Saturday, December 6, 2014

What I would do if I won the lottery: December 2014 edition

I keep this running list of things I'd like to do if we hit it REALLY big in the lottery. We don't play often - Ryan's rule is only if the mega millions is over $100,000,000 (that's a LOT of zeros). But every few months I text him with something I'd like to add to our list if we win. Here are this month's latest desires:

  • A house in Alaska, to vacation in for the summer. I so miss Alaska!
  • An everyday house in Ann Arbor or Plymouth with lots of treed land. A spacious ranch would be great. Even in Canton, a spacious ranch on a nice plot of land would make me happy.
  • Some (ok, a lot) land to create a public park. I'd like it to be treed, lots of hiking areas for a variety of needs, educational, and accessible.
  • A car to just give away to someone who needs it. 
  • Money to start up a cloth diapering, babywearing, and natural parenting store in Canton or Plymouth since Ann Arbor already has two.
  • Money for Ryan to start a woodworking store. Our stores could be side by side and share childcare! 
What would you do with a mega millions win? 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Traveling solo with kids

Last month the boys and I went to visit my mother-in-law Denise for her birthday. Ryan had to work, so it was just me, a four year old, a three month old, two car seats, one large suitcase, a backpack, my purse, and one child-sized backpack.

Crazy, right? Here are some tips I learned for traveling solo as a parent.

Slept through his whole first flight.
Barrett slept through his whole first plane ride. We opted to buy him a seat on the plane instead of checking his car seat - more about why I did that below. Also: this is before we took off. ETA: The straps are twisted and the chest piece to his harness is not correctly located! Please always make sure straps are straightened and that the chest piece is around armpit level. I wish I had a photo of his correct positioning but for some reason I don't.
1.) Strategize. How much can you carry? How far can you carry it? Is there a way to make carrying it easier? Can someone stay with the kids in the car at the airport while you run in to check your luggage/print boarding passes/go to the restroom/have a drink? (Just kidding on that last one.)

Griffin, 4, is in a Diono radian car seat. That thing is a beast. It's the heaviest car seat on the market. But, it has backpack straps. So carrying it through the airport didn't intimidate me as much. The infant bucket seat with a baby in it is super cumbersome to carry, so I wrapped the baby and carried the seat.

 2.) Plan for extra time. Something is going to come up and you're sure to need it. I had counted on curb checking our suitcase both ways, and as it turned out, it wasn't an option either way. On the way out it was a moment of panic as I tried to figure out how I was going to grow extra arms and muscles to carry it all. It took some time to figure out a plan and I was glad we didn't have to rush on top of everything else.

You will also need extra time upon arrival because most likely you'll have to install both car seats in the airport pick up lane while waiting on your luggage. Take the seats out to the car (have someone wait  with you) and install them; put the kids in, and by then your luggage should be out. This was the most stressful part of the trip for me because I'm a fanatic about proper installation (and even so, it wasn't until we got to my MIL's house that I realized I had totally forgotten the top tether to Griffin's seat!) and I needed a good fit. 

3.) Bring cash. The biggest asset when traveling alone with kids is the airport staff. Those people who push wheelchairs through the airport? They survive on tips. And they will save you. One gentleman was like Hercules and carried all of our stuff except for the kids through the whole airport; he saved us time in line, a baggage fee, helped us through security. His help, and all the other airport personal we found, was worth every penny. At DTW and MCO there are no baggage carts past security, so I had to rely on these people to help.

4.) Don't be afraid to ask for help. People have had kids and been in your spot - they're happy to help. In my experience, women were particularly helpful. On the way back, our gate changed. There was no way I could carry all of that even 4 gates over; the lady next to me carried a car seat and entertained my son.  Then he needed to go to the bathroom and had to ask the airline worker to watch our stuff. Another woman helped me carry the seat onto the plan, and one of the stewardesses on the way to Orlando not only carried the giant car seat but safely installed it for us, too. It was a serious lesson in humanity - there are some really good people out there.

5.) Bring entertainment. Griffin is really into numbers and letters so we did a lot of practice with those. I brought coloring books, the iPad with new games, books to read, and small toys to play pretend with. We chatted about our trip, looked out the window, ordered a fun snack to kill time. It was surprisingly easy. He slept on the way home in part due to being in his regular car seat. It was great.

Airplane artist.

6.) Be realistic. Kids will cry. They will kick the chair and pull down the tray table after you've told them a zillion times not to. You will be stressed and frustrated. But honestly, this happened when we were two adults and one kid so it's not unique to this situation. Flying is always stressful.

7.) Have an awesome attitude! You got this! Just think of how much fun you're going to have!

Barrett didn't need a ticket for a seat.  But a few things factored into that decision for me. First was his safety and the safety of his car seat. Planes are notoriously safe, but there are some exceptional circumstances that are dangerous for all, especially a baby in arms. Things - babies or not - in arms during turbulence become dangerous for both the item (or baby!) and others. Instead of rehashing the details about why I don't think checking the car seat is ever a great idea, check out this link from the car seat experts.  I rely on the car seat to keep him safe, and need the peace of min. 

Secondly,  the seat was stripped down when I bought it directly through Spirit - no luggage, no extra room, no assigned seat. That made it pretty affordable. Additionally, he doesn't sit up on his own so if I were to need to use the restroom on the plane, I'd have to bring him AND hold him. Thankfully that wasn't an issue.

And all that effort? It made a moment like this possible. Worth every second of stress.
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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Thankful November 2014

I've been mostly doing these on facebook, but thought it would be nice to collect them here, too, for the future.

Day 1: I'm thankful for my Griffin, who has already taught me so many lessons and had forever changed who I am.

