Friday, July 29, 2011

Ponchos and Passports

Last week Tallulah, 10, flew off by herself for a week in New Zealand.  Of course, part of her tribe was there to greet her in Auckland - my two sisters, Sharon and Pietra and her cousin, Leah.  "The Poncho Brigade".

Auckland: Pietra, Tallulah, Leah and Sharon
Brettkelly women love a good poncho. What's not to love? They're warm, groovy and your arms are free just in case you need at a moment's notice to; conduct an orchestra, play polo with Prince William or just raise your champers glass just that wee bit higher for a toast. Our exhaustive research has shown that ponchos are equally at home in Oakland, Ohope Beach, or sailing on the Seine through Paris. My sister, Pietra, even invented the "Pom-Pom Ponchette" a small but surely vital addition to anyone's clothing portfolio.

Pietra wearing Pom-Pom Ponchette on the Seine last year
Poncho Kiwis: Tallulah and Leah this week in Auckland
When we dropped Tallulah off at the security gates in San Francisco, Kevin was very sad. Tallulah grabbed her new wheely bag, gave a cheery wave and...never looked back. "You'd think she'd be a little worried" Kevin said "have a little bit of a wobby lip..." (with a bit of a wobbly lip himself). We saw the heel of her sparkly sneakers and the back of the "Muffins Are Just Ugly Cupcakes" sweatshirt she'd nicked from Jackson... and she was gone.

My sister Pietra and Mum called us from the other end, Auckland: "From now on, we are always travelling as 'unaccompanied minors'" they said. Tallulah sped through security, got a whole row of seats to herself and the constant attentions of a very fun staff. She handed out all the candy ensuring a moment of fame and arrived at her destination with bagloads of the stuff, thus further popularity.

As usual, our drop-off at the airport was eventful.  However much we plan ahead, chaos always ensues at airports.

Once, three hours before a trip to Mexico, we realised that two of the kids' US passports were expired. They have British passports, but you can't use them to travel if you expect to return to the US. There was nothing else for it. We had to turn up and hope no one checked the rules. Without any prompting, the kids started a massive fight creating a huge diversion, the staff ushered us through and it was sweet "Hasta Manana, baby."

Upon returning to San Francisco, we were ushered to a small room to be interrogated. The two "British kids" could not enter the country without a permanent resident visa, they told us. We had our reply ready: "No worries, just keep them here until we get back in a couple of days - could be a week - with their new passports."  They must have known that would be our answer because they let us through and even excused us the $7,000 fine.

Last week we turned up at 5pm for Talluah's 9.45pm Air New Zealand flight. People were aleady lining up and there was an air of strange rustling unease. 40 people had been bumped off a United flight, some had spent the night on a chair at the airport and they were joining Tallulah's flight. But would there be room for everyone? Like a rumour about a loaf of bread at an Iron Curtain bakery, panic was spreading... As it turns out, once we got to the counter, we had bigger worries -  Tallulah's passport had expired. (Hmmm, I did wonder why it had holes punched in it.)

A frantic taxi ride home to get the right passport...

....and we arrived back in time to find Tallulah's escort, Angela, waiting at the departure desk.

We recognised Angela from last year when she escorted the boys to the same flight. I started filling Angela in on our expired-passport-taxi-ride drama adding: "Do you recognise us? You took our sons Harley and Jackson last year?" Kevin started to reminisce, how he had forgotten to bring his passport identification to pick up the boys, when she cut short our ramblings:  "I don't know anything about the problems," Angela said, adding quite kindly that she didn't recognise us. "I am just concerned for the safety of the child".

Angela, Tallulah and Kevin
Hearing all this, Tallulah extricated herself from the purgatory of her hopeless parents and moved swiftly to Angel Angela's side and into the safety of security lines.


  1. What an exciting trip for a ten year old! Love all of the poncho photos. Your husband looks like he is holding on to Tallulah for dear life in the last photo.

    That would have worried me getting back into the country when your kids didnt have updated passports...glad they let everyone go home!

    Hope you have a great weekend!

    PS just email me @ Diana(at)AllWomenStalk(dot)com to chat about the guest post!

  2. Great post! I love the bit about smuggling the kids into the country -- keep them if you like! So proud of Tallulah traveling alone and enjoying every bit of it!

    And what is it about airports or travel in general that causes such last-minute panic? It never fails. We leave tomorrow at 6am for a 16 vaca here in the states. We are packing maniacs right now trying to think of everything and pack it all this evening. I even have the coffee set to brew. You can imagine that tomorrow will not, however, go off without a hitch.

