Traveling with Kids: Time Changes

The problem with the two Washingtons is not just the distance between the two. It is the three hour time change that really gets you, especially when traveling with children. We’ve tried just about every strategy and technique over the past 4 years to survive the time change with kids and we certainly haven’t found the magic bullet, but maybe our trials will help you find what may be best for you.

– Travel times. Traditionally we’ve traveled in the afternoon, leaving Seattle at about 2pm. The goal was for the kids to take their naps on the airplane. We would arrive in the Other Washington around bedtime and they would be ready to go to sleep. I mean all of that was theoretical, it never worked, the kids wouldn’t nap, be terribly cranky by the time we landed and just blah. This time we took a morning flight. Getting the kids out of the house at 5am wasn’t great, but they were in a good mood on the plane, had breakfast on the airplane and then napped in the car once we got to the Other Washington. Our return flight is usually the 5pm flight out of the Other Washington and they do usually sleep on the flight. We arrive slightly after their west coast bed time and put them straight to bed. There can definitely be some melt downs with all the transitions with sleepy kids (plane to stroller, stroller to parking shuttle, shuttle to car, car to house, pjs and bed) but ultimately the evening return flight has worked for us and having the kids quickly get back on a west coast schedule.

– Bedtimes. When we first flew to the Other Washington with 4 month old Lila, we kept her on a west coast schedule. This wasn’t a big deal because she napped every 3 hours, slept through the night and was pretty cute and easy while she was awake. We had this time zone thing figured out. Now our kids are 2 and 4 and bedtimes are much more complicated. Kids don’t nap or they don’t nap until 5pm local time – so bedtime at 7pm local doesn’t work. Keeping west coast bedtimes can be done, but keep in mind that means the kids won’t be in bed until 11pm local time. Which may be cool, unless you are on the east coast for a business trip and have a 7am local time event. Because that sucks.

– Meals. This one may be easy or hard, depending on how you look at it. My kids are in the toddler/preschooler eating phase, in which they both just eat continuously and whenever they want. Lucy especially NEEDS breakfast the moment she wakes up, or else all hell breaks loose. And please do not tell her you don’t have rice crispies. Don’t even try. Anyway, we try to keep them on some kind of meal schedule, but they like to snack all day and by the time dinner rolls around, they’ve probably had 2 apples, cheese, bread and yogurt in the past 3 hours. We also found that if they were going to bed on west coast time, feeding them east coast dinner at 6pm doesn’t really work. They will need another snack. (Parenting is really all about snacks and never leaving the house without them.)

– Forget the schedule. My kids really thrive on schedules, really need them to keep calm and happy. But it is hard to do on vacations. We’re out and about, visiting people, working with others’ schedules, etc, and this destroys their schedule (even before adding in the 3 hour time difference). It stresses me out, I hate staying up until 11:30pm waiting for them to tire for bed, I hate that they don’t get regular naps and the stress and lack of sleep all combine to make traveling really difficult. But we do it, and we suck it up and give them snacks at midnight even when we have to be at work in 7 hours.

So realizing I have no real tips for travel schedules for kids? Check out this great webinar on sleep and time zone travel here (from the former Isis Parenting, whose sleep webinars I miss all the time). Have tips to share? I’d love to hear it before I swear off traveling between time zones forever.

Traveling with Children – Preparing

Traveling with Kids: The Preparation

Ready for Take Off!

We’ve traveled a fair amount with both of our children. At not even 4 years old, Lila has taken more cross country flights than many adults. Lucy was on her first flight at 3 weeks old. This isn’t to suggest we’re experts at flying with children. I will say, however, that we at least have an idea what to expect and are never surprised when asked to take our shoes off by TSA.

So what have I learned through all these experiences traveling with children? Number one thing is to never think you are prepared for everything. You will not be. You can bring your child’s favorite snack, favorite book, favorite stuffed animal and have 20 hours of Dora the Explorer downloaded and they will still have a meltdown at some point. No one likes traveling. Not adults, not kids and no, not babies. So how do we prepare for a trip with 2 kids these days?

