There is nothing greater than stepping into that perfectly clean room, throwing your bags on the floor and plopping into the couch. You’ve had a long flight only to be followed by a busy shuffling of other modes of transportation. You’re ready for a glass of wine and soft bed where you can finally finish that book the you started. How refreshing! The first night of good sleep you’ve had in 5 days. Perhaps even your best night of sleep ever! Totally refreshed, you wake at just the right late-enought-but-not-too-late time, throw back the curtains, and see a fresh layer of powdered snow. *sigh* Heaven!
Wait. Weren’t we on vacation to Seattle? Snow in Seattle? And in October?!!!
That’s right folks. We all know it. The best day of your vacation is the first day back.
It may sound a little odd, but one of the biggest reasons for this vacation was to practice taking a vacation.
I know that sounds absolutely absurd, but Andrew and I have really only taken one other vacation, and that was about 7 years ago… 4 days through Denver and Estes Park. The truth is that when we were working for other people we got vacation time, but Andrew preferred to spend his home in the quiet (as all cave dwelling trolls do) and I used mine to visit rural villages in the dead of winter. Somehow I don’t think that is how ‘vacation’ is normally defined.
The real challenge came when we began working for ourselves. In all honestly Andrew and I are notoriously ‘too nice’ when it comes to our dealings with people. We’ve had to learn to be more strict with tenants, we’ve had to learn to charge what is deserved for child care and not cut so many breaks, and now we’ve had to learn to schedule regular vacations knowing the daycare families will need to find care for those times. But we have to. We’ll go nuts if we don’t (We’ve learned that, too.) Besides, the families understand. They get vacations. And they are really grateful to have happy caregivers.
So there we had it. We have a few holiday times off throughout the year, but it was time to schedule regularly occurring closures, whether we travel in them or not. The first of these was October 2016 – Seattle.
For a long time it felt like the trip was just a fantasy, but as we got closer and saw the money getting set aside it became more real. “We are actually going to do this!” Accommodations were arranged and then finally the tickets were purchased… and just barely in time. The flights were VERY full. So practicing actually taking time off – check! On to the other parts of ‘practicing vacationing.’
Since buying our first “real” [cheap] travel luggage back in May I’ve been able to tryout packing the medical bag a few times. Once was for Nathan’s overnight with Memaw and Papa Ricky, literally at the end of the street. The other was our yearly excursion to Seward for a night of camping, a visit to the Sea Life Center, and, the real reason for the trip, volunteering for the Lost Lake Run. I learned how to get things laid out in the bag, realized a few more things I should probably bring, and a few things I could benefit from bringing extra of. I also picked up a few travel suggestions from this wonderful little girl on YouTube named EllatheRose. What an amazing, talented, and driven person she is to be creating and sharing the types of videos she does as such a young age. I learned some things anyway!
Since I’m more used to packing for a camping trip with the tent, and chairs, and cook ware, beds, clothes, meds…. the list going on and on, filling the Jimmy to the brim… The baggage situation for this trip was AMAZING! With our Club 49 status we would have been able to check 3 bags each, plus have the standard carry-on and personal bag each, AND the medical bag which doesn’t count for any of those. Yeah, there is NO WAY I’m going to lug that much stuff. DEFINITELY not for a 5 day trip to Seattle. Besides, we only have 2 sets of luggage, and that was MORE than enough. Seriously, I WAY over packed! But I could! Andrew and I could put all of our carry-on entertainment needs into a small personal bag, so the standard size rolling carry-on could then be packed full with all games, crafts, and secret stashes of little goodies I’ve been collecting, literally for years, looking for a good time to give to Nathan.
Bunny Trail: the problem with goodies, rewards, and gifts in our house is that ‘stuff’ is always rolling in. Seriously. Between replenishing standared daycare supplies, finding great deals on toys and games from garage sales, thrift, and dollar stores (Which I pretty much avoid completely anymore) and then an abondance of wonderful hand-me-downs from three families, PLUS free supplies I get from my homeschool/daycare/teacher circle….and then there are the minor holidays like easter and thanksgiving… and the MAJOR holidays like Christmas, followed rather shortly after by Nathan’s Birthday…You can see what I’m getting at. When I get free Kohl’s money in the mail I take it to get something that costs $13 for $3 and stash it. I had several things stashed that I didn’t even feel the need to bring them out at Christmas (because he just really didn’t need anymore gifts in the pile), and then Nathan’s birthday rolled around… LAST YEAR… Cool! I’ll bring these things to Seattle for the Airplane and the hotel room. Go figure…. we never needed to open them. Yup, back on the stash shelf. Maybe next vacation?!
