Last weekend Mike finished up work on his doctorate degree- woohoo! When Mike graduated from physical therapy school in 2001, he had earned his Master of Science in Physical Therapy degree. It was an intense program that was just a few credits less than the number of credits in a doctoral program, so couple of years later, schools added the extra classes to the course load and changed the degree from a Master of Science in Physical Therapy to a Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree. So, Mike was one of the last classes to have the MSPT distinction. There's no requirement that physical therapists with their MSPT go on and earn their DPT, but since Mike holds positions in both the American Physical Therapy Association and the Iowa Physical Therapy Association, and he teaches classes to the DPT students at his alma mater as well as other PTs, he felt it was important for him to earn his DPT. So over the past year, he has worked hard in a program perfect for him, as it was targeted at private practice owners and offered quite a few business classes, something Mike had never taken in college or PT school, but were useful considering he owns his own practice. Much of Mike's work was done online, though he was required to go to California for 3 different on-site visits. The last time was earlier this month, and included a couple of days of class and then graduation.
Mike flew out on Wednesday evening so he could start class early Thursday morning. Since this was a great accomplishment and since Mike and I celebrated 10 years of marriage earlier this summer, we decided we would join the two things together and I would meet him in San Diego for a little get-away weekend. So I flew out on Friday morning, which happened to be my third Friday in a row of flying on an airplane. Let me tell you, after flying to and from Denver with all three boys, flying by myself was blissful. I like flying, but in the last 6 years, I've flown by myself about twice; every other time I've had at least one toddler or baby with me. Security was so easy, I didn't have to worry about limiting water for any little boys so they wouldn't have to potty on the plane, and I knew that once on the plane, I could sit and read or sleep or do whatever I wanted without having to entertain anyone or keep anybody quiet or happy. It was great! Getting everything ready for the trip was a little stressful. It's no easy task packing for myself, all 3 boys, and the dogs and making sure I had all of Jake's milk for bottles and and the appropriate baby food for all of his meals, etc. Since Mike was already gone, I had to do all of this after the boys had gone to bed, and it was exhausting. After getting everything packed and all set up for Grandma Linda and Grandpa Curt (who so generously watched the boys and dogs for us while we were gone), I was off, but not until I bought a book and some Jelly Bellies (my favorite treat!) at Target on the way to the airport.
Once I got to San Diego, I got to go wait in line forever at the car rental place and then find my way to the hotel Mike was at for his class. Friday night was his graduation, which was short and sweet (an hour at the longest). Mike was the first person in his class to get his degree, and I wasn't sure if it'd be ok for me to go closer to get a picture or not. I also didn't take the big camera lens with me, so these pictures are the best I could get.
There was a professional photographer there taking pictures, so when they lined up for the whole class photo, again, I didn't feel like I could get right in front. So please excuse the pole from the photographer's light.
The final component of the program was a group project, and over the last few weeks leading up to the final trip to California, this project definitely caused Mike some headaches. His group consisted of three classmates, Raj from Detroit (I think), Dimitri from NY, and Cheryl from CA. There were lots of conference calls and some difficulty getting everybody on the same page for the project, but in the end, they pulled it off and had a great presentation prepared for their classmates, according to Mike.
We had the option to stick around after the ceremony for appetizers and drinks and then to head to a restaurant with Mike's classmates for dinner, but, honestly, we weren't interested. We're not anti-social, but I didn't know any of these people at all, and Mike figures he won't talk to any of them again now that they're all graduated. Instead, we headed to the nearest movie theater and saw the latest Harry Potter movie, which did not disappoint.
Even though graduation was Friday night, Mike still had 4 hours of class stuff to attend on Saturday morning. Weird, right? That's what I thought. So while he was off listening to some speakers, I utilized the hotel work-out room and spent some time on the ellipse machine while watching the Women's World Cup third place game. That afternoon we headed up to Torrey Pines State Park for some hiking and some beautiful views
A very nice park volunteer helped us out by showing us a neat trail and giving us a history of the area, and then he took our picture for us.
That evening we checked into our new hotel, the Hard Rock Hotel, which was slightly more hip than the Residence Inn Mike had been staying at. Maybe even a little too hip for us, or at least too young- I think we might have been the only people staying there that have graduated from college. We thought about going to a fancy, expensive restaurant for dinner, but opted instead to go to an old favorite, Ye Olde Spaghetti Factory, instead. Then we walked around the Gaslamp Quarter and eventually settled in at a fun piano bar for much of the night.
The next morning we walked over to a restaurant that had gotten great reviews, Richard Walkers Pancake House. There was a pretty lengthy line outside, but we got into it anyway, and it moved quickly. Once we got inside, we could see why. The little restaurant was packed, and people were sitting so close to each other. Our table was against a wall, and the hostess literally had to move the 18" x 32" table out so I could squeeze in, and then Mike and I sat about 6 " from the people next to us. We had some strawberries and cream as an appetizer, and then Mike had french toast and I had a waffle with strawberries, and we both had freshly squeezed orange juice. It was all incredibly delicious, but it also was our most expensive meal for the whole weekend! We spent over $50 on breakfast for two! Yikes! After breakfast we walked around town for a bit before going back to our room to watch the heart-breaking women's World Cup final between the USA and Japan. After the game we headed out to Coronado Island, where we acted on a tip from some friends of mine and rented bikes to ride around. That was a lot of fun, and the weather was gorgeous. The whole time we were in San Diego it didn't get above 75 degrees. That night we decided to eat dinner at Peohe's, a Chart House restaurant right on the water in Coronado. We took it easy and just got appetizers and salads, and when we got back over to the Gaslamp Quarter, we walked around some more and got some ice cream, then headed back to the hotel to watch a movie and call it an early night.
