You may be wondering why on earth I am blogging at such an early hour. None of us slept past 4am, we're still very much on Europe time. Mason's body clock was most affected. He came bounding into our bedroom at 3am
We awoke early and left Paris yesterday morning at 9:55am Paris time, (3:55am US CST) and arrived into DFW airport at 230pm CST. Flight time took 9hrs 54mins and 23 seconds. Mason stayed awake the entire time and was happy as a clam the entire flight, playing downloaded games quietly (most of the time) on Rashele's laptop.
This will be a long entry as I'll try to encapsilate most of the highlights of the trip (you already read the lowlights)
Prior to leaving, we were very preoccupied with how Mason would adjust to a number of things.
1 - Unknown surroundings. He's never been to his Great Grandmother's home before
2 - New relatives, he's only met Rashele's Godfather and his girlfriend when they visited last November
3 - French
4 - Food
5 - Plane ride
6 - Culture
7 - Bathrooms
8 - Time change
9 - Sleeping
10 - Weather
We've observed that when Mason's stress level rises that some areas, especially food and sleep suffer for it. And with the 6 hour time change we knew we'd have an uphill battle.
1 - Unknown surroundings - I think we sometimes lack giving Mason credit. In the early and not so early days entering a new place would trigger hellacious tantrums, but now I think he appreciates the adventure newness brings. He readily explored his Great Grandmother's house, and stairs, and elevators. He made himself right at home
2 - New Relatives - This is probably what concerned us most. Mason's never been big on giving hugs and kisses to complete strangers and of course this is customary when greeting family members and close friends in Europe. The first couple of days were a bit iffy, but one moment made me extremely proud of him. Saturday we were in the city center doing some shopping with BonMama (Great Grandmother) and Mason asked to use the pottie. Since we were unfamiliar w/the area, BonMama, in her broken english told to come with her and she'd show me the way. After he was done with his business we got back in the elevator to meet up w/Rashele and the kids. The 3 of us were alone in the elevator and tiny BonMama, all of 4' 8", spoke her sweet french to Mason and reached out to him. He looked up at her and latched on to her giving her a long extended hug up 3 floors until we got off. I could tell that made a HUGE impact with her and was probably the hightlight of our visit with her.
3 - French - I think I struggled more than Mason. The great thing about Europe is that a lot of people speak English. The good thing about Rashele's family is that Rashele speaks some french, and some of the others speak English so we had a good balance and Mason got to interact with others besides his immediate family members
4 - Food - We brought along plenty of substitutes with us that we KNEW he would eat in a pinch, but we did manage to find some items there that he tried and liked. A couple of stops at McDonalds while we were there helped as well. He loves his chicken nuggets. (I thought McDonald's there tasted a LOT better than the stuff here)
5 - Plane Ride - The ride coming home was EASY. The ride going over was a bit more of a challenge. We left DFW and flew to JFK for a 3 hour layover before catching JFK - Paris. I think we made the mistake of giving Mason a dose of Benadryl too early as he fell asleep as we were taking off and slept for 2 hours. That left 4 hours to go and he was tired and never could get comfortable enough to sleep again. With about 2 hours to go he started to meltdown and I had to hold him and walk around the cabin for about 30 mins telling him it would be okay. Thankfully he wasn't crying, only stressfullly whining to me in my ear. With about an hour to go on the flight I did manage to get back in our seats with him stroking his back and putting him to sleep until we landed.
6 - Culture - No issues here
7 - Bathrooms - If a bathroom appears to be too "different" from another Mason won't go. And forget peeing outside, it doesn't matter how bad he has to go, if there's no toilet he'll hold it until he can't hold it anymore. This is when the occasional accident occurs.
8 - Time Change - Had some effect in the beginning, but coming home has the less desireable affect. I'm hoping we can get him down for a nap sometime today to get him back on a schedule. I knew when he fell asleep at 6pm last night on the couch that we'd have an early morning wake up call. I didn't imagine 3am though.
9 - Sleeping - Overall he slept great on the trip, we even had a couple of nights where he slept the entire night. That RARELY happens. I think he slept better than most of us.
10 - Weather - As I hinted in my previous entry about the vomit/urine debaucle, weather can have a tendancy to stress him out. It's very sensory for him. He doesn't like or understand the rain drops hitting his face. When we coupled the rain, and cold + the new surroundings of the donkey farm + the stress of the car incident +, is when we had our only big meltdown.
We made time in Paris to visit the Eiffel Tower because we wanted Mason to see it in person. It was COLD so we stayed only long enough to get pictures, then we went back to the hotel to warm up. It was just unbearable.
I'm already looking forward to the next trip, but am glad that it's at least 2 years away. And next time we'll go during the Spring or Summer.
When we were deboarding the plane yesterday we struck up a conversation with the woman sitting in front of Mason. She thought we were brave for traveling with 3 kids, one of which has special needs all the way to Europe.
I thought we must be stupid.
Now I think it was a little mix of both.
I'll explain why I titled this "The Golden Trophy". Mason, when challenged with something be it a new food, a ride at Disneyland Paris, or something that takes him out of his comfort zone will excitedly repeat this phrase "YOU DID IT!! YOU WON THE GOLDEN TROPHY!!"
And on this trip, he did just that.
(I know I promised to blog about the wonderful mother we met in Belgium on Monday night.. I still plan on doing that and hope to have it blogged by tomorrow at the latest)
Enjoy your days everyone!