Kiddo Travel Hacks – Infant Phase

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I love traveling with my daughter.  She’s at an age where she understands that the pain of the drive, the airport, and the lines is more than worth the adventure at the other end.  That said, I remember preparing for infant trips with a pit in my stomach.

She took her first flight when she was a few days shy of six months old.  My husband’s dear aunt was supposed to come visit us, but instead of flying she was doing another round of chemo.  Her cancer was back, but I desperately wanted her to meet her grand-niece.  “No problem,” I said, “We’ll come to you.”  Brave words, but the idea of flying with an infant was terrifying.  On the plane there is so much stuff to bring and so little control over her.  Who hasn’t wanted to rip their ears off because of an infant screaming during an entire plane ride?  Did I want to be that mom with that kid?  While I knew most problems could be solved by baring my breast and feeding her I was not confident nursing in public, so I came up with a backup plan.

My brother-in-law was traveling with us.  Rather than sit with our family, I asked if he would sit in the row in front of us.  Then I made my request.  “If she starts screaming, will you please stand up and start berating me?  Loudly?”  He looked at me with surprise and I justified, “See, I can’t handle some stranger going off on me, but if you preempt it and just start telling me to ‘shut your damn kid up’ and that I’m ‘a terrible mother’ you might circumvent others yelling at me.”

All of my in-laws think I’m crazy, and I did nothing to change my brother-in-law’s mind that day, but he agreed.  I boarded the plane confident that the worst I would have to endure was a baby crying and my brother-in-law acting like a maniac.  I could handle that.  I was armed with bottles, pacifier, diapers, changes of clothes, toys, and digital devices to keep her happy, but if those didn’t work I was also armed with a plan to keep the meanies away.  As usual, when you’ve planned every contingency, the flight was easy.  My daughter fell asleep drinking her bottle as we took off and woke up as we were landing.

When traveling with an infant, figure out what scares you the most, and make a plan to deal with that.  Puke?  Pack two changes of clothes.  Poop?  Do the same.  Germs?  Bring a bag full of 3 oz bottles of hand sanitizer.  Mean people?  Bring your own meaner person.  Travel with an infant is a total wildcard, so do what you can to address your own fears.  If you are calm, you’ll be able to better deal with whatever surprises come your way.


The first in a series of Kiddo Travel Hacks where I share my best advice for not just surviving, but enjoying travels with kids.

Help Me Pick my Yarn – Phase 2

Four months ago I posted an exciting knitting contest, and finally, I can announce the results.  Just in case you haven’t been holding your breath for three months awaiting the results of this knitting contest, here is a reminder.  I’m making the Purl Soho stitch block cowl.  I need three colors of yarn and was deciding between these three options:

The voting from March was close, but the Hobbit Cowl emerged as a narrow favorite:

Option 1 – Hobbit Cowl – 4 votes

Option 2 – Sunset Cowl – 3 votes

Option 3 – Scottish Cowl – 2 votes

After getting distracted by my sweet daughter batting her super long eyelashes at me and asking for a new blankie, I finally wrapped up the first panel of the cowl.


Isn’t it pretty, and cool and texture-y?  Now it’s time to add in color two and three!  I have to make a decision.  This is a pricey project both from a supply and time perspective, so I really want to get it right.  I decided that the only thing to do was to start knitting swatches to see what I really like best.

The world’s longest most ridiculous swatch.  (No, I didn’t check gauge with it.  Why do you ask?)

Eleven swatches later I’ve decided I really do like the colors selected by the blogosphere.  If only I were a more trusting person I could have saved myself a few hours.  (You readers are SO smart!)  Except…the decision isn’t done!  One section has two colors and the other has three colors.  I need to decide which color is in the two-color section.  Readers,  I turn to you for guidance again.  Which option should I choose?

Is the left version with Shire as the second color better, or is the Moody Green, on the right, better?  Please help me decide before I leave on vacation, so I know which color to pack, because I know I won’t get through all 20 inches in a week.  Thank you!

Legitimate Acupuncture Concern

Last week I hurt myself in an embarrassing manner.  I knocked my hips askew while sleeping.  The next day it hurt to walk and the day after I tried a trail run.  After that misguided experiment I was really broken.

Thankfully I have a good relationship with a reputable chiropractor, who is helping me get well.  I was discussing my injury and treatment with a friend, and he mentioned he was having back issues and trying acupuncture.  

I told him, “I don’t do acupuncture.”

“Yeah,” he said, “The needles bothered me too at first…”

“It’s not just the needles,” I interruputed, “It’s, well, what happens if there is a fire drill?  I mean if you are getting a massage or something you just grab a sheet and wrap up, but you know, you are all full of needles.  What do you do?”

Surprisingly, my friend had never considered this scenario, but it’s a legitimate concern.  I’m sticking with treatments that have a clearly defined escape plan.

