I knew the very minute I learned there would be a big LLLI conference that I had to be there -- but I had lots of questions about how I could make it happen.
First, I needed to be able to get off of work. I'm a clarinet player in a military band and, while we get 30 days a year of leave time, those days are usually chosen for us (2 weeks in the summer and 2 at Christmastime). No problem! The LLLI conference in Chicago was to take place during the last few days of my already-prescribed summer leave!
Next, I needed to figure out how to pay for it. Most of our travel budget is spent taking our children and their caregiver (a fantastic au pair we've had almost a year now) on trips when the band travels. Last year, we spent an inordinate amount of money flying everyone out to Montana for a series of concerts. Our vacations are usually to drivable locations where we can make our own fun, like the New Jersey Shore. Since we live away from family, we also need to budget at least one trip each year to visit grandparents -- my parents moved to South Carolina 4 years ago, and my husband's parents are in Iowa. We could (and we will!) combine this conference trip with a visit to his family.
I received the LLLI News email about scholarships in early August of 2006. Like I'm sure everyone else who read it, I initially thought "I'd never get one of those" but I decided to apply anyway. Right then and there (there was extra credit for early submissions!), I wrote up my application and asked my co-Leader to write me a recommendation. I emailed my application less than a week after receiving the LLLI News announcement...and then I waited.
Due to a glitch in email servers, the scholarship committee chair had trouble reaching me, so I got the news from my co-Leader by cell phone, in November while my family was finishing up another trip for work (that one was a car trip, plus 3 hotel nights to some concerts in upstate NY). I had won a scholarship, covering my conference registration and meals. My Area was offering some funds to Area Council members (I'm a DA), and we have enough frequent flier miles for me to get there for free. Hooray! I could go to Chicago!
Of course, it wasn't going to be that easy. When I was sharing the news with a friend at work, she let me know that, just a week eariler, our leave weeks had been changed. Now, the conference fell on the few days BEFORE my leave started. I was crestfallen! What would I do? I felt reasonably sure that my request to miss a concert (in order to attend a breastfeeding conference) would be denied. I was stressed out for a few weeks while I waited for the response. There are 5 people in my chain of command who had to approve (or disapprove) my request. One wanted "more information" about the scholarship -- why had I applied knowing I might not be able to go? I explained that before they changed our leave time, the conference fell within the prescribed 2 week window. Another wanted "more information" about the conference itself. I passed along the website link to the conference information. Finally, I received word that my leave request had been approved.
Then came the planning with my husband. Now, we couldn't all go as a family because he won't be on leave (we have the same job, and they made clear that he would not be allowed to go). My girl, Anna, would definitely be OK staying home with her daddy for the few days I was gone, knowing she'd be joining me after Sunday, but what about Simon? He'll be 9 weeks shy of his 3rd birthday. Will he be OK staying home with his daddy until they all fly out to meet me?
We're still not sure about that one, so we're putting off buying our plane tickets until I can come to a decision. On one hand, I know my participation will be somewhat limited if I have Simon in tow. I really value the educational aspect of going to conferences, and I learn very well by listening and taking part in discussions; I won't be able to do those things 100% with Simon along. If he were a little baby in a sling (like he was for my first Area Conference), my decision would be easy, but he's almost a pre-schooler. I can't bring our au pair because she'll be needed at home to take care of Anna while Bryan goes to work. We can't afford to bring another caregiver.
I'm also going to be right at the stage of my pregnancy when my milk will dry up and go away, if things are as they were during Simon's pregnancy. Would 4 days away from Simon encourage him to wean? Is that what I want? It's difficult to find feedback about this decision because most people, not really understanding our commitment to attachment (most of our co-workers can't believe we travel with our children...don't we want "a break" when the band travels?), tell me "He'll be fine." Maybe he will be, but what if he isn't? It's a tough decision.
Either way, my husband (and whoever stays home with him) will join me on Monday, after the conference is over. We're planning some time as a family in Chicago (enjoying the reduced rate on a great hotel!), then driving to Iowa to visit with Bryan's family. After that, we're going to drive to Michigan to see some friends of ours who recently retired from the band. It should be a great vacation for all of us.