Tag Archives: v australia

Travelling with a toddler is hard

15 Mar

1:45pm.  Hannah and I are on the airplane, enroute to Los Angeles from Sydney.  We just reached cruising altitude.  Ooooh, a meal cart is coming….  Guess I shouldn’t have eaten that McDonald’s lunch.  I didn’t think this flight was serving lunch.  Pretty sure the itinerary said dinner and breakfast, so lunch was a BONUS!!!  I always get excited when the food cart comes around.  There’s something fun about not knowing what you’re gonna get until the little cart gets to your seat and they give you a choice of 2-3 meals.  Meals that I didn’t have to cook or think about what to have or eat.  Score.

“I guess I shouldn’t have eaten lunch already.”  The lady next to me said.

“Yeah, me too, but I don’t care, I’m eating this anyway.”

“Yeah, me too!”

They brought the kids meal for Hannah first.  Two patties of greasy looking beef, a warm buttered roll, a non warm, non buttered roll with butter on the side, tater tots (potato gems) some fruit, yogurt, a piece of Cracker Barrel cheese, a piece of cake, a bag of chips, and of course, a Kit Kat.  Hmmm…  that’s a LOT of food!  Hannah ate the cheese and yogurt.  She poked the meat patty with her pudgy little finger, said “no,” and wouldn’t have a bar of the potato gems.    Of course I didn’t show her the chips, kit Kat, or cake.  She doesn’t need that sort of food.  Not that any of the other stuff was that much better, but whatever.

My meal was some sort of chicken with creamy sauce and rice, a rock hard bread roll, piece of cake, and some couscous on the side.  It seems the kiddies get way more food than the adults.  Interesting.

The flight was completely full.  Not a spare seat to be had anywhere.  Luckily, we were sitting next to a married (well, I assume) couple with a 14 month old daughter named Tilly.  Hannah and Tilly played together a lot, even sitting in their bassinets (that were right next to each other), passing a ball back and forth and giggling.  When Tilly went for a walk down the aisle with her parents, Hannah and I followed (if Tilly got to have a walk, Hannah wanted one too…).  They fought over toys and pointed at each other and said “Bubba.”  Ok, that was mostly Hannah, but you know.  It was great having another child Hannah’s age right next to her.

There were lots of kids on our flight.  Some of them would go for walks and say hi to the other kids on a regular basis.  The kids remembered where each other were sitting and deliberately went there to say hi and giggle.

All was well until around 5pm.  For some reason, V Australia decided 5pm was a good time to go to bed and turned out all the lights.  Hannah doesn’t go to bed at 5pm, so she continued to play.  Of course this was very difficult without much light, and the light I could turn on over my seat didn’t really extend to her bassinet (which she liked to sit and play in) or the floor.

“I wonder when they’re going to bring dinner?”  I asked the lady next to me.

“Yeah, I was wondering that too, I asked and they told me that they already served dinner.  ‘Dinner’ was the meal we thought was lunch.”

What?  How could that be?  Seems V Australia thinks that as soon as you enter the airplane, you’re on whatever time your destination is on.  Like people can adjust to that sort of difference on the plane.  Yeah, sorry, but it doesn’t work that way V Australia!

Since there was no dinner coming, I gave Hannah some pre-packaged toddler macaroni, meatballs and vegetables that I brought in case she didn’t want anything the airline had.  She wouldn’t even try it.  Humph.  She usually likes macaroni.  Instead, I made her some instant porridge (oatmeal) that I also brought as a back up.  She ate in between walks up and down the aisle of course.  Sitting and eating an entire meal is just not cool when you’re a toddler.

There was no way Hannah would lay in that bassinet and go to sleep on her own.  Nope, she could easily stand up and get out (fall out) if I left her in there to put herself to bed, so I had to do it the hard way.  I walked her up and down the aisle, patting her back while she cried and kicked, wanting down.  I got tired of walking, and I’m sure all the other passengers got tired of a screaming toddler going by, so eventually I stood in the emergency exit area (that was right in front/to the side of our seat), swaying back and forth, patting her back and willing her to go to sleep.

My arm got tired.  I think it may have been in danger of falling off.  Humph.  I sat back down and held her down on me while I patted her back.  She struggled and squirmed and tried her hardest to get down and play with her suitcase full of new toys that I got at the cheap shops and wrapped up so she would think of long flights as fun and full of presents (she did love opening all of them).  I stood up again, swaying and patting, annoying the daylights out of everyone around us.  The parents of Tilly (never did find out their names) were in the other aisle, doing the same.

