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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Oh, the places you will go

NOTE: This is a long post. If you are looking for advice on air travel with a baby and not interested in my ramblings, feel free to jump to the bottom for my list of suggestions on travelling with a baby.

At the end of February, we took Grace on her first plane ride. We went to visit family in Washington State. I was so anxious and worried about how it would go. I prepped for months, talking to other moms of young children and getting advice from them on air travel with a youngin'. Starting in December, I was collecting little items from the dollar aisle at Target that I tucked away for the trip. The week leading up to the trip I seriously considered buying ear plugs and making cookies in case Grace was a total mess so I could hand them out to people around us. I did not end up doing that, in part because I was too busy packing. Corey worked a lot that week and I basically packed the entire week. There is a lot of crap needed to travel as a family of three (with a fashionista one year old).

I think part of my anxiety goes back to my memories of my first plane ride. I was 7, and we were traveling to California on Thanksgiving Break to see my Uncle Steve and Aunt Doris and their daughter Audrey. This trip also would be our first time visiting Disney Land. As a 7 year old, I was totally stoked. But I have really frightening/upsetting memories of the flight.
1) My ears killed me. I chewed gum like a champ, but my ears felt like there were little fireworks going off in my ear drums. I think I might have literally cried during take off and landing. At 7. What a baby.
2) My  mom sat with me and my sister, and my dad was on the other side of the aisle with this older black woman who had the longest nails I had ever seen in my life. She had to have my dad help her open her bag of peanuts. The nails really amazed me and at the same time grossed me out. They curled under and were painted and looked like something out of Beetlejuice. And the fact that she couldn't open her own peanuts raised all kinds of questions in my child's mind that I still don't know the answer to 21 years later. How did she write a letter? Type? GO TO THE BATHROOM? I shudder to think about all of these things. Basically, it was disturbing.
3) My sister and I were dressed alike in quite possibly the most dorky/horrifying outfits possible. My cheeks still turn pink thinking about it. We wore matching knee length GARTH BROOKS T-shirts, leggings and keds. Why didn't my mom just get us tie-dyed T-shirts and have us write "Bumpkin" on the front in magic marker? I cannot even deal with this. It's too traumatic.

I still to this day get anxious every time I fly, and I don't really think it has much to do with the long fingernails or the fashion faux pas as much as it still hurts my ears pretty bad (although not nearly as badly as it did then) and I hate take off and landing. I'm always certain we are going to go down in flames. And in the last 12 years, I have also had frightening thoughts about what I would do if a terrorist took over the plane and I get super paranoid when we haven't heard anything from the cockpit in awhile and there is some turbulence.

Now that I sound like a crazy mess, let me explain some of the things I love related to air travel.
1) Airports. I'm a weirdo who gets so excited just to be in an airport. There is something about the bustle of people coming and leaving that just makes me  happy. I love the corny stuff in the gift shops. I love the crappy over-priced restaurants.
2) people watching. At airports and on the plane. It's just unbelievably amazing. While we were in the Austin airport, we saw a lady who was orange (too much tanning) in a bright pink tank top and bright orange pants with platform tennis shoes running past the airport Thundercloud subs. She was dragging her suitcase and looked like she was trying to catch a connecting flight. She was quite the spectacle. Not even 5 minutes later, she ran past us again. She ran in a way that made it look like she was auditioning for Baywatch. I have no idea what she was running to or from. But it was hilarious!
3) Flight attendants. They are cheerful and deal with lots of awful people. They are well traveled and great at pantomiming. I love them so much, I really kind of want to be one (except for the whole flying all the time and increasing the likelihood that I get into a plane crash).
So now that I have totally digressed, I shall tell you about our actual trip with Gracie. She was dressed in her precious pink Adidas track suit (who doesn't love a baby in a track suit?).
At our gate, we found lots of parents with young children. Instantly, I felt so relieved. Other parents understand. Other parents will not judge you if your kid throws a fit, because they know that their kid has thrown a fit and they are just glad that this time, it's not their kid. Gracie crawled around and played with the other kids. She looked out the window at the planes.

