So for this trip, I took a different approach.
We were leaving early Saturday morning, so I put "start thinking about Seattle trip" on my to-do list for Friday. One day to completely focus on everything that needed to be done and everything that needed to be packed. One day to stress. One day to "cross that bridge when I got there."
But, let me share a little secret with you all: one day is not enough time to pack and plan for a month long vacation.
I didn't realize this until about half-way through Friday, when I remembered that I had not only not finished packing, but had yet to deliver my potted plants into my friend's garden or stock up on airplane snacks. So... long story short, instead of being in bed at 9 p.m. like I had hoped, I was walking the aisles of Walmart like a zombie and being denied the right to purchase the Aquadoodle that I had promised Annika. The Aquadoodle that she was holding in her hands, standing in line at the register, and yet we could not buy. (Another long story.) I gave up without a fight, got gas, got McDonalds, and got home.
Annika went easily to sleep and I hurried through the last bits of packing and cleaning. But, another secret I'll share with you: you can't crash into bed like its the finish line of a relay race and expect to drift easily into a peaceful sleep. I tossed, I turned, I pulled up the blinds and watched fireflies, I timed the neighbor's motion-sensing porch light when squirrels set it off.... I knew I was in trouble when I started writing this blog in my head.
Finally, I came to the realization that a good night's sleep wasn't going to ensure a smooth running trip and neither was my anxiety about getting a good night's sleep. So, I let it go. I prayed for a while and just asked God to help us get to Seattle without any big trouble. I asked him to make it quick and easy, and I asked him to put me to sleep. And at some point it must have finally happened because the next thing I knew it was 3:30 a.m. and my alarm was going off.
With at least two hours of sleep under my belt, I crawled out of bed and got started on the order of actions I had thought out while trying to fall asleep (which started with filling the sink with cold water and sticking my face in it). I put on a pot of blueberry coffee to share with our incredible friend that was driving us to the airport before dawn and soon enough we were on our way.
We got to the airport with plenty of time to spare. Since we were flying standby, I didn't know what to expect about getting on that first flight or not, but I actually got a seat assignment at the ticket counter which meant we were on. That news was good enough, and we easily found two empty seats together in the back of the plane.
Everytime she felt the plane move, Annika would say, "Are we flying?" and when we finally lifted off, I unbuckled her seatbelt and let her watch the ground slowly drop away beneath us. When I buckled her back in, she looked at me with still-sleepy eyes and said, "I'll stay awake for a little minute." And true to her word, she fell asleep quickly after that and stayed asleep for the entire flight.
We had a layover in Denver which meant another uncertain wait on the standby list, and I already knew that it was an overbooked flight and very low chances. But believe it or not (and I didn't believe it until the wheels were off the ground) I made it easily on the flight and again found seats together. Annika was awesome... she ate cookies, watched Land Before Time, made friends with the long-haired, tattooed gentleman sitting next to us, and charmed all the passengers who could see or hear her.
When we filed out of the plane and into a stairwell leading up the baggage claim, I looked up and saw my husband leaning over the rail and waving at us. We hurried into the elevator but the buttons were unmarked and I had to guess where I was and where he was probably was. It took three times for me to guess a floor, wait for the ding, and peek my head out the doors before finally finding baggage claim. But since we took so long, he had left to find another elevator! We stayed on the phone and searched through the crowds before finally catching each other's eye again. We smiled and hung up, crossed the distance between us, and got to have the happy reunion we'd been waiting for.
Annika simply said, "Daaaaaaddy" in a "there you are" kind of way and kept wanting big hugs and rides on his shoulders. So even though the odds were against us, it ended up being possibly the easiest day of travel I've ever had. (At least when it comes to flying standby with a kid.) I really thank God for such a surprisingly smooth journey. I didn't even feel that exhausted until we got to our room, at which point I crawled into our king-sized feather bed and slept for hours while Daddy and Annika explored the hotel.
It was a nice start, and we've already had lots of good times just in the first two days here. The weather is completely beautiful! 70 degrees and sunny and gorgeous scenery. Mt. Rainier is all snow-capped in the distance, framed by rolling hills of evergreens and a clear blue sky. Tomorrow we have a fun day planned for the fourth of July and I can't wait to do more sight-seeing.
So, as weird as it is... here I am. This is the summer internship we've talked about for so long, and here we are!