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Nov 14 2011

Plane Trip Turns Into Road Trip

By at 10:18 am

van on the road

Woman plans, God laughs.

When last we spoke, I was all overwrought about my four month old’s first “vacation” and plane flight. An hour-long plane flight to Virginia (Colonial Williamsburg, specifically) would, I was convinced, turn into an hour-long screaming poopfest. I would be the recipient of looks of pity and disgust from my fellow passengers. My husband would offer to get bumped.

That’s not really how it went down.

The day we left, I woke up Baby G at 5:30 am – yeah, that’s right, I woke up a sleeping baby, which is a violation of the Geneva Convention. She smiled at me lovingly as if to say, “Mommy, don’t worry – I’m the Perfect Baby.” She is, actually, the perfect baby. I haven’t written here about how she started sleeping through the night at four weeks old because it is the biggest keyn eyn hora anyone ever heard of, but the fact of the matter is, this kid is an absolute sweetheart. She gets it from her father.

So we schlep to the airport – me, husband, baby G, the two boys, ages 6 and 8, and my parents, who are simply the best human beings in the world. We get through security, where my mother’s hip replacement and baby G’s car seat stroller are given thorough scrutiny (you know, because both of them are aspiring terrorists). And then we find out that, thanks to the fog engulfing the New York area, our flight is cancelled. The boys’ faces crumple like Kim Kardashian’s ketubah (fine, she didn’t have a ketubah, but you get what I’m saying). Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 9 2011

Leeeeaving on a Jet Plane

By at 2:56 pm

I'd like my vacation to look like this. What do I need to bring?

I’m not sure where I first heard it, but it’s true: traveling by yourself, or with another consenting adult, is a vacation. Traveling with kids is no vacation – it’s a trip, in every sense of the word.

That being said, traveling with children does get easier as kids get older. If you only have toddlers, suffice it to say that you have no idea how great the difference is between a plane trip with someone who poops in their pants and with someone who knows how to do “scene selection” on a portable DVD player. The latter is far more pleasant and can even have you throwing an aspirational Vanity Fair into your carry-on luggage.

Allow me to brag a little bit about the wonders of self-sufficient-child travel. On a comparatively recent plane trip with my two boys, I reached the Nirvana of plane travel with children. The boys actually sat across the aisle from myself and my husband, alone, and watched a DVD together, giggling all the way. Not only that, but they sat with some other random adult, who commented repeatedly on how smart and polite the boys were. I mean, is that not every parent’s fantasy? Who even needed the vacation after that?

Now, however, I have a wonderful 4-month-old daughter, and am about to face a traveling adventure: we’re going on a plane. I’ve never been on a plane with a baby. Okay, I have – other people’s screaming babies, who I’ve unmercifully hated and attempted to avoid. I’m now ashamed to admit to having acted in that horrible way people do on planes toward babies (you know what I mean: “I’ve never seen a creature like that before in my life, and am certainly not going to admit any degree of empathy or even the fact that I once was someone like this.”). In fact, I dimly recall having written for Kveller on baby-free sections on planes and how utterly unsympathetic I’ve been to those frazzled parent travelers toting two tons of baby crap plus baby.

And now, I will be one of you. Go ahead, laugh all you want. Payback is a bitch.

For a trip of a mere three days to Virginia, Baby G will travel with more stuff than Elle Woods would pack for an entire summer on the French Riviera. It’s really astounding. Changes of clothing for those pooptastic moments, hats, bibs, bottles, bottle brush, formula (horror!), pacifiers, car seat, car seat stroller, little baby hairbrush, medicines for every conceivable baby ailment (pu pu pu), moisturizers, tush ointment, wipes, and, of course, diapers.

I know I have been unkind to you all and am now sorry. Please show me mercy and help a mother out here: what am I forgetting to bring????

More tips about travel with children here.

Oct 25 2011

Kveller in the Holy Land

By at 3:05 pm

On the kibbutz with Sarah Tuttle-Singer and the kiddos.

I’m sure you were all  waiting with bated breath, but I’m happy to announce that I’m back. What, you didn’t realize that I was gone? I, the faithful editor of Kveller, took the show on the road for a few weeks with a trip to Israel. The plan was to introduce my daughter, Mika, to her great grandparents in Tel Aviv. (And to escape the country for Mika’s 2nd birthday as to avoid having to actually throw a party.)

I’d like to share with you the 10 things I learned during the trip:

10. The 11(!) hour plane ride isn’t quite as hellacious when armed with a boatload of snacks, an iPad, and brilliant tips from you Kveller readers.

9. El Al doesn’t mess around. I survived a 15 minute inquisition about why I was going to Israel. By the end, I also began to wonder.

