Monthly Archives: May 2013

An Interview With…Us!

Thanks to a lovely blogger over at Trips With Tykes (a blog that helped inspire me to start writing about my own adventures traveling with the kids) we were interviewed about our traveling lives, so go on and check it out! And show her some love while you are there, not only because she is a fellow traveling mama but also because she has an adorable red headed girl just like me!

 

Science Museums In Atlanta

If there is one thing my kids love to do it is explore a science museum and check out dinosaurs, and luckily for us Atlanta has three to choose from, although some are infinitely more convenient to us than others! We could spend hours looking at fossils, examining dinosaur bones, and playing in the hands on areas.

Our favorite, and most convenient, is Fernbank Museum of Natural History, located East of Midtown and near both Emory University and Decatur. This museum boasts a walk through the current landscapes of Georgia, life size dinosaurs, a hands-on sensing nature area where kids can  make bubbles the size of their head, experience a tornado at the touch of their hands, learn how sound waves travel and more, as well as a reflections of culture area. There is also an IMAX theatre that has a variety of movies for kids of all ages, and changing exhibits, including themes like Extreme Mammals, Ghengis Khan and the upcoming Marco Polo: Man and Myth.

In 2012 Fernbank opened up NatureQuest, which is an interactive play area that turns every child into a scientist or explorer. There is a tree house that kids can climb around in, live animals to observe, a simulated waterfall that mists actual water, an ocean exploration area and a block building section.

Paleontologists at their cutest!

Paleontologists at their cutest!

Just snacking amongst the dinosaurs

Just snacking amongst the dinosaurs

Hanging out with the 'dino' at Fernbank

Hanging out with the ‘dino’ at Fernbank

Admission to Fernbank is $17.50 for adults, Students and Seniors with id are $16.50, Kids 3-12 are  $15.50, and 2 and under are free. IMAX tickets are an additional fee. Parking is free!

Right down the street is Fernbank Science Center, a separate entity from the Fernbank Museum, and run by the Dekalb County School system. It is free to enter and park (with an additional cost for the planetarium) and is a ‘museum, classroom and woodland complex’ that is not as fancy as Fernbank Museum, but includes a planetarium, dinosaur skeletons, rocks and minerals and an authentic Apollo spacecraft, as well as a small outdoor area.

This museum is definitely more dated than it’s partner up the road, but is fun to let kids run around and check out, and for free? Why not!

Visiting with a turtle at Fernbank Science Center

Visiting with a turtle at Fernbank Science Center

Outside Fernbank Science Center

Outside Fernbank Science Center

A dinosaur at Fernbank Science Center

A dinosaur at Fernbank Science Center

The third museum isn’t technically in Atlanta, but for the purposes of this post I have included it with the above two. It would be our favorite and most visited museum, hands down, if it wasn’t 50 miles away. But if you have a morning to spare and a car to take you there then you should absolutely make the drive to Cartersville to check out the Tellus Science Museum.

This 120,000 square foot museum has dinosaurs, a fossil gallery, science in motion, a play area called My Big Backyard, a mineral gallery, a planetarium, airplanes, hands on panning for gold and searching for fossils.

Admission is $14 for adults, $10 for kids ages 3-17, $12 for seniors, $10 for students, and kids 2 and under and military are free.

Inside the dino exhibit, which include a t-rex, a megaladon and a saber tooth tiger

Inside the dino exhibit, which include a t-rex, a megaladon and a saber tooth tiger

Dinosaurs at the entrance to Tellus

Dinosaurs at the entrance to Tellus

Playing in the hands on My Big Backyard

Playing in the hands on My Big Backyard

Digging for fossils

Digging for fossils

Panning for gold

Panning for gold

Exploring the minerals

Exploring the minerals

Making music in My Big Backyard

Making music in My Big Backyard

 Have you been to Atlanta? What is your favorite museum?

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Little Bit Of England In The South

If we can’t be in London, a city I have inexplicably been missing living in (it always happens this time of year as the heat ramps up in Atlanta and the weather stays cool across the pond), well, we decided to show our kids how to celebrate their British heritage while embracing their American heritage over a decidedly American holiday weekend.

