Visiting Chicago with a Baby

I did it – I survived my Chicago trip.

For a minute there, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it!

As I previously wrote in 2 Goofballs & a Baby…on a Plane , I had the opportunity to go to Chicago for a week-long work conference. I was looking forward to the conference – since I’m new to the world of higher education it is really good for me to meet new contacts and learn as much as possible.

Yes, Jack is wearing his “Born in the USA” onesie — I thought it might get us through security faster…

I was also looking forward to the challenge of traveling with my 5 month old baby. He’s a pretty laid back little kid, so I was curious how he’d act both on the plane and in an unfamiliar place.

Looking back on my plan of attack, I did really well. I was super prepared and had pretty much the perfect amount of everything for baby care. I even ended up with extra diapers and outfits because he didn’t pee all over them like I expected.*

Our plan of totally hogging a row of the plane worked out really well (on our departing flight). We boarded between Group A and Group B, so when we got on I went all the way to the back of the plane and we took over the row in front of the bathroom. As expected, nobody wanted to sit by a baby so we were able to keep the space to ourselves!

Since it would be super boring for me to do a play-by-play of the entire trip, here’s the best and worst of it all:

This is Lindsay and Jack showing you how hot it is outside. Well, Lindsay is making a “Chicago is hot” face, but I think Jack is just staring at her boobs.

People Suck
Reason #1: Chicago is pretty crowded and it was super hot the week that we were there too. So I’m sure that everyone wasn’t exactly in the best mood as they were traipsing along on the sidewalk. However, when you’ve got a baby in a stroller you’re pretty limited as to where you can walk since you need to get that thing up the curb’s ramp on either side of the road.

So you can just imagine my fury when I was repetitively knocked into and pushed around! It got to the point that I would just yell out “GOING FOR THE RAMP” when in a crowd of people so that I wouldn’t have to pop a wheelie to get up the curb. Probably annoying to everyone around me, but whatever, it totally worked.

Reason #2: On our return flight we were so ready to just get on the shuttle and get home. When the first shuttle to our lot filled, the representative pointed us towards another shuttle that was pulling up to the curb. So, the entire group that was left trudged over to the new shuttle. While standing in line, a lady shoved my baby (in his carseat) aside so that she could get on with her group. Yeah, she SHOVED my baby. However, at this point I was so tired that I didn’t feel like opening a can of whoopass {I know, totally out of character for me!}. I ended up sitting next to her on the ride to our car and pretty much forgetting about it once we got off to go home.**

Waiting in line to get on our “standby” flight. Which was also the time that Jack decided he NEEDED his bottle.

People Rock
Reason #1:Throughout the entire week we ran into truly nice people. The hotel staff was phenomenal, I met lots of great people at my conference and even waiters/waitresses were super accommodating for Jack. I was so incredibly pleasantly surprised by how “small town” it felt to be in such a large city.

Reason #2: Our return flight was delayed by a couple hours, which would have us arriving home around 2:00 am. Yeah, not so great with a baby. We chanced it and arrived at the airport early to see if they could switch us onto an earlier flight and the awesome people of Southwest Airlines hooked us up. We were able to fly out around 7:00 pm and Jack and I got home around 11.

Shit Happens {Literally}
I stuck with my plan to change Jack’s diaper right before we boarded the plane. However, within about 15 minutes, Jack decided that it would be a wonderful time to drop a number two. Awesome. Of course, the bathroom with the changing table is located in the very front of the plane (and we were all the way at the back), but it was surprisingly not that terrible to use.

Fast forward a few days…Jack has not pooped the entire trip. UNTIL the plane takes off for our return journey. Yup, within about 5 minutes Jack decides to stink up our entire row and we had to sit there forever until the seatbelt light went off (actually I got up before the light went off and was instructed to sit back down, oopsie). I guess that just goes to show you, you can’t really plan with a kid!

Teething Bites
Remember how I told you that Jack was a laid back baby? Yeah, well not so much when he’s teething. Which he started on Tuesday. I got a frantic “he won’t stop screaming” text from Lindsay about 2 hours before my classes ended. So, we scooped Jack up and ran to Walgreens where we loaded up on Infant Advil, Baby Orajel and Teething Tablets. The poor guy was screaming his head off in pain, but stopped the exact instant I touched his gums with the Orajel. Thank god for medicine!

