Tag Archives: kids

I LOVE Door County

 

Just what we needed!

As you know, I have a very scientific way of choosing vacation spots. ūüėČ Even so, we happened upon a perfect spot for our family to unwind and enjoy time together, Door County, WI.

It took a little longer to get there than we planned as we hit some VERY strong storms on our way up but we made it in one piece.  Our cottage was just south of the town of Sturgeon Bay and was on Green Bay itself. The views were gorgeous.

We happened to visit the first week of June when the weather was perfect by my standards Рsunny and mild. Also, everything was open but there were very few other vacationers as most schools in the state were still in session.

We had a wonderful time meeting new people in the area. Some places not to be missed:

Cave Point County Park

Peninsula State Park

At Peninsula State Park, the only time in my life I’ve ever taken a picture timed this well. I caught the boat!

Patawatomi State Park

View from the top of the Patatowami State Park Observation over the water. Great view was worth climbing the open wooden tower!

Downtown Sturgeon Bay
Hands On Art
Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant

Yup, those are goats on the roof at Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant!

Sunset Grill
Sunsets over Green Bay in general – chase them people!

Our first sunset in Wisconsin. This is the view from our cottage for the week!
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Car-Tripping With Little Ones

car tripping

It is time, your sisters-in-law are pregnant and it is time for baby showers! ¬†Your darling sisters-in-law have been very kind about your vacation time and money. ¬†Even though they are due about 3 months apart, they scheduled their baby showers on back to back days so you only have to make one 30 hour roundtrip car trip instead of 2. ¬†Did I mention that you ADORE your sisters-in-law? ¬†(If you don’t actually like yours, I’m sad for you because mine are awesome!)

You decide to make a family vacation out of it by planning several overnight stops in a few states with lots of fun along the way, the whole trip takes 12 days. You pack up the car and help your 4 year old settle in. Now you face 30 hours in the car over the course of 5 days or driving.  This is doable people, planning is key!

After 25,000+ miles of car trips with a child these are my tips on how to arrive the same happy family you were when you left home:
  • Snacks – You’ll be spending hours in the car each time you get in and if you have to stop every time someone is hungry you will never get out of your own state. ¬†Apples, carrots, trail mix, granola bars, nuts, cheese sticks, etc. in a cooler will be plenty, oh and water too. ¬†Have a SMALL amount of something sweet as an occasional treat if you like. ¬†However, think about how your little one reacts to sugar and imagine the whole reaction strapped to a carseat 2 feet behind you. ¬†Like I said, planning is important.
  • Toys/surprises – there are lots of versions of this. ¬†The basic principle is this, have something new to hand to your child every hour or so. ¬†The novelty of a new toy will help pass the time and keep them active when you need them to be awake instead of sleeping and messing up their schedule. ¬†Some people wrap the toys up or put them in a mystery bag each time. ¬†Borrow toys from friends instead of buying if you like. ¬†Do what works for you.
  • Bring a blanket. ¬†If the driver likes the car cool, like my husband does, kiddo is going to get cold. ¬†Cold kid=cranky kid=LOOOONG drive.
  • Movies – 30 hours of movies when you are home? Uh, no, head outside little ball of energy. ¬†On the road? You bet! ¬†Again, this is novel and since your little one can’t move that much let them watch their favorites so they are entertained and you can maybe talk to your spouse. ¬†Load up the iPad or bring along DVDs (and a DVD player if your car is old like mine. ¬†I still have a tape deck people! No tapes though, curious…)