In other words? We dressed them up in their British best and trotted them off to a British family festival, right in the heart of the South.

My son, a reluctant model

My son, a reluctant model

And little L, ready to play some croquet

And little L, ready to play some croquet

Packing Tips: What We Can’t Leave Home Without

With school wrapping up for the Summer and vacations just around the corner there have been a lot of posts on different travel blogs about what to pack when traveling with a family. With our upcoming trip to the Pacific NW I plan on posting what we are packing for a week away with two kids, but I can tell you now one thing that we can not leave at home or we will have two very sad children on our hands – their lovies.

F has a stuffed sheep, given to him shortly after he turned 1, aptly named White Baa. White baa is more of a dingy grey these days, but he is a well traveled sheep, and, as we learned on a trip to the beach this past February, F can not sleep without him. L has two pink bunnies, logically named bunnies, and they are never far from her hands when sleeping either.

Sleepy F and white baa in Belgium

Sleepy F and white baa in Belgium

Bunnies in Asheville

Bunnies in Asheville

Hanging with the cousins in Phoenix

Hanging with the cousins in Phoenix

Checking out Bush Gardens

Checking out Busch Gardens

White Baa's first trip to Disney

White Baa’s first trip to Disney

White Baa in Montana

White Baa in Montana

Checking out the beach with bunnies

Checking out the beach with bunnies

Bunnies on their way to Pittsburgh

Bunnies on their way to Pittsburgh

They have become so much a part of ‘us’ that it doesn’t matter if we forget anything, as long as it isn’t these things. And, as we found out on the aforementioned Florida trip, it is not cheap to overnight one to us (white baa took a pricey $60 overnight trip from Atlanta to Florida but the $60 made one 5 year old boy very, very happy)

Do your kids have a lovie? Does it travel with you?

This is part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby and Friday Daydreamin at R We There Yet. Check them out!

The Toddler Patdown

We all know that dealing with TSA when traveling is tolerable at best, and downright aggravating at worst. I have always had a sort of grin and bear it attitude, mainly because I know they hold the power, and if I tick them off I know they can keep me from flying, and no meltdown is worth losing a trip over.

Except when it is. When it involves my children, when my don’t mess with me instincts come out in all their glory.

So, this is a story of how I stood up to the TSA, or, rather, how I almost got us kicked out of the airport. Sort of.

A year ago we were headed up to DC for my brothers wedding, and I flew solo with the kids since my husband was meeting us up there later that night. Now, since my kids have flown a lot for kids, both domestically and internationally, and despite being loaded down to the gills with stuff, we travel well. We breeze through security, boarding, and the flight.

So naturally this would be the time that it didn’t go well, right?

I was prepared. I mean, I had the bag of goods to keep the kids busy so I didn’t get the hate that so many people give families when they travel. I arranged to have my sister in law meet me at the airport to loan me car seats, and I had F accepting that he needed to sit in the stroller while I had L on me.

As we approached security I was telling F he needed to walk through, not touch anything, and wait on the other side. I double checked with 2 different TSA people that I didn’t need to take L out of the carrier, and they agreed.

You can see where this is going, right? As F walked through and waited I walked behind him, and of course beeped.

So we went through again, minus L’s hairbow and belt. And beeped again.

Take three, with L out of the carrier. Guess what? We beeped.

At this point the TSA agent was irritated at me and said I could try to get her to walk through herself or we would have to be patted down. L wanted no part of it, as I tried to get her through to see her brother, and at that point they called for a female pat down. For both of us.

Have you ever had a moment where in your head you are thinking don’t cry don’t cry don’t scream don’t cry? I was having that moment, yet my external voice was totally uncooperative and didn’t listen to my internal voice.

I cried. I said there was no way I was going to let them pat down my 13 month old daughter, and begged them to let me try to get her to walk through again. At this point passengers were telling me how sorry they were this was happening. The TSA agent told me I was holding up the line. I refrained from saying what I really wanted to say but did express to her that I didn’t give a shit, in nicer words, and that I am held up all the time in line and they could wait.