Between the Orajel and Advil, most of Jack’s pain was kept under control. However, one evening the ache came on really strong and fast and he had a baby freakout while waiting for the medicine to work. Thankfully once the medicine kicked in he went down for an early bedtime and we were able to get takeout to enjoy in our room while watching True Blood.

Week O’ Fun
Even with the conference, the extreme heat and Jack’s teething, we were still able to have lots of fun. We ate some incredibly delicious food (favorites were tapas and an amazing sushi place), saw some sights (loved the Navy Pier at night!), had lots of yummy drinks and did a good bit of shopping too! It was lots of fun, but also super exhausting which is why I totally crashed the entire weekend that I was home.

So, when I say I survived the trip – I truly feel like I deserve some sort of medal for getting through it! Thank goodness I had Lindsay there with me, otherwise there is absolutely no way I would have gotten back home in one piece.

I can’t believe that in only a few days I need to pack up and leave again. But this time it will be just me going to NYC for the BlogHer conference. Just ME! This will be my first time away without my baby and I’m almost indecently excited to sprawl out across the bed in my hotel room and only worry about myself for a couple days!

Here’s some more pictures from our trip:

At some fancy sushi restaurant called Friendly Sushi which had the BEST sushi I’ve had EVER. As you can tell, even Jack wants a piece!
This is how I keep Lindsay happy!

Jack loves his lion souvenir! And you would not believe how many times it took for me to type “souvenir” for spellcheck to figure out what the heck I was trying to say.
The hotel provided us with a crib for a midget. It took Jack about 1.82 minutes to scooch himself to the top of the crib and get his head squished at the end.
And this is where Jack usually ended up.
Bubba Gump…YUM!
Apparently my drink took too long to come and I decided to eat the bucket?

*If you don’t have kids, you’re wondering how on earth a baby pees all over their outfit. I know, I totally thought the same thing. I mean, they ARE in a diaper, right?! Anyways, now that I actually have a little rugrat of my own, I realize that they are magical beings that can somehow pee OUT THE SIDE of a diaper with no warning at all!

**This happened on Friday night. On Sunday morning I went to the Tot Swap and the moment I walked in the door a lady came over to me. The SAME LADY from the shuttle. She said that she really wanted to apologize for shoving in front of me in line to get on the shuttle. She was trying to stay with her group, but that was no excuse for her to get in front of me. She said that she realized that she “acted like a total bitch” and felt guilty all weekend long. I was absolutely flabbergasted, what are the chances that she’d run into me again?!

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2 Goofballs & a Baby… on a Plane

I love to travel.

Not just love it, fully LOVE IT!*

I daydream about the trip, figure out what to do in the area, plan out my packing list like a military strategy, and wake up the morning of the trip with a sloshy stomach of anticipation.

It doesn’t really matter whether it is a family cruise, road trip to the beach, or a work conference, I fully enjoy leaving town to mix up my days. I especially enjoy staying in a snazzy hotel somewhere for a full change of scenery and have gotten my packing list streamlined down to a reusable excel spreadsheet.

Which is all well and good, but what do you do when you add a baby to the mix?

I have a wonderful opportunity to go to a week-long conference for work. It will not only be a super educational workshop that will benefit the work side of my brain, it is also in Chicago… a place I’ve never visited. And I freaking love going to new places!

However, I have a 5 month old baby. I guess I could leave him home with my husband, but I have a feeling that my sweetie’s head might implode if he had to work 12 hour days, take care of the baby every night and then do it over again with no help. So, I decided to bring Jack with me.

No, I’m not going to stick him in my Baby Bjorn during the daily presentations and scribble notes over his head. I’m bringing one of the awesomest friends in all the land, Lindsay, to hang out with Jack while I’m in class. Then, once my presentations are done each day we can go out and have fun – exploring the city and finding fun places to eat.

I’m actually totally looking forward to the trip, since it’s kind of like a mini girl’s vacation. And last time we did that we had such an amazing time we ended up coming home with an unplanned tattoo and piercings. Oopsie.