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Ouray Beauty

Damp and smelling of hot springs we made our way to the concert in the park.  Music and a sno-cone tent had lured us away from the warm pool.  My daughter and I were both overdressed for the weather in our jackets, but underdressed in our lack of underwear and shirts.  We had decided that wearing our swim suits under our clothes would just be “too soggy” for the rapidly cooling evening.  My husband’s damp swim trunks looked enough like shorts that he blended in. The band we didn’t know played music we did know.  We swayed to the music at the edge of the crowd while my daughter attacked her bright blue dessert.

Ouray is a mountain town, and there were distinct groupings of tourists in their “Ouray” and “Colorado” souvenir clothing and locals in their Patagonia, Mountain Hardware, and skinny jeans.  Tourists were not wearing skinny jeans, because no fabric is flexible enough to allow for anything beyond breathing in those jeans: completely impractical for anything but standing and looking cool.  Sprinkled between the tourists and locals were the traditional concert-in-the-park attendees.  The requisite braless old lady, somewhere between 45 and 95, hula hooped in the front row.  She briefly attracted attention of many wondering if her breasts would be exposed during her gyrations, even though no one really wanted to see them.

My daughter was marveling, “Why doesn’t everyone give straws and spoons with snow cones?” when I noticed a woman weaving her way through the crowd.  Well, I actually noticed her coat.  I am a coat aficionado and this was a spectacular specimen.  It hit her mid-thigh and was made out of some chamois colored leather or perhaps waxed canvas.  The material had a slight sheen and accentuated her ordinary movements as she nodded at this person and hugged that one.  In the fading sunset her coat glowed and looked so soft that I longed to touch it.  Laughing, she tossed her head and her long earrings sparkled beneath her asymmetrical black pixie hair.  It wasn’t a haircut in response to aging or motherhood, but just the haircut she should have.  When she bent to swoop up her son I noticed her jeans – not skinny like the cool people – but soft, medium blue, body skimming, practical and perfect.  They just brushed the top of her bare feet as she stood, cradling her boy on her hip.

She was beautiful.  It wasn’t that she was thin.  It wasn’t that she was well dressed.  She was both of those, but what made her beautiful was that she was impeccably herself and she was fully and completely present in the space she occupied.  I wasn’t the only person who noticed her, although I may have been the most intent observer.  As she would stop to talk to a group you could see the people nearby pausing in anticipation of her arrival.  When she left a group they would watch her go before resuming their conversations.  It was as if a spotlight followed her and the crowed brightened where she was.  She was magnetic.  I could spot her in an instant either due to her personality or the ebbs and flows of the crowd dynamics moving around her.

Never close enough to make eye contact or to be graced with a smile, I left without meeting this woman.  As I closed my eyes to sleep that night I imagined a life for her.  She owned a little boutique shop in Telluride.  She lived in Ouray in a house she inherited from her grandmother, and she loved the quaint mountain town.  However, as a savvy businesswoman, she knew the real money stayed in Telluride, the richer of the sister towns.  Every year women traveled from all over the world to spend thousands in a single shopping trip so they could look “just like her.”  She catered to them, fawned over them, impeccably dressed them, and under her attention they became beautiful.  Huge packages would arrive at their homes containing entire new wardrobes selected by her hand.  The rich women would take out each item and lovingly remember how they felt that day in Telluride.  Unfortunately, none of them could capture the same confidence they felt in the shop, because the shop owner didn’t come with the clothes she sold.  The memory of beauty didn’t wane so those wealthy women would return year after year to rekindle the feeling, and every year they found it under her gaze.  

I fell asleep wishing I could travel to Telluride and wondering what coat she would select for me.

Explaining Irony to Writer’s Digest

Remember a bit ago when I told you how I explained irony to my daughter?  (Reminder: pain relief spray crashed down on her head.)  Well, my writing friends, here’s one for you that just arrived in my inbox.  Enjoy!

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Update – 6/28/2016

I must stop trying to be overly clever.

Perhaps Writer’s Digest University should contemplate taking their “Introduction to Copyediting” course that begins June 30th.  They could apply their new found knowledge to e-mail subjects.

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Thanks Kathy for letting me know that my “joke” fell flat.

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Mommy, Make Me a Blankie?

When my baby girl was still in my tummy I nested with crafting projects.  I made her a huge Amy Butler flower pillow that she could do tummy time on, as a baby, and sleep on, as a kid.  I made curtains to match.  After she was born my mom and I made her a crib skirt that matched them both.  I also bought machine washable Encore yarn to crochet her a huge granny square blanket and then soft organic cotton Sprout to knit her a blankie.  I have books of Baby Cashmerio patterns and the yarn needed to make a tiny striped cardigan and beret.

