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Top 10 Tips for Flying with Kids – Because, yes, you can!

Top Ten Tips for Flying with Kids

Imagine this: your child screaming his or her lungs out (kicking, punching and a deluge of tears) in the middle of a quiet overnight flight. Your only relief? The dark cabin—at least you can’t see everyone’s dagger eyes (but you can hear it in their frustrated “tsk tsks”).

Right. Because I want my son to have a complete and utter toddler meltdown because he doesn’t want to sleep. Right. Because if I could I would sell my right kidney for an “off” switch.

Ahhh. Air travel with toddlers. The world is our oyster but because air travel is such a daunting (exhausting, frustrating, frightening) journey, many parents shy away from amazing vacation adventures. I know because I was one of them. My husband and I planned on going to Thailand for our annual getaway with our toddler but because the flight is so long, we ended up passing up the opportunity. Next year? Perhaps. We’ll see if we have the guts to attempt 24 hours of travel time (more than half of which is spent in a plane).

But there is light at the end of the proverbal tunnel. We have flown with our son (albeit Hawaii and not Thailand) and it is completely doable. Here are a few tips:

1. Don’t stress. I know. This is like me asking you not to think of a pink elephant and all you can think of is a pink elephant in a blue tutu. How about this: try not to stress. You’ve made the decision to fly with your kids and you certainly aren’t going to back out last minute so make the most of the journey. I’m willing to wager that the typical adage “the destination isn’t important; it’s the journey there” does not apply here but still, enjoy your time—you are on vacation, after all.

2. Bring toys. And I don’t mean toys for you. Forget about the in-flight entertainment for adults. Don’t even think about opening that Kindle/Kobo. It’s just not going to happen. As long as you realize that from the beginning, you’ll be better off. Now, on to the real toys. Bring toys that your kids haven’t seen before but that you know they’ll like. Even if you are the “no tv” kind of parent, I highly recommend forgoing this rule and bringing your kid’s favorite program or introducing a new one.

3. Pack light. How is that even possible with all the junk you are carrying to entertain your child in the cabin? This is a good rule for packing in general. Unless you are trekking in Antarctica, you can be pretty sure that you’ll find diapers and clothing for your child at your destination (maybe even cheaper). Is it worth the hassle of lugging around a gigantic suitcase just to be sure? Keep your carry-on bag light and manageable. You are already juggling baby/bags/passports/tickets/insanity. The “just in case” syndrome is a vacationer’s worst enemy. Pack the stuff that really matters—leave the rest at home.

4. Be on time! In fact, because you are travelling with babies, leave extra early. Don’t do as we did: late for our flight, we were rushing like idiots through security and I had a panic attack when the slow as molasses security guard decided to test every bottle of formula, lotion and doodad I had stupidly packed. We BARELY made the flight. Do yourself a favor and leave on time (or early).

5. Pack something warm & bring food/snacks. I know this is contrary the 3rd tip but airplane cabins can get really chilly and nowadays, there’s barely any food options, especially for kids! Don’t rely on the airline’s supply of blankets; they often run out of them. Bring something that can double as sweater (even if you go to a tropical destination, you are likely to encounter a chilly night) or fleecy sleeper. Bring plenty of snacks. Even if you don’t finish them inflight, you will certainly eat them up along the way. Keeping your child comfortable eliminates one source of the tantrums.

6. Apologize in advance. Make friends not enemies. I once read a story online about a couple who apologized to the passengers by writing an apology note along with a goodie bag. Obviously this is not feasible for most people (and I’m sure, if the story is true, the plane must’ve been tiny) but I found that a good way of calming the nerves is to walk my son up and down the aisles to show people that the source of the screaming is a cute, innocent child (and not a demon). Once people see your darling angel they might not be as easily agitated by the eardrum shattering screeches. Well, maybe not but it’s worth a try.

7. Make friends with the staff. Ok, you know how you don’t make friends with salad? (Sorry, I had to insert a Simpsons joke…) I highly recommend being overly nice to the flight attendants. If your child just can’t get enough OJ or you need a million napkins to wipe up the spilled OJ, you really want them on your side. Some airlines have perks for kids like little snacks, air plane activity kits and who knows…maybe your child could actually meet the pilot in the cockpit (if that’s even still done).

