Ascend, descend

... And now I’m flying back to Kansas City … Somewhere over Illinois I suppose, on a plane with the most entertaining flight staff I’ve ever encountered. Every time one of them gives a set of instructions on the intercom, they speak in rhyme or song -- it’s snappy and it’s funny! … If only I had a tape recorder to play it all back and transcribe it for this post. The best line might have been when one of the flight attendants was describing how to use the breathing masks and gave the instruction to put your mask on before helping a family member. Then she says, “If you’re traveling today with more than one child -- uh-oh, it’s time to pick your favorite!”

The sun is bright and starting to descend below the clouds, which look like the floor of an Arctic shelf tonight. Slight ripples and peaceful. … I wish I could take a picture, but I left my camera with Kates, and the only picture-taking device I have on me now is my Blackberry -- which we’re not allowed to use during the flight.

It’s been a good, fulfilling weekend. I did a lot of work around the house -- cleaned up our den from the disarray we left it in on moving day, paid and organized our bills, did the laundry, took down the Christmas decorations, packed a few more boxes and caught up on some TV-watching with Kates ... We cheered on Brett and the Vikings ( ... I know, I'm totally falling away from my anti-Brett sentiment, but he's still the same ol' Brett we adored in Packerland), and we cut through the highlights of SNL (How cool were the Ting Tings!? See here and here ... It still blows my mind that the first time I heard of them was the night I saw them live.)

I also played with Phoebe a lot. We stacked blocks. We dumped her play food all over the living room floor. We watched her videos -- which, based on their themes, she affectionately calls "Moo" (for cow), "Hose" (or horse) and "Happy Birfday" (you get the idea). ... Best moments of the weekend: When she asked me to lay on the floor -- for no particular reason -- and we just stared at the ceiling -- for no particular reason. And then there was Saturday morning when I started up the "Glee" soundtrack and we started bouncing to "Don't Stop Believin.'" Phoebe couldn't barely stop giggling long enough to shout "Dance!"

It was wonderful to be together again as a family, and all the proof you needed was the twinkle in Phoebe‘s eyes … She was delighted by my presence the moment she saw me appear in the airport terminal Friday night. Though I would’ve preferred the classic daughter-runs-to-Daddy-who-sweeps-her-up-in-a-great-hug greeting, Phoebe started jumping around the seating area and shouting “Daddy! Daddy! -- which was pleasant just the same. … As we retrieved my bags and walked to our car, she was positively loopy, hopping and skipping and giggling all the way.

It’s easy to say Phoebe’s too young to fully comprehend what’s happening. She still sees me nearly every night on Skype and in pictures around the house. But she seemed more cuddly than usual this weekend. … Throughout the weekend, she hugged my pant leg and uttered that adorable, “Up, peas.” Upon every request, I stopped what I was doing and raised her into my arms. She would hold on for just a little while longer before saying, “Down, peas,” and galloping away to her next desire.

But the time passed far too quickly … And though I’m looking forward to returning home -- there’s that ambiguous word again -- I’m not so eager to do it without Kates and Phoebe. My new job is great, I’m surrounded by awesome people -- but it won’t be perfect until I have them to come home to every night. I yearn to be with them.

As our car pulled up to the terminal in Milwaukee this afternoon, I got out of the car, ducked into the back seat and softly kissed Phoebe on the cheek. She was soundly asleep, and barely lifted her eyes to say good-bye. She was at peace and so adorable; it was probably best that way … Then, I pulled my bags from the trunk, and I shared one more embrace with Kates. The tears filled her eyes once more as we said good-bye …

I said to her, “This’ll get easier, right?” Let's hope.

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