Welcome to the Wandering Drays!

Not all who wander are lost...

Welcome to my blog dedicated to my family and our crazy foreign service life. Never content with staying in one place, we are excited to share our journey. We've survived two unaccompanied tour (Baghdad 2010-2011 and Baghdad again in 2015-2016), multiple TDYs, and enjoyed a two-year family assignment in Cairo, Egypt. The fab hubby is currently learning Turkish for our next assignment...Istanbul, Turkey! We leave for Turkey sometime in summer 2017. I write about what I know. Which is mainly kids, tween drama, gross pets, dealing with lots of government info, our moving adventures, being a nurse, yoga, running, living on too-little sleep, and an addiction to coffee lattes. I hope you'll enjoy this glimpse into our lives.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

How United Airlines Made Me Cry

4:00AM in Dulles Airport.
Courtesy of United Airlines.

Last week, I blogged about the heinous travels from Cairo to Orlando that our family endured.  If you missed it, you can catch up by reading it right here.

But what I'm about to write about will make that travel ordeal look like puppy dogs and rainbows.

Last Thursday, we packed up the kids and the luggage, checked out of our timeshare condo, and headed to Orlando International Airport.  Our flight was scheduled to leave at 6:30PM.  We were to fly on UNITED AIRLINES from Orlando to Dulles (Washington, DC) to Pittsburgh.  Our travels were to supposed look like this:

*Fly out of Orlando at 6:30PM; arrive at Dulles at 9:00PM.  Flight out of Dulles at 10:00PM.  Arrive in Pittsburgh at 11:00PM.

*Be picked up at airport by fab hubby's parents, collect luggage, and head to their house.  Crash out for the rest of the night.


Here's what really happened.  Curtesy of the one and only UNITED AIRLINES.

*On the way to the Orlando Airport  check on flight.  Flight has been delayed by one hour.  Realize that we won't be able to make it to our connecting flight in time.  Panic sets in (at least for me; fab hubby is always fabulously relaxed).

*Wait in-line at UNITED AIRLINES check-in for a monstrous amount of time.  Fab hubby asks about our connecting flight, since we're arriving in Dulles at the same time our Pittsburgh flight is leaving.  Counter dude says "Don't worry; they'll send you on the next flight out of Dulles to Pittsburgh.  It leaves after midnight."

*Realize we won't arrive in Pittsburgh until 2:00AM.  I panic.  Fab hubby doesn't.  Just gotta get through the night; says he'll call his parents to update.  We check three bags - my military gear (for my Annual Training at Fort Carson), a large suitcase (mine and the hubby's clothes), and a medium suitcase (the kiddo's clothes).

*Board plane to Dulles.  They take our rolling carry-on suitcase and make it a checked bag, telling us there is no room on the flight for it.  THE ONLY BAG WE CAN ATTACH THE ENORMOUS BRITAX CAR SEAT TO SO THAT IT CAN BE ROLLED THROUGH THE AIRPORT INSTEAD OF CARRIED.  Not awesome.

*Fight from Orlando to Dulles relatively boring.  Toddler (who's become an awesome traveler) sleeps.  Kids watch TV.  Fab hubby snoozes.  I read a trashy magazine.

*Arrive in Dulles at 10:50PM.  See that the Pittsburgh flight has been rescheduled for 11:15PM.  SCORE!  We think we might make it. Fab hubby is dragging the ginormous car seat thru the airport.  Toddler in stroller.  Kids complaining about their heavy back-packs. Of course, I panic when we have to take the slowest shuttle in the world to get to the right terminal.  Run through terminal; ride a train; run through terminal again.

*Arrive at gate at 11:20PM.  BUT the plane is still there!  So excited!

*Realize that the gate isn't actually labeled as having a flight to Pittsburgh.  Fab hubby asks someone in a UNITED AIRLINES uniform if this is the flight to Pittsburgh.  Her answer?  "I'm just trying to get home; you have to check the screens to see if it is."  Fab hubby says "Our boarding passes say this is the right gate."  She says: "I don't care what your ticket says.  You have to check the screen."  Yay for customer service UNITED AIRLINES.

*Hubby has to walk four gates away to find updated gate info.  Flight at gate is going to South Carolina.  UGGG.  Can't find any info on Pittsburgh flight.  Did we miss it?

*Hubby goes to Information Desk to find out about the Pittsburgh flight.  I watch as the UNITED AIRLINES employee who was so incredibly rude to Jason actually BOARDS the plane at the gate we thought was ours.  She obviously knew where the plane was going; why she didn't tell us is beyond me.  Now I'm burning mad.