8. Bring drugs. I know, I’m going to get in trouble for this one but hear me out: I’m an adult and I get terrible motion sickness. I know I feel much more comfortable with some motion sickness drugs in me so if your kid suffers from motion sickness, I don’t think it’s a big problem to give them some drugs to settle their stomach. Of course, it’s also a huge side bonus that these motion sickness drugs (and antihistamines) make your kid drowsy. Look, if your child is totally uncomfortable, stressing you out and screaming his/her lungs out, I really don’t think slipping them a little sleepy-aid (ONCE a year!) is going to harm them.

9. Tire them out. But make sure you get enough sleep! Do not, I repeat, do not stay up all night packing or stressing about whether you’ve packed everything (been there, done that) and go-to-bed. If your child is physically tired, you are more likely to get a restful flight. I can only hope that my son is tired enough to sleep a few hours on the plane. Also, make lists. Lists are a mother’s best friend.

10. Stroller it. I’ve had a few friends ask me about the stroller situation. If I were you, I’d bring the stroller all the way to the gate. Airlines allow it and it’s SO much easier to get around in the airport. Also, since you are lugging all the other travel gear (read: crap), it’s nice to have your child buckled in with nowhere to run!

Bonus: Bulkhead if you can. This one is a bonus because honestly, if you get the bulkhead seat, you really are in for a bonus. I’ve sat in the bulkhead seat ONCE and I was visibly pregnant and begged with puppydog eyes when I checked in. So most likely, you won’t be getting the bulkhead seats. If you do, you are in super luck: they have (on international flights) bassinets, super leg room, no one in front to worry about and up close and personal screens.

Good luck!

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Family friendly art studios in Montreal – Future Jackson Pollock?

Top Art Studios Montreal

It looks like it’s going to be another rainy weekend in Montreal. Yet another.

To make the most of the lousy weather, I’ve compiled a list of fun indoor art activities. Why not cultivate your child’s inner artist by visiting one of the following child-friendly art studios in Montreal:

4 Cats Art Studios

This is a chain (franchise) of studios around Montreal (and North America) and I’ve heard great things about their kid programs. They have tax deductible classes for children aged 2-10+. Adult participation is welcomed (sometimes mandatory depending on the age) and they have cool after-school programs, too. My son is still too young for our family to test this out but I welcome comments from other families!

Locations: 5026 Parc Plateau/Outremont, Montreal, QC H2V 4E8, (514) 508-3889

And 2748 Blvd. St-Charles, Kirkland, QC H9H 3B6, (514) 505-3727

Website: http://www.4cats.com/

 Café Ceramic

Another cool little franchise in Montreal is the Café Ceramic. I’m sure you’ve heard of the concept: paint a pre-formed pottery piece while you enjoy some coffee/food. I always liked the concept and I plan on introducing my son as soon as the paint is more inviting on the ceramic than on his face! I’ve been to some of these ceramic cafes in different parts of North America and I’ve really enjoyed the time spent relaxing while painting and chatting with friends. If your kids are old enough to understand the concept, I highly recommend these chains!

Locations: 4338, St-Denis, Montréal (Qc) H2J 2K8, 514 848-1119

565, Boulevard Saint-Martin Ouest (Qc) H7M 1Y8, 450 669-9399

3240, boul. Taschereau (Qc) J4V 2H3, 450 443-8582

Website: http://www.leccs.com/

Any other recommendations for great child/family-friendly art studios in Montreal area? Let me know!

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Montreal’s Best Ice Cream

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Not only has Spring sprung but Summer has strummed her lovely tune! May Day was gorgeous in Montreal! We celebrated the warm evening by treating ourselves to some tasty ice cream. It doesn’t quite feel like summer until we’ve enjoyed our first Montreal cone.

Here are some of the best spots for enjoying ice cream in Montreal (in no particular order):

 