The cycle of sitting/patting, standing/patting went on and on.  I seriously thought she may never go to sleep.  She will go to sleep, I kept telling myself, giving me the willpower to keep patting while she screamed and fought.  2 hours later, she was asleep.  I put her in the bassinet.  Phew, now I can relax.

I brushed my teeth, sat down with my headphones, and turned on some in flight entertainment.  Oh yeah, relaxing is awesome.  Especially awesome when Tilly was still screaming her lungs out and looked to be nowhere near sleeping.  And I thought Hannah would take longer.  Yeah, I was feeling pretty good about my mothering skills.

Then Hannah cried.  I was only 1 minute into my show.  Humph.

I held her on me, head on my shoulder, and patted and shusshed her some more.  She went back to sleep.  I waited a while.  I had to make sure she was really asleep.  I moved her to the bassinet.  5 minutes later, she woke again.  Humph.  Back on me she went.  She fell asleep again.  I waited a while, let her sleep on me.  But then I couldn’t feel my arm.  The danger of it falling off was clearly back, so I put her back in the bassinet.  She tried to stretch out.  Humph, she was too long for the bassinet.  Her little head hit the top of tit and went up the side.  She opened her eyes and looked at me, a mommy-why-do-you-keep-putting-me-in-here-why-don’t-you-just-let-me-sleep-what-is-wrong-with-this-bed, bewildered look on her face.  And then she cried.

Ok, so bassinet was out.  She was too big.  I patted her on me again.  Her little eyes stayed open.  She still laid on me, but she kept pointing to things and saying what they were “bubba,” “window,” “man there,” etc.  Once, she said “mommy cuddles.”  Yeah, that one made me smile and give her a big cuddle.  Still, I was on a mission.  I wanted her, needed her to go back to sleep.  I hadn’t had much sleep myself, and that was only intermittent sleep when I fell asleep with her on me for a few minutes at a time.  Plus, I knew how cranky and horrible the rest of the trip would be if she didn’t go to sleep.  She was trying really hard.  She laid on me for two hours, trying to go to sleep, tossing and turning and cuddling in.  Her eyes started getting heavy.  She was doing that thing where your eyes close and then you groggily open them again and they close again, the almost to sleep but not quite there thing.  Meanwhile, Tilly had been peacefully sleeping in her bassinet for quite a while.  Her dad was watching stuff on his laptop, her mum was having a snooze.

Then the lights went on.  It was 12:30 in the morning Sydney time.  Seriously, they were turning on the lights now. Hannah perked up straight away, any hope of sleep completely lost.  She immediately got down and started to play, a new energy pulled from who knows where running through her.

The loudspeaker came on telling us it was breakfast time.  What?  Are they insane, it was 12:30. The middle of the night.  I’m pretty sure no one wanted to eat.  I wasn’t hungry.  I had eaten some protein bars, potato chips, and that Kit Kat for dinner.  Hannah didn’t want any of the disgusting dry, weirdly high pancakes they served her.  My cheese, and spinach fritatta thing was pretty disgusting.  It pretty much tasted like cheese grease.  I did try to eat it.

Despite lack of sleep, Hannah was pretty good for the rest of the flight, only getting cross when we started to descend into LAX, meaning she had to stay put on my lap.

In LA, I put Hannah in the pram, pulled that with one hand, pushed my trolley full of luggage with the other, and went through customs.  She finally fell asleep after I dropped my bags off in the transit area and checked in for my next flight.

Then we got to the security checks.

“You’ll have to take her out of the stroller.”  The TSA workers told me as they looked at me like I was an idiot.

ARE YOU SERIOUS???!!!!!!!! I wanted to scream at them.  I was so tired and cranky I nearly cried.  How DARE they make me wake up my poor little baby who has only had  2 hours of broken sleep all night long.  How dare you! Do you know how long we’ve been flying?!  Do you know how little sleep she has had?  Are you retarded?  Can’t you see she is SLEEPING? Of course I said none of that.  Instead, I made a cranky face and grudgingly hurled all of my things on to the counter.  They even made me take out all the baby food, nappy cream, etc from my bag for x-ray.  They swabbed it all for explosives.  They made me take my shoes off and x-ray those too.  Not just me, this was for everyone. In Sydney, they asked me if I had any liquids in my bag.  I told them lots of milk and baby food and they x-rayed the bag.  They didn’t even want to see it.  I kept my shoes on, and went on my merry way.

“We need a hand check over here.”  The TSA lady said.