Another TSA agent came over, and asked what was going on. When she was told she said that I needed to calm down and that they were sorry but this was the rule. I again refused, and said there was no way I was going to tell my kids that strangers can’t touch them and then hand L over to a stranger to be patted down. The whole time F is standing, alone, on the other side of the metal detector watching all of this.

As I was thinking about how I could get all my stuff loaded up and leave the airport a higher up TSA agent came over to find out what was going on. When I explained to him, and pointed out the attitude I was getting, he was actually apologetic, and suggested we try one more time to get L through, and, in a flash of brilliance (clearly not mine) I walked through first and she followed me.

I beeped. She didn’t. End of story.

I had the pat down. It is not the first time I have had it, and yet it never gets less invasive. It is absurd and demeaning and yet I would do it a million times over to keep my kids from having to go through it.

After it was over I loaded us up, walked around the corner, called Lee and burst into tears again. I have never had a mama bear moment until this one, and I know I would never let anything happen to my kids.

She looks scary, doesn't she?

She looks scary, doesn’t she?

Oh, and our return trip? I was wearing the same pants. Same bra. Similar shirt. Different airport. No beep.

We made it safely, and my daughter wasn’t felt up by a stranger. While I felt triumphant in that fact I worry that there are other parents out there, eager to get where they are going, who are in the same situation and who won’t stand up for themselves.

What would you do if your toddler/children were requested to have a pat down? Has this ever happened to you?

Here are some tips to navigate through TSA as seamlessly as possible, as well as their official site:

-Look for the family line. Often airports have a line where families can wait, and while they don’t do anything different you can relax more knowing everyone in line with you has kids too, and will take as long as you do

-Kids under 12 don’t need to remove their shoes, only we found out that some airports make them remove boots, so during winter months be prepared to remove their boots if asked

-You can bring a ‘reasonable’ amount of baby food/liquids over the 3 oz rule. Make sure you get it out to present it to the TSA agents, and they may randomly check them.

-If you are wearing your baby you can wear them through security. We have had some TSA agents tell us that we couldn’t but according to their rules you can, but you may be subject to extra screening.

-Prepare your kids for security. Let them know that their lovey/blankie/bag/stroller will be going through the x-ray machine. We have had many moments of sadness when our son’s stuffed sheep was placed on the conveyor belt, even with knowing ahead of time it would happen.

-Some airports ask you to remove your iPad, some don’t, but you always have to remove your laptop from your bag. We remove both just to cover all our bases.

-Try to get your kids to walk through on their own. It can keep the story above from happening and makes them feel grown up!

-Finally, always remember, they have the power. Stay calm and know you will get through it, babies and kids and stuff and all!

Photo Friday: Through Their Eyes

One of the benefits of exposing your kids to travel is to see things differently. Kids spot things you don’t, they see the beauty in the mundane and, quite frankly, they are smaller so their eye level is different from yours and as such they see flowers and butterflies and bugs and treasures and things our eyes may quickly scan over. We have learned to take the time to see what they see, to stop and look at the things that excite them, to recognize that their way of seeing things is always different from our own.

It seemed only natural that since I almost always have a camera attached to my hand that our son, F, would want one of his own. Since his first choice would be to use mine (and that won’t happen) and his second choice is my iPhone, which he has on his own learned how to take pictures with, open instagram and post on, we decided he needed his own camera, and so my parents got him one for Christmas. It has been so fun to see the pictures he takes, and while they aren’t artistically the best pictures they represent him and who he is at this point in his life and, more importantly, how he sees the world.

Using his own camera to take pictures

Using his own camera to take pictures

Using his own camera to take pictures

Using his own camera to take pictures

His camera is the VTech Kidizoom Camera, given to him by his Grammy and Papi, but there are many other kids camera options out there!

This post is part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby

 

An Open Letter To Fellow Fliers

I have learned I have to stop reading the comments on articles or blog posts about families traveling. Inevitably there are comments that run the gamut of ‘suggestions’ to families who are flying but almost always include the fact that they think babies, toddlers and kids shouldn’t fly, period. And it irritates me. I have complained about this for years, and after a particularly long trip back from Jackson Hole, Wyoming a few years ago, with just me and my son, I wrote an impassioned letter to fellow fliers in the world on my personal blog. After reading a comment in the same vein as above on this piece (which is a discussion in itself) I think it is a good time to repost my letter. Sometimes traveling with kids is difficult. Sometimes it makes you weary. And sometimes you just want a little compassion from those around you.