*Fab hubby gets an update:  UNITED AIRLINES cancelled the Pittsburgh flight.  No other information available.

*Fab hubby gets in the UNITED AIRLINES customer service line.  It's the longest line I've ever seen. Now it's midnight; the baby is sleeping, Abby has crawled into the car seat and fallen asleep; Owen is doing the best he can in the worst, most uncomfortable chairs in the world.

*Two hours later, fab hubby emerges from the line.  He's raging mad.  UNITED AIRLINES cancelled the Pittsburgh flight (and four other flights; hence the uber long line) AND won't rebook us on the next flight.  In fact, they won't even rebook us to Pittsburgh until 48 HOURS later.  Their consolation prize to us?  They offered us a 10% discount at a hotel adjoining the airport.  WOW.  Just, wow.  Everyone around us is swearing -- UNITED AIRLINES is helping no one.

*It's now 2:00AM. I'm exhausted. Jason wants to rent a car and drive to Ohio.  It's only 5 hours away.  Ok.  BUT WAIT.  Our checked luggage!  And our carry-on bag!!  We wake the kids and drag them and the car seat back through the entire airport, including the train and the super slow shuttle, to baggage check.

*Somewhere after the train but before the super slow shuttle, I have a breakdown.  We're dragging all this stuff through the airport.  The kids are so tired and upset.  Not sure we can get our luggage - and I need it for my military training in three days.  Not even sure we can get a rental car at this time of the morning.  And I know that UNITED AIRLINES will refuse to reimburse us for it -- how much will this cost?  I feel the burning behind my eyes.  I look down; rub my face; please no.  But the tears start.  I can't help it.  I sniffle, trying to hold it back.  Pull it together, somehow.

*Because...GUESS WHAT'S NOT AT BAGGAGE CLAIM.  That's right!  Our luggage.  We do find the carry-on.  Line to UNITED AIRLINES baggage claim info is second-longest line I've ever seen.  Fab hubby gets in-line.  Haven't we been through enough??

*I spy a UNITED AIRLINES dude coming out of oversized luggage area.  I plead my case:  I need this luggage for my military training.  This guy is actually helpful.  He goes and finds our luggage for us!  Finally, finally.  Someone who's helpful.  I will forever be grateful to him.

*However, he can't find our large suitcase -- and has no idea where it is.  Fab hubby stays in line to baggage customer service.  UNITED AIRLINES tells him...it was sent to RICHMOND, VIRGINIA.  Why?  They tell him they have no idea.  What do we do?  We actually have to file a lost luggage claim.  Wow. Just wow.

*At 4:30AM we get a rental car.  Drive to Ohio.  It takes us nearly seven hours.  The fab hubby and I were so exhausted, we couldn't drive straight-through.  We had to keep trading off who was driving.  But we made it.

I wish our story had a happy ending.  But it's now six days later and UNITED AIRLINES has not returned our suitcase back to us.  They were supposedly going to fed-ex it to us on Monday, but it never happened.  Fab hubby called them today.  They are 'looking for it.'  It's probably time to file against them for a financial claim.  I'm still raging mad.  They did give me a $200 clothing allowance, since there was no way they were going to get my clothes to me before I left for Colorado.

That's right!  I'm currently in Colorado Springs working at the ER at Ft. Carson for my annual training. And it's awesome.  I've missed the ER!

But dealing with the lost luggage stuff - so not cool.  And every time I think about how UNITED AIRLINES treated us in the airports - I just get mad all over.  Worst experience.  Ever.

Updates to follow later about the suitcase, should it ever materialize.  Or if we have to file a claim against them - I'll let you know all about it.  But in the meantime, I recommend to everyone -- do not fly UNITED AIRLINES.  If you are cost-constructing your government travel, tell whoever is setting it up --- you'll fly any other airline except UNITED AIRLINES.  For instance, US Airways called us every day updating us about our lost luggage and stroller - they even gave us a free stroller to use and toiletries.  Yay US Airways!  All UNITED AIRLINES gave us was a 10% coupon off inflated hotel rack-rates.  Useless.

Even beyond all of this -- I probably could have got over it, if ONLY they were at all polite.  But every UNITED AIRLINES employee (except for the wonderful guy who found our luggage) was rude.

It was the most exhausting experience.

As for my flights from Pittsburgh to Ft. Carson?  Totally awesome, except for a bit of turbulence that nearly made me lose my lunch.  But my bag made it WITH me.  Thanks, American Airlines!