She petted the puppy who was also apparently on his way to Seattle.
actual puppy not shown (this is actually the Gonzaga University Bulldog)

Finally, we were getting close to get on the plane time. I went to change Gracie's diaper in the bathroom. Half the bathroom was roped off so they could clean and I couldn't figure out how to get past it with a giant baby on my hip and a giant disorganized diaper bag on my back. I looked on the open side of the bathroom and there were no changing tables. So I changed her on the counter with the sinks. And somehow, without me knowing, the diaper bag ended up in the sink and the automatic faucet went off and soaked half of our diaper bag. When I finished changing Gracie and realized what had happened I was so upset. I got really mad at myself and the stupid airport. Corey then went to the men's bathroom and was able to find a perfectly functioning, non-wet changing table. Annoying to the say the least.
Anyway, we got on the plane and got in our seats.

 We were in the very last row of the plane so our seats did not recline (boo) but we had the only free seat on the plane next to us (woohoo!). There was a dad traveling by himself with a boy a few months older than Grace sitting catty corner from us.

So I braced myself for the worst at takeoff. I held onto Biscuit, and looked out the window, worrying because it was SO windy that day. What if our plane blew into another plane? I tried to remember what part of the plane Jack and Sawyer and Co were on in the show Lost. Wherever they are, that's where we want to be, because at least they ended up on land, right? When we took off I felt my ears start to pop and looked down at Gracie. She leaned toward the window and looked absolutely fascinated by the fact that the plane was leaving the ground. NOT A PEEP. The girl didn't act like she even noticed anything going on with her ears.

Let me tell you -- the flights were kind of long - about 4 1/2 hours both ways (thank God for non-stop flights, though). So of course Gracie cried at different points during the flights, just as she would normally cry at some point during a 4 1/2 hour stretch of time. But she never ONCE cried on take off or landing. It seemed to have no effect on her. I'm so grateful. And we just got lucky. There's no rhyme or reason to it--she just has ears that don't get bothered by flying.

Overall, it was a phenomenal trip. We had a great time, we saw almost everyone we wanted to see while we were there, we got lots of good time with Corey's parents and brother and even got to spend a little bit of time just the two of us while Corey's Dad and Chris watched Gracie. He got to show me around his hometown. It was awesome.

I do feel like we did some things really right and that there are some things I would do differently next time. If you are still reading after the bazillion words I have already written, here are my tips/things I've learned from our trip.

Don't Do This If You Are Traveling With A Baby/Toddler

1) Don't reserve seats on the emergency exit row. Although that is what I've always done because it gives you more leg room and I also feel I'm a natural born leader. They don't want you to sit there if you have a baby because babies get in the way.

2) Don't put your diaper bag in a sink. Nothing good comes from that.

3) Don't project your own anxieties and insecurities on to your child. This is difficult to swing, but I tried really hard not to let on how freaked out/anxious I was to Grace and she seemed to not even notice.

4) Don't worry about what other travelers think. I'm so glad I didn't waste a lot of time/money buying ear plugs/baking cookies for no reason. I know that would have been nice, but I really had other things that were more important to do.
5) Don't forget your toothpaste. This has nothing to do with traveling with a baby. It's just something we forgot and we brushed our teeth with the remnants of our old toothpaste and had to buy some at Target the next day. Our breath smelled terrible.

Do This If You Are Traveling With A Baby/Toddler

1) Get those window cling things. They were the biggest hit out of all of the dollar aisle things we brought. Although, apparently my child is a hoarder, and she enjoyed holding every single one in her hand and didn't care as much for actually putting them on the window.

2) Bring post it notes. Put them all over everything. Then you can take them down with no mess

3) Give you baby some baby Tylenol. You can think we are cruel parents who drugged our child, I DON'T CARE. I was worried about my kids ears and I gave her Tylenol. She was the happiest baby on the plane. She took a nap. So did we. Just don't rule it out.

4) Use the Priceline Negotiator. It's seriously my new favorite travel tip. I was able to get a totally sweet deal on renting an SUV using the Priceline Negotiator tool.

FYI: Car totally parked and not moving. We are not total idiots.

I also got an amazing deal on a hotel near the airport for our first night there. We got in at around 9 PST which is around 11 our time. I wanted something close by and not terrible. I got a room that was super cheap, clean and didn't smell bad. It was a mile from the airport and they had a crib for Grace. It was perfect.

