Top Ten Tips for Tearfree Tot Travel

We arrived home from our vacation about a week ago, and I am still amazed at how well my children did. I expected meltdowns and drama, especially from the 3-year-old. But we only got smiles, excitement, curiosity, and perhaps a fuss here and there at the end (from the 1-year-old). I think a lot of it has to do with our kids’ personalities.

Hula Girl, the 3-year-old, is the incessant questioner. She is always wondering about anything and everything. And when she’s done wondering about what’s in front of her face, she thinks back to yesterday, a week ago, or even last Christmas, and asks us random questions about past times. “Mommy, when we met Mr. Chris and he was showing us houses, why did he drive a white truck?” (Folks, Mr. Chris showed us houses in May. She went to three houses that he showed us.) Needless to say, her mind was abuzz and quite occupied with all the things to see and think about.

Gelato, the 13-month-old, is just plain happy-go-lucky. He let us know he wasn’t too excited about riding in his stroller and car seat all day long, as he has recently learned to walk and wanted to try out his new skillz, but he was fine as soon as we got moving. He had a steady stream of snacks and he fell asleep pretty quickly once we got in the air or on the road.

Obviously everyone’s kids are different, so there will be some things that worked well for my kids that wouldn’t be so hot for every family. But some things probably have mass appeal. So without further ado and in no particular order, here are some ideas that worked for us.

