Holiday Travel Hell

Boy did we learn a lesson in traveling with an infant the hard way. I guess most parents have lived this story and some would say it’s a rite of passage – all I can say is that I would not wish this form of torture on my worst enemy….

I should start by saying that we had an easy 3 flights (in retrospect) from Montana to Vermont and a wonderful Christmas vacation with my mom lounging around while she woke up every night and every morning with Josie, who slept in her closet.

Hello Church Street!

Hello Church Street!

After a week in VT, we were scheduled to fly home on Friday the 28th, then super storm Euclid hit (does anyone else think it’s stupid to name winter storms?). This storm buried us under 15+ inches of snow and seemed so lovely at the time. Then our flight was canceled and the earliest United could get us out of Burlington was Jan. 2nd. I had to be back at work on the 31st, and had the bright idea of booking a flight on Sunday out of Manchester, NH – it’s only a 3 hour drive, what could possible go wrong?

Damn blizzard

Damn Euclid

Winter storm Fryer blew in on Saturday and the thought of driving 20mph on crappy roads down to Manchester with a baby on board was enough to get our butts in gear.

We woke up at 3:30am on Sunday, packed up baby and grandma and headed to the Burlington airport to play stand-by roulette. Little did we know that other stressed-out travelers had been stuck in VT since the previous Wednesday playing stand-by roulette every day and losing. I started the day off by TSA giving me the options of either opening all of our baby food packets to test for bomb jelly, or getting a full body search, I opted for the search. Nothing like getting felt up by a grumpy old TSA lady in rubber gloves at 5am in front of hundreds of other travelers.

5am sucks - Josie would not even turn on the charm to get us on a flight

5am sucks – Josie would not even turn on the charm to get us on a flight

We tried to get on 3 different flights and realized quickly that we were so far down the stand-by list that even Josie’s cuteness could not get us out of Burlington. We headed back to grandma’s house defeated, slept for an hour and got back in the car to hit the snow covered roads to Manchester.

Grandma back seat entertainment center

Grandma back seat entertainment center

Josie was not thrilled with the car ride, but did manage to sleep for 1 hour out of the 3. My mom tearfully (more like sobbing) said goodbye for the 3rd time at the Manchester airport and we were on our way.

Hour travel 12, feeling it...

Hour 12, feeling it…

Cheers, to caffeine!

Cheers to caffeine!

The flight from Manchester to Newark was relatively uneventful. We mostly wrestled Josie as she tried to do flips on us the whole way….all the while babbling, laughing, yelling, flirting, and practicing her wave. Newark, for those of you who don’t know, is the worst hell on earth airport in the country. We had to take a shuttle bus and run to make our connection and were the last ones to board the dreaded 5 hour flight from Newark to Denver.

This is where it gets interesting. The woman in the window seat of our row took one look at Josie and nicely told us that she had taken an 8 hour bus from Bulgaria to Istanbul; 12 hour flight from Istanbul to Newark; was heading for Denver; and could she be re-seated. We were happy to get her out of our row so that Josie could spin, flip, dive and scream in the discomfort of our laps. The monkey-on-crack gymnastics got so crazy that at one point Matt was trying to restrain her with his arms as a strait jacket and she jammed her finger so far up his nose that it gave him a bloody nose. We then were stuck in an airplane traffic jam for an hour on the runway before take-off, make that 6 hours in the plane thank you very much.

Josie finally went to sleep after Matt violently rocked her for 30 minutes. She would wake up every time the flight attendant or captain would come on.  All I could think was SHUT UP! Is it really worth telling us that you are about to illuminate the seat-belt light in exchange for a screaming infant!? Matt and I ordered booze, a box of crackers and direct TV football to try to calm our nerves in between the bouts of screaming.

The beast is asleep. No moving, talking, or breathing!

The beast is asleep. No moving, talking, or breathing!

We were an hour late getting into Denver and had to run a couple miles to make our flight – last ones to board again! Josie was loony at this point so she was flirting with everyone on the plane, waving and saying “HI!” Most of the people around us thought it was cute at first, but it was not cute when they got tired of the game and she still wanted to play and would yell at them if they did not wave back.

