), we barely missed a beat of our vacation. Both suitcases were delivered on the fourth day of our trip, safe & sound. (Never have I been so glad to see old socks.)

Our trip is going wonderfully (lost luggage aside), but we fly to Ireland tomorrow, and I can’t help over-thinking every single thing I pack in our carry on — instead of packing light and taking just what we need for the trip, I feel a little like I’m packing the carry on for wilderness survival for a week. We managed quite well for being without our bags for about 72 hours, but I’d really rather not do it again . . . especially not on this same trip.


Can it possibly be like we remember?

We’ve just about arrived at the “vacation” part of our summer vacation.  We leave this weekend to spend 2+ weeks in England, Scotland and Ireland.  Yes, we were there for 2 weeks less than a year ago, and we’re going back already.  We loved it that much.

I wonder, as I do anytime I go back to a place I’ve been before, if we’ll like it as much this time.  Was it a fluke, or was it really as fantastic as we remember?  After a night outside of London and an early flight the next morning to Edinburgh, we’ll actually drive back into England and spend 5 days in the Lake District, at the same place we stayed last year (it was so great last year that we just had to go back . . . and stay longer this time).  We’ll follow that with a night in Glasgow (which will be new to us) on our way to the coastal highlands (which we tried to visit last time, but we had to reroute that part of the trip due to illness).  Then we fly to Ireland, visiting both Northern Ireland and the Republic while we’re there, before flying back to London to spend a last day there before we come home.  I am really excited to go back to my absolutely favorite travel destinations so far.

Last year, when we were in England, we fell in love.  There wasn’t a single place we visited where we didn’t find something wonderful.  And then, astonishingly, we maybe even loved Ireland more.  (We loved Scotland, too, but we saw so little of it that I want to reserve judgement.)  We were lucky to have wonderful weather most of the time (an anomaly, I know) and to meet kind and welcoming people (who all spoke English, which, alone, was a treat for us) throughout our travels.  So, with amazing, picture-postcard-perfect memories like these, is it possible that it’s going to be as great this time around?

And then I pause for a moment and remember the other stuff that was also true of our trip.  I planned parts of it very poorly, and we ended up driving for hours (and hours and hours) in some cases (I think the worst day involved 11 hours of car and air travel).  We got a flat tire while we were in the Lake District, had to limp back to the hotel on the bad tire with both kids soaking wet in the backseat, and had to wait until the next day to have it fixed.  Both boys got horrible stomach illnesses.  They were sick in 3 different countries, 4 different hotels and 1 carLiam fell when we were at Edinburgh Castle and bonked his head and we spent the rest of that day in the Emergency Room.  Our hotel in York had NO HEAT even though it was COLD.  Our trip to the Giant’s Causeway was a disaster — the weather was terrible, the kids were miserable, we had to change a diaper outside, in the rain — I don’t think that trip could have been more traumatic if there had actually BEEN a giant in residence.

But, for all of that . . . *including* all of that, in some cases, partially BECAUSE of some of those things . . . it was my favorite trip that we’ve taken since we’ve been abroad.  (Well, it was my favorite destination(s) — having 2 of my sisters with us in Italy might have made that *trip* my favorite.)  Without blowing out our tire, we would never have had a warm, boisterous, a la carte dinner with our fellow travellers in the Lake District.  Without the kids being sick we would have spent even MORE time driving, and would have missed out on one of our favorite pieces of Scotland.  The stories and pictures from our miserable day at the Giant’s Causeway make me smile and laugh EVERY time I think of them.  We had a fantastic, wonderful, amazing, memorable, family trip, and it didn’t have to be even nearly perfect to be magical.

So, I don’t think we’re painting an overly rosy picture of our trip from last year — I think we just had a great time.  This trip won’t have to be perfect to be excellent, either.  I’ll be there with my most favorite people in the world, in some of my most favorite places in the world.  We’ve got less driving, less “stuff” to do, and more downtime planned.  We’re going back to some of our favorite places and trying out some of the ones we wish we’d seen last time.  (And, it’s also true that everyone still speaks English, so that’s still going to be a major plus again.)  I’m so excited to go back.