Day 2: I'm so grateful for my Bear. Not a day goes by that I don't thank the universe for him and all his baby wonderfulness.

Day 3: I'm thankful for this time off that affords me the luxury of snuggling with Bear on a hike with a friend. The trails are so lovely this time of year.

Day 4: Thankful for Ryan Whiteside for so very many reasons...even if he does cheat at Trouble.

Day 5: Every time I wear one of my boys (now everyday with B) I'm grateful for babywearing. The snuggles and closeness are unparalleled -- there's is nothing like having that tiny body curled into yours in a cozy and beautiful wrap. It connects me with my ancestors and grounds me. I feel so fortunate to have found something that warms my heart so much.

Day 6: so grateful to have this whole year off with B.

Day 7: I'm thankful for long hikes, Hike it Baby, and the adorable hats Erin has made us.

Day 8: Thankful for my family to be able to have healthy food to eat when so many go hungry.

Day 9: Thankful for the celebration of growing families.

Day 10: Thankful for technology. In the chaos that was today it made my life 10x easier.

Day 11: Thankful for all veterans, especially my hubby. I definitely appreciate the sacrifices these men and women make for our freedom.

Also super thankful for all the people who helped up through the airport today -- from the attendant who carried EVERYTHING to the mama who bought me coffee to the college girl who entertained Griffin -- we met so many helpful souls today.

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Where have I been?

It's funny how it always seemed like work was the interferrance with the things I wanted to do; and while it's true that work takes up a tremendous amount of time and energy,  I still find myself yearning for extra hours in the day. It's not that I'm sitting at home doing nothing; taking care of a baby is a lot of work, and we've been really trying to do things like run errands during the day and go on daily hikes. But somehow we still don't have a lot of time in the day between feedings, changings, and snugglings. I guess we are always greedy for more time, no matter how much we have. That makes us voracious for life, right?

That being said, I can't believe it's been so long since I've blogged. There is so much to write about!  I forgot Bear's 3 month letter! I don't know where the time has gone. If I was sticking to my original maternity leave I would be going back to work in just over a week.  Barrett still seems so tiny and snugly, I just couldn't imagine leaving him. It was somehow easier the first time. It's nice that FMLA gives a mother 12 weeks, but we're really fortunate to be able to take those and more. Even at 12 weeks, it's not enough. If our country wants to improve its citizens and education, we have to start with parental leave. Nothing can replace that.

Anyway, here's what we've been up to in more specifics:

Untitled Hikes. Barrett and I are doing this program called Hike It Baby and they have a 30 day challenge. In thirty days you hike thirty miles. "Hiking" is a loose term including anything from genuine wilderness hikes to walking around the block; the purpose is just to get babies outside.

There are local chapters of Hike It Baby, and we're lucky enough to have one down the street in Ann Arbor. They lead hikes in places you might not have explored and it's great to have a group of mamas with you.

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It has been wonderful for Barrett and I - I adore that it's an excuse to wrap him, and the fresh air has definitely done us both good. It gives us something to do and work towards everyday. I feel healthier and more at peace with our time outside. He stares at the trees and is quiet as can be, often sleeping through the majority of our hikes but that's ok. We've seen 5 deer so far. Costco had a great deal on a Jawbone UP band and that, combined with my iPhone, has helped us track our walks. So far this month we have 8 miles, meaning we're a few days ahead of schedule. I'm hoping to surpass the 30 mile goal but our trip may make that difficult (or easier, depending on how we look at it).

The weather has been perfect for hikes, too - it's the perfect temperature once we get moving. B is snug as a bug in a rug while wrapped (I try to keep his bald head covered!) and keeps me warm, too. It'll be harder as the weather gets colder, I'm sure, but for now it's been absolutely perfect.

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Barrett has been growing up a storm. He's quick to smile these days, and still just as laid back. He loves babbling first thing in the morning and I'm rooting for his first word to be mama. There's a lot of flailing limbs but he's discovered his hands are DELICIOUS and that he can flail just enough to grab onto some toys. It's pretty cute.

So that's what we've been up to. Next week the boys and I leave for Florida and will venture to Disney with their grandma for the first time. Griffin is SUPER excited.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Griffin's first Lego kit.

IMG_6837 I have been waiting four long years for this moment. With baited breath, I've been dying for the moment where the love of Legos finally hits our house and settles in. The box of gifted Legos has sat on the toy shelf a long time with nary a glance from Griffin, even when friends hop with excitement as I pull them down. And this week, the moment happened when Duplos became too easy and a love for Legos was finally born.

I think it was the trip to Legoland in Chicago that inspired this urge to build, and this is a set I actually bought there (it was one of those, "just-in-case-we-REALLY-need-a-distraction" purchases). He spied it on the counter and immediately asked to build it. It was the perfect thing to do while Brother Bear slept peacefully in his bouncer.

We checked out the directions together, and Griffin used his emerging knowledge of letters and numbers to help with the directions. He actually put most of the Spider-Man glider together himself - he probably did steps one through eleven alone, and asked me to complete the last two with the tiny pieces. His attention to detail and ability to manipulate such tiny pieces was impressive.

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IMG_6841 He was tickled at the finished product, and hasn't stopped playing with it. These Legos have pretty much traveled everywhere with us since their creation. And I realized that my love for Legos never included these sets - all my Lego creations were originals because I just had one giant tub of them (and am so sad they disappeared when I left for college). I'm trying hard not to be that obsessive mom who doesn't want him to lose a piece. It's not about the final product, is it? It's totally about the creation. I love the creativeness he gets from working with these. So much, in fact, that I don't even mind stepping on a Lego or two with a barefoot. At least not yet, anyway.