Hi! Remember me? The frazzled mom with a toddler hanging off my front, a backpack carrier on my back, and a stroller full of bags in front of me? No? Well my face isn’t actually important. In fact, substitute backpack carrier with baby bag and stroller with car seat and I could be any of thousands of parents who travel with their kids by air. You know us. The ones you grimace at and silently plead to whichever God you believe in that we don’t, gasp, have seats next to you. The ones who you seldom, if ever, offer to help, as you are all cosily tucked into your seat and all you really care about is that my son doesn’t spit up on you, shriek too loudly or that you don’t get hit with one of our many, many items that we are forced to carry on board. I realize you probably wonder why we have so many things? Well for that I blame you, since us parents feel a tremendous amount of pressure to keep our children occupied and quiet so as not to disturb you, and if that means bags of snacks, toys and books, then so be it.

See, what baffles me is that you can sit and watch and even discuss amongst your friends how you can’t believe how much stuff I have, and you wonder how I do it. How do I know you do this? Well besides the fact that you aren’t always quiet, well, as a mom I now have eyes in the back of my head and can see you doing it. I may have a toddler but that doesn’t make me blind, deaf or dumb. I see you standing up in the Gate and moving to another seat, as far away from little toddler hands as you can go. I see you looking me up and down and shaking your head out of disbelief. I see it. We all see it. What you don’t see is that it makes you look like a first class jerk.

But here’s the thing. Most of you probably have kids. Or grandkids. Or nieces and nephews. But even if you don’t, well, for Gods sake, you were a child once too. And while your family may not have traveled by air with you, times, well, they are a changing. We travel. We have family that live in another country. We want to see the world. We want to expose our child to the world and teach him not to be such a stick in the mud so that when he grows up he won’t think that all kids are loud and germy and dirty. And guess what? Kids over 2 don’t fly for free. And parents never fly for free. So while you sit and enjoy your cocktail remember that we too have paid our own way and have just as much right to be sitting next to you, in Coach or First Class.

Enjoy your flight, and we will talk when we land, because you know what?  You will be the ones saying to me how good my son was on the plane, how you didn’t hear him at all, and what a good traveler he is. I will be standing there, trying to hoist him up in his ergo, while subsequently grabbing 1,657 cars from the ground and zipping up the car seat. Quite frankly I don’t need your praise. I needed your understanding about, oh, 3 hours ago. Once we land I really don’t care.

And to the select few who sympathize, who ask if they can help, who smile and say ‘I know, I have kids’, well, Bless you. Bless you. Bless you. Cause you have no idea how simply offering to help or letting me know I am not alone can change my mood.

Finally, at the end of this rant, let’s all remember that all those faceless parents you see flying most definitely have way more apprehension about their flight than you do about sitting next to them. So put on your Bose headphones, sip your wine, and dodge the Cheerios. Because, at least for this family, we are going to continue to fly, and I refuse to be bullied into feeling bad about it anymore.

Preparing For A Kid-Free Vacation

As much as we love family travel there is definitely something to be said for a trip without kids. In fact, I can say lots of things – sleeping in, staying up late, less luggage, nice fancy restaurants, eating dinner after 5:30, well, you get the picture! We have always made an effort, with the generosity of grandparents who are always willing to babysit without complaint, to get away a few times a year, usually for weekend trips. Our first was when F was 6 months old and we did a weekend jaunt to Paris (ah, this is what I miss about living in London!) and since then we have done many.

Three years ago we had the opportunity to do a long trip to Asia, as my husband had to be in China, without F. This was before we had our daughter, and we knew if we were going to be all the way over there we would have to add in some countries, so we made a SE Asia itinerary and off to Thailand, Laos and Cambodia we went.

