Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The DePacification of My Almost Two-Year Old

We've been putting it off for months, but the day has finally arrived. Ironically, today is Ash Wednesday. I joked that our little one is giving up his pacifier for Lent. But really this is no laughing matter. Getting rid of the pacifier (or The Pas as we refer to it) was/is terrifying. Will he sleep through the night tonight? Will we ever peacefully fly on an airplane again? Will we make it through a full Mass this Sunday? These are the worries that enabled us to put off DePacification for so long. But, he's a very good sleeper, we don't have any trips coming up any time soon, and he's really good at charming the other parishioners at Church, so even if he's a little noisy I think they'll be ok with it. No more excuses!

So what's the plan? With any "big" decision (and don't kid yourself. When to get rid of the pacifier is a big decision) I wanted to come up with a plan. I've heard that some people cut the end off the end of the pacifier so that it becomes less appealing to the youngster. That just didn't feel like the right approach to me. I've heard other people explain to their child that the "Pacifier Fairy" is coming to take the pacifier to give it to babies who really need it. Sometimes the Pacifier Fairy leaves a gift for the little one in place of the pacifier. A cute idea, but I think my little guy, at 21 months is just a little too young to follow that story. I decided to go with an approach that seems to work well in a lot of other situations that he gets upset about. We say, "bye bye".

When it's time to turn off the tv, we ask him to say, "Bye Bye TV". When it's time to put away the iPhone, we ask him to say, "Bye Bye iPhone". And when it's time to leave the playground we ask him to say, "Bye Bye Playground." This approach almost always results in a smooth transition with little or no tears. I think that our little guy, like other children, like to feel a sense of control and responsibility. They like to feel a part of things. By having him say goodbye, rather than just taking away the thing he really wants, he feels like he is in control and he is able to perform the action of turning off the electronics or leaving the playground. This certainly takes some patience some days. When it is time to say, "bye bye" and he does not act after being asked a couple of times then it's time to make it a choice. The choice is always the same, "Would you like to turn the TV off or would you like mommy to turn the TV off? It's your choice." 9 out of 10 times he makes the right choice.

Since this approach is working so well in so many other areas I decided to give it a try with The Pas. I first decided today was the day and that I would start at nap time. Everything new involving sleep is better to try at nap time because if it's a disaster you hopefully don't lose too much sleep at night yourself. Right before nap time I told him that today we were going to have to say bye bye to Pas. I heard a couple little whimpers. I was kind of surprised he seemed to really understand what I was saying. Then I gathered up all the pacifiers and gave them to him. He immediately stuck one in his mouth and we walked over to the trashcan. I asked him to say, "Bye Bye Pas" and he did just that as he threw the first one into the trash. Throwing them in the trash was  not only symbolic for him getting rid of them but it was also helpful for me, so that I wouldn't have a moment of weakness and give it back to him if it had just been in the cupboard or something. He threw the last one in and immediately started crying. Yes, it was heartbreaking to see him so sad, but his tears only lasted about 90 seconds. We read a story together and he went down for his nap without making a peep. At bedtime I was so nervous that the nap time performance would not be repeated but it was! As I was putting him down I heard him say, "Pas" one time and that was it. He went to sleep happy, singing songs in his crib for 15 minutes before drifting off to sleep. Now, the real test will be making it through the night. I'm not going to lie, I'm a little nervous, but I am reassured knowing how well things have gone so far. Hopefully positive updates to come.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Maintaining Sanity During Air Travel. It IS Possible.

Traveling with a child gets increasingly easier, except for maybe the period of age 12 months to 18 months or so when you may just need to say some prayers for a smooth trip. When traveling by car,  you have the difficulty of being stuck in your seat for an extended period of time, but at least you can distract your chid with electronics the entire time and make stops whenever it is necessary for you to get a quick bathroom or sanity break. Air travel is another story.

My son is 21 months old and he's been on roughly 10 round trips so far. We have family all over the country we try to visit as often as possible, plus children under 2 fly for free so we've been trying to take full advantage of the discount. A friend recently asked for some tips for traveling with her 2 year old and my husband is about to do his first solo mission with our son, so I thought I'd share some of the things that have worked well for me so far.