– Packing. I try to reduce the duplication of work by packing straight out of the laundry, instead of putting away clean clothes and then taking them back out to pack. This weekend I just sat on the floor with the clean laundry for all of us and made piles of what to pack. Straight from laundry basket to suitcase – and this helps ensure what I packed are things the kids will wear, since they recently wore it.

– Lists. I make a list for everything. I use big index cards and have one for each type of packing needed – suitcases, carry ons – as well as things that need to be done at home before we leave. I check off as things get packed in their correct spot and then circle what is still needed (like last minute items such as toiletries, shoes, etc.) I also try to be as general as possible in this list. Unless I think there is really a specific outfit I need (or the kids need) I don’t write down “blue pants, pink top;” I keep it more general to “7 casual outfits,” “2 work outfits.” Oh and I always forget pjs. Don’t forget pjs.

– Involve the kids. Asking a 2 year old and a 4 year old to pack their own clothes will not end well. However, asking them each to pick 2 books, a stuffed animal and a snack to put in their own backpacks to bring on the plane will. It helps them feel ownership over the packing process, as well as what they have on the place. This is of course not all I bring because 2 books does not last 6 hours, and neither does one snack, but it helps.

– Chillax. So I’m no good at this step, but the fact is our family could be the only people on the flight and I could have endless applesauce and peanut butter bars and the kids will still be bored. Because no one likes flying for 6 hours. Do your best, be as prepared as you can be and there is no shame in a glass of wine on an 8am flight because it will help you breathe easier for the next 6 hours. I mean, we’re headed east and it will practically be lunchtime there.

Good luck with your travels – I’ll keep you posted as our trip progress as to how ours goes.

Keeping Up Appearances

I think we can all agree that at this point I am a) barely a blogger and b) never going to be able to catch up on everything that’s happened in the past (gulp) two months. So let’s hit some highlights and just go from there.

1. We went to the Oregon coast for the 4th of July. It was delightful and I can’t wait to go back. Beautiful (giant) beaches, cute little seaside towns that are family/dog friendly. We went with another family – Lila’s best friend from day care. Four kids ages 3.5 to 6 months was hectic, but we had a great time and just laughed off the temper tantrums. There were fireworks, cheese, ice cream and s’mores. Definitely the best 4th of July we’ve spent on the West Coast. I often get homesick on the 4th, never really able to find a celebration that feels like those we were used to back in the East and this trip really helped to show what the 4th on the left coast could be.

Say Cheese!

 

 

2.  We went to New England for a week with all the grandparents. We rented a beach house and it was great. It was after the 4th, so the girls knew how much they loved the beach. Unfortunately we didn’t have the best beach weather, but we had a lot of fun, including visiting the aquarium twice. It is always nice to have the girls together with their grandparents so they can see what little people they are. As Lila continues to grow and be crazy fun, Lucy is now really entering “person-hood” with her own GIANT personality and this trip was probably the first time that the grandparents were able to experience it. As always, the cross country trip took a lot out of all of us, but it definitely cemented Lila’s new identity as beach babe.

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3.  Re-entry. Since being back, A and I have been adjusting to having no vacation to look forward to anymore (sad face) and lots of stress at work. Add to that some day care drama and the daily challenge of a 3 year old and a 19 month old, and we’re just happy to make it to bedtime every night.

4.  Seattle summer. This summer has been out of control. Warm, sunny, no rain. AMAZING. If only work didn’t get in the way of enjoying so many of the days, but we’ve been trying to make the most of it. After work trips to the splash park or impromptu picnics – all which lead to later bedtimes – are to be expected when it is 80 degrees and delightful outside. We’ve even been to the Seattle beach – a first for us, even though  this is our fifth summer here.

So much of what we have to talk about is just the daily running of a household with two kids, two pets, two careers. Work hard, play hard, never enough sleep. You know, the usual. We finished Veronica Mars (with the movie saved for tomorrow’s stay at home date night) and I read a book in the month of July. (That’s an exaggeration. I finished a book in July. I had been reading it for like 4 months.) I still go to Zumba. A still loves to eat Fruity Os. Cal is still a beagle. Oh, we watch a lot of Love It or List It, Too.