But as much as I’m looking forward to the trip, I’m also a little bit intimidated because I’ve never traveled with a baby. This will be our first overnight trip away from home AND our first plane ride. Jack is typically a pretty awesome baby, but I have to assume that at some point he’s going to freak out and I’m just waiting for that day.

I’m pretty comfortable grabbing Jack up and going out the door for a full day of stuff, so I’m trying really hard to keep it in my mind that it shouldn’t be too much harder than that. Right? Or am I totally insane?

Anyways, here are my initial thoughts on how I’m going to do this and keep my sanity at the same time:

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
My diaper bag is usually pretty well stocked, but I’m going to make sure to have a couple extra onesies, diapers/wipes, and bottles ready to go in case I need to be quick-draw-Joules and whip them out at a moment’s notice. We’re going to be checking the stroller and car seat at the gate, so I got one of those car seat bags to keep it clean while it’s under the plane. I’ve requested a crib for the hotel room and plan to confirm that again the day before we arrive.

This is Jack having a happy dance party. Notice the smizing eyes, pursed lips and flailing blurry hands. This is the opposite of how I want him to appear when other people get on the plane!

Be THAT girl
I’m flying Southwest, so we will be seated by rows based on our boarding group. I know that families with children are typically able to board first and we plan to use that to our advantage. If the flight isn’t full, Lindsay and I are going to spread out on the window and end seat of a row leaving one seat in between us. When other passengers see me with Jack on my lap in the end seat, they’ll just keep on walking. NOBODY wants to sit near a baby on a plane! Hmmm…maybe I can time his morning bottle so that he’s really grumpy when the plane is loading up…

Let’s be Low Maintenance
I plan on changing Jack’s diaper right before we board the plane. Since it’s only a 2 hour flight, he should be fine for the duration without any awkward mini bathroom changing sessions. Of course, if a random blowout occurs, all bets are off.

Figure Out How Much to Pack
I’m going to try really hard to just have one large suitcase for me and Jack to share. With wrestling a baby, stroller/car seat, carry on diaper bag, and more through the airport, having more than one bag might put me over the edge. However, just the amount of diapers, wipes and formula needed are kind of freaking me out. I’m planning to call the hotel and find out how far the nearest Rite Aid/Walgreens/Whatever store is so that I can just pick up a pack of diapers and wipes while I’m there. It’s only 5 days, so I’m trying to keep it as streamlined as possible!

Bring Important Stuff
I know I have to bring Jack’s birth certificate in order for him to fly. I also will be bringing his favorite giraffe pacifier, bottles, dish detergent, a couple clip-on baby toys and his Baby Bjorn. Oh, and extra outfits for him too. But is there something else I’m forgetting?

My Secret Weapon
Whenever I start to get freaked out thinking of what could go wrong on the trip, I remember that Lindsay will be there! When I describe her as awesome, I fully mean it. Not only is she a great friend to me, she also makes my life easier by anticipating ways to help out before I even think of them. So if I wander away without my bright orange suitcase by my side because I’m too focused on how to find the shuttle bus while also looking for a Starbucks because I need a caffeine fix and oooh is that something shiny? I know that Lindsay has my back!

So I’m feeling mostly excited for the trip and a little bit unprepared too, but I think we’ll survive it. Do you have any tips or suggestions that will help our very first trip go smoothly?

Also, if you’ve been to Chicago, do you have any recommendations of fun stuff to do in the Magnificent Mile area? I mean, it’s called the MAGNIFICENT mile, so it must be pretty awesome, right?

Let me know your thoughts by commenting here, on my facebook page or tweet me at @JoulesDellinger.

*Imagine me staring at you with crazy eyes while forcibly saying LOVE IT. That’s kind of how it sounds in my head.

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The Yea & Nay of Our Caribbean Cruise

As I previously mentioned, my husband and I went away for a last minute vacation cruise right after Thanksgiving.

After a super stressful Fall, we were looking forward to the chance to get away before the beginning of the crazy holiday season. The fact that we were limited on when we could travel due to my pregnancy (they will not allow you to cruise after 24 weeks), meant we had to jump on the cruise train – um, boat – as quickly as we could.