Yes!  It made it to Colorado -- WITH me!
Hoping this may be my last photo as a 1st Lieutenant.
Captain's promotion boards announcements due late August!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

If You've Ever Flown With Kids...

Then you know how hellacious the journey can be, even when things go the way you planned.

Our travel for R&R from Cairo to the U.S. was SUPPOSED to look like this:

*Thursday, July 12th:  Awaken at midnight, take invigorating showers.  Awaken kids at 1:00AM.  Fly out of Cairo at 4:00AM to Frankfort.  Darling angels sleep on plane.  Parents catch a couple zzzzz's as well. Arrive rested in Frankfort 4 hours later.

*6 hour layover in Frankfort.  Navigate airport to McDonald's with play area.  Eat lunch.  Let kids burn off energy.  Walk around airport.  Get toddler to run around and burn off more energy.

*Fly Frankfort direct to Orlando.  Endure 10 hour flight.  Darling angels catch naps on plane, play with multiple electronic devices to stay out of our hair.  Arrive in Orlando at 6:30PM.  Get rental car.  Go to timeshare condo.

BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.  You know where this is going, right?

This is how the journey ended up:

*Thursday, July 12th.  Awaken at midnight.  Get in shower.  No water.  ::sigh:: Awaken kids at 1:00AM.  At 2:00AM - when we were just pulling into airport - receive call that flight is cancelled.  Realize we have no keys to get back into our house (we left them with friends).

*Decide to tough it out at airport to see if there are ANY flights to get us out of Cairo and to somewhere near Orlando.  Kids and I wait in van (gotta love Egypt - van with driver and expeditor only $20!).  Kids fight.  Toddler cries, finally falls asleep.  Fab hubby waits in-line for 3 hours.

*Airline wants to book us on 4:00AM flight TOMORROW.  Fab hubby, being extra fabulous, says "NO FREAKING WAY."  Haggling ensues.  New flights! Today!  Booked to London to Philadelphia to Orlando.  Now leaving at 8:00AM.

*Van drives us to different terminal. Check-in to fight.  Realize that we're kinda screwed with our next fight in London.  Only 1 HOUR between flights.  Decide we don't care.  We're getting out of Cairo one way or another.

*Board plane to London.  Flight staff takes my stroller.  "NOOOOO!!!!" "Sorry, Ma'am, you'll get it back at your final destination.  There's no place to store it on board."  ::sigh::

*Eyebrows raised by flight staff when they see our large Britax car seat (a MUST for our toddler - otherwise, he'll run around the plane the entire time) - "Ma'am you can check that at the gate."  Me:  "Gawd, no.  It's airline approved!" I point to tiny little airplane sticker on side of carseat.  Flight staff impressed.

*Strap giant toddler and car seat into plane.  He *immediately* falls asleep.  SCORE!  Owen plays DS, Abby plays on her iPad.  Arrive in London 5 hours later.  I ask flight staff about where to go for our next flight - we're in luck!  It's in the same terminal!  Score!

*Fab hubby gets stuck dragging luggage and car seat.  I'm toting the giant toddler in my arms.  Toddler very very angry.  Kids have back packs and stuff.  Disembark plane.  Find out our flight is, in fact, NOT in same terminal.  Must go through security first.  Find out fight check-in closes in 35 minutes.

*OMG.  Flight check-in closes in 35 minutes!!!  In a different terminal.  Past security.  We literally run.  Take a train to the terminal. Make it to security. The toddler is HEAVY.  Fab hubby is swearing at car seat.  Kids putting stuff through X-ray.  Abby realizes she forgot her iPad on the plane.  SHE FORGOT HER IPAD ON THE PLANE.  Fab hubby looks and me and says "iPad or U.S.?"  Dude.  "U.S."  Plus, we can't get back to the other terminal.  Will check on iPad when we arrive in Orlando.

*Run to gate where flight is to take off.  Have 5 minutes to spare.  I am sweating.  WAIT.  This is the wrong gate.  Frantically ask for help.  Gate that way...we run.  AGAIN.  It's like a scene from a bad movie.  Airport worker calls out as we run by: "You leaving on the plane to Philadelphia?" Me: "YES!!" Her: "You better hurry up and run! [duh] You have one minute and they are closing the gate!"  We *try* to run faster.  Make it to gate. Employees give us the stink eye.  But we made it.

