Category Archives: Parenting

Staying in the Frame

I took a break from culling my family Easter photos to read this article. I loved it. My husband has many good qualities but he often seems to forget that we don’t need to worry about the cost of film these days, and will take a single photo of me and not bother to check if it’s in focus and at all decent/flattering. I was heartbroken after our UK trip when the one photo I had asked him to take, he had taken a single one and it was blurry. We had nowhere to go, and there was no reason that he couldn’t have checked the d*mn viewfinder to make sure our kid and I were in focus. I got pretty mad about it and after much complaining from me, he has improved dramatically, but we still have some of these issues.

Worse is my Dad, who is obsessed with documenting photos but takes terrible and unflattering photos that I don’t want to look at or share.  The complaints of my female friends whose spouses or other family members consistently cut off their heads or don’t focus the camera properly in their zeal to get photos, and never take a moment to look at the back of the camera and see if they got something usable, are numerous.

I’m not a photographer, but a few tips, especially if like a lot of people, you bought a DSLR when you had a baby but never actually use it. First of all, leave your camera out and accessible when you are doing a fun activity so that your spouse remembers to take photos. Secondly, if you are out hiking or playing and bring a camera, make sure to trade off. Nothing reminds the other person to take a few photos like having a heavy camera around their neck. Third of all, if possible, remind them/remember that downward angles are the most flattering, and sometimes, it is okay to interrupt a moment and worry about preserving it by telling a person their hair is in their face (read the room on this one though). Don’t take photos of people while you are sitting and they are standing. If possible, just stand up. Fourth, don’t ever imply somebody is vain because they want a photo of themselves or their kid. Fifth, hire a professional for a family shoot every once in awhile.  Six, keep some of the unflattering photos even if you hate them. Seven, buy clothes you like that you look good in and wear them for special occasions where you know somebody will take a photo. Eight, buy clothes you like that you look good in for family vacation so you don’t hate the way you look in a photo of you with your awkward hiking pants and your stained performance wear shirt that hits you in all the wrong places.

My childhood was well documented on film, but my Dad has been going through slides lately and lamenting how few non-posed photos there are of my mother and her sister, and especially of her mother.  My favorite photos of my mother lately have been ones like this:

Printed February 1984

It is not the most flattering photo, or the best in the world, but tell me you don’t look at that and feel the sheer exhaustion of a new mother. I look at this and I feel the sheer weight of everything that hit my mom that year, the loss of her mother, finally getting the baby she wanted so badly, and she doesn’t know it here but I know she’ll be pregnant again 9 months after having this baby. This picture makes me know my mom better.

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A few thoughts

My queer friends have expressed sadness at the lack of posts, and outrage, and public anger by their straight allies in the wake of Orlando.  If you haven’t called or texted your friends in the LGBT community to see how they are doing, it’s not too late.  Just do it.  Just ask if they are okay. They will appreciate it.

I try to process the shooting and I can’t. I hear things on the radio and they make me deeply sad.  My daughter was sick all week and while normally her toddler-y illnesses enrage me because of the time spent away from work, and the increased whining from a small human, this week I minded less than usual.  We went to stroller strides and the art museum and the splash park and simply focused on the things that are beautiful and wonderful and interesting to a 20-month old.  And I think about how hard it is to be raising a child right now, and to be raising a daughter.  And I try not to think about the fact that I will have to send her to school and to the movies and that she may go dancing at clubs and all of those activities, done in America, increase the chance that she will die at gunpoint.

A friend shared this poem and it helped me start to feel the mission of the collective parental subconscious.

clfcpjjwmaq-qli

And so let us together raise small humans, whatever role you want to play in that, to believe that the world could be beautiful and that they could make it so.

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Parenting Crow I Have Eaten

Parenting, much like pregnancy, is a super humbling experience.  And I think the more judgmental we were pre-kids, the more likely you are to have charming and humbling experiences where you realize that the distance between how you thought things would be and how they actually are is just a gulf of experiences you hadn’t had yet.  These are mine.