  1. Glow sticks. My friend Jaclyn recommended this one to me and she is RIGHT. You can get these things from the dollar section in many major stores. Cheap, self-contained fun. All you have to do is rip open the wrapper, crack the stick, and give it a little shake. The only note here is to avoid using the blue/purple ones in daylight- they do not show up at all in the sunlight. Green and yellow glow brightest overall. We got several varieties- fat sticks, small “bracelets,” and even several smaller rods that connect and bend into a ball. Kids loved these. LOVED.
  2. Snacks. The key with snacks is to not give your children junk you wouldn’t normally give them. You don’t want an upset tummy on top of traveling stress. We stuck with apples, crackers, rice cakes, and granola bars. All organic. I did two types of crackers- one sweet and one salty. Honestly, the rice cakes and crackers were a bit too messy for my liking, but the kids were happy with the offerings. It really helped Gelato to be able to munch an apple during takeoff.
  3. Routine. We have a pretty regular routine. My kids get up at the same time every morning, and they nap and go to bed at generally the same times every day. They eat meals at the same times. Everything in between sleep periods and meals is generally in the same order. Give me a time and I can probably tell you what my kids will be doing at that time next Tuesday, within about 15 minutes. THIS HELPS TREMENDOUSLY when traveling. I scheduled our flight times to coincide with Gelato’s nap times so that we’d have the best chance of him actually falling asleep on the plane. He did, and other passengers were appreciative. We also stuck to our routine pretty much the entire vacation. We had two nights that were later nights than we expected. But we did not have severe behavior problems, with one notable exception- wait ’til you see the pictures of THAT one!!! HA! We were not stressed out, we were able to relax, and everyone had an enjoyable time because we knew what to expect. **I’d also like to point out that my in-laws are AWESOME and they respect and utilize our routines and schedules while we are visiting them. It really helps add to our fun and relaxation because we know our kids are well taken care of and they’re on schedule so they’ll stay at their optimum the whole time, too. It’s absolutely fantastic to have such support!!!**
  4. Surprises. Hula Girl was so surprised and overjoyed to be tasting her very first lollipop on our plane ride. We have never let her have candy really, so this was something she had truly been longing for. She always walked past the displays of the “World’s Best Lollipops” in stores and asked me if she could have one. I always agreed that they were pretty and looked good, but turned down her request. What a delight for her to open her backpack and find a pink strawberry shortcake flavored lollipop just waiting for her!!! (We gave it for her to suck on so her ears would stay clear. Worked like a charm!) Other surprises were things like a portable DVD player and an Elmo video, the glow sticks, and for Gelato, some small cars and animals he could play with.
  5. Pieces of home. Hula Girl had her blankies and Daisy, her bear, to sleep with. We also brought her Gro-Clock and her sound machine. Gelato had his sound machine and we brought one of his sheets to put on the pack ‘n’ play so it would smell more like home. We brought some of the kids’ favorite books and toys.
  6. Organization. I had a list that showed me every piece of luggage and exactly what was in each bag or suitcase. We carried on two car seats, a suitcase, and three bags. We checked two larger suitcases. My bag held all of Gelato’s plane essentials- change of clothes, diapers and wipes, snacks, water, and small toys- along with my own plane gear- a light sweater, my glasses (I never check these; I’d be lost without them), and a book in case Gelato fell asleep- and all our travel documentation- IDs, birth certificates, boarding passes, etc. Jonathan’s backpack held random electronic stuff like cameras and phone chargers, Hula Girl’s DVD player, a book for him, etc. Hula Girl’s backpack held her travel snacks, toys, and crayons. The carry-on suitcase had all our kids’ sound machines, Gro-Clock, and random extra things. Our checked bags held Gelato and Hula Girl’s clothes and Mommy and Daddy’s clothes. I was GLAD things were organized well. Plus I like lists.
  7. Plan ahead. Sounds like organization. But it’s different. And I was fortunate enough to marry into a family with a mother-in-law who indulges my whims and has a few of her own. Therefore we knew what activities we’d likely be doing, what we’d need for them, and what we definitely would not need to pack. We knew we needed lots of swim gear since there was a splash park nearby, but since we didn’t want to pack our (very expensive) sunscreen, we just had my mother-in-law get some in advance. She also got coconut oil and baby wash to make sure our kids’ skin was pampered and our clean clothes stayed that way on the flight.
  8. Talk it up. We made sure Hula Girl was SO excited to travel. We made it sound like an adventure for sure. We read books about traveling on an airplane and watched videos about going to the beach. We acted out scenes during which Daddy and I got stopped by TSA and were searched while we were getting to our gate. We reassured her that if TSA stopped any of us, none of us would get left behind. She practiced how she’d greet her relatives, and we talked about what to do if she couldn’t find someone she knew. (In case you’re wondering, we told her to look for a MOMMY WITH KIDS and ask for help. She can spell her name and she knows Jonathan’s and my phone numbers by heart. So that helps me feel more comfortable. We even practice “getting lost” a lot at home, just so she knows what to do and is SURE of herself in the event it happens someday.)
  9. …But don’t talk it up too much in advance. My daughter is a worry wart. (I have no idea where she gets it…) She gets VERY excited about things and she can’t sleep for DAYS in advance when she knows something is coming up. Therefore we did not tell her the exact date, but just kept conversation focused on what we’d do when we get there, and how great it would be to see Ama and Papa. We finally told her on the morning of our flight that THAT was the day we were going to see Ama and Papa. It definitely worked out for us.
  10. Expect delays and rudeness. When you’re traveling with children, SO much work goes into planning, organizing, corralling, carrying, and keeping everything (and everyone) together. Any task, from checking in to going through security to using the restroom to actually boarding the plane, takes about five times longer than it would if you were alone. And when you consider the bundles of energy and excitement who squirm and hop along with the massive amounts of luggage and the GIANT CAR SEATS you have to haul around… well… just know it takes a long time to get from here to there. At least 2 hours longer than you’d imagined at first. And other people are generally helpful… but some flight attendants can be downright snarky and rude. Especially the ones we flew with. We were interrogated several times on each flight- “Did you purchase tickets for your children? Are they supposed to be sitting there? Are your car seats FAA approved? I’m sorry, but I just need to SEE the approval sticker. I’ve never seen people bring car seats on the plane before. Are you sure you don’t want to gate check the car seats? Do you want to make sure to sit near the back so that other passengers aren’t bothered by your children?” And on and on. And do you know what?! There was NO NEED for them to be rude to us. We got in, we got out, our children were SILENT the entire flight (except for the one time Hula Girl burst out in a song from ballet class). Again, other passengers were very pleasant, offering to help carry bags and watch items for us so we could manage. But the flight attendants… wowie wow wow.
  11. BONUS TIP!!! Purchase tickets for your children. Even if you don’t do the car seat thing (which I am vehemently AGAINST but whatever), at least it gives your child AND you a bit  of room to stretch out. The other passengers will appreciate it. 🙂

Pregnancy Brain Much?

