Wednesday, July 24, 2013

10 Ways You Know You're A Mom

1.  Your breakfast is usually the scraps left over on the table from kids' breakfast.  Toast crust, anyone?

2.  You don't even flinch anymore when your kid tells you they like touching your tummy because it feels like "squishy bread dough!"

3.  You consider waking up at 6:30 to be sleeping in.

4.  You used to shave your legs on a regular basis but now, on a sunny day, you have come to appreciate a little breeze as it goes rustling through the lumberjack-like growth on them.

5. You realize how truly insightful the statement "Experience Wildlife: Have Children!" is.

6.  When speaking with other adults, you reflexively say, "Good job!!" at least once during the conversation.

7.  You still use the made-up and mispronounced words your kid said when he was 5.  He is now 15.

8.  You used to shudder when people talked about other women wearing "Mom Jeans" but now when you hear this you experience a moment of solidarity with the person wearing them.

9.  You only go to movies that are either made with stop motion or digital animation.

10.  You have to ask for a turn to use YOUR OWN PHONE.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Travel With Kids: On the Plane

 After all the hustling at the airport, we now move on to the slower pace of the airplane.

The good news about the plane is:  the kids have to stay in one place.
The bad news about the plane is:  the kids have to stay in one place.
  The two main things I want from the plane part of the trip is for the kids to be happy but quiet, and to get a little rest for myself since I am better at taking care of everyone else when I am not overly tired.  I want this time to be enjoyable enough that when I get ready to leave the plane and travel on to my desired destination there is still some positive energy to draw on and get us where we need to go.  What's the point of going on vacation if it's just to be miserable for the beginning and end of it?  It's not easy to make it always work out that way and it's a lot of work, but it's what I aim for each trip we take.

  The first thing I do when we get to our seats is to take some disinfecting wipes and clean the area where we will be sitting:  Both sides of the tray, the arms of the seat, the seat buckle, the in-flight entertainment controls, overhead controls, etc. Then we get the kids their entertainment materials for take off, and get ready to roll!

  Entertainment for the Kids

  Once the kids can read, entertainment for them is so easy because not only can they can read to themselves, but also it's likely that they can self-manage most of their time-occupying activities for the flight.  I like to limit books to just 2 or 3 since they get heavy, and supplement that with some comics and magazines, sticker books, drawing pads and a pack of crayons and pencils.  We also bring their Nintendo DS and games, but those stay in a separate electronics bag that Dad carries.

  It's a little more involved when you have an older baby or a toddler because you have to actively provide most of their entertainment.  If your baby is really young, like up to 4 months, it's not so bad because you can just feed and hold them, and they sleep a lot of the time.  Once they are 5 months  and on, you really have to be prepared with some new toys, new books and be ready to feed them, change them or walk them up and down the aisles....whatever it looks like they want next.  My top priority is keeping ahead of my baby's mood so that the chance of crying is minimized.

  Speaking of crying, it's not the end of the world, so don't let it fill you with dread or worry for your flight. I have decided that when I am on that airplane I am only responsible for taking care of my family and myself.  These are the people whose enjoyment of the flight I am most concerned with.  I teach my children to be polite and quiet on the airplane, and I work to make sure that my baby is happy and quiet as well, but if despite these best efforts, he cries a little, I can't worry about how strangers feel.  Of course I don't want the bad looks or hostile whispers, but if it happens, it can't take precedence in my mind over caring for my baby.  It's really a worst-case scenario that a baby will cry, and if you try hard to avoid it, most people recognize that and end up cutting you some slack.

Other Considerations to Make Life Easier

  In-flight movies.  Bring your own headphones for the kids because many airlines have the type that hook over each ear individually and those can be tricky for kids, especially littler ones.

  Spillage.  I prepare for this by bringing some disposable sippy cups and toddler size disposable cutlery for the in-flight meals and drinks.

  Hunger.  Bring snacks, candy and a bottle of water.  If you are on a flight where you will have to buy food, get some things at the airport before getting on the plane.  It's possible that food will sell out (especially if you are at the back of the plane) or maybe what is being sold isn't something your kids would like to eat.

  Messes.  Bring boogie wipes, napkins and a little plastic bag (like what they have in the produce dept at the grocery store) just to be safe!
  Sleeping on the plane

  Consider a buying a little neck pillow for comfort.  Other than that, you have to be pretty flexible about sleep on long flights.  It's hard to get kids to settle in, but they will eventually.  They are young, so they will bounce back better than you from lack of sleep. 

