Tag Archives: trips

Wrap-up: The Julia Trip

We were in California for three whole weeks and yet, now that I’m home, it feels like it was only a few days!

We did a lot of cool things, my daughter and I, and I got to know Julia’s toddler too, which was wonderful. But of course Julia has a job that seems to think she needs to come in EVERY weekday for a LONG time. Can you believe that? I wanted to call them up and be all “do you KNOW that I’m here?!”

Anyway, I wanted to tell you about some of the fun things we did, so consider this your full report.

Weekend 1: We rode the little steam engine train at the park in Los Gatos and my daughter also had her first Carousel ride!

The Wildcat Railroad is a real miniature steam engine train. It chugs, it choos, it gets filled with water between trips.

Never too early to learn to keep your heels down…

We also went to the pool and some various playgrounds where our kids tried to dominate the sand toys of other children. Also, the both of the kids in the back seat going places? So fun. We pretty much had to sing OVER the crying.

Week 1: During the week, I played with my daughter at nearby playgrounds during the day and sometimes at Julia’s parents’ house. The weather was pretty amazing: cool in the mornings, warm-getting hot in the afternoons, mild in the evening, and cool at night. I could see myself in this!

Weekend 2: Julia’s mom had a really nice luncheon under the pergola. Not only was the food incredible and gorgeous (like eating in a catalog, people, Gary and Elaine would have been thrilled) but I am hoping to use the phrase “luncheon under the pergola” a lot more in my life. Also, Trader Joe’s Red Pepper Spread…sigh. I think we also went to the pool and played outside and the kids got very wet at the playground by Julia’s house. I can’t remember. They got wet frequently. They’re toddlers.

borrowing Julia’s sunhat

Week 2: I had trouble keeping my kid on Julia’s kid’s sleeping schedule, she seemed to drift to her home bedtimes despite the time difference. I spent a lot of time taking her to the playground, the grocery store, and trying to ignore the rising heat. We went into San Jose twice on the very convenient 81 bus where we visited the San Jose Museum of Art, the St Joseph Cathedral (for 55% of a mass), and ate really delicious vegan curry-things at the Karma Cafe. The Museum of Art had some really nice interactive programs. You could grab a shoulder bag with art supplies in it to take with you through the museum (my daughter colored) and there was also a pin-making exhibit as part of an artist’s “political campaign” piece. My daughter and I both made pins. There were extra-large “paper dolls” of famous politicians onto which you could put magnetic cut-out clothes, that was fun for her too. My favorite was the exhibit of drawings from Sandow Birk’s “Divine Comedy,” a re-imagining of Dante’s work in modern settings, mostly NYC and LA.

When it finally hit 100 F towards the end of the week, I was ready to take back all the nice things I said about California weather. Even so, 100 there is not like 100 here, it was less humid, they are better prepared for it, so it doesn’t seem quite SO bad, but my Scandinavian blood was hitting a mild simmer. At some point I made Julia a cherry pie, but we were trying not to turn on the oven, so many salads were made for dinner. I might blog about them at some point.

Weekend 3: Since I was leaving on Monday, we crammed a bunch of things into our last weekend. First, we took the kids to the San Jose Children’s Discovery Museum. It was fantastic. It had so much to do for all ages of kids, everything hands on, and each of our children found something to fixate on for long periods. I told Julia that they should just install Closed Circuit TV’s, lock the exits, and put in a wine bar where you can watch your kids on screen.

We had Julia’s parents over for dinner on the patio, Julia made some terrific food, also very photogenic (why didn’t I photograph the food?). My daughter finally started going to bed at something approaching the house bedtime, a day before we were leaving…

And we went to the beach! It was an abrupt change of weather, like I knew it would be, but wow. It really was. I forget all the time how much of a differential it is–it was very cool and refreshing 60 F. The kids got their toes wet, took naps, ate fish and chips with us and Julia’s parents on the warm sand. I sunburned my knees. Julia sunburned her nose. The kids were spared due to our diligent sunscreen applications and hat placements and re-placements. Go us!