What to Pack?
As if packing for yourself isn't complicated enough, now you have to plan for yourself and a small child. I almost always travel on Delta, so we decided to get the Delta credit card that allows you to have a free checked bag. Yes, there is an annual fee, but it has more than paid for it in the money I have saved paying for checked bags. If you decide to save money by carrying your suitcase on, good luck, I have no words of wisdom for you in that department.

Other than packing plenty of clothes for baby, I suggest packing a little bag of essentials that baby probably won't need but if you do need them you'll be happy you have them. Infant Tylenol, saline nose drops, nail clippers, baby lotion, diaper cream are just a few ideas. I also pack the baby monitor and "Travel Larry". Larry is our sons little lovie blanket that he sleeps with. It's always a good idea to have a spare one in case it goes missing somewhere along the trip.

In the carry on bag, I would suggest the following: more diapers and wipes than you think you will need for the plane, just in case. For a 2 hour flight I pack about 4-5 diapers. I don't bother packing diapers in my suitcase because you can easily buy them when you get to your destination, or if you have awesome, thoughtful hosts, they will have already bought them for you! Also pack a changing pad, spare outfit for baby, possibly a spare shirt for you if you are nursing or your child is prone to messiness, toys, books or other distractions for baby. Don't bother weighing yourself down too much with reading material for yourself, you most likely will not be  able to relax much. Wet wipes are essential. I get the Wet Ones brand antibacterial wipes and always carry them in my diaper bag! And finally, food! If you are nursing, bring a nursing cover or whatever you are comfortable with. I know some mom's are comfortable doing it totally in the open, but I feel that in a tight, public places such as a plane, it's respectful to others to at least attempt to cover up a bit. If you are using bottles, and you want to keep them cold, you generally can't bring an ice pack on board because of the liquids restrictions, but what you can do is freeze an orange and use that as your icepack. If you are bottle feeding you should bring more that you think you will need just in case you are delayed! Put the bottles in ziplock bags in case of leaking. Once your child is past bottles, you can bring a sippie cup of milk or juice for your child. Again, I just put it in a ziplock so it doesn't spill and I put it in the bin at security. Other possible snacks are babyfood pouches, bananas, apples, raisins, graham crackers. puffs, cheerios, cheese sticks, or goldfish crackers. If you need more of a meal, you can make a little ham and cheese sandwich, use the babyfood pouches, or even eat an avodaco. Cut it before you leave home, put it in a baggie, and feed it to your child with a spoon right from the skin.

Ages 0-1
Prior to boarding
#1 When our child was under 1, he was still in the infant car seat that could snap onto the stroller. Since you can gate check these items for free, I always brought them through security. When  you get to your gate you can actually ask if there are any spare seats on the plane, and if there are they will let you bring the carseat on the place which can be a big help. The tricky part, if you are traveling alone, is how to pack everything up and get it on the security belt all while holding a small infant. If you are lucky a security agent or a kind stranger will offer to help, but sadly a majority of the time, I was on my own! If you have a baby carrier you can strap the baby right to you and free up your arms. Unfortunately every airport has slightly different rules or just chooses to enforce them differently, so some security agents will let you wear the baby through and others will not. Either way, having a baby carrier can be a big help at security and getting on and off the plane.

#2 You can bring as much liquids for baby through security as you want (within reason). Even though I was nursing, I didn't feel entirely comfortable nursing on the plane so I would usually bring a pumped bottle on the plane with me. I put the bottle into a ziplock (any size) in case it leaked a bit and when I went through security I took it out of my diaper bag and put it into the bin. Usually they will do a quick test on it which entails waving a little wand over the milk.

#3 Usually my routine was to get to the gate, nurse my son about 30 min prior to boarding, take him to the bathroom for one last diaper change, then put him into the baby carrier  to try to bounce him to sleep. They always allow passengers with children to board first, but I think it is actually better to board last. The less time you are stuck in the seat the better! The baby carrier is helpful during boarding especially if you have a couple of bags or need to fold up your stroller. Again, I am forever appalled at how few people have offered to help when I have been clearly struggling with folding the stroller or carrying my bags.