  • Yeh!: Yes, the name says it all. They put a neat spin on fro-yo (frozen yogurt); the flavors and toppings are self-serve and you pay by weight once you’ve created your masterpiece. Locations: http://www.yehyogourt.com/emplacement.php
  • Bilboquet: Wowzers! They really put the “art” in artisan ice cream (sorry, cheesy). But honestly, their fresh, homemade ice cream is simply divine! My personal favorite is the coconut sorbet. Locations: http://www.bilboquet.ca/adresses.html
  • Ben & Jerry’s: An obvious one! I wish they had more locations in Montreal because the line-ups on warm nights are absurd. For example, in my crazy youth, I once waited almost two hours for a cone (Crescent St. store). Locations: http://www.benandjerrys.ca/scoop-shops;jsessionid=B83C2A183C6AEBFAF328CAD3E87D40D9.bnj1_worker
  • La Cremiere: Their soft-serve ice cream is second to none. Known for their spiral cone (swirls of caramel, chocolate, or strawberry intertwined with the ice cream), they have many, many locations and most malls have at least one booth to serve you their delicious dessert. Locations: http://www.lacremiere.com/en/boutiques.php
  • Dairy Queen: Anther common choice but for good reason: they serve the blizzard! Named the blizzard because it’s a tornado of ice cream and your choice of topping, it’s their signature ice cream and one of my favs. Mmmm. Locations: http://www.dairyqueen.com/ca-en/Locator/?
  • La Dolce Vita: If you are in the West Island, I highly recommend this gelato shop. They make some of the finest gelato I’ve had since…Italy! They also have great combo suggestions–trust their choices. Location: 3776 St Charles, Kirkland, H9H 3C6.
  • Orange Julep: Ok, fine. Off-topic. But they do serve ice cream! Go ahead and order the ice cream if you have room after their delicious, greasy food and awesome orange drink. It’s a landmark. You have to try it at least once! Location: 7700 Boulevard Decarie, Montreal, H4P 2H4.
  • Twist et Creme: A childhood favorite had to be included. My father and I used to bike to this run-down shack of an ice cream stand and I loved every minute of it. I relived that with my son tonight–it was great! Yes, the decor is shabby and the “stand” is in the middle of a parking lot but it’s a West Island landmark as much as the Orange Julep is in TMR (Town of Mont Royal). They make greaaaat brownie sundaes. Location: 11898 Gouin O, Montreal, H1C 1B8.
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Maiko Sushi – Des Sources Blvd & Bernard Street (Montreal, Qc)

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Sushi is not for everyone. I think it’s a preference that falls into the love it (my family) or hate it category. Maiko Sushi (Des Sources Blvd) in the West Island has been (arguably) named the Best in the West. Nothing quite qualifies until it’s been tested by a toddler-run family.

We gave them a good chance: we went early (we were the first to arrive) and we brought the Ipad for emergency back-up. As soon as we sat down, we ordered my son’s meal; he’s a lightweight and a miso soup (and yogurt)  is enough for his bird-belly. They quickly brought it out and he entertained himself attempting to eat the soup with those plastic double-ended spoons they have at Japanese and Chinese restaurants.

The menu is varied and offers a nice selection of different sushi and cooked meals. Of course, they also offer a la carte sushi and they have a really neat “chef’s creation” menu of unusual sushi/sashimi combos ($18 each).

We each ordered the $33 sushi/sashimi combo (strange move on our part because we normally order different meals to share). It comes with a miso soup, a salad, shrimp & veggie tempura, a mixed plate of sushi/sashimi (I’m going to guesstimate 12 pieces), dessert and green tea. Honestly, it’s a really good price and whereas I normally feel like I could go for McDonalds after having spent $50+ on sushi, I left Maiko Sushi very, very full. In fact, I couldn’t eat my dessert (my bird-belly son who never has room for actual food but always manages to polish off the dessert ate mine).

The miso soup was very tasty; I always hate miso soup that is cheap on the shiitake mushrooms and seaweed but super heavy on the tofu and overly watery broth. Their soup had plenty of tasty mushrooms, seaweed and tofu–excellent broth, too. I loved their salad! It’s a very simple mix of greens tossed with a ginger/sesame dressing and topped with tiny pieces of fried noodles but it was very, very tasty. Their tempura was delicately fried and the batter didn’t overwhelm the taste of the shrimp/veggies (often a problem with tempura, I find). So far, so good.

The first three “appetizers” really set me up for a taste-explosion of sushi and sashimi but I was somewhat disappointed. It’s not that it wasn’t good (it was fresh and it tasted fine) but I was underwhelmed by the selection and the large amount of boring maki rolls. Really, how much avocado in a rice-roll do you want in a chef’s selection? I know it’s cheap but come on. Also, the slices of sashimi were really lacking. Worst of all was the high amount of the “filler” sushi: tamago nigiri (fried egg on a rice roll), smelly mackerel and tons of the tasteless white fish. Like I said, it’s not that the sushi wasn’t fresh or that it didn’t taste good, I just felt that such a creative restaurant could have impressed me with a much better selection of rolls, nigiri and different raw fish.

