Monday, July 27, 2009

Jet Set


In my dreams, I am the woman who dresses up for travel, breezes through security, sips only bottled water on the flight, carries a single chic carry-on bag, and arrives unwrinkled, hydrated, and each hair in place.

In reality, I am the woman in sweatpants, struggling to wrangle a toddler, hopping on one foot to take off my shoes while folding the stroller with the other hand, apologizing profusely for holding up the line, begging the flight attendants for milk (for cranky toddler) and chugging down caffeine (energy = patience with cranky toddler) before the Nugget can knock over my cup, carrying 2 overstuffed diaper bags and a non-glamorous LL Bean backpack, and arrives covered in a layer of non-descript airplane grime and stains (what DID he wipe on my shirt?!).

Nevertheless, we are frequent fliers and have gleaned some great flying-with-child tips to share!

Luggage:
1.  On most airlines, each passenger gets 1 personal item (purse, backpack, briefcase) and 1 carry-on.  I bring a purse and backpack.  Nugget brings 2 diaper bags.  Hubby brings a backpack and sometimes a roller bag.
2.  We bring the mondo stroller, which doesn't count as a bag (woo-hoo!).  We check it plane-side.  It is a bear to fit in the rental car, but we can stash the diaper bags in the stroller which is priceless when running through O'Hare for a connection.  You also need to have a stroller with a slowpoke or runaway toddler for your sanity and safety.
3.  We don't hesitate to rent the Smarte Carte for $3 to get our stuff in and out of the airport.  If you look around your car carefully, you can usually find an abandoned one in the parking lot for free.  Not that we've ever chosen a parking spot just because of the proximity to a free Smarte Carte or anything.  Ahem.
4.  Your car seat is a freebie to check.  Most car rental companies will let you rent a car seat if you prefer to go that route.  Don't assume that your car seat or booster will fit in the plane seat  Our first flight with the Nugget, we brought his Graco Snugride intending for him to ride in it, but it would not fit in the plane seat!  Here's a link for more info.  Now we check his toddler car seat and use the CARES harness on the plane.
5.  Remember to pull baby's non-edible liquids and gels out of your carry-on and put them with your toiletries in a quart size Ziploc bag (lotion, oils, baby wash, diaper cream, sunscreen, hand sanitizer).  Make sure they are travel size (3 oz. container or less).  If your favorite brands don't offer a travel size, you can find empty 3 oz. containers at most drugstores and decant your stuff into them or check the big tubes.  
6.   Contrary to popular myth, the security guards cannot make you taste formula or breastmilk at security to "prove" it, but they may do a dip test with a paper strip.  Babies and toddlers up to about 2 years old (not preschoolers, unless the guards are feeling magnanimous) can bring formula, milk, juice, baby food, and cold packs with them.  Just pack them in a small separate bag and notify the guards before you send it through the x-ray.

In-flight:
1.  Think quiet lightweight toys, few pieces.  Books, magnetic puzzles/games, stickers, coloring pages, puppets.  Triangular crayons that won't roll off the tray table.  If you have a mini DVD player, that rocks!  Your kid's special lovey and a small blankie for naps and peekaboo will help too.  Many kids love to play with toy planes while riding the big plane!
2.  We offer cheap foam earplugs in a bulk jar to our fellow passengers once everyone is seated.  Many just laugh and refuse them, but there's always at least one taker, and it helps build goodwill towards your potentially loud and disruptive family!  
3.  Be super nice and polite to the flight attendants!  If they like you, they'll help with extra snacks and drinks for your little ones with a smile and extra attention.
4.  From friends J and W, the best tip ever:  for teeny babies who throw and drop toys constantly, tie a shoelace to each toy and tether them to your belt loops.  Now you can reel the toy back up instead of crawling in the aisle or asking fellow passengers if they can see a purple kangaroo under their seat.
5.  Plan to change diapers before and after the flight, then pray that baby doesn't need an inflight change.  An overnight diaper might come in handy for a long flight.  We've been yelled at for changing the Nugget at our seat (with a changing pad to protect the seat of course!), but the restrooms I've seen have no changing table, just a ledge that's about the size of a shoebox, meant to hold a purse.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Two



The Nugget celebrated his 2nd birthday yesterday.  We started with a casual backyard party for his local buddies - cupcakes and a potluck lunch.  When Daddy came home, he opened his gifts, then we went to Red Robin (the Nugget's favorite restaurant) for his birthday dinner.  He had fun all day long, which stands in contrast to his 3 parties last year, in which he decided, "It's my party, and I'll cry if I want to".  Of course, 1 year old parties are mainly for the adults - this year, it was all about him.  