My daughter and I had lots of good times and I’m SO glad I went. It was a trip that was a long time coming. I will miss the beach, the pool, the playgrounds, the fruit, Trader Joe’s and other fine supermarkets, and Julia’s dishwasher. But most of all, I’ll miss the little things like the kids playing in the bathtub together, learning stuff from each other, the singing of Russian children’s songs, making Julia dinner, and seeing her every night after the kids go to bed. If teleportation existed, you better believe we’d be kicking back almost every night around 9pm PST/12 EST with some vodka-limeade. Since it doesn’t, I hope that our continued electronic correspondance tides us over until the next time I can afford/bear the thought of flying across the continent that obnoxiously gets in the way of our mommy-fun-time.

Thanks Julia, miss you more than dishwashers…

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


After 2 loooong years apart, a baby and a major move each, Julia and I have finally been reunited!

My daughter and I landed in California on Wednesday afternoon (after an oh-so-delightful 5 hour flight that made me want to weep for the sad state of airline seat/leg room) and my daughter and Julia’s son met for the first time. They are pretty cute together. Even though Julia’s son is pretty shy, he’s been doing well with us around.

I think I can speak for both of us when I say that Julia and I are ecstatic to be back together; it has been way too long. She is a busy working mom so, she still has to go to work every weekday, but we are maximizing our evenings and weekends. I don’t think she’s joking when she asks me to move in and be her stay-at-home mom, but I am pretty sure she would find out how annoying I really am after a few weeks.

Today, we took the kids to ride a miniature steam-locomotive train (a “parovoz” in Russian, I have learned, I always learn new Russian words with Julia) and my daughter got to ride on her first Carousel. We went to the pool, the playground, ate dinner outside… it has been a lovely start to the visit.

I hope to keep up with posting while I’m here, but I might be off being fabulous. Hooray for bi-coastal friends.

Lucky Memorial Day

Usually, I’m never able to celebrate a traditional Memorial Day since my husband and I always go away that weekend for our anniversary. This year, his presence was requested at some terminally boring conference, and since he’s never one to say no to the opportunity to make his resumé look even MORE academic and esoteric, he’s off to someplace I have no desire to go. So instead, I’m on my own trip. Next year, he owes me big time.

Today, I got a very traditional Memorial Day, which seems appropriate, given that Memorials typically are traditional by nature. I got up, walked over to the small-town parade that was happening, let my daughter wave her little flag, watched all the neighbors setting up their camp chairs, and tried to find a shady spot to stand while we waited for the action. The parade was heading our way in minutes. It was all over in about 10 minutes, which is great, because that’s just about all the parade I can handle.

There was the old-dudes-in-uniform portion, the “old cars” portion, the school marching-band portion, the fire trucks portion, the kids clubs, the kids on bikes, and then the people-riding-horses portion to bring up the rear. It was charming. I pondered how old your car has to be to qualify for these types of events. Could you enter a 1986 Civic?

We visited the ancestors on the way to see the relatives (my sister likes to use these terms interchangeably). My mom, sister, daughter, and I planted some flowers in front of the headstones for my grandparents, and two of my aunts whom I never met. Our other ancestors seemed to have been previously-flowered so I just washed their headstones off and watered the plants. My daughter liked running around the cemetery and playing in the dirt, but it was REALLY hot, so we kept our landscaping pretty simple.

We all went to my great-aunt and uncle’s for dinner. They have a very nice pool. We ate potato salad, swam, my sister and I were called each other’s names a few times, my daughter made friends with a three-legged cat that apparently belonged to the neighbors… It was the usual.

That cat was seriously cute. He just hobbled along and was so sweet to my kid. She kissed him on the nose about 7 times. That has to be super lucky, right?

When we got home, she played in her kiddie-pool for awhile, we planted some more flowers, ate ice-cream, and went to bed.

I think our ancestors would be proud.

Awesome things that have transpired since I got to my mom’s

1. I made lemon pull-apart bread without any problems, after midnight, twice. (Yes, going back on my promise to not bake after 1am due to mental fuzziness).

2. Ate some Panda Paws. (If you don’t have Perry’s, I feel sorry for you).

3. Managed to play the 1st Violin part of the Bach Concerto for 2 violins in D in front of a large audience without screwing up.

4. Wegmans!

5. Went out to dinner on the lake with my sister and my daughter and finally found a good playground.

6. Made 500 canapes for a party my mom was throwing for her father-in-law’s birthday. Fancy canapes.

7. Invented an awesome drinking game with my sister: Whenever mom asks a question to no one in particular- take a drink. Whenever no one answers her- take another.