  • Sleep.  I was soooo judgmental of parents who didn’t sleep train and then whined about not getting enough sleep.  I’m still pretty judgmental about some aspects of this, like your kid should have a consistent bedtime, and you should do cry it out if you have to, but sleep training did. not. work. on my kid.  I mean, it did eventually, but it was a 7-8 month process.  We tried really hard.  Hours and hours and hours of cry it out. Much googling. Many books.  It really sucked for awhile. Eventually things got better.  But I saw a friend recently and her 20 month old wakes up 3 nights a week at least.  My coworker’s 2.5 year old doesn’t sleep through the night. I no longer assume the parent is doing anything wrong.
  • Eating. I was a really picky eater growing up and I was like, “picky eaters are made, not born, so I will feed my kid all the things and she will eat them.” Ha. My child eats like, four things, and that’s it.  I cater to her a lot more than I planned to.  We still offer her everything that we are eating, but we also offer her one thing she likes so that she will actually eat something.  (Because it turns out that if she’s not hungry, she sleeps better, and I would rather have to cater to a picky eater than never sleep.)  I also find that catering to her tastes helps me to be much more relaxed about mealtime and less likely to turn it into a power struggle.  But I will definitely be that mom sneaking vegetables into her kid’s meals.
  • Licensed Characters. My child right now hates all shoes but her ridiculous gold Mary Janes with a pink flower on them, and it’s summer, and I want to go to the splash park. And Stride Rite girl’s shoes shrink when they get wet! So she owns a pair of crocs and a pair of navy blue sandals, which she will wear, but only with socks, so I think they rub her feet.  So I’m searching for possible other sandals that do not cost a million dollars and my child likes fish, and I saw Finding Dory shoes and was like, hmmmm I wonder if she would wear these since they have fish on them! And getting dressed is such a battle right now unless I offer her one of her two Octopus shirts and then she gets very excited and wears that.  So I can see why parents, worn and exhausted by the work of parenting a toddler, lean into their kid’s obsession and buy them batman shirts or whatever because it is so much easier than fighting with them every day.  A lot of licensed stuff is still poorly made and overpriced so right now I’m holding out, but I get it now.
  • Girly Clothes.  I planned to dress my kid exclusively in gender neutral stuff and try to avoid the gendered clothing and boxing her into everything being pink and ruffly.  Except I shop a lot from the girl’s section of the store. And I grumble about there being too much pink and I don’t buy her a lot of pink, but she wears much girlier clothes than I ever planned on.  And she still ends up with a lot of pink, because other people buy it for her or that is the only color that something comes in. (Her bike helmet is pink because literally all they had at the store was pink and we needed one ASAP.)  This season I bought her a ton of clothes from the thrift store that were mostly t-shirts that were very gender neutral, and the reality that I’m realizing this season (our first summer with a walking kid) is that “boy’s” clothing is more practical. I buy her mostly “boys” swim gear because it covers more than girl’s bathing suits, and boy’s shorts are longer and better for sliding.  I don’t want her to be unable to go down the slide because she’s wearing a skirt. But the rest of her clothes are flowers and ruffles and glitter.  For some reason it feels very unfeminist of me to dress her in a way that conforms to gender norms.  But I also don’t really want to use my kid to make a point to society about clothing and colors and assumptions.

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Traveling with a Baby/Toddler

We have done long and short trips with our daughter at most ages/stages since she was 8 weeks old.  We took her to Cozumel last week and as I was stressing out about the babysitting at our hotel, my coworker said to me, “I can’t believe you’re not more stressed about about traveling with her. That is all I would be worrying about.” And I kinda shrugged and was like…well, I pretty much know how it’s going to go.  Which is and isn’t true, because every time we have traveled with our child we have traveled with a different child than the last time.  But my parents are also extremely high maintenance people who moved to Germany with my sister when she was a baby and traveled all over the world with two small children and I refuse to admit that they were somehow more capable than I am.  Plus, getting used to travel with my child is the only way I get to go anywhere.  And so, we go.

A friend asked me recently about traveling with her daughter at nine months or at a year. They both present their own challenges. So I thought I would sort of round up how traveling went with different ages and what trips we did.

8 Weeks: I will never travel with an 8 week old again. This was, I think, the worst vacation I have been on. We went to Florida, we were all getting over the flu, we didn’t know ourselves as parents or our daughter well enough and had no routine.  We packed too much and too little stuff, and she basically cried the entire time unless we managed to get her to sleep, which was a huge challenge.  Plus, we forgot the sunshade for the stroller, she kept getting really hot, she was too little for most sunscreens, she couldn’t sit in a high chair, it was just a disaster.  I would avoid a huge temperature shift for a baby this young, for a lot of reasons. We brought our stability ball for this trip, which felt ridiculous but also totally necessary, and it was totally necessary.