It was a surprise to me that new motherhood did not leave much time for knitting.  Even when the baby was asleep, she was often in my arms, or my hands were busy with laundry, dishes, or pumps.  Once I went back to work my hands were on my computer when they weren’t with my baby.  The infant years were not for knitting.

Fast forward eight years.  During the crap-moving part of our basement remodel my daughter found the two bins of yarn I’d purchased before her birth. When I told her what my plans had been she said, “Mommy, will you make me a blankie now?”  Without a second thought I put aside my knitting in progress and started planning her blankie.  When your eight-year-old asks for a handknit you knit.

We dove into the bins. I had hoped she’d pick the Sprout, but the anti-itchy girl decided the Encore was better.  At one point I had a whole rainbow of colors, but somehow only a three-quarter rainbow was in the bin.  No matter, she loved it.

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Then we searched patterns.  One look in my Ravelry library and she picked the Chevron Baby Blanket, not even caring that it said “baby”.  It looked easy and fun, so away I knit.  Between the zigzags, the yarn overs, and the color switches the blanket flew on my needles.  I was smart and wove in ends as I went.  Little Afthead is learning how to knit and even took a few stitches in the last green stripe and helped with the bind off.  A few snips of loose yarn bits and it was ready to block.  I showed it to my kiddo and she hugged it and drug it off to bed.  Who can argue with this kind of instant love?

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Today while she was at camp I snuck it out of her bed so I could take a few pictures of the still unblocked and unwashed finished product.

Here are the knitting details for the knitters.  

  • Yarn – Worsted Encore in 5 colors (I used half a skein for the two colors with 4 rows and about a third for the other three)
  • Pattern – Chevron Baby Blanket
  • Pattern modifications – used a different color repeat than listed and didn’t purl the yarn overs through the back loop.  (Do any of my knitting readers know how to do that?)
  • Needles – Addi Turbo Click Lace, size 9
  • Ravelry Link – http://ravel.me/afthead/cbb 

Now, I’m back to my previous project.  Remember that gorgeous cowl I had color elections for awhile back?  Well, I’ve just started knitting it again.  I’m still in the boring neutral section (because of a request from my daughter, see above blog words) but soon though I’ll be able for the big reveal on what colorway won!  Just pretend you still care even though it is months later…

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Hiatus and Compromise

Oh my dear blogging friends, I have missed you.  The insanity of May flowed into the craziness of June and my poor blog suffered.  In hindsight I should have told you all I was going to be missing from this space, but alas, I just went and left no forwarding address.  Now refreshed and full of stories from a week’s vacation I return ready to blog again.

For starters, let me just say I have finally figured out this “vacationing with a child” thing.  Now, 8+ years of parenting has taught me that the second I utter such words that hubris will destroy me leaving me in the land of horrid vacations for years to come. I shall not be daunted!  I believe this knowledge will endure!  The key to successfully vacationing with a kid is… duh duh duuuuhhhhh…. compromise!  Let’s look at some pictorial evidence from my recent Tour de Soutwest Colorado, shall we?

In order for child(ren) to enjoy the seven mile hike to Lizard Lake, you must first incentivize them with a gnome home contest.  Then, when the whining and complaining part of the hike begins you may be lucky enough to notice a bonanza of snail shells (What?!?  In Colorado in the mountains???  It’s like Mother Nature was on the parent’s side) which will lead to the creation of a snail-shell-walkway which will result in a champion gnome home.  Everyone is happy, especially the gnomes.  Tune in, because I am certain this home will be featured on gnome HGTV for years to come.

Oh, not more hiking.  We adults love hiking, and somehow we think if there is a waterfall at the end the children will like hiking too.  That may work for you, especially if the hike is short and the waterfall is amazing like this one is, but maybe, just maybe, giant inflatable pool toys are more amazing?  Try coupling the success of passing a swim test with an hour of “Water Ninja Warrior” competition – where your child legitimately crushes you on 6 of 6 obstacle runs. (She’s over a foot smaller than me, how was I supposed to fit?  And don’t get me started on her strength to weight ratio….)  The whole way up to that waterfall there will be nothing but joy, especially if you couple the hike with really great rocks in the path.

Oh dear God. You are not done hiking yet?  You want to hike to a cave?  A dark creepy cave?  Well parents, just stick a horseback ride on the front of that cave hike and let Yuma the horse do the majority of the hiking for you. Sure, you won’t be able to walk for a couple days while you develop real understanding of the term “saddle-sore” but your kid will love every minute of the ride there, and then might even surprise you by being the only family member willing to follow the guide “just a little farther into the cave.”  Try not to hang your head in shame while you let your kid go spelunking into the depths of a cave with some guide you met less than an hour before.  She’ll probably be fine and besides, your butt hurts too much to crouch.