What have you been up to?

 

 

 

Shining Our Light Brightly

Over Memorial Day weekend we traveled to Vancouver for a short get away. We liked Vancouver when we went for Lucy’s birthday, but really went because it was the location of Raffi’s Beluga Grads tour kick off. I remember listening to Raffi when I was little, maybe not when I was Lila’s age but definitely when my brother Scott was Lila’s age. Joshua Giraffe, Baby Beluga and Down by the Bay were mainstays of my childhood. While as a parent I may have listened to Baby Beluga a few more times than I may have wished, I’ve loved sharing Raffi and his music with the girls.

The concert was pretty spectacular. Hundreds of toddlers, all thrilled to see Raffi and yes, even more excited when he sang “a song about a whale.” Lila loved that he was singing songs that she knew and she had been looking forward to the concert because she knew that “Raffi likes it when kids sing along.” A fifty minute kids concert may seem like a minor event to travel to another country for, but I just loved being there with Lila and Lucy. (That and three year olds can barely sit in one place for 50 minutes and their almost 18 month old younger siblings can only make it through about 30. Raffi knows his audience.)

Just as Raffi had done years ago in the concert featured on his live album (which is played almost as much as Baby Beluga in our house), he ended his show with “This Little Light of Mine.” As cheesy as it may be, this is the moment when the gravity of the event hit me. To me this song had always been about sharing your own talents with the world. It was always about me. But on Saturday, sitting there with Lila on my lap as we sang along, it was apparent to me that the song was not about me anymore. My “little light” is now these two little girls and it is my job as their mom to make sure their lights shine brightly. It is my job to bring these little lights around the world (figuratively and hopefully literally) and most of all, it is my job to make sure no one ever blows their light out. To support and encourage them in whatever they may choose to do – even if that means touching a real snake, as is Lila’s current life goal.

So thank you to Raffi for a wonderful afternoon that let me enjoy old favorites with my little girls and for helping me to understand how much things have changed since I first heard Baby Beluga so many years ago, and thanks to Vancouver for another great weekend. I’m so happy and lucky to have shared this with my little lights.

 

Things I Learned in Canada

To celebrate Lucy’s birthday (and Boxing Day of course) we headed to Vancouver for a few days. It was the girls’ first international trip and we avoided any major incident. Here’s a recap of things I learned in our time away.

1. If the border wait time is listed as 5 min, it will take at least 30. If the border wait time is listed as 45 minutes, get comfy.

2. Canadians are friendly. Like super friendly. We went to dinner at a relatively hip location and worried the owner was trying to convince us not to stay. I think we were just caught off guard by his concern. He sent appetizers and drinks out to us on the (cold) patio as we waited for seats. The front desk staff of the hotel sang happy birthday to Lucy as we headed out for the day and a random passerby on the street helped us find the cupcake shop so we could properly celebrate.

3. Baby belugas, despite what the song says, do not in fact swim wild and free. At least not at the Vancouver Aquarium.

4. The Vancouver Aquarium is a lovely place. Unless you want to use the bathroom with a toddler or change an infant’s diaper. Which is odd because of the make up of their guests.  IMG_00745

5. Vancouver has really great food. And Vancouver-ites like to eat this food very early. We arrived at our restaurant choices at 5pm each evening and encountered at least a 30 minute wait. Worth it at both places. (For the record, Vij’s – get the lamb popsicles- and Anton’s -get the olive bruschetta. Go, enjoy.)

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6. We may be old and married with two kids, but we can still manage to negotiate a new city by bus, even without being able to depend on our phones to look everything up. We hiked through Stanley Park and still found the bus stop, made it back to the hotel and then navigated our way to the restaurant. (All with a baby on my back)

7. No matter how awesome an itinerary of a trip may be, nothing will compare to the hotel in a child’s eyes. Lila returned to day care on Monday and shared with everyone that she went to Canada, stayed at a hotel and slept in a big bed.