8. Strangers love to tell you what you’re doing wrong when it comes to child rearing. Especially in Hebrew.

7. Israelis know how to throw a mean birthday party and it usually involves a crown of flowers.

6. Kids get constipated when they travel. It’s not pretty. Eating tomatoes helps cure the problem. Eating hummus does not.

5. Toddlers don’t like to do the same things as adults when on vacation. For example, waking up and reading the newspaper in a leisurely manner. A good common activity we learned is sitting on the beach–beers for Mama and Aba, bucket and shovel for Mika.

4. Kids like being around other kids. Especially cousins. This made traveling with 30 Israeli family members especially enjoyable…for Mika.

3. Yom Kippur in Israel is pretty amazing, the stillness of a country without a single car on the road is something to behold.

2. There are tunnels that run beneath the Western Wall. And they’re cool.

1. And now most importantly, I learned that Kveller blogger Sarah Tuttle-Singer is a real live (awesome!) person and she really does live on a kibbutz. Who knew?! I guess her rabbi really did find her vibrator too.

Oct 18 2011

Keeping Up With Your Commitments

By at 10:14 am

We waited, and waited, and waited.

Sandwiched between returning from three months in Europe and moving to Austin, TX, we planned a four-day pit stop in New York to pick up some wayward items we left behind, see a few friends, and say farewell to my old dogs who have found a new home. My best friend’s son’s bar mitzvah in West Hartford, CT, landed right in the middle of our visit, and there was no question we would make the trip regardless of how inconvenient it would be or how jetlagged we were. My friend and I have shared in each other’s simchas (celebrations) whenever we could, and this was a big one. She was there when my son was born and she came in for our good-bye party, but more importantly, I knew how important this simcha was to her. Just like I felt that Aiven’s first birthday was a milestone for me, I knew that this bar mitzvah was a milestone for her, a celebration of all her hard work raising her son from infancy to manhood.

From Europe, we bought Megabus tickets and got a great deal. Our roundtrip tickets cost $14, about as much as the cab ride from the Upper West Side to the bus stop. We arrived at the bus stop a little early and stood in line. Aiven was asleep and the weather was pleasant, and we felt that the universe was smiling upon us. We were wrong. Aiven woke up and we kept waiting and waiting for the bus to arrive. Alex went to ask why it was delayed, and it was plain to see that the dispatcher was not getting any answers and was as frustrated as the rest of us. In hindsight I don’t know why we waited as long as we did before we sprang into action — was it our unreasonable optimism, the resignation of our fellow passengers, or the good weather that made it too comfortable to just keep waiting? Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 20 2011

Back From Vacation & Stuck with the Kids

By at 11:25 am

So a few weeks ago, I swanned off  to Los Angeles to be surrounded on all sides by friends and family, and engulfed in English and ­­­cultural familiarity. And Vanilla Lattes from Coffee Bean.  And sushi from a place near an actual ocean and not made by some guy named Shlomi from a kibbutz in the Negev Desert. And of course, Sephora. OK, and  my good friend, Jose Cuervo. It was grand.  It was glorious.  It was everything I wanted in eight days and more.

And my kids? They survived. (And so did I.) Sure, there were moments of guilt, and flashes of uncertainty, but nothing so debilitating  that a walk in Venice Beach with my dad, or dinner with my best friend, or an attempt to break into Taco Bell at 3:00 am while jonesing for a coronary wrapped in a tortilla couldn’t cure.

Yes, I missed them. But I had also missed Los Angeles.

In hindsight, I think the hardest part was the plane ride over because I was palpably aware of the difference between where I was and where they were during the entire flight: While flying over France, my children were coming home from preschool. While we soared over Iceland, my family was eating dinner.  As we dipped over Greenland down toward Canada, they were going to sleep.  And when I landed in LA at 11:00 PM Pacific Time ready to crash headfirst into sleep I knew that on the other side of the world and ten hours into the future my kids were starting their morning.  Without me.

(You know, assuming that they had survived the night in the first place.)

Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 15 2011

Fearless While Flying

By at 10:29 am

Figuring out how to travel with a baby can be a challenge.

You learn a lot about a person when you travel with her. My newborn is no exception to that rule.

