Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Disaster that was San Francisco '12

I was looking forward to a fun family day in the Bay. We had never been as a family. Maybe we would get a caricature of the girls or buy some funny souvenirs. We planned to see Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39 and Ghirardelli Square.

As we approached the 7-mile toll bridge before the city, we heard from the back seat, "I'm poopin'."

Those two words used to make me drop what I was doing to race to the nearest bathroom, assuming it was too late. I've learned that this statement actually means, "Mommy, I need to poop now and I can hold it for maybe a few minutes but we better find a potty soon."

As I said, we were approaching the toll bridge. No toilet in sight. "Ellie, you're going to have to hold it and we will find a potty in one minute." Any time we use a time increment, it's always one more minute. "Ellie, you have one more minute of play time. Ellie, you have one more minute of time out." That minute can be anywhere from 30 seconds to several minutes, and in this case, it was looking like it was going to be an eternity.

I looked at her face. She looked worried. We all realized she might not hold it. We paid the toll and slowly scooted across the bridge. "Look, Ellie, boats!" I tried to distract her. As the beautiful downtown San Francisco skyline came into view I had one thought: "That's a lot of buildings. I bet there are hundreds, no, thousands of toilets staring at us, but we can't get to even one of them."

I don't remember when I realized it was too late. My poor girl couldn't hold it any longer. She informed me that her pants were wet. She seemed sheepish and confused. I felt bad for her and was also feeling badly for the parent that would be cleaning up the mess.

We started pulling in to a parking space as another car started backing in. After a passive aggressive discussion with the older couple (I wanted to yell out my window, "we have a poopy toddler in here! That trumps you being old!" but I only mumbled it loud enough for Michael to hear), we caved in and drove to the parking garage with all of its outlandish fees.

Michael gets the hero award for cleaning up the mess of a carseat and child while I nursed Hazel in the cold, dark parking garage. We were determined to be positive and still had a whole day in front of us. This was only the second pants change of the day, after all. No big deal. (The first change was a few hours earlier. Despite making it to the toilet at the gas station Ellie's aim was off and she still needed a change of clothes. Who knew girls could aim out the toilet too?)

We loaded up our two strollers and headed towards Fisherman's Wharf. We had been given a few recommendations for lunch and were looking forward to some yummy food. We got to the restaurant and were deciding where to sit when we heard a tiny voice, "potty." Michael pushed her stroller to the bathroom and a few minutes later returned, shaking his head. Apparently they were too late, and the stroller and her pants were soaked. Of course I forgot to throw in a new pair of pants so back to the car Michael went, a 15-minute walk each way.

At lunch. Hazel was a happy girl, at least.
I found a new restaurant closer to the car and 30 minutes later I finally saw two little side ponytails up on Michael's shoulders heading my way.

After a somewhat disappointing 2PM lunch we decided we must go to Ghirardelli Square. We walked towards the chocolate tourist trap and once again heard, "potty." We were a few blocks from the Square and the public restroom within it. Michael took Ellie and started running and I would meet them there.

I got to the fountain and waited with Hazel. It was starting to get chilly outside.

Here we are waiting, the Ghirardelli sign behind us.
A more accurate depiction of how I felt about the day so far.
Michael came around the corner carrying Ellie. I was hopeful. He had made it all the way to the men's restroom only to stand in line. Several stalls of men sitting and looking at their smart phones caused my poor girl to pee on Michael's arm as they stood there, so close, yet not close enough. Thank you, men of San Francisco, for taking your sweet time on the pot so my little girl could have yet another accident.

The parking garage with our car was directly below the Square. We decided to head to the car. I could feed Hazel again, Michael could change Ellie and also get a new shirt since his was wet with pee, and then we could return for the long awaited chocolate ice cream.

Michael changed Ellie once again in the cold parking garage. 4 hours after our arrival we were in the same spot again, a few accidents later, and nothing but a quick lunch in between. We decided we were paying way too much to use the parking garage as a changing center without even getting to enjoy much of the Bay. It was getting too cold for ice cream anyway.

We had heard there are several great coffee shops to try in San Francisco. There is nothing Michael and I like more than to find a warm, cozy coffee shop on a cold day and enjoy a good cup of joe. Hopefully this would help salvage the day.