To be fair, this was my third time trying this $33 combo at Maiko Sushi and it was the first time that I felt the selection was cheaper than normal. I really, really hope this is not a trend they are starting but rather the result of a less-than-creative chef’s decision.

Overall, the staff was super-attentive and one of the waitresses even offered to walk around the restaurant with my son when he was fussing and we were trying to finish our meals (super bonus points). The restaurant was still mostly empty so she had the time to entertain my son but she didn’t have to so the effort is certainly noted. In general, no one seemed to mind my son’s new-found love of screaming on top of his lungs (he recently discovered that screaming like this annoys the heck out of mommy and daddy so he’s happily testing our limits). But you know what? We never turned on the last-resort Ipad so kudos to the waitstaff!

The dessert was a small but sufficient portion of banana bread with ice cream. I can’t comment on that dessert but in the past, I have had their brownie/ice cream dessert and it was very tasty. Their green tea is also very good.

Unfortunately, parents of children who despise sushi will often avoid those restaurants. I think sushi restaurants realize this and they offer a variety of cooked meals specifically for that reason. Parents who love sushi: don’t deprive yourself of sushi-goodness just because your kids hate raw fish!

I will return to Maiko Sushi because I’ve had a number of very positive experiences and I feel like I might have had an “off” night. The idea of a restaurant’s “off” night always makes me sad because what if that night had been my first night? I wouldn’t have returned because I wouldn’t have known that that was an exception rather than the norm. First impressions really do count, don’t they?

Family-friendly? Yes (They don’t offer a kid menu so they lose points there but they fully gain it back with their general kid-friendly staff and layout)

Food? Ehhh, mostly yes

Service? Yes

Website: http://maikosushi.ca/

Address(es): 3339 des Sources Boulevard, Dollard-des-Ormeaux, H9B 1Z8

387 Bernard Street West, Montreal, H2V 1T6

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Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience (Montreal’s Corona Theatre) April 27-28, 2013

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Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience (Montreal’s Corona Theatre) April 27-28, 2013

Calling all Harry Potter fans! Currently on tour through North America, Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience will be at the Corona Theatre this weekend only: Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 2:00pm and 8:00pm and Sunday, April 28, 2013 at 2:00pm and 8:00pm. Managing to squeeze the Harry Potter series (7 books) into an unbelievable 70 minutes, the duo (Gay and Delme) has been receiving great reviews and most of their showings are sold out. If you have any Harry Potter fans in the house, this presentation is great for kids 6+.

Official site: http://www.pottedpotter.com/

Location: Corona Theatre, 2490 Notre-Dame ouest, Montreal, Le Sud-Ouest, H3J 1N5

Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 2:00pm and 8:00pm and Sunday, April 28, 2013 at 2:00pm and 8:00pm

For tickets: http://www.theatrecoronavirginmobile.com/

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Butterflies Go Free – Last Weekend (April 27-28, 2013)

This is the last weekend to see the beautiful butterflies of Montreal’s Botanical Gardens. See here for my previous post about this great exhibit–highly recommended!

The Botanical Gardens is located at 4101 Sherbrooke Street East, Montréal (H1X 2B2) and the complex is part of the Insectarium and the Biodome.

Rates are as follows: Adults $15; Seniors (65+) $14; Students (18+ with ID) $11.25; Kids (5 to 17) $7.50 and Family (2adults/2-3 kids) $42. Kids under 5 are free.

Blue Morph at Montreal Botanical Gardens

Blue Morph at Montreal Botanical Gardens

Link to the Montreal Botanical Gardens official site:

http://espacepourlavie.ca/en/botanical-garden

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Top Ten Spring Cleaning Tips

I recently posted about ways to get your kids involved in the spring cleaning chores (and chores in general). Today, I thought I’d give you the Top Ten List of Spring Cleaning Tips (in no particular order):