On a recent weekend, my new family flew from Boston to Washington to hunt for a new home, in advance of our upcoming move. Before traveling, we asked our pediatrician, my Mommy and Me class leader, and other new parents for travel tips. We were told to be the last on the plane – rather than first – and to be sure to nurse at take-off and landing. These were useful tips, especially since as new parents, we’re always learning. However, they didn’t totally account for the quirks of my fearless daughter, who revealed some new facets of her personality during our weekend away:

Airport Security. TSA’s agents, for their part, did nothing to make things easy. We had to deconstruct the Bugaboo stroller base from the car seat and put it all on the conveyor belt for screening. When they pulled the insulated bag with my pumped milk for additional screening, I became antsy they would toss it and followed the TSA employee holding that Medela carrying case like a hawk following prey. Luckily, TSA’s light test proved I was carrying breast milk, and the screener returned it to me. Lila, who was in my arms throughout this ordeal, looked entirely unruffled – until we had to get her strapped back into her car seat.

The Flights. As we’d been advised, we boarded last. Lila seemed enthralled by the large number of new faces to study in this new place with a never-before-seen ceiling; ceiling watching is one of her favorite pastimes. Lila was extremely cooperative and focused on eating at take-off and landing. In fact, Lila seemed perfectly content. We had never seen her smile more.

This smilefest transpired in spite of turbulence, which we encountered flying in both directions. Mommy became nervous as our flight bobbed and weaved unpredictably, but Lila remained perfectly placid. On the way to Washington she didn’t even look up during meal time; she remained focused on feeding.

On the return trip, Lila wasn’t interested in eating or remaining obscured by my multicolor-dot nursing cover. During both take-off and landing, Lila did her best to bat back the nursing cover, so that she could see everything around us. Her big eyes hungrily took in everything she could see from my lap. And while she may have noticed the air pressure changing as the plane shifted altitudes, she never cried. Lila took the swings in stride, as if Daddy were rocking her to sleep.

Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 27 2011

Why Mayim Bialik Is Fed Up with the TSA

By at 10:06 am

I love this country. I know we have to be vigilant against terrorism. And I respect the men and women who defend our country against all enemies foreign and domestic. I have appreciation for TSA workers.

However, I have an issue with certain aspects of TSA at American airports. Have since 9/11. I have flown to Israel over a dozen times since I was 16 via El Al, the national airline of Israel. They have never made me take off my shoes or empty out my toiletries into a ridiculous Ziploc bag like I am in kindergarten. They have even insisted that I leave my sleeping toddler in his stroller rather than wake him up to pass the stroller and his plump sleepy body through security separately.

Why do I have an issue with TSA?

Here are some of the irksome security-related things that have happened to me. Maybe you don’t find them bizarre, but I cannot help sighing and harumphing about as these indignities (yes a strong word; but I think it applies) have occurred, much to my husband’s chagrin. (Both of his parents served in the army and he has a tremendous respect for both order and authority. He finds me a tad bit embarrassing at airports.)

Okay, back to the indignities. They fall into two categories: my kids and me.


1) Our boys wore little moccasins instead of shoes until they were about 2 years old. We are hippies; we like their little feet to not be constrained by hard soles, blah blah blah. Little teeny tiny moccasins on little teeny tiny feet.

Indignity: Are you seriously making me take the little teeny tiny moccasins off of their little teeny tiny feet to pass them through the scanner? Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 14 2011

My Husband is in Israel, and I’m Worried

By at 12:32 pm

My husband is in Israel this week, traveling for work.

Yes, I am intensely jealous. Not only does he get to go to Israel, but he gets to do it without kids. I love my daughters, but what I wouldn’t give for 11 straight hours with just my iPad, a pair of headphones, and an endless supply of Diet Coke. And that’s before I even get to the vacation part!

I am also incredibly anxious. I do get a bit nervous any time he travels, even if it’s just to Minneapolis or Jacksonville. But this time he’s traveling overseas, and to Israel no less. In my American mind, Israel is not only the land of my ancestors, of King David and Masada and the Western Wall and the best damn hummus you’ve ever tasted, but it’s also the land of bus bombings and kassam rockets and war and scary things happening without warning.

Maybe I’m worrying for no reason. (I certainly hope I am.) Josh and I went to Israel in 2006 during the war with Lebanon. We thought about canceling our trip, and we asked our family and friends for their advice. Without exception, our Israeli connections and anyone who had ever been to Israel said we should go. Our friends and family who had never been thought we were nuts for even considering the trip. We went, and had an amazing time. (Which, in itself, was a bit of a surreal experience—the country was at war, and we floated in the Dead Sea while people were dying just a couple of hundred miles away.)

But maybe I’m worrying for a reason. We’re lucky in that we don’t know anyone who has been injured or killed in Israeli violence. There are many, many others who aren’t as fortunate. My husband narrowly avoided a bombing when he was studying there in college; by some twist of fate, he and his friends chose a different ice cream shop for their afternoon snack. But I can’t think about that too much now, not when he’s still there.