car-tripping movies

  • STOP THE CAR! – Even if you are worried about “making good time” like my husband you have to stop the car every couple of hours. ¬†Despite all of that entertainment your little one is going to get antsy, cranky and need to use the bathroom. ¬†So stop the car at a rest area, stretch your legs and use the facilities. However, if your child is happy, well fed and otherwise enjoying the drive don’t feel the need to stop exactly every couple of hours. Keep going and stop when they start to fade.
  • Run! – This little tactic has gotten me more strange looks than anything else. ¬†While at the rest area, find a nice grassy area that is NOT the dog run area, ew. Take your munchkin over there and ask her to run between this tree and that one and then between those two. ¬†Run with her if you can. People WILL look at you strangely. This is what to do, look them straight in the eye and with your kindest look and most pleasant voice say, “We are going to be in the car for 6 hours (or 8 or 10) today and we are burning off some energy.” Then take your child by the hand and stroll back to your car. Wait for it…..then listen. ¬†The person who just looked at you like you were completely out of your mind will say something to the effect of “Honey, go get Jimmy!” ¬†As you drive past the grassy area where you burned your energy, Jimmy will be running between the trees. ¬†If this ever happened to you along I-90, particularly on the New York State Thruway, my name is Cheryl and you’re welcome.
  • Plan stops for fun things – My brother and sister-in-law are particularly adept at this trick. They like to find somewhere fun about half way through a day’s drive and then stop for 2-4 hours. Zoos are a popular choice for them but parks, playgrounds, and lakes are great choices too.
  • Know your limits – Figure out how many hours your family can realistically spend in the car in one day and stick to it. ¬†After all these years of travel, our family limit is about 15 hours (up from 8 hours when my child was 4), after that we start to get cranky. OK, I start to get cranky. If you can’t make it to your destination under your threshold, you need to get creative.
  • Sleep – ¬†Sleep in this case means hotels. ¬†If you have a very long drive that exceeds your threshold, break it up. ¬†Our favorite trick is to leave after school, drive about 3 hours and then stay at a hotel. ¬†I always pre-book these hotels and I look for ones with pools and near areas we’d like to explore or at least near restaurants we like. ¬†We wake up the next day and try to get out by 8 a.m. at the latest.
  • No-go Day – Once we reach our¬†destination we find it is best if we keep the munchkin out of the car completely the following day. This was especially important when she was little. ¬†These days though she is just as eager to get going as Mom and Dad. ¬†She is stronger and more resilient now. ¬†More trips for all!
Well that is all great dear, but my child gets carsick, any suggestions there?

Actually yes, and they come courtesy of one of my fantastic sisters-in-law mentioned above.  Lest you think that the carsickness gets in the way of traveling for her family, let me assure you that she travels as much, if not more, than we do. It just takes planning, some knowhow and watching your kids closely to figure out what works for them.

  • Accept that your child who is prone to being carsick will likely¬†get sick at least once or twice and (over)prepare with supplies. ¬†My SIL went to a medical supply store and bought bags similar to these. ¬†They aren’t the most exiting purchase ever but they will help keep your child and your car clean. ¬†They may make getting sick almost a non-event. According to my SIL, a single adult who is driving can hold this for a child when needed. She’s got skills people!
  • Be especially careful in how you dress your child. ¬†Dress for the car ride itself and dress for comfort! ¬†PJs, yoga pants and t-shirts, etc. You want nothing to be pressing too hard on their bellies. ¬†Hmm, comfy travel clothes, see a theme in my family?¬†¬†In this instance though, socks and shoes are optional.
  • When dressing your child, consider adding one extra layer on top, a hoodie is a good option. ¬†This way when they start to get hot and queasy, they can take off the layer and the change in temperature may be enough to settle the stomach. ¬†If not, open the window a little bit if you can, the cool air frequently helps too.
  • This is the only time I’ll give this advice since I love books. Don’t let your child read. ¬†This is one that I know very well myself. ¬†I can’t read in the car. ¬†The shadows constantly remind my brain that I am moving but the stationary page insists otherwise, hence the motion sickness. ¬†Some people can watch movies in the car with no trouble since the picture is moving, my daughter and I fit into this category. ¬†Others can only watch for 10-15 minutes before they need to stop and look out the window, this would be my niece’s realm.
  • Play “I Spy” instead. ¬†You get to learn more about how your child sees the world, literally, and she won’t get sick.
  • Sing songs or talk. ¬†Again entertainment that doesn’t require focusing on something that is stationary.
  • My SIL swears by this cooler¬†that you can plug into the car (or the wall later on). ¬†For her, having the kids’ favorite things to eat on hand works wonders for mood and motion sickness. The variety this cooler affords helps as well and she always travels with ginger ale. The nice thing is that you can bring this into a hotel for an overnight or into your cabin, etc. when you arrive and skip the grocery store for a day or so.
  • Drive at night. ¬†The kids will be sleeping anyway so you may as well be moving. The issues that cause motion sickness are severely lessened at night and pretty well eliminated while sleeping. ¬†Make sure the driver is well rested and switch drivers throughout the night to stay safe.

Ok, pack the car and the kiddos and head out for some fun!

 

Fun Mom, How Traveling Brings Out The Best In Me

fun mom badge

When I go on vacation, I am kind of like Superman. ¬†I just need to get into a car or a plane and quick as a blink Everyday Mom turns into Fun Mom like Clark Kent turns into Superman in a phone booth. ¬†(Where does Superman change these days?) Everyday Mom is concerned about homework, deadlines, schedules and clean dishes, you know the sexy stuff. ¬†Fun Mom says “I wonder what’s over there”, “Let’s try that out” and “Let’s go adventuring” far more often than “Where are your shoes?”

