Travelling with Kids – Paris

In 2004 Hubby and I took B, A and a 4-month old Tt to Paris for one whole week. It was fantastic! And, naturally, we learned a bit more about travelling with KIDS.

.

1. Show them where you’re going. When it’s far away, it can be difficult for Kids to realize quite where you’re actually going. We took the time prior to going to show them where we were going and to talk about a bit of the history.

dsc_7575

(Fly RED-EYES! Both our recent flights to Europe we left YVR at 9pm, and the kids ALL slept the whole way over – ahhhhhh.) (Ask for a bulkhead seat if you have a basinette-sized baby – you have somewhere to put them while they sleep. British Airways even had a basinette to put Tt in)

2. Give them a bit of history. Because Paris has just so much history, I knew we would end up at the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and a few other places for sure. I put together a little “handout” with just 2 or 3 interesting facts about each thing. Keep it short – better they learn a bit then think the entire vacation is a bore. (The boys will be different – by virtue of homeschooling they’ll be using travel as school, whereas for the girls it was meant to be a break from school/work).

dsc_7586

(Turn a chore into fun galore! We made a “going up the hill” drama for a regular hill we had to climb to get to a Metro. It was funny and silly)

3. Don’t bother trying to see EVERYTHING. If it’s that great a place, you’ll go back one day. And if you don’t, oh well. There is so much we could have seen while in PARIS, but we chose to try to see one or two things each day, which I had pre-researched. This allowed us have “empty” time to relax and walk aimlessly a little bit each day, when we’d find a few unplanned treasure spots.

dsc_7576

(We decided to learn calligraphy during our trip – it kind of fit in w/ the “old” aspect of Paris. We bought little leather-bound books and a pen while we were there.)

4. Keep each persons interests in mind. I purposely tried to find 1 or 2 things for each of our personal interests. For B it was the Catacombs (I stayed “up” on land w/ Tt enjoying a cafe au lait – see? Something for everyone 😉 ). For A it was a mall (yes, we went all the way to Paris to walk a mall…). For Husband it was a Park to relax (and nap?) in. For me… well, just being there was for me.

dsc_7592

(We took a few sketch books with us – everyone HAD to draw, even Daddy, which of course made it all very, very funny…)

5. Mind the stairs. Tt was only 4 months, so there really wasn’t a whole lot to consider on his behalf. He was content to sit in his stroller, I managed to breastfeed whenever he needed (did I get nasty french glares? who knows, who paid attention, who cares) and other than the first night there was little time-change lag. The one thing we DID plan for was carrying the stroller… THERE ARE NO LIFTS when you need them in Europe. We took only a small easily collapsible umbrella stroller and got the hang quickly of grabbing a side each and just hauling up and down stairs to the Metro etc.

dsc_7580

6. Learn a bit of the Language. Well, I did happen to remember just enough French to get us by, but when my French failed me and we got some grotesque raw steak for dinner, we just laughed and went with the flow. What can you do? I tried teaching the girls/Husband a few words, but to no avail.

7. Do at least one thing “special”. For us, this was a Lunch cruise on the Seine. It was pretty pricey, but we got to dress up (with some of our new things we’d bought!), have some great food and see the City from a new angle.

dsc_7603

(While doing that one thing special, I learned not to get upset if everything doesn’t go to plan… We arrived with our tickets only to find they wanted to charge full child admission for Tt, who, obviously, wasn’t even going to get a chair much less eat… We just paid it and let it go, as getting overly upset and arguing would have just ruined the experience for all of us)

8. Allow for mis-haps. Take it all in stride. If you get stressed, the kids get stressed. When we left, we’d left an important document at home. Fortunately we’d arrived at the airport 3 hrs early and had enough time to RUSH a cab home. B and I had to break a window to get in (longer story), but I refused to be stressed and we just laughed. As we were waiting to take off, Tt pooped. Huge. All over. And I couldn’t get up because the “seatbelt” sign was still on. Disgust, sure, but then laughter.

dsc_7601

(As part of our “something for everyone” approach, we treated the girls to a day at EuroDisney! Although it wasn’t sooo nice as our California park, it was a fun, fun day.)

