I’m baaaaaack! From Spain, that is. I managed to squeak out a few posts while I was gone (it’s amazing how fast you can blog without kids!) As you can probably imagine, I took way too many pictures for a single post. After all, I do that taking my kids for a walk to the park. So I’m breaking it up into six posts over the next week! So here we go!
I’d been daydreaming about our Spanish vacation for months, especially when we booked the trip back in December and I realized it was actually happening. But work, dogs, kids, holidays, birthdays, daycare, and all the planning that accompanies our busiest time of year left no available time for vacation planning. I mean, I worked 60 hours the week of my departure, starting on Monday and ending on Thursday, if that’s any indication of how busy I’ve been. No time to pack until the night before the trip when my open suitcase and empty carry-on sat on the floor of our bedroom underneath the window sill starting at me. My alarm is set for 3:30 am – do I clean the dusty windowsill or pack my bag? Does anyone else suffer from these mental struggles? Focus Kourtney, you need to pack. So I did. I was so grateful I found the time to go shopping with my bestie Katie back in December before the craziness. We had the most fun girls day with Julia down in Wilmington. The kind where we set early alarms, drop Mitchell at daycare, make a plan of action, and pre-game with a Chic-Fil-A breakfast, much to Julia’s delight. And it’s a good thing we did because otherwise my packing situation would have been much more complicated. When you gain 30 pounds of pregnancy weight… Twice in two years… Thankfully shed it… And have a job where you never wear casual clothes. Needless to say, my everyday wardrobe was extremely grateful for our shopping trip. I could have worn yoga pants and the hubby’s t-shirts the whole time and he wouldn’t have cared, but after six months, I wanted to look a little cute!
The logistics of international travel came together with ease, compared to the craziness of our last trip to Kansas for Thanksgiving, HERE. That was my most difficult trip to date, so it felt foreign experiencing a little of the relaxation everyone else always seems to exude in public transportation hubs. I.E. Airports. Best achieved without traveling with children, but they make the experience oh-so-exciting at the same time. We spent Julia’s actual birthday night doing day care pick-up and doggie kennel drop off. We’ve been using a sweet lady named Sharon to board our dogs for four years now, and the peace of mind I have when I leave them behind is worth every penny. My mother-in-law also boards her dog there when she visits, so Zoe and Loki had their cousin pup, Annie, to play with too! My mother-in-law arrived via road trip the day before my departure with Chic-Fil-A dinner in hand. I promise we are not fast food junkies, despite what this particular post may lead you to believe thus far. We grabbed her a visitor driver pass with the special letter allowing her a few extra days on base since my trip was so long, and headed home. Installed carseats in her car. Glossed over the novel I typed up for her with local contacts, including all three of our babysitters, doctor information, things to do, daycare information, and a bunch of other totally unnecessary instructions she didn’t need because she’s watched them 100 times before. Side note – we could have left the kids with either set of grandparents, who are both totally willing and capable of giving them a week full of stability, spoiling, and love, something we definitely don’t take for granted. I reassured her if and when she reached the point of hair-pulling, whether it be pulling her own hair out or the kids pulling her hair, she could drop them off at daycare for the day and have adult nap time. And she reassured me with a look telling me my instructions were excessive while showing me all the thoughtful activities she had planned. They were in excellent hands. Call me a crazy mom, but it was the first time I left either of them for a whole week and I wanted to make sure I had all of my bases covered. And the outfield.
So. Home was ready. I left the next morning wondering if this is what Steve feels like when he leaves for deployment. I can’t even begin to understand what it is like for him to leave his own family for the better part of a year, time after time, to help take care of others. Thinking about how much he trusts me to take care of our home while he is gone, makes me want to handle the homefront with grace and strength that much more. I made the early morning trip to the Raleigh airport. That two-and-a-half hour drive can be a drag, but it was worth it this time with the options for connections. And every once in awhile its nice to have a few hours to jam to Taylor Swift with some heated seats, coffee (hot chocolate for those of us who are still ten at heart but want to look grown up), and some stale birthday donuts leftover from Julia’s party. I made it to Raleigh in plenty of time, caught my flight to JFK, and then Madrid, flashing my passport like it wasn’t the first time I’d used it.
Let’s talk about the Madrid airport for a second. Nicest airport I’ve ever been in, hands down. Not only is it beautifully designed with the time estimates for how long it will take you to walk to your next gate on every sign, a full shopping mall, and super clean, but they have BUILT IN PLAYGROUNDS between gates. And all the parents say, “Hallelujah!” The most genius, easy to navigate airport in the world, according to Kourtney. Way easier than JFK, and that’s even in English! If I ever had the option to connect in Madrid again, 10 out of 10 times I would say yes. Okay, back to the trip.
I wanted to hug the group of American girls departing for their study abroad who asked me where I was studying. When I told them I was traveling to see my husband, they asked where he was studying abroad. Maybe that’s what I’ll start calling his deployments. “Studying abroad.” Ha! But this tired mom of two enjoyed a little ego boost, even if it was probably only because I was wearing yoga pants, a North Face backpack, and carrying a Vera Bradley duffel, the tried and true college girl uniform. And not because I still actually look 21 years old.
After my overnight mile high snooze, I made a quick connecting flight on a puddle jumper to Seville, my final destination. By this time, it was the next morning and the sun was coming up. My bag popped up on the claim train immediately, and I was still in shock that my trip was going so – dare I say it? – easy.
I walked outside to the taxi stand and saw a row of taxis waiting for arriving passengers. That was me. I am foreign to taxis. I grew up in a tiny little country town in Kansas, and even after moving to the suburbs, we never took them. Like maybe twice in my life at Disney World. I avoid big cities like the plague. So when my first questions was, “Do you speak English?” was answered with laughter from the huddle of taxi drivers, I mustered some form of, “Do you know where the Hilton is? Can you take me there?” in my best Spanglish. I was grateful for the eight years I studied Spanish in school, and less grateful for the subsequent eight years I had to forget it. But my cab driver chatted me up anyway, took me directly to my destination, and thought it was pretty darn funny when I excitedly told him, “Tienes Costco! Conozco Costco.” Roughly translated: You have Costco! I know Costco.
I was grateful my room was available for early check-in. The hotel breakfast was delicious, and after I filled up on churros, I took a much-needed shower and nap. Our travel plan was for me to arrive on Saturday mid-morning, even though Steve’s official leave didn’t start until Sunday late afternoon. It didn’t affect my work schedule at all to leave a day early, and this way I would be rested instead of sleeping the next afternoon away. I hit up the gym for a relaxed workout, which included a two mile warm-up run with seven minute splits. Apparently I was excited about the trip because I don’t run that fast, or really run at all. I hadn’t really run since my first half marathon, back HERE. But I’ll take it. A quick work out, and I grabbed dinner at the hotel restaurant.
And then a full night’s sleep, not expecting to wake up to a knock at the door at 6:00 am. From my husband who got permission to leave a little early to surprise me that morning! Which meant we got to spend a whole extra day together! All that work and travel leading up to the trip was totally worth it, the six months of deployment separation was completely forgotten, and our big Spanish vacation was finally happening!
1. A Day in Seville
2. Dune Buggy Tour of Marbella
3. Hiking the Rock at Gibraltar
4. Mediterranean Sea
5. Hiking El Caminito Del Rey
LOTS of (fancy camera) pictures to sort through still, but stay tuned! 🙂