 

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8. Olympic stuff is cool.

9. Tim Horton’s is overrated. And if you try to order donut holes, they will look at you strangely. Because apparently they call them Tim Bits. Which is weird.

10. A one year old will watch jellyfish for hours. And maybe try to eat them.

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Traveling Close to Home

Part of getting the house decorated for Christmas is taking stock of all of the items stowed away from the previous year. As we pulled out the boxes from the closet last weekend, I was looking at all of our ornaments. Our family tradition has been to purchase an ornament from our vacation each year. Some of my favorites include the kiwi from our honeymoon in New Zealand and the otters from our weekend inMonterrey. As I organized the ornaments this year, I realized we didn’t have an ornament for this year because we didn’t travel. Two kids, young baby, not a lot of time off available because of maternity leave, not to mention family travel obligations, we hadn’t had a vacation. It was sad to me we didn’t have anything for the tree this year since we had no trips from which to buy a souvenir ornament.

I realized though that even though we didn’t take a vacation this year, it didn’t mean we didn’t have great memories to celebrate and commemorate on our tree. With Lila being more aware of things and able to participate in more, we’ve been able to experience more within our own city. We took her to the Space Needle, the aquarium and the zoo. We rode the Great Wheel and became regulars at the Seattle libraries. We went to three Seattle Children’s Theater productions and I’ll be taking Lila to a local production of the Nutcracker this year. We went to the Macy’s Parade and we’ll see the famous Nordstrom’s Santa in a few weeks.  We may not have vacationed in exotic locales, but we made the most out of our year here in Seattle.

 

Seattle_Infographic

As you can see, vacationing in Seattle offers a great deal to do – more than we accomplished in this year! This graphic suggested some great things to help wrap up our year of “vacationing” in Seattle – like riding the monorail and exploring the Boeing Factory and Museum of Flight.

So this year, I’m buying an ornament from Seattle that celebrates the year of learning to be a family of four and to enjoy all our Emerald City has to offer. (Don’t take our word for it, come visit, we’d love to share it with you!!)

 

This infographic was provided by Marriott for use on my blog. Read more about Marriott and Seattle here.

Fly Over States

We head out to the East Cost on Thursday (follow our trip on instagram and twitter, don’t miss a minute!).   So this means another cross country flight, sleep schedule adjustments, meals on the run, you know, the usual.  (If you are keeping track, this trip will let Lucy join the 10,000 mile club.  That’s right, 7 months old and she’ll have flown over 10,000 miles.)

I’d love to write a mom blog post on “how to” fly with kids.  I’ll give you the highlights below but the truth is two years in, I’m no expert.  I still panic, over pack, freak out and generally stress out everyone around me.  But I keep getting back on the plane.  Even at the end of the last cross country trip when A and I swore that we would not get back on the plane with the kids for at least a year,here we are, jumping back on a plane.

So my “expert tips”?  Here’s what I got:

– go the airport early.  I mean ridiculously early.  Give yourself time to lug every piece of baby equipment you brought with you from the car to the parking lot shuttle from the shuttle to the sky bridge from the sky bridge to the ticket counter (by the way sometimes the elevators are broken – so you know, two kids, a pack and play, two car seats and some luggage meets an escalator.  Like I said, go EARLY.)  You’ll want to get food (more on that later) and then let any mobile traveling child run their little hearts out.

– Food.  Bring it, buy it, do whatever is necessary to keep the kiddos happy.  Nurse on demand? Sure.  More cheddar bunnies?  Why not.  Chocolate chip cookies for lunch?  Yes please.  Bring lots of snacks.  They almost never have milk on the drink cart either, so plan ahead.  (You can bring sippie cups of milk and water through security, which will help you save money instead of buying it at the terminal.)

– Security.  If there is a family line, use it.  Don’t be ashamed, don’t feel bad that you will be cutting people in line that have been there for 30 minutes.  Don’t let their complaints discourage you.  Pick up your kids, fold down your stroller and be proud.  19 hours of labor (times 2) earned me this right.