The two hours from Denver to Missoula was maybe the most tense I have ever been. Josie screamed, bounced, clawed our faces, kicked and howled because she was tired but could not sleep.  She was over the day as much as we were. Matt finally took her up front to violently rock her (Josie was not the only one crying at this point) and got her to calm down for the last 15 minutes of the flight. A mom with 2 kids who was flirting with Josie on the plane came up to us in baggage claim and said, “Your baby has the loveliest voice! I really enjoyed listening to her for that whole flight.” And she was serious, and maybe deaf!

You would think that getting to Missoula at midnight would have been a huge relief; it was for a few minutes until we remembered that we had basically rolled into the airport lot without any gas. We drove the mile to the gas station with the miles-until-empty gauge at 0 and the fumes got us there!

What lessons about traveling with an infant did we learn in all of this?

  • Do not under any circumstance travel for 22 hours straight with a 10 month old.
  • Don’t over feed your baby to get them to shut up or they will fart, pee and poop non-stop…usually during take-off or landing.
  • Changing your baby on your lap is easier than changing them on the airplane toilet seat, number 1 or 2. Those airplane puke bags are also great for dirty diapers.
  • Don’t try to use your baby’s good looks to advance your travel agenda. Other travelers and airport workers see babies as dirty, smelly, loud, nuisances.  We came to find out that they are right.
  • Other people around you are not as sensitive to your baby crying as you are. I could not believe that people were sleeping through Josie’s (and my) crying!
  • Try to sit near other families with kids, they will feel sorry for you and try to help you because they have been there.  And maybe the other passengers will think it’s their kids that are crying.
  • Try to breathe deeply, smile at your partner and baby even when you want to kill them, and remember that even the worst travel day will be something to look back on and laugh about (eventually).
I'm an adorable monster!

I’m an adorable monster!


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100 Posts…and Still Rambling On

Can you believe than I have found content for 100 blog posts over the last three and a half years! This blog started as away to keep my mom informed of my whereabouts while I was driving across the country to move to Montana – also known as “the end of the earth” if you asked her at that time.  It worked so well that, by George, I just kept on writing! It’s been a busy few years collecting family members and life experiences. Here is the very abridged version of events:

1.  Got a job in MT. Looked up Montana on a map.

2. Packed up and drove out to our new home in Missoula. In other words, got the heck out of DC before Matt threw down any more vigilante justice.

3. Adopted a 3x rejected cattle dog named Bleu from the Western Montana Humane Society. Legally changed name to Blue.

4. Bought an old house on the North Side of the tracks and started the endless odyssey of fixing it up.

5. Found a homeless cattle dog in Arizona named Wade and brought him home (the jury is still out on this decision).

6. Got engaged on the North Hills of Missoula.

7. Married Matt on a rainy day in the Paradise Valley at his family ranch. The people, the food, the band – OH, what a day!

8. Got knocked up (surprise!) and survived a long painful pregnancy.

9. Birthed a tiny, perfect little girl named Josephine Luella.

10. Survived the first year with Josie…oh wait, we still have 2 months to go to cross that bridge…

Sometimes, when I am covered in puke (replace with poop, drool, food, or buggers depending on the day), sleep deprived, bickering with Matt, wanting to kick Wade’s ass, and staring down a dirty house, I just need to remember that I would not change a thing.


Thanks family!

Thanks for being my family!

Thank you guys too..most of the time

Thanks to you guys too..most of the time

P.S. Did anyone see two black cattle dogs running across the Oval at the University of Montana yesterday chasing a deer? Yup, that was the Black Pack at their finest. Matt made chase, but could not hang in there. We think the deer got away due in part to all the “baby weight” Blue has gained. Trouble-makers!

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Booger Bulldozer

When you picture your baby you don’t ever think that you are going to have that kid, the boogery kid. It turns out that Josie is that kid, the one with snot running down her face. Here is a mixture of food, boogers and gums!