Yup, go figure that Nathan was really quite content on the airplane, spending at least half of it looking out the window for take-off and landing. Flying out we got to see Anchorage and Eagle River light-up. We could see where the Turnagain Arm extended to the mountains, with Wittier on the other side. We got to see more mountains and glaciers. We got to see Prince William Sound and I told him the story of my Great Aunt, long ago, leaving Cordova in a small boat and getting trapped in a storm, loosing her first husband at sea and then their baby from exposure. We saw all kinds of clouds from above and then lowered down over Washington and saw bridges and sailboat harbors, and finally the expansive city of Seattle.
Nathan was so excited to travel. He literally ran down the sky bridge to get the the plane.
Most of the time he was occupied, and although he never slept there were times that he was bored, and a lot of times that he was waiting, waiting, waiting for the pilot to turn off the fasten seat belt sign.
The video below is a little long, but you can skip around in it. This was Nathan’s first big plane landing. We enjoyed watching as we went from above the clouds to below, and then as the landscape changed from mostly vegetation into mostly habitation and eventually the city.
I was surprised right off the bat about how well Nathan kept himself together. He was a total trooper on the first day. He stayed close and didn’t interrupt needed conversations. Despite getting a little dramatic about 2 1/2 hours into the flight and having a melt down over the shape of a giraffe leg he was drawing, he did so well. We didn’t eat enough or often enough and Nathan never complained. We walked and walked and walked the first day as well. We did stop for a break while Andrew got a sandwich but Nathan did sooooo well.
We were able to figure out how to navigate Seattle’s abundant transport options. First we took the light rail into the city’s center. That was very interesting. I didn’t realize how many hills there were in Seattle. I particularly liked a homestead-like house with rows of chicken coops. There were a lot of low income, diverse, communities in Seattle. Nathan ate an apple while we rode, and counted our stops. We got to see the city center and space needle from afar.
We very quickly found our hotel and realized how much time we had to wonder down to the Pike’s Place Market. Seattle is full of really unique characters. We saw several musicians, which Andrew was not impressed with, and one performer who juggled knives and a chainsaw on a tall unicycle. He gave him 10 bucks. I liked the painted statue man. We saw the ocean front. We scouted out places we might like to eat later and found the Target that we would shop at daily. ‘City Target’ was certainly different. Three stories high and with liquor right in the store. (They do that in most states, but not in AK) We secured an empty cart just so we could put it on the Cart Escalator. Very intriguing to Nathan. Eventually we settled in for the night to do CPT, Dinner, and swim. The pool was great, with LED lights, and it was interesting to be out on the dark and rain amidst huge towering city buildings. Nathan literally WOULDN’T come in!
The medicine set up really seemed to work well the whole trip. I brought two pari nebs in case we didn’t get to sterilize properly, but never had that problem since I bought a small plastic water kettle. It worked like a charm. I also remembered to bring a few paper towels. I brought his weekly pill box, since we were going to be there nearly that long, but in reality half of the meals were taken out and about so we used our key chain pill cases. I don’t think I would waste the space next time, since I know I will bring all the bottles with their prescriptions and labels attached. And I’m always going to bring more than the required amounts of everything in case of an emergency or change of plans.
I hate to admit that one treatment session was skipped on the way down. We didn’t get up earlier to squeeze it in, and never ended up doing it in the airport or plane. It was just one inhaler and the CPT. (Pulmozyme gets done at night.) It doesn’t seem like a big deal but we RARELY skip sessions. Perhaps 1 or 2 every year. We take it very seriously.
The second day we visited the Seattle Aquarium. Nathan and I really enjoyed it, but those aren’t so much Andrew’s thing. It’s pretty hard to compete with Seward’s Diving Bird and Marine Mammal tanks, but the sea otters in Seattle are pretty cute. They also have a dramatically larger touch tank area, but there aren’t really that many more types of things to be touched than what we have, and a lot are kind of hard to reach because it is so wide. Now, if you are into fish and coral reefs Seattle has many very beautiful tropical fish tanks. Fantastic colors and diversity, but I can see how Andrew says, ‘It’s just a bunch of fish. More Fish.’