And of course the stakes are higher this time. We have children. I worry about what life would be like for me and the girls if something were to happen to Josh (again—not going to dwell on that right now). On a broader level, I worry and wonder about what my girls’ relationship to Israel will be like, especially if the violence and instability continues. I hope they will have a connection to Israel that I don’t, one that I wish I did, and one that may yet develop. Josh and I will do what we can to encourage it, but safety will always be our first concern. I wish safety didn’t have to be the first thing I worry about when I think about Israel, but right now it is. Even in this time of relative calm, it is.

As I wait for Josh to come home, I’m saying a prayer each night that he has a good trip, and a safe trip. And as I watch my daughter chew on a wooden dreidel, I wish, and hope, and pray that Israel will find peace.

May 23 2011

Nursing Abroad…On The Bathroom Floor

By at 9:31 am

Did you know there was a kosher McDonald's in Argentina?

When our son Aiven was 15 weeks old, my husband Alex and I took him to Buenos Aires, to meet Alex’s family. I needed to pump plenty of breast milk to keep Aiven happy in taxis and restaurants, but towards the end of the 10-day trip, my pump decided it needed a vacation too.

My breasts could not afford such luxury, and I was forced to nurse more often to compensate for my slacker pump.

Our trip was blessed with excellent weather, but inevitably there came a rainy day.  We decided to go to a famous shopping center. This mall is huge and well known for both its Art Deco interior and kosher McDonald’s.

At lunchtime we went to the food court and Aiven decided he wanted to eat too. With no bottled milk left, I tried nursing him in a booth. He could not get comfortable, nor could I, and his hungry wails pierced the cacophony of the food court.

Of course my husband was nowhere to be found (he was on a mission to seek and devour a vegan meal) so I left the stroller with his aunt and tried to explain in broken Spanish that I was leaving to find a place to nurse. (Alex tells me that what I actually said was “I’m looking milk.”) I made a mad dash to find a quiet comfy corner in this cavernous mall to feed my ravenous son.

Well, I found a place alright, but I wouldn’t exactly call it comfy. I texted Alex and his aunt to come meet me and help me get up:

Yes, that would be me on the floor of the handicapped bathroom.

I had my hands on the floor, so Alex wouldn’t let me touch Aiven. When he was done nursing, Alex lifted him off of me. I washed my hands and arms as best as I could. I don’t think there was any soap or paper towels. YUCK! Alex wanted to dip me in a vat of bleach to disinfect me. Thankfully I remembered my hand sanitizer and gooped it all over me. I couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel and shower.

Although I’ve shamelessly nursed Aiven in a plethora of public places, I must say that this was hands down (pun intended) the most interesting and gross experience I ever had nursing my baby boy.

What about you? I would love to hear your stories!

Feb 3 2011

Yuck! Who Let Those Children Into First Class?

By at 3:20 pm

First cigarettes. Then cell phones. And now...children?

According to a story I recently read in The Economist, 74% of business travelers consider children the most annoying component of business-class travel.

The idea that, having paid top dollar for better seating and food, their comfort should be compromised by fidgeting, chatting and even crying youngsters is enough to make some flyers blanche.

One solution proposed was a child-free zone in first and business class, sort of like a quiet zone on a train, except instead of prohibiting cell phones, it would prohibit…well, children.

I have a confession, and it is this: each time I hold a business or first class ticket in my grubby little paws, I somehow morph into a completely different person. Now, admittedly, each time I’ve flown first or in business class, I’ve been traveling on business or with my husband (honeymoon!) – i.e. my children were with their father or grandparents, and I wasn’t toting a single crayon or Star Wars DVD. But I have to say that with my golden ticket in hand, the other mothers with children on the plane were no longer my fellow brave soldiers in parenting. Instead, these beleaguered women transformed into mere instruments of irritation whose carry-on luggage of a screaming child threatened to interrupt my tranquil viewing of a Nancy Meyers flick. How dare they??

I’d see these poor mother-creatures stumbling down the jetway, folding their strollers, hoisting the diaper bags, and looking miserable (the fathers usually look somewhat human, in one of life’s many misogynist cruelties). And you know what? I looked at those mothers the same way the girl who finally made it into the popular clique looks back at her former cafeteria table of AP nerds and mathletes. There’s that same sense of shuddering–I am really one of you wretched people!–and fear–please don’t make me go back there!

Surely the only people who are even more obnoxious than I suddenly become (note: my elitism recedes as I return to the world of the proletariat at baggage claim) are those who pay top dollar so that their kids can bother the crap out of honeymooners in first class. Read the rest of this entry →


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