Thursday, July 29, 2010

Flying with kids

Flying with kids is sure exciting. When we showed up at the airport here they informed us our flight was delayed due to bad weather and that we'd have to take the red eye, arriving in Baltimore at 6:30 a.m. Well that didn't work for us (I just knew Levi would scream the whole way), so we had them keep checking for other options. There were other flights, but none of them had 6 empty seats. We ended up flying into New York instead. We were planning on driving up for the pageant anyway, so it seemed like a great solution. My brother Aaron helped us find a hotel, but the problem was that there weren't any rental cars big enough for us in New York - no minivans or SUV's; so we flew there not knowing what we'd do when we arrived. We got in at 1:00 in the morning, and when we called all the national rental companies, they still had nothing. Apparently no one in NY owns a car; they just rent them on the weekends. Someone suggested we call the local rental companies anyway - they had none (at this point we were beginning to think we would be sleeping in the airport or renting 2 little cars), but finally Hertz said they did have a couple of minivans. What an answer to prayer!

The flying itself went amazingly well, there and back. Everyone wore a backpack with all their own clothes, activities and snacks. We checked one large suitcase and two car seats (which are free, by the way), and Dave and I each had a carry-on. The boys did incredibly well. They had their own row, ordered their own drinks, drew pictures, watched movies (Diary of a Wimpy Kid on the way home - they were so excited), ate snacks and generally kept themselves occupied. Levi was a bit squirmy, but he only cried a few times and even took a couple of small naps. I nursed him during take-off and landing to help with his ears and fed him snacks the rest of the time. All the flight attendants were super nice and helpful. Our trip to NY was a light flight, and they brought the boys ice cream left over from 1st class (with hot fudge and whipped cream on real dishes), and sent us away with warm cookies and cans of soda. Here are some things I've learned about flying with kids:

1. Pack light. We joke that the more kids we have, the less we pack. Everyone only needs a few outfits - then plan on doing laundry every few days. Otherwise you'll get overwhelmed with clothes. Only pack enough diapers for the trip and plan on buying more when you get there. Don't pack a bunch of stuff "just in case." Instead, remember that they will have stores where you're going, and you can always buy it there if you need to. When you're traveling with kids, your arms will be full going to and from the airport, to the car rental place, and on shuttles and trains. The less you are carrying, the better.

2. Strollers are a good idea for in the airport, since they let you check it right at the plane and pick it up as soon as you get off. Ask people you're staying with (if you're staying with people) to round up things like cribs and high chairs for you. They'll probably know someone they can borrow it from, if they don't have it themselves.

3. Bring just a few activities for the plane. Each child had 1 activity book/notepad and a pencil and/or a few crayons. We packed a portable DVD player also, which came in handy on our long car trips while we were there. And bring lots of snacks. You never know if food will be available or if there will be delays, and everyone gets cranky when they're hungry.

4. If flying early in the morning, rent a hotel room close to the airport. This makes a huge difference. For our 6:30 a.m. flight home we stayed at Sleep Inn and Suites (which slept 7! so hard to find) by BWI, and Dave was able to turn in the rental van the night before while I got everyone ready for bed. Then we took the hotel shuttle to the airport early the next morning, which saved us a lot of time. When traveling with kids, the less you try to do on flying day the better.

5. Get up and walk around often on the plane. It's hard for kids to sit still in a confined space for 5 1/2 hours. Heck, it's hard for me to sit that long. So we took several potty breaks and even just hung out in the back with the flight attendants. I don't know if they want people to do that, but they didn't seem to mind. In fact they were super chatty and even held Levi for me while I helped Brennan in the bathroom. Whenever Levi got fussy, this calmed him down.

6. I didn't do it this time, but I sure wished I had: pack cups with lids, even if your child has grown out of them. Those silly little plastic cups on those tiny little trays spill so easily! Especially when you're holding a squirmy baby or getting in and out of your seat.

7. You know how they don't let you take water through security? Well they let us take a water bottle "for the baby." There are special privileges when traveling with infants, so it's always worth asking.

8. Have your kids wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off for going through security. And give yourself plenty of time. It's always more stressful when you're rushed.

9. Make it fun for the kids. If you act like it's going to be stressful, it probably will be. But if you really talk it up with them, it will feel more like a fun adventure. And then if something goes wrong, have them pray with you that it will turn out okay. My boys were praying hard that we'd be able to get a rental van and a hotel room in New York, and they were watching us close to see our reaction to the situation. When everything worked out, they were so happy. Then they immediately suggested we say a prayer of thanks.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Saint George Island, MD

Next we drove 8 hours down to Piney Point, Maryland to stay at a beach house with Dave's entire family. The house they usually rent is too small for the whole group, so his mom found one big enough to accomadate 27 people. It was on Saint George Island, which has a very narrow stretch of land connecting it to the mainland. I imagine it wouldn't take much to get flooded, since the water went right up to the road. It's actually on the Potomac River, right where it meets the Chesapeake Bay. We could just barely see Virginia on the other side.

