Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Our Epic, Crazy, Wonderful Summer Trip - Part One

Most summers, my family makes the trek from Georgia to Massachusetts to visit family and friends. Last year we skipped that trip, though - too pricey, too far, just too draining. This year thanks to the timing of a family wedding, the generosity of a relative, plus some careful budgeting, we chose to go. And this time, instead of driving (two 11-ish hour days, usually broken up by a stop in Virginia to visit friends), we chose to fly.

My daughter hadn't flown since she was just shy of six months old - pre-diagnosis and pre-...a lot of things. So we weren't entirely sure what to expect. We wound up being scandalously late to our gate on our way out of Atlanta, but that may have been a good thing not a bad - it was the morning and we had no time to sit around and for her to get squirmy. We got through security (honestly, it was incredibly straightforward - I went through a metal detector, the agents swabbed my hands and my daughter's, my husband went through the metal detector too, they swabbed the walker, and they wished us well) and rushed our way essentially right onto the plane, gate-checking the walker on the way without issue. The flight was unremarkable - mostly my kid entertained herself with her iPad and with walks to the bathroom (which she didn't actually ever use, but it gave us all something to do). She didn't want her talker, so it was stowed away - which was also fine, because it was broken.

Ah, the talker. The AAC device. The VL2. I love it so very much. It has changed her life and it has improved her verbal language. But it's a machine, and machines break. And of course they always seem to break at the most inconvenient time, right? (Mercury is also retrograde - which will come into play again later in my vacation story.) We had been having some power/battery issues for a few months - at one point I'd requested a repair but was emailed a fix instead, which was fine and which held everything together - until the week before we left for this trip, when it became apparent that the talker really needed a professional to look at it. It would randomly shut itself off and then brick. To turn it back on, we had to plug it in, at which point it would reboot itself and work again...until the next time.

Thankfully, what comes with a pricey standalone device is an excellent warranty and a slew of support people behind it. We requested the repair and asked for the loaner device to be sent to my father-in-law's house (a great system - they send the loaner and a pre-paid return slip in a reusable box, easy peasy). I did have a pang of regret that we hadn't bought the LAMP app when it was on sale a few months ago, but my kid is used to her talker and I suspected we would've gone back to the same iPad issues we always have. The scary part about the loaner is that we are responsible for it. Completely. But these machines are tough so I'm trying not to worry about it too much.

There was one blip in this otherwise simple process. I realized that someone would need to be home to sign for the package, so I called FedEx and asked for the package to instead be held at the local office (skipping the attempted delivery step). The woman on the phone confirmed this with me, and looking up the tracking information online confirmed this as well. Then I worried that we would have a hard time picking it up because I had put it in my FIL's name, so I had him write us a note with some additional information. Then I worried because that's what I do. But hey, Mercury, thanks - instead, FedEx delivered the package to the house anyway and luckily someone was home to sign for it. So that was much easier but also not what I asked for. But the loaner was acquired and reprogrammed within seconds (I love that) and the precious purple talker was shipped away (and it has been received safely).

The trip itself was a blur of visits - family, friends, and a wedding. Some highlights:

Starring my sister-in-law Heather and popcorn maven Glynnys.
A stop at Corn & Co in the Burlington Mall. If you live in Massachusetts or anywhere that makes the mall easily accessible, GO. I have been excited to visit the new venture from Heather and her husband Bobby (and others behind the scenes) and I do like popcorn, but I didn't expect to absolutely love what they are doing. They have some straightforward, yet carefully crafted, cheese flavors available. They have plain. They also have Thai chili. Ketchup. A mix that tastes like hamburgers. A candy-coated smores blend that has this delightful smoky undertone to it. A double rainbow blend (yes, I sang the song) that is fruity and wonderful. Everything is allergen free, the corn they use is non-GMO, it's all vegetarian (except the seasonal ham flavor - but the bacon is veg!). I may have eaten a lot of popcorn over the course of our trip.

Visits with the grandmothers - including a trip to Moe's in Chelmsford, MA, that involved drinking a batch of sweet tea that had been made with salt. Moe's, if you see this, I am extremely disappointed in both that experience (shrugged off by the workers) and the fact that nobody answered my complaint online (a simple "We're sorry!" would really be enough). Anyway. Each grandmother visit also included a cast of characters - siblings and cousins and step-relatives and more. Busy busy busy.

A trip to Bedford Farms ice cream so that I could get my beloved Chunky Chocolate Pudding. It was as delicious as I remembered, but the cone was so large that I only managed to eat half - the second half was my treat the next day. 

Visits with friends:

We met up with Melanie at Watch City Brewery where I had the infamous nacho dip (oh, did I mention I decided to relax my Weight Watchers journey for this trip - spoiler alert, I've learned my lessons very well and my weight stayed largely the same throughout the trip despite indulgences like this dip). I also had a really lovely beer that I can't find on the website - it was raspberry something and it was light and crisp. Mel and I didn't stop talking until my husband pried us apart.

We then made our way to Marissa's place where we were introduced to the amazingness that is Parcel Ghost. I am not sure if I can do Parcel Ghost justice but I will try - he stars in a zine that is all about the many ways you can send and have fun with mail. Mail is such a lost art - I used to send epic letters wrapped in beautiful handmade envelopes. Now, I confess, it's much easier to write a two sentence email - but Parcel Ghost has reminded me that it's much more fun to send a postcard. The Parcel Ghost zine really needs to be blown up into a full children's book in my opinion, and you should order a copy for everyone you know - and then mail it in some special way to each and every person.

While visiting Marissa, my daughter pulled - one by one, in a very methodical way - every single CD off a shelf to hand to Marissa. It actually wound up being a lovely trip down musical memory lane and Marissa was incredibly gracious as she sat talking to me and creating a pile of CDs that reached her chin. I also ogled all of Marissa's graphic novels (next thing to order: Nicole Georges' Calling Dr. Laura - I need this). We ended the visit with sushi at a local place that had the most incredible kids' plate for my picky child - she actually ate all of it (chicken, fruit, rice).

Then off to the wedding, which was a blast. There was a photo booth available and yes, I was in and out of it all night.

The wedding also was an opportunity to see relatives from all over the country and to either introduce them to my kid or have her see them again - and to show how much progress she's made. Good times.

This got long, so stay tuned for Part Two: NYC and Beyond!

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