Monday, October 4, 2010


I'm done with the first part of my bicoastal trip, which involved flying with the kids to Pennsylvania to visit my mother, and then taking the train down to Washington DC where I met up with David and attended a work training. The actual training was a little disappointing. I had hoped to come away energized and with lots of new knowledge, but that wasn't the case, although I wouldn't call it a total loss. Plus it's very entertaining to watch other people doze off around a conference table. On the way to the training I walked past the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which was kind of a thrill in that I use their data all the time at work. I felt like asking if I could stop inside and wrassle some unemployment rates to the ground. I'd be very careful and promise not to break the numbers.

Since I was going to be in a training and David was going to be with the kids, I had to carry breastmilk though airport security so that Baby W would have something to eat. In theory my declaration at security that I was carrying milk should have triggered special scrutiny but in practice the TSA inspectors didn't even unzip my bag; they just wiped down the zipper with that special explosive-detecting baby wipe they use. I looked at the TSA website before flying to make sure I understood the regulations about flying with breastmilk, and I found this handy tip: "NEVER leave babies in an infant carrier while it goes through the x-ray machine." Thanks a lot TSA, I guess I know enough not to send the baby through the x-ray with the carry-on bags. I got smart and paid the extra $25 and checked the baby with my big bag so I didn't have to bother with the x-ray at all.

I've learned that even mentioning breastmilk can make people uncomfortable, which could be why my liquid cargo didn't get as much scrutiny as I expected. At work somebody accidentally walked in on me recently while I was pumping. (She thought I had the door closed because I was on a conference call). The bad news was that I was mildly embarrassed and she was mortified; but the minute that she opened that door it became absolutely guaranteed I will never have to share an office at work. So that's the upside.

In Washington DC I packed the insulated compartment in my breast pump full of ice so I could cool the milk I pumped at the training. The compartment had a small leak and as the ice slowly melted I left little drips behind me. I could feel the bag drip-drip-dripping across the Metro station, and I kept my fingers crossed that nobody took see-something-say-something too seriously. I was also glad that there was a dark carpet at the training location. Back at the hotel we kept the bag in the bathtub.

I might be insulated in the hippie paradise of Madison, WI, where mary jane crocs are considered professional attire, but on this trip I discovered that women's shoes out in the real world are ridiculously pointy and high-heeled, and I'd go so far as to say dangerous. I wore very sensible (meaning boring) sandals. On principle I'm against any article of clothing that could be used as a fatal weapon, although it's true that after I hang my incredibly rank running clothes in our tiny bathroom to dry, the room does develop some unfortunate similarities to a gas chamber.

Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to visit an old friend who lives in Washington, DC who I was excited to see. He lives a short subway ride away from the hotel, and I would like to take this chance to give a big shout-out to the Washington Metro, which feels dark, gloomy, and dystopian. But the kind of dystopia that has an excellent public transportation system. On the night I was supposed to see my friend, David reported he had heard that the remnants of a tropical storm were due to hit the area, with up to eight inches of rain predicted, and I sadly decided I couldn't drag the kids out in near-hurricane weather to go see my friend. David suggested we try to find a grocery store and stock up on food, and when I pointed out that there was a restaurant inside the hotel, he fretted that the workers might not be able to get to the hotel due to high floodwaters. It was all I could do to prevent David from laying sandbags in front of our hotel door. I'm not going to go into the details of how the weather played out in actuality, other than to say that the gentle mist was very refreshing and David is banned from ever watching the Weather Channel again.

I'm writing this from Portland, which is part of the second part of my big trip. We almost missed our Chicago-Portland flight due to a massive traffic jam precipitated by construction at Midway Airport but managed to squeak in at the last minute. We flew on Southwest Airlines, which was a first for me, and which I was excited about because unlike other airlines, Southwest doesn't charge to check bags. This can only mean one thing -- on the return flight, I'm checking BOTH kids.

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