This transformation is clearly one of the reasons that my child LOVES vacations. She gets to see lots of things and have lots of new adventures even if it means walking 11 miles in a day on her 9 year old legs. ¬†Nary a complaint on vacation! ¬†Everyday kiddo would be quite upset¬†with that mileage. ¬†We as a family are far more open to new experiences¬†while we are on a trip. ¬†Do you want to meet a penguin? Yes! ¬†Do you want to ride a horse? Sure! ¬†How about a hike up that mountain? Why not! Do you want to climb to the top of the tallest thing in this city and look all the way down? Absolutely! ¬†Do you want to order that thing that all the locals are eating but you can’t quite identify? Yup! ¬†Do you want to go to a country where you don’t speak the language at all? Oui! Do you want to go into the monkey infested jungle and explore ancient ruins? You bet! Do you want to drive a tiny car, on the wrong side of the road, down narrow lanes? ¬†Of course!

My ride, Martha.  The saddle was higher than my head!
My ride, Martha. The saddle was higher than my head!

Everyday Family contains a person who has issues with animals (ME! ¬†Seriously, I’m terrified.), someone who doesn’t care for¬†heights (hubby) and a very picky eater (kiddo). ¬†Vacation Fun Family will try just about anything we come across. ¬†If we, among the most straight laced, rule following, over-scheduled families you will ever meet can get out of our shell on a trip, you can too! ¬†Try it, you’ll like it. ¬†After all, you got time off from work, saved your money, got on a plane (or in a car) and came all this way. ¬†I’m sure your hotel room, cabin, tent or camper is lovely but you need to GET OUTSIDE and DO STUFF!

Do you want to know the secret of Fun Mom? ¬†She gets off the couch and out of her comfort zone,¬†embraces her sense of adventure and dreams big!¬† When deciding if I should try something I always think about what 80 year old me will say.¬†¬† Usually I hear her saying, “Do it now because you may never have the chance again and I don’t want to miss out!”¬† Eighty year old me likes to tell her stories of her adventures, it is my job to collect them.

I’m stuck in an airport with a child, now what?

Child at Airport

So, you’ve booked your flight, packed your bags, packed your child’s bag, got your tickets and you are that the airport ready to go! ¬†Then you hear it, the announcement that your flight is delayed an hour or two or worse. ¬†Now what?!?

I’ve been there my friends, usually in a connection city and frequently when flying on an airline with a hub in Detroit. ¬†Once we were even in Detroit…5 hour delay. They’re not a bad airline just one I personally have had terrible luck with.

First things first, if your flight is cancelled, find a new one.  If your flight is delayed to the point that you will miss a connections, talk to the counter agent and get a new connecting flight.  If you will be stuck in the next city overnight, get a hotel room now, not when you get there.

Flight delays happen, heck 8 hour planned international layovers in Toronto happen.  You can either roll with them or let them make you crazy.  I suggest you roll with them, no need to see the inside of airport jail.

Suggestions for your new found time:

  • Race your kids up and down the terminal or at least take a walk to “explore”. ¬†Do this at least once, you will be glad for the energy they burn off. ¬†When others look at you strangely, ask if they want energic or calm children to share the plane with them. ¬†They’ll acquiesce quickly.
  • Let the kids make silly faces or play silly games, if you can keep them relatively quiet, you’ll get grins from your fellow travelers
  • Watch the planes. Unless it is a massive weather shut down, other plans will be flying and kids love to watch them! ¬†Try to guess where those planes are going, make up wild stories. ¬†Heck if you know more about areonautics than I do, explain how planes fly or just ask your smart phone.
  • See if you can spy the buildings in the downtown area of the city – even if you can’t see them, get the kids too look, it is good for at least 3 minutes.
  • Look around and learn about the city you are in. ¬†There are frequently art installations in airports that tell about the history of the city or special events that are going on. ¬†In Charlotte, my beloved Charlotte airport, there are rocking chairs to sit in and relax. ¬†Ask around and find out why.
  • Play “I Spy”(our family rule is you can’t spy people, I feel the staring and pointing that will ensue is rude).
  • Let them watch a movie if it is a fairly long delay or layover but try to do so with your device plugged in, you’re going to need that battery life.
  • Color pictures, play tic tac toe, or play some other game on paper – be creative, make stuff up.
  • Go get water, 20 minutes later go get snacks, 20 minutes later go to the bathroom – use the facilities and then make silly faces in the mirror. ¬†Most other travelers will simply smile at you and your cute kiddos.
  • Get a meal if you have time, hungry¬†parents and/or kiddos stuck in airports spell disaster

The important thing is to try to make the best of it. ¬†My daughter still talks about the 5 hours in Detroit when we giggled and played our way through the airport, stopping for a smoothie and later a snack on the way to my parents’ house one summer.

