Saturday, April 30, 2011

Babies on a plane

First things first. Every Mommy needs a mothership. Well, every Mommy of two closely-spaced young children navigating an airport by herself does. Here is mine, reenacted. It ably carries two car seats, two children, three bags, and a cup of coffee. All it needs is a battering ram and it’s military-grade!

Erik’s last minute carabineer additions to the stroller handle make for easy access to bags and quick unloading when gate checking. Now, what do I put in those bags, you ask?

Plentiful toddler entertainment

1.  Coloring and sticker books. I bought a couple small ones that tucked easily into my bag. Flat crayons that can’t roll off the tray make this activity much less frustrating. A friend of mine made super cute flat crayons that worked great, or you can bring a couple triangular ones like these great ones.

2. A few new storybooks and a couple old favorites. This time our new book was ‘A Day at the Airport’ by Richard Scarry. Luke loves studying all the little scenes on each page and saying ‘uh oh’ at the trucks losing their contents.

3.  One or two small new toys plus several other plane-friendly favorites. This time we played with a new magnetic construction vehicles book and a new toy truck. We also brought play-dough, a mini slinky, and a little baggy of finger puppets. Have the toys handy, because its always better to hand one to your child before a meltdown, rather than after the irrationality hits.

4. The big gun and last resort: video playing capability. We use an old Sony PSP (around $60 on ebay), which is perfect because it has a ‘hold’ button that deactivates all of the controls, and it holds hours of video without any discs to change. We even have child-sized headphones, but Luke doesn’t do so well with those so I usually just turn the volume down low and let him listen through the speakers. I load some tried and true videos that he loves and try to get a new one too. This time I chose ‘Elmo Visits the Firehouse’ as his new flick but unfortunately it didn’t arrive from Netflix in time. Oh well, maybe a family movie night is in our future!

Drinks & snacks

I save these for take-off and landing to prevent sore ears. And I count the first and last 25 minutes or so as the pressure-change period and try to get my children to drink, eat, or suck for its entirety. This may not be pediatrician-approved, but I dilute milk or formula on plane trips. This way Eleanor can eat for longer without getting too full, and she’s hungry again sooner. All that extra swallowing and sucking seems to work at preventing crying!

Luke doesn’t like fluids too much these days unless they’re super-sweet (which is inadvisable, especially on airplanes), so I push snacks plus drinks for him during takeoffs and landings. I try to find a variety of not-too-messy, bite-size, low-sugar foods to bring. Serving them in a snack-trap (with a storage lid) is a must.

Oh, and here’s a tip for all you toddlers out there. When your Mom tells you that drinking from your cup is good for your ears, that does NOT mean you should pour your drink into your ear. Luke was deluded by this urban legend, and I was thankful for the spill-proof feature on his sippie cup when he tested it himself.

Other strategic take-alongs

Diaper covers, like these or these. Even if you don’t cloth-diaper, a cover or two might be a worthwhile investment for frequent plane travelers. Something about air travel’s pressure changes seems to have pressurizing effects on other parts of a baby’s system as well. We find that a diaper cover over a disposable contains blow-outs remarkably well.

Other recommended items include: Ziplock bags, pacifier wipes (to clean bottles, pacifiers, toys and any other baby item that may fall on the floor), infant tylenol (in case of sudden illness, teething, or really sore ears), a bib, changes of clothes, sanitizing wipes, and a few small blankets. Other things to consider: a fun, sanitary, disposable topper for the plane tray table and food court table, like this or this. And a pacifier clip, which makes finding your paci so much easier and doubles as a toy. I love this beautiful one by Haba.

We also try our best to dress to impress! It has to be harder for neighboring passengers to be annoyed by irresistibly adorable children, right? But keep in mind that any item may get poop-soiled, so I try to avoid anything that would have to be pulled over a baby’s head. Been there done that!

What else not to do: keep open cups or cans on your tray table. I like to ask for a can of water (no cup) and then pour it directly into my water bottle and Luke’s sippie cup.

With a little luck and a well-packed bag, our flights this past week were fairly pleasant. Not once did either child cry for more than a few seconds, and it was a fascinating experience for Luke, the vehicle-lover. We sat behind the wing, where he could better identify that we were in an airplane and watch the flaps move and the lights flash. I think the engine droning is louder toward the back of the plane too which was great for putting Eleanor to sleep. And if all else fails, Erik says you can always bring a parachute and sit in an emergency exit row! Smile

Here are most of my tricks unpacked. Soon I’ll put many of them away so they’re still new for our next trip!