8. Opened tons of lovely packages from Amazon and Zulily that I had been shipping here over the past several months because shipping to Canada is ridiculous and Amazon.ca is lamesauce. It’s very delayed-gratification shopping.

9. Danced with my baby to our favorite songs at the aforementioned birthday party. She is an adorable dance partner.

10. Had an Amish person at the grocery checkout insist my daughter looked just like her 3 year old, Denise. I mean, I THOUGHT my daughter looked familiar and just could never put my finger on how. Denise! Ah, I should have known! Mystery solved.

Burlington, I barely knew ye

So I traveled home, and made it alive, no one cried. Win.

I checked my 50.5 lb suitcase at 9:55am and began my trip back on Wednesday.

I had to fly through Newark, where I sat at my next flight’s gate and thought about 2 things:

1. That I was a mere 20 minutes away from the city I think of as home and all these amazing things to eat, see, do, buy… Cruel Newark layover. I nearly left the airport and went to spend a few days in NYC, planning to return for my connection later and claiming toddler meltdown/temporary insanity (they’re the same thing, right?).

2. The gate next to me has a direct flight to Montreal. Leaving at the same time as my flight to Burlington, Vermont. This is a pretty mean thing to do to me, right now, Newark. You’ve always been a cruel city to me though, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

I had booked my tickets in and out of Burlington because it’s so much cheaper and you can take a Greyhound bus from the airport to the bus station here which is only 2 subway stops from my place. Well, that bus is 2.5 hours. I was supposed to land at 3:30pm and take the 7pm bus. That’s 3.5 hours, I repeat 3.5 hours in the tiniest of airports not better described as airfields with a 19 month old. Shudder.

I had in my mind, a vision, a desperate hope that this all would go a bit easier because I knew that the buses from the airport to Montreal almost always run significantly late. Therefore, the 3pm bus that I was missing my a half hour could very well be late and I may be able to catch it instead of waiting for the 7pm bus. You can understand my frustration when the board at my gate in Newark posted that my flight was 45 minutes delayed.

Apparently, nothing can beat a Greyhound delay. I landed at 4:15pm and rushed to the bus-desk and the 3pm bus had not yet arrived. Whew. I spent 45 minute or so letting my daughter run around and get hours of plane confinement out before a few more hours of bus/subway confinement. The bus finally left at 5:15pm.

I had by this point burned through almost all my planned activities (stickers, books, toys). I fed my kid some snacks, tried to get her to watch things out of the window, and then, eventually, let her watch videos on my laptop for an hour.

I had a sinking feeling that by the time I got my suitcase and toddler through the bus station and onto the subway that a tantrum would be in short order, but due to a wonderful revelation from earlier that my kid loves riding ON my rolly suitcase like it’s her own personal luggage-pony, we sailed (except for stairs where we gasped) to the train. Two stops, no problem.

Home. We even had time for some food and a bath. It was a tiring day, but it could not have gone better.

Well, except for Newark being cruel. (Casts eyes irritably towards NJ…)

Little girls who are cute all over town

On this trip, you know we’ve been cute all over Target so far. We have also brought delight to a few restaurants (I missed you Panera!!), shops, a mall, an AT&T store, and one very special Obama for America campaign office.

My daughter got to see her great-auntie, our friends and their toddler, her grandfather, and her boompa’s (step-grampa) parents too. I am pretty sure they all think she’s completely adorable.

I’d post pictures but I didn’t really bring a camera with me and I haven’t tried to put any from my mother-in-law’s camera on my laptop. I should probably do that. We’ve just been busy playing in the yard and telling the dogs how bad they are (trust me, they’re bad). I feel like we wake up, get the day started and before I know it, it’s time for a nap. After naps, we get ready to go do something and by the time we head back, it’s time for dinner or bath, and then bed.

Anyway, my daughter has been charming many people in the past week. She even manages to convince her grandmother to pull her around the backyard in a wagon with a rake and a hoe and several balls in her wagon as well. I don’t think she does that for just *anybody.*

Tomorrow is our last day before we head home on Wednesday. We’ll try to cram in all the cuteness we can before we go.

Travel amnesia

Remember how back in January I said that it would take a few months for me to forget how much it sucks to travel with a tiny kid and start thinking it would be a good idea to leave home and go somewhere?