9. Allow for Rest. We purposely didn’t plan much for the first day, assuming we would be tired, would want to sleep in and recover a bit. We also tried to have some “downtime” in the hotel each day. It seems such a waste to spend precious time abroad sitting in your (tiny) hotel room, but it was worth it to reduce Husband crankiness!

dsc_7595

(We all appreciated a little mid-day down time. SURE, we could have seen more if we’d just GO, GO, GO, but I think we enjoyed what we did see that much better with lots of rest)

10. Pack extra clothes – for just about everyone. On our flight over, we SHOULD have packed: extra jammies for Tt (he pooped all over his); extra top + pants for Momma (he pooped all over mine); relaxing “airplane” clothes to change out of once we landed so we could feel at least a little bit fresh; and those small rollup slippers for each of us because even though it’s carpeted, 2 hrs into an 11 hr flight the floor is just plain gross.

dsc_7589dsc_7588

Advertisements

Travelling with Kids – Disneyland

A few years back Husband and I took B + A to Disneyland. They were about 7 and 10 at the time, and had been many a time before. Anyhow, it was MY first time travelling with kids, and I learned a lot both about kids and the “happiest” place on earth (my opinion – it’d be a whole lot happier without all them grouchy/pushy/rude parents!!).

SADLY, I cannot find the scrapbook to add photos!! I’m crushed! This trip was our FIRST (of very many) scrapbook, and we all spent the entire weekend searching about the house because it means a lot to all of us. If/WHEN I do find that book ‘o good times, I’ll repost with MUCH better pictures… For now, this “summary” page in another book was all I could find to rip off really bad fuzzy photos.

dsc_7383

1. Find your own food. We found a little fruit stand outside the park and just brought stuff in. I also had packed a small case of our own food from home – juice boxes, paris toasts (those super hard crunchy ones) with some jam, snack bars. It was extra packing, but it sure came in handy, especially when the kids were hungry NOW. Plus we ate faaaar less junk or expensive room service.

2. Allow the odd bad mood. Anyone can hit a bad mood, at any time, even on the best of days. Especially so with kids who are over-amped, over-sugared, over-excited. It’s a high that they’ll fall from at some point each day. So, we allowed the odd nasty mood (there weren’t many), joked about it, reminded them of the kind of behavior we wanted to see, and left it at that. I’ll never forget B’s refusal in a bad mood to smile for one pic, so we drew a huge a smile with jiffy marker on her face later and put it in the scrapbook. We still laugh about that one to this day.

3. Break up the day. Disneyland is an overwhelming place at any age! We always took time in the middle of the day to just laze around the hotel pool, order a nice, leisurely lunch, let Husband have a quick nap, change and head back over to the BIG park.

dsc_7378

4. Scrapbook! We brought a separate clear plastic box with some colored pencils, scissors, Disney stickers and tape/glue, and had bought the girls a polariod camera before leaving. FUN! Because the girls were smaller, we didn’t spend too many late nights out, so our pre-bed time was spent relaxing, rehashing our day ‘o fun and crafting. On the girls previous trips, apparently the focus was often on what toys/things they could buy – with the scrapbook, we were more focused on what kinds of garbage could be made into a cool memory (old fast passes, lunch receipts, things off the ground) (yep, even a plum pit). If we had missed a funny moment w/ the polaroid, we’d just try to cartoon it out. Not only was it fun, the girls spent the entire flight home showing it to random passengers on the airplane (sorry, you terribly patient people!).

5. Make sure everyone gets a half-day of JUST THEIR PICKS. Even the grown-ups! This not only taught everyone about “taking turns”, but the girls were learning how to graciously enjoy someone else’s picks even if it wasn’t “their favorite”. And, it made each of us, in turn, feel like it was their special “day”.

6. Buy a treat. Even though our focus on scrapbooking took the focus almost entirely off the shops, we did allow the girls to pick out 1 main treat each from the shops on one of our last days there. That way they had the days prior to look at ALL the choices and make ONE decision, rather than picking every single thing that caught their eye in every shop.

7. Take it easy. One other thing that made the trip so enjoyable, was that we never felt like we had to hit every single thing in the park on one trip. We hit all the big things once, our favorites twice, and promised to go back again soon for whatever we missed. It was so nice not to rush about. It was also nice to not feel so pressured to get there RIGHT when it opened and stay until RIGHT when it closed. We got our money’s worth just based on enjoyment factor.

dsc_7381

8. Bring some things to do. Yes, it’s a big, huge theme park. Yes, there’s a lot to do. But there’s also time in the hotel room while Hubby and I were getting things ready, in the afternoons while Hubby was napping, or in the evenings when we were just RESTING. The kids still needed some things to do. Our special thing was to make these beaded bracelets on elastic to match our bathing suits. We even started using them as a game in the pool, dropping the colorful cords to the bottom and diving to get them.

dsc_7380

9. Whistle a happy tune. We tried to make everything part of the fun. Even standing in line for the shuttle to the hotel. While others got grouchy waiting (and waiting, and waiting…) in the hot sun, we made up a really silly “bus” song that we sang every time to pass the time. To help A get out of her shy-shell, B and I would try to convince her to go up to strangers and say things – it was HIL-ar-ious, if not a wee bit immature… A also made some joke about a plum pit, which none of us got, so we just all laughed every time she said “Plum!”.