  If you are traveling with a baby,  bring a boppy pillow to make it more comfortable for both of you to get some rest.  Many airline give families traveling with a baby the bulkhead seating, which features a pull down on which they place a bassinet. 

  For yourself, don't fixate on sleeping, just tell yourself you will rest,and hopefully sleep will come.  If not, you are getting the next best thing by "powering down" and just being still.  When the time comes for the plane passengers to "wake up" and the lights come back on, have something hot to drink, go to the bathroom and brush your teeth, and when you are seated again, eat something for a burst of energy.  You're almost off the plane and that much closer to your vacation!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Travel With Kids: At the Airport

The airport rates as one of the most stressful parts of a trip for me as a parent because it is such a pressurized environment. I worry about:
  • Lots of waiting in line that can lead to restless kids.
  • Dealing with people who don't have patience for the slower pace at which a family moves.
  • Many unfamiliar places to get lost.
  • Luggage being stolen.
  • Kids being stolen.
  The worry never changes, but I think I've gotten better at handling it as the years go by and more trips are taken. Here's how I try to make it all work:

The Family Sandwich.  Mom and Dad are the bread, and the kids are the meat, cheese and lettuce.  When we go through security, or on/off a bus, etc., Dad goes first, then the kids, and then Mom.  No one can wander off or get separated this way. I like this technique because I think it helps the kids to feel involve and part of the effort to get our little group where we need to go.  They start talking about what kind of cheese they are, or who is actually a pickle instead of lettuce.  It makes for little moments of fun.        
Slip on shoes for everyone.  Between security and the time on the flight, you will be doing yourself a favor by simplifying everyone's footwear as much as possible. Look at it as one less thing to manage.

Delay giving little kids luggage.  When your kids are young they will tell you they are excited to carry their own backpack on the trip but don't believe them, because you will prepare them a light load with their favorite coloring books, a little play-doh and fruit snacks but then it turns out they melt down about it and you are forced to carry a pink hello kitty backpack all through the rest of the airport even though you have a full load of your own.  It's not heavy but it's another item to keep track of that you weren't planning on.  Not that I've had that experience or anything....

I create one backpack with in-flight entertainment for all the kids and give that to an older kid to carry on behalf of all the kids.  In addition to avoiding "I don't want to carry my backpack anymore" conversation, you save yourself from having to re-pack multiple backpacks at the end of the flight.

Look for places to burn off energy.  Many airports have spots for kids to play, so if you see one, take advantage of it to let them get some energy out of their systems.  Otherwise your kids will become little steel coils, all wound tight with energy building and building until it has to be released.  This will usually be at a time or place you wouldn't choose, followed by some annoying person in line behind you commenting loudly to their traveling companion that "That is why I couldn't imagine traveling with kids. What's the fun in that??"

  When there isn't a children's area near (aka most of the time) then go for walks around the terminal, go find a bathroom for a potty break, walk to a far away shop in the terminal to buy a pack of gum or a bottle of water.  Just don't go so far that you miss your flight!

Practice ahead of time.  If you want your kids to listen to you at the airport, and if you want them to wait patiently in line, you have to practice it outside the airport.  There's lots of opportunities in day-to-day life.  When you are in a long line at the grocery store it's a good time for the kids to work on waiting patiently.  If you take them to the movies, that's a good time for them to work on being mindful of staying with you instead of wandering off accidentally.

What tips do you have for kids at the airport?  Please share them in the comments section!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Skechers GOWalk 2

I just LOVE the black Skechers GoWalk 2 I bought last week.  They are so lightweight and comfortable.  I feel like I'm walking on a cloud when I'm wearing them. 
 I bought them because I didn't really have any athletic style shoes I could wear by just slipping them on-  all my tennis shoes have laces that need to be tied.  I have a 5 month old that I'm usually already carrying in my arms by the time I am ready to go out the door, and it makes things so much easier to just slip on shoes instead of having to tie or buckle them on at that point.  I am also thinking these might be a great pair to travel with- going through security at the airport, slipping them on and off once we are on the would be pretty easy in these shoes.
  In addition to being really comfortable, these shoes are machine washable and feature an anti-microbial footbed.  They come in all sorts of fun vibrant colors.  I think I will be buying a second pair in hot pink or orange.  Once you find something you like, might as well get it in a couple of colors!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Bake or Freeze Pizza Dough Recipe

One day I said to myself, "I should make my own pizza dough to keep in the freezer like they do at Trader Joe's."  So from then on I started doubling the recipe so that I would have extra dough to freeze for the next time.  It's not any more work to make a bit more,  and it's nice to have it on hand. 
Bake or Freeze Pizza Dough
 (Recipe at the end of post)
Put 2 envelopes of yeast into 2cups of lukewarm water.  Sprinkle with sugar (this feeds the yeast and helps it get big and strong).  

