Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Where's Sophie?

I've been thinking that I should start a blog about traveling with kids. Evie is six months old, and yesterday, she took her 11th flight. Noah tallied up sixty flights before his third birthday. We've taken our kid(s) to Alberta and Nunavik many times, and we've also been to Cuba and Central America. After taking a break this summer, we're planning to go cyclo-camping in Italy and Tunisia next spring. We have plenty of tales. Some day, ask me about Ramon.

You'd think we'd be good at traveling with kids by now. While I think Sophie's skill level is at least loosely correlated to her vast experience, I've shown over the past few flights to be a bumbling idiot. I haven't exactly lost a kid just yet, but every time I arrive at a terminal, I can feel a wave of impatience I no doubt inherited from my father coming over me. When it is compounded by the inevitable reality that I will be among the last people to deplane (when did that become a word?) carrying seventeen carry-on bags, a baby in a sling, and a three year-old on my shoulders, I forget stuff. On top of that, without fail, I think I'm so good at parenting that I couldn't possibly have forgotten anything. I scoff at Sophie as she checks under the seats and in the pockets in the back of the row in front of us, and guilt her into leaving the plane before she's satisfied that nothing has been left behind.

It happened again yesterday. We arrived in Kuujjuaq and waited to connect to Kangirsujuaq. For those of you envisioning a normal connection at Pearson or Trudeau, let me explain connecting in Kuujjuaq. You get off the plane down some stairs and walk across the tarmac, into the small, yet modern terminal which was finished about a year and a half ago (the old terminal was a labyrinth of Atco trailers that constantly smelled of urine). So you walk in and get your luggage, or more specifically those pieces which decided to follow you from Montreal or wherever you came from, and drag them across the terminal to check in at First Air or Air Inuit, depending on where you came from. Then, you go to the other counter with your luggage tags to find out when the rest of your stuff will arrive. After going through the motions and then finding out our plane would be delayed for a few hours due to fog in our village, Sophie asked me, "Where's Sophie? Did you forget her?"

Seems like an odd question, but all trendy young parents like us know that Sophie is a giraffe, made in France from natural rubber, and she is a classic. Sophie will celebrate her 50th anniversary next year, and is a must have for a teething baby. We needed one so bad that after we lost our first one a few days after purchasing it, I had to go across the city to buy another one. Picture a thirty-something yuppie wearing an American Apparel t-shirt holding out a squeaky toy for a dog with a far heftier price tag in front of a screaming baby. "Come on baby girl. (Squeak! Squeak!) You wanna play with Sophie?" Anyway, I took mild offense to Sophie the younger questioning my superior parenting abilities. "Why don't you look in the bags before accusing me?" I replied with certitude.

I looked in each bag. Three times. Sophie is indeed on the plane to Yellowknife, via Iqaluit and Rankin Inlet. I wish I could say it was the first time. Last time it was Freddie, one of Noah's trains. It turns out that my mountain of fantastic parenting skills was nothing more than a house of cards. It soon came tumbling down.

We found out that we would be staying in Kuujjuaq. A nice man from the school board came to drive us into town. I walked toward the door, loaded down with stuff, and Sophie, who was holding a sleeping Evie asked me, "do you have everything?"

"Yes," I replied. Well, not exactly everything. I remembered almost all of our checked luggage. When I realized that Noah was not pulling his suitcase, I dropped everything I was carrying and said quietly but very clearly, "shit!" I ran back into the terminal and collected his suitcase. When I came back out, a three year-old parrot was chirping "Shit! Shit! Shit!" I gave him his suitcase and laughed. I got into the van where Sophie informed me that our driver had graciously picked up all of the things I had forgotten: the baby carrier, the nursing pillow and a backpack.

I guess I need to rethink my awesomeness.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


We leave for Wakeham tomorrow.

If you had asked me four years ago if I would be going back up to Kangirsujuaq for a fifth year with my girlfriend and two kids, I don't know what I would have said. The familiar feeling of excitement and dread intertwined has been building up inside me all day. All of our boxes have been sent, and we just have our luggage left to pack. My suitcase has Noah's clothes, 24 notebooks, and a few of my things. By now, I've learned to travel fairly light for myself. Kids take up a lot of room. The 24 notebooks are a precaution I felt I had to take. The school board furnishes all of the students' school supplies, and last year, after being promised by a succession of principals that my notebooks would soon be arriving, I ultimately had to make due without them all year. This week, with some prodding from Sophie, I decided to take measures into my own hands.

Anyway, a new school year begins on Wednesday. This year, as always, I have found a new position that affords me the ability to work as few months of the year as possible. I'll be teaching the Secondary 6 college preparatory program for graduating students who were not strong enough to go straight to CEGEP. Stay tuned for a little fun and a whole lotta liberal guilt.

My summer ends tomorrow.