Thursday, November 27, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Over the years, I’ve learned to travel on airplanes—all by myself—with one, then two, now three kids. It can be done and it doesn’t have to be a nightmare! Airline travel is getting more costly (and more difficult) in the respect that it’s hard to understand the new rules and how they apply to children. I’m hoping that by sharing tips and tricks that I’ve learned, airline travel with small children will be less frightening and more manageable.
TSA Rules—One big question I always get is regarding babies, bottles and formula/breast milk. I find it very hard to wade through the mounds of information at the http://www.tsa.gov/ site. Here are some things I learned along the way. It is now permissible to carry with you formula, juice or breast milk for your children. It does not have to be under the 3 oz. Limit nor does it have to fit inside a quart-sized baggie. It does need to be inside of a baggie and declared to the inspection officers. You will not have to drink any (or force your child to drink any) to prove it is safe. However, the TSA reserves the right to take a sample and check it for explosives. Chances are they will never do this, but it is allowed. For that sample, they would pour a little off of the bottle/cup and not dip into the bottle/cup.
I always take one extra bottle or one extra meal of baby food for each layover we have along the way. If we fly direct, I take one more than I think I will need. The TSA site clearly states that only ‘reasonable amounts’ will be allowed. Use good judgment when you decide how much to pack. The only time I was ever questioned was on a trip where we had two layovers. I explained we’d have almost an 8-hour travel day if there were no delays so I brought enough food/milk for an entire day. The man checked my ticket to confirm I had two stops and let me pass without a hitch.
It is not required, but I find it makes them wave you through much faster if you also put into gallon baggies any jars of baby food, children’s snacks and formula—I use the formula travel tubes (powder for a 4oz bottle in each tube) when we travel. Having it all together in your carry on makes it easy to pull out all bags and put into a bin. Shoes must also be removed—even for infants/children. I would leave the baby’s shoes off until we made it through the checkpoint. Or we would wear slip-on shoes/Robeez that are easy to get off/on. Make sure you pull out all food/liquid items before the bags go through the x-ray or they can be confiscated.
One final TSA thought—I do my best to pick the longest line when going through security. Most people avoid the line when they see me and my stroller and kids in the line. I make the big kids take off their shoes while we wait in line and when we get to the front, if I have an infant I will stand there and ask NICELY for help. Sir/Ma’am, can you help me load this stroller or these bags? (As my momma always said, "You catch more flies with honey." These TSA workers are worked hard and put up with a lot of anger issues from travelers. I try to be a bright spot in their day--even though I know I'm a little bit of a pain.)
Two useful TSA weblinks are:
Gate Check—Use Gate Check to your advantage. I have a junky stroller I got at a garage sale specifically for travel. I paid $10 and if the airlines damage it, I’m really not out anything. I also gate check the car seat if I’m unable get a free seat for my under 2 aged child. Ask when you check in your luggage and again at the gate to see if there might be an open seat if you have a non-ticketed lap-sitting child under age 2. I pile the stroller high with everyone’s carry on bags and the car seats and carry the baby while making the other two hold each side of the stroller. I’ve also had wrist leashes and most recently the backpack halter leash for my kids. Depends on how much you trust them not to dart and run.
What to carry on—Each child is responsible to carry their own backpack with their toys and books and diapers/wipes/pull-ups if they weren’t potty trained. We take a couple matchbox cars, a couple small action figures/dolls, and a couple coloring/activity books. Add colors, pencils and some books and you have lots of entertainment for a flight. I also will pack a small notepad of blank paper to color on as well as a small stuffed animal friend. I save up some coveted kids meal toys that are hidden and stay that way until we get on the plane. I’ll pull them out from the bottom of the backpack and tah-dah, mom’s a hero. My kids also know the Sky Mall is a free magazine that they can take with them. I let them circle what they want (yes, I’ll look into that $25,000 gold plated Jacuzzi for your Christmas present) and take them off the plane in their backpacks. I recycle them back at home.
Boarding/disembarking—Make sure you tell the gate personnel that you need extra time to board the plane and they will generally pre-board you. When you arrive, we allow every person to get off the plane before us. This way, the kids can take their time meandering down the aisle of the plane, our gate checked stroller is waiting for us and I’ve had time to unbuckle the car seats and double check our area to make sure we didn’t leave anything behind.