5 Months: This was mostly a good age to travel except I was overly stressed about napping.  Look, your kid may not nap well on vacation and if they nap in the stroller or carrier, just lean into it for the trip and worry about their nap schedule when you get home.  She decided she hated her carseat halfway through the first 2 hour drive and then screamed in it for the entire rest of the trip which included a 4 hour drive.  This was the first trip where we splurged and bought her her own seat, since we were going to England on an overnight flight and wanted some hope of sleeping on the plane. It turned out to not be necessary, and she slept better when I was holding her and nursing her anyway. We spent a lot of time at people’s houses on this trip, but we didn’t want to haul a ton of toys for her. I think if we had been willing to spend a bit of money on new/appropriate toys, this trip would have gone better. At this age, she loved hanging out in her bouncer and her baby gym. We thought she would be willing to hang out in her carseat with some Lamaze toys clipped to it but she was not interested.  I can’t remember if we owned our GoPod at this age, but we should have brought it because it would have been handy. I wish we had just brought something foldable like this because she was very close to sitting up and liked sitting up and looking around at that age. Plus, having a place where she could hang out and look around quietly would have been so nice at my grandmother-in-law’s houses.  Jet lag wound up not being an issue at all on this trip because she had been having such a hard time sleeping anyway.  We also brought the Merlin suit on this trip, since we were using it at this time.  I would recommend maybe weaning off the Merlin suit before a big trip to England because washing those things in the UK and then hanging them to dry is a lengthy process.  We also brought less clothing on this trip generally because we would have the ability to do laundry, but I wish we had brought more because we wound up with a lot of clothes being still slightly damp from drying in the airing cupboard in England in March.  We did just bring footed sleepers on this trip and that wound up being great except that in all the pictures she’s wearing footed sleepers and she’s at an age where those are a bit goofy on her. But we didn’t have to bring socks, so it was still the right choice.

8 Months: We did a group house in the Poconos with some friends at 8 months and a family trip to Lancaster, then stayed at my cousin’s beach house at 9 months. This was a challenging age because she was crawling and so the houses needed to be babyproofed, but she wasn’t super mobile yet so could be relatively easily contained.  The one house with a lot of breakables was pretty much a nightmare, particularly for the day I was there solo.  This was a great age for our Summer Infant Pop and Play, which I highly recommend to anyone traveling with a mobile infant.  (In Lancaster, I made my Dad go buy one from the local Babies R Us because my daughter kept trying to pull up on glass vases.)  We were on a 2 nap schedule at 8 months, and she wouldn’t just stay asleep in the carseat, which made planning things a little hard, but often with group trips we would be up at 7 and she would nap at 9, and nobody else was really ready to get going before 10 or 11 and then we would do the second nap in the car or carrier, so it was manageable.

9 Months: At 9 months, she was fully cruising and close to walking.  This was the most difficult age to travel with.  Partly because we went to Seneca Falls to go wine tasting and hiking in gorges and going to wineries with a cruising/crawling baby who wants to pull all the wine bottles and displays down on herself is kind of the worst.  She also was at an age where she needed to be really physically tired to nap but couldn’t safely run around a playground, so it was definitely a struggle.  This is the age for which a trip to an indoor playspace or a kids museum is kind of perfect and a little bit necessary.  She also went through a phase of hating high chairs, which made going out to dinner pretty challenging. She also refused to eat most food.  I think we realized later she was getting a couple of teeth. We also realized eventually, after getting some good advice, that most children eat poorly on trips. We’ve leaned into this a bit and just pack a ton of extra pouches and assume she will eat mostly junk when we travel.

14 Months: At 14 months, we went to Florida again.  This was when traveling actually started to get easier again – she was walking, she was signing so we knew when she wanted milk or food, she had consolidated to one nap, she could entertain herself with toys for a decent amount of time, and she was really interested in anything new. Our flight got delayed 5 hours, which was extremely challenging but we just let her run around the airport and followed her around. We were traveling with a lot of family, so there were tons of people around to help keep her active and happy.  I actually weaned on this trip and it wound up being okay because we were spending so much time together that she didn’t lose her mind every time I walked into the room and ask to nurse.  This was the first trip where she was taking cow’s milk and it was partly very convenient because I didn’t have to pump at all, but we also routinely would leave our house without bottles because we had never needed to be that organized/prepared before.  I came down with severe food poisoning right before we traveled and so the whole flight home was me feeling like I might die and my daughter refusing to sit with nobody else but me because she sensed I was sick and needed to be comforted.

