Twins on a Plane: To and Fro

It’s been three weeks since I posted about our trip to visit my father in Lubbock Texas and the anxieties that came with dragging two one year olds across the country, namely how they would react to the pressure changes, how we would keep them entertained, who we would sit with, and whether we would make it out of the plane alive. I’m happy to report we successfully returned from our trip a week ago at 12 AM mostly intact. After some desperately needed rest we’ve finally gotten back into the swing of things.

It’s hard to plan what you don’t know. We tried to do it when we found out we were having twins. We told ourselves that we’d have to buy 2x as much stuff, told ourselves that we’d be more busy, and even tried to imagine what it would be like to chase around two little ones at the same time. When the boys were born all of that went out the window. There was only so much that we could plan for based on what we knew. The other 70% of it we just had no way to prepare for. That’s pretty much what happened with travel. We did our best to prepare, but when we set foot in Manchester Boston Regional Airport last three weeks ago we had no idea what we were in for.

We were worried that security would be a big deal with the babies, the strollers, and all of the liquid food and medications that we had to bring. Luckily we were wrong. Security was a breeze. It took less than 10 minutes to get everything scanned (including six bottles of formula and milk), get repacked, and find our terminal. That even included a personal striptease when my belt set off the metal detector. TSA agents weren’t very concerned about all of the stuff that we were bringing other than remarking that we had some “hungry babies”. They were very nice to us and it was a pretty low-stress situation.

We always arrive at the airport super early so we had about an hour and a half of wait time before we needed to board the plane. While we were waiting we let the boys walk / crawl around an empty area of the terminal, brought them for a few stroller rides, and fed them their mid-morning bottles. Our first flight was afive hours with a half hour stop in Chicago to board more passengers. We flew Southwest and were at the end of section A so we were able to board slightly earlier than usual (families board after section A and before section B). We were lucky that there was one extra seat on the plane and that we were able to grab it. We took up an entire row leaving the middle seat empty. Had the plane been entirely full not only would we have not had the center seat between us, but we also would have had to sit separately as there would not have been enough oxygen masks for everyone in the row (there are only 4 per row).

Our biggest task during the trip was to keep the boys busy. We were lucky that there wasn’t any point along the way where the boys cried for significantly long periods of time. There were occasional outbursts, especially from Zach (surprisingly), but none that were longer than five minutes or so. In order to keep the peace, we had to constantly try to keep the boys busy by letting them pick up things, feed them, pick them up, put them down, lift them up to see the other passengers, rock them, and basically try to do anything that we could to distract them. We brought our iPads, but the boys wanted nothing to do with them, so it was back to the up, down, all around.

By the time we reached Austin, we were very tired. We lucked out and got about 40 minutes of nap time toward the end of the flight but were otherwise exhausted. We had an hour and a half before our flight to Lubbock left, so we headed into the terminal and found a family bathroom, one of our favorite stops since we’ve become parents. After diapers were changed we picked up some pizza and drinks for a ridiculous total of $20. We found a spot near our gate that had the same sort of kids table setup that we saw at Manchester. We sat on the floor and ate with the boys at the table. Almost as soon as the food was gone the boys were gone as well.

Adam wanted to walk all over the place and Zach wanted to crawl, mostly. This is actually where Zach took his first steps! It happened very fast and unexpectedly. I was cleaning something up and as I turned around I saw him stand up, take a couple of steps, and fall down and crawl. It was really exciting to seen and of course Zach did not feel like repeating it. Adam spent the rest of our layover time walking from gate to gate, weaving through the rows, and occasionally stopping to say hello to people and inspect their luggage. I chased him around and watched people smile as he waddled past. He was so happy to have a wide open space to wander in freely.

By this point in the trip the worst part was over. We had a short flight left, a little over an hour, from Austin to Lubbock. It was only about 1/3 full so we had the entire back section of the plane to ourselves. We sat in front of an extremely friendly stewardess who spent much of the flight playing with the boys over the seat. She made an extra effort to get the boys some “first flyer” certificates for their baby book, but there were none on board so she gave us a coloring pack that had plastic wings instead. She was one of the nicest flight attendants we’ve had. Before we knew it, we were on the ground in Lubbock. Finally. Eight hours of distracting, feeding, and begging for mercy were over. This was not a trip we looked forward to taking again.

The vacation portion of our “vacation” was busier than we expected. Zach came down with an upper respiratory infection which made him miserable for the first few days, required a visit to a redi-care walk-in facility, and almost resulted in a visit to the E.R. Both boys had some trouble adjusting to the new climate and had trouble sleeping. It wasn’t until about Saturday, the middle of our trip, that everyone was feeling better. By then we could finally start doing things. We went out to the Spectrum Science Center, a fantastic local museum that I will post more detail about later. We celebrated the boys’ birthday at Chuck E Cheese’s. We visited the Ranching Museum. We even ate dinner at a restaurant called Cheddars, the only restaurant that the boys have been to besides the Weathervane.