Bathrooms on Planes— We try to potty before we board and let the big kids take one potty break in the middle. I know babies will almost always poop during takeoff. It seems to be Murphy’s Law for flying. Just be prepared for changing time. If they are very small, change them on your lap if you can. When they get a little bigger, you have to use the awful changer in the tiny airplane restroom. Yes, almost every plane has one—you just didn’t know where it was. The right wall above the toilet has a latch. When you release the latch, there is a drop down changing table that is as wide as the bathroom. Use your can opener to squish the child on the changer and change quickly. Bring hand sanitizer because trying to hold an infant while messing with those airplane faucets is almost comical enough to sell tickets to the event.
Reminders—Most passengers on airplanes are very patient with your children on the plane. A few may grumble, but I’ve found it to be pretty rare. Most have traveled with their own small children and feel sympathy for you. One kind man told me, “Don’t worry if they cry, only the three rows in front and in back of you can hear them.” I learned to remove shoes during the flight so little feet can’t kick the seats in front of them. I do discipline and try not to ever allow any sort of seat kicking. We make sure sippy cups (or pacifiers) are ready for takeoff and landing. Little ears don’t like the pressure changes and drinking or sucking (candy and suckers works, too) will help the ears to keep popping. Even when I breastfed, I tried to use a bottle or cup or paci on the plane. I find it to be almost impossible to breastfeed well on a plane. I end up with a strained back and it’s too hot to cover up well. I also usually had the baby in the car seat and I never let them out once they are in.
The biggest tip for airline travel—RELAX!! The more uptight and anxious you get, the worse your children will get. Try (I know it can be tough) to keep your cool. We try to change our toy/activity every 20 minutes on the plane. Even if we rotate and do the same thing every other time, it breaks up the trip and provides something new to distract them.
Try to have fun. And remember, down the road, you might even be able to catch a snooze with the kids on the plane or even read a book. For children who have a basic grasp of discipline, I lay out expectations of behavior and consequences before we go. If we all know what to expect, it makes a much smoother trip.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Rebekah loved the lazy river. We made her wear a life jacket (mostly to keep her from freezing) and she would sit on the edge with her feet in the water. She wanted to go around and around for hours. I seriously think she spent four or five HOURS in the lazy river during the day. I happened to grab the photo when everyone was in the lazy river. There were also slides, a hot tub (yea!!), basketball, obstacle course and a kiddie section with a tiny slide.
Here Sean is following behind Andrew & Rebekah to make sure she doesn't try to jump ship. This was early in the day before we realized her love and devotion to the lazy river. Nathan is following in what looks like 'stealth mode' but is really how he can touch the bottom with his feet. I got to take a few laps with him in a double tube. We had a lot of fun.
Andrew is taking a spin with Rebekah. The second photo is waving (not 'talk to the hand'). Since it was early, she was a little hesitant to let go. Eventually, she became princess of the lazy river waving at all her subjects.
I didn't get the camera for it, but Nathan was the first to attempt the obstacle course. He worked at it for at least 10 minutes trying to get across. He wanted to do it himself and managed the first time with almost no help from a nervous mom. The second time, I had to stay against the side of the pool and not help at all. Andrew came over to see Nathan crossing and started doing it himself, too. I had to leave because it was too nerve-wracking for me. I would not be able to watch if they were on a show like Fear Factor.
This was the last item from our Summer 08 checklist. We did everything but dig fossils (that will be back on next summer's list) and the children's museum (will be twice on the Fall/Winter list). I'm working on a Fall/Winter chart to take us through spring. I was amazed that we were able to check of 20 out of 22 items. I knew it would help us prioritize some of the things we wanted to do, but it really gave us purpose in going and doing things and having fun as a family.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Here is the first part of the article I wrote regarding travel. More coming next week:
Do the words “Family Vacation” strike terror in your heart? With the holidays approaching and many people traveling, I wanted to give you some simple ideas to help make traveling with children easier.
For car travel, get some inexpensive toys/games from garage sales or dollar stores that you use only during travel. If you put them away for non-travel times, these toys will become an exciting thing for your children.
