Toddler Travel Tips

My husband and I decided we’d like to take one last big trip before Nono started costing us a plane ticket. We chose Hawaii (we live in New Orleans) because it was a big trip, but seemed very baby friendly given the ability to have a laid back beach vacation instead of a trip requiring a lot of plans and activities.

Hana Waterfall

The most daunting part of the trip was the flight. About 10 hours in the air with a 17 month old who could walk and wouldn’t have his own seat. How was this going to go?

We hadn’t flown with Nono since he’d started walking so I really had no idea what to expect and visions of meltdowns while we were stuck on the runway were starting to flash in my head.

One of the tactics we took was to split up the flights. We flew to San Francisco and spent the night and flew to Maui the next morning. We stayed with friends so we didn’t have to add any hotel cost and it meant a 4.5 hour flight one day and then a 5.5 hour flight the next day instead of doing it all at once. On the way back we chose to take a redeye with a long break at SFO before heading home to break things up again.

A good friend of mine who flies regularly with her son shared some great tips with me. Her son is a little younger so I had some challenges that she does not yet with the walking and him being too big to wear in a carrier, but many of the tips were really helpful. Here’s how I took her tips and applied them with our trip and toddler:

  1. Get on the plane as late as possible to cut down on time that Nono will have to be sitting in our seat.
    • We normally fly Southwest so this isn’t really possible, but when we flew to Hawaii we were flying Hawaiian air from San Francisco and Alaska on the way back so we had reserved seats.
    • Overhead space can still be a concern so what we did is one of us would board during the ‘traveling with small kids’ time to gate check the stroller and car seat and also stick our two overhead bags up above our seats. The other one of us would hang out with Noah in the waiting area until almost everyone had boarded so he was able to walk around and be a crazy baby up until the last moment. I talked to boarding staff ahead of time and all of them were understanding and supportive of this and we didn’t have any trouble boarding without Nono during the small kids boarding time.
  2.  Think of the flight in 15 minute increments
    • i.e. Don’t give them everything you brought at once. I gave him one thing at a time and tried to maximize the time with whatever that item was, food, toy, or book. It required a lot of attention from me or A. to keep him engaged, but welcome to traveling with a toddler…
  3. Go for slow to eat foods
    • This was a great way to keep Nono focused on something and happy. Rather than mostly doing pouches, which he goes through very quickly, we did crackers and puffs that he would pick up individually and take his time with.
  4. Get some new toys
    • Nono has some favorite items that I made sure to bring, a couple of books that he can’t get enough of and some toys, but I also got some new items with that 15min increments in mind:
      • Little animal figurines: Definitely the most bang for my buck. I used leftover easter eggs and put 3-4 animals in them and had a small bag of them. I brought these out one at a time through the flight and Nono had a great time playing with the animals as well as packing and unpacking the eggs with them. They also take up very little room so they were perfect for the flight and cheap enough that if we’d lost some it didn’t matter (miraculously we didn’t).
      • Magnetic Sketchpad: This was the longest lasting entertainment. The stamps are hard to keep track of, but Nono didn’t seem to mind when those would disappear. He spent hours drawing on this. It’s great because it’s compact, no mess, and easy to keep reusing.
  5. Books that hold attention
    • This one was a little too advanced for him, but a few months later (now) it would be perfect. It didn’t hold his interest for long a few months ago, but now it’s great for the “where is the…” or “what does a ….. say?” that he’s really into. There’s ton of animals on each page so if your kid is ready for it, it is definitely a book that can eat up a lot of time.
    • Open up book. This one was good because it is super tiny so it hardly take up any space and Nono had fun opening the doors on the page and finding the animals in them. He needed a little help to open the doors because they stick a bit, but definitely a good plane option based on size and enjoyment.
  6. Fuzzy Headphones. These were a waste of money. First I thought they were adjustable and they’re not so my toddler’s giant head wasn’t a good fit. Second, he didn’t want to wear them AND he didn’t care about sound. I had downloaded some videos to watch and he ended up watching free videos on the plane entertainment center without sound and being perfectly happy.

