There is a possibility that this isn’t going to be interesting to anyone but me. But, the truth is, when you live in a foreign country and then you get to travel home for a whole month and do nothing but party with family and friends, it is a pretty magical experience. When I left, I was nervous about traveling with the kids by myself, and I was also feeing pretty thoroughly burned out. When I came back, my bucket was full and I was ready to tackle my life again. Mission accomplished.
I didn’t take any pictures at the airport — too nervous I suppose — but I had managed to pack light (4 suitcases, a stroller, a carry-on for each person) considering there were six of us and we would be gone for weeks, and things couldn’t have gone more smoothly on the front end. I was worried about going through immigration in Santiago, knowing that they would need to see our plane tickets, passports, birth certificates, Chilean ID cards, a legal document that gave me permission to leave the country with the kids but without Matt, and whatever that little paper is they make you fill out for each person (and then you have to not lose it, because you need it when you come back). All of that times six. And if they asked me a question about it in Spanish, I knew my odds were maybe 50/50 of being able to answer. Thankfully, this part of the gauntlet happens before security, and Matt just went right up to the counter with me. Also, a tender mercy, our bishop’s wife and 13 year-old daughter were on our flight, and I knew would be able to lend a hand if anything went awry.
Everything went without a hitch, so we kissed Matt goodbye and got ready for the security hassle, where we always hope people will find us amusing and not annoying. In Chile they tend to put you to the front of the line when you have small children (Why don’t they do that in Utah? Because half the people in line have small children!) and now that more than half of my kids can get their own shoes back on, we’re pretty smooth.
At this point, we’re old pros at entertaining ourselves/sleeping on the long overnight flight — except Ben, who, with rare unrestricted access to his Nintendo DS, is capable of staying up ALL NIGHT. Everyone had a little bag of really junky snacks (think pringles and bubble gum) which makes it extra fun. Our only problem happened a couple of hours in, when Thomas woke up delirious and cross and screamed at the top of his lungs for about half an hour. I was literally shoving m&m’s into his mouth trying to get him to settle down, but he was totally irrational and eventually just burned himself out and slept the rest of the night.
Once we arrived, I swapped my cell phone’s SIM cards (love that I can do that), called Matt’s mom who was already waiting for us, crammed our luggage into her minivan, and we were home before we knew it.
The kids had made a big list of places to go and people to see, so once we had settled in for a day and eaten an entire pound of cheddar cheese (not exaggerating) we hit the ground running. First stop, Museum of Ancient Life.Jon really wanted me to take a picture that made it look like the shark was about to eat him. Mary, by contrast, made me carry her through that room with her head buried in my shoulder — won’t even look at the fake shark.
In an effort to wear Granny Vicki out, we followed the museum with a trip to Carl’s Jr., the favorite fast food with a play place place, and then a movie — Kung Fu Panda II. Note to self: Thomas still can’t sit through a movie. Other note to self: as cute as Jack Black is, I can barely sit through even the best of cartoon movies (it’s kind of like how I can’t figure out grown-ups who are at Disneyland without kids — is it just me?). And by the end of that day, we were all exhausted, but Granny was fine — she has unbelievable energy for a person in her general age range.
There was a weekend with church and a big family dinner, and then Monday morning, we sent Sam off for a week at scout camp with his old buddies — wish I had taken a picture of them — 4 cute 13-year-old boys, all in braces.
And then, we were off to the zoo! Did you see my cute sister-in-law Holly with baby Eliza? My kids have FOUR new cousins since Christmas and we saw them all on this trip. Three of my best friends have new babies too, and parenthetically, I’m not even a little bit jealous. Fun to hold cute babies, though!
We followed the zoo with stops at both 7-11 (no slurpees in Chile) and Shivers (for locally-owned deliciousness — perfect for kids, so look it up if you’re in SLC and want burgers and milkshakes). And then, because the day hadn’t been magical enough, we were lucky enough to hit the annual Lucy family magic show/block party. Ben was even lucky enough to be a volunteer, and because he is 11 but still takes everything literally, he was HILARIOUS. This is such a good idea for a block party — I wrote about it once before. They hire the same guy every year, and we still aren’t tired of his jokes.
The next day, after a much-needed haircut for moi, we managed to pack in a visit with cousins wherein we swapped three boys for two girls, and took the girls to Discovery Gateway, Utah’s excellent Children’s Museum. This was a perfect swap, because my (extremely patient) sister-in-law Robin took the big boys (who have kind of outgrown children’s museums) to do something exhausting (a big jumping place). And we met up with some other cousins at the museum. And the day after that, we met up with two families who have already left Chile — we’re quickly realizing that being ex-pats means making friends fast and saying goodbye over and over again. It’s awesome and terrible. Sure love those guys.
That was just the first week! The next morning, my sweet, sweet mother-in-law got in her minivan with me and four kids and we made the long trek to my hometown.