We got to meet a couple new cousins - here's Mary/Brian's son Kai, 19 months old.

And Thomas/Angie's new baby Teresa, 1 month

We introduced Levi to everyone. He was so good! He took super long naps (I was worried because he will usually only sleep in his own bed), and even let other people hold him. Good job, baby!

My boys pretty much lived in the water for a whole week.

And it was even warm enough for Dave to get in.

I love this picture Dave's mom posted on Facebook of Christine and Dave on the kayak. They went out to see a bunch of dolphins.


Chicken fight!

Dave and his youngest sister, Elizabeth.

Mary and Kai

Christine, Celestial and Dave

They got 2 bushels of Maryland Blue Crabs while we were there. That's a lot of crabs!

The boys got to help put the squirmy crabs into the pot.

Occasionally they'd escape and try to crawl away, which added to the excitement.

Steamed with lots of Old Bay, of course.

Dave reminded the boys how to eat them (it's been a couple of years), and then they took off!

One night Spencer & Tyler stayed up 'till 11:00 eating crabs! Dave's sisters said they were very thorough and really cleaned them out.

We stayed up way too late every night, so Dave & I took turns getting up with Levi at 6:00. Here's a sunrise on one of my early days.

Fishing off the pier with grandma

We were in the big house right in front, which had awesome views out of all the windows.

When they weren't swimming, they were playing games with their cousins. Here they are with Luke, 7.

Spencer mostly hung out with the big cousins, Andrew and Noah. They're a few years older, but they all got along great. They even stayed up 'till 1:00 in the morning playing Scrabble one night. And there were several very lengthy games of Risk.

Levi and Christine

Alicia's son Blaize came halfway through the week.

Jumping off the pier.

It was Dallin's idea, but it took him a while to build up enough courage. After that he spent the rest of the time doing it.

Crystal and Kat, who celebrated her birthday there.


Crystal with Trinity and Kevin

The water was constantly changing. Sometimes it was totally smooth. Other times there were big waves. It probably had something to do with the tide.

Brian and Kai

What a fun week! I kept my boys covered in sunscreen, but each day they got tanner and more freckley - is that a word?

Then on Saturday we drove a couple hours to my brother's house and stayed with them for a few days. Tyler, Dallin and Brennan all got sick Sunday morning with fevers, but luckily it only lasted 24 hours. They felt well enough to go swimming with their cousins Monday, and then we flew home Tuesday.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Rochester, NY

We went to the Strong Museum in Rochester, which is the 2nd largest children's museum in the country! They get a lot of winter there and need fun indoor places for kids. And our local children's museum membership got us in for free, which is pretty cool.

This place was AMAZING. It just kept going and going, and the kids had a blast. We could have spent a whole day in each section, but we had to move along.

The Sesame Street section was one of my favorites.
Okay, this was really fun. They had a green screen for the kids to stand in front of, facing this small monitor. They got to choose a character to talk to, and they were put into the picture with them.

Then they had several larger monitors for everyone else to watch. So clever.

I can't tell you how many dress-up places there were. And several performance stages. Every time I saw Brennan, he was wearing a different outfit.
There was something for everyone there, and they played hard for hours.
This was a crazy fun game. We had to fill the trays with food on the conveyor belt before it went behind the machine. Everyone was yelling and running back and forth with the food. It was quite a group effort.

There was so many different themed sections. Here's the Berenstein Bears room, and the characters were walking all over the museum.

We ended with the super hero room. My boys loved it, but Jill's girls were less interested, so they left to ride the carousel. My boys, on the other hand, couldn't care less about the rows and rows of vintage Barbies and dolls.

We took turns climbing the walls like Spiderman.

There was lots of cool architecture everywhere. One of Dave's favorite sections was the old video games. He even got to play Atari.

Afterwards we went out to dinner and said good-bye to our friends. We had so much fun staying with Sherry. She's so sweet with our boys, and they adored her cat Gus. She has a special place in our hearts, since she's the one who introduced me and Dave to each other almost 16 years ago. She also introduced me to Jill, who later became my roommate and other best friend at college.

Craig and Jill and their girls, Avery (3) and Madison (5). They drove up from Pennsylvania to hang out with us and see Sherry's new house. It was a great weekend. The next time we go there we want to make sure we go to Niagra Falls, which is just an hour and a half away from Rochester.