I look forward to the year ahead.  I'm sure it will have its "terrible" moments, but I also hope that it will hold a lot of adventure, growth, new skills, and new interests.  The Nugget is growing into himself, his body is becoming more capable, we can see the ideas practically milling above his head in a thought bubble.  Each new word he learns is giving us insight into his mind, hopes, and desires.

Here's to you, Nugget!  May your 3rd year on earth bring you as much joy as you bring us.
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If you like his awesome shirt, you can find it at happyfamily on Etsy.  (They have different fonts, and can make any number on any size shirt, ideal for us, because the Nugget's 2nd birthday shirt had to be a 4T.)  I loved that the number came out clearly in photos and that it doesn't say "birthday" so he can easily wear this shirt all year.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pain begets beauty

In the adoption world, the thing hopeful adoptive families fear most is called a "disruption".  Basically, it means that the expecting mother decides to parent or decides to choose another family.  

On our way to the Nugget, we experienced a disruption, in which the couple decided to parent at the last minute.  Yesterday, we experienced the other kind of disruption, in which the expecting mom decided that we were not the right fit for her.  

Because of our past experience, we know that a disruption is just a step (a really painful step that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy) towards meeting the child meant for you.  Plus we are already parents to a brilliant, incredibly busy toddler, so we can gaze at him or simply try to keep up with him, and our minds are diverted.  So all around, it's much easier to cope this time.

However, this kind of disruption also felt more personal, because it was not simply a decision to parent, but a decision that we were "not good enough".  We had spent 4 intense days traveling to meet the expectant mom and her daughter, days that happened to be sandwiched between another trip and houseguests.  We forged a connection that we felt was genuine and real.  We spoke about our hopes and concerns, about future visits and photos, picked out a name, our children played together like they'd been lifelong friends.  We thought it was all going well.  But it ended all the same.  

We don't have regrets, because we were exactly who we are.  We didn't hide anything or hold back.  And in moments of clarity, I know it wasn't that we weren't good enough, it was just that we weren't what SHE wanted or needed, and I know that we WILL be what our child's birthmom wants and needs.

Then there's the issue of undoing all the good news we'd shared.  I had held back until after our visit, believing that because I'd lived through a disruption and an adoption, that I'd just know what it felt like once we met in person.  So after our visit, I shouted our news from the rooftops, dropped it like happy confetti.  Many tell me that it's so unwise to share adoption news, but I just have to, want to, need to...it's a part of me.  If I can't joyfully prepare for a child to join our family, I don't feel like much of a mom.  

Taking back good news and replacing it with bad feels like hunting for all that dropped confetti, crawling through the mud to get every speck, half-blinded by my tears.  Most give it back sadly; that makes me feel like the grim reaper, that I ruined the happiness of others.  Sometimes I have to pry a stray scrap of confetti out of someone's hands, they are so angry and upset, that I have to defend the birthmom and her choice, I have to comfort THEM.  I do believe in her right to choose and sincerely hope she finds what she's looking for, yet in the midst of suffering, it's like having to verbally defend a driver who's just totaled your car.  She didn't do it on purpose, but you sure don't feel like standing up for her.  But I will, because it's the right thing to do, because adoption is forever and because she deserves to have the adoptive family of her dreams....which just happens to not be us.

I also feel a little perturbed at God.  I mean, shouldn't one disruption be enough?  Haven't I paid my dues in suffering already?  Again, in silence and clarity, I know better.  I know that misfortunes aren't doled out fairly.  And I also know that I have a very blessed life, and when I stop and breathe, I can be thankful for all the good things and people in my life.  I know that that God is holding our hands and giving us comfort through our trials.  

When our son was born, we looked at the Nugget and said it was all worth it and that we'd have lived through more disruptions just for the chance to be his parents, that the indignities, paperwork, and heartbreak were our labor for him.  That experiencing the lowest, hardest part of adoption, we could fully experience the highest high of meeting him, of merging his birthfamily with our own.  Lil Sib, you are out there somewhere.  We are laboring for you.