5) Bring your own (preferably light-weight) stroller.

 It helps in the airport. A LOT.

And also, lots of other places. Our baby loves the stroller.
And they don't charge you for it in your carry-ons or checked baggage and you can basically stroll them up to the plane and then leave it with all the wheelchairs/umbrellas right before you get on the plane.  

 6) Bring your own car seat- in the car seat travel bag thing. I have heard terrible horror stories of people renting a car seat from a car rental company. I have friends who ended up walking to the airport rather than putting their baby in the death trap that was the car seat the car rental company offered them. Bringing your own car seat is good for a lot of reasons--
         a: They don't charge you for bringing your car seat in your # of checked bags. So it's free
         b: The bag you put it in is totally worth whatever money/time you have to spend at Buy Buy Baby/Babies R Us. Here's why. There is a bunch of extra room in there and you can put so much extra crap. We put a lot of her toys, her white noise bear, the mirror so we can see her in the back, and I think even some of her food, shoes, etc. It's amazing.
         c: You are getting in an unfamiliar car, in a unfamiliar place, and surrounding your baby with lots of unfamiliar people.

 And making them travel for hours in the car. The least you can do is let them do it in their own comfy car seat that you invested lots of money in. Even though we brought our own car seat, Gracie still got really tired of riding in the car. She usually is a champ with car rides, but I think it was just too many long rides in too short of a period. I think it would only have been worse in a car seat she wasn't familiar with.
 7) If you are going to visit family, let them know the things your baby likes. That way, they can have them on hand when she gets there. When we got to Corey's dad house, they had balloons all around. Since Gracie loves balloons, she was SO happy. Also, our kid loves food, so we let people feed her and then she liked them a lot.
Also, bring toys and books you know your baby likes that are relatively small. That way they don't feel like everything in the world is different.
8) Make your child drink lots of water. All the travel happened at the same time as a transition to whole milk and lots of solid foods. Poor Gracie suffered from some poop problems early in the trip. Namely: constipation. Water always helps (and prunes if you can make your kid eat them).

9) Dress your child in a cute outfit for the plane. Think back to the olden days when ladies dressed up to travel on a plane and men wore suits. Or pretend your baby is Harper Seven Beckham. Or Posh Spice herself. People like a well-dressed baby.

10) Have faith in the good hearts of people. I have never had a better experience traveling. Everyone seemed to go out of their way to help us. People on the shuttle to the car rental terminal entertained our baby. Other kids shared their toys with Gracie. The sweet shuttle drivers helped lift our ginormous bags and a nice British traveler offered to help us with carrying stuff. On the way home, after we had dropped of our car, the shuttle driver let us keep Gracie in her stroller with the brake on and even helped me lift her on and off the bus. The sweet lady in baggage in Seattle didn't charge us the overweight baggage fee.  The people with the puppy that were traveling with us to Seattle were so sweet and let all the kids play with the puppy (who was very well-behaved and never barked) and complimented us on our mellow baby. Every single person that Gracie waved at (many of whom she waved at over and over again) waved back. Gracie is big into waving right now, so this is really incredible. On the flight back, there seemed to be many people returning back to Austin from Seattle's Comic-Con, which had happened on the weekend we were there. Our girl showed her true Austin spirit and flirted shamelessly with two tattooed, pierced men dressed in black. They were so incredibly sweet to her. Many people traveling on their own went out of their way to tell us about their own kids. I feel so lucky that we had such a good experience. It doesn't hurt that we have the cutest, sweetest baby on earth, but I'm still very grateful.
In summary, if you are on the fence or worried about traveling with a baby or young child, I encourage you to go for it! Even if they are too young to remember it later, you are helping to train them to be good travelers.   
We have never been overly structured/scheduled people, and I was glad for that since a lot of times when you are traveling your schedule has to go out the window, and I know kids that are used to a very specific schedule sometimes freak out in those situations. But even if your kids are the most scheduled kids ever, I still say go for it. I rarely regret doing things - most of the time, my regrets relate to things I didn't do or chances I didn't take.
And honestly, what's the worst that can happen (okay, maybe not the best question to ask when we are talking about air travel). But really, even if your kid cries a lot on the plane, people feel for you. The guy with the kid a few months older than Gracie who was sitting catty corner from us had to deal with a lot of crying. His poor little boy was obviously dealing with a lot of pain in his ears. We tried to share Gracie's toys and stickers with them. Everybody around tried to provide comfort to the man and his little boy. Nobody voiced annoyance and I think if they had, there would be several people that would tell them to shut up. Maybe your kid doesn't sleep/nap very well for a few days.
Maybe they are a little cranky. It doesn't matter. Babies are still cute, even when they are cranky.
It meant SO MUCH to Corey to be able to bring his baby girl to where he grew up, and have her meet his grandmother, and her many aunts and uncles and cousins. He was so proud and excited.
I want my child to experience life and all of it's many wonders.
 I want my child to get to know all of her family members/grandparents, even if many of them live over 2000 miles away. I want Gracie to see snow and mountains and her daddy's hometown.  

