Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Flying the slightly unfriendly skies

I was trying to come up with an appropriate analogy, but as child two happily informed me at the last possible minute that it needs a ride tomorrow morning clear across town (after child one had already signed me up as the family driver for 6:15) at exactly the time I need to be in a meeting at work I'm a bit distracted, so forgive me for the following.

Our last few months in Germany were like a too-small elastic waistband: an extended period of enormous strain and anticipation, then a snap and all hell breaks loose. From complete suspension we went to frantic activity - signing endless forms, packing up, and on the day before our flight was to leave, spending some desperate hours at the consulate forcing through passports for the two children.

Bored on your latest European vacation? May I suggest as a challenge taking photos of two wriggling children aged 3 and 1 using only a coin-fed kiosk. The photo cannot include any other face, and should be clear and recognizable, and full face. Our method was: Seat parent 1 inside kiosk. Place child on lap of parent one. Keep other child out of kiosk using either the hook-with-an-ankle method or the hang-off-one-hip method depending on length of child's arms. Feed coins into slot. Spend first two photos trying to get parent 1 high enough up to cut off the head and still keep child's face in frame. Spend next two fishing child off floor. Decide to get set first then feed the coins (we can be taught). Take two shots of back of child's head as it cranes around to see what the fuss is about, one blurred image of rapidly moving child as it slides off lap, one of parent 1's back as it grabs for escaping child. Parent 1 then gives up completely and parent 2 decides to show him how it's done properly with other child who is younger, crankier, and sporting a large pacifier which causes an unbelievably horrible sound when removed. With variations, this fun can be extended for hours, or until you run out of coins.

We flew back on a military flight which meant a commercial jet borrowed for the occasion. It's the only time I've ever done this, and I don't recommend it. There are no assigned seats. There's a general call (sort of like a starter's gun) and a mad dash for the door. Just try dashing with two small children and the accessories needed for sanity on an overseas flight. We did more of a harassed wobble that still ended us dead last. Fortunately some single guys traded seats with us so we could all sit together (probably because this put them at a considerable distance from our family and its potential noise and mess). By the time we settled in our seats it felt as though we had been sprinting for several days. The plane began its taxi, and we leaned back to listen to the bump and rattle of spare parts dropping off our aircraft. From the sound of things we'd probably lose a wing somewhere over Iceland - but that was okay because we were finally out, and heading home.

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