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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Flying With An Infant

I recently posted about our trip to Florida, and was asked more details about flying with Baby Quincy.  This one is for you, Katie!

Traveling with an infant wasn't too tricky, though I'll admit that I was pretty anxious leading up to the flights.  The first decision we had to make was whether we should fly from Michigan to Florida, or if driving would be better.  Despite the rising cost of gas, it would have been cheaper to drive, but the cost wasn't the only thing to consider.  Quincy is still exclusively breastfed, and typically eats every 3 hours (sometimes less, other times more).  Can you imagine taking a twenty hour drive, and adding in all the times needed to stop and feed him?  I couldn't.  Therefore, we opted to fly instead of drive.

Here is what I learned on the trip:

Oh. My. Goodness.  This was a bit stressful because I was worried I would forget my own underwear or leave behind Quincy's carseat, but we did okay!  I found it helpful to compile a list of everything that needed to be packed, and then put it all together two days prior to the trip.  Having a list to check-off ensured that nothing was still hanging out in the dryer or still dirty in the hamper.

Top Left to Right: Carseat (Checked Curb-side), Brad's Carry-On, Family Checked Suitcase.
Bottom Left to Right: Brad's Laptop Bag, Maggie's Diaper Bag, Maggie's Carry-On.
Above is the break-down of our luggage for a 9 day trip to Florida.  One thing that added to our packing was we brought 10 cloth diapers with us, along with a small container of detergent to clean them while on the trip.  If you use disposable, you could always pack just a few in your diaper bag and then purchase more at your final destination to save space.

I've always made sure to travel light and could get away with just having a carry-on bag, but going to Florida for nine days with an infant didn't allow us to pack super light.  We ended up checking a large suitcase that we fit a travel crib inside, and also put most of our liquids, diapers, and baby clothes inside.  With checking a bag, that's one less thing that you need to deal with while boarding the plane.

Baby Björn Travel Crib Light

If you are looking for travel cribs, we really liked ours for the trip, which is the Baby Björn Travel Crib Light.  It isn't as large as the Pac-n-Plays you see a lot, but it was nice to be a bit smaller to fit in the suitcase.

If your child is under two years old, you do not need to purchase a ticket for them, unless you want them to sit in their own seat.  For traveling with Quincy, we purchased two tickets (one for me, one for Brad), and then had one of the tickets labeled as "Infant in Arms".  We did not need to provide any kind of identification for Quincy since we were on domestic flights.  If you are traveling internationally, I think passports are involved, so do your research to see what is required!


Full Body Scanners vs. Metal Detectors: For ease of getting around the airports, I put Quincy in the front pack and also kept him strapped to me when going through security.  I did not have to unstrap him at all, but simply walked through the metal detectors with him still attached.  (You can also simply carry your infant through; no need to have them in a front pack).  They then tested my hands to see if I had been handling any explosives (which I'm happy to report I had not and so I passed the screening), and then we were free to go on our merry way!

Rockin' the Front Pack

We flew out of Grand Rapids, MI on the way down, and flew back from Tallahassee, FL.  Both airports had the Full Body Scanners, but we did not have to go through them.  I saw another mom traveling with elementary aged children, and they also used the metal detectors instead of the full body scanner.

Keeping your party together: If you are traveling with your spouse, they also do not have to go through the full body scanners since that would separate them from you.  So, whether the mother or father holds the infant while going through the metal detectors, the other parent is allowed to stay with them.  At one of the airports, Brad had to point out to the TSA agent that he wanted to stay with Quincy and I (the agent must not have been aware of this guideline), but a second agent confirmed we could stay together.

Breast Milk: I had heard from a lot of people that it was good to have the baby drink something during take-off and landing to help prevent ear problems due to pressure changes.  Not sure what to expect, I brought pumped breast milk (three bottles full, each 4 ounces) in a small pouch with an ice pack which was clipped to my diaper bag.

Pumped Breast Milk: Does not fall under the
"Three Ounce Rule" for airport security.

When sliding my diaper bag and other carry-on items on the x-ray conveyor belt, I let the TSA agent know that I was carrying breast milk.  They let it run through the x-ray machine, and then brought the entire diaper bag over to a separate table.  Not wanting to reveal the test they performed on the milk (I would assume to make sure terrorists couldn't use the test to sneak something through security), they placed each bottle of milk in a large box with a lid, fiddled around for a little bit, and then replaced the milk into the pouch and gave everything back to me.  All in all, it was pretty seamless.