I’m your mother, not your valet

I'm Your Mother, Not Your ValetMy child hears this one a lot. ¬†I believe in teaching her¬†to do for herself; as much as possible and as soon as she is able. ¬†I’m not lazy, I’m trying to teach self-reliance, life skills and a good work ethic. This is especially important when we travel. ¬†There are so many things to learn and when¬†we are traveling or getting ready for a trip it all seems FUN!

When my daughter was teeny tiny, we did everything for her of course. ¬†However, since she was about 4, she has been responsible for carrying her own carry-on or managing her own bag in the back seat on a road trip. She could bring whatever toys or games she wanted but it had to fit in the little rolling backpack we got her. ¬†Her clothes fit in a carry-on suitcase with mine and her father and I managed those. As she has gotten older, she has gotten incrementally more responsibility. Just this last fall when she was 9, she packed her own convertible backpack and small purse/entertainment bag¬†and jetted off to Europe with us for a wedding. ¬†Since we all had backpacks and flew carry-on only to Europe for 11 days, we were all REALLY careful about what we brought knowing it would be on our backs through airports and train stations aplenty. I was so impressed by her ability to cull her choices to those she knew she would need and those that she would use often enough to justify carrying. ¬†She was even very careful about her purchases knowing she had to carry them. ¬†She came home with postcards, pictures, a couple of books, bookmarks and candy. ¬†She’s 9, of course there was candy. ¬†She saved her money all year and we converted it to pounds and euros. ¬†She got to spend it on whatever she wanted but if she ran out, that was it. Thus continuing our lessons on budgeting. ¬†She was really careful with her money and even had some left when we came home so she could show her class what it looked like during her presentation. ¬†She made a scrapbook full of the pictures, postcards and her travel journal entries. (Whereas my scrapbook is still in pieces in a bag waiting for this¬†weekend’s crop!)

Since she started reading, my child has been responsible for getting us to our gates for our flights and helping us find exits on road trips. Have we ended up heading down terminals we didn’t need to be in? Sure, but that little girl can now navigate an airport with the best of them, even in French if she has to. ¬†With family all over the country, she will be allowed to fly on her own at some point and I will know she has the skills she needs to get from point A to point B managing her paperwork, money, etc. as she goes.

LondonHeathrowAirport

All this planning and self-reliance has earned her the ability to help plan our trips.  When we went to Florida a couple of years ago, we met Winter the dolphin for Dolphin Tale at her request. When we went to Europe this last fall, she got to choose museums and other locations to visit.

Our adventures encompass everything from science, math and literature to architecture, history and art of all kinds.  There is no major structure, just listening and talking. I always do some research before we go, usually with my child, and for everything else there is Google.

So please, give yourself a break, don’t be your child’s valet at home or on vacation. ¬†Have your kids pack and carry their own bags, manage their own money, lead the charge through airports, do their own laundry, keep their stuff organized. Teach them the difference between credit cards and debit cards, what it takes to earn money, and to manage every day expenses. ¬†Teach them to deal with disappointment when things don’t go their way. Teach them to travel and to see the great big world around us, to enjoy what others have created, to celebrate differences and understand that this place would be really, really boring if everyone was the same.¬†Encourage¬†them collect states and countries along with you. The memories and the stories will last a lifetime.

This is all very easy for me to say, it is how I was raised so I don’t know any differently. My parents made sure we had all the necessary life skills to survive in the world. ¬†They also made sure we saw as much of this great big country as possible and taught us both how to travel and how to it love every minute of it – even if it doesn’t always go as planned. ¬†The missteps and surprises make the best stories anyway.

Airport photo credit:
By Jnpet (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Flying With Littles – How a Well Planned Travel Outfit Will Save Your Sanity and Other Tips from the Trenches

The time has come. ¬†Your little is now 2 years old and you are rocking the SAHM gig. You decide you to fly to see your folks instead of braving the 10 hour drive by yourself with a very self-assured child with the patience of … a 2 year old. ¬†You can haul off and hope for the best OR you can learn from my mistakes and experience. ¬†My ‚Äúlittle‚ÄĚ is now a very accomplished 9 year old traveler with 100s of hours of travel under her belt but this is how we got there in the early years.

The travel outfit for your child (as well as an¬†identical back up outfit or 2) is far more important than you would think. ¬†Remember that children age 2 and older MUST have their own seat on a plane, no more lap babies. ¬†This means they have their own seatbelt. ¬†They’ve never sat in a seat with a belt like that, they’ve always had a 5 point harness. ¬†So when that grown-up seat belt and crazy metal buckle get lodged up under their cute t-shirt and press against their tender tummies, they lose their cool, fast. Ask me how I know.