On the plane
#1 If you have the sleeping baby in a carrier, then say some prayers that it lasts! One time I got on the plane with my sleeping boy and the flight attendant made me take off the carrier for takeoff. I wanted to cry! Of course, when I removed it, he woke up  and nap time was ruined! That is the only time that I was asked to remove the carrier though. Again, different airports, different airlines, different flight attendants choose to enforce different regulations.

#2 Since some children have pain in the ears during takeoff or landing, it's a good idea to get them sucking on something. So if you haven't fed your child yet, takeoff is a good time for the bottle. I usually tried to save the bottle for landing since I always nursed right before getting on plane. You could also use a pacifier if it's not mealtime.

#3 As for up in air with an infant, that can be a little tricky. Hopefully a nap is possible. If not, I recommend bringing books for your child to look at. My child especially enjoyed (and still does) the books that have tactile pictures. We also do a lot of singing. I try not to annoy the passengers around me too much with my rendition of The Wheels on the Bus, so I try to just sing quietly in his ear. Once your child is a little closer to 1 year old he/she may be interested in the iPhone or a video. Mine still won't watch a video because he just wants to touch the screen the whole time. It might be a good idea to to do a little test run at home with a video or iPhone to see what interests your child before you lug a bunch of electronics on board. I suggest that you don't bring toys that make noise, as the people around you will want to strangle you by the end of the flight. A small, silent toy or stuffed animal may be a good distraction for some.

#4 Where should you sit? I go back and forth on this one. Avoid the middle seat, obviously. The aisle is helpful because you can easily get up when you need to and you might have a tiny bit of extra arm room. The window is nice because your child can look out the window and sometimes it's nice to be able to lean up against the wall. I'd say with a younger infant, go for the aisle and for a toddler, go for the window.

#5 At the end of the flight, everyone will comment on how cute or well-behaved (hopefully) your child was. This never happens at the beginning of the flight because everyone is terrified when they see babies near them on a plane. I guess I can't blame them too much for that, the unknown, as in not knowing if you are going to get a headache from listening to a screaming baby for 2 hours,  can be scary.

Flying with Toddler
Prior to Boarding

#1 Our carseat is rather huge and heavy. We bought wheels for it which are helpful for getting it through the airport. If you are traveling with a stroller and carseat I recommend checking one of them as soon as you get to the airport. This is free because it counts as a specialty item. If you are traveling with someone then wheels are fine because it's really helpful to have a spare set of hands as you usually need to take them off to fit on the security belt. When I'm traveling alone, I don't bother with the wheels, it's just too much. Instead I check the carseat at the curb with my luggage, use the stroller in the airport, and gate check the stroller. Be aware, yet again, that all airports have different rules. In one city I as able to check the carseat at the curb, but in another city they surprised me and said I couldn't check it there, I had to take it inside, which is a major pain when you are trying to wheel a stroller and a suitcase, and carry a carseat all on your own.

#2 When going through security you need to fold up the stroller and put it on the belt. This is not so bad if your child can walk/stand on his own, but if they can not and you have a stroller that requires two hands to fold, as mine does, this can be quite a challenge. Again, rarely do people offer to help, but I have had several kind security agents who have tried to help fold the stroller, which I greatly appreciated! PEOPLE, IF YOU SEE A PARENT FLYING ALONE WITH A SMALL CHILD, OFFER TO LEND THEM A HAND!

#3 Once through security I recommend running time! I usually try to get to the gate, make sure everything is still on-time, then find an open area for my child to run around. Save the toys, snacks, iPhone, videos, or crayons for the plane ride and get that child moving! Our airport has a great little children's area to run and climb, and yes, I'm sure it's crawling with germs, but I just remind myself that hopefully he's strengthening his immune system and then give him a little sanitizing wipedown afterward.

#4 About 10 minutes prior to boarding I take him in for one last diaper change and one last bathroom break for me. Using the bathroom on the plane, if you are traveling alone, can be quite a challenge. Again, they will announce that passengers traveling with children may board first. I HIGHLY recommend with a toddler that you wait until the end. Unless you think you need extra time to install their carseat in the seat, there is no advantage to getting on early, in my opinion. And if your child is anything like mine, I suggest you turn off your electronics before you get on the plane. First sight of the iPhone and he goes ballistic. Trying to explain to a 1.5 year old that the flight attendant said we have to turn off electronics is nearly impossible and NOT a good way to start the flight. Out of sight, out of mind, so don't let your child see the electronics until you are up in the air.

