Travel Traumas

What Not to Do with a Toddler: Travel by Air (Part Two)

Posted on Jul 22, 2013 in Travel Traumas

If you missed Part 1 and feel like catching up, here it is.

To recap why air travel falls under my list of “What Not to Do with a Toddler”:

1) Toddlers require even more stuff than babies.

2) Air passengers seem to be a particular breed of mean and unhelpful.

3) Toddlers are tiny bundles of energy that must be allowed to exit their seats several times over the course of a 10-hour flight or they might literally explode.  And, the diapers.

4) Toddlers have the attention span of a gnat.

I believe when I left off last, I was struggling to get Elisabeth to go to sleep.  Which brings me to reasons 5 and 6 to avoid flying with toddlers:

5) Toddlers are little rebels.

That fasten seat belt sign means nothing to the little rascals! It was bedtime.  The fasten seat belt sign lit up.  Elisabeth pooped.  Rebel, I say!  I was thus forced to defy the sign and venture to the rear lavatory in order to change her diaper and put on her PJs.  When I exited, another mom traveling by herself – with TWO kids, bless her heart – was waiting.  Naturally, I offered to hold her baby so she could assist her older child in the bathroom.  (SEE PEOPLE – IT’S NOT THAT HARD TO HELP!) She then held Elisabeth so I could use the restroom, and I then watched both her girls while she took a turn.  It was all Kumbaya in the airplane bathrooms until a second fake-nice flight attendant showed up.

“You really should return to your seats.  Should something happen…”

Do you think I’m standing back here for fun?

I nodded in acknowledgement and then ignored her.  Like I was going to ditch the one-year old in my arms and her five-year old sister.  As soon as the other mother was done in the restroom, we all promptly returned to our seats.  And then the battle to get Elisabeth to go to sleep began.  And so, #6…

6) When faced with the choice to repeatedly slither out of their (way too big) seat belt, sink onto the floor, and then play possum on the ground OR calmly go to sleep, toddlers will choose the former.  Every. Single. Time.

Guess what?  Elisabeth didn’t want to go to sleep.  She didn’t want to be strapped into her seat belt.  As it turns out, she could easily escape her seat belt.  That stupid seat belt did nothing for her!  So Elisabeth took up residence on the airplane floor, and I gave up.  Seat belt sign be damned!

Well, I gave up for about a minute until I thought about how nasty that airplane floor was, and then I took my overtired child and stuck her back in the Ergo carrier.  This may shock you, but she didn’t want to be in the carrier, either.  At least, she didn’t want to be in the carrier while I was seated.  By the grace of God, the pilot turned off the fasten seat belt sign and I walked and swayed and jiggled while Elisabeth settled down.  But then he illuminated that seat belt sign again!  So I sat down, much to Elisabeth’s chagrin.  We repeated the get-up, sit-down dance a few times but the kid would not sleep.  In an act of desperation I reached out to the fake-nice flight attendant #1.

“Maybe if we tried the car seat facing the other direction it would fit better?” I pleaded.

“Well, if you’d like to try the car seat is in the overhead compartment bin above seat 36,” she responded.  “But I don’t think it’s going to work.”

Soooo, you’re saying you’re not going to help me?  You do see this small human attached to my body, right? 

I went to seat 36 and reeeeeeached to open the overhead compartment, all the while assaulting the poor man in the aisle with my toddler.  I then yanked and tugged and pulled but the car seat wouldn’t budge.  I glanced around hoping to find some kind soul without a small human attached to their body to help.

Anyone?  Anyone?  No one.

I gave up and continued pacing, all the while holding back tears.  I was so tired.  And Elisabeth was all of a sudden so heavy.  When did that child get so heavy?!  After much pacing but still no sleeping, I tried to get the car seat again.  Mustering all my strength I wrenched the seat from the overhead bin and took it back to my row.  Guess what?  It didn’t fit the opposite direction.  Deep down, I knew that would happen.  And once again on the verge of tears – so tired! – I somehow managed to return it to the overhead bin.  And then I despaired for humanity.  Because if not one single person on an entire airbus is willing to help a spazzy mom traveling by herself, we are doomed.*

At some point Elisabeth fell asleep and I sank into my seat.  I even managed to ease her out of the carrier and lay her across her own chair, with the too big seat belt strapped over her little belly.  She slept for one blissful hour.  For the next three or four hours she tossed and turned and went back and forth between the carrier and the chair until she realized the sun was peeking through the window shades and decided she must get up!  She played and ate and spilled and watched mindless cartoons and it wasn’t fun but it wasn’t horrible.  But for…

#7) Flying with a Toddler will turn you mean like the rest of the passengers. 

The time came to land and I had Elisabeth strapped in on my lap, knowing she wouldn’t stay buckled in her own seat.

Enter fake-nice flight attendant #1

“We really don’t advise she sit like that.  Should something happen…”

“What do you advise?” I snapped.  Whoops.

Without missing a beat, the flight attendant replied, “That she sit buckled in her own seat.”  So not helpful.  (I’d like to mention here that if you are flying with a baby or toddler, airlines do provide infant seat belts that attach to your seat belt so that the child can be buckled safely while on your lap.  For some reason, this flight attendant did not offer that to me, and in my rage I didn’t think to ask.)

