Parenting with no professional training since 2004 - still not an expert

Belize Va-Caye, Part 1: Are we there yet?

As we speak, we (“we” being my husband Noel, myself, and our two children) are returning from our nearly weeklong vacation in San Pedro, Belize. When I say “as we speak”, I mean that we are literally en route. I’m currently sitting in an airport terminal in Atlanta, anxiously awaiting a ride to Gulfport, which has already been delayed. 
I really meant to do more writing during the trip, and I did formulate all kinds of things in my head, but I have to be honest: this is the first time I have opened my laptop since departing the US last Thursday, although I had it with me the whole time. The main reason for that is that supervision of two children, ages 6 and 9, in a foreign country just takes up a lot of time and attention. 
I’ve thought a lot about the best way to summarize this trip. I considered going day by day, but frankly, some days wouldn’t be terribly interesting, although those might have been the days I enjoyed the most (i.e., the ones spent doing almost nothing but going back and forth between the beach, the pool, and the resort restaurant, and the day it rained). So instead, I think I will attempt to put the stay in San Pedro in somewhat of a list form.
First, though, I’ll tell you a little about the trip itself. We flew out of Gulfport, MS early in the morning on Friday, June 28, to Atlanta. We had planned on leaving for Gulfport, about an hour and a half drive from home, in the wee hours of the morning, but the night before, we decided instead to drive down that night and spend the night in a hotel near the airport in order to gain a couple hours of sleep time. (This threw me off a bit, as I had planned some last-minute preparations for that night, but we managed to only forget toothbrushes – everyone’s toothbrushes. I had also planned to let a movie download on my iPad for the kids for the flight, but didn’t have time before we left.) 
This is how the trip started. 
When we got to Atlanta, we had only 53 minutes to get to our connecting flight. Let me mention at this point that not only are we traveling with two children (who have never flown before), we are also traveling with three other friends, including one elderly gentleman. AND, for some reason (I’m still not clear in my head on why, other than to avoid the possibility of lost luggage), we packed our family of four in only four CARRY-ONS. For six days in a foreign country. So each child had a backpack stuffed with clothes (and big enough to tip them over if they weren’t balanced just right) and we each had small rolling bags with which to get through the airport. The Atlanta airport. (I also had my large purse, which held everything other people thought they needed but didn’t want to hold: a book, a hat, a camera, and about a gazillion electronic devices.) I checked the gates of arrival and departure before we left Gulfport. The Atlanta airport has Terminals A through F.  I learned that we would arrive at Terminal A and would depart from Terminal E. Thus, we would have to essentially go the length of the airport with two children, all of our luggage, and an elderly gentleman (for whom Delta provided a wheelchair and an escort, thankfully). Our other two traveling companions are young, able-bodied folks, so we left it up to them to make it to the gate on their own, which they did. We all made it, actually, with a few minutes to spare. 
At this point, one or both of my children are still asking about the iPad movie (Rise of the Guardians), so I tried using the airport wifi to finish the download, but to no avail. I discovered however, that another movie (Toy Story 3) was already on the iPad, and they said that would suffice for the next leg of the journey, a three-hour flight to Belize City. 
When we got on the plane to Belize City, I realized that, according to the way the seats were assigned, Noel and I were sitting together, and our children were sitting together directly behind us. (On the first flight, each of us had been seated with a child.) Noel suggested that we should switch that around at the beginning of the flight, but I naively said, “No, they’ll be fine, and that way they can both watch the movie at the same time.” He gave me a skeptical look, but didn’t protest. I handed them the iPad, two set of head phones and the little thingamajig to  plug two sets of earbuds into one receptacle. (Yes, I thought of that, too.) They settled in happily. 
For about ten minutes. Then I heard the fussing commence. 
“Ma-REE! I can’t hear it!” 
“Well, it’s too loud on mine. Stop turning it up. Now look what you did, it’s not playing anymore,” and I felt someone tap me (“tap” is an understatement) with my iPad in an effort to hand it back to me.
“Well I don’t wanna watch it with you anymore anyway. I wanna sit with MY MAMA!” 
She looks thrilled, doesn’t she? 
Fine. At this point, I decided a switch was probably best after all, so I traded seats with Sissy, leaving me with B.B. and Sissy with Noel. 
All in all, for their first flying experience ever, they did great:

BB on return trip with stuffed animals, blanket, movie. This is how he travels. All the comforts of home (plus one new friend) on an MD-88. Notice the blanket and black puppy dog (both of which went with us) and the newly-acquired sea turtle.
Here’s where it gets interesting. 
Belize is an hour behind our time at home, Atlanta is an hour ahead, so we’ve kinda been all over the place time wise. But nevertheless, we found ourselves in Belize City, which is on the coast on the mainland, a little before lunchtime there. Our final destination was to be San Pedro, which is on Ambergris Caye, and requires yet another short flight (about 15 minutes) via an airline called Tropic Air. Tropic Air operates small, single engine planes, between Belize City and San Pedro (and a few other destinations in Belize) with flights leaving about every hour or so. They also usually have only one pilot, which means that what would be the copilot seat becomes a passenger seat. On our last trip two years ago, they loaded approximately 14 people and their week’s worth of luggage on a plane that, in my estimation, should carry about 8 people. Thankfully, this time, it was only about 10 people, but again with tons of luggage. Did I mention the SINGLE engine? That’s the thing that makes me nervous about it. The kids seemed fine, though, so I just played cool. 
About halfway into the flight to San Pedro, however, I freaked out because I could not find my iPhone. I searched my entire purse about five times. The phone could not be found in the midst of the gazillion electronic devices and various and sundry other junk, and I was convinced it had somehow gotten left at the Belize City airport. I cried. Literally. I could only imagine what kind of bill could be incurred by an opportunist that found my phone. And personal information. And all the pictures I had taken recently that I hadn’t transferred to my computer. 
Then I picked up my purse. The phone was on the floor of the plane. About this time, Noel, seated in front of me and the kids, turned around and looked at me. From the look on his face, I must have looked like a hot mess…travel weary, teary-eyed, and holding BB’s stuffed animal and blanket, which he had just handed me. “Just leave me alone for a minute and I’ll be fine,” I snapped. 
After the phone incident, we managed to take this picture. 
By the time we landed, I was better than fine. After all, we had arrived in San Pedro, everyone accounted for and all luggage intact. Vacation was about to begin. And were we ever ready for one. 
Stay tuned for Part 2: The Good, The Bad, and The Cranky

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