Assorted thoughts on Paris

A few thoughts and notes about our most recent trip to Paris:

* The last time we went to Paris, I was surprised at how beautiful it was.  It’s one of those things, like hearing how green Ireland is, that you hear so often that you figure it can’t live up to the hype.  But, it does.  And then, if anything, it was even more beautiful this time of year.  The roses have bloomed, the twilight lasts for hours, and the color of the Seine during the long dusk is amazing.


* The late, long evening really messed with our heads.  One night, we accidentally kept the kids out until 10:15, when it had just started to get dark.  The next night, wiser and more aware, we accidentally stayed out until 10:40.  The following night, we were out until after 11.  Oops.

* Beignets!  How did I live for 36 years without ever eating one?  My life is now complete (or would be, if I lived across the street from the bakery that made the ones we ate in Paris).  Last visit, we swooned over the macaroons, this time, the beignets.  Our current theory is that we might have to try every bakery in France to determine what their particular speciality is.  Ah, France!

* For the first time ever in our air travel with the kids, we checked our stroller (complete with gliding board) at the ticket counter, instead of at the gate.  We were pleasantly surprised to find it easier to move through the airport without it (except that Vienna now has a separate security line for people with strollers, which would have been nice).  So often, a gate-checked stroller isn’t returned until baggage claim anyway, so it didn’t make any difference on the arrival end, and it made us feel even less encumbered by stuff prior to departure.  Not sure we’ll do it every time, but it’s probably something we’ll try again.  (The kids did have their Trunkis to ride instead.  Not sure I would have ditched the stroller otherwise.)

* We bypassed the stroller hell of the Paris Metro by taking a cab from the airport to our apartment.  I didn’t have a concrete plan for getting back, though, other than the phone book.  But, lo & behold, I found an advertisement for a taxi service, listing reasonable fares, attached to a street light near our apartment.  In what might have been a major lapse in judgement, I contacted them.  And it turned out perfectly.  Our driver, Raphael, showed up right on time and got us quickly, comfortably & safely to the airport (for a good fare — a few Euro less than it cost us to go the other direction).  It was a gamble that paid off.  (Info: http://www.navette770.com/ ).  I would absolutely use them again.


Liam, with the world’s largest lollipop (actually, 15 of them, cleverly packaged), and Benjamin, afraid he won’t get any (he did)

* Since the kids are off of bottles and don’t use pacis, we’ve struggle with how to handle ear pain from pressure changes during the flights.  They usually get so upset so quickly that we can’t coax them into drinking water, milk, or even juice from their sippy cups, and they end up just having to tough it out.  This time, we tried something new that worked great — lollipops!  The kids feel like they’re getting a special treat, and they last long enough to get through the pressure change (wait until you’re rolling for takeoff to hand them out, though).  Coming home, we were out, and had to go shopping.  Our only success was a mega-pack at the Duty Free shop at the airport.  (Now we have some for our next trip!)

I think that’s it from our trip to Paris.  More soon from Vienna again!

Return to Paris

024We weren’t sure it was going to happen (much like last year!) but we did make it to Paris late last Friday night.  Charles de Gaulle airport is stunning in its size.  Having travelled a lot, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen an airport that covered so much real estate.  (We flew in and out of Orly last time.)  Many major airports have multiple terminals, but I don’t think they’re usually quite so far apart.  (There are 3 separate terminals, and I think we had been in the cab and on our way for nearly 10 minutes by the time we passed the last terminal.)

032We’d been thinking that a late night flight would be ok — from Vienna, it’s only a 2 hour flight — we’d get in late and be exhausted, but we’d all probably sleep in on Saturday, and then be able to enjoy a full day in Paris (as opposed to flying mid-day on Saturday, which might have made all of Saturday feel like a non-day in Paris).  Of course, it didn’t turn out that way.  We got in late (though earlier than we expected, and rather disoriented by the fact that we landed after 10:00, but the sun wasn’t finished setting yet) but the kids still got up at their usual time (before 7) on Saturday.  So, Saturday didn’t go as planned.