So, although we were self proclaimed Royal Caribbean snobs, we decided to take a chance on a 7 day Carnival cruise to the Western Caribbean. The price was right, the timing was right, so we went for it.

All in all, our vacation was awesome! We had plenty of time to relax, hang out with each other and eat a ton of food. The food was especially great because I could totally blame any weight gain on the baby having a growth spurt!

The Yea

The customer service was excellent! Everyone from the room stewards to the servers at dinner really made you feel welcome and as if they really did love their jobs. As a customer, it is so nice to have positive people around you who are actually disappointed when you don’t order more than one dessert.

Two of our stops were absolutely gorgeous – Belize and Isla Roatan in the Honduras islands. We went on a jungle hike in Belize and then floated down the river for our cave tubing excursion.

In Honduras, we took a chair lift (just like the kind you use to go skiing) to the beach and enjoyed the clear water and warm sand. There was nothing I would have changed about either of those days, they were perfect!

The view from my lounge chair in Honduras

 

My husband is awesome. Not to brag (okay, just a little), but I really chose wisely when I married Travis. By the end of each day my mouth hurt from smiling and laughing so much. The chance to spend 7 uninterrupted days with him was priceless.

Travis & Me before our cave tubing adventure in Belize

 

Did I mention the food? The last time I cruised on Carnival I remember thinking that Royal Caribbean’s food was so much better. Not this time, there were tons of buffet options, delicious FREE room service and amazing dinners each night. The fact that it was all included in our original price was even better, because you could order what you want and not what you felt like you could afford.

The Nay

The weather. As much as you’d like the weather to be perfect and sunny for your entire vacation, sometimes that just doesn’t happen. On this trip, we had a couple rainy days. On our stop to Cozumel, Mexico it was so overcast that we abandoned our plan of going to the beach and just did some exploring and guacamole-eating in a fun bar. Of course, the positive side of this is I’m pretty sure that this is the first vacation in my entire life where I didn’t end up with random sunburn.

The rocking ship was not awesome. I don’t know if it was due to the time of year we cruised, our itinerary, or the weather, but our ship was rocking like a teenager’s car at Makeout Point.  I pride myself on my stomach of steel and have never, ever gotten seasick. Unfortunately that streak is now broken due to a ship that rocked so hard that the pool was sloshing onto the deck and our room was creaking. Travis was feeling a bit green too, but it was pretty much under control with some seasickness pills. I’m going to blame my seasickness on the baby, perhaps he’s seasick, not me…

The flight home was AWFUL! My husband is 6’4” and flying is typically pretty uncomfortable for him, so I usually take the middle seat to give him a little more room to stretch out in the window or aisle seat. The flight to Miami was so cramped that we decided to upgrade to first class on the way back, but it was full so we resigned ourselves to a slightly cramped ride back.

This would have been totally fine, if the person who sat down on the other side of me wasn’t a 350ish pound man. He literally overflowed from his seat, over my arm rest into my area. Once he sat down, my left arm was pinned and I couldn’t move it to lift a drink to my mouth or turn the page of my Sky Mall magazine.  He was so large that he couldn’t put down the little tray in front of him, so he balanced his family-sized boxes of Pizza Hut wings and cheese breadsticks on his stomach and then proceeded to eat every one of them within about 6 inches of my face.

Now I’ve been pretty lucky with my lack of morning sickness until this point, but I truly thought that I was going to hurl. I can not believe that the airline did not require him to purchase two seats. The moral of this story is that we are definitely splurging on business class tickets next time we fly!

So the trip was totally worthwhile and we would definitely do it again with the one change of upgrading our flight. Oh yeah, and a little extra for the “Yay” column:

While in my post-vacation haste to do laundry, I accidentally threw a few pairs of clean, coupled socks into the washer and then dryer. So when I was folding the load of laundry later that evening it was as if happy little laundry ninjas* had started folding for me. While appreciated, I’d really like them to finish what they started and do the whole load…

*These are apparently the opposite of those douchy sock stealers who live in the dryer.

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