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December 2009 Archives


Packing Smart for Plane Trips With Kids

Posted by Kristen on December 7, 2009 at 1:36 PM in Traveling
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We are not shy about lugging our kids on a plane to see the relatives. Thank God for the mileage we have built up over the years because we have a couple of trips still left in us. Packing, however, is still a pain, no matter how many times you do it. Only through trial and error did we figure out the things we really REALLY needed to pack.

The car seat bag can do double duty. One of the first things we bought before our first trip was a $20 bag for Ethan's car seat. We weren't so sure about the purchase at the time but it is by far the BEST $20 we have ever, ever spent. Now I know that the airline will sometimes give you a heavy duty plastic bag to protect your car seat, but how many times have you watched a seat go by on the baggage carousel looking like it had been on a trek through the Andes rather than in the luggage compartment? The bag also serves as a place to pack extras for us. We tuck the trip's allotment of diapers in the seat along with the heavy baby wipes (since we are cheap and buy everything in large quantities) a pair of my husbands bulky, heavy boots that he absolutely HAS TO HAVE on vacation and even our heavy coats if our destination is colder than our place of origin. These items are bulky and while you can save space by just buying diapers at your destination, who wants to pay a lot more for them? The car seat doesn't count as one of your allotted bags usually, so it's kind of a freebee. But the best thing is, on the way home when almost all the diapers are gone, we cram a bag of dirty clothes into the car seat bag along with the seat. Ethan's seat has weathered every single trip without even a smudge of dirt.
Take the time to plan out what clothes to pack for your kids. You are probably thinking, who doesn't do this? Well, on occasion, I have been known to pack everything shy of the kitchen sink because I waited too long and then got rushed at the end. Keep in mind that if you are going to Nana and Grandpa's house, you will most likely be able to do laundry. So for that 3 month old baby that goes through 9 outfits a day, you just might need to pack for 3 or more days. I know their clothes are little and there is a temptation to pack every single clean article of clothing, but remember that you have to lug that bag around. Surprise trip to see the snow 45 minutes away that you didn't anticipate? Those jackets are a great early Christmas present from Grandpa this year.
Pack a separate carry-on "diaper" bag for your kids, and then tuck away a few extras in your carry-on bag. The diaper-per-hour trick is tried and true. I always try to skimp and then am so thankful for my husband who has managed to tuck an extra couple of diapers (and an extra baby outfit) around his laptop to keep it safe. No matter what your child's pattern of diaper usage, throw it all out the window come travel day. When Ethan was an infant, he always used twice as many diapers on travel day than he did any other day. It was crazy. That and every single diaper always leaked. Be sure to save that special outfit you wanted Nana to see for either the last change before landing or the change that happens right before you go to baggage claim to pick up your luggage. It greatly reduces the odds of getting ruined before the grandparents even see it.
Make the room to pack an extra outfit in the carry on for Mom and Dad. When Ethan was an infant, it only took us 4 trips to realize that at least one of us was wearing poop and the other was smelling like throw-up when we finally got off the plane. If you have an infant and the plane ride is longer than an hour, your chances are 10 to 1 that this will happen. For anyone who has taken a "bath" in the lav on a plane, you know that nothing really beats getting out of those nasty clothes and into something fresh. At a minimum, take along an extra shirt for yourself. No matter how many burp clothes you have, your baby can always seem to find the spot on your that is not covered.
Don't pack your bags too full. Nana had a few "surprises" for the boys that were beyond what she had already forewarned us. After one too many trips to the store to buy a duffle bag to cart stuff home from a vacation, we have learned to just leave some extra room in the bags. There is nothing worse than realizing that your bags are too full and you haven't even finished packing back up to come home.

These tips have worked for us (and saved us) many times. Hope they can spark some good ideas for you on how to make your plane ride with kids as stress-free as possible. Please share what your tips are?


Family Holiday On A Budget

Posted by Patience on December 3, 2009 at 11:32 PM in Budget livingFamily ActivitiesHolidays
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Everyone is feeling the pinch this holiday season. The usual time for splurging has become a time for gathering the resources we already have. It's a wonderful opportunity to come together and make things special with whatever you have in your family. Here are a few tips for making your family holiday great.

