After this many moths of sporadic blogging, I can’t afford to bore y’all with the many details of my first solo flights with Maggie Rose and Babyman.

Except that I can’t help myself.

We were required to be at our local airport at 4:30am on Saturday morning.  My sainted mother spent the night with us and drove us to the airport, dropping us, her extra car seats, the double stroller, and one bag containing The Essentials (diapers, formula, iPad, cash, Xanax — just kidding) at the appointed hour.  We were under a blizzard warning and I worried that our flight would be canceled, but we sailed through security and into the round pens waiting area, watching the winds whip the snow lining the runway, listening to them cool the air to the predicted -40 windchill.

I’d never flown Alaska before Saturday.  I haven’t flown much in the last few years, a marked departure from my pre-motherhood existence.  In the interest of being able to get myself, the tots, the double stroller, the car seats, and The Essentials from Kalispell to Seattle to Sacramento, I left our heavy coats, gloves, and hats in the comfort of the pickup.  We wouldn’t need them in California, and my parents would meet us on our return, so why bother?

Should’ve bothered.

The gate agent gave me and my enormous stroller a doubtful look as the clock ticked past 5am, and beckoned me with a curled finger.  “Do you realize we’re boarding on the tarmac?” she asked.

I looked at my eight month old and my two-and-a-half year old, eyes glazed with the sleep they should have been getting, both dressed in footed fleece dinosaur pajamas — and nothing else.   I looked at my thin jeans and loose weave sweater and the swirling snow, suspended in the floodlights, and realized body fat percentage or no, I had made a major error.  That wind chill, even for a brief few moments, would be no joke to my poor kids.

We pushed the double stroller into the howling winds and the kind Alaska luggage gal placed Maggie onto the frozen concrete, as I balanced Howard on one hip and tried to follow her instructions as to how she wanted the stroller folded.  Our fingers — mine bare, hers mittened — were equally clumsy, and another thoughtful flight deck employee, dressed all in black and wearing mirrored ski goggles and looking for all the world like a member of the Taliban, emerged from the darkness, swooped Maggie up, and ran with her to the plane.  I appreciated the gesture — Maggie did not, and her screams shattered on the icy runway.  Cursing, I finally got the stroller folded and ran with Howard into the relative warmth of the plane as I rubbed Howard’s tiny arms and hugged he and Maggie tightly together on my lap.  Maggie continued to howl.

We were the first ones to board, and the most of the other passengers stared at me in disbelief as they shoved their carry-ons all around us.  When one asked me where we were headed, I answered, “Redding,” and hoped that he would assume I was a California native (no offense, Redding folk!) and not a nearly-fifteen-year resident of The Last Best Place.

We repeated this lovely scenario in slightly warmer temperatures an hour later in Seattle, and then I got to try out the “jogging” stroller abilities I shelled out so much for in this particular stroller model as I sprinted to the North Gates.  Maggie’s sunny smile finally broke the gloom of the morning when we dashed onto the subway and she declared that she was a hero, just like Curious George, riding a train.  I didn’t smile until I heard the jetway door close securely behind us as we ran its length, the last three on board the plane to California.

We arrived in Sacramento, the kids no worse for wear, their mother in serious need of therapy in the form of a hot stone massage, narcotics, or simply the ability to forget.

Sorry, kids.  If y’all end up 2nd runner up in the Nobel Prize competition, know that your missing brain cells are still frozen to the FCA runway.

Daddy arrived.  We rented a car not big enough for the double jogging stroller.  I insisted on stopping at Granzella’s for mufalettas, lambics, and cinnamon bread.  Clouds obscured Mts. Shasta and Lassen, but the five months I spent in and around I-5 in the spring of 2012 came back to me, and even without them, I pointed the little Buick north, leaving Honeydew in an almond orchard as we headed north to Redding.

Showing Maggie around our new house, she looked at me in disbelief, and I mentally added up the number of “new rooms” we’ve introduced her to over the course of her short life.  This kid will either be the world’s most well-adjusted or deranged.

Howard caught a glimpse of the yard from the laundry room window, and I grabbed a bottle, a juice box, and a beer, and ushered the kids outside.  As we collapsed in the yard (of our dear friend’s family homeplace that we are lucky enough to stay in during almond pollination-shaking-grafting-requeening season), I saw this:

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My Babyman, sitting in the grass under his own steam for the very first time in his life.

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And my little girl, with her first skint knee of “summer.”

And California, I am glad to be here.  Thank you for having us.

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