Take Off to Paris

Kids Watching Their Plane Land

After a day of packing, cleaning, and watching the San Francisco Giants beat the Phillies in the playoff game, we loaded the car with luggage and kids, and took off for the Hyatt Airport Hotel. Staying for one night at the hotel equaled ten days of free parking and a free shuttle to and from the airport. Plus, it meant waking up at 6am instead of 4am. Two extra hours of sleep equaled priceless.

We drove through thick fog, heavy traffic and  arrived at the hotel after dark. As soon as we parked the car in the front to register, the doorman opened our car doors and began unloading luggage. I unbuckled sleeping kids from their car seats, commanded them to stand next to the car! and  scrambled loose clothes together.

Ethan immediately burst into tears. I picked him up, he buried his face into my neck and hiccuped through sobs “I am sc-ar-ed.” While Aaron shuffled Ada, Chase and our luggage inside to the check-in counter I cuddled Ethan and we talked about new experiences and being brave and hey look at that fountain! Look at the glass ceiling! Please, look at anything cool so you’ll stop crying! Oh dear god, I thought. If he’s scared by arriving at a new hotel, we’re screwed tomorrow when he boards a plane.

Thankfully, he soon calmed down and we followed Aaron and the other kids to our room.  I quickly noticed that we were surrounded by sleek business travelers. And dang, don’t we look like we rolled outta the hills of Northern California.  Ada’s hair was tussled into a mouse nest from sleeping in the car. And since I packed the boys’ nice clothes, Aaron dressed them in leftovers at the bottom of the drawer, which meant they wore matching, hand-me-down camouflage shirts and pants. All we needed was Aaron in a trucker hat printed with “wine them, dine them, 69 them” and me cradling a 24-pack of Budweiser.

Happy to hide in our room, we ordered room service for dinner and plunked the kids in front of the TV watching cartoons. With the kids content  I slumped to the floor, filled out luggage tags, and fretted. About connecting flights in Dallas, kids fighting or crying on the plane,  and most importantly: what if taking three kids to Paris was a huge mistake?

Bright and early the next morning, our day of travel began with wild squeals of “we’ve never been on a bus!” Our hotel shuttle mates laughed and wished us good luck.  I was grateful for their good wishes because the next, and most stressful, phase of our journey was about to begin.

At the airport we checked our bags, received a handful of boarding passes, and headed toward security. The guard saw our herd of kids and gave us the “express lane” to the front of the line. The kids quickly took off their shoes and jackets and waltzed through the metal detectors. At the gate we watched planes take off while eating breakfast burritos and reading stories.  Much to my embarrassment, they also crawled around the other passengers meowing like cats and hiding under tables in their kitty-den (the first of many times they morphed into animals during this trip). Time fly by, and before we knew it our plane was ready to board.

Thankfully Ethan did not burst into tears. He happily took the window seat next to Chase and Aaron, and laughed with delight once the plane took flight.  I was sitting across the aisle with Ada. Months in advance, I had planned this seating arrangement, and giggled with delight believing I scored the quieter child. I even taunted the travel gods and had brought a book to read. Ha! Instead, I played countless games of Tic-tac-toe and Uno while listening to Ada whine “are we there yet?” The boys, on the other hand, quietly colored and played with their toys. They even turned drinking orange juice with a straw into a hour’s worth of entertainment. I quietly begged Aaron to switch places with me, but he ignored me. And read my book.

Boys on the plane

We landed in Dallas to transfer planes and took an easy five minute walk  to our next gate. We spent the next two hours chasing the kids on the moving sidewalks, hoping to wear them out for our final nine hour flight to Paris. And it worked. After keeping busy for the first few hours, they slept for the rest of the flight. As the plane  descended into Paris,  our immediate neighbors all took turns praising me for my kids outstanding behavior.

I was proud. My kids did it. We did it. To think: all those months of worry about an international flight with three children were unfounded. Perhaps this trip wouldn’t be as difficult as I thought! Little did I know that the real adventure was just about to begin.

Kids Running Down Street in Paris