Don’t forget the snacks. My kids know that Pringles and Twizzlers are always packed for our car trips. Not healthy, but a family memory and something to pass the time. Besides, how else can they learn about using Twizzlers as a straw in your 7Up? Yum, yum.
The best travel tip I’ve ever received is to stop a little early for lunch at a fast food with a playplace. Let the kids run around and play while you eat. The rule is, “When you want to stop and eat, we leave.” When the kids are done playing, the adults have eaten a quiet meal. One adult takes kids to the bathroom, one orders kid meals to go for them and we load up. The kids eat and play with their new toy for about a half hour. Then they are full and tired and will remain quiet or sleep for a while. We will never again try to force them to eat in the restaurant when they could be burning off all kinds of energy.
No playplace available? Grab food and find a park (or rest stop) and force them to run. Make the kids run races and do exercise competitions (jumping jacks, best high jump) while you eat. Then feed them when you get back on the road.
Some other fun things are window clings for them to put on the windows (carseats, backs of seats, etc.) and silly games like find the alphabet in signs you pass or sing silly songs. Get books on tape/CD from the library to entertain. We often check out the book as well so our reader can read along with the tape.
A few other random travel tips:
One of our former MOPS moms told us to get a jellyroll pan for each child. It looks like a cookie sheet but has the sides all around it. Since it’s metal, magnets stick to it. For boys who love cars or trains, you can attach contact paper that you ‘create’ into roads or tracks. Then they can drive their cars/trains on it and they won’t roll off because of the raised edges.
Take it a step farther and pick up those inexpensive sticker books with scenes that you attach the stickers onto. (Usually found at airports, Cracker Barrel restaurants, etc. for about $1-1.50 per book.) If you attach the stickers to any magnet—might I recommend the freebies you get all over town—and cut out around the sticker, you can have a baggie of each sticker/magnet book. The kids can place the scene on their tray and put the magnetic stickers on the page. Pick up and put away when done.
These trays are also great for coloring (even at home when not traveling). Colors don’t roll off and if you have an enthusiastic scribbler, the color will only be on the tray.
It’s not always possible to do, but if you can plan extra time into your travel, take a little break to stop along the way at those various green sign sightseeing places. While a Pony Express Station might not be the most fascinating thing you’ll ever see, it’s fun to talk about history while you’re standing in the place. Stopping helps break up the driving a little and does create a memory that lasts a lifetime. A thirty-minute stop can make the next several hours of driving go much smoother.
For driving to the same place all the time (such as Grandma’s house), create a special map for your child. For example, when we go to our Grandma’s house, our map (hand-drawn by me) has: our house, windmills, the water tower that looks like a balloon, Exotic Animal Farm, a certain funny city name (because the kids like the name of the town and say it over and over in a sing-song voice), ice cream cone (we stop for a treat), buffalo (we pass some buffalo signs), toll booth (we take the toll road on the way), a windmill we pass, Grandma’s house. If you prefer to go high-tech, you can take photos when you go and create a pictorial map for the next trip.
I encourage you to move away from using only DVD’s to entertain kids in cars. We have a movie player in our van, but our kids are well aware of the rules. We will watch one video and then the machine goes off and screen goes up for a minimum of one hour. My kids have been forced to learn goofy songs, play silly license plate games and they have learned that sometimes, you have to be bored and happy at the same time. They have learned to read in a moving car. They have invented all kinds of their own games and ways to entertain themselves.
Turning off all screens (including gaming devices and cell phones) has also taught us to communicate with our children on a deeper level. When you’re trapped for 9+ hours together in a vehicle, you can turn that into some amazing teaching time and sharing time without the kids realizing it. We work Bible stories into the day or scriptures with the kids. Especially when we pass incredible scenery and try to teach them about all the beauty in God’s creation. We know where the Llama farm is and where every windmill can be found on our route.
Part two--air travel--coming next week.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
As part of our corporate mission to nourish people's lives everywhere, every day, Campbell Soup Company is committed to supporting the farmers that have provided the wholesome ingredients for Campbell's® condensed soups for more than 110 years. Through a partnership with the National FFA Organization, which is dedicated to developing our next generation of leaders through agricultural education, Campbell has committed a quarter of a million dollars to help support the future of American farming.
Join us as we help good things grow: