Tag Archives: tips

Flying with “Small Children,” aka an Albatross of Your Own Likeness

the plane back from the caribbean dehumidifying

Or How Uncomfortable Can You Stand to Be?

Baby Center re-posted their list of tips for flying with kids on my facebook newsfeed last night, just after I had arrived home from a whole day of air travel. You can see their “article” here:
“Flying with Small Children,” Baby Center, Oct 2011

This article, while containing many informative points on the technical requirements of traveling/booking a flight for yourself and an infant or toddler, seems to have been written only by people who don’t actually do this traveling. They have clearly done the research on the subject on many airlines’ and TSA’s website, but most of this information is known by the common air traveler, even if they haven’t taken kids before. I guess it’s nice of them to put this together in case you DIDN’T know, for instance, that you have to bring ID for your kid to the airport (duh) or that you have to like, um, tell the airline you are traveling with a lap child even if you’re not technically buying a seat for them…

The List of “Important Questions to Ask Before You Fly” on page 2 is HILARIOUS.

First of all, if you actually called your airline and asked even half of these, they would probably hang up on you for being a huge waste of time. If they were exceptionally nice, the call would end with them whimpering “can you please just go read our website?” The questions themselves are just priceless and show an astonishing lack of foreknowledge of how air travel works now. Let me give you some examples:

“Will you require proof of my child’s age and identity? If so, what proof is required, and when do I present it?”
No, you can just bring any infant through an airport without any paperwork, we trust you not to be trafficking babies implicitly because you look so disheveled you have to be a mom. If you have to ask an airline this, they are probably going to flag you for further inspection before boarding. Not to mention “when do I present this ID?” Um, anytime you are asked for it? You will probably be asked for it a lot? Have you been through security lately? Just assume you need to duct tape it to your kid’s head.

A better question would be simply “what proof of ID do I need to bring for the kid?” since sometimes a passport is necessary, and sometimes a birth certificate will do, and SOMETIMES you have to have both plus a letter from the child’s other parent, a copy of their visa, and their hospital bracelet, and a DNA sample.

“Are bassinets available on the flight? When should I reserve one?”
I’m sorry, you are flying coach on a commercial airline? What do you think this is? The 60s? Nothing is available anymore. At this point, if you want a bassinet on a plane, you should probably look into buying your own plane. (Okay, okay, yes a minor number of international flights may offer them, but they have to put in you the bulkhead row and if the flight is super full, as they all seem to be these days, this is going to be tricky and you’ll probably have to pay more).

“Do you allow preboarding for families with small children? If so, will there be a preboarding announcement or do we have to ask at the gate?”
Look, there is pretty much ALWAYS an announcement. Even if there isn’t, can’t you just go up and hand over your boarding passes when they start boarding the plane regardless? It’s not like they’ll turn you away if you have a small kid. Do you really need to ask this ahead of time? Plus, I question the logic of having people with small kids board first. Unless you are desperate for precious overhead bin space that seems to run out somewhere in the 60%-of-plane-boarded range, you really don’t want to be the first people on the flight. You want to enjoy that gate lounge for as long as they’ll let you. Can you let everyone else board and then come get me? That should be what you ask the gate agent. As little time spent contemplating how much you miss having enough space to put down your tray table, the better.

“Can we bring our stroller on board?”
Have you seen the aisles of a commercial aircraft? See above bit about running out of overhead bin space. Even if they SAY you are allowed, you better believe they’re going to make you gate check that shit.

“Do you have diaper-changing facilities on the aircraft?”
Oh, you must mean the tray table!

“Do you offer children’s meals? What’s included? How far in advance should I order one?”
Are you serious? They don’t even offer adult meals anymore! Unless you are flying long-distance international, expect that all they will have is a snack or sandwich available for purchase at outrageous expense. Bring your own damn food, there’s your answer.

“Are diapers, formula, baby food, or other amenities available on board?”
Bwahahahahahahaha….. I really want to be there when someone asks a flight attendant before takeoff this question after having been informed by someone at Customer Service that “sure, we stock all kinds of baby supplies on our flights.” No. The answer is no. Unless duty-free carries diapers now…

“Can my spouse or loved one get security clearance to accompany me to the departure gate if I need assistance?”
Does your spouse have a ticket? Then no. Would you like to buy them the cheapest ticket possible for that airport on that day? Then, have them accused of being a terrorist because they are flying one way on the cheapest possible flight and you and their progeny are going off on another plane? That sounds like fun for the whole family. If you think you need assistance from the check-in desk to your gate, you are NEVER going to survive this whole air-travel thing. Stay home.

“Do you offer assistance with maneuvering through the terminal when making connecting flights? How can I arrange for that?”
Okay! Finally a good question! A useful question! Short answer: you can probably pay for it. Or wait around for a golf cart person to come collect you and some other disabled person from your flight. But at that point, your toddler will have run to the nearest moving beltway, so what’s the point?

I have half a mind to write my own list of Air Travel with Small Children Tips, not that I’m an expert by any stretch. I have done it quite a bit since my daughter was born, but only between 3 countries, and I never take strollers or plane-seat car seats or anything, so I can’t help you there. To be honest, much of this information about car seats on flights confuses me as I have NEVER seen anyone use one. Even the tiny babies are held, the older kids get their own seat once they hit two years old. Almost everyone is trying to avoid paying anything extra for kids under 2. When September rolls around and my daughter can no longer fly free, I may never go anywhere again.

So I guess I better get these Tips written out soon before I forget. In the mean time, this blog has a pretty amazing post on the subject:
“Tips for Flying Alone with Kids” at Aintnomomjeans.com

20 Domestic Demon Tips

I’m not even going to pretend that I’m any sort of Deity, when in fact the thing that is WRONG with my dwelling is most likely that I dwell in it and make messes of all sorts. Also, the cat. [Sidelong glance across the room. Cat yawns and walks away.]

But I know that blog readers love household tricks like toddlers love cellphones, so I’m going to attempt to give you my list, as totally uninspired as it may be. And just for reference, I’m not taking ideas from any other blog because then why would you be here? You could just go there?

1. To rescue white clothes (not synthetic fibers) from yellowing due to age or stains, you can soak them in 1 part bleach to 10 parts water, then pour off all the liquid but leave the clothes still wet and place them in a plastic garbage bag and tie it shut tightly. Let this sit for 24 hours and then run the clothes through a regular wash cycle. They will have a new life. You can’t do this TOO often, because bleach damages the fibers, but it’s good once in awhile.

2. If you simply can’t get a stain out of an otherwise good piece of light-colored, natural-fiber clothing, consider dyeing it with fabric dye that you can buy at most craft stores. It’s cheap and pretty easy and most stains will disappear under the new color. (Notable exception, oil stains may not.)

3. After cooking, when your skillet is really dirty, add dish soap and hot water while the pan is still hot on the stove and let it sit there on the turned-off burner. The heat and soap gets the de-griming action going faster for later washing.

4. To get an enameled pot or pan really clean after many uses, you can scrub it with powdered laundry detergent and water. This takes of months of stains and build-up.

5. Old toothbrushes make excellent scrub brushes for around sink hardware and along grout. Just spray the with cleaning product and go to work.

6. Speaking of teeth, toothpaste and a toothbrush is the best thing to use to clean pearls.

7. My sister told me that to clean a bad-smelling suitcase (the fabric kind), you can wet it down with vinegar and water and let it sit for a few hours and then rinse it off with water. After they dry, they will smell fresh. It works pretty well!

8. Don’t throw away your dry cleaner bags or the hangers/pins/clips. Take them back to the dry cleaner! I hate throwing away plastic, knowing that it will spend 100,000 years in a landfill. Most dry cleaners I’ve used, are happy to reuse hanger, pins, clips, and undamaged plastic clothing bags. If they won’t accept these things, many plastic bag recycling bins will also accept clear bags and metal hangers can be recycled with metals in most places. Check your local recycling guidelines for details. And if you CANNOT recycle the clear plastic bags, save a few now and then to use as drop cloths for painting, crafts, or under messy projects.

9. When packing up clothes for long-term storage, be sure that everything has been recently washed (on HOT if possible) and dried thoroughly. If you suspect a stain, be sure to treat that area well before the last wash. After the clothes have gone the drier, give them time to dry from the humidity of the drier as well, before folding. Layer the folded clothes with fabric softener sheets periodically in your storage container to keep them fresher. All of this goes for Space Bags as well.

10. Large size plastic salad shells from the grocery store, when washed out and stripped of their labels, make excellent storage boxes for shoes and flip flops.

I use this one!

11. Chocolate truffle boxes also make nice earring and necklace storage.

12. Keep your fine silver jewelry stored in small ziplocks, with the air pressed out, just like the jewelry shops do. Use silver polish only when necessary, as the oxidized silver layer gets stripped off, leaving a new layer silver to be oxidized.

13. Tights, nylons, and other garments made of spandex or lycra can become brittle when dry, so if you haven’t worn them in a long time, put them in a steamy bathroom before putting them on to avoid tears, runs, and snags.

14. It is best to iron cotton shirts while still slightly damp rather than drying completely first.

15. Alcohol will make glass streak free if you pour it over the surface to rinse off the surface. This is useful when you are trying to make stemware absolutely sparkle. The alcohol will evaporate and leave the surface clear without any wiping or towel drying. You need to use 70% ethanol or ethyl alcohol or higher. As a bonus, you’ll also sterilize your glass.

16. To ripen hard avocados, put them in a bag with an apple and tie shut. A day or so on the counter will make them ripe and ready to eat.

17. Instead of recycling all glass jars (from things like pickles and sauces), save some, scrub off the labels, and use them to store things you buy in bulk or that come in non-reclosable plastic bags. You can even put a nice label on the new jar or paint the lid so that it looks nicer.

18. Keep nuts from going bad by storing them in the freezer.

19. Store fresh herbs that are on stems like you would cut flowers, in a vase of water on the counter, instead of in the fridge.

20. Most glues and inks will dissolve in acetone, so if you have a stubborn label or ink stain, you can try nail-polish remover. Just be careful not to use it on silver, or polystyrene, which will cloud.

For Mothers of Daughters, 20 Ideas

Simone de Beauvoir writes at the beginning of “The Second Sex: The Formative Years,” that “One is not born, but rather becomes a woman. No biological, psychological, or economic fate determines the figure that the human female presents in society; it is civilization as a whole that produces this creature.”

This is a complicated time to be a girl. Gender norms are falling in so many ways, yet some weird, mutant form of sexism keeps hanging on. Women enjoy greater freedom now than ever before, but we are a mere 3 or 4 generations away from not being able to vote. In the span of human history, that’s just a flicker.

There is a very challenging balancing act facing our daughters; how do they live unconstrained by their sex, in a world that hopes to be post-gender while still stumbling, but still celebrate their femininity in whatever way they feel most comfortable? How do we best prepare them for this? I’m not sure I know how I’m going to do this, but I have been thinking about it quite a bit and here’s what I’ve come up with. I hope you’ll appreciate these suggestions, created mainly for myself, and maybe with hopes that they’ll help you, too.

20 Ideas For Mothers of Daughters:

1. Provide her with a wide selection of toys and activities, not just girl-centric once and not just gender-neutral ones either. Being progressive about gender roles means being open to more, not selecting less.

2. Show her movies that meet the Bechdel Test (film has at least 2 named women in it, who talk to each other, about something other than a man). You’d be surprised how few movies pass this test.

3. Teach her manners that are less about being a little “lady” and more about being a considerate person.

4. Give her books and stories about women who achieved remarkable things, not just things that are/were impressive simply because a woman did them, but accomplishments that stand on their own.

5. Share your makeup tips, hair care tricks, play with nailpolish, etc. But don’t push her into using beauty products nor bar her from them entirely. Makeup is a creative outlet, a way to convey a message, a tool to highlight your features, but it’s not the point of life and shouldn’t get in the way of living and creating.

6. Don’t make fun of her body, criticize her features, or tell her her looks are a limitation.

7. Be honest about periods. Don’t get too precious or too dramatic about them. They are neither a big deal nor a shameful secret.

8. Get excited about the good things she’s exited about, even if they aren’t things you have ever been interested in or all that comfortable with.

9. Stand up to sexual discrimination and sexism wherever and whenever you see it. Make sure that she knows that unfairness doesn’t ever have to be tolerated.

10. If beauty is more than looks, reflect that position in your actions and words.

11. Compliment her for her perseverance, her creativity, her intelligence more often than you do her appearance.

12. Don’t fight over hair styles, hair accessories, all the time. Unless it’s picture day, if her hair is clean and does not actually look like a rat-nest, let it go.

13. For the love of everything that is holy, remember to vote. Take her with you and vote, if you can. Promote women in politics. Take issues that affect women seriously and stay involved. Talk about them when she’s able to understand.

14. Take her for a fun and extremely helpful bra fitting when that day comes. Too many women are spending too many years in the wrong bras. It’s madness.

15. Talk about what matters in a boyfriend, girlfriend, or any friend.

16. Share embarrassing stories of your youth. It helps to not feel like you’re the only weird one.

17. Know that she is not you. Her life is not yours to control, to live vicariously through, or to correct your own mistakes.

18. Never believe that insane logic that “if she hates you, you are doing it right.” Even when she’s a teenager. Give her more credit than that.

19. Get into math! I know this probably seems weird, but mathematics is such a fundamental part of education and to do well in it relies so much on confidence. Far too often, girls are allowed to slip slowly behind and it’s so damaging to their self-image. Start early, be vigilant, and have fun with the subject, even if you hated it.

20. Keep other women around that make her stronger, smarter, and more loved. The ones that don’t, beat them off with pointy sticks.

50 Ways to Show Your Kid You Love Them to Pieces (toddler edition)

Okay, I put some thought into it and tried to do that more-creative list of how to show kindness, appreciation, and have a sweeter relationship with your child. As I said in the last post, I have read a number of these kinds of lists lately on other blogs and was underwhelmed by the suggestions.

Well, it turns out, it’s actually really hard to put together a list like this without sounding sappy, insane, or random. I just had to think about things I do and want to do for my kid and hope it translates to others. So, for what it’s worth, here is the result:

1. Let them be naked.
2. Give them permission to tear out all the pages in a magazine.
3. Tell them they are the winner of a special “Most Beloved Toddler” award and give them some beads, a medal, or a tiara.
4. Give them a whole sheet of stickers to go crazy with.
5. Once in awhile, ditch your errand and let them drag you around a shopping center.
6. Buy fun straws.
7. Put on a serious puppet show over their crib railing.
8. Count things, describe things, explain things, even if it seems obvious.
9. Task them with throwing (throw-appropriate) purchases into your cart in the grocery store.
10. Paint with them frequently.
11. Tell them about your day, even if they were present for it.
12. Give them their own space, a No “No” Zone.
13. Put weird things on your head and see how long it takes until they notice.
14. Give them a back-rub or foot-rub with lotion, if they like that sort of thing.
15. Let them “help” in the kitchen.
16. Talk about their favorite animal and look at pictures of them online.
17. Make up stories about their toys.
18. Don’t just hug them and tell them you love them often: hug them, tell them you love them, AND tell them you love what they’ve done with their hair.
19. Succumb to the allure of the occasional sugary snack together.
20. Slow dance, with more feeling, to ridiculous 80’s rock ballads.
21. Save them cool things to play with, like paper towel roll tubes and boxes.
22. Pay close attention to things like what size pieces they like their foot, how warm or cold they like to be while sleeping, what volume they prefer your voice to be while reading.
23. Get rid of clothes that are too tight, uncomfortable, itchy, or too complicated.
24. Give them lots of new foods to try.
25. Let them unfold the contents of your dresser.
26. Make your kid something completely unique and fantastical to play with.
27. Smell all the spices in the spice rack together.
28. Accept that you are helpless against the inevitable and give them their own cell phone (it can be on old one that’s inactive, or a toy phone).
29. Praise them for their unparalleled abilities to make a creative mess.
30. Feed birds, squirrels, etc. in the park together.
31. Pop into pet shops or markets just so they can look at the fish in their aquariums.
32. Let them choose their new clothes at the store once in awhile, they may surprise you.
33. Take pictures of them sleeping. (My sister assures me this is not creepy, it’s loving!)
34. Keep track of measurements, health, milestones, sure… but also mark your child’s changes in sense of humor, favorite flavors, attitude towards babies, the sound of their cry, the way they show affection.
35. Wrap them up in warm laundry fresh from the dryer as you fold.
36. Wait for them to put their shoes on and breathe deeply.
37. Open an email account just for them and let their adoring family and fans send them messages. It’s like a virtual letterbox for them when they’re older.
38. Be unapologetic to other adults about protecting your child from things that harm them.
39. Read books together, read on the floor, read on the bus, read in the car, read even when you are totally tired of reading, then ask them to read to you.
40. Donate to a special charity in their name. Tell them why.
41. When they are sick, let them get away with stuff you otherwise would not.
42. Let them help you at the ATM.
43. Educate yourself on childhood development.
44. Take your playtime seriously and your serious-time playfully.
45. Let them splash you in the bathtub. You’ll dry.
46. Take a day, now and then, to devote wholly to things that your kid loves to do.
47. Make conversation, listen to them even if it’s just babble.
48. Thank your child when they help, when they try, and most of all for just being.
49. In all ways, seek out the person they truly are, not who you want them to be.
50. And don’t be stingy with the sunscreen.

Things to Do Instead of Losing Your Mind…

…So that your kid is less likely to need therapy in 20 years.

I have seen a lot of other blogs doing these variations on lists such as “100 Ways to be Nice to Your Kids” and “30 days to a Better Relationship with Your Kids” and the suggestions are mostly obvious and not all that creative. I pondered for about 10 minutes writing one of my own to see if I could do better.

But instead I’m doing this.

Things to Do Instead of Losing Your Mind So that Your Kid Is Less Likely to Need Therapy:

1. Facebook*
2. Facebook*
3. Yell at cat
4. Try to recite Titania’s monologe from “Midsummer Night’s Dream”
5. Forage for snacks
6. Read Vogue and pretend you are in a hotel room by yourself
7. Consider the many uses of baby wipes
8. Decide on the next scent of candle you will buy
9. Pin that candle on Pinterest
10. Find a childhood photo of yourself and think about what an awesome kid you were
11. Decide your mom had it so easy (Hi mom!)
12. Refill the ice-cube trays
13. Eat a cashew and wonder if it’s the same size as your cat’s kidney
14. Put on a hat
15. Type “ways to get rid of” into google to see the most common searches
16. Yell at the cat in another language
17. Open the fridge to see if you want anything
18. Compose a limerick about how you feel, or a haiku. Don’t attempt the sonnet. It will push you over the edge.
19. Swiffer
20. Open the fridge again to see if you want something you didn’t want before
21. Yell at the cat that there’s nothing good to eat
22. Update your Facebook that the cat never gets you any good snacks/is ruining your life
23. Decide to write a list of ways to chill and not lose your mind and only make it to 23

*By which I mean, not to COMPLAIN about your kids in your status updates. Unless it’s hilarious.

Random things I’ve learned since having a kid

1. Unless you live in the rainforest, buy a humidifier.

2. Babies’ onesies don’t just have that special neckline with overlapping shoulders to accommodate their large heads, even that that is the primary reason. These necklines also make it possible to pull the whole thing DOWN and off in case of a huge mess. Also, you can pretty much never have too many onesies.

3. Buy swimsuits in the summer. If you think your kid is going to need a larger swimsuit anytime during the year before next summer, get the larger size before all the summer-clothing disappears from stores or you will have to search long and hard for a swimsuit in November. This also applies to other seasonal-items (if you are going to Greenland in June or something). Thankfully, there is number 4.

4. Check Amazon. Whatever it is, before you go out and try to find it in person, just check Amazon. This way, you have not only an idea of what commonly exist, but a reference point for price so that you know if you are being ripped off. This is probably a good lesson even if you don’t have kids. (And I do mean amazon.com, not amazon.ca which sucks.)

5. Cloth diapering while an environmentally friendly choice is also a great choice for your pocketbook. Even if you use more expensive options, like BumGenius, you will still save loads of money. If you don’t use them all the time (like me), you will STILL save money. Better yet, if you treat them right, the cloth diapers/diaper covers hold a lot of value and can be resold when you are done! There is a Cloth Diaper Swap on Facebook that is one of the most aggressive sale-sites I have ever been on. Those ladies are freaking serious.

6. You can’t wear heels, you need more flats. I always preferred wearing heels. And I tried to continue, but hauling around my baby and all her stuff while wearing them made my feet ache (a feeling I am used to and can usually ignore), my shins feel bruised, and my knees feel like two delicate little girls who were about to pass out. Eventually, my back got word of all of this muscular-skeletal distress and joined the strike. So, I had to buy more flats. It is preferable you get ones that you could climb a small mountain wearing and that you can put on in under 1 second with no hands.

7. Someday, you will be *that* person that everyone in the restaurant/train/plane/store is staring at thinking “what a terrible parent, why can’t she just get it together?!” You may be lucky and only have it happen once. But it will happen.

8. And a continuation of 7, you will never really feel like you have your shit together. I fondly remember the days before the kid when I really knew that I was capable of accomplishing a series of tasks. I was on time, I was presentable. I had my wits about me. If you are a child-less person and considering having children, you should ask yourself how important it is to you that you always feel like you are “with it.” Because even on the days you are doing a great job, as a parent, you are always one kid-mess away from total functional breakdown. You will also have to lower your standards on house cleaning. Or lose your mind. Your choice.

9. That you will physically hurt when your baby cries: in your boobs (if you are nursing), in your stomach, in your brain.

10. That it’s not you. I spent about 10 months completely obsessing over my daughter’s (lack of) sleep predictability. She was one of the worst sleepers I’d ever encountered. She used to wake up 24 times a night sometimes, from about 6-8 months old. Naps were hell. She is still a bad sleeper compared to her peers. But several months ago, I finally realized: It’s not me. There is basically nothing I can do to make her sleep. It’s just a milestone she will meet when she’s ready. I drove my self crazy trying to make everything perfect. Now, all I do is try to give her a consistent schedule, keep her room dark, quiet, and comfortable, and just hope. If she wakes up, I go get her and do whatever she wants me to do to get her back to sleep. I never “sleep-trained” her since I know it would never have worked. I’m glad I didn’t. The crazy idea that I had any impact on her sleep habits at this age had to be put to bed, pun intended. I wasn’t me. Took me a long time to learn that, but now I appreciate the many areas of her life that this lesson covers.