*Get on plane.  Fab hubby and kids are seated far in the back of the plane, away from me and Kellen.  We don't care.  We have a flight!  To the U.S.!  Toddler falls asleep.  For only 2 of the 8 hours.  Wakes up kicking the seat in front of him.  Over. And over. And over. Again.  Walk toddler around the perimeter of the plane.  Appease his with sugary snacks.  Get him milk from the flight staff.  Strap him back in his seat.  Kicks the seat in front of him.  Again.  And again.  And again.

*Finally arrive in Philly.  Abby had puked.  And then puked again.  On descent of the plane just before landing.  Poor little one (she's 7 years old) looks like a zombie.  I give her some anti-puke meds.  We have 2 hours to get through customs, get our bags, and check in to the next flight (need to get boarding tickets).

*Fab hubby stuck with carry-on bag and car seat again.  All of us are standing in-line in Customs.  Owen (he's 9 years old) is falling asleep standing up.  Just wants to lay down!  No, we tell him over and over again.  We set the toddler down for a second...and he BOLTS. Under the line barriers, past everyone standing in line, to the down escalator.  We scream: "Owen! Run for him!"  And I'm right behind him.  We catch the mini monster just before he steps on the death-trap of an escalator.  We strap him in the carseat and drag it through the line.  Exhausted.

*Get through customs.  We have 40 minutes until the plane leaves.  We still need boarding tickets. We also need to get luggage from Customs turnstile and re-check it in.  Can't wait to put the toddler in my beloved stroller.  Go to turnstile.  NONE OF OUR LUGGAGE IS THERE.  The stroller is missing as well.  I will not cry.  I will not cry.  I will not cry.  Fab Hubby says "Let's go.  We'll figure it out in Orlando."  Must.Get.Boarding.Passes.  Must.Get.To.Orlando.

*Ask for directions; show itinerary to nice airport worker.  She points us in the right direction.  Go to check-in.  WAIT.  We've been directed to United.  We fly U.S. Air.  AAARRRRGGGG!!!!!  Time to RUN.  Again.

*Navigate to U.S. Air.  Fab Hubby helps me find a quiet area where the kids can chill while he gets boarding passes.  Kids sit down on floor.  Instantly fall asleep.  Toddler, who we've been dragging along in his car seat (remember, our stroller never showed) is fast asleep.

*Finally get boarding pass.  There is an end to this nightmare!  Go through security.  Security dude looks at us.  Looks at our tickets.  "You folks know you have to get to Gate Very Far Away From Here, right?  You got, like 20 minutes."  Me (panicked):  "What?  It's not Gate Just As You Get Through Security?"  Security Dude:  "Nope.  If I were you, I'd flag down one of those golf carts as soon as you see one."

*Get through security.  Strap cranky monster toddler back into the Britax and we RUN, dragging our stuff, the toddler in the car seat, and the big kids.  Again.  Wow.  We were are headed to Gate Very Far Away.  I keep checking my watch.  Will we make it?!?!

*FINALLY arrive at Gate.  It really is the furthest from security.  But we have 5 minutes to spare!  Get our seats in back of plane.  Strap in kids.  Give Abby puke bag.  Kind person sitting in front of us gives us crackers for monster toddler (because at this point, I have extinguished all the snacks - and we never had a chance to buy any more between flights).  I instantly fall asleep.

And...we make it to Orlando.  Finally!  File for our luggage.  U.S. Air gives us temporary stroller and toothbrushes.  Which at this point, are the essentials.  Pick up rental car.  Find timeshare condo.  Get food at Seven Eleven (hot dogs) and some Mexican Food stand (delicious).

We all slept in late the next day.  Exhausted.  And then it took another 24 hours until our luggage arrived and 72 hours until the stroller materialized.  But it all did, and in perfect condition.

Now, what about our vacation??!!!  Well, that's definitely another blog entry(s).  But I'll give you a hint...(It's awesome!  Especially considering the crap it took for us to get here)...

See?  Awesome.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Treadmills and Toddlers = No Running

I dislike hate passionately loathe the treadmill.  Which makes training for my marathon a total pain in the a**.  I have a very narrow window of time for training - namely, my hour lunch break and weekends.  I'm NOT a morning person, so I have never even considered an early morning run an option.  UNTIL NOW.

Because I've been running on the treadmill.  And I feel like I'm getting nowhere (literally).  My weekly mileage should be creeping up, but I can only do so much on the treadmill in an hour.  And the physical mechanics of running are completely different on a treadmill than on the road.  On the road, I'm propelling myself forward.  On the treadmill I feel like I'm desperately trying to keep myself from propelling backwards.  On the road, I control the speed from foot strike to foot strike.  On the treadmill, there's no natural control of speed; instead, I feel like I'm controlled by the treadmill.