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When we got to Hawaii I put away all of the new plane items so that we could use them on the flights back and they’d still have novelty. We got very lucky and he slept the whole redeye back to San Francisco (so we did too) and we really had no issues with all four flights. I now appreciate the flights where I am by myself and can read a book these days, but I think with the right preparation and a cooperative kid, flights don’t have to be something you dread.

Any tips or tricks to share that worked for you?

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How We Talk About Being A Mom

(written pre-baby but pregnant 2016)

As someone standing on the doorstep outside this new club, I have some concerns about how we talk about being a Mom.

1. Motherhood is not a job. Why do we call it that? There aren’t set hours, you don’t have a boss (please don’t call your toddler/teenager/tween your boss, you lady are a boss), you don’t get paid (try using hugs at the grocery store next time you check out and let me know how it goes), there aren’t promotions, and you have to pay people to play hooky (depending on how old your kid is). It’s not a job. It’s something much bigger and more overwhelming than a job. When I come home from my job, I sometimes have work to do, but even if I have work there is a big separation between my real life outside of the office and my office life. I also get most weekends off. There’s a professional courtesy I can mostly expect and boundaries, and I can switch jobs if I’m unhappy. I mean these two things have so little in common with each other that it just boggles my mind that we seem to have signed off on this comparison.

2. There is no one-right-way to be a Mom. There was a post in my college Women’s FB Group sharing an article about working Moms and nannies and some women came out swinging, implying the women discussing childcare should feel ashamed for being able to afford it. Can we stop? This is an area where instead of trying to put each other in our place and having a contest of who is the better Mom or most out of touch from privilege we could be having a bigger conversation about access to childcare for those who need it. It amazes me this is still how we discuss childcare among ourselves in a country where MILLIONS are poured into anti-abortion ads and legal fights, that it’s ok that women make less money, don’t have national paid maternity benefits, and have to struggle with childcare costs. Instead of policing each other on how we make being a Mom work let’s work together to improve things for Moms and Dads, let’s build up instead of tear down. Some people have grandparents that want to watch their kids, my Mom was able to work at home as a way to facilitate having kids at home too, some people split nannies with other people to make it work, and some people can have and want full-time nannies. I LOVE the daycare that my son goes to, I think daycare is the jam. And that’s all ok, you’re not a better Mom because you’re tearing down other Moms. Let’s try spending less of our time trying to shame each other about how we make being a Mom work and focus our ire towards equalizing things for all Moms. And while we’re at it, let’s get some changing tables in men’s bathrooms. They’re caregivers too.

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Welcome to Mom Club

(started July 2017)

The first rule of Mom club is… wait, I’ll remember, just give me a minute. Ok I’m sure it’s in my huge bag somewhere, under these papers and diapers and… Wait, what were we talking about?

I’ve been a member of Mom club for almost 8 months now and I still find myself surprised as I gain new insight into what that means.

I expected sleep to be an issue. However, understanding something theoretically vs. knowing/experiencing it are two completely different things. I didn’t know that babies go through developmental jumps throughout babydom and that sleep usually gets screwed up by this and there’s no warning or sign of how long it will last. Going from little man sleeping through the night to waking up multiple times during the work week is rough. It’s search the internet, post in my Mom FB groups, and start questioning my ability to be a good Mom rough. It also almost always coincides with a big work presentation. Bruised baggy eyes are the new blazer.

I thought having a baby would complicate my life, but really it’s simplified things. I can’t make plans without figuring out who is picking up Nono from daycare, what he’s going to have for dinner, and who is going to put him to bed. There’s also a limit on how many times a week I can reasonably ask A. or family members to watch him so that means I have to rank the plans. Then you also factor in the fact that most days I want to be there with him when he’s awake and I want to put him to sleep for the night and all of a sudden I’m looking at a lot less plans on the schedule. He also is still napping multiple times a day and if he falls asleep in the car that throws his whole day off, so my plans with him are limited by how many hours awake he’s going to be able to put in and when he wakes up. Basically my life is the most structured it’s been in my adult life, but I’m not in charge of most of the structure. The best part of simplified life is that no matter what I’m stressing about, he wipes it clean. He’s the sun and when he’s awake and with me, he’s what I’m focused on and the rest fades to background noise. It’s rare that I leave work frustrated and come in the next day still carrying that with me.