048Although the kids were up and ready to go, they were anything but well-rested.  Stopping in to the boulangerie across the street to pick up breakfast turned into a screaming “I want a cookie!” disaster.  After managing to get everyone fed, the boys focused their attention on finding gelato (Benjamin was set on getting apple gelato, which we never found).  They were fussy, short-tempered and tired.  So were we, so we dedicated the morning to running around in the park behind Notre Dame between several tantrums and crying spells.  The kids were just so tired, and we were tired, and we got to a point where we just wanted to make them happy, so we abandoned all illusion of plans for the morning.  But they were really too tired to be very happy, so it didn’t quite work until we all got to take naps.  We didn’t really have much of a usable day until late in the afternoon, after we’d all gotten some rest (so, in reality, arriving in Paris early Saturday afternoon would probably have given us a very similar day).


Still, it was truly lovely to be back in Paris.  It was nice to come back to somewhere we’d been before.  We stayed in the same apartment as last year, so we knew the place well, and we also knew the neighborhood, the local restaurants, and how to get to the closest landmarks.  It was also really nice to be in a city where we’ve already checked so many big to-dos off of our list — it made this trip feel much more relaxed and laid back, since we didn’t feel like there were many things we HAD to do this time around.  My French was more eclipsed by my German this time (in that I more often opened my mouth to say something in French and had German come out unexpectedly — numbers were particularly difficult), but I’m much braver about using my French and way less discouraged by the (many) mistakes that I made.

060I just really like Paris.  I love the vibe, the energy of the people on the street, the bicycles everywhere, the sound of spoken French, the way older people smile at the kids and other parents encourage their kids to say bonjour to the kids that they meet at the park.  Paris is a city where walking feels like a great way to get around — the streets are alternately wide and inviting or narrow and intriguing.  Parisians really seem to love their city — the people strolling along the Seine and picnicking in the parks seem to speak French more often than not — those aren’t activities just for tourists.

069After nap time, we had some (more) gelato and walked around some parts of the city we hadn’t explored before.  Paris is absolutely beautiful this time of year (as it was in April and May) and I could have walked for hours.  The kids didn’t last long, though (Dan ended up carrying Liam home), so we headed back to the apartment for dinner, but then went back out to stroll around afterwards.

This time of year, dusk in Paris seems to last for hours.  Evening begins after dinner and stretches out for hours.  We walked along the Seine as the light was fading from the sky and marvelled at the color of the river and the feeling of the air.

Paris is just so beautiful, and we lost all track of time.  It takes so long for night to fall that by the time we started thinking it might be time to head home it was after 10:30 at night.  Oops.  So much for getting to bed early!

Paris Paris Paris Paris . . . maybe

We’re going to Paris, and I’m really excited!  We leave tonight, spend a long weekend there, and come back Tuesday.  It’s pretty revolutionary to be going on a weekend trip to Paris — logistically and financially, living in Europe has given us a great opportunity to travel here pretty easily, and I’m loving it.  It’s one of my favorite things about being on this adventure.  (I mean, really, my conversations this week have gone like this: “What are you doing this weekend?”  “Going to Paris!”  Pretty great.)  We’re looking forward to going back to visit again — I love the feel of the city, how beautiful and truly romantic it is, and (of course) the food.  We have a late flight tonight, which may be a challenge for everyone’s patience, but the plan is to get situated tonight so we can spend the day tomorrow relaxing and enjoying the city.  (Since it is “only” a long weekend, we didn’t want to spend all of Saturday at the airport.  I’m not sure whether it’s a good plan, but I’ll soon find out.)

We loved our time in Paris last spring, but there were lots of things we wanted to do that we didn’t get to (visiting the Louvre, seeing the Eiffel Tower at night, spending more time just walking and seeing the city) so I’m excited to go back.  We loved our experience last year so much that we’re staying in the same apartment, so we know where to find the great boulangeries and cremeries and gelato shops (the boys remember Paris for the gelato more than anything else).  Our main excuse for going this time is as an early celebration of my & Dan’s 13th wedding anniversary (which officially happens the 24th).

But, regardless of the excitement and intense anticipation . . .  our plans are a bit up in the air this morning.  Liam had some upset tummy issues yesterday (nothing that seemed major) but he’s got a sore bottom now, so badly that he could not sleep (so neither did we).  He finally fell asleep in my lap at 5:30 this morning.