  1. Outdoor and more: Often forgotten but very important are the yearly household maintenance tasks. I highly recommend going around your house and inspecting for damage that may have occurred during the winter months. Any cracks in the foundation/brick/stone work that look suspicious? Check each window’s caulking. Caulking, though improving with technology, still has a tendency to peel away from metal/plastic surfaces. Make sure you don’t see any signs of caulking cracking, peeling or lifting away from the window. As best as you can, inspect the roof. Any missing shingles? Lastly, I highly recommend making sure your drain spouts are directed AWAY from your house. Spring means lots of water and water (still freezing and thawing, too) can be detrimental to your foundation. Make sure to direct all water drainage away from your home.
  2. Lawn lovin’: The winter months are cruel to your grass. The salt, the snow, the leftover leaves (and dog poop?) and even the dirt can all leave your grass looking less than healthy come spring’s thaw. Once your lawn has more or less dried out, give it a good raking. Try not to pull up the grass root but rather “comb” through the grass and remove the yellowed grass and dirt. I fertilize my lawn with Scotts Turf Builder and I highly recommend giving your lawn a good start to the season with some vitamins. Don’t mow until the grass has had time to fully grow in.
  3. Work your Garden: Surely your garden has accumulated leaves and dirt from the winter. Let your plants spread their roots! Clean out all the excess layer of leaves and other dirt that has collected in the garden around your plants. If you covered your plants during the winter, you can remove the protection. Inspect your plants for any signs of disease or frostbite. I know my boxwoods really suffered this winter–even though they were protected! Again, like your lawn, I would fertilize your plants just to offer them a great start to Montreal’s (relatively) short growing season.
  4. Car Care: Aha! You forgot! Ok, I always do, too. Typical situation: Change summer to winter tires sometime in early Fall with an oil change and forget about my car through all of winter, most of fall and a part of spring. Our cars need love, too. Take the time to do an interior and exterior inspection. Clean out all the Tim Horton’s cups and bags of who-knows-what and give your car some TLC. Clean the interior and exterior. Bring it in for a tire change and a much-needed oil change.
  5. Garage (sale): Over the winter, I have a tendency to throw everything into my garage and because it’s barely heated, I rarely go in to organize the mess. By spring, I’ve ended up with complete chaos. I knew it was time for a garage clean-up when my dog got lost in the piles (she’s an 80lb chocolate lab so there’s no excuse). I’ll recommend the same organization method as for your closet. Make piles of “Throw Away,” “Give Away,” “Garage Sale” or “Organize”. Be honest with yourself. I have the tendency to delay the agony of throwing away perfectly useless junk by moving everything into the “Garage Sale” pile and then never hosting the garage sale. Once you’ve made the piles, organize accordingly. My goal this year is to park my car in the garage over the winter. Hopefully a solid goal will get me to garage organizational bliss.
  6. Attic addict: Lately I’ve been researching how to make my home more energy efficient. The top culprit for heat loss? Yup, the attic. Your attic is supposed to be the same temperature as the outdoors minus the wind and rain/snow. The goal is to reduce heat loss (heat rises) through the ceiling by insulating your attic. Spring is a great time to get up there and familiarize yourself with your attic. Take note of any water damage or any areas where the insulation is moved, etc. Your best bet would be to call a licensed energy efficiency technician who could evaluate your home’s energy efficiency. Hydro Quebec offers rebates! http://www.hydroquebec.com/residential/manage-account/home-diagnostic/ Increasing your attic’s R-factor (insulation rating) can greatly reduce your heating costs over winter.
  7. Windows windows: Quite a lot of dirt accumulates on the inside and outside of the windows over the winter. Get out the Windex and get scrubbing! Make sure to pay attention to the nooks and crannies where dirt loves to collect.
  8. Rug rats: I would never want my rugs microscopically examined. As pristine as I am (*insert smile here*), I have a dog and a toddler (and a husband). If your carpets can be lifted, bring them outside and give them a good beating and for those carpets that are permanent, I recommend renting a carpet cleaning vacuum (it’s once a year and it’s worth the effort to keep your carpets looking and smelling clean). If you are worried about the germs, they now make great carpet attachments for steam cleaners.
  9. Fridge? Freezer? Pantry? Admit it. When’s the last time you emptied and cleaned any of those three? Spring cleaning time means emptying the contents of your fridge/freezer and pantry and checking for expired/gross/untouched food and tossing them out (or donating when non-perishable). Again, make the piles: keep, donate, toss. Once the food is organized, get scrubbing!
  10. Closeted closet hoarder: I saved this for last because I find it the toughest part of cleaning. I always feel like if I throw something away that’s too small for me that I’m giving up on ever being pre-baby fat weight again. My husband’s trick? If (and when) you lose the weight, treat yourself to new clothes! Spring cleaning is also about doing the winter to summer rotation and it’s a perfect opportunity to go through the stuff you haven’t worn allllll season (or last last season) and donate to charity.

Good luck!