His accomplishments tear me in two. I have a long list of things that I can’t wait to be able to do with him (someone who will want to watch Disney movies with me!), but sometimes the big milestones hurt. We moved him into hisown room last weekend and did this because it had become apparent that he would sleep better without us coming in. He doesn’t sleep as deeply and when we were coming into our room to go to bed he would sometimes get woken up and would almost always react in some way. It was time to move him and let him sleep undisturbed. I picked the weekend. I felt good about it and was excited to finally put his room to use and also start the chapter where he has his own space to grow into.

We put him down in his own room and everything went smoothly. Then I went downstairs and sobbed until I went to bed. I’d loved hearing his babble when he’d wake up (most of the time), sometimes he’d even sound like he was having an argument with himself (or imaginary friends). I’d loved being able to look over and see him peacefully sleeping. I’d loved the sound of his little sleepy breaths. And now that period of babydom was over just like that. He went from being with me for every moment for 9 months, then to maternity leave and his own crib but still in our room, then he went to daycare during the day while I went to work, and now he was in his own room, the furthest from me yet.

They constantly tell you that it’s all over so quickly (because that’s like super helpful right? Yeah this is all wonderful but it’s going to be over quickly and you’re going to be really sad, just sayin’). And for a while, I lived in that anxiety of having to capture everything in my mind and experience everything as much as possible before it was gone, but then I realized what they don’t tell you… It keeps getting better.

I do find myself more present than I can ever recall being because of the attention he requires and the joy I experience with him. I do still play on my phone and my thoughts wander, but I also have a spotlight on him where he is capturing all of my focus and it’s wonderfully simple. Such as, he’ll be in a giggle mood so I will drop everything and continue to do whatever it is that is making him giggle for as long as we can keep it going because it’s magic.

And each developmental step he takes forward he leaves a piece of baby behind that we won’t ever return to and that is sad, but each step brings him more into being able to connect with us, express himself, and develop into his own person.

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♥ne

They told me it would go by quickly, but they didn’t tell me is that it would just keep getting better and better and I wouldn’t be left to dwell on the endings but would revel in the new beginnings.

A year flew by, but unlike other years, I felt incredibly present in it. I’m not surprised it’s been a year because it’s been jampacked and amazing.

A year has turned a little burrito into a laughing, walking, dancing, and babbling little boy. (more…)

My Halloween Renaissance

Baby Halloween brought back all of the magic and then some. First we had the fun of trying on different costumes. Would Nono be a fox? a chick? a bat?
I found what I had been searching for. A dinosaur costume with a delightfully fat tail to go on that rotund baby butt. We tried it on and it was a fit. (I also learned that baby Halloween costumes are like wedding dresses in that they seem to follow a completely different sizing scheme that has no resemblance to normal clothing sizes).
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Baby Halloween is also the jam because it goes on for more than just Halloween. There were Halloween events all weekend, Monday, and then Halloween. Given his limited ability to participate (just started walking) we didn’t go crazy and we just went to a Halloween event in the park and met up with another baby friend prior to the big night.

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I wasn’t sure how Nono was going to react Halloween night. How would he feel about it being dark out, all of these costumes, and Mommy and Daddy in costume too?
He truly is my son and loved it. He stood in the closed down street looking around him at the superheroes, fish, witches, dinosaurs, princesses, skeletons, and more that milled around him and a big grin appeared on his face. Earlier that night, when I came downstairs sparkling with a giant pink headdress on, he’d taken it in stride and when A. had met us outside wearing all sorts of plants from the backyard he hadn’t blinked. He was delighted by Halloween. The biggest issue we had was trying to get him to pick out a piece of candy. He stared at the bowl full of shining wrappers, confused by what we wanted him to do and not sure what would happen if he touched them. He finally cautiously touched them, but wasn’t sure about grabbing one and other kids kept coming in, expertly selecting their candy quickly and moving on while he stood there confused. Eventually, he succeeded and we deposited it in his little pumpkin.
He made Halloween magical again and now I’m counting the days until mardi gras so we can do it all over again with even more enthusiasm and coordination.
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He Gives Me Quiet

My relationship with Chris Cornell started post-college. I had heard him a bit as an undergrad, probably from A., but our relationship started later. It was with Audioslave and his beautiful voice that I found a way to cut through stress and release mental peace when I really need/ed it.

