Monday, August 31, 2015

Look Who's Talking: 22 months!

Forest turned 22 months over the weekend which means I have only 2 more months of referring to him as a baby Waaaaaaaah. I’ll go ahead and pass him the mic before I get too emotional. Here he is for one of his last ever guest posts: 
Hiya guys. It’s been a big month for me. I spent half of my time as a 21 month old visiting my family in the south. I learned a lot in my time there including how to say ‘yes ma’am’, how to dip cornbread into my red beans and rice and how to use my baby blues to con my Nana into feeding me snoballs for lunch. 

Here’s a rundown of my likes and dislikes at this point in my life. 
1)Going to the playground. Yes, you read that right. Excursions to the park might be fun for other babies, but there is a whole world out there for me to explore. I can’t be expected to be satisfied with a swing set and going down the same boring slide 20 times in a row. Ain’t nobody got time for that. My parents have finally started to relent and occasionally let me go on nature walks versus the same old song and dance at the neighborhood play structures. 
2) The heat. The Scottish-born boy has no tolerance for temps in the 90s, especially when those temps are accompanied by 100% humidity. 
What my hair does in humidity.

Sweaty baby.
The first words out of my mouth when we touched down in New Orleans was ‘It’s hot!’ and I don’t believe a truer sentence has ever been spoken. 

1) Baby Einstein. This is for sure the #1 love of my life. Upon meeting anyone new, my first question is ‘You watch Einstein?’. Their answer tells me all I need to know about them as a person. 
Andrew likes Einstein and therefore I accept him as my baby cousin.
I could watch Baby Einstein morning, noon, and night, and if my mom tells me no, I will give her an earful. It’s gotten to the point where she and my dad have staged an intervention and I’m supposed to be on “detox” from any and all screen-time. I outplayed them by consistently cutting an hour off of my normal nap time so that if my mom wants any time to shower/cook/fold laundry/scroll-mindlessly-through-facebook she has to relent and give me the goods.   
2) Doing things by myself. Other than ‘Baby Einstein’ my favorite phrase is ‘I hold it!’. 

3) Wearing bowls as hats. 
I mean, that’s just good classic comedy right there. 

4) Stuffed animals. Who needs imaginary friends when you have real live stuffies to make believe with? 

5) Blowing bubbles in the water. 
And really, anything that has to do with water is fine by me, especially if it involves giving my mom a panic attack. 
Earth to California---you’re a great state and all, and I can maybe forgive your lack of decent queso dip, but you really need to rectify the ‘no New Orleans style snoballs’ problem.  Is that too much to ask? 
8) Grandparents. All of my grandparents refer to me as 'Master Forest' and treat me accordingly (aka simply with the reverence I deserve.) And they never turn me down when I ask for Baby Einstein, snoballs or potato chips. Maybe I could take the heat of the south if I had my grandparents there to follow me around fanning me. Or at the very least to take me to the beach or the pool every single day. 

Oh, and Uncles, Aunts and cousins are pretty awesome too! 

I wish they'd all move to California so we could hang out more often in totally reasonable outside temperatures. 

Alright folks, that's about all I got for you today. See you next month!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Toddler Flying Tips

Our first flight with Forest was a doozy. He was nearly 4 months old and we were flying from Europe to California as part of an international job relocation for Jonathan. Leading up to the flight I felt extremely overwhelmed, not only with the move prep, but I was also totally terrified of taking a trans-Atlantic flight with a hypersensitive infant. All of my experienced momma friends reassured me that flying with a 4 month old was a piece of cake, and I looked at them like they were totally deranged. But now I get it- compared to flying with a toddler, flying with a 4 month old is easy breezy (but still understandably intimidating to new parents!).  

Flying with toddlers (or babies...or both) is a whole lot of no fun but sometimes all that stands between you and family/vacation is a plane ride and you just gotta bite the bullet and book the flight. I was lucky on my last plane travels to New Orleans and back because my husband was traveling to Houston for work at the same time and so he flew the first leg of the trip with me and walked me to my next gate. My mom is an angel who offered to fly back with me and spend a few days with us in the Bay area so that I wouldn’t have to travel back solo. So of the 4 flights, I only had to handle one all by myself. And so my biggest tip is: 
1) If you can recruit a helper to fly with you- do it! Otherwise it's really difficult to go to the bathroom...

2) If your toddler is under the age of 2 and if you can afford it and if your flight is over 2 hours long, book them a separate ticket. I don't consider myself an overly materialistic person but one thing I will fork over money for is comfort. Some airlines even offer discounted rates if you buy a ticket for an under 2.

3) Be organized. This is huge. I have packing down to a science and yet it still it's still the most stressful part of traveling for me. The rest of this post will focus on what I packed for the plane and how I packed it. 

I had a rolling carry on bag, plus a personal item for me and for Forest (since he had his own seat). To get through security and the airport, I wore Forest in the Ergo on my chest, with my backpack on my back. Forest's backpack was attached to the rolling carry on bag. I would have brought a stroller but all of my layovers were super duper short and I was worried that gate checking a stroller would eat away precious layover time. The Ergo allowed me hands free mobility and I was much quicker on my feet, plus Forest was confined while we boarded and deplaned. However, he’s a gigantic kid so I think we will be retiring the Ergo from this point on. Sniff, sniff.   

In my backpack I kept: Forest’s plane harness, Forest’s food pouches (have to be separated as liquids), Forest’s liquid meds (we always travel with Tylenol in case his ears bother him on the plane and we bring along diaper rash cream and Benadryl/asthma meds just in case he has any weird reaction while airborne), Forest’s pencil pouch with wipes, hand sanitizer and 3 diapers, my entertainment sources and snacks, a travel wallet with our IDs and boarding passes easily accessible, and extra chargers and batteries for iPhones/iPads/Kindles/etc. 

