The Forgotten Suitcase

At the church in Tokyo where I sang yesterday. And yes, Josh is photo-bombing.

This current trip to Japan reminded me of the time David and I took Josh to Japan with us when he was about 6 months old, and we accidentally left his suitcase at home.  Yes, we flat out forgot the huge suitcase stuffed with all his earthly belongings on his very first travel overseas.  This little baby, who at the time weighed no more than 15 pounds, had a suitcase weighing more than 50 pounds.  You already know about my penchant for covering all my possible eventualities (see my previous post on the diaper bag), so you can bet that it was stuffed full.  His suitcase was bigger than mine and David’s combined.

How could this happen, you ask? I recall that my dad gave us a ride that day, and in the chaos of all three of us loading up the trunk, we each assumed that the other had grabbed Josh’s luggage.  We discovered the ghastly mistake upon arrival at LAX, but by then it was too late to go back to retrieve it, so my dad scurried off avoiding any further responsibility.

This sign has nothing to do with the post but was amusing nonetheless.

Can you imagine, a new mom without her baby’s diapers, clothes, bottles, socks, formulas, and toys?  My knees got weak and I began convulsing.  Okay, slight exaggeration there, but you can bet that I was beside myself.

Fortunately, we called up some good friends who agreed to break into our house and drive the forgotten suitcase all the way up to LAX (thank you, Walt and Sherry!), so we were able to eventually get the bag and not miss our flight.  The bad news was that due to the delay, the luggage didn’t quite make it on our flight and was put on the next flight…the next day.

United was kind enough to deliver the bag to us in Japan, but the delivery service didn’t occur for yet another day after the bag’s arrival.  Bottom line: we were without Josh’s suitcase for 48 HOURS in Japan!  Two days without the bag filled with a year’s worth of his stuff (did I tell you the trip was only about a week and a half long?).  The horror.

If all else fails...

Okay, so here’s where being a pack rat comes in handy: We were not completely left out in the cold, because I had my (you guessed it) diaper bag!  The carry-on diaper bag probably had enough stuff to last the entire duration of our trip, so it was definitely sufficient for the two nerve-wracking days.

And guess what — they sell diapers in Japan!  Japanese babies poop and pee just like their comrades in the States.  Gee, what a revelation.  In fact, their high-tech diapers are superior in many aspects than the Huggies at home.  They keep the babies drier, and lucky for us, they seem to fit Asian baby buns more snugly.

And the Japanese jars of baby food?  The best, and in such good Asian flavors!  We also found some baby crackers that I ended up liking so much that we stocked up on them before going home.  For me.

Japan certainly isn’t third world!

This was yet another lesson in making me more Panda than Tiger.  You see, we might think that what’s familiar is the one and only way, but when we step out a bit we just might find a whole new world out there.

And it just might be even better.

Me and Meg (you'll hear more about her later) on our way to Shinjuku.

Ever been surprised by a whole new experience?  Thought you had it all figured out only to learn that something might be even better?  Share it with us in the comments below.


Panda Mom in Japan

Panda Mom is traveling abroad in Japan right now, so you might not see regular posts from her (er, me) for the next couple of weeks.  I have a few concerts to do, but mostly we’ll be spending time visiting friends and relatives, including my best friend from first grade in Osaka, Yukako. I’m completely jet-lagged as I write this, so please forgive me if I sound incoherent.

First Class trip to Japan!

Oh, can I tell you that we got very fortunate and were bumped up to first class on Delta?  What a blessing and a great way to start our two-week stay in Japan!  The kids, ages 11 and 13, were almost as excited as I was to find our fully-reclining seats in row 6.  I had only admired such seats from behind the curtain all these years, and now I was actually sitting in one of them!  It was a red-eye flight. My kids, ever the optimists, asked me to wake them up for the meals after they took a “little nap.”  As you can imagine, they then promptly went to sleep and missed both of their first class meals.  That’s the downside of those comfy seats in the front of the planes — you might not wake up in time to enjoy the fine china dinner.