Those of you who know me in person know that I’m not always the most organized individual. For instance, I have a well-established track record of losing and then finding my debit card and driver’s license at least 7 times a year. For weeks, if not months, at a time. My propensity for losing things and/or critical information seems to be enhanced during my pregnancies. In fact just this last weekend I found my debit card which I had been looking for since the end of October. Fortunately (?) for me, it is a rare store clerk who will ask to see ID* any longer, and so I just take Jonathan’s card if I know I’ll be purchasing anything.

*Jamba Juice, however, always asks to see id, even if you’re using a debit card. They run it as a credit card, and apparently debit/credit card thieves like to quench their thirst on the way to the ATM to empty your savings account.

Now, I’ve done other dumb stuff during my pregnancies. Jonathan’s least favorite is when I completely forget everything he and I said in a conversation less than 10 minutes after said conversation occurred. Sometimes I’ll even tell him the same story 3 different times in one evening. Or I’ll totally forget that he asked me to do ________ that day, and when he asks about it, I will swear up and down and all around that he never asked me to do so. But I definitely believe him, and not me.

Well, this morning was no different than any other morning in my fuzzy foggy pregnancy land. I locked Hula Girl and myself out of the house. Completely. On purpose.

See, we went to visit my parents at the end of last week and stayed through the weekend. The fun part was that I surprised Jonathan by having my parents keep Hula Girl overnight on Thursday and through the day on Friday so that he and I could have a belated Valentine’s date Thursday evening and get to the OB/GYN’s office for Gelato’s monthly appointment early Friday morning. My mom decided that instead of moving the carseat from our car to her car, it would be easier to just trade cars. (Score! We got to use the heated seats on our Valentine’s date!) So I took my house key off my key ring, shoved it into a pocket in my bag, grabbed the garage door opener, and left. And since I had the garage door opener, I didn’t move the house key out of the bag pocket. No need.

Fast forward to this morning. House key still in bag pocket. I grab Hula Girl, her wagon, my cell phone, and my key ring, and head out the front door, making sure to lock it behind me. Then I went to place Hula Girl in the wagon and noticed that the front-facing seat was still wet from when I hosed it down yesterday, so I thought I’d dash into the garage to grab something to wipe it down with. Take out the keys…. and nothing useful. Car key? Check. Mom and Dad’s house key? Check. Uncle John’s house key**? Check. So I start freaking out and saying, “Oh, no… oh, no… oh, noo….,” and thinking of ways to break into our house.***