She has also been named “Josie the bulldozer” by the ladies who work at our daycare. Apparently, she bulldozes over all the other kids (especially the ones that can’t defend themselves) to get where she wants to go, including pulling pacifiers out of unsuspecting mouths and tossing them over her shoulder. I can’t help but be a little bit proud, and horrified, at her mobility and coordination. The bright side is that she does it all with a toothless grin. Will this booger bulldozer change her ways? Or are we going to start getting notes home about our bruiser….only time will tell.

We just returned from sunny San Fran where we spent some quality time with our red-headed nephews and their parents. It was a total blast (exhausting) watching the wee ones roll, crawl and run around.

Cousin pig-pile on Garth!

Emmett explains the fridge DJ

Boys in flannel shirts hit the Exploratorium

The most impossible picture ever – Henry was over it

Naps on the plane

The Black Pack had a BALL while we were gone. They were watched by several eager and dog loving friends who let them break all the rules – face licking, bed hogging, baby-gate-jumping….they were sad to see us come home. We are not totally terrible parents, Blue was spoiled with a new memory foam bed for her old bones and she has never slept better!


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Baby’s First Griz Game

Last weekend we took Josie to her first football game. Baby, if you are going to be part of this family, you are going to like University of Montana Griz football. We were planning to hit two tailgates, really the best part of game day, but Josie had other plans and decided to take her first ever 3 hour nap. We were only running two hours late when we parked a half mile from the stadium…then we heard the telltale grunting from the back seat. After stripping Josie’s 5 layers off to change her poopy mess in the back of the minivan, we were on our way. We did not travel light…we never do these days.

Burley workout

We managed to score some meat and beer before going into the game. Josie was not happy that dad did not share:

I bought Josie a fleece Griz sack and protective ear wear (Em’s 4 Bubs) so she could fully enjoy the game. Lucky for Josie, she will also be welcomed at any NASCAR event with her stylin’ ear muffs:

I don’t need to hear the game to enjoy it. Go Griz!

Too bad the Griz did not play with the ferocity Josie expected:


This lanyard has become a coveted toy, and now travels everywhere with us. Josie insisted on bringing it to breakfast the next morning:

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An October Day

This past week was challenging. Josie brought home her first gastrointestinal gift to us from daycare. I have never been puked on before, but after the first dousing, you get over it. Josie puked for a day, then I camped out on the bathroom floor unable to move (except to hug the toilet) for 12 hours, then Matt’s indomitable system fell too. Today was the first day we were all back on our feet alive and well. We were like a family of vampires crawling out of our dark cave into the sunlight – owww, my eyes! We took advantage of the sun, and thought it best to get the dogs to the dog park before they murdered us.

lets go lets go lets go

Vote Jon Tester!

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Surgery, Solid Food and Scoundrels

After having my back cut open and fixed a week ago, I am feeling pretty good. I spent the last 14 months with constant and sometimes excruciating sciatic pain – carrying Josie around in my belly did not help matters. This will be my 5th surgery and Matt has had 5 too – Mr. and Mrs. Frankenstein. I hope that our body issues are not genetic and that we are just reckless – wait, that could be genetic too. I can’t pick Josie up or carry her for 6 weeks, but it’s Matt’s turn to carry her for 9 months anyway. Another reason I am feeling good, besides muscle relaxers, is that I finally got to take a shower after a 7 day hiatus. I smelled like I had just hiked the AT and my hair had formed a brown greasy helmet, not a good look.


This is under half of the disc material that they removed from my back – nasty!

Josie doesn’t really care about all the hoopla surrounding my back. As long as she has her boobs, toys to chew on, boyfriend Finn at daycare and some sleep, she is happy. She started eating solid foods last week, and so far she has had rice cereal, carrots and squash from our garden, banana and peach. Apparently we only feed our baby things that are on the orange spectrum.

pick ’em from the garden before Wade eats them

peel chop

Steaming takes forever!

puree down to mush – man, making baby food is a pain

airplane attempt…hands cleared for landing

Face landing complete – Did anything make it down?

