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Nov 1 2012

Surviving Shabbat At the (Ultra-Orthodox) In-Laws

By at 10:27 am

“I’d rather shove a fork in my eye.”

That was my response when my husband said his parents called and asked if we’d like to come spend the last Shabbat of Sukkot with them in the ultra-Orthodox community my husband, children and I recently moved out of. It wasn’t any one thing in particular that gave me the knee-jerk, panic-stricken reaction to shout, “NO!”

In part, it was the fact that my relationship with my in-laws has been cordial but not particularly warm. It was the idea of spending 24 hours in a place where I’d never felt like myself. And much more basic than that, I hate packing my boys and all their belongings up and taking them somewhere unfamiliar to spend the night. They don’t ever sleep well, which means I don’t sleep well and that translates into one miserable weekend for everyone. My husband said, “Think about it and we’ll let them know tomorrow.” Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 30 2012

Labor Day: How to Relax Over the Long Weekend

By at 6:08 am

mother and baby daughter on beachIt seems silly to call a trip with your toddler-aged children a “vacation,” right? I mean, we all know what “vacation” literally means — “freedom from duty, responsibility” — and hence, flying to the sunny shores of Florida with two 16-month-old children definitely shouldn’t qualify, right?

Wrong! I am here to tell you that I did indeed take a vacation with my husband and our twin 16-month-old toddlers last week. And no, it wasn’t always pretty, but YES, I did manage to relax and enjoy my time, despite their presence. So, if you’re planning a last summer hurrah over Labor Day, here are a few tips:

1. Snack cups. Seriously, the girls love these things. I don’t know if it has to do with being “in charge” of something, or an ownership thing, but the girls love to walk around with their fists clenched tightly around a snack cup (full of snacks, obviously). So we gave them snack cups at the beach, in the car, at the pool, etc. This occupied them far longer than you might expect. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 12 2012

10 Tips for Surviving Road Trips with Kids

By at 10:01 am

open roadMy husband and I took our daughters (ages 3.5 and just barely 2) on a 10 hour car drive for our summer vacation last week. Yes, I said 10 hours. Each way.

To answer your initial questions, yes, we all survived, and yes, my husband and I are still sane. I think.

We’ve made the 3.5 hour drive down to New York to visit the girls’ great-grandparents three to four times each year since my older daughter was born. Between those drives and our most recent vacation, I have decided that I am now an expert on road trips, and well qualified to give advice to all of you idiots brave folks who have decided to venture forth on the great American highways this summer. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 5 2012

My Baby is a Better World Traveler Than Me

By at 11:48 am
geneva postcard

Bonjour, Geneva.

Traveling overseas is intimidating. And I say this as someone whose last several international destinations have included Ghana, India, and South Africa.

I hadn’t ventured abroad since early 2010, for a fairly obvious and adorable reason. But my husband recently learned that he needed to spend nine days in Geneva for work. I didn’t like the idea of our being separated (with a toddler, four hands beat two), and Lila and I had no pressing engagements, so I suggested a family adventure. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 9 2012

French Babies Have More Fun

By at 12:18 pm

jordana horn and baby in franceWhen I told people my plan for winter break was to take a week-long trip to France with my husband and our 5-month-old baby girl, the facial expressions I received from them in response were complex. They were a mix of envy (after all, who doesn’t want to go to France?), skepticism (but who would want to go to France–or even to get on an airplane–with a 5-month-old baby?), and something I’d characterize as a raised eyebrow, “Huh! Well, good luck with that.”

Well, not only did I return to tell the tale, but also, I am here to recount that we had an amazing time–even better than we expected. Baby G, aka Wonder Baby, really knocked our socks off with her general awesomeness. And France wasn’t bad either. This vacation worked beautifully for a few simple reasons, listed below.

1. French People Love Babies.

I suppose that people all over the world love babies. But the French have a particular baby-fetish going on. Perhaps it’s their aesthetic sense of everything being perfect and “just so,” or the fact that their adorable clothes look even cuter in small sizes. Who knows?