I’d love to say that we really are going, but I don’t know what our next hours will bring.  He woke up chipper and asking about our trip, but I’ll have to see if it lasts.  Is he still sick or feeling better?  Can he sit down and be comfortable on the flight, or would it just be torture to put him through that?  We’ll have to see as the day goes on.  Travel with little ones is always an adventure — and we haven’t even left yet!  Fingers crossed that my next post is from France . . .


1261I’m kind of shocked to realize that this is my first post dedicated to Trunkis, the ride-on, pull-along, carry-on kid-functional suitcases we got for the boys last year.  It’s long overdue.

We first saw something like a Trunki once at the airport when dropping off a friend over a year ago.  A family on the opposite train platform was loading up two kids on two small, elephant-looking suitcases, which the parents then pulled along behind them.  I thought it was so fantastic that I took a few pictures of this completely unknown family.  Later, I asked around among my friends, and everyone kept saying they were “Trunkis” even though the ones I saw the first time were either by a different brand or a much older model.  When I finally found them online, they seemed too expensive, and my boys have backpacks and suitcases already, so I just let it go, but I never really forgot about it.

1271The next time we encountered such a thing (and the first time we “met” a real Trunki) was at London’s Luton airport during our trip to the UK last summer.  We went into one of those travel shops at the airport (I no longer remember why — I think Dan was looking for something) and they had a variety of Trunkis for sale . . . of course, all down at kid level.  B saw them and fell in love instantly.  He touched them, he wanted to open them, he wanted to ride on them.  I intended to say no, but since I’d been looking at them before, and they were actually cheaper in person (plus no shipping!) I decided to go for it.  Especially after the salesperson assured me they would 1549work as a carry on (even on EasyJet — and I told him that if they said no at the check-in counter, I was bringing it straight back).  We only got one, because we wanted to know if it would work, and initially, Liam wasn’t too disappointed, since he was mostly riding in the stroller.  B immediately climbed aboard and started doing laps up and down the check-in line.  He was hooked, and Liam was, very shortly thereafter, jealous.

008B’s Trunki worked great on that trip.  We were pleasantly surprised to find that it did, indeed, fit even EasyJet’s small allowance for carry-on luggage, and B’s other carry-on suitcase actually fit inside with a little room to spare.  After that trip, we decided Liam should have one, too, but we didn’t go back through Luton, and we didn’t find them anywhere else.  After we got back to Vienna, B decided he wanted to give Liam his very own new Trunki for his birthday just a few weeks later, so we went ahead and ordered one (which was a lot more expensive).

And the rest is history.  We’ve gotten quite fond of and attached to the Trunkis.  They have joined us on every trip since, and they’ve stood up to a ton of abuse from the kids.  After 6 months, 3 flights, 3 train trips and a road trip, we feel like we’ve broken them in and road tested them pretty well.  Here are the pros and cons that we’ve found so far:


  • 053They’re cute.  I don’t mind looking at them all the time.  I imagine they’d be super easy to spot coming around on the conveyor of checked bags (although we haven’t tried that yet).  And, unlike the many character-themed backpacks and suitcases, I don’t think the kids are likely to “grow out” of the Trunkis as quickly.
  • They’re sturdy.  Other than a bit of paint/decoration wear (very minimal) I’m truly impressed at how well these have stood up.  My kids use them every day around the house, not just on travel.  They sit on them, they ride on them, they climb on them (I wish they didn’t do that last part).  They open and close them on their own.  They’ve been kicked, knocked down, dragged and raced around the house.  And that’s in addition to be lugged on and off of trains, in and out of car trunks and into and out of overhead compartments.  These things are really well built.
  • 027They’re easy for the kids to use.  B has been able to open and close his since day 1, and Liam figured it out by the time he got to be about 2 1/2.  They can also be locked (the adjustable carrying strap has the “key” attached).  My boys use them around the house to store things (i.e., hide them from their brother) and it’s nice that they can access the inside on their own (although pinched fingers are a concern).  The boys can climb on an off when we’re using them as a ride on and can pull them along behind them with the carrying strap (although watch out for unaware people walking alongside — the boys aren’t great at watching exactly which direction the Trunki is going behind them and they could definitely take someone out).
  • 081They’re carry-on sized.  We’ve tried it, it’s really true.  They fit in the overhead bin and within the guideline for carry-on luggage.  They can be rolled down the aisle in the plane, too, and up the jetway with a child on top (which is especially nice since even gate-checked strollers are often not returned until baggage claim).  They also fit nicely behind the front seat in a car, right at the kids’ feet, so they can see “their stuff” in the car.  (Also makes kid stuff easily accessible, because  you don’t necessarily have to dig through the back/trunk . . . and if you do, a Trunki is distinctive and easy to find.)
  • 052They double as a ride-on.  On the way to the gate at the airport or to the train at the station, one of the kids (whichever one isn’t in the stroller) seems to always want to be held.  Being able to have them ride the Trunki is incredibly functional (although it does require some steering on the part of the passenger, and you have to watch out for people walking nearby).  Also, when waiting in line (which is a lot when you travel) the Trunki provides a seat that isn’t just on the floor.  Whenever the kids get tired of standing, they can always sit on the Trunki instead.
  • 001Convenient for packing.  You can fit a lot of stuff in a Trunki.  We have managed to basically pack the boys entire clothing and such for a week (not including diapers) in their Trunkis.  With winter clothes, B is just starting to run out of room.  It’s nice to have the kids’ stuff separated — especially when in comes to finding things like socks and keeping track of what belongs to which child.  (Are these Benjamin’s gray socks or Liam’s?  Whose blue fleece is this?)


