Every winter, Bryon and I liked to go on a cruise. We had one booked that was supposed to leave today. We were supposed to sail on the Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas and we were supposed to sail out of Miami and go to four brand new ports (Labadee, Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao). I cancelled that cruise even though my daughter’s godmother said she would go. I appreciated her offer but declined because I would be too sad. Cruising was our thing and if I were to go without Bryon, I would probably cry the whole time. And it would not be fun to be on a cruise if you are crying all the time. Maybe someday I will be ready to cruise again with friends.
My best friend was going to Vegas with her husband and her two year old daughter because her husband was in a tournament and she invited my daughter and I to come along. I figured it would be nice to get away and see my best friend. I don’t get to see her often because she lives in Chicago. I remembered the promise I made to Bryon that I would take our daughter to see the world. We would do Vegas Mom and Toddler style.
This was my first time flying by myself with our daughter. I used to fly by myself all the time as a singleton but I only flown by myself once since I was with Bryon. That was to my best friends wedding in the Cancun area (same best friend I was traveling with on this trip). Bryon wasn’t able to attend the wedding because it was during his busy time at work. I remember being overwhelmed on that flight because I got so used to travelling with him. And he even booked that flight for me and even researched what to expect when going through Mexican customs. He was so organized. He had a folder with all pertinent travel documents and he did all the heavy lifting. But he is no longer here and he would want my daughter and I to continue living so I figured we would be brave it by ourselves.
In some ways, traveling with my 2 year old on a cross country flight wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be. I was prepared for everything to take longer. Luckily we had TSA Pre-check so security was easier. The car seat couldn’t fit through the bag screener and I was instructed to bring the stroller to the metal detector and I had to wait until they were individually checked. Coming back they were able to put them both through the bag scanner.
Luckily my daughter likes to people watch so she is generally entertained in places with lots of people. But I had brought books and dolls. Also, toddlers like to eat and there is usually lots of food in airports so I think she ate three bananas, an orange and a bag of M&M’s. I also had gotten her a frozen yogurt with strawberries on it. She ate the strawberries but pretty much played with the rest. Maybe not the best dinner but I was more concerned about keeping her happy. I guess there could be worse things for her to eat too much off. All I know is when I went to grab some M&M’s, they were gone.
When we used to fly with Bryon, he usually did most of the heavy lifting while I took care of our daughter. He always made comments that he was the pack mule. Well this time I got to be the pack mule and take care of our daughter. So I texted one of my good friends, the one that I can talk to completely uncensored (nothing I say can shock her) and I said that I needed to get a boyfriend just so he could come with me on vacation to help with the heavy lifting. Experience at installing car seats would be a plus. I would even pay for the fictional boyfriend’s vacation and he wouldn’t even have to hang out with us. During our conversation, I remembered that I am not ready for a boyfriend (even if he is fictional) and I would then have to break up with this fictional boyfriend after vacation and give him the “yeah…this isn’t going to work…it’s not you, it’s me…” speech. Also, I like to travel a lot so I would need an off-again, on-again type of relationship. I was starting to become stressed out over this fictional relationship. My conversation with my friend concluded that next time I will just check the car seat and learn more about minimalist packing and wait for a real relationship to come in it’s own time.
I was surprised that so many people were willing to help. Turns out I don’t need a pack mule boyfriend. I did have offers from many people to help carry my bags onto the plane and to carry the carseat. I was surprised at the kindness people showed us. Or maybe it was pity. Most likely, they were just victims of my daughter’s adorable looks and charming personality.
Our flight was supposed to arrive around 8:30pm (close to the time that my friends flight was due to arrive from Chicago) but we didn’t get in until after 10pm (local time so it was after 1am Eastern time). My best friend and her husband and daughter came back to the airport to get us. It was so good to see my best friend. It was late and we went to bed when we got back to the hotel.
My cell phone never adjusted to the time change and the clock stayed in Eastern time so it didn’t surprise me that I slept in until 10am Eastern (7 am local). We had a view of the strip and the girls were fascinated with the tiny cars down below. They kept exclaiming “Cars! Cars!” My best friend and I got our two daughters ready which was quite an ordeal in itself. As I was getting ready, a few of Bryon’s contacts (he used the daily disposables) fell out of my toiletry bag. He probably put them in there while on our last cruise in February 2016, a month before he got sick. I threw them away as it didn’t make any sense to keep them. I felt a twinge of sadness because over time, those little reminders of Bryon are going to slowly disappear.