 I've always been grateful that my parents took us on lots of trips growing up. I still have lots of wonderful memories of those trips. I hope Gracie is a seasoned traveler by the time she is 18. Which I'm not going to think about now because it will make me cry.
 Anyway, that's all for now.
Happy and Safe Travels!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Pretty Pictures of our girl (and our family)

We have a nice SLR camera, which we have had it for a few years, and it is starting to not work as well (boohoo :( ). The majority of the time, you have to take the battery out and put it back in for the camera to work. This does not work well when you are trying to capture a quick moment with the baby. But even if you have a perfectly functional camera, a lot of the time, because of convenience in a busy world with a busy baby, you end up taking the majority of your pictures with the iPhone. And while the picture quality is great, it's not quite as nice as the ones our Canon Rebel takes. And while the camera is awesome, I've got a bad habit of taking a lot of pictures with Gracie's eyes closed. Or her falling to the side. Or she starts crying. It's hard taking pictures of a baby. This is why I'm so grateful for professional photographers.
We have had the privilege of working with a few different very talented photographers over the course of the last twelve months. They have captured our family and our sweet girl so well and we feel so lucky to have these pictures to remember this special time. Here are some of our favorites from our last photo shoot with the talented Abby Glenn, which we did to celebrate the fact that our sweet biscuit is one year old!


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Christmas Time was here

Grace's first Christmas was so incredibly special. I can't even describe how wonderful it was to watch her play with her new toys and open gifts and spend time with family. She is such a joyful little girl, but is at her most joy-filled when she is surrounded by loved ones.
Some of the highlights--
1) Christmas Eve candlelight service with the family. This is a tradition for our family and it was the first Christmas Eve service for Gracie (not counting the time she went with us while I was pregnant). She loves seeing all of the candles lit. She wore her precious Christmas dress and hat and loved hearing all of the songs.
2) Opening gifts - there were so many. Too many. We definitely went overboard. But who can resist buying things for a baby? We opened our stockings at our house on Christmas Eve Eve.
Then on Christmas Eve, after the church service, we came back to the house and changed Gracie into these snazzy pajamas and tore into the gifts. 
 It took us 3 hours to open all of them. Gracie really got into opening the gifts (she loves paper).
She wore a bow on her head for awhile (she couldn't take it off her head since she can't reach the top). And she played with a lot of her toys along the way and some of the toys the rest of us had gotten :)
She got way too many things to list individually, but some highlights include a stroller and baby doll, the DVD's of Cinderella and Lady & the Tramp, lots of pretty clothes, a vanity mirror that talks to her, a bear mat, and a little piano. As a family we received an iPad from my parents (!) and a nice printer, and several other very nice gifts. 
 3) On Christmas Morning, we went downstairs with Gracie and Santa had come! He left her a peekaboo bear, a play mat, several books, and a Radio Flyer Wagon!
   4) Grace ate our yummy Christmas dinner with all of us and she had her first taste of meat (Turkey). She loved it!
5) Seeing her play with all of her toys after the fact is so much fun. She loves to go for rides in her radio flyer wagon. It is seriously one of her favorite activities. And she loves all of her other toys.
We couldn't ask for a sweeter little girl to spend time with! It's hard not to want to shower her with gifts all the time.
Hope you had a great Christmas!