A day in the Life…

One of the advantages I’m hoping for with homeschooling is more quality family time.

dsc_6700

Now to figure out what that means…

dsc_6858

For now, it’s just extra time to hang out together. Specifically, it’s extra time with Daddy.

dsc_7177

Since the boys don’t have to get up and rush out the door each morning, they can stay up a wee bit later in the evening to get some extra play time in w/ Daddy (and Momma, when I’m not working…).

img_0657

In the morning Daddy gets the boys up and feeds them breakfast while Momma sleeps in after staying up to late working. Or blogging. Ok, I admit it.

dsc_6343

We generally start our school “activities” at the table after breakfast, before there’s too much distraction by toys and videos and things to do. We try to get our activities, play groups, music, etc before Daddy gets home again.

img_0539

Ahhhh. The relaxed life. I’m lovin’ it.

08junkentsbbq-34

Gift Ideas – Girls 12-16 part 1

It’s nearing Christmas, and for those of you who haven’t yet begun to shop, perhaps this will help.

What can I say? I just love lists. Straightforward, to the point lists.

Over the years the girls have received (and not JUST from me!) some really great gifts. I always like something that’s going to teach them something, or something they’ll (hopefully) treasure, something meaningful. It’s always so tough to get just the right idea, so here are some extra ideas to ponder…

1. Beads (or any craft). We started out with the big chunky “little kid” beads, but ended up with expensive stones – through the last 8 years we continue to make our own necklaces and jewelry to wear, sell and give away. The gift that keeps giving! Also beading books are great gifts for ideas.

2. TV DVD’s. They love to own their favorite TV shows from Top Models to Heroes, to re-watch as the new season starts (or hits a lull) or to share with their friends.

3. Jewelry boxes. And not just the cheesy ones – nice, grownup, stitched leather ones, travel ones, fancy ones.

4. Staples. Every girl needs a. black dress pants,  b. a white dress shirt and c. a decent pair of shoes and d. a coat they can finish it all off with (for concerts, nice dinners out, Christmas, etc). And, at a younger age, they’ll keep growing out of them, so it’s a gift you can give a few times 😉

5. Shopping! What a gift! The girls’ Grampa leaves nothing to chance, and takes them shopping for 2 “items” each (cost per “item” pre-determined!), which he takes and wraps up. It’s a gift they’ll actually wear, and also gives the gift of time together.

6. “Hope Chest” thangs. As the girls have gotten older, I think more of gifts that I can see them using when they have their own house to live in, such as a solid quality quilt, a special blanket, special “grown up” pj’s, expensive housecoat, etc.

7. A Skill in a Box. A few times I’ve created a box of some kind of skill to enjoy teaching/learning with the girls over the coming year. A sewing box, a crafts box, a glass bead making box. Some simple items to get them intrigued or started in learning something new that year.

8. Match ’em up! I have two girls, plus me, so once or twice I’ve given all three of us something matching, making it meaningful. Mostly jewelry does this just right, especially if we can get an engraving. I received an old ring from a passed-away aunt that had 25 stones in it. Next year we plan to have 3 matching rings made, which I’ve asked my eldest daughter to design.

9. All in the family. Last year I made each girl (plus one or two of their close friends) a cookbook with basic cooking guidelines and recipes from every branch of the family. I especially included all their favorite meal things from our day to day dinners. (Kind of goes with Hope Chest things – they can take this with them wherever they go from here).

10. Hot rollers! Amazing, but not every young gal has grown up with hot rollers somewhere in their closet! We’ve had a blast learning to use them on each other and trying to make them super curly to just-right wavy.

That should do it for ideas for this season – perhaps by next season I’ll have thought out / remembered 10 more. Enjoy your shopping!

Empty Nester, phase 1.0

Husband and I are soon to start our journey to “Empty Nesters”. It’ll be a 4 phase process, since we have, well, 4 Kids, spanning over the next… 8 months to 16 years! (ya, ok – it’s a long ways off, but that doesn’t make “losing” Kid #1 any easier!)

B baby

Kid #1, B, is GRADUATING this year.
She’s driving a car. She’s wearing silk dresses and high heels to dinners and photo shoots. She’s making decisions about HER OWN FUTURE. She can cook entire meals for herself. What happened to that rough’n’tough 8 yr old who lived for sweats and runners? Where on earth did the last 9 years go??