– Entertainment.  In the past this has been rough because Lila (and Lucy still) are too young to really entertain for too long.  They just can’t do it.  I mean, I don’t like flying for 6 hours, why should they?  For Lila we’ve always brought books.  Now we’re bringing a magna doodle, coloring book, books, stickers, baby doll, and an iPad (more on that in a minute).  Lots of variety and most important a mix of old and new.  New items she hasn’t seen before and some old favorites that never fail.  We went to Target this weekend and I told her we could get some toys for the plane.  She picked up a few items and is really excited for them.  She knows that she can only use them on the plane.  Books and dolls that we know she enjoys will be packed as well.

– iPad.  Parents who flew cross country before the iPad, God Bless You.  I mean it.  Lila is finally in love with watching tv shows and we don’t let her do that at home.  (She caught 3 minutes of the British Open this weekend and was memorized.  Really, we had to shut it off to break the spell.)  So watching Dora, her absolute favorite, is only for special occasions.  And 6 hours on an airplane is a very special occasion.  We bought kid’s headphones for her and we’re ready to let her watch 6 hours of Dora.  No really.  We’ll let that happen, trust us.

– Alcohol. I don’t get drunk on flights, but by the time the first drink cart comes through, we’re about 4 hours into our flying adventure with still another 4 hours in the air.  A glass of wine to celebrate how far we’ve come and steel me against the hours to come.  It takes just enough of the edge off for me to not have a panic attack at 10,000 feet and happy momma = happy family.

My girls are good fliers and I’m happy that they are becoming as experienced at flying as they are at such a young age.  It would be nice if it were less stressful (or expensive) for Andrew and me, but using our toolbox of time, snacks, iPad and alcohol, we’ll make it work (again).

Just a Phase

After two plus years of parenting I’ve discovered that almost everything is just a phase.  This applies to both the good stuff – breastfeeding, sleepy newborn cuddles, kissing mommy’s boo boos – and the bad – pumping, temper tantrums, teething.  I try to repeat that to myself as we go through a sleepless phase or a particularly trying toddler week.  This too will pass.  What is happening now is simply what is happening now, it is not how things will be forever.

As summer rolls around I’ve been using this as my mantra to get through this phase of summer vacation envy.  With two small children (who need a lot of stuff), having just returned to work from four months of maternity leave, and some family things that required unexpected travel, there is no summer vacation for us.  I long  to go to the beach – be that local at the Oregon coast or a more exotic locale like Costa Rica (apparently the vacation spot du jour out here).  I want to take the kids to see the sights, to enjoy Disneyland, to see Europe.  I get frustrated when I realize how difficult that would be right now.  (Not to mention that a giant Mickey Mouse or any other character would horrify Lila and probably scar her and she wouldn’t want to go on any rides.  So really?  A giant waste of time and money.)  So I remember it is just a phase.  One day, sooner than I care to admit, the kids will be older. Capable of watching a movie and entertaining themselves on a plane.  Not needing two cribs, car seats, high chairs, tons of diapers, books and toys to make travel successful.  And when that day comes we will go to Costa Rica and Ireland and Disneyland.

For now, I try to treasure the phase we are in.  The one where a trip to the wading pool and the playground is the greatest trip Lila could ever imagine.  Paris can wait.

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When One Washington Just Won’t Do

Our dear friend Adam was getting married in the Other Washington last weekend so we packed up the kids and had a week long vacation** in our old stomping grounds.  As much as I love getting back to the Other Washington to see our friends and family, it is a very tiring and stressful process.  Getting two kids across the country (with all their stuff) is not easy.  Our schedule is always jam packed, causing us to run from social event to social event (with jet lagged kids) and have a constant stream of hellos and goodbyes.  I wouldn’t not want to see our friends, but it is emotionally exhausting to say good bye to those you love time and time again – often in very close proximity to other good byes.  On top of all of that there are always friends you don’t get to see, or not see enough of.  Guilt can be big.  Don’t get me wrong, we love seeing everyone in the Other Washington.  We just also love sleeping in our own beds :)

 

Here’s a whirlwind photo post to try to show how whirlwind our trip to the east coast was.

