Sunday, April 10
My alarm was set for 5:30, but thanks to tiramisu and a bit of anxiety, my internal alarm decided 2:00 was a better time to get up. No matter what I tried, sleep was not returning, so I got up, got ready and went downstairs for breakfast. Only be told I had to wait another twenty minutes until 5:30 for breakfast to be ready. Having been up as long as I had, I was so hungry and the buffet looked so good and so ready, but I returned to my room with milk and water to wait it out.
I was able to enjoy two breakfasts: one by myself while the boys slept and then one as a family. After stuffing my purse with rice cakes and Nutella—the boys’ new favorite breakfast—we loaded up like pack mules and headed back to check in.
Fiumicino was a different place this Monday morning and the only line was the one to check in for our flight. Immediately one of the Air Canada employees said, “Ah, the family from yesterday,” and moved us on up and soon we were checked in, through security, pass passport control and at our gate. Everybody was talking and laughing as if it was a high school reunion. We all felt some sort of camaraderie from our shared experience and we were more like old friends than complete strangers; too bad most of our new “friends” live in Canada.
After a little computer glitch and a shared laugh amongst the passengers that we’d have to wait “ten minutes,” we were finally on board and ready for take off.
The eight and half hour flight to Montreal was a blur. Leo and Henry both slept a little, but that was it. I expected to crash having only slept four hours, but my delightful children didn’t think I needed anymore sleep. They seemed to have used up all their good the day before and were little tyrants today. At one point a very jovial flight attendant took pity on us and whisked Leo away to walk laps around the cabin. As we tried to doze, we could hear Leo saying “Ciao! Ciao!” to every person who glanced his way.
We never even checked our boarding passes for our connecting flight to SFO until we landed and, to our horror, we discovered we had seven hour layover with our three tired children. And after trying to get on another flight, we discovered that there was only one flight each day to San Francisco. Sweet.
Then came some more bad news. Since we were in North America our phones worked without any problems, so I immediately called the hotel to confirm our room. Apparently they never received the email. Ryan played the role of solo parent while I spent more than an hour on the phone with the hotel, the reservation center and our credit card company trying to sort things out. Even though the reservation center could see the sent email confirming my call and our room, the hotel maintained that I never let them know we weren’t going to make it and, since it was after our original check out time, the only way we could get a room was to pay a lot more. The manager said she had a quotient to reach for the day and giving us a room at the rate we paid would keep her from doing that and the owner would be unhappy. So the hotel got paid, the credit card company got paid and the family of five who had been traveling for forty-eight hours got left with nothing. Do not every stay at the Four Points Sheraton at SFO. Well, if you like terrible costumer service, go ahead, I guess.
We were upset, tired, hungry and still had over five hours to go.
How to survive a seven-hour layover with three small children:
- Move from play area to play area even though they’re all the same. They’ll be too tired to notice.
- Go on “adventures” to see what’s in the terminal.
- Beg the man who drives the handicap shuttle to give your kids a ride. Play “Tour Guide Barbie” and point out all the places to buy alcohol.
- Go to a “sit-down” restaurant. Have alcohol and french fries.
- Pretend to give your kids a shoe shine. Several times.
- Find an abandoned desk chair and teach them how to raise and lower it, spin them until they’re dizzy, allow them to push each other around.
- Run laps on the moving sidewalk.
Somehow we survived all seven hours, but barely. In the end, it was worth keeping them up because everybody slept for nearly the entire six and a half hour flight home. Ryan said at one point I had my hands clasped under Leo’s armpits and his feet were touching the ground. No matter though, because we slept—I slept! It was the best flight we had. There were a few other people from our original Rome flight and we all congratulated and well-wished one another as we got off the plane. It was good to be home.
Well, almost home. After getting our bags, finding the right parking shuttle and getting to our car, we had to drive Ryan to school where he would stay the night. It didn’t make sense to drive home for him to wake up three hours later to drive to work. Besides, his car was parked there. We said goodbye, I assured him I was fine, and the boys and I embarked on the final leg of our journey. I didn’t have to worry about falling asleep because Leo screamed for the final forty-five minutes of the drive. While it was frustrating, I was grateful.
We pulled into the driveway at 2:15 am and were met by the sprinklers as we got out of the car. The three tired, wet and hungry boys and I walked in and sighed. Vacation is always fun and needed, but coming home is often the best part. We changed into clean pajamas, had a snack and poured ourselves into our own beds. I fell asleep just around three and then was woken up by four by a pooping Henry. After wiping him and putting them back to bed—Jude was there for moral support—I fell back to sleep and didn’t get up until after six. I’m pretty sure the boys never went back to sleep and it may be the case that they never slept at all since we got home, but I didn’t care. We were home, I was in my bed and I didn’t need to win any parenting awards today. I ignored them a little bit longer and they happily played with their toys behind closed doors. It was a win for all of us.