October 20, 2009: Arriving in Houston

It was super early this morning when the alarm went off.  About four thirty!  We got up, packed up the hotel room, showered and got out the door.  It was still completely dark when the hotel shuttle picked us up and took us off to the airport which is just around the corner.  Albany is such a convenient place from which to fly.  Large enough to have what you need but small enough to not be a hassle at all.

We were at the airport nice and early.  Like around a quarter till seven in the morning.  Still dark up here in Albany.  It was a rather brisk morning too.  So we are looking forward to the anticipated weather that will greet us when we arrive at Houston Hobby.

Today is Liesl’s first time in an airport, let alone flying.  It is also our first time taking a baby through security.

We got into the airport and got our tickets sorted right away.  That bit was easy.  Going through security proved to be the real challenge.  We had not really thought through just how hard this would be to do while carrying a baby.  It is hard enough to take off your shoes, pull apart your carryons  and get everything through the X-ray machine and the metal detector under the best of conditions.  Add in Liesl and all of her paraphernalia and you have rather a significant challenge on your hands.

We are rough travelers to begin with.  We have my laptop, loads of BlackBerrys and, of course, my CPAP which always has to be swabbed down and checked thoroughly because it is an air filtration device and impossible to see clearly in the X-ray machine.  With Liesl we also have to have one of us carry Liesl through the entire process, get her stroller through the X-ray and have her formula bottles checked just like my CPAP.  It is nearly impossible to do all of this with only two adults to guide the process.  I have no idea how one adult or two adults with two or more small children could possibly do this.  We are very thankful that we were doing this at Albany and not JFK or some other crazily busy airport.

Once we were through security we had enough time to get a quick breakfast and eat in the terminal.

The first leg of our flight was very short, Albany to Baltimore-Washington.  Liesl’s first time in the air!  We were really nervous flying with her.  We had no idea how she would react to the entire process.  Fortunately she fell completely asleep the instant that we headed down the runway.  We could not have asked for a better behaved baby.  She slept the entire flight to BWI.  As easy as could be.  She woke up when we disembarked to make our connecting flight.

We did not, apparently, allow enough time to make our connecting flight considering Liesl.  Getting off of the plane took longer than expected.  Then we had to get the stroller and get to the next gate.  Then Dominica had to take Liesl for a diaper change before getting onto the next plane but they started boarding families with small children before she even made it to the restrooms!  Talk about cutting it close.  We ended up being the next to last people to get onto the plane and, since it is SouthWest, we did not have assigned seats so we were not able to get seats together.  Yet again, why I don’t like SouthWest.  As much as people say that boarding is orderly it really is a race and a free-for-all and they do allow families to board together early but if you are coming from a connecting flight that may not be possible, like in this case.  Plus boarding is just so confusing and stressful unnecessarily.  Fortunately a wonderful man gave up his aisle seat allowing us to sit next to each other with Liesl rather than us each having a middle seat and needing to only have one of us able to take care of Liesl the entire time (she rode on our laps!)  It would have been nearly impossible to do it had someone not moved.

Liesl was awake for almost all of this leg of the flight but she still did really well.  She was pretty tired of being stuck in such a tiny space by the time that we arrived but she never cried or screamed the whole way.  She is such a good baby.  She made friends with everyone on the flight and would talk to people as they passed.  The flight crew made her a flight certificate and they all signed it.  It was really cute.  We will have to mount that on her nursery wall when we get a chance.

While on the final approach to Houston Hobby, a guy in the row behind us – which was the very last row in the plane, was asking the guy sitting next to him with some help installed Windows XP onto his brand new Fujitsu tablet PC.  His company had bought him the new unit as he left town, handed him the XP Pro install discs and told him to deal with it himself.  The restore process from Fujitsu was horribly complicated and unnecessarily difficult.  Dramatically more difficult than having a standard XP disc from Microsoft, in fact.  So I volunteered to help since we had to pick up our luggage anyway and that was going to take some time.  So after we got off of the plane he waited for us in the lounge area of the gate and I did a really quick XP install for him to get him up and running.

Francesca called Dominica right after we had landed and said that she had news and that a lot had been going on since we had started traveling but that she would fill us in once we had our luggage and rental car and were on the road.  So we were incredibly curious as to what was going on.

It took quite a bit of work to find the rental car place.  There was no one working the desk and we had to schlep it way out to a bus pickup point to get taken out to the car rental office.  Normally this would have been easy but with this much luggage plus Liesl it was nearly impossible.  I had to go everywhere with her carseat on my back!

We got out to the car rental place and the woman offered me a deal on an upgrade to a minivan because they had one available.  Normally I would not have considered it but I looked at all of the luggage and decided that maybe it was not such a bad idea.  There was a lot of logistical needs this week and it might make sense.  So I sprung for it.  Once we started loading all of our luggage into it we decided that it was probably a good idea.  Boy did we have a lot of luggage!

We got on the road and Dominica called Francesca to find out what was going on.  Francesca told us that she was at the hospital and that Bennie, her husband and our brother in law, had had a minor stroke last night and that he was in the hospital but doing okay for now.  It had happened last night just minutes after Francesca and Dominica had gotten off of the phone with each other just before we arrived in Albany.  We had so much traveling to do today and no way to help with anything until we arrived in Houston that she had decided that it would be best for us to not know until now so that we would not be worrying while on the flight while not being able to do anything.

We diverted to McDonald’s as neither of us had had any real food since breakfast, and that was really early this morning, and we ate at the Grice’s house while we waited for people to get to the house.  Joe got there a while before anyone else did so was the first to really be able to fill us in on what was and had been going on.  I had emailed into the office to let them know that I would work when I could but that I might be needed here so would not be able to guarantee availability.  One of the major benefits of working for a larger company and having a great team is that there are people able to and willing to cover for each other when things happen.  It really makes life a lot easier.

Unfortunately tonight was the SpiceCorps Houston meeting, our second, and I had been scheduled not just to attend but to speak there as well.  I posted to the group’s message board as early as I could to let them know that I would not be able to make it out tonight.  That was really too bad as it was a major reason why we had coordinated to come down to Houston with the timing that we did and the meeting had been scheduled tonight specifically so that I would be able to make it.  It could not be helped, though.

The evening was just spent at the house.  Family came and went to some degree.  Bennie, we were told, was doing rather well but they wanted to keep him in the hospital for observation and some additional testing tomorrow so he would not be coming home tonight.  Francesca came home for just a little while but was really exhausted so we barely got a chance to see her.

Joe, Brit, Dominica, the kids (Madeline, Emily, Garrett and Liesl) all went out to Cracker Barrel for dinner which is pretty close to the house.  Joe and Brit then took Garrett with them and Dominica and I took all of the girls and went back to the Grice’s house for the evening.  It turns out that having the minivan was actually rather important.  Madeline and Emily decided that the minivan was great fun and that they wanted one of these for themselves rather than the Toyota Sequoia.

Madeline put on The Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie for me that they had recorded on DVR.  I have been wanting to watch this made for television movie and it is not available, to the best of my knowledge, on Netflix so this was my chance to see it.  I really like the television show and that is Madeline and my thing to do together – watching silly Disney Channel shows.  So we all, Dominica, Madeline, Emily and I, sat down and watched the movie after Liesl went to bed.  The movie was pretty good, I thought.  Very much a movie version of the show.  It seemed to stay true to the feeling of the show while expanding it into a longer format.

Tomorrow I have to be out in Austin in the evening so it is going to be a very busy day.

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