  1. pacifier wipes
  2. headphones
  3. bib
  4. books
  5. pacifier clip & pacifier
  6. little Dover coloring books
  7. little Dover sticker activity books
  8. fire truck keychain
  9. more books
  10. finger puppets
  11. slinky junior
  12. car transporter truck toy
  13. homemade crayons shaped like people
  14. table topper placemat
  15. sani-hands hand wipes
  16. play dough
  17. PSP video player
  18. mini little golden books

Friday, April 29, 2011

East Coast Easter

As acceleration pins us to our seats and the cabin tilts upward, Luke’s eyes widen and turn plaintive. “No up, no up, no up” he says in a panicked voice. I explain that this is just like the birds we watch and point out some pretty clouds, but he isn’t reassured. Then we hit a patch of turbulence, a common encounter as you head east over the Sandia Mountains. I cringe, expecting it to push Luke’s tone from quiet and concerned to loud and hysterical. Instead the little boys says, “Bumpy!” and turns to me with a smile. “Up down, up down, up down!” It turns out that a little turbulence was the perfect take-off distraction!

On our next three take-offs, Luke was more interested than intimidated. And last night we touched down smoothly in the ABQ Sunport, thrilled to reunite with Erik. This trip to NC marked three firsts: Eleanor’s first flight, my first with two children, and my first big trip with a child and without help from Erik! It almost didn’t happen though. On the morning of our scheduled departure, we got a call from the airline saying our flight was cancelled because of tornado damage at the St. Louis airport, our scheduled connection. It first crossed my mind that this news might be the perfect excuse to postpone our trip to a time when Erik can come and/or Ellie is a bit older. But my parents’ eagerness to see their grandchildren spurred me on, and I rescheduled for a slightly later flight through Orlando. The palm tree and water-feature studded views during our four-hour layover in that airport turned out to be a mini-getaway in and of itself. And the happy families toting Disney pirate hats and sporting princess hairstyles left me dreaming of a family trip to D-world when our kiddos are a bit older!

This time our final destination was another magical place: Papi and Nika’s house in North Carolina! Especially when Auntie C, Uncle Jack, and Uncle Sam are all there too for a special Easter celebration. Luke and Elzabel loved all the attention, and Luke also bonded with Papi and Nika’s puppy dogs. We all enjoyed going to church together and then there was Easter egg hunting, science museum visiting, playground romping, and new outlet mall shopping.

Unfortunately I didn’t manage to take any photos, but here are a few from Auntie C. My dad took some too, so I’ll add those to this trip gallery if he puts them online.

Nika & Luke on a bench in the yard:

Papi & Eleanor:

Luke & Easter, the dog:

Male bonding with Uncle Jack & Uncle Sam:

Luke & Auntie C, see how green it was!

Luke on a train at the science museum. This one went fast!

Three generations of lovely ladies:

Luke & Ellie still have NC on their minds, as their east-coast time zone wake-up times this morning evidenced. But it was wonderful to reconnect with my family and take the kiddos to a few places that hold special memories from when my siblings and I were young. We’re already looking forward to going back for Christmas! I should go now and think about unpacking, but hopefully I’ll write again soon with my thoughts on plane travel with kiddos. It can be fun!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pajamas Monday

This weekend we enjoyed two dinners with friends, hosted a game night, hiked to Travertine Falls, attended Luke’s first soccer class, enjoyed an egg hunt + lunch held by Luke’s playgroup, did an Easter photo shoot at the botanic gardens, and of course went to church and Sunday School! Whew! So many fun family memories, and today’s lazy Monday schedule is the perfect way to finish it off. Erik is even taking a few hours of personal time that he still has available from Eleanor’s birth. Now that the kiddos are napping, here’s a little photo round-up.

Friday morning there was Luke’s first ‘Lil Kickers’ soccer class. Eleanor and I cheered from the sidelines. The universal toddler challenge faced by the instructor is to hold a child’s attention when there are so many interesting kiddos to watch!

Then Pre-Easter began with an afternoon photo shoot at the botanic gardens. Do you notice a trend in our sibling photos? Luke isn’t the most willing when it comes to baby holding. Eleanor already has him a little intimidated, I think!

Most Fridays, we call our neighbors once our kids are in bed. Then they grab their Dominion game and walk over to play it with us. What an ideal arrangement for housebound parents! This week they brought another couple as well.

