The trip, Stage 1: Chicago to London (UPDATED)

The last stretch of packing and prepping the house for our departure & renters was pretty hectic and stressful. It made it hard to focus on where we were going, and on not killing my family.

In the end, we had 8 large suitcases, each packed right up to (okay, maybe a bit over) the 50-pound limit. I am forever grateful to the AA skycap who put the bags through without weighing them.

“Hey, the service here is pretty good for coach.”

Things went pretty well on the first leg of the trip. Not only did we have the super-helpful skycap, but there was the nice gate crew who killed time by asking Olympic trivia over the intercom (when I correctly answered that Nancy Kerrigan was the Olympian who had 7 bodyguards at the 1994 Winter Olympics, I won a discount coupon that I had to give away — only good through October — and a silver medal, just like Nancy Kerrigan!). They also helpfully moved us to the bulkhead seats with a bassinet for Baby Mo. I’d planned to get to the airport extra early just for that (those are first-come, first-serve), but they even preserved my scamulous move of leaving the empty middle seat in our new row.

Yitzi has his takeoff candy tucked under his chin… for safety.

There are 5 seats in the middle, and we had 4 tickets, so I reserved like this: XXOXX. That middle seat will be the last one on the plane taken and, even if it is, the inhabitant will jump at the chance to trade for an aisle. No risk! Anyway, when the gate agent moved us, she kept the configuration, which meant no one sat there, and we had all 5 seats (plus bassinet) to ourselves. Score!

The melatonin kicked in quickly.

I was dreading the trip, because Shalom (our 4-year-old) is not famous for flying well long distance. He doesn’t sleep, then takes it out on the rest of the plane. So, this time, we decided to take the common advice we got: drug the children. Many suggested Benadryl, but there are kosher concerns, so we decided to go with melatonin, which many also swear by. At first, it seemed we had hit the jackpot. Fast-acting!

Unfortunately, we should have chosen Long-Lasting. After not-long-enough, Shalom was awake and possessed. Crying and unresponsive to logic, bribes, and threats. He did eventually snap out of it when we revealed the existence of his personal TV screen (hidden in the bulkhead seats of a 777 until you pop it up) and put on The Pirates! Band of Misfits. But he remained short-fused the rest of the way — not surprising, given that he had maybe 2 hours of sleep. Yitzi slept much better and Mordechai was, as predicted, the easiest passenger.

Between Shalom’s issues and the fact that an hour delay and an eastward flight gave me a quick window for shacharis (morning prayers), I got very little sleep myself. Nevertheless, we arrived at London’s Heathrow Airport tired but happy at about 9:30 a.m. local time.


Only women and transvestites may change diapers here.

Update: I forgot to include American Airlines’ blatantly sexist baby changing instructions in the bathroom. Check out the depiction of the diaper changer. Of course, I construed this as a statement of official policy and refused to change any diapers on the plane, to avoid getting tazed by a sky marshal.


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