Black Pack Pic of the Week:

Oh the sad life of a McNab cattle dog… Both our animals are feeling like second class citizens since Josie came along. Blue has run away from home twice and Wade seems to be getting stupider every day. I can’t even remember the last time they made the blog. I sometimes think that Wade would like to be back on the mean streets of Tucson and Blue would like to be in the wild chasing (eating) animals all day. We put those notions to the test the other day when we went to the mall…because that is where people with minivans go. We came out after 45 minutes and realized we (Matt) had left one of the sliding van doors open. Oh shit, the dogs are gone…But, come to find out, they were still snoozing in the back – they chose to stay with us!! That’s what I’m telling myself. Realistically, they went exploring and were bored with the parking lot and could not find a tasty trash can or shade so they came back – scoundrels.

Blue (left) has been stress eating and now has a huge buhdonk

I dig holes and lay in them when I’m sad – Wade

We had a new being join our family a few weeks ago, we are now a certified zoo. Stripes the Orb-weaving spider pitched her web on the OUTSIDE of our kitchen window and it is clear she is there to stay. If she had been poisonous I would have removed her had Matt remove her, but according to Google, she is non-poisonous and great for our garden. We have been watching her catch bugs in her web, wrap them up and chomp them down. She ate a wasp bigger than her body the other day – she is amazing.


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A Family Trip to the Swamp

*You may have noticed that I finally changed the banner picture above – It’s now of Headwaters State Park in Three Forks, MT.

Our first trip with Josie was awesome! After weeks of research on how to take an infant on a plane (thank you Facebook posters), we swallowed hard and set off for DC. Without boring you to death on the details of the tactical effort it took to get there, I will say that Josie slept 50% of the time, screamed 5%, tried to put things in her mouth and squirmed 40% and flirted with the masses 5%. Proof of our mile high success:

It’s all her crap, we swear

Weeee, I’m flying!

What are you looking at mom?

This is how we all feel flying

Daddy pack mule

I wish I could sleep through security at DCA!

Matt walked through Denver with my udder cover over this floppy package – what a new-age dad

DC was a blast – a blast of hot sweaty air! We shacked up with Addy and Justin for a few nights in the District then headed out to Boyds, MD for my cousin Amelia’s wedding. Josie slept around town in any bed we could plop her in, Matt complained about DC swamp-ass season, and I spent most of my time taking pictures and hiding under my udder cover providing snacks for little miss piggy. Josie met a slew of friends and family members and tried her best to be cute and behave. Here are some highlights:

Power players at Union Station

Josie is looking for a meal while we pose with Sen. Tester

Ethiopian with the ladies..ahhh, HELLO again ethnic food

Metro-fabulous, Matt is pretending to enjoy the ride

Sleeping around town

Potty rocker in the house tonight – ready for the wedding

Josie camped out in Grandma Lissa’s lap for most of the wedding

Beautiful bride Amelia and proud papa Tim

Josie forces Rosie to give her a foot massage…a little to the left, ahhh

Aunt Addy makes Josie giddy with her top baby fashion picks

Josie relaxing in Addy and Justin’s pad watching Obama on TV…she broke all the rules on vacation!

I have about a million other pictures including shots of Josie’s roadside poop blowout that I decided not to share… You’re welcome! Thanks to everyone who went out of their way to make our trip so fabulous.

I know most of you are wondering about our second-class family members Wade and Blue? They were lucky enough to be watched by our friend Steve who even let them cuddle in bed with him at night. They had so much fun that they asked to stay with him permanently, but we told them we would miss their mischievous ways too much.

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Nice Rack

Before we left for Washington, DC and Josie’s first vacation (wait, her whole life is a vacation!), my husband Bob Vila Matt busted out a much needed home project in a few hours.

Our entryway shoe rack was a nasty plastic shelf I have dragged from place to place since college. It is so sick I am too humiliated to share a before picture. You know it’s bad when you don’t want to put your dirty shoes on a shoe rack because they may get dirtier. I showed Matt a picture from Crate and Barrel of a rack I wanted, and he is so cheap that he opted to make it. Josie sat outside and bossed Matt around.

I rule! Paint faster!

Matt is obviously Josie’s assistant

Where is all our junk?