But through all our planning it dawned on us that we really had never left proper instructions and forms for our children, and that with a trip that long, and a distance that far away, we needed to cover all our bases in case of emergency. It seemed very overwhelming to make sure we left all the right ‘things’, but once it was done I felt a tremendous sense of relief that if something happened while we were gone F would be okay.

First, make sure you have a will. It is not pleasant to think about something happening to you while travel, but living in a realistic world it is better to be safe than sorry. We didn’t have enough time to have a will drafted by an attorney but we did do one online, and took it to our attorney to, well, make legal. It included medical directives for both my husband and I, as well as guardian information for our son and future children.

Second, make sure you have your medical insurance up to date and leave the cards out and easily accessible by whomever is watching your children. (I realize this only applies to the US and other countries that do not have nationalized healthcare) We also contacted our pediatrician who sent us a form to fill out authorizing our parents to take F in to see them. Some doctors may not have a specific form, but it is best to check to see if yours does. We also typed up, printed out and notarized a letter stating that our parents had permission to take F to the hospital and make medical decisions on our behalf, in case they needed to take him to the Children’s Hospital. The same should be done for the dentist as well. They had the addresses and information for the pharmacy so if he needed a prescription they could get it filled with no issues.

Third, all of the medicine that could possibly have been needed, as well as dosage amounts, were written down and left out in case they were needed. Since most kids medicines are based on weight it was important to make sure they knew exactly what should be given if needed.

Fourth, we left out our car insurance information, as well as our AAA card, in case the car broke down or there was an accident while we were gone.

Fifth, I bought a cheap paper calendar and filled out his schedule every day, with incredible detail, from school to meal options to playdates. While I have complete confidence in both sets of our parents it is always nice to make sure they know exactly what they need to do at certain times. I also left out all our membership cards for different museums and play areas, so they could take him to do some fun stuff without having to worry about paying for it.

Sixth, we had our laptop set up with Skype and ready to go, so we could make calls and see him before he went to bed. I am sure they could have easily figured out how to do it themselves but since we knew we would want to see him every day it was better not to leave it to chance!

Finally, we left copies of our itineraries, hotel info, flight info and copies of our passports at home.

All of this likely seems intuitive, but I know for us we were usually so excited and ready to get away on a kid free weekend we had never really thought about making sure all our i’s were dotted and t’s were crossed. And, wouldn’t you know it, as soon as we landed in Thailand, after 20+ hours of travel and a 12 hour time difference, we found out that F was sick, really sick, and he did have to be taken to the doctor, and get a prescription, and it broke my heart to be so far away – but knowing he was well taken care of, and they had everything they could possibly need, made it easier!

What do you do to prepare for a trip without kids?

This is part of Travel Tips Tuesday at Suitcases and Sippy Cups and Walking On Travels

Photo Friday: Babywearing Around The World

When we first had our son, F, I knew I wanted to have a carrier I could wear him in. At that time all I really knew about was the baby bjorn, so we got one before he was born, practiced on a stuffed animal, and once he was born wore him all the time. While I didn’t know then that it wasn’t the most comfortable carrier it certainly came in handy when we traveled, which we started doing with a trip to Spain and Portugal when he was 10 weeks old.

Since then we have added many different carriers to our collection, and besides using them on a daily basis when our daughter L was born, I realized how helpful it is to bring one, even with her at 2 years old, especially when we travel on a red eye flight. We pack our umbrella stroller  and throw in our Beco carrier and when we land with two sleepy children we can put our 5 year old in the stroller (he is too tired to complain!) and I wear L and everyone is happy!

Spain

Spain

Portugal

Portugal

Portugal

Portugal

Biltmore Estate

Biltmore Estate

Whitley Bay, UK

Whitley Bay, UK

Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam

Jackson Hole

Jackson Hole

Virginia

Virginia

North Georgia Mountains

North Georgia Mountains

Tynemouth, UK

Tynemouth, UK

Atlanta airport after long flight from Amsterdam

Atlanta airport after long flight from Amsterdam

Do your babies/toddlers like to be worn? Where around the world have you worn them?

This post is part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby; R We There Yet Mom; and Budget Travelers Sandbox