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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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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!

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Top Ten Chore Tips – Spring Cleaning

Fooled by the weather gods again! Friday’s warmth was clearly the calm before the storm. Today, it has rained, snowed, hailed and…what other meteorological phenomenons have I forgotten? Obviously not the best day for outdoor activities. I hope it clears up by tomorrow as I have some Earth Day celebrations planned.

Still, sometimes lousy weather can be productive for indoor activities. Today’s goal: spring cleaning (at least interior cleaning). Spring is an amazing season of growth and renewal after winter’s hibernation. My son is still too young to understand a merit/demerit system of chores/household duties but trust me, as soon as my slave… er…son (!) is old enough to take on some tasks, he’ll be a scrubbin’.

The Baby Mop: Even infants can clean now! (Why didn't I have one of these for my son?)

The Baby Mop: Even infants can clean now! (Why didn’t I have one of these for my son?)

Chores are a win-win situation. Think about it: as an adult, apart from the occasional volunteering, most of the work you do demands payment. Kids quickly learn how capitalism works. Instead of giving a weekly allowance “just because”, reward them for their hard work from the start. And don’t go easy on them if they don’t perform their required tasks; if they don’t sweep they don’t get their merit points/money. I know I sound harsh here but would your boss pay you even if you didn’t perform your duties?

So for you lucky parents who have kids aged 5+, here are a few cleaning tips for kids:

  1. Organize: Kids love to separate and sort according to likeness. Truthfully, all humans like to categorize and maintain some kind of semblance of order. This can apply to many different household duties but here are a few that come to mind: sort the mess of mismatched socks, sort through the chipped and cracked dishes/glasses, arrange their toys/games according to type, re-fold the mess that is your linen closet, etc.
  2. Inventory: Kids who can write love taking inventory counts. Make it fun for them: ask them to go through the pantry and list everything that is empty, half-full or unused; you can use the same type of list while going through the closet of shampoos, soaps, and hair products.
  3. Lists: I have found that lists are essential for men. Well, my husband at least. If I ask him to “clean the bathroom” he looks at me blankly. You see, I have this “virtual” list in my head that I mentally check off as I’m cleaning but my husband doesn’t see it the same way. I’m willing to bet that many kids would feel flustered if asked to clean “something” without being given directives. I would recommend detailed lists of everything you ask. It serves the purpose of visualizing exactly how much they have to accomplish and they feel a sense of pride as they check off the items on their list.
  4. Manageability: Make sure the chores you assign are age-appropriate. Nothing is worse than a child feeling dejected because he/she can’t perform the tasks his/her parent asks because of age. Also, make sure the items on the list can be finished in a set amount of time. A child will be get bored and/or discouraged if he/she can’t finish in about the assigned time. Obvious example: don’t have your 5 year old clean the fine china; instead, have your 5 year old clean the exterior of the curio that contains the fine china.
  5. Accountability: Go over the tasks your kids have accomplished once they are finished. Humans love positive feedback and constructive criticism is integral to your child understanding how to improve his/her work. If your kid’s job was to clean the windows and they are covered in fingerprints and spaghetti sauce, I would suggest you don’t praise that as excellent work; instead, show him/her how you expect the windows to look once they are clean and have them demonstrate his/her ability to accomplish same.
  6. Creative cleaning: This is the most obvious of chores but often the hardest to get your kid to complete. Making cleaning a “fun chore” is an oxymoron (in my view) so as parents, we need to find creative ways to get our kids involved. Have them complete cleaning chores that are in 10-15 minute segments. Also, try to get your children to value the cleaning they have accomplished; sometimes if they understand how much time it took, they won’t be as inclined to dirty it as quickly.
  7. Real rewards: Demonstrating that their work will earn them tangible gifts is a big factor. Though some kids may appreciate the delayed satisfaction of a savings account, I’m willing to bet that most will enjoy the piggy bank of saved-up money to spend on their choice of a toy. Give them a goal chart and show your kids how each chore helps them approach their ultimate goal.
  8. Recycle-Reuse: Spring cleaning is a great time to go through your unused items and donate to charity. I’m sure your kids have amassed a large number of toys that have not been played with in months or more. Ask them to go through their toys with the aim of donating the ones they no longer need/want. Once the pile is complete, bring them to the charity and have them hand it over. If you aren’t opposed to buying used clothing and/or toys, let your child choose a few “new” toys to bring home.
  9. Teamwork: If you are cleaning, chances are your kids will want to help out in some way. In other words, don’t sit on the couch watching TV and expect your kid to do all the work. Remember that teamwork is always faster, more productive and much more fun.
  10. Have fun: Yes, chores suck. But they are–as my mother would say–a necessary evil. Instead of dreading spring cleaning (or cleaning of any type), visualize the clean results: a fresh smelling, organized and livable home! Just as your kids like goals and lists, give yourself the same rewards. And at least try to have fun!