In Forest's backpack I packed: Pacis, 2 lovies, special snacks, an empty sippy cup, an iPad loaded with apps and toddler TV shows, toddler headphones, and quiet, contained, mess free activities like Crayola No-Mess markers/coloring books and Melissa and Doug Water Wow paint books. 
In my rolling carry-on I had extra diapers, a change of clothes for both of us, any items Forest would need if we got stranded in Houston for the night (pjs, sleep comfort items), plus extra snacks and entertainment items. This is also where I stored my Ergo carrier when it wasn’t in use. 

The biggest difference between an itty baby and a toddler when it comes to plane travel is that toddlers need more entertainment, which is why we packed Forest his own backpack full of fun distractions. We found these perfect ‘adventure’ backpacks by Circo at Target. 
It was the perfect size to fit an iPad plus a few coloring books, magazines, snacks and stuffed animals, plus it has extra wide tote straps which allow it to be easily attached to the handle of a rolling carry-on bag. And it has an extra pocket on the side for a sippy cup and lots of different pockets and compartments for organization. 
Is there anything cuter than a toddler wearing a backpack??

I’m telling you, simply being organized is half the battle and I loved having this backpack for this trip. 
Forest loved it too!
As far as what I packed for entertainment-  I honestly thought an iPad loaded with apps and TV shows would be the only thing we needed but packed some coloring activities and sticker books just in case. 
I’m so glad I packed alternate entertainment because the iPad was shockingly a total bust. The problem with Forest is that he knows how to navigate an iPad. His favorite things are FaceTime, Pandora and watching Baby Einstein on YouTube, so as soon as you set him up with an app or an episode of Daniel Tiger, he immediately closes out of it and goes searching for those three things, none of which are available with the rinky-dink wifi on airplanes. This led to a lot of frustration on his part and a frustrated toddler is the last thing you want on a flight! 

On our trip home, the plane had a good setup for hanging a device by it's case on the seat back in front of him, which was perfect since it was out of reach for him to close out of whatever I put on for him.
If your toddler has an issue with closing out of shows, this might be a good option. I also downloaded some shows onto my Kindle which he's way less familiar with navigating.

The surprise hit of the trip was the 'Water Wow' Melissa and Doug coloring pads. 
Essentially this is just painting with water. As your kiddo runs the water brush over the picture, the colors and hidden items appear.   

The ‘on-the-go’ versions have 4 pages each and come in a variety of themes. His animal themed one was such a hit on the trip to Louisiana that we got him a vehicle and ABC one for the plane ride home. 
We also brought Crayola Color Wonder markers and drawing pads as well. 
When he tired of those, I pulled out a little pocket notebook and a stash of stickers and helped him transfer the stickers to the notebook pages. Target's $1 spot has lots of sticker options so you can really load up there.

We also brought a few of his lightweight Hello Highlights Magazines which are always a hit and super easy to travel with. 

Between the iPad, art activities, magazines and stickers, he stayed pretty easily entertained for the entire trip. 

To accompany his iPad, we bought a pair of Kidz Gear headphones. 
We were wisely advised by a friend to test drive them before the flight in case he hated them, so we did and he didn’t seem to mind at all. 
Plus, how stinkin cute are these?
He’s sort of over apps at the moment but traditionally likes the Peek-a-boo line of apps, Fisher Price free apps (ABC, 123, shapes, and animals), and Daniel Tiger's Grr-ific feelings. The Daniel Tiger app has some fun art things that kept his attention for a bit. Curious George was definitely the biggest winner of the TV shows I downloaded but he still tired of it after 10 minutes and closed out of it searching for Baby Einstein. Sigh. 

Other than entertainment, packing snacks is vitally important. A lot of people advise to pack extra special snacks for the occasion but I would caution against too many sugary snacks. You already have a little ball of energy cooped up in a tiny space, the last thing you want is a sugar high added in the mix. I say opt for salty snacks if possible! 
Forest doesn’t normally snack (4 square meals a day!) so any snack was a big treat for him. We went for goldfish, fig bars, bananas, apple slices, cheerios, peanut butter crackers (be careful some flights won’t allow peanut butter if someone with an allergy is on board), and Pringles. 

Dole snacks out slowly so that it eats up a good bit of your flight time. It’s physically impossible for a baby to throw a tantrum when they are chowing down on goldfish so you gotta stretch those babies out. I brought along a spill-proof snack cup which always slows Forest down. 
As far as drinks go, most flights serve 2% milk as an aside to coffee service so you can ask for this on board or else buy some prior to boarding. We also fill a sippy cup with water and then refill it with beverage service on the plane. 

A third important thing to pack is, logistically, how are you going to keep a wiggly toddler confined on the plane? You have two options: 1) bring aboard their car seat. If they still fit in their infant car seat, this is the way to go for sure. Unfortunately our giant baby outgrew his by 14 months, so we had to retire it. I didn’t want to be responsible for toting a gigantic convertible car seat through the airport so I opted for this CARES safety harness. 

It’s simple enough to install and kept Forest wrangled in his seat fairly well. Every once in a while I’d have to readjust him or the straps but it certainly beat lugging a car seat around. The only benefit of having the carseat on the plane is that it’s more comfortable for napping. Forest did take cat naps flying in both directions but both were interrupted by the plane landing and having to deboard. 

When we’ve brought his car seat on board in the past he’s always taken solid 1.5-2 hour naps which is so nice. I think this is probably baby dependent. Some kids can nap anywhere under any conditions while some are pickier sleepers. Forest tends to be on the ‘picky- sleeper’ side so I was pleasantly surprised that he slept at all. 

Alright friends, that’s a jumbled rendition of our flight experience and what things worked and which things didn't.  Please let me know if you have any specific questions or any advice to add.