In the end while on the flights, I actually just used my nursing cover instead of pulling out a bottle.  However, while getting some breakfast, a kind gentleman at a coffee shop stand filled a to-go cup for me with hot water (like you would use for tea) in case I needed to warm a bottle, free of charge.  So whether you are traveling with a bottle of formula or breast milk, you shouldn't run into issues preventing you from feeding your child.

Whenever traveling in a car with an infant, it's obvious they should be strapped into a car seat which is firmly buckled into the car.  So what do you do when you fly?  In our situation, we were parking our car at the airport, taking two flights down to our destination, renting a car, and then taking three flights back home.  The car seat wouldn't be needed for the flights, but we would need it while driving around Florida.  Instead of checking the car seat with our other bag, we brought it to the plane and checked it curb-side.  You should not be charged for carseats or strollers.  These are necessary items for infants/children and do not need to be checked ahead of time.  Think of how often luggage gets lost or sent to the wrong place - would you want that to happen to the only item that allows your child to ride in a car?  I don't think so!

We didn't actually bring a stroller with us since the area in Florida we were going to didn't have a lot of sidewalks.  We felt the front pack would do just fine if we went for walks.  However, you can bring *both* a carseat and stroller with you to be checked curbside, though I have seen some people check their strollers since they aren't as vital as a carseat.

If you have some kind of sleeping/eating pattern established with your baby or child, plan on it getting absolutely fried.  Our initial flights to and from our destination were early in the morning (like 7:00am ish), which meant we had to be up getting ready around 3:00am or 4:00am.  We woke Quincy up right before we needed to leave for the airport, he was fed and changed, carefully placed in his carseat (where he fell back asleep, luckily), and then we were off on our trip.

Oh boy was it early...

Once we arrived at the airport, I strapped Quincy into the front pack, we gathered up our stuff, and then headed to check-in and then security.

Pack Mule Mama
(Carseat, Baby Quincy, Diaper Bag, Backpack and a Bag of Donuts!)

I fed him whenever he wanted (despite having him well trained to go about every three hours), and tried to coax him into sleep as much as I could.  He cried at the beginning of every single flight but one.  So I fed him, he calmed down, and then fell asleep for the remainder of the flight.  So yes, we were those parents with the screaming infant, but we did our best to calm him.  During lay-overs, we tag-teamed getting food for ourselves, taking bathroom breaks, and changing Quincy's diaper.  Don't plan on sleeping much on the flights; make up for your lack of sleep during the vacation by trading off who watches the baby/children while the other person rests.

Layover Playtime

We brought infant ibuprofen and tylenol with us (using the Three Ounce Rule, placing it in the quart size bag) and gave him some at the beginning of the flight in case his ears would hurt him at all with pressure changes.  Not that we are in to randomly drugging our child, but, following all the recommendations for dosing, it helped keep him calmer and avoided us having to try and give him medicine once he totally was freaking out.

Once we got back home, it took about four days to get back to a normal routine.  What did those four days consist of?  Horrible nights (waking anywhere from every two to three hours, feeding him all the time instead of his usual one-time nightly feeding, and doing whatever was necessary to appease him), difficult days (fussiness, not napping well, overly tired), and questioning why we went on vacation in the first place.  BUT, once the four days were up, we were doing pretty good and I was glad to have gone on vacation.

I am writing this post in May of 2012.  I'm not sure what changes will have been made to airport travel once you actually read this, so be sure to check what the most up to date guidelines are for traveling with children.  A simple google search should lead you to the right place(s).

Happy & Safe Travels!


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I'll Trade Ya For It!

It appears that the Green Eyed Monster is ever present these days, lurking under the bed as I read parenting books, staring at me while I stalk people on the various social media outlets, and haunting my interrupted dreams at night.  There are so many things out there that plague new moms (and dads): poor sleeping habits, food allergies & sensitivities, teething, weight/height issues, adjusting to changes in your own body, lack of sleep, and overall stress...

Monsters?  Where??!

Remember back in elementary school when you would swap food at lunchtime?  There was a girl in my grade that always had PB&J made on perfectly white bread with super creamy peanut butter.  Meanwhile, I had lame wheat bread with natural peanut butter that spread as well as caramel does on tissue paper.  On a few occasions, my classmate with the Coveted PB&J Sandwich didn't want hers, so she just gave it to me.  I didn't even have to trade!  It was the most sublime lunch that fourth-grader-Maggie could have ever wished to find in her own lunchbox.  (A quick note to my parents: As an adult, I love whole grain breads and have lost my desire for white bread, though I still am not a fan of natural peanut butter; creamy PB for the H-G's all the way!)