#5 Once your child can walk, traveling by plane changes quite a bit. Probably by this time, they are only napping twice or even once a day, so betting on that mid-flight nap is not a good bet to take. Takeoff is generally a wiggly time. I recommend bringing books, Aquadoodle, or stuffed animal and just start trying to entertain your child the best you can because it's clearly difficult for a one year old to understand why they can't get off your lap and run around at this time. This is also a good time for snacks. I usually bring baby food pouches. Again, you can bring as much through security as you want. Put them in a ziplock in case there are any accidental explosions. The one thing to be careful of with the pouches is the overzealous squeeze. Sometimes you or your neighbor may wear pea and banana puree if you leave the pouch solely in the hands of your toddler. I learned that the hard way. Be sure to bring wet wipes, not only for your child who will inevitably get dirty, but to clean up the passenger sitting next to you when your child takes his cookie out of his mouth and tosses it into the lap of your neighbor. Yes, that happened on our last flight. *sigh*

#6 Once up in the air, electronics are a life saver! If your child will sit through a movie, you can set that up, but if like mine, he wants to be a little more interactive, you can try the iPhone. We actually took my old phone and turned it into a kid's phone. Since you can't actually make calls on it anymore, it's basically an iPod touch now filled with kid's music and apps. A couple of favorite apps so far have been Peek-A-Boo Barn, Elmo's Monster Maker, Crazy Mouth, Talking Tom, and The Wheels on The Bus (by Duck Duck Moose). Not wanting to drive other passengers crazy with the sound of kid's music, I found a pair of kid's headphones at Best Buy. They are smaller to fit a child's head, but even better, they don't play as loudly as regular headphones, so you don't have to worry about damaging your child's hearing. When it is time for landing, and electronics need to be  turned off, can be a tricky time. I try to reserve snacks for take off and landing, since that's a nice distraction. Also, simply looking out the window can be a fun activity for a toddler.

In terms of traveling with older children or multiple children, I haven't experienced that yet so I have no words of wisdom to share. I would imagine that the older the child gets, the easier the airport experience gets, but I am sure that differs case by case. With multiple children, hopefully the older child is able to lend a hand or you are traveling with someone else who is able to help.

No matter what age your child, or how many children you are traveling with, hopefully someone greets you at your arrival, preferably with flowers, a back rub, or a cocktail, or all three. Traveling is tiring. Traveling with small children is exhausting, no matter how well-behaved your child may be.

Good luck and happy travels!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Loving Valentine's Day Crafts

Clearly a one year old does not understand the meaning of Valentine's Day. I'm sure a lot of husbands and boyfriends question this holiday right around February 13th each year as well. Even though the child may not understand the special day, that doesn't mean that he can't start to be taught the joy of giving.  Holidays are a great time to be creative with children's projects and they are also a great time to make a special handmade gift for a loved one. And what grandparent doesn't enjoy a handmade gift or card from their grandchild?

An art project with a one year old must be simple and quick! Here is a very simple card to make with a toddler that is sure to brighten a loved one's day.

White paper
Cardstock or heavy paper
"Do-A-Dot" paint

It's best to get everything set up and prepped before you even tell your child you are going to do a project.  Once children hear something fun is about to happen they generally want it immediately! So set up the workspace by covering with newspaper in order to make clean up easy.

Fold the piece of card stock in half and on the folded end, cut a half heart (or roughly the shape of an ear). Unfold and you should have a symmetrical heart shape.

Place the stencil on top of a white piece of paper and tape both to the table. Now is when you announce to your child that you are going to do a fun project together.

If your child is new to Do-A-Dot, you may need to demonstrate a few dots. I recommend the use of sound effects (such as Bam Bam or Dot Dot or whatever sound you imagine a dot being put on paper would make) not only because sound effects make just about everything more fun, but it may also encourage the young one to keep dotting the paper rather than his/her face or shirt. Which reminds me, an art smock is a good idea for this project.

This is the second card we made with the stencil which is why their are paint marks all along the outer edge.

Once the stencil is pretty well filled in, you can remove it to reveal the heart shaped picture. Then your child can write, dictate, or subliminally tell you the message for the card.

Happy Valentine's Day!