Well. I am here at my in-laws, while my husband is away on a research trip for 2 weeks. It’s nice to be somewhere while he’s away, but oh my god does traveling suck.

And to her credit, my daughter did great. To my credit, my activities lasted JUST long enough to get us here. The car from the airport to grandma/grandpa’s house was the most unpleasant part, at the very bitter end and past bedtime, so it was totally understandable.

I feel like I’ve been herding sheep all day or something. I may have said “no this way” about 10 million times today. My carry-on weighs 45lbs.

Now, I’m going to go collapse and try to forget that I have to do this all again in week.


I just got home from a 2.5 day excursion to visit a friend in scenic Plattsburgh, NY. And by scenic I mean, if you are not at on the Lake and staying at a hotel near the mall, you better like views of parking lots. Needless to say, it was perfect for our purposes because it was a good mid-way point between our cities to which I could take the train, offered us a inexpensive place to stay that had a nice pool and nearby stores/restaurants, and did not offer much distraction from our sole mission to let the kids play and just “hang out.”

My friend brought 11 bags for a 2 day stay. This is traveling with toddlers. I brought 3, but I also forgot a second shirt, socks for the baby, and I ran out of diapers on the last day, so I lose.

The first thing we did is bravely attempt dinner out with two 13 month olds. All in all, it went very well! I think only the carpet lost.

After that, we went to the supermarket and loaded up on baby snacks and extremely unhealthy adult snacks (hello chocolately caramel corn!). We got back with just enough time to take the kids down to the pool and try get them them REALLY tired before a quick bath and bed. They both slept pretty well the first night.

The next morning, we let them play all over the room for awhile and fed them breakfast. The kids had a grand time at such activities as: putting stuff in the “bible” drawer and taking it back out, stealing each others toys, opening and closing the temperature panel on the a/c unit, banging on said a/c unit, giggling wildly, sharing sippy cups, bouncing on the bed, running around going “da da da da,” and eating goldfish, crackers, apples, yogurt melts, and puffs.

It is also possible we heard Adele’s “Someone Like You” on the radio 500 times.

We didn’t venture out until lunchtime when due to the relative success of Dinner 1, we attempted another sit-down meal. A gentleman at a nearby table actually remarked to us that we had very “well behaved children.” I wouldn’t go THAT far, but they were pretty good! They ate some food, they didn’t make tons of noise, the floors were not strewn with absolutely everything… We made a very thorough survey of Target and a tiny dip into Michaels and then headed back to the hotel because the kids needed naps.

Dinner we decided, was best to order in. And boy, we nailed it. I don’t know if you’re ever planning on being in Plattsburgh, but we highly recommend Mangia. It’s a Italian, brick-oven pizza kind of place. But everything we had was delicious. The crab-cakes were something special and the ravioli were beyond.

Since swimming worked so well the night before, we tried that again. My daughter likes to take her rubber ducks to the pool and throw them in from the edge and then try to go in after them. You really have to watch her or she will try to jump in by herself. The kids were pretty delighted with the pool, even if it was kind of chilly. We warmed them up with a dip in the hot tub. And before you get all hysterical about babies in hot tubs, let me add, it was a pretty mild hot tub. I’ve run hotter baths for my daughter.

I was prepared for some really epic sleeping after their post swim bath, but it was not to be. My friend’s son went to bed like a good boy, but my child? Oh no. She decided to whine and thrash about, disrupting his winding down. So I had to quickly put her in warmer clothes, stuff her in the Ergo baby carrier with her blanket, and walk around outside for almost an hour. Freaking ridiculous.

I walked by a lot of closed strip mall-type places. There was one with a bridal store. The dresses in the window were alarmingly tacky. Attention future brides of Upstate NY, please avoid the polka-dot sash number.

After both kids were FINALLY in bed, we got to sit still for a moment and eat chocolatey things, drink fizzy things, and talk about life and stuff.

It was nice.

We packed up the next morning, took the kids for lunch out again (the floors may have lost again), and then I had to catch my train. I pushed nap-time back as far as I could hoping to catch a really good block of sleep on the train and I’m happy to say it worked. But bedtime when we got home was a mess again. I guess my toddler is just a little wound up from her trip.

I am, on the other hand, so very tired. But I’m glad we went. It was a good idea and I think everyone had fun. Even our waiters.