I've caught myself, on several occasions, wanting to trade things in life.  As a new mom that's been in the field for a little over five months, I've had a hankering for other people's situations.  Oh, to have a full night of sleep - what a glorious feeling that would be!  Or to feel a bit more comfortable in my own body.  Or to have perfectly cooked meals, a spotless house, date nights three times a week... the list goes on.

This is what a baby and five loads of laundry looks like,
in case you were curious...

I imagine sitting around a vast card table, with all these troublesome cards in my hand, looking at the other players to see what they would swap for my cards.  I'll take a full night's sleep if you trade me your fussy eater... or, I'll give you a baby who can sit through a church service and be perfectly content, if you give me a baby that can go to sleep easily at night without their parents present...  In the end, as parents, there is always going to be something that you work on with your child.  No child is born perfect, nor are their parents.  If caring for a child were easy, it wouldn't be as rewarding to see them grow, mature, and learn.

Instead of focusing on what I lack and wish to trade, I need to remember the great things I do have.  I should embrace the battle scars that are etched on my body because they are proof and a reminder that I carried my son for nearly ten months and made it through a natural birth.  I should be proud that nursing my son in the middle of the night is helping him grow big and strong.  I should be content that not every scrap of laundry is done, or the dishes perfectly cleaned and stacked away, because I read books with my son, or played games, or made him laugh.

Smiles Amidst the Chaos

I think we've all played the "trade ya" game in life - someone at work or school that is better at something than you, or there is a bigger house in a better neighborhood compared to yours, or seeing someone who seems to have it all together and nothing goes wrong in their life.  Playing this comparison game will only make you think you have nothing, where in reality you are greatly blessed in other ways in which others may not be as fortunate.

There is one thing I know for sure: I wouldn't trade this sweet little boy for the whole world, and that is why I will fold my hand of cards, embrace what I have, and enjoy every moment.

Happy Baby!

Share a laugh with me, will you?

Remember your blessings, okay?  No matter what your situation, remember that you are blessed.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Traditions: Tulip Time

Some of you may know of the annual festival that consumes our town for a week or two each year known as Tulip Time.  This is a time to see all kinds of gloriously colored tulips, stuff your face with junk food, watch parades and reconnect with your inner Dutch spirit.

This year, the tulips decided to make their appearance a bit early.  And by a bit early, I mean they popped out of the ground a whole five weeks early.  But this didn't hinder the celebrations!  Instead, we were able to celebrate Stemfest 2012, though we did catch a few tulips before the festival began.

Surveying the Surviving Tulips from Above

We were able to borrow a costume for Quincy, which as you can see in some of the photos he loved to wear (and by loved I mean cried a lot and couldn't wait to get out of it).

Quincy and I attended all three parades, including the Kinder Parade, which we walked in for the "scrubbing of the streets".  No, neither Quincy or myself scrubbed the streets (a bit hard to do while carrying an infant or being one), but we took pictures!  I even pulled out my costume from my old Dutch Dancing days.  In case you are curious, we are dressed in the traditional Volendam consumes

For the final parade on Saturday, it was a family affair with the entire H-G Clan.  Despite the rain, we stayed warm and relatively dry.

Got any local festivals you join in each year?  Feel free to share!


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Florida House

The H-G's recently took a trip to Florida.  When I say Florida, I don't mean the Florida with oodles of people in bathing suits flooding the beach, but instead the pine tree covered peacefulness of The Panhandle.  The house where we stayed was on the Gulf of Mexico, had a beautiful dock, and not much to do.  So why come to a beautiful yet deserted area for a vacation?  Because we didn't want to do much at all.  It was perfect.
The House - Yep, it's on stilts!
Backyard as seen through screened-in porch
The Dock
We ate, we read books, we napped, we played, we got a bit of sun (under the protection of 30-50 SPF), and just relaxed.  Instead of describing every last minute, I thought I'd just share photos.  Enjoy!

Traveling through the airport

Playing during a lay-over.
First Day at the Beach

Quincy's first time in the ocean


Awesome Cuban Sandwich & Pulled Pork Tacos!

Grapefruit Tree in the Front Yard

5' Black Snake Found in Backyard
(This is the closest I would get to take a photo)

Activity Saucer

Playing Rummy

And finally, I'd like to introduce a new permanent resident to the Florida House.  It is traditional to leave something behind at the house for other guests, such as beach chairs, dishtowels, artwork for the walls, etc.  We picked up a brand new waffle maker and enjoyed waffles nearly every day (except for the days we ate breakfast out).  To future guests, enjoy!