After we were finally ready, we went down to the lobby and had crepes at one of the cafe’s in the hotel. (We were staying at Paris). We then went next door to Planet Hollywood to do some shopping at the Miracle Mile Mall. I was on a mission for the Las Vegas Pandora beads. And I wanted to buy my daughter a Vegas T-shirt as well as a Vegas Christmas ornament because I like to collect Christmas ornaments from places I travel too.
For lunch, we went to Hash House A Go-Go at The Linq. The portions were HUGE. Then we walked around the Venetian, got Gelato, dealt with several bodily fluids (ah, motherhood) and then got lost in Ceasar’s Palace. My daughter lost a shoe which we never found. We went to use the elevator because of our strollers and there was a homeless man sleeping in the elevator. So we had no choice but to (carefully) use escalator with a stroller. Then we went back to the hotel to curl our hair before going out to a steakhouse where I got Maine lobster pasta because I am weird like that.
Oh and it was raining. In the desert. I am still kind of confused about that.
The following day we took the girls to M&M World which consisted of 4 floors of pure excitement. I felt the need to buy my daughter a M&M stuffed animal (yellow), a M&M mug (yellow), a Christmas ornament (yellow- notice a theme? I think it is my daughter’s favorite color) and some overpriced M&M’s (but oh, all the color choices! But not yellow because you can get those in regular packages) and I spent so much that I could get the M&M character blanket for $5 so of course I did. And I bought the $2 reusable tote bag because I am a sucker like that. I got pecan pie M&M’s which were delicious and my best friend got butterscotch M&M’s which she let me try and they were amazing too.
After M&M world, we walked over to New York, New York and had lunch. The kids had hot dogs and the adults had pizza. We then walked through the castle (i.e. The Excalibur) and took the tram to Mandalay Bay. We planned on taking the girls to the Shark Reef Aquarium.
I had stayed at Mandalay Bay in 2005 when I attended the Young Republican National Convention. It was the first of many Young Republican National Federation events that I would attend. As I walked through the hotel and convention center, I started reflecting to my best friend (i.e. verbal diarrhea) about how eerie it felt to be in the place that changed my life. I didn’t know it at the time, but my decision to attend that convention in 2005 completely altered the course of my life. I had a great time at that convention and I made connections and decided to get further involved in the organization. I met my daughter’s godmother at the following board meeting in Little Rock, AR in the fall of 2005. I met my best friend the following spring in Washington, D.C. at the Young Republican Leadership Conference. She was sitting in front of me on the bus that took us to and from the reception at the Romanian Embassy. And I met Bryon at the Fall 2006 Board Meeting in Louisville, KY. If I had not attended that convention, I would not have (eventually) met my husband or my close friends, I would not have my daughter and I would not be living in New York. Also, almost all my friends in New York became my friends originally through Bryon. This completely blew me away.
We took the girls through the shark reef aquarium. I was very impressed.
After the aquarium, we drove down the strip and to the other side of the Stratosphere. We passed Silver and Gold, the pawn shop from Pawn Stars. We also drove through some local neighborhoods.
We decided to have dinner at Burgr, one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants. When the food came, my daughter had an epic tantrum. I admit, I am spoiled because she is generally a very easy going and well behaved kid. I know they say you can’t reason with a toddler but I can usually reason with her. But she wasn’t having any of it. She was tired and she was overstimulated. I had to take her out of the restaurant and I strapped her into her stroller. I found a quiet corner where I sit down on the floor and I start crying. My best friend came out and I proceeded to completely melt down about how it all wasn’t fair. Why did Bryon have to die? How come everyone else in the world gets to be happy except me? It wasn’t supposed to be like this. We were supposed to grow old together. Not one of my proudest moments and I couldn’t even blame it on alcohol because I was sober.
After I finished my meltdown, my best friend and I went to Holsteins in the Cosmopolitan for adult milkshakes. That made things better.
This trip was great because I got to see my best friend and my daughter got to play with her daughter. But I couldn’t help but feel like Bryon was missing. It felt like he should have been on this trip with us. He would have loved Vegas. He would have loved the fact that the people came from all walks of life (including the homeless man sleeping in the elevator). He would have loved the gambling and all the food. He would have loved the casinos. He would have loved the ride through the neighborhoods near the strip. He had been my travelling buddy for 8 years so I definitely felt his absence. While I know he will always be with me and that does comfort me to some level, I hope in the future I won’t feel so empty from his absence when I travel.