The original plan for Monday was to take advantage of our time in San Diego by doing something before our afternoon flight. However, on Sunday night, we decided that getting back home after 11:00 at night and jumping right into the swing of things (work for Mike, all 3 boys for me) early the next morning didn't sound so fun. Unfortunately, to change our flights, it was going to cost us upwards of $450 per ticket, so that made the decision pretty easy. We tossed around the idea of going to Sea World or the zoo, but both were so expensive (Sea World is $70 per person!), that we decided since we didn't have a full day, it wasn't worth the money. We drove out to where some paragliders jump off the cliffs, but it was too early in the day and nobody was out yet. So we went to La Jolla and walked along the beach. It was fun because we got to see all the little kids in surf school. I think Zach would have a blast with surf school. I actually stood and talked to the mom of the little girl in center of the picture below, and found out she is 5, and that the camp goes all week from 9-12 each day. That would be so fun!
We got to the airport in time for our 3:55 flight, and then it was late. We were supposed to land in Chicago and have about an hour layover before our 9:55 flight home. However, at about 9:35, when we were still on the plane to Chicago, I started to get pretty antsy. The flight attendant assured us that our next flight knew we were on our way, and she told us our gate number and showed us where to go on a map. We landed 20 miles away from the airport around 9:50 and taxied for about an hour. Ok, maybe it wasn't that far or that long, but it honestly was the longest taxiing on an airplane I've ever experienced. All I wanted was to get home, and I was getting very stressed. The flight attendant didn't even have the courtesy to ask the other passengers to please let us off first, so we did our best asking for that, but we were still behind a bunch of people taking their sweet time. We bolted for our next gate, Mike with his carry-on suitcase and laptop bag, and me with my purse, breast pump and an insulated lunchbox filled with breast milk (a.k.a. liquid gold) and about 10 pounds of ice. Partway to the gate I stopped and took off my flip-flops so I could run faster, and I couldn't believe I was running through O'Hare Airport barefoot. Gross. That darn breast pump (it's a backpack) kept slamming against my back so that I had bruises the next day. We arrived at the gate to find it dark and empty. Tears ensued, but eventually Mike calmed down. Ok, the tears were really mine. It must have been 10:10 or so when we arrived at the gate, and I looked a little later on my phone and saw that the plane took off at 10:13. We truly just missed it, and I kept oscillating between being so incredibly pissed at American Airlines, being completely depressed about not getting home, and being worried that there wasn't any milk in the freezer for Jake for the morning. Mike and I spent the next almost 2 hours calling car rental companies there at O'Hare and talking to the car rental shuttle drivers, seeing if we could get a one-way rental that night. I even pulled out the old, "I have a sick baby I need to get home to," hoping that I'd get some person who had a heart and could hear this heartsick mom begging for a car. No luck. One person finally told us we could rent a car and drive it home and turn it in here, and just face the possible charges for returning it to the wrong place. We were told the charges could range from $50-$1000. Not worth it, especially considering it's a 5-6 hour drive from Chicago to our house. So, we finally gave up and started calling hotels, which also seemed to be totally booked. We finally took the first room we could find, and we arrived there after midnight. By the time I had pumped and Mike had talked to his mom about canceling patients for the next day (she works part time for him), it was after 1:00. We never ate dinner, so I was hungry and tired, but of course struggled to fall asleep. That 5:00 a.m. alarm came pretty early, though. Oh, and I didn't have a suitcase, so I had no pajamas or clean clothes for the next day, no make-up, no hair products, etc. I got a toothbrush and deodorant from the hotel, but still had to sleep in my contacts. So, after less than 4 hours of sleep and in the same clothes as the day before, I was by far one of the most haggard-looking people at O'Hare on Tuesday morning. Oh, and for that short 5 hours spent in the hotel (we left on the shuttle at 5:30), we forked out $275, none of which was covered by American Airlines, even though they made us miss our second flight. The one blessing in it all was that I had planned to put all the milk I had pumped over the weekend in the lunchbox in my suitcase, because then I wouldn't have to worry about dealing with it at security. Mike, however, was worried that it might sit outside too long in Chicago, where it was over 90 degrees, so he convinced me to carry it on instead. If you've ever breast-fed a baby, you know that breast milk is pretty much liquid gold, and you understand what a travesty it would have been for all my hard work to be wasted by sitting out in the heat too long (like overnight). So, even though it was a pain carrying that milk while sprinting through the airport, I am so glad Mike (who originally suggested 4 days of pumping and dumping- did he learn nothing with the first two kids I nursed?? Pumping and dumping is for extreme cases only!) had the foresight to convince me to carry it on.
So we finally arrived home at about 9:00 in the morning on Tuesday. Zach was at VBS, Jake was fed and ready for a nap (there was milk in the freezer!), and Drew was happy to see us. Mike's mom, who unexpectedly had to spend the night at our house, was ready for work, even though she probably got about as much sleep as us. We felt terrible about the inconvenience for Mike's parents, but were so thankful they were around to help out.
It was a great trip (until the very last part) and it was fun to get away- that was my first time away since Jake was born in December, and I needed it! Thank you so much to Curt and Linda for taking care of the boys and the dogs and making it possible for us to go. And congrats to Mike for completing that doctorate degree!