B tween

In the next 8 months she could be GONE. Off. To school, somewhere, living on her own, taking care of herself. NOT NEEDING ME EVERY DAY! How will she cope??

And how will our home not feel just a little bit empty without her around…

Even though we wish and hope and pray she’ll end up staying in town, living at home and going to a University nearby, and being here forever, I suppose she should keep on growing up.

B 16 1/2

*SIGH*.
And I have to do this HOW many times?!

I can only hope that by the time the last Kid leaves our nest, we can start seeing some grandKids running about ;-).

Boys + their Weapons…

My two youngest are BOYS. And they are soooo different than the GIRLS. We had the girly-girl, with all her cute little Polly Pockets and Princesses, and we had the sporty-spice with her rough-n-tough attitude and worn out sneakers. We crafted, we chatted, we baked, we giggled (a lot!). I can’t even describe how many thousands of miles (or kilometers) away that is from “the little boy”.

Don’t get me wrong, Tt and Boo are SWEET! Tt has actually teared up at an emotional movie the other day (OHMYGOSH how sweet is THAT!?!?). Boo is a little snuggle that I could just squish with kisses over and over. But boys have layers. They may have fewer layers than girls, but they have ’em. Inside is the mushy-soft “I really love you, Momma” huggie layer; then comes the regular just hangin’ out layer; then there’s the crazy insane laughter layer (or was that the “too much sugar” layer?); the competitive/sporty layer, and last the crusty outer layer that most Mom’s would just love to throw out with the trash – the WAR layer.


Now, let me preface by saying I take MUCH responsibility for this in Tt, and as a result, Boo. We basically have 4 “adults” in our house, and can’t/don’t always monitor what is being shown on our TV when the boys are around. Tt is in LOVE with Star Wars and has seen all six movies many times (unfortunately, so have I…). Fighting. Guns. Weapons. Wars.


But even without that, I wonder how unavoidable it really is. Teenage Mutant Turtles – fighting. Kung Fu Panda – fighting. Video Games – FIGHT-ing! Watching hockey – fighting. Water guns – fighting. Learning about Medieval times – Knights – fighting. Even in our schoolwork! I-ya.


I actually don’t mind it – boys will be boys. A generation ago it was Cops and Robbers. Cowboys and Indians. Good guys have to chase someone – what, are they just going to hang out and have tea?? Bad guys don’t do tea.


The problem really only comes when trying to kung fu a little brother. Or shoot down a grampa going in for a hug. We try to have rules, like “no shooting at real, live people” or “no karate chopping your little brother” or “don’t kill your sister, please”. Otherwise, it’s every man, woman and child for himself.


It amazes me how much of an art warfare can be. He has the duck and tuck – James Bond style (and no, I have not shown him the movie) (yet) – in and around garbage bins. He has about 40 different sounds for weapons of all kinds from sword swishes to canon blast. He can take ANY toy – even a fluffy bunny – and make it into a weapon with his crazy imagination.


And of course, the little brother being so influenced by the older, Boo has already mastered the handling of a (plastic) sword and the light-saber. (They battle – it’s super-cute!).


So, being the ever-eager, just-starting-out homeschooling mom that I am (!), we’re taking HIS interest and making into a LESSON! We’ve been taking his new-found love of Knights to introduce the Medieval era. We visited the Colloseum this summer (Gladiators) and started to talk about Ancient Rome. A week or two ago I started telling him about a war between Britian/France. I’m going to teach him about the Samuri next, by way of their unique weapons. At this point, I think he’d learn just about anything I introduced if it was associated with a cool weapon. And I don’t think he’d ever forget it.

Boys. Aren’t they just so precious??

How to Cut a 1-yr olds Hair

It’s been tricky with this one. He does NOT like to sit, forget about sit when I want him to and then play with his hair for 20 minutes. He waves and flinches and fusses. Sudden movements and super sharp hair scissors do NOT mix…

Fortunately he’s only needed about 2 haircuts so far, but for his third I decided to try a new tactic.

The Sleeping Monster. First you need to get him to nap on top of a towel…


And if I move slooooowww, and try to keep the hair off his face…


Then ever so carefully turn him over. (mental note for next time – wait 10 minutes to make sure he’s back asleep…)
Oh, this must tickle. Somewhere in his dream he’s being tickled.


Ok – as you were!
I’ll bet he wakes up itchy.


Yep – that’s an “I’m awake and ITCHY – what the HECK?!?” kind of face.


Oooh, well. I’ll touch it up next nap.