I was into week three of my training plan and it just didn't feel like I was making any great strides toward a marathon.  My right leg (hip to knee to calf) was feeling oh-so-abused. Every time I would get on the treadmill, it was searing pain.  So I slowed my pace down on the treadmill, and it helped a bit.  But this just made me feel like a slug.  I start wondering if it's all in my head.  Really.  How can running on the treadmill in air conditioning be so much harder than running on uneven pavement?  And in the scorching summer heat of Cairo?!

No matter what I did, the treadmill running didn't work for me.  So last week I decided I would try the early morning run - something I've never, ever, EVER done.  At 5AM.  Before work.  Ug.  I TOTALLY HATE WAKING UP THAT EARLY.  But with my best alternative option (lunch time treadmill) proving to be the worst option, I had to do it.

Only one thing stood in my way.  A 32-pound, 20-month-old toddler.  That's right.  Just as I was making a monumental decision about my marathon training, my Kellen decided he no longer needed his crib to sleep in.  In fact, he decided that he didn't need any sleep. At. All.  Just like *that*, the little dude refused to nap in the afternoon.  I assumed it was a fluke.  When it came time for bed, I tucked him in his crib. He's always been a good sleeper - down to sleep by 7:30PM, up around 6:30AM.  I KNOW.  Awesome, right?

Well, not that night.  Insted, after I tucked him in, he was up, out of his crib, screaming, and BAM! Jumping out of the crib and pounding on the door.  BAM BAM BAM!  I tried to tuck him in the the toddler bed I had diligently assembled months ago, but he would have none of that either.  My husband and I drug the mattress from the spare room to the baby's room.  We plopped it on the floor and piled it high with his favorite stuffed animals.  Finally after about an hour and a half, he fell asleep on it.  I thought I was home free - he'd gone to bed so much later than usual, he was certain to sleep late the next morning, right?  I was sure I'd be able to haul my exhausted self out of bed at the wee hours of the morning and go for a run.  The run I so desperately needed to prove to myself that I WAS training for a marathon.

Of course, wrong.  5AM came around and I got up - not to the sound of my alarm but to the sound of the baby pounding on his door, crying.  I opened his door and he flung himself into my arms.  What was I to do?  Crawl into bed and snuggle with him of course.  At that moment it didn't matter what I needed - it was what he needed that was most important.  It was a sweet morning, despite missing my run.

Glorious, sleeping baby.

Thankfully, thankfully!  He went to be easier the next night and was sleeping when I gingerly put on my sneakers and grabbed my iPod.  I tiptoed downstairs, careful not to wake the fab hubby or the kiddos. Five Miles.  That's all I had to do.  Surprisingly, it's absolutely amazing at 5:30 in the morning.  So few people outside, save for the boabs and the other crazy runners outside, trying to beat the heat or get some miles in before work.  The sun was already up and the weather was perfect - not too hot, not to cold.  Why hadn't I done this before?  (Oh, I know - I HATE waking up early.)

I finished my run easily that morning. I had minimal pain AND I had finished it faster than if I'd attempted to run it on the treadmill.  When I got back in the house, the baby was up and playing and happy to see me.  I went to work that day - and didn't have to spend my lunch hour on the treadmill.

Later in the week I finished up two other early-morning runs - including a fast 2-miler and a long, 8-miler.  My leg is feeling better; I'm sore but not hurt/injured (there is a different between true pain and workout-soreness); and my outside running pace is surprisingly faster than my treadmill run/walk pace. Is it all in my head?  Or am I simply not a treadmill runner?  I dunno.  I tend to think it's the mechanical issues and my running form, but in any case - I'm not training on a treadmill any more.

Fourteen weeks left until my marathon.  FOURTEEN.  Last week, my long run was 8 miles; this week it will be 10 miles.  I'm pounding out two weekly runs (5 miles each) before work; two days at work, I'll be cross-training (bike? elliptical?) and lifting weights (which I've been doing).  And my long run should increase each week by 2 miles (except for the weeks we're on R&R - I'll have to adjust those based on our schedule), gradually getting to the epic 20-miler I'll be doing one morning in September.

I know I can do this.  I just needed to get it out of my head that I couldn't do it.  My only goal is to finish - time doesn't matter (although I have to finish in under 6.5 hours based on the race requirements).

Now if only I could get the baby to stop trying to thwart my marathon plans. We're one week into Kellen using his new bed - and he's had good nights and bad nights, as well as good mornings and bad mornings.  Tomorrow is a run morning for me --- and I so hope it's a good morning for him as well.

So true.