  3. Wonderful, adventurous post, tinged with trauma and panic.
    She got there safely; that's the main thing, delivered into the hands of a grandma and two aunts who, I'm sure, are perfectly prepared to spoil her rotten. Ah, the life!

  4. aww, that is an adorable picture!

    Have a great weekend!


  5. that's funny. She might also want to take over your passport drawer at home...

  6. Kids these days huh? flying all over the world...we only ever walked into the next town or village and we felt daring.....what a small world it is now....and I quite fancy a full size poncho now!

  7. wow. what an adventure on both your side and your ten-year old daughter. i enjoyed reading this post very much. thank you.

  8. Ah, you've made me covet a poncho now! What adorable girls! :)

  9. Love the ponchos. I had no idea they were so fashionable! Maybe I need to get one....

    Glad the trip drama didn't stop Tallulah from enjoying herself. :D

  10. You're making me want to go out and buy a poncho now (even if it is 100 degrees outside!)

    Have a great weekend!


  11. I always used to wonder why my mom would be so emotional whenever I went anywhere when I was younger, now reading your post, it's easy to see. So sweet that Kevin is so affected too, but it's great you let Tallulah travel by herself--she will always remember these trips! Also--so glad to know that I'm not the only one who has passport issues. Last time I went to London I realized the day before that mine had expired...

    xo Mary Jo

  12. I used to travel as an unaccompanied minor on the way to and from boarding school in Hong Kong. It was a riot on the plane, lots of kids and usually one elderly woman looking after us all.

    Hope she enjoys NZ.....

  13. love ponchos!!! :D


    Have a nice weekend! :)


  14. Your family is adorable! And I am so glad your daughter had such a fun flight and trip!

  15. God Bless Tallulah! - you guys are, well, i can't put it in writing b/c it's 2011 and i'd get all sorts of backlash but..."mentally challenged"! hopefully the poncho crowd can take better care of her in NZ:-) At least it seems that Angela can, if all else fails.

    Jody, seriously, i love that you & Kevin are perfectly imperfect, and willing to share that. so many people love to tell you how "together" they are. we are so ON to them!
    Real life with all its missteps is so much more interesting, right?

  16. oh wow! yay for tallulah for traveling alone! i am 21 years old, and i have never traveled by myself. ;)

    <3, Mimi

  17. Thank goodness you do things like that as well! I once had to be smuggled into Romania (on a charity mission) in the luggage compartment of a coach because I had brought an outdated passport with me. Being British, they hadn't checked us all the way through Europe but when we got to the Romanian border it was a different story. One of the more spine tingling experiences of my life!

  18. These pictures are super adorable. It looks like a fun time!

    "Muffins Are Just Ugly Cupcakes" -- I LOVE IT. So true.
    Twitter: @GlamKitten88

  19. I love ponchos !!! Maybe it's time to finally buy one!

    Tallulah is so courageous! My son is 10 too and if I would ask him to go alone by bus for example he probably would cry.

    Love your pictures!!

    Have a lovely week sweeties!!! xoxoxo

    PS: I should check our passports... Thank you!!!

  20. phew! glad it all worked out w/ those pesky passports!

  21. Those ponchos are so cute! Love the pom poms. Passport stuff can be such a pain! But, I am glad everything worked out.

  22. Hilarious! I would FREAK OUT about the expired passports. Seems like you are much calmer..
    So great of you to send your kids off by themselves to NZ. I got a tiny taste of that by sending Charlotte to LA last week.

  23. Wow. I so admire you and your entire family's traveling expenditures. It was even part of our roadtrip conversation (Ryan hears more than I think he'd like about all of my blog friends and their lives :)).

    I've never sent my kids anywhere, but I would like to... I think it provides them with such a strong sense of confidence, and I'm sure she appreciates the opportunity (even if she didn't show it- or have a wobbly lip :)).

  24. Jody- So glad she got to where she was suppose to go. Stuck in airports is so not fun. I have some bad air travel memories. Once, leaving my tickets on the previous plane when going to Costa Rica in a big group as a college student. (I was able to go back to the plane and snatch it. This was when a paper ticket was important - no computerized tickets!)

    Then another after 9-11 flight having the gall to show security that their scanners had let my pocketknife on a plane during a 5am layover with a toddler in arms on a flight-to-I-forget-where. "Geez, this knife I accidently had in my toiletry bag shouldn't have got past your scanners... You need to report this to them..."

    I got reprimanded for having a knife and security guards were brought in to eye me the rest of the flight. One exhausting night.


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