Every vacation has to end and ours did just as things were settling down. It was once again time for a day’s worth of travel to get back home. Our flights were a bit different this time around. We left from Lubbock at 2:40, which was later than our original flight from Manchester on the way down. That gave us time to eat lunch before we went so that we’d hopefully be less starved while traveling. Security took a bit more work than it did in Manchester namely because they were much more concerned about scanning all of our bottles and because I packed my camera bag so tightly that they had to empty it and rescan it. Our flight arrived already half full so we had to cram on with existing passengers. Luckily there was space at the back but we had to sit separately since the flight was full. We sat across from each other. It actually worked out pretty well because the boy’s were less of a distraction to each other.

We had about an hour of travel over to Las Vegas where we had a short layover to pick up a direct flight to Manchester. It doesn’t really make sense to fly west to Las Vegas just to fly east to New Hampshire, but I don’t make the plane routes. There are few flights to Lubbock and they are rarely direct. The first flight was nice and short. The boys were easy to handle, easier than the flight down. Adam fell asleep for a short while on my shoulder which helped the ride go by. We had a really chatty pilot who enjoyed talking to us over the intercom explaining how high we were flying, talking about the turbulence, and telling us the local weather.

Our Vegas to Manchester flight was another story. Unlike the five hour leg on our trip down, this was a direct flight with absolutely no stops. There was no opportunity to get up and walk around or take a break. Upon boarding you could tell that this was a flight full of New Englanders. People from Texas have a certain look to them  – big hair, big belts, jeans, plad, cowboy hats.  New England people have a look as well – sweatpants, t-shirts, long nails, leather tans, and jowels  – kind of embarrassing. Regardless, most of the New Englanders that we sat with were pretty friendly. They would need to be for this trip.

We sat in the back of the plane near the bathroom and that’s where all of the action happened. Soon after liftoff, while the “fasten seat belts” sign was still on, a girl came wandering down the aisle towards the bathroom. The people I was sitting with knew her and commented that she didn’t look so well right as the stewardess started telling her that she needed to sit down. Before anyone knew it the girl was lying on the floor passed out and the passenger next to me was screaming “It’s Kristen!” at the top of her lungs. Before I could blink there were shouts from the stewardesses – “Is there a doctor on board?!” – just like in a movie. A crowd had formed next to us – the girl’s mom, three flight attendants, the doctor, a nurse. People were yelling, the pilot was calling for medical assistance, it was pandemonium. By that point the boys were already driving us nuts but all of the commotion caught their attention. It was a nice break.

The girl ended up being fine and just needed some air. She apparently hadn’t had a lot to eat that day other than beer and Sudafed, which probably wasn’t a good idea. Three hours passed and we struggled to keep the boys entertained. Zach struggled to stay awake even though he was tired but eventually lost and went to sleep in my lap. I only had two more hours to go and then we’d be home. I had no idea what would come next.

Zach woke up from his slumber with a cough. I repositioned him but it didn’t stop and he started to get angry. I put him over my shoulder facing the outside aisle to see if I could calm him down. I was about to get up and walk the aisles when Sally told me that he had spit up on me. No big deal, it was just a little bit. I started to get a wipe to clean it up when chaos began. Zach started projectile vomiting his entire bottle onto my shoulder. He spewed out a thick stream of curdled milk with such force that it splashed off of my shoulder and onto the aisle behind him. The girl sitting directly behind me was curious and peeked out from behind my seat to see what was going on only to get covered in curdled milk puke. Sally tried to help but couldn’t until the passengers next to her offered to take Adam. She tossed him over and he immediately started crying adding to Zach’s episode in progress. The flight attendants were running around throwing towels at us while I was trying to clean up myself and Zach after he stopped. It was horrific and embarrassing. Sally felt so bad for the girl that she gave her all of the cash that we had on hand to cover any damage. It was only $19, but it was the thought that counted.

After his vomiting episode Zach quickly fell back asleep in my lap for the rest of the flight. The flight attendants cleaned up the aisle and put coffee down to soak up some of the liquid. They never made an announcement about the mess out back so people kept coming back to use the bathroom only to get yelled at and go back to the front. One woman even walked back in bare feet. Eeeew. I couldn’t get up to clean off the rest of my shirt so I smelled like rotten milk for the rest of the flight home. It was nasty.

Despite our drama, we received complements at the baggage claim about how well behaved the boys were on the flight. It was ironic but nice to know that at least most of the plane thought that we did a good job. The flight back home was a bit easier than the flight down even though there was a shorter layover, a longer direct flight, and the whole vomiting thing. So what did we learn from this? Well, eight hours is a long time to drag your one year olds around. Some things were not as bad as we thought – the seating arrangement, diaper changes, passengers. Others were worse – keeping the boys entertained, getting slathered with all the food we tried to feed them, finding time to feed ourselves, being exhausted. I’m still really glad that we got out to visit my dad and Schawnté even with the travel and adjustment period. We’re just going to have to really consider our travel plans for the next few years until the boys don’t require so much of our attention.

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