“Put it on the counter for x-ray.”  They told her.

“She can’t fold it up, she’s holding a child.”

So after all that, they were going to hand check the pram anyway???  Why not just do it with her in it?  Oh they made me cranky!  I know, national security and all, but after a 13 hour flight, hardly any sleep, and having to wake up my baby, national security could kiss my behind.

We boarded the flight to Seattle and Hannah started screaming straight away.  How embarassing.  This wasn’t just screaming, this was like that “I’m going to die” scream.  I must have looked pretty funny holding her down on me with all my might and patting her back.  I knew she was just tired and would eventually go to sleep.  She did.  She slept nearly the whole 2.5 hour flight.  Not that I could, I had to hold her in place so she didn’t fall and wake up.  Those seats didn’t recline nearly as well as the V Australia seats.  Not to mention they didn’t have infant seat belts like you have to have in Australia.  I asked the flight attendant for one and she looked at me like I was crazy.  “She just sits in your lap.”  She told me.  Hmmm.

By the time we got to Seattle, I was ready to curl up in a ball and cry/sleep, Hannah was crankier than I’ve ever seen her in her entire life and kept saying “home,” and nothing I did would make her happy.

Yeah, travelling with a toddler is hard.  Very hard.


Travelling is hard

17 Feb

So, as I told you before (well, I think I did, I do have baby brain, so I can’t really be sure), Hannah and I are going to the U.S. so she can meet my family for the first time.  I know, you’re thinking ‘but you’re pregnant, shouldn’t you wait until after you have the other baby so they can both meet your parents?’  Yeah, that seems like a good idea, BUT, then we’d have to pay 2 adult fares (because there is NO WAY I could handle 2 kids on a long flight and through airports all by myself), and a 75% child fare because Hannah will be 2 by then.  This way, we can get over there before the magical no-one-will-sell-you-travel-insurance 26 week mark, and it will be my parents turn to visit us next, so we’ll have many years to save up the enormous amount of cash it costs to fly a family of four overseas.  Hang on, it’s my parents turn to visit this time.  Hmmm….

Before we can travel, there were a few things we needed to take care of.   First off, I’m allowed to stay in the country, but I wasn’t really allowed to return if I left.  My visa expired….  Sigh, that means a trip to immigration, and a rather steep fee to get a Resident Return Visa.  Humph, I guess I should have just gotten my citizenship ages ago when I first took the test.  Oh well, live and learn.  Maybe I shouldn’t be so cheap.

I also had to get Hannah’s birth certificate so I could get her a passport.  Yeah yeah, I should have ordered a birth certificate when I registered her birth (as most people do), but that cost money, and I didn’t need it at the time, and I couldn’t be bothered filling out all the paper work.

Lucky for me, both the Births, Deaths, and Marriages, and the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (DIMIA) offices are in Parramatta.  I decided to get up early, and get to the BDM at opening time, 8am, then walk to DIMIA.  I was going to bring Hannah, but it was supposed to be ridiculously hot that day, so I left her at home with Grandma.

Getting the birth certificate was easy, I had it in hand by 8:10.  I walked to DIMIA, only to find that it had moved.  3 years ago.  Sigh.  Found the new office and discovered it didn’t open until 9.  Humph, I thought it opened at 8:30.  There were already 4 guys sitting in the only chairs available, waiting for 9am when we were allowed to go up the lift up to Immigration.  A security guard sat at a portable desk next to the elevators reading a magazine.  I assumed he was there to keep us foreigners out of the lifts before 9am, ensuring all the people who actually worked in the building could get up to their floors.  Not that he did a very good job.

A pair of immigrants came in and went in the lift.  I knew at a glance that they didn’t work there, but did the security guard say anything?  Nope, he was busy, reading his magazine.  They went up the lift and came back down a few minutes later, to loiter around with the growing number of the rest of us.

By quarter to 9, the lobby was pretty full of us immigrants.  I felt rather out of place being the only caucasian person, as well as the only person under 40ish in the entire room.  At 8:55, everyone suddenly made a mad rush for the elevators.  Not that we could go up yet.  There was nothing said.  It was just like BANG, and everyone rushed in.  I, of course, ended up near the back of the orderly-ish line, since I had been sitting near the chairs, not obstructing the path of the office workers getting to the elevators in any way.  A whole bunch of people were standing at the sides of the line.  The men who were there before me were also at the back of the line.  Seriously, what are these people thinking?  Why do they think they have the right to go first when some of us have been waiting for half an hour?