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We rode the metro (or the train as Lila called it – all aboard!)

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We visited the Mall, though Lila was not very impressed with the Washington Monument.  She wanted the Space Needle.

We visited the Mall, though Lila was not very impressed with the Washington Monument. She wanted the Space Needle.

We showed Lila where she could work one day when she became Senator.

We showed Lila where she could work one day when she became Senator.

The girls attended their first protest.

The girls attended their first protest.

 

Lila stood right, walked left.

Lila stood right, walked left.

 

Lucy met her friend Henry who was born just 4 days after her.

Lucy met her friend Henry who was born just 4 days after her.

 

We saw the space shuttle

We saw the space shuttle

While Mom and Dad attended Uncle Adam's wedding, Lila held down the fort in the hotel room.

While Mom and Dad attended Uncle Adam’s wedding, Lila held down the fort in the hotel room.

And Lila pretended to be an airplane

And Lila pretended to be an airplane

 

Lucy met her great-grandparents.

Lucy met her great-grandparents.

 

All in all, it was a great trip but since it left us all feeling like this, it is not one we will be repeating anytime soon.

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** As A and I have learned, traveling with children is never a vacation.  Just a logistically nightmarish trip that guarantees little sleep and at least one melt down per traveler per day.

Deep in the Heart

We traveled to Texas this weekend for a wedding and a mini-vacation. LC’s Grandma Dede and Grandpa Mark joined us in Austin for a visit and to watch LC while A and I attended the wedding. I had only been to San Antonio before, so our trip to Austin was an exciting new adventure.  And by adventure, I mean lots of new food to eat, because that’s pretty much all we did.

On the way into town from the airport we passed the Landing Strip.  That’s right – THE Landing Strip.  As you may know, Friday Night Lights, though it takes place in the fictional Dillion, TX, was filmed in Austin.  And the strip club – home to Mandy Riggins and other strippers with a heart of gold – is actually a real place in Austin.  I didn’t get to stop by – I was hoping they had tee shirts – but driving past set the weekend off to a great start.

We started Thursday night with Tex-Mex dinner at Trudy’s, thanks to a recommendation from an Austin native friend.  While I had only a sip of the Silver Fire margarita, it was delicious and I will have to return to have one of my own once I have an outside baby. Friday we visited the flagship Whole Foods – enjoying some delicious tasty goods for breakfast, but nothing too big because we had Franklin’s BBQ for lunch.  (Look it up, I’ll wait.  Franklin’s BBQ is awe-some-sauce.)

The town was abuzz getting ready for the big game on Saturday, UT v. WVU.  Wanting to walk off some of the BBQ we’d enjoyed at lunch, we visited campus and found ourselves in the middle of a pep rally.  All week leading up to our trip, I kept saying that if I could meet Bevo, the trip would be a success.  So as we crossed the square in front of the UT tower and heard a co-ed exclaim “It’s Bevo, y’all!”, I couldn’t  believe it.  There in a giant orange trailer, attached to a giant orange truck – was Bevo XIV.

Here’s LC taking a peek at the beast.

And then the entire fam hanging with Big Moo, as LC referred to him as.

It was a pretty big deal, especially since I wasn’t sure if anything would top the Landing Strip.

While Bevo was the highlight of the trip for me, I think dinner Friday night was the highlight for A.  We headed to Lucy’s Fried Chicken where we had all the goods the South has to offer.  Fried chicken, sweet tea, corn bread, mac and cheese, sweet potatoes (made with Coca-Cola), grits and chess pie.  Yeah, it was pretty delicious.  I think A would travel back to Austin just get another bucket of chicken.

I’m grounded in Seattle until BE2 makes her outside appearance, so this long weekend with family, great food and a giant steer was a great way to get out of town and relax for a few days.  It may not have been Maui, but it was a pretty great babymoon for the family we are now.