Touch Tanks. We LOVE Touch Tanks!
As I said, they really do have some beautiful tropical aquariums.
Since Nathan is so very interested in all things ‘ocean’ I will certainly take him to any aquarium when we can get the chance. (However, I don’t have any plans to go to Seaworld.) I wanted to get him an ‘encounter’ with an animal. The kind where you get to hold and/or feed the animals or check-out behind the scenes work and research, but they really didn’t it available in Seattle. I will make plans for next year’s trip to the Alaska Sealife Center.
We went back to the edge of the market and snagged some cheese at Beechers, and A baguette at the Pannier. <—This was one of MY favorite parts of the trip. We ate them overlooking the city and the sound between the aquarium and the Great wheel. Going on the great wheel was fun. (Here is a link to our video.) That was Andrew’s favorite part.
It was amazing how much time we had on a ‘normal’ day. A day were we don’t have work in our dinky apartment for 10 1/2 hours. We did stuff, stuff, stuff, and more stuff… and still had a ton of time to get treatments done and pool and the pool.
Day three, Saturday, we used to go to the Space Needle. I know. I know. Tourist. And MONEY!!! Entrance fees rape the tourists at these things…. but I’m glad we did it. I’ll probably plan one or two other US trips that might involve tourist traps, but if I ever get to go on a ‘real’ travel adventure I will certainly minimize the money we spend in this area. Nathan had a really good time. One of the most exciting parts of planning our trip was actually getting to make our reservations for Sky City right in our living room using a smartphone. It was definitely one of those, ‘This is ACTUALLY going to happen!” moments. The view was fantastic with beautiful clear skies, and although our lunch was QUITE expensive we had already been prepared for that. (We will probably not have a meal that expensive again for a long time… if ever.) We all got a kick out of watching someone fly a drone up to the 500 foot windows. We watched him while he watched us. Our family definitely wants to get one of those some day. (**Wink Wink** Perhaps Santy-Clause stumbled across some inexpensive ones on QVC while we were vacationing and plans to have them under the Christmas tree?) And the food was of course really good. The only problem was our persistent ‘unwellness.’ What started with tummy trouble the first night continued as an almost entire lack of appetite for me for the next three. Seriously NOTHING sounded good. I ate romaine lettuce with a raspberry vinaigrette every night for dinner. When EVER does a glass of wine not sound good?! And on vacation especially! So not only was that my most expensive lunch, it was my most expensive, never really eaten, lunch. I couldn’t even muster the left overs.
As we crunched the numbers on the money that we were blowing through like water it was decided that I really didn’t NEED to go to the Chihuly Glass exhibit. I would save us the 22.50. (Plus what it would have costed if I’d taken Nathan as planned.) At this point I don’t think the savings mattered, and I know that I would have liked it, and Nathan probably would have too, but Andrew would have been TOTALLY bored waiting for us, and I don’t have any regrets about not going… so that works out.
Nathan in the playset below the Space Needle, and the only piece of Chihuly’s Art I got to see.
I was, however, very glad to venture off alone for a little bit and find the World Spice Merchants shop on the pier side of the Market. It was on my To Do list. It was really fun to sniff all their jars and scout for herbs and spices that smelled nice, were new to us, and would be fun to add to our repertoire. It was definitely a highlight of the trip for me. I scoured their recipe book shelf and ogled cute little bowls and cups. I only purchased 5 ounces total, but I love them all very much and plan to place an online order with them again some time. I was glad to learn that it isn’t a franchise shop. I like to support those kinds of places. Oh, and the shop is just REALLY cute with a totally cool, lofty, lay-out.