**For reference on why that is so ridiculous, my Uncle John lives in Orange County, California. And I haven’t used his house key since I stayed with him while I was in my senior year of college… five years ago.
***Certain former neighbors of mine will remember the day they had to help me break into our house last summer/fall. YES, I have always been this way. But YES again, I am blaming it on my pregnancy brain now. You can laugh all you want, but remember that if anyone gets blamed for any damage to that window screen, I couldn’t have done it alone.
Alas, I came up totally empty-handed (or empty-brained) when it came to solving this issue without husband-intervention. So, I called him up at work, which I have never done before since his boss scares me, and asked him to please come rescue us at his earliest convenience. But if his earliest convenience isn’t right now, then I’d like him to come right now.
See, here’s the kicker: Hula Girl was out there in her undies and fleece pants, with no diapers or extra undies or any way of getting comfortable in the event of an accident. I can just imagine the conversation at the Mommy meet-up: “Oh, yes, potty training was going so well until I took her outside and her pants froze to her bottom. She was kind of reluctant after that…”
Fortunately weweredressed for the (windy, cold) weather. And I had intended to take Hula Girl on a wagon ride around the block to get some exercise. Apparently the OB/GYN doesn’t think chasing after a 20-month-old is enough exercise… remind me to deal with that one in another post. So we got TWO laps around the block, which is more exercise than I thought it’d be. And then Jonathan saved our lives.
Unfortunately I don’t see this problem going away any time soon… until August at least. (And those who know me really well will likely agree with me when I say that this problem might be a lifelong issue that will never be resolved..) In the meantime, do any of you have tips/tricks to help keep your brain intact during these troublesome months? Much appreciated.
After a preview, it has come to my attention that my post has really weird spacing issues happening today, occurring around things in italics. So yes, I did mean to put spaces there… they’re typed in and everything. It’s just displaying weird.
And I still haven’t put the key back on the ring! I just realized it! Someone please facebook me at around 9:30 tonight and remind me to replace the key on the ring!

An Irish Blessing

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I took Hula Girl’s first nap as my opportunity to make her a St. Patty’s tutu. Since her V-Day one turned out so fabulously, I decided to make her one for every holiday. I make them with ribbon, which is long enough to be tied around her waist for many years to come. I figure a little investment- both money and time- is well worth it now- she’ll have a killer dress-up tutu collection when she turns 8 and all the girls come over for a slumber party!

Here are the directions to make a sweet little tutu for your ballerina:

Items Needed:

  • scissors
  • 3-6 yd tulle (any color/color combination- I recommend no more than 3 colors)
  • 1 yd 1″ ribbon
  • extra thin ribbon of coordinating colors (optional)

Directions:

  1. Roll each length of tulle width-wise (from the selvedges to the fold-this makes it way easier to cut)
  2. Cut each roll of tulle into 3″ strips
  3. Cut each strip in half to make 18″ strips
  4. Loop each strip of tulle behind the 1″ ribbon, bringing the ends back through the loop; pull tight. This will secure the tulle to the ribbon.
  5. Cut your thin ribbon pieces into 14″ lengths.
  6. Loop each thin ribbon behind the 1″ ribbon, bringing the ends back through the loop, pull tight. This will secure the thin ribbon strips to the thick ribbon- remember to disperse!

The Result:

Super Cute, Right?

 

I’ve really gotten into crafting and sewing and I have a lot of ideas about what I’d like to make for Hula Girl. We just finished reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you Hear? and I really want to make her some masks and/or outfits for each of the animals listed in the book. Think about it- a purple cat costume! A blue horse outfit! A leopard mask! Too fun.

Something else I’m working on is starting a garden. I am somewhat nervous about it. I kind of have this picture in my mind of a perfect little culinary wellspring late this summer and early this fall, but I’m not so sure it will go as well as I planned. After doing a bit of research, our soil is terrible. And gardening is a lot of work. A blog I read recently included a post on gardening. That post mentions like 14 steps to creating a “good” garden. Yikes.  I think I’ll listen to that blog’s author and start small! Any gardening recommendations you could shoot my way would be appreciated!

Here’s a complaint I have today: having repair men working at the house is a loud, smelly, and filthy business. It doesn’t matter what they’re doing- they do it loudly. It doesn’t matter what they’re repairing- it could be the washing machine!- and they still leave a rank odor. And they always track in dirt. I could live in Antarctica, and they’d bring dirt in on their boots.  Complaint over.

After these awful repair men leave my house today, Hula Girl and I are going to Walgreens to buy some chocolate coins. She’s going to wear her tutu, and then we’re going to drop those coins off with some of the denizens of our little town who have made our move here seem less awful than it really was. We’re going to stop by WalMart, City Market, the library, and our neighbor’s houses. Hopefully we’ll spread a good deal of Irish luck through this drab little town.

What are you doing to spread the holiday festivity?

I leave you with an old Irish blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

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