EVEN MORE HIKING?!?!  What are you insane?  Is this a death march or a vacation, I ask you?  Well, if you can hike in a creek and, I don’t know, pick up even more cool rocks then maybe you can squeeze one more hike in.   Note: we may have failed on the rock portion of “take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints” goal of hiking, but that’s okay, because you are done hiking now, right.  RIGHT???

Let me tell you, at some point you have to put your butt down.  Sure the top of the sand dunes are very tempting, but that sand is hard to walk on and after awhile there is so much of it in your ears you can’t hear the pleading, “Can’t we just go a little farther?”  Fine, go a little farther, but me and your backpacks of water and snacks are staying here, far away from the sand ledge of death – which somehow didn’t claim my family (or any other lives) during our trip.  You go on to the top.  I’ll wait for you, even without any rocks to gather.


 

Running Obituary

This weekend I had my last traditional Sunday run.  Every weekend for fifteen years (give or take a year) I have met a friend and we’ve run 4-22 miles together.  We’ve run in snow, rain, heat, and darkness.  We’ve trained for marathons.  We’ve run through miscarriages, depression, pregnancy, divorce, and marriage.  My friend and I have never lived more than five miles apart.  Friday she moves 19 miles away.

The routine has changed over the years, but it’s always involved meeting at her house before 8:00 and running.  I remember finishing runs with eyelashes covered in frost, blood running down my leg, or tears in my eyes.  I remember running wondering if she would ever shut up, and I’m sure she remembers runs wondering the same about me and my current gripe, aggravation, or crisis.  The running therapy was sometimes one sided, but that was how the weekend runs went: sometimes one of us needed to talk and sometimes one of us needed to listen.  We both spent time as the therapist and the patient.

Before kids we saw each other socially, but since our families arrived our friendship has dwindled to a dinner or two a year and a run every weekend.  The lack of variety has not diminished the value of the time together, in fact, I think it’s grown more important.  When you have kids making time for yourself and your friendships gets difficult, but while other activities have gone by the wayside the Sunday run was constant.

I exaggerate a bit.  Life did interrupt our runs from time to time.  Vacations, surgeries, and weather would cancel the runs, but that was the exception, not the rule.  For me the exercise and the chatting meant my week started with a clear head and was worth making an effort.  We talked about our kids, our parents, our husbands, our friends, our jobs, and our health.  Our insecurities around parenting, our bodies, our relationships, and our careers were common topics.  For an hour every week we didn’t have to start and stop a discussion to parent, wife, or work.  Together we focused on ourselves while pounding the pavement.

We both hate treadmills and dislike gyms.  Neither of us runs with headphones and her dog always keeps us company.  There was never a negotiation about any of those details, so it was easy.  When we first started running she was so much faster than me that I’d have to run half a lap around the park with her and then turn to walk the opposite direction to recover.  When she caught back up I’d turn around and run again.  I worried about keeping up with her, but then we got to the same pace and it was easy.  At one point we could run a 7 minute mile, but now we’ve slowed to a comfortable 9-10 mile per hour pace for our Sunday  morning runs.  She runs every morning and her inflexibility is the reason this tradition has continued on.  I know because we’ve had other friends come and go from the run but she has been the constant and I’ve gone along for the run.  It just happens every weekend.

We can keep running – and I’m sure we will meet up from time to time to run the trails by her new house or the parks by my house – but it will require planning and schedules.  It will become difficult, and that’s what makes me sad.  All of my friendships right now require negotiation and calendars and texts and cancellations and rescheduling.  The run was easy, and easy is in short supply in my friendships.

For our last run Sunday I imagined some epic last meeting.  We’d take selfies (that I could post on my blog).  I’d bring a present.  We’d reminisce about all the runs over the years.  None of that happened.  Another friend joined us and we ran a lap.  We talked about our kids and the move.  Then our friend went off to church and we ran one last lap together just chatting, bitching, and running: same as always.  Tears were blinked away, not about our last run, but about her son.  No selfie was taken, and our goodbye was a quick hug, since I hadn’t showered in three days and she had to mow the lawn.  It wasn’t until I got in my car that I let myself mourn the end of the Sunday morning run.  Then I wiped my eyes and went to pick up bagels for my family, just like I’ve done every other week.

Next week she moves, and the week after that I’m on vacation and then…who knows.  I’ll have to plan something, but maybe this hour a week with a friend is worth it even if it’s hard.  For now I’m sad that it won’t be easy anymore.

Ack! Spider! Part Deux

Why does this keep happening to me?  Six months ago a wolf spider freaked me out during my shower, and today, well a relaxing bath just isn’t that relaxing when this guy jumps out of the shower curtain as you are cleaning the tub.  He was relocated to the front porch in a cup that he refuses to vacate.  Enjoy your new home spidey, and stay outside where you belong.