I had so many words I wanted to say to that flight attendant right then and there, but as I did not want to be arrested upon landing, I glared at her until she retreated and began trying to get Elisabeth situated in her seat.  It was a struggle, but after much shrieking (Elisabeth) and exasperated sighing (me), I eventually strapped Elisabeth down and we landed.  And it was over.

A week later we were on another flight, this time from Orange County to Sacramento.  This flight was only an hour – amateur stuff.  Except it wasn’t.  Because be a flight one hour or ten, when flying with a toddler it will always feel like forever.

If you absolutely must fly with toddler, remember this: It will always end.  It may feel interminable, but at some point that plane will land and you will be put out of your misery.  So power through and if you’re flying internationally, take advantage of the free booze.

*I suppose the other spazzy mom helped me out.  We are not entirely doomed.

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What Not to Do with a Toddler: Travel by Air (Part One)

Posted on Jul 17, 2013 in Travel Traumas

Welcome to the first edition of a series of posts entitled: What Not to Do with a Toddler. This is certainly not the first time I have written about traveling with a baby; it’s a common theme on my blog.  However this is the first time I have written about traveling with a toddler – a far more harrowing experience.  While traveling with Elisabeth during her infant stage was a scary prospect, the fact is she was small and light and generally quiet and could nurse anytime she became less than quiet.  What’s so hard about that?  But now as a toddler, she walks and talks and eats.  All. The. Time.  And she’s heavy and squirmy and too big for the bathroom changing tables.  And she’s social and likes to touch everyone and everything and she eats.  All. The. Time. Last month’s 10-hour international flight from Tokyo to Los Angeles caused me a great deal of pre-trip anxiety.  So over-planned and over-packed.  Was all my planning and packing in vain?  No.  But did it make the trip really all that much easier?  Heck no.  Here’s why: 1) Toddlers require even more stuff than babies.  A few days before we left, I went one of our local 100 Yen stores (like a dollar store, but way, way better) and bought a bunch of crappy toys that were sure to entertain Elisabeth.  My personal favorite?  A small, cylindrical tin I filled with brightly colored, plastic clothespins.  I envisioned Elisabeth completely engrossed by this tin, endlessly opening and closing the top, removing and replacing the clothespins.  I had never conceived so brilliant a plan!  And for so cheap!  Quite pleased with myself, I packed all of Elisabeth’s entertainment (also including a sticker book, some paper and crayons, a knock-off Etch-a-Sketch, and a couple of books) into one carry-on. I figured the key to a stress-free flight was compartmentalization.  So after dedicating that one carry-on to Elisabeth’s in-flight entertainment, I reserved her diaper back for her snacks (And, well, diapers.)  Did I mention Elisabeth likes to eat?  Because not only did I have...

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My Beijing “Vacation”

Posted on Apr 10, 2013 in Travel Traumas, Uncategorized

My Beijing “Vacation” 3

How do you define a vacation? For Damon, vacation means he is on official leave.  Time and place don’t matter. For me, vacation means I’m lying by the beach/pool/someplace warm with trashy magazine an intellectual book in one hand and an adult beverage in the other.  Preferably one with an umbrella in it. So when Damon got home from work on Wednesday evening (the night before we left for Beijing) and exclaimed, “We’re on vacation!” I had to disagree with him. Unless he was going to fold two loads of laundry and pack five days worth of clothes, extra clothes, diapers, wipes, medicine, portable snacks, and toddler entertainment, we were certainly not on vacation. Though I don’t agree with Damon’s mentality, I understand it.  When I had a paying job, vacation meant time off that job and usually travel somewhere to enjoy that time off.  But since my job now is rearing a child, I’m not technically on vacation until I am away from my child.  Which is pretty much never. So while our trip to Beijing was a truly great trip (despite my lack of planning), I wouldn’t call it a vacation. Because to me, a vacation is not: -Getting practically cavity searched at the airport because you’ve packed baby food pouches in your carry on. (That didn’t actually happen on this trip, but it has in the past.) -Flying on a several hour flight with a sweaty toddler attached to your chest. -Washing poopy onesies out by hand in your hotel bathroom’s sink -Waking every morning between 3:45-4:45AM because your baby will only go back to sleep if she is sharing your twin bed with you, squeezing your face, neck, chest and arm fat until your entire upper body is numb.  (But not your husband, who sleeps comfortably in the other twin bed, oblivious to the arm-fat squeezing happening to you a few feet away.) -Eating in mediocre restaurants that your tour company has pre-arranged. -Anxiety that your family is going to be killed because the van you’re riding in has no seatbelts and the driver likes...