The point is that a baby is apparently the accoutrement of choice this season in France. Any snooty anti-Americanism that might have been there otherwise flew out the window when the locals caught sight of our daughter’s gummy smile. Everywhere we went, people smiled, cooed, and fluttered all over our baby… and were genuinely thoughtful. Air France’s baby bassinet let her sleep the whole night–and though I was a little bitter that the baby got the flatbed arrangement rather than me, the entire plane and I appreciated it. A waiter at breakfast saw her attempting to play with my coffee cup, and dashed over to provide a little box of cereal as a makeshift rattle. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 30 2011

To the People Who Hate Being on Airplanes with Kids: Too Bad

By at 10:36 am

little girl eating on airplaneFor those of you who don’t read the New York Times on a regular basis, allow me to inform you that there’s a lot of hating going on about kids traveling on airplanes. This article opens with the salvo:

HORRIBLE. Annoying. Distasteful. Miserable. These are a few of the words used by readers to describe traveling with children — whether their own or someone else’s — on planes in response to my Nov. 6 article, ‘Are We There Yet? When Families Fly.’

You know those looks you think you’re getting from everyone on the plane as you board with your kids – you know, the ones where you feel like everyone on the plane wants to murder you with their plastic forks? You’re not paranoid: apparently, you’re right. Out of all the responses to the first article sent to the paper, “most wrote in to complain about how miserable it has become to fly with children on domestic airlines.”

I don’t doubt that people can hate other people’s children. I have been guilty of this myself. But I do think the sample pool here is somewhat skewed.

Imagine, if you will, the following scenario. Over a steaming cup of café latte, a couple reads the Sunday New York Times. NPR plays on the radio in the background, and the tranquility is interrupted only by the timer beep which signifies that the couple’s mozzarella and zucchini frittata is done. One member of the couple says, while reading the New York Times travel section, “I’ll tell you what’s wrong with travel…children on planes. By God, I’m going to write a letter to the editor.”

Here’s a little secret: this breakfast scenario is something bordering on a sexual fantasy for the parents of little kids. Parents of toddlers do not read the Sunday New York Times. They do not make café latte or frittatas. NPR is not happening. These sad souls, instead, are on their hands and knees in puddles of juice that emerged from insufficiently-sealed sippy cups. They are cleaning Cheerios out of cracks in the kitchen floor. And I can assure you that they would rather brush their hair or go to the bathroom than write an eloquent letter to the editor defending the rights of children and families. 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.

Sep 14 2011

Seeking Peace When On the Road

By at 11:42 am

Our digs in Seville.

How did the Israelites maintain Shalom Bayit (peace in the home) as they wandered the desert for 40 years? I lose my patience after my husband got us lost for 40 minutes. Like the Israelites, my family has been nomadic for the past three weeks, and it has taken its toll on our Shalom Bayis.

We have schlepped from country to country, city to city, hotel to hotel. We had great fun doing this on our honeymoon just last year. This time around, with a budding toddler in tow, not so much. There are plenty of sources of tsures (trouble): the endless packing, unpacking, and repacking; Aiven’s crabbiness when his naps get disrupted by our irregular schedule; and the struggle to keep all of our stomachs full (not such an easy task when your child eats more than a plague of locusts and your husband is a vegan).

Shalom Bayit has come to symbolically mean marital harmony, but with us the challenge to ours has actually come from the literal lack of a place to call home. At least the Israelites had tents they could call their own — we, on the other hand, have slept in one disappointing hotel after another.

To recap:

Edinburgh, Scotland:  B&B confirmed there would be a queen bed, a crib, and no stairs. We had two suitcases equaling 50 kilos, two carry-on bags, and a stroller.  Stairs were not an option. We arrived to find a double bed, no crib, and three flights of stairs. My ingenious husband improvised a crib out of our suitcase to give us a few hours of sleep without our son taking over the entire bed!

London, England: Hotel room had a crib, but the bathroom was the size of an airplane’s. Shower included. And the room was 50 square feet. Baby feet. 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.

MY KIDS

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 →

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