  • They can get clunky.  Empty, they’re light and easy to move around.  Full, they can get heavy, especially when carrying it with the shoulder strap (or carrying two!) while pulling a piece of rolling luggage or pushing a stroller.  Also, because they’re hard and not squishable, they don’t fit easily into the bottom of a stroller.  The only option is to carry it or pull it.  They’re not ideal if you have a long way to walk and it will be in a place where you can’t or don’t want the kids to ride or pull it.
  • 004They’re expensive.  I don’t remember how much we paid for the one we bought at the airport, but the one we ordered was £38.  (Of course, it doesn’t help that Benjamin chose the limited edition, most expensive version to get for Liam’s birthday, and that we had to have it shipped from the UK, which cost even more.)
  • They become essential.  Now that we have them, there’s little hope of travelling without them.  The boys are set on bringing them everywhere.  So, even when we take short weekend trips where we might not have packed separate suitcases for the kids, the Trunkis are GOING to be coming with us.  So, we’ve now put ourselves in a situation where we are taking at least 3 bags with us (2 Trunkis, 1 backpack or suitcase for grownups) wherever we go, no matter what.

Overall, we love them.  They aren’t the only functional solution to luggage for kids, but they’re pretty great, and we’re glad we have ours.


(Also, in case anyone wonders, this is in no way a sponsored post.  I received nothing from Trunki, nor from anyone else, at any point.  This is just my opinion.)

Austrian anniversary

So, today is the day — we’ve been here two years.  This second anniversary of our arrival here feels like an accomplishment — partly just because we’ve been here two years and have not only survived, but flourished, but also because it was originally our intention to only be here for two years.  So, even though we’ve revised that and updated our plans, some part of my brain is still stuck on the idea of, “Ok, it’s been two years!  You’re done!  Time to go home!”

It’s been two years since we climbed off of the plane, overwhelmed and weary.  Very overwhelmed.  Nothing says “What did I just do?!?” like arriving in an airport with two small kids, seven suitcases and a dog, being unable to read any signs or remember why you thought this was a good idea in the first place.

I remember collecting our suitcases, piling them up on a luggage cart, and looking around to figure out where we were supposed to pick up Bailey.  We didn’t know whether to expect him in a special luggage area, or whether there was a certain counter to go to.  Instead, we found him in his crate, set aside, kind of near the baggage claim area.  We expected to have to show some paperwork or something to collect him.  Nope.  We picked him up and moved on.

Our next priority was Customs, where we also prepared to present paperwork and have our things inspected.  But no, this is Austria.  No paperwork, no inspection, no stopping at all.

We dragged ourselves outside to wait for Dan’s friend, Greg, who had so kindly agreed to meet us at the airport.  I got Bailey out of his crate and took him for a quick (and much-needed) walk.  It was cold, and raining.  I remember thinking again (for the second of at least a dozen times that day) that I was not at all sure this had been a wise decision.