15 Months: At 15 months, we went to California. This was the longest flight we were going to do with a very awake baby, since neither time we were flying was naptime.  We drove to the airport that was an hour from our house and she threw up on the way there. She was getting over a respiratory virus and a stomach bug was going around, so we wound up renting a hotel room for a day and postponing our flight to that evening. It was actually perfect – our flight took off right around bedtime and I wore her in the carrier and paced up and down until she fell asleep.  We got super lucky and had an empty seat next to us so when she fell asleep we just draped her across the middle of the plane and she slept the whole rest of the flight.  This was the first trip where we hired a babysitter and it made a huge difference in how much we enjoyed the trip – we went wine tasting without a toddler, and we went to the San Jose Tech museum which is great for older kids but not with a tiny kid.  Otherwise, we tried to focus mostly on kid-friendly activities like Happy Hollow and the Monterrey Bay Aquarium. Fortunately our friends that we were visiting are fellow museum and animal lovers, so they really enjoyed some of our kid-friendly plans. The flight home was a little rough – she napped for maybe an hour of the 4 hour flight – and the rest of the time we needed to entertain her and we just hadn’t brought enough toys. We ended up breaking out the iPad for the last hour of the trip and playing a game called “baby bubbles” in which you tap bubbles and they pop. For some reason I feel better about this type of screen time than watching TV?

19 Months – We went to Cozumel at 19 months. We flew into Cancun and took the ADO bus and the ferry to get to Cozumel. I think that while flying direct is usually my preference, I would rather change planes and fly directly into Cozumel because schlepping to a public bus and then a ferry is a giant PITA.  We brought dive gear so we were bringing two huge bags.  We could have paid for a private transfer, but for some reason that seemed harder to me.  We didn’t bring a carseat on this trip, since we weren’t renting a car.  We did end up taking a few taxis, and just held her on our laps. I know there are a lot of parents who refuse to do this because it is extremely unsafe, but we decided the number of times we were taking cabs was minimal and hauling a carseat was just really unimaginable.  We hired a hotel babysitter so we could go diving. We also hired a woman I found a recommendation for on TripAdvisor and in the future we will hire her because she was fantastic.  This was actually a great age to travel with, other than we were going through some separation anxiety and some sleep regression.  But she’s talking and able to express preferences and you can use things like, “do you want to go to the pool? Then put on your swim suit.” in order to get them out of the house.  A lot of places didn’t have high chairs, which was hard, but fortunately 18/19 months with a very tall baby is sort of the age where you can sit them on a regular chair and feed them food.  The flights there and back were also not at all at naptime, so she was completely wired, which was pretty tough, but I was much better prepared this time and had picked up a bunch of fun dollar section toys to entertain her with.  Gel window clings will give you many tens of minutes of fun on a plane.  We also used regular stickers and some coloring toys and then just some new toys she hadn’t played with before. Again, we broke out the iPad for the last hour of the flight.  She was perfectly happy to play with the bubbles game, watch videos of herself, and play the “create a scene” sticker app that I had downloaded awhile ago.  I hadn’t had a chance to download any actual shows to the iPad before we left, but that wound up being fine. She also entertained herself with my kindle for a long time and seemed very into trying to change the font size? I told myself this wasn’t screentime.

So those are my thoughts on flying/traveling with a child of various ages.  I think everyone’s experience varies a ton, and it’s really hard to plan for whether your child will be crawling or walking at 11 or 12 months, but I also think travel is a lot more doable than some people think it is. It’s more a matter of knowing how to roll with the age you are traveling with. My 8 week old was completely uninterested in an aquarium, my 19 month old loves it.  I’m excited now that she is at an age where she enjoys doing things, because while it means that there are sometimes things we can’t do because they won’t be interesting to her or age-appropriate, unlike when she was tiny and portable, it is so much fun watching her discover the world and experience new things.  Plus, I finally have an excuse to do things that would be totally weird if we were childfree, like going to ride miniature trains.

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