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1. Make your own decorations. There is no extra cash for decorations beyond a tree this year so we decided to make our own with some greens from our front yard. I was surprised how good the kids were with just an old hanger, greens and some floral wire. We made wreaths, garlands and various other pinecone creations.

2. Recycle Christmas. One particular year I noticed that the local thrifts stores and consignment shops had some pretty good toy finds. I asked the kids if they might like to have a recycle christmas. With the exception of one small new present for each person, the entire holiday gifting was repurposed gifts. Lots of the treasures we found were perfect for stocking stuffers and the kids loved the hunt. No one seemed to notice or care the items had been previously loved.

3. Skip the holiday madness. You are allowed to skip the 5,000 tree lightings and grand illuminations that are usually followed by eating out and the $10 glow necklaces. Stay in and make homemade pizza, decorate the tree, have a living room holiday dance party, watch a classic movie together. The best traditions often evolve out of just hanging out. Our latest expert, popular author Katrina Kenison has some great ideas for simplifying your holiday.

4. Alternatives to giving gifts. We let our extended family know we will not be sending gifts this year. Instead we suggested a cousin holiday card exchange and a small donation to a local charity.
Choose an experience over a gift, it sends the message there are other ways to express our love than exchanging presents. Go ice skating or go bowling, create a new family tradition outside of the norm.

What are your thrifty ideas for making this holiday great and not breaking the bank? Let us know in the comments.


Pay Attention--or Else! How Giving In Can Break the Cycle of Negative Interactions

Posted by Jen on December 2, 2009 at 7:56 AM in Parenting tips
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guinea pigs

Here's a lesson I tend to forget over and over again:  Kids crave attention in whatever form they can get it--even if the only attention they garner comes in a negative form. Forget this one and you find yourself in a constant struggle, wondering how you can break the cycle and get back in sync with yourself and your kids.

When my kids were smaller and starting to act up, I liked to ask them this simple question:  "Do you need attention right now?"  Almost always they would respond with a wimpering, whiny "yes!"    I then followed up with a very kind and quiet-- "Do you want the getting-in-trouble kind of attention or the gentle-loving kind of attention?"  You can guess what the answer was to that one. 

From there I tried to help them narrow down what would feel best right now from this laundry list of options listed below.  Before long, they learned how to ask for exactly what they needed---not always as quickly as I would like, but at least they were beginning to understand that their feelings were connected to their needs.  Now that they are older, we still work on this point all the time, but at least we've laid the groundwork for the vocabulary we all require to solve these kinds of problems.

The point for me as a parent is to recognize that very often naughty or annoying behavior isn't so much true rebellion as it is a request from my child for me to engage in a more thoughtful manner.  The funny thing is that kids aren't the only ones acting up to get what they want--think about all the times you might huff around the house when you just need your partner to focus and listen instead.

Now that my kids are hitting new stages of emotional and physical development, their need for connection is as great as ever--a fact I'm trying to remember when tweenage moodiness puts a strain on communication and a burst in cognitive development keeps the younger one knee deep in the need for new data.

Here's the kinds of attention my kids at 8 and 11 have been longing for:

Physical affection. I try not to question the obvious. That grumpy girl still wants to crawl in my lap even though her raging pre-adolescent hormones are keeping her in a cloud of negativity. I'm learning to reach out anyway.

Listening attention.  Being a captive audience while my kids expound on playground politics or the intricacies of a new game makes a huge difference in everyone's mood and beats listening to fighting.

Playing attention.  Right now nothing makes my kids happier if we crank up the music and have a dance party where they have my focus and participation without any distraction. When I choose to give them attention in this way, the need for negative attention is easily kept at bay.

How are you breaking the negative cycle of attention seeking and getting back on track with more positive playful interactions? Do you believe attention is a requirement for children or that they need more practice managing their need for interaction on their own in order to be well-balanced adults?

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