We waited for Greg, and when he arrived, he was so nice and helpful.  We packed his car full of all of our things, and drove through Vienna until we found our temporary apartment.  Once we figured out which one it was, I remember being freaked out about everything — whether the car was going to be towed, whether our landlord could be trusted to help is carry our things, and whether we were going to be expected to pay for our stay right away (which would have been troublesome because we had no Euros).

I had nothing to worry about, really, I was just freaking out and unaccustomed to being so far out of my element.  Our landlord was helpful and nice, we got everything unloaded easily, and the kids were happy to be “home”.  Greg very kindly made a trip to the grocery store to buy a few things we’d need to get through that first morning.  When he left us his grocery bag so we’d have something to shop with, I almost cried, both because it was nice of him and because it represented, in my mind, how many things I didn’t know about Vienna (I mean, who knew you HAD to bring your own grocery bags?!?).

262But we got settled in.  We took a collective nap.  We watched tv.  We got comfortable.  We relaxed.  I remember being the only one awake, later that evening, while everyone else was napping.  I remember looking around our apartment.  We were all safe, secure and happy.  I didn’t know anything, really, about Vienna, or about what would happen next, but everything was peaceful.  I still wasn’t sure we had made the right decision, but I was sure, in that moment, that we were all ok.  It was a beginning.


And now, here we are.  Two years later, with another year ahead of us.  I still get that feeling — the feeling that I’m not sure if we’ve made the right decision, but that, in the moment, we’re all ok.  That first day was hard, and there have been other hard days since. There have been days when I’ve wished I could snap my fingers and just be home.  But really, this has been wonderful.  Fundamentally, I’m incredibly glad that we’re here and that we’re having this adventure.  And I’m learning to be ok with being out of my element, with not understanding what’s going on, with trusting people.  I’m learning to expect good things to happen.  And I’m learning that, as long as we’re all safe, secure and happy, everything is really ok.

Two years ago

On April 5, two years ago, we sold our car, repacked the contents of our seven suitcases (which had been strewn about my mother’s house in the week or so we’d been living there), put Bailey in his crate, put the car seats into my mom’s car, packed every vehicle my family owned full of luggage and people and drove to the airport.  Benjamin was 2 1/2, Liam was barely 6 months old.  It was the first day of this incredible adventure.

My family took us to the airport to say goodbye.  It was harder, I think, for them than for us.  We were all saying goodbye, but we were so focused on the massive journey we had ahead of us that we couldn’t really process it.

DullesI remember waiting for a long time at the ticket counter while our paperwork (Bailey’s in particular) was processed.  Once checked in, we dropped Bailey off for his journey and wrestled ourselves through security.  We were desperate to find milk before boarding.  Benjamin was used to having some at bedtime, and we wanted to replicate whatever normalcy we could in the midst of the most stunning chaos we’d ever experienced as a family.  We got some, at Starbucks, moments before boarding, and I spilled half of it as soon as I got on the plane.  We were the last people to get on, and the plane was already backing away from the gate while I mopped up the spilled milk.

245The guy who had been assigned to sit beside us was gone so fast that I barely got a look at him, but we were then able to use his seat as a bed for Liam throughout the flight.  And he slept, amazingly, most of the way.  By contrast, B slept almost not at all.  Dan and I stayed up with him, watching movies and playing trucks.  (We had no iPhones or iPad — I don’t really know how we managed without those fallback forms of entertainment, but we did.)

250Liam is now the age Benjamin was then.  If I step back, and think about that day, I really can’t believe we did it.  Really, what were we thinking?  How was I possibly possessed by the combination of bravery and insanity that made it possible?!?

But we did.  We got on that plane, two years ago, and began this astonishing adventure.  And now, here we are, older, more worldly, more confident.  This experience has changed us.  We have grown, individually and together.  We will always, now, have had this shared experience, this astounding chapter in our family history, that we have written together.  I can no longer fathom how we managed to take that first step, two years ago, and I could not have predicted then who we would become.  The past two years have sometimes felt like an insurmountable challenge, but it has also continued to be an outrageously wonderful opportunity.  It’s still an adventure, and it’s not over yet.