I discovered I had an anxiety disorder while sorting some medical articles at my summer job at a hospital library during the summer of my junior year of college. I knew I had some sort of depression, but I didn’t realize that anxiety disorders were a thing, anxiety was normal to me. My panic attacks had started in elementary school and when I compared notes with a classmate, she also experienced them, so I assumed everyone did. I came across an article on social anxiety and I was stunned. My number one reason for missing class in college were panic attacks brought on by being a couple of minutes late and not being able to face the idea of walking past my classmates to find a seat. In high school, I had struggled for years with walking through the locker room in the morning or during a break when it was filled with students hanging out. Anxiety was a frequent part of my life that I had no idea why or when it would strike or how to manage it. It managed me.

I started getting better after that discovery and now I can’t remember the last time I had a panic attack. One of the tools I used to help myself deescalate was recognizing when my head felt off. It came about from having a partner that didn’t suffer from anxiety or depression and needing to find ways to explain it without making it worse. Describing it emotionally was liable to make it worse and also didn’t really do it justice. It wasn’t that I was sad about something, it was that my brain had decided to behave in an abnormal way. I started thinking about anxiety and depression in a more physical way than emotional. When I was depressed my brain felt dense, foggy, and lethargic. When I was experiencing anxiety it felt like there were fireworks going off, everything was sped up and it felt frantic.

I discovered that sometimes anxiety could be managed through having an outlet. For me that was loud and intense music. I started listening to Audioslave when I felt anxious and hyper-stressed and a release takes place in my head. Listening to Chris Cornell wail against the heavy beats of “Like a Stone” soothes me. A wave of calm that feels physical goes off in my brain, and I feel much better. It feels like someone else is getting out what I feel inside and that’s enough for me to relax, I don’t have to keep it pent up, Audioslave is getting it out for me.

Chris Cornell has made my life better. He gives me calm when  I need it the most. Knowing his own struggles makes this bittersweet, but I am grateful for his artistry and the peace it brings me still. He will be missed and remembered often.

A First Mother’s Day

It’s my first Mother’s Day as a Mom. My son is 6 months old and we took advantage of that and went to a nice restaurant for brunch. I’m anticipating future Mother’s Days may lean towards activities that support a lack of ability to keep still.

My favorite thing as a Mom is to hear Nono’s giggle. It’s insanely adorable and I’m not sure there is anything I enjoy more on the planet, not even the GutterPunk coffee at Envie. (You think I joke, but talk to me about the combination of booze and coffee in-person and watch my face light up).

My favorite Nono book is the Pout Pout fish. Whoever gifted him that, thank you. I’ve turned it into the Pout Pout Fish rap, which I’m sure A. is grateful for. Nono has started getting interested in books beyond just eating them and I am delighted.

We do a lot of dancing and clapping right now. Nono hasn’t started doing either, but he really enjoys when we do. Hopefully, some kid takes pity on him and teaches him how to actually dance, otherwise he’s doomed with us as examples. But at least we’re having fun.

Nono’s favorite activity is smashing. I have a feeling this is phase that will last him quite some time. He’s just realized he can hold things in his hand and smack things with them, nothing can wrong with that right? Our friend’s 6 month old spent about an hour with us yesterday and her Mom said she wasn’t a smasher, well by the end of lunch she was. You’re welcome.

My Mom celebrated Mother’s Day by opening her very own garden shop, a longtime dream. I’m really proud of her and she continues to be a great example to me to not give up on dreams and continue to try new things. Someday I’ll write that book…

Thank you to my village of Moms. I appreciate all of the in-person, phone calls, emails, and Facebook responses to my many questions and moments of “OMG!” Some of you I’ve known most of my life and some of you I’m just getting to know, you’re all amazing and I am so grateful for your help and support. I know that Nono and I are both better for it.

Happy Mother’s Day.