The dogs have their hook, Josie has her shorty hooks and I have the rest – sorry Matt…

I am still working on putting together all the best shots from our trek to DC that included plane rides from hell, 103 degree wedding, booze/baby brunch, Sen. Tester and Josie politicking, bed hopping, and ethnic food-a-palooza. Check it out this weekend!

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Town and Country

Well it happened, I became a soccer mom, Josie didn’t start playing soccer, we bought a Town and Country mini van (with stow and go seats!). Dreamy would not be the adjective I would use to describe the van, but boy is it comfortable and roomy – like driving a padded rocket ship. So why the dramatic down grade? First of all, we needed an automatic car because stick shift has really been bothering my sciatica (that and picking up our tank baby). Also, we were running low on space in the wagon with 2 dogs, a baby, me, Matt and all of our crap. Lastly, there must be a speed demon out there who is pining after a 6 speed VW V8 wagon to go 100 down the highway, who doesn’t have a baby. Matt drove  the van (now christened Blue Steel) home from the dealership at a cruising speed of 22 in a 45….that’s the mini van effect.

my van is sexy and I know it

Moments after we bought Blue Steel, we hit the road for Hot Springs, Montana and the Symes Hotel. Josie thinks the new van sucks and screamed the whole way there and back – it’s a miracle we are not still parked on the side of the highway trying to clam her down. She would obviously rather be driving:

Get in – let’s roll family!!

Here are some important facts you should know abut Josie at 4.5 months:

  • She weighs 14lbs (55th percentile) and is 23″ long (8th percentile). Looks like volleyball is out unless we use her belly as the ball.
  • She can practically outswim Dana Torres, and she has only been swimming once.

Jolly green giant

  • Her monkey toes are always curled under and full of lint. She can grab things with them…evolutionary advancement?
  • She has friends.

Wade drops a ball on her daily – play with me!

Saschy and her baby dolls

Nora – even though she can crawl and roll and Josie can only stick out her gut

She has a bunch of other friends, but they just don’t know it yet.

  • We have to dress her like a mummy for sleep time because she has tweaker arms.

Baby straight jacket = good sleep

  • She is full of screams and smiles (when she’s not crying).

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The Great Memorial Day Adventure

We took Josie to the ranch for the first time this past weekend – it was also the first time we had been back since our wedding almost exactly a year ago. It was quite the adventure – almost everything is with a baby  and two wild dogs in tow! Friday night we stayed at the Sacajawea Hotel in Three Forks, MT. It is an AMAZING 100 year old hotel that was fully renovated last year. Josie thought the bed was especially comfortable.

We cheaped out and only got one tiny room, so we had the pleasure of listening to Josie all night. Here is a typical minute of her sleep noisemaking: sigh,sigh,sigh,sigh, GRUNT, (pause for 5 seconds without breathing – parents have a slight heart attack), sigh, sigh, coo, coo, coo, GRUNT, sigh, sigh, sigh, gurgle, sneeze, sigh, sigh….and on and on. Matt and I had to sleep with pillows over our heads and ear plugs to drown out the racket.

Dad’s morning newspaper in the lobby

Rough night

On Saturday we headed into Bozeman to introduce Josie to her great grandma Barb – how many of you have those!? They really hit it off.

The adventure continued as we drove to the ranch. Josie only likes riding in the car when I sit in the back and entertain her – drive on Jeeves (Matt)!

Umm, where am I?

I packed for Memorial Day weekend like I always did in DC, with flip flops, a sun dress, sunscreen and shades. There was hope for a sunny Sunday when we went to bed:

Then we woke up to 3″ of snow…..:

spring blizzard!

If this blizzard had hit last year 3 weeks before our outdoor wedding, I would have been VERY worried. But it was quiet and calming this year. Despite the calm, we hightailed it out of there before we got stuck – but not before some dog snow frisbee!

I packed Josie mostly cute summer clothing too, what is wrong with me!? Where do I live again? So we had to layer.

I think these leg warmers were made for a supermodel baby..or a 3 year old

All and all, it was a great couple of days on the road with the fam.

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