Saturday morning, Luke hunted for Easter eggs for the first time with other kiddos. In typical first hunt fashion, he was frightened by the costumed bunny and wanted to open each egg (and eat its contents) as he found it. I realize that my egg hunt coaching may be in conflict with other instruction he receives from me. Compare: “just put it in your basket, Luke, and keep looking for more eggs!” and “you need to finish what’s on your plate before you get any more!” I can see why he was a little confused. I’m having another egg hunt here when our playgroup comes over on Thursday, so we’ll see if he seems to have caught on by then.

Luke playing with his friend M before Saturday dinner at our house. M’s parents brought a delicious Korean meal, amazingly homemade!

Sunday, we took an afternoon hike with friends to Travertine Falls (info here). We were quite the convoy, with four adults, five children, and only one of those children walked! Once all the pack mules had made it to the destination, the kiddos had a fabulous time playing in the mud, splashing in trickling water, and even swinging on a rope. Then we had dinner at a tasty pizza place. Of course we came home with plenty of photos, because no matter how many children there are to tote, Erik never leaves the camera behind! Here are L & E in their matching Street wear.

Oh, and a couple different landscaping guys came out to assess our grass. Our homeowners’ association has already sent us our first violation letter of the season, so we’re trying to revive the very sparse lawn in our front yard. Who knew growing grass could be so difficult?? Even our new ‘sugar tyme’ crabapple tree can’t counteract the stragglyness it seems.

The kiddos are awaking and I think we’re headed out for a relaxing walk to the playground. I hope you all had a lovely weekend too!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sounds, seats & skills

All over our house there is evidence of little ones growing up. First we have new sounds… Eleanor has started to laugh! Like Luke as a baby, it sounds something like a cross between a cough, a growl, and a drawn-out baby coo, but this time, as experienced parents, we’re able to identify it as a laugh much sooner. We love to coax it out of her with our most entertaining faces and tickles!

You can also hear the new sound of Luke identifying letters. My Mom says that I learned to read from my speak ‘n spell toy and Luke seems to be following the same path. His Fisher Price laptop teaches him letters much more effectively than I do, and it’s so cute to hear him mimic it. When he sees the letter ‘L’ for example, he says: “L, lion, laaaa!”

We also have new ‘furniture’. There’s Ellabella’s bumbo! (click here for video)

She loves the new upright vantage point and seems fairly stable and relaxed inside. Don’t you want to kiss those little toes!?!

And we also have this:

A big boy bed for Luke! He loves it, well playing in it that is. The big boy bed thrill seems to supercharge his already impressive bedtime resistance. Despite our best attempts, he usually can’t fall asleep in it until around 10 o’clock! We’re hoping the novelty wears off soon.

We deferred a lot of transitions for Luke over the past six months, not wanting to do them right before/after the new baby adjustment or while we had guests, and as a result a lot of those changes are feeling urgent right now. A few weeks ago we finally got him to completely give up bottles and we just transitioned to having him sit in a chair for time-out (since his time-out pen no longer fits in his room). But the challenge of getting Luke and Eleanor ready to sleep together in the same room can feel a little overwhelming. They each have their own sleep issues and sometimes I wonder if it’s possible to mellow those enough so that they can sleep in the same room. Then I start to think, maybe it would just be easier to buy a bigger house instead!?! Erik doesn’t like to hear that and I don’t really want to move either, and so slowly progress is being made on their sleeping skills.

When I step back from our sleeping conundrum, it’s clear that the euphoric milestones far outweigh the embattled ones. Right now Luke and Erik are at an open house for Lil’ Kickers (a toddler soccer class) and Erik just called to say that Luke is having a terrific time. I can hardly wait to see their excited faces when they come home.

It’s also thrilling (and a little terrifying!) to see Luke’s growing mastery of his balance bike as he cruises down our driveway and over the bump where it meets the road. Here’s a link to a few videos of his early runs. Go Luke, go!!! (but PLEASE don’t fall badly, Mommy gets a little hysterical when she sees precious little people get serious injuries!)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Signs of Spring

1. Two pots of zinnia seeds sprouting on the window sill. It’s been fun to see how much they’ve leaped up each time I check on them.

2. A camellia bursting into bloom outside our front door. We bought this last year and I’ve loved the glossy evergreen foliage all winter long. Now I’m hoping for some gorgeous blooms!

3. Fun and floral pillows in the living room proclaim spring’s arrival, even when the temps dip back down to chilly outside.

4. And the flowers continue, even into…

our car! Erik won his battle with the giant pampas grass that used to feature in our front yard and so we picked up this tree today to put in its spot. I can’t wait to see it in the ground!

5. Best of all is a little Spring Princess smiling up at me. What a delight to pull out her cute summery outfits!