We decided that Sunday was going to be a lounge day. It was needed. It was supposed to be the day to explore more in Pike’s Place Market but to be honest we really didn’t find much there that interested us. Don’t get me wrong, I loved all the beautiful fresh fruits and vegetables, and the amazing seafood offerings, and we did have the accommodations to cook anything we could want, but I just didn’t feel good. We had bounced around the idea of cooking a few recipes based off what we found at the market for the site, but it wouldn’t have mattered since NOTHING sounded good to eat. I had really wanted to purchase a fresh fillet of fish and some local herbs to salt for a lox of sorts, right in our hotel room… but again… didn’t even want to think about it. Oh well. I really just concluded that I’m very happy I live two blocks from our Fred Meyer, and with their expanded produce and health food sections I really feel like I get to have the ‘market experience’ literally every day when I stop in.
The last day we realized we had a lot more time before we needed to get to the airport than we had previously expected. With such a short trip and the choice not to rent a car I had figured the zoo would be too much of a destination to shoot for, and excluded it from our plans. It is my biggest regret. We did, in fact, get to go to the zoo, but I really wish I had had 2 more hours to explore. Andrew thinks that’s absurd, but I would have really liked to sit quiet in their many beautiful free ranging bird exhibits. In the end we did get a little over 2 hours, but I felt it was totally rushed all the way through.
The worst part was when I wondered off for a minute looking for a face mask for Nathan. I should have known there would be mist at some point. No big deal to most people and quite pleasant on a hot day, it is a bacterial death trap for patients with CF. We also have to avoid the humidifiers at Bed Bath and Beyond. It all goes back to their sticky lungs having an affinity for water born bacteria. Misters, aerosols, and humidifiers are LOADED with the stuff. Great for YOUR kid’s cold… the beginning of the end for mine. It’s one of those things that I keep reminding myself to put in the medicine bag, but for whatever reason I blanked it for this trip. Shoot, I even keep a mask in my winter jacket… but that didn’t help here. (….*AFK: going to add masks to med bag.*)
Long story short I saw the mist in the tropics house, backed Nathan out really fast and wondered off for a moment thinking perhaps I could find a maintenance worker with a painters mask. (I’ve run across this before.) Within a few moments I realized that this would only waste some of our already very precious time and turned back around to find Andrew and Nathan. I couldn’t find them. I realized then, that the mist had turned off, (making note of this also for future travels), and thought perhaps they had gone on ahead without me. I breezed through the whole tropics house quickly with no sign of them. I wondered to the next logical area and found a whole family of gorillas with little babies too, but no Nathan and Andrew. I circled back around again… by now it has been 5 and then 10 minutes of searching. This doesn’t sound like much but with only 2 hours total that is really eating into my time-budget! I end up asking the workers to help. “My son isn’t trouble or anything. He’s with his Dad, but I really need to find them.” It was only about 15 minutes total, but I was super irritated. Preventable. AND because of the whole debacle Nathan never got to see the tropics house, AND they never saw the baby gorilla, (there was only a big male sitting bored when they walked by), but neither did I really since I was busy searching for them! I didn’t even get a picture of it. So, yes. That is my regret for this trip. Not planning more time for the zoo and the possibility of needing a mask. I will ALWAYS plan to visit the zoo in any city we travel. Andrew and I love it and so does Nathan. AND I will make sure we have abundant time! I think I might actually plan for a long layover the next time we travel through Seattle JUST to go to the zoo with more time, since I totally know how to get to it on the transportation. With all of that said, though, we did get to see most parts of the zoo and it they were really great. Getting to feed the penguins was one of Nathan’s favorite parts of the trip.
I discovered after this, our second flight, that they really do start boarding a little earlier than I thought and that we should shoot to get to our gates a little earlier. I’m also torn about whether to board early and get settled (and have room for our bags) or to wait like we did and not have to sit on the plane for the extra time, but have to HOPE for room in the over-head bins. I’ll also arrange Nathan’s plane items into smaller bags that will fit under the seats better… that kind of stuff.
So, practice trip? Achieved! We will probably make plans for one more US trip; a reminiscent trip to Mineapolis/St. Paul and up to the Duluth area of Minnesota. It would also be a lot of fun to retrace our other vacation to Denver, Estes Park, and the Rockies in Colorado, especially since we could also visit some close friends down there and their son, a daycare friend, that we’d love to see again, BUT our true goal is to get to Europe, specifically England and France, and for a nice, long, two month trip. We’re starting to do a little research, and I can’t wait for the day, like with this Seattle trip, we can start officially making arrangements and can finally say, “We are actually doing this!”