We’ve been on the go all day today, taking this train and that while rolling our suitcases along to our destination, the home of our friends Daniel and Yumiko outside Tokyo.  I was reminded of when Josh and Meg were in strollers, and how much work it was for me and David to travel with little ones.  In fact, we just gave up on travels to Japan for many years.  Why go all that way to torture ourselves?  Now, not only are they no longer extra baggage for us to handle but they are actually being very helpful.  In the years past, I would never have considered traveling to Japan with two kids without David.  Now?  They’re keeping me company and handling their own bags.  I am definitely reaping the rewards of the hard work I put into the early years.

If you’re right in the middle of the busy days of babies and toddlers and are struggling just to make it through each day, trust me when I say this: it is just a season.  And it will pass.  Some wonderful days with your kids are ahead.  Who knows — it might even include first-class travels!

Do your kids travel well?  Do you have any traveling horror or success stories?  Please share them with us in the comments below.


Traveling with an Infant

Early boarding, here we come.

I just returned from a weekend trip to Northern California with my son Joshua, now 13 years old.  I couldn’t believe how pleasant it was — nothing like how traveling with baby Josh used to be.

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“How can such a small human being create so much luggage,” I cried in exasperation one weekend when Josh was about 6 months old.  I was flying up to Northern California for a weekend concert engagement.  I couldn’t possibly haul all of our stuff and manage an infant, so I asked my friend Sarah to come along.  She only required a duffel bag for the three days, and I one suite case.  In contrast, Joshua required a stroller, a car seat, baby carrier, a portable baby bath tub, a “portable” play pen/crib, and a suitcase bigger than mine and Sarah’s combined.  I must have thought that they don’t sell diapers nor baby food in San Francisco.

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The best thing about traveling with young children is early boarding.  I tried to pass my teenager as a 5-year old on this trip, but no success.  The second best thing is that kids fly free until they are two years old. Before you get all excited about this, you must be aware of its advantages and disadvantages.

The good news is that you don’t have to pay for a ticket for the baby.  The bad news is that there is no seat for your baby either.  If you’re lucky, you can get on a flight with an open seat next to you, but chances are you are stuck with a child bouncing on your lap for the entire  flight.  More than once, the passenger next to me got up and moved to a different seat.  I wasn’t sure if he was being kind or simply escaping, but I was just glad he opened up the next seat.

For reasons I do not understand, the FAA regulates that I hold the lap infant during take-off and landing instead of allowing me to tuck the kid under my seat belt or in the seat pocket in front.  It’s not so bad during the take-off, but on the landing, I’m just barely keeping my baby from flying away from me.

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And diapers.  Oh, have you ever tried changing a dirty diaper in the tiny lavatories they have on those planes?  Where, pray tell, do you place the baby during the change?  Some planes have one dedicated lavatory equipped with a “baby changing table,” but it’s no bigger than the tray table at your seat.  I was absolutely not going to change him on the dirty bathroom floor, so I often resorted to using the toilet lid as a make-shift changing table.  I wrestled the baby from wiggling off the round, curved lid.  I often staggered out of the lavatory holding a crying baby with a very crooked diaper.

I was so desperate once on a flight to Japan with baby Josh that I began to change him on the floor right at my seat.  The flight attendant discovered this and immediately forbade me, so I then went to the galley where I found a counter perfectly situated for a diaper change.  Right away, another flight attendant found me out and shooed, “It’s unsanitary.  Please do it ON your seat.”  She obviously was not a mother.  Have you ever tried changing a baby on your airplane seat?  Unless your child is a 6 x 8 rectangle and doesn’t move, it is quite impossible.  I was nearly in tears until another flight attendant — most certainly a mom — stood at guard while I did the duty back on the galley counter top.  I owe her a million miles.

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As you can see, traveling with a teenager is much more pleasant than with an infant.  How about you — travel with babies much?