We drove a few miles and as we were parking, once again from the back seat: "I'm poopin'."

Seriously? Are you serious? You need to go AGAIN? "We're almost there. One more minute."

We parked. We got Ellie out and she started crying, "I'm poopin," and this time I knew she meant IT'S TOO LATE, I'M LITERALLY POOPING RIGHT NOW. I quickly grabbed a plastic bag, pulled her pants down, and tried to get her to squat and finish in the bag. It was a mess. She was a mess.

We debated just loading back up and heading for the hotel. I was done. The Bay had been a disaster with zero fun had by us all, except maybe Hazel who enjoyed walking around in the baby carrier. It was getting cold and our frustration level was reaching its max.

But oh, the idea of sitting in a warm coffee shop caressing a mug beckoned us. A cup of good espresso can fix a lot of bad in our book. We were determined to have at least one good thing happen in our day. Never underestimate the power of good coffee. We set off on a hunt for this shop, wondering if we had enough pants to make it through the rest of the day.

A few blocks later we found what we were searching for, only, it wasn't. It was an outdoor coffee stand. With little garden chairs to sit on. In the cold.

I forced myself to be positive: "I WILL enjoy this coffee, despite the cold. I WILL sit and relax and forget about this crazy day. I WILL enjoy a few minutes with my daughter so we can all have one good memory of this day."

The coffee was good. I sat on the cold patio furniture and released the day, trying not to be distracted by how cold I was. Ellie was sipping her first hot chocolate. Ever. It was a sweet moment. She sipped it and said, "yummy inside." Michael and I smiled at each other. "Finally. This moment is helping redeem the whole day," I thought to myself. "Despite the cold and the atmosphere, this is a precious moment." 
Ellie's first hot chocolate.
Then this happened.
I'm pretty sure she had two sips. I may have shed a few tears. Seriously. I couldn't take it anymore. The fleeting thought of redemption through hot chocolate was flowing away down the sidewalk.

We finished our coffee, let Ellie play on a nearby play structure for a few minutes, and left for the hotel.

I could explain how the hotel charged us for parking for the week when it was supposed to be included.  I could mention how tired and hungry we were and how our patience was down to zero. I could mention our tired toddler or our crying baby. But I'll move on past the hotel lobby and the two cranky parents yelling at the hotel employees.

Michael and Ellie had a fun time in the pool. We ordered room service pizza. We considered finding a laundromat because two pairs of clean pants didn't seem enough for the next day of travel, but we decided to risk it. We all slept well.

We enjoyed our complimentary breakfast. The front desk ladies couldn't change the parking situation but we did get free breakfast and we were upgraded to the Executive Floor-the quiet floor with no kids. We got some dirty looks from the businessmen in their suits the next morning as our daughter yelled happily down the hallway past all of the Shhhhh! signs on each door.

We were waiting for the airport shuttle and Michael was paying at the front desk. I looked over at Ellie. She looked away and her face turned red. "Ellie, are you pooping?" It was happening right in front of me.

I threw Hazel in the car seat, bonking her head as she started to cry, scooped Ellie up, yelled to Michael across the lobby for all to hear, "She's pooping!" and ran to the bathroom as fast as I could holding 25 pounds by the armpits.

The good news was her pants could still be worn. The bad news was the shuttle had arrived and the driver made it clear he was not happy to be waiting. Michael came into the empty women's bathroom, grabbed a shoeless Ellie, I grabbed the messy clothes wrapped in paper towels, and we all ran to the front of the hotel, making the shuttle late and getting dirty looks from all aboard.

At the airport we made the decision to put a pull-up on Ellie. A little late for that thought. She stayed dry on the plane. Of course.

Ellie's first plane ride as an official passenger.
On our drive from Denver to Colorado Springs she mentioned something about potty but we just drove. She had a pull-up on and there was no way we'd make it to a toilet anyway.

Someday we hope to go back to San Francisco. I'd like to eat some ice cream at Ghirardelli Square.

Ellie did well in Colorado. The first day she was a bit tentative, but after a couple of days she was back to her potty-trained self. I think the first incident in the car on the toll bridge confused her and threw her off for a few days, but I'm happy to report that we're home and she did great both on the airplane and on our drive home. 

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