This is my recommended outfit for Littles:

travel outfitHere is why I recommend this specific outfit. ¬†Even if that mean old belt or buckle gets under the hoodie, it won’t get to skin which has caused more than one child to just lose their mind. ¬†You can take the pants or hoodie off if your little gets too hot. ¬†Generally planes are chilly though and this outfit will keep them warm enough. It is an easy outfit to change diapers in. ¬†If you are unfortunate enough to to have to change a diaper on a plane, either do so in your seat or leave the pants and hoodie on your seat and just take your pouch with diapers, wipes, onesie and diaper disposal bag to bathroom. Most airlines request you don’t¬†leave soiled diapers in airplane bathrooms, some forbid it. ¬†Don’t ask the flight attendants to handle soiled diapers either, the FDA forbids it as they handle food.¬†

These are the other vitally important things you should take in a small, well organized backpack that will fit under the seat in front of you.  I usually use zipper pouches to contain like items.:

  • Snacks- twice as many as you think you will need for the flight and terminal time. ¬†Hungry child stuck in an airport=bad day for all
  • Sippy cup (you are usually allowed to take one cup of baby formula or¬†milk through security if you are traveling with a very small child). ¬†Some airports are more strict and allow this only if you have an actual baby, not a toddler, with you. ¬†Be flexible here.
  • Entertainment- 3-4 favorite books, 3-4 quiet toys, iPod/iPad or similar stocked with games and/or movies, chargers and an¬†EXTRA POWER supply
  • One comfort item for child (a blanket is best because it helps keep them warm if the plane is especially chilly)
  • Diapers/wipes/onesie/diaper disposal bag/waterproof changing pad in a quick change zipper pouch- twice as many as you think you will need for the flight and time in terminal(s)
  • Extra outfit for child, 2 if you will be traveling for more than 6 hours total
  • Extra shirt and maybe pants for you – kids spill things, on you, at the worse possible time. Yup, I’ve been there too.
  • Pacifiers if you use them – pressure changes can cause major ear pain for little ones and sucking on a pacifier, thumb, bottle or sippy cup helps. ¬†The pressure will be worse if the child has an ear infection. ¬†Three, count ’em, THREE times this happened to us before our little was 5 years old. She has only had 4 in her life. ¬†She didn’t get them on the plane. Each time we left home with the infection and the medicine to fight it. It was uncanny!
  • Your purse/wallet
  • Your phone
  • Your itinerary
  • Your tickets
  • Any medication you or your child need.¬†(You’ve got to declare liquid medication¬†at security. Take it out of the bag and put it in the bin with your shoes and 3-1-1 bag.)

backpack with zipper pouched

One carry on, that’s all, everything else gets checked. ¬†Make sure you adhere to the weight limits for bags set by your airline. ¬†Check your airline website under checked baggage. ¬†You will likely have to pay per checked item so pack those carefully too, roll up¬†space bags are your friend.

Be sure to bring an umbrella stroller and get a gate check tag from the gate agent before your section is called to board. Your fellow travelers will thank you or at least not scowl at you as you rush to get the tag on the stroller while getting your child out and trying to fold it up. You’ll leave the stroller plane side at the end of the jetway and get it back plane side at the next city.

That’s it – a backpack, a stroller and a child. ¬†This will be plenty to juggle.

filled bag

Check the car seat, there are great car seat bags that will protect the seat in transit. ¬†(If you just feel you have to bring the car seat on the plane with you, it MUST go in the window seat unless there are 2 car seats next to each other, it is never allowed in the aisle seat. The flight crew will make no exceptions to this, ever.) Remember if you bring it, you get to install it in your parents’ car … after a flight with a 2 year old. ¬†Sooo, you might ask your parents if they know of someone they can borrow a car seat from and then you can leave yours in your car. Before you leave you will also need to measure your child from the seat to the top of their shoulders so that your parents can set up the shoulder straps properly when they install the seat before you arrive. Otherwise you get to reposition them in the airport parking lot and reinstall the seat, and you know where this is going.

If you forget something you absolutely need, buy it at the airport or find another family to take pity on you. ¬†Do not pack too much for “just in case”, you only have 2 hands and one small backpack.

This is the one instance where I will suggest you check anything; when you are traveling alone with children too young to carry their own things.

“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” -Confucius

 

Aiplane at Sunset Photo Credit: By Cubbie_n_Vegas from Las Vegas, USA [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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