Add the yeast to the flour, oil and sugar waiting in the mixing bowl.  Using bread flour instead of all-purpose flour gives your pizza crust a better chance of being crispy.

Once it is combined and the dough is coming away from the mixing bowl cleanly, take it out and knead it a bit until it is smooth. 

Put it back into the bowl so it can rise. 

Spray the top lightly with cooking spray and lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the top so that it won't stick to the towel that goes on top while it rises.
Set the bowl into  the oven, which was preheated to 200° and then turned off.  This creates a nice warm environment for the dough to rise.

Once it has doubled, take it the pizza dough out and knead it a few times. Shape it into a log and divide it into 4:

make each section into a ball:

Let rise again:
At this point you can either use the pizza dough or wrap it/put it into a ziploc bag and freeze it for later use.

You can take a ball and divide it into 4 if you want to make mini pizzas.

Load it up with your favorite toppings and.....



 Bake or Freeze Pizza Dough
2 packages yeast
2 cups lukewarm water
1 tsp sugar
8 cups bread flour
4 T oil
1 tsp salt
2 T sugar

Some of my family's favorite topping combinations beyond the usual ham and pineapple or cheese:
  • Rosemary ham, artichoke hearts, pitted kalamata olives & crumbled feta
  • Caramelized onions, boiled potato slices and fontina
  • Oven-roasted cherry tomatoes, cooked broccoli and shredded mozzarella
  • BBQ shredded chicken and Monterey jack cheese
What do you like to put on your pizza?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

How to Breastfeed Discreetly in Public

  If you have decided to breastfeed, you will want to figure out how it's going to work for you and the baby in public.  No one is really looking, but you might feel like they are!  The key for breastfeeding in public is to plan ahead with what you need to be comfortable and covered so that you can reap the benefits of having free, built-in, ready-to-go warm milk located literally inches away from the baby you are carrying around without worrying about being stared at or bring asked to leave a business. 

   I've breastfed in public in a lot of places since I started 15 years ago with my first of four children- it feels like I should insert some "in my day" joke here like, "In my day we had to breastfeed uphill both ways for 18 miles in a blizzard!" 

  But seriously, breastfeeding can be done anywhere, and if you are feeling shy, I hope this will help. I've breastfed my babies in a million places near and far: in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, at church, in restaurants, on an elevator, at the mall, on a plane, in a television studio watching a live show being taped (that one was a little stressful), at the state fair, at Disneyland, during an elementary school assembly, and so on.  I've made a few mistakes and through trial and error, these are the guidelines that continue to help me.

 Here are my tips for breastfeeding in public:

1. Use a Ring sling-style Baby Carrier.  This is a giant strip of fabric that you can customize by pulling the fabric through the rings to create a snug fit for you and your baby.  You can find them in many different colors and price points.  Your baby can be in the sling laying down in a football hold or facing you froggy-style for breastfeeding.  If you happen to be wearing a top that doesn't cover you as much as you'd like, you can take the tail and cover up more with it.  When your baby falls asleep and you want to put them into their stroller, you can just slip the sling off over your head and lay the baby down still in it with minimal disruption to them, and as a bonus the sling can be their blanket!  The sling pictured below is from Snuggy Baby on Esty. 

2. Use a nursing tank to keep your tummy covered.  Nursing tanks are great because they provide peace of mind that you aren't showing more than you want.  They also mean you can wear non-nursing tops so you don't have to buy as much new clothing.

3. Make easy access a priority when you choose your outfit.  Avoid tops with a banded or elastic bottom because you will struggle with them once your baby is on you in the sling.  I like button up tops or T-shirts because they are really ease to work with when you are trying to quickly get access.  For dressier occasions, a button-front dress or a skirt and peasant style blouse look pretty while still giving you breastfeeding freedom.

4. Think about what colors, patterns and materials will hold up to breastfeeding.  Your top is going to be pulled up or pushed aside for an extended period of time.  It gets a bit hot between you and your baby, and some milk might drip on it or the baby spits up, which means that your top needs to not show wrinkles too much and also that if it does get a little wet you don't want it to be really bad looking.