The security guard didn’t say a word.  His magazine was obviously very enthralling.

9am – the doors to the lift opened.  It was like there was a million dollars in the elevator and only one person, the first person in there, could have it.  Or maybe like a mosh pit when the band comes on stage.  Everyone surged forward.  The people at the sides of the line rushed in front.  Still, the security guard said nothing.  Instead, he started packing up, completely ignoring the chaos that was right in front of him.  All the foreigners were allowed upstairs now, there was no need for him, he could be on his merry way. What the heck did they employ him for?  He did nothing!  I wanted to yell at him.  I wanted to yell at all the rude people cutting in the line, pushing and shoving, desperate to be first to get up to immigration, to get in line there to take a number and do more waiting.

“Seriously people, I have been here for HALF AN HOUR!  And those guys over there?  Yeah, those ones.  They were here before me!  What makes you think you can waltz in here 5 minutes before opening time and shove your way in?”  Of course I didn’t say that because a) I’m a wuss bag b) I’m pregnant and didn’t want to be punched in the stomach, and c) they probably didn’t speak english anyway.  I HATE it when people cut in line!  It’s so rude!  Like when you’re at the bus stop and then the bus comes and a person who just got there jumps on the bus as soon as the doors open.  They of course get the last seat and you have to stand.  RUDE!  Lines people, it’s called a line for a reason. WAIT YOUR TURN!

Anyway, the immigration people were super nice to me and didn’t even look at my application form, opting instead to look at my passport, take my money and put in the new visa.  I was out of there before anyone else.  Haha suckers!

Then I had to fill out Hannah’s passport application form.  That was going well until I accidentally wrote my name instead of hers after filling it half way out.  Humph.  I traipsed all the way to the post office to get another one.  That one was going extremely well (haha, name box, you won’t get me again!) until the very end, when I witnessed Aaron’s signature and he witnessed mine.  Then I read that the witness has to be someone not related to the applicant, and not living in the same house hold.  Snap.  Guess I should read things before signing them.  I went all the way to the post office again to get a new form.

Third time lucky.  Finally, I got it right.  I went to get Hannah’s photo taken.  It looked pretty shocking, but whatever.  I went to pay. I rummaged through my purse.  Sigh, I forgot my wallet.  I told him I’d pick up the photos the next day and pay for them.  When I got home, I had a look at the photo guidelines.  Mouth must be shut, eyebrows must be showing.  Humph, her mouth was open, and her fringe was over her eyebrows.

The next day I went back.  I told them my concerns about the photos and the lady looked pretty annoyed.  Not at me, at the person who took them.  “You told him it was for a passport?”  “Yeah, I said ‘Hi, I need a passport photo for my daughter.'”  New lady was really nice and took better, acceptable photos of Hannah.  She had me put a little piece of food in her mouth so it would remain closed while she took her photo.

Phew, sent off the application.  I got it back today.  Yay!

I booked the e-tickets online.  When they hit my inbox, I nearly died.  Ok, not really, that’s an exaggeration, but you know.  The ticket said we get 3 pieces of luggage Sydney to L.A., but then none from L.A. to Seattle and Seattle to L.A.  What, was I supposed to haul everything all that way and then ditch it at the airport?  Sure, I used to work as a travel agent and know all about interline carriers and whatnot, but V Australia wasn’t around when I was a travel agent, and I remember clients coming in and telling me that they had to pay extra for bags in the U.S.  I’m pretty sure that those were separate flights, not all one ticket like mine, but I can’t remember, that was so long ago, and I have baby brain!

Many calls to V Australia later (they don’t seem to believe in holding until someone is available), and they told me it was a mistake, lucky I called otherwise Alaskan airlines might not have accepted our bags, and that they’d send me a new, correct ticket.  Awesome.  Still annoying though.

When I got Hannah’s passport, I had to apply for the visa waiver program for her.  Yeah, yeah, she could be a US citizen, but you know what?  That would mean I’d have to buy another passport, register her birth with the U.S. government, and get more photos taken (because the U.S. and Australia don’t use the same size photos for passports.  Annoying.).  Too much effort, too much money, no thank you.  She can do it later if she needs it for something.  The option is always going to be there.  Unless the U.S. suddenly hates Australia or something, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.

We now have all of our documents taken care of (well, I do need to actually print some things out, but I’ll do that later), and we will be on our way in less than a month.  Watch out Washington (state, not D.C., they are, in fact, different places, contrary to popular Australian belief), we’re coming for you!

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