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That Time I Forgot My Vacation

Posted on Apr 3, 2013 in Travel Traumas, Uncategorized

That Time I Forgot My Vacation 4

I realize I’ve been a bit MIA recently.  Damon was gone on detachment in Australia for three weeks, the better part of which either Elisabeth and I were battling illness at home in Japan.  We’ve been busy with other things as well: I hosted Damon’s squadron for Easter brunch, which brought out first-birthday party levels of Diana Craziness.  And we’re going on vacation to Beijing tomorrow.  Which I sort of forgot about. Okay, I didn’t actually forget about it.  I just kind of pushed it to the back of my mind.  Party planning will do that to me.  Easter brunch > Beijing vacation.  That’s not really true.  Only sometimes in my head it is.  I know, I’m twisted.  To be fair, we did have a very helpful travel agent organize pretty much our entire trip.  All I had to do was approve our itinerary and fill out unholy amounts of paperwork to secure our visas.  Let me tell you, securing visas to China is no easy feat.  Especially when you have a toddler who does not want to have her visa photos taken.  See below. So last night I had a moment of, “Oh, crap!  We’re leaving for China in two days and I don’t even have a guidebook!”  Who goes to a foreign country for the first time without even a guidebook?  I could say I’m just really adventurous and like to fly by the seat of my pants, take the road less traveled, see where life takes me.  But that’s not true.  I like a plan.  And I like guidebooks. So today’s quest became about finding a guidebook.  But first I had a spouse club meeting.  Then I had a luncheon planning committee meeting.  Then I had to go pay some road tax.  I have no idea what exactly a road tax is, all I know is that paying for it is a somewhat tedious process.  First I had to wait in a long line to present all sorts of documentation that proves… I dunno.  That we have insurance?  That our car is fit to be on the...

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Mele Kalikimaka

Posted on Jan 11, 2013 in Travel Traumas

Mele Kalikimaka 4

I want to be in Hawaii right now.  But who doesn’t, right? That’s where Damon, Elisabeth and I spent a wonderful but far-too-short week last month for our Christmas vacation. Growing up in Southern California, I always longed for a White Christmas.  Snow was such a novelty!  When I was young, we spent several holidays visiting my grandparents in Ohio.  We built snowmen!  We made snow angels!  We caught pneumonia!  Man I loved those Christmases. Eventually we transitioned to exclusively California Christmases.  No more snowmen.  No more snow angels.  Our California Christmas tradition?  A walk on the beach. A walk on the beach!?!  That’s, like, the ANTI-Christmas!  Despite our protestations, my parents dragged my brothers and me to the blasted beach year after year after year.  We (the brothers and I, not the parents) would grudgingly trudge through the sand complaining about the horrible burden placed upon us by living 10 minutes from the ocean.   I still love the idea of a white Christmas, though having now experienced several unpleasant winters as an adult (think: Snowpocalypse 2010), I am slightly less attached to the white, fluffy stuff.  And after a somewhat eventful last year (a new baby, travel that included 3 continents, 4 countries and countless states and cities, a Permanent Change of Station to Japan, a deployment, etc., etc.), nothing sounded better than a relaxing week by the beach. Even the monstrously long travel day (yes, day – over 24 hours thanks to delays) it took to get to Kauai didn’t damper my spirits.  Because I wasn’t traveling with the baby alone!  As soon as we had settled into our (inexcusably small for an international flight) seats on the airplane, Damon whipped out his iPad and headphones. “Excuse me, what are you doing?” I asked. “I am going to watch a movie,” he responded. “No, you’re not,” I replied and promptly plopped Elisabeth into his lap. That was the start of my responsibility-free week.   Well, not totally responsibility-free.  I still had to feed the kid and stuff, but it was the closest I’ve come to responsibility-free in...

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Happy End of the Holidays

Posted on Jan 3, 2013 in Travel Traumas

Happy End of the Holidays 0

Happy New Year! Now that that’s out of the way, can we all breathe a collective sigh of relief that the business and stress that naturally accompanies the holiday season is over?  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the holidays, but now that I have a little person to contend with, I also love when they are over.  Here is my holiday recap, starting in mid-November, because that is really when craziness descended upon my household. Nov 12: Elisabeth and I return to Japan after a great visit to the States.  We deal with jet lag, inexplicable amounts of unpacking (somehow, I came home with more than I left with), and prepping for… Nov 17th: Damon’s Homecoming!  Woohoo!  Except… Nov 15-16: I come down with nasty stomach virus and turn into a worthless corpse laid up on my couch.  All the cleaning, baking, and other general Homecoming activitizing (yes, that is a made-up word) that I inevitably left for the day before Damon’s arrival does not get done.  That will teach me not to procrastinate!  (Eh, it probably won’t.) Nov 21: Elisabeth turns 1!  The realization that my baby is no longer a baby turns me into an emotional wreck.  But only for a moment because there is party planning to be done! Nov 22: Thanksgiving.  Our friends host the squadron for Thanksgiving dinner.  Being the control freak that I am, I get inordinately stressed out about this event.  And I’m not even the host.  Has everyone RSVP’d?  Who will bring what?  Are there enough chairs?  Will my food be edible!?  I should probably work on these control issues.  I should probably also not worry about my stuffing ruining Thanksgiving since there is enough food to feed a small army. Nov 24: The big birthday party! (Still to be written about in detail; it is imperative that I record how psycho I went over this event as a reminder of what not to do in the future.)  Following a major holiday with a major birthday party is not ideal.  The grocery shopping, the cooking, the planning for one of...

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