5.  Cardigans and wraps are a good option for covering stains, wrinkles and tummy peek-a-boos.  It's nice to have a cardigan on hand because if you happen to misjudge what coverage a top will give you the cardigan can save the day.  If your shirt ends up really wrinkly, the cardigan will hide it.   

  These are my best suggestions.  I hope they help!  If you have any tips that have worked for you, please share them in the comments!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Snorkeling in Maui

  Above is Black Rock, a corner of the beach in an area of Maui, Hawaii known as Kaanapali.  Black Rock is a big lava flow surrounded by coral that is known for having some of the best snorkeling on the island.  I thought about this information ahead of the trip with some trepidation because I wasn't looking forward to having to say yes or no when the question of snorkeling was inevitably raised.  I wanted to avoid my discomfort by not having to make a decision about it. 
 I've always had a healthy respect for the ocean, and when you combine it with an active imagination, you don't venture too far or too often into the water!  Even as a little girl I could psyche myself out in the swimming pool thinking about sharks.  All these years of living in the Pacific Northwest I have stayed close to the shore not just because the water is really cold, but also because I didn't want things to come from somewhere below in the dark water and eat me.  Sure, we don't have sharks, but there are Killer Whales....several hours could happen:  Someone has to be the first person ever eaten in these conditions.
  Once we were in Maui, I finally had to face the issue.  As my husband, kids and I walked along the sidewalk towards where the snorkeling equipment rental shack was,  I said to myself,  "If we are careful, it can't hurt to give it a try.  Plus, in a location like Black Rock, there are lots of people farther out in the water than you or the kids will be, so if there is a shark, they will get eaten first and give you time to get out of the water."
  And you know what? I really loved snorkeling.  It was amazing to discover how much was going on underneath the water's surface.  I couldn't believe that before that day I had been in the water, unaware that little groups of fish were swimming right by me.  It was so pretty, seeing all the vibrant colors of these small schools of fish.  I floated and watched how calmly the fish puttered along, their course slightly changed by the motion of the waves coming in to shore.  I still kept an eye on the blue expanse beyond me, but as I relaxed I congratulated myself for getting past the fear. "I could get used to this!" I thought happily.
  Next day we visited a few places and after lunch ended up at stopping at a beach that I think was called Puamana.  We saw a few people out snorkeling.  Although it was way less busy than Black Rock and therefore wouldn't provide the human buffer I had enjoyed at Black Rock, I was game for more snorkeling.  Then I saw this sign:
So I decided, maybe just Black Rock is my snorkeling place. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Britax B-Agile Stroller Review with Video

We have had such great weather around here!  We've been to the park, the pool and the beach.  The kids are loving their summer vacation.  Being out so much is giving me a chance to get familiar with our newly purchased Britax B-Agile stroller. 

 This is the box and its contents:

Putting it together is very simple: you just slip on the three wheel units and clip on the canopy on each side.  It also comes with the adaptors to make this stroller accept a Britax infant car seat.

Here is the stroller in the trunk of the car- plenty of room to spare!

  I haven't had a stroller without the convenience of a drink holder, and I didn't want to start learning how to live without one now so I ordered the Britax stroller organizer, which is sold separately.  It's really nice because the strong Velcro on each side to wrap around the handlebar makes it feel secure.  It also has a personal items compartment with a strong magnetic lid. Best of all you can leave it attached because it doesn't interfere with folding the stroller!

The feature that sold me on this particular Britax stroller is how it the folds.  1) It's super easy and you can do it with one hand. 2) I like that it folds up into a square versus into a rectangle, because I think that will be easier to carry around next time we are on vacation. 

Here it is in action: 

  The only thing I am concerned about with my stroller is taking care of the handle bar.  The nature of the fold means that the handle might become beat up looking over time, so I am trying to be conscious of storing it on its side instead of standing it up on the handle end.

More nice features of this stroller: 
  • Canopy that folds out in two stages, so it really provides a lot of shade and protection for its passenger
  • Big rear wheels that make it easy to go over curbs and up/down small flights of stairs 
  • An open space between the rear wheels instead of a bar, so when you are pushing the stroller you won't kick anything. 
  I like the seat in this stroller because it feels like it is truly upright compared to some that feel like the all-the-way up position is still leaning back too much.  The stroller works from birth to 55 lbs, so I am happy to know that it will last us for a long time!