Thursday, June 28, 2012

Traveling with Children

OK, so the good news is that we seem to have recovered from our bout of all-family diarrhea!!

The bad news is that we have recovered just in time to take our first airplane trip with all three kids on board. 

Yes, tomorrow we catch a plane for Texas with our entire brood of travelers. I've written before about traveling with my kids and I find that one of the things people ask me the most about is tips for air travel with young ones, so perhaps this would be a good time to review a couple of the things I've figured out over the years.

Let the Snacks Flow!

Whatever your rules on the ground I say at 35,000 feet anything goes when it comes to treats and foodstuffs. We have cheerios, sandwiches, and tasty treats of all sorts at the ready when we fly which we serve in small increments over the course of the trip. You might want to go light on the super sugary stuff, but otherwise I say create an all-you-can-eat air bound buffet of the skies! One IMPORTANT caveat - - you MUST NOT let your children see your stash in advance! We made this mistake once. I carelessly left the treats bag open as I settled into my seat, rendering the Snood instantly snack insane and causing him to loudly demand all of its contents, of which he managed to devour nearly all before takeoff.

That was bad.

But a judicious doling out of epic snack amounts has really helped us manage flying with the kids.  

Just pick up your strewn Cheerios when you go or the flight attendants will be rightfully enraged with you.

But Maybe a Little Easy on the Juice

However, as an exception to the above rule, we have found that over-consumption of juice tends to result in projectile vomiting during turbulence and upon landing. Which makes your plane mates deeply unhappy.

Speaking of Puking

Bring a change of clothes for all your children AND YOURSELF. You never know who is going to lose it or from which end and finding yourself halfway through a long flight covered in gross is not fun. Be prepared.

Remember the Kindness of Strangers

The people around you on a plane are fully contained and have been checked for weapons, which means you may hand your children to them free form concern. Give your kids to anyone who seems willing to take them while you rummage through your bags, change diapers or go to the restroom.

Just remember to take them back prior to landing.

Go Hog-Wild on the Electronics

Here again, there are different rules for home and the air. Usually, we try to limit our children to about an hour of screen time a day.  But if it keeps our kids quiet on a plane we're pretty much on an "All Dora all the time" system while flying. We have the iPad, the DVD players on two computers, and two phones at the ready to allow our boys to stare slack jawed at media sources for as long as humanly possible. It definitely answers the question, "Do they ever get bored of TV?" They do, but that's OK - because when they do you go back to your no-fail backup plan - the snacking.

Some New Books/Toys

I find that when you pull out a familiar toy on an airplane you provide an opportunity for your, I don't know, let's say two-year-old, to scream loudly,

"I don't like it that Buzz Lightyear phone!!!"

This is why I prefer to have a few never-before-seen items in my bag of tricks. In my experience every kid will spend at least sometime exploring a book or toy they have not seen before. We've had good luck with sticker activity books, vtech electronic books and picture-filled board books for the littlest ones.

This is a Vtech book, for the record. And no, they are not paying me to tell you about them.

They may not eat up hours at a time but they do provide a nice respite from all that media-watching and maw stuffing.

The Baby is the Same as on the Ground

When it comes to flying with little ones, babies can be the hardest or the easiest. I bring a Boppy pillow

No, they're not paying me either

make a little baby nest and basically proceed with the snuggling, napping, nursing, and funny face making that we would be engaging in if we were back on Earth, and that has always worked really well.

I'm told that nursing or using a pacifier on takeoff and landing can help with babies who have problems with their ears. I've never had a problem with any of my kids having ear aches on planes so I don't have that much to say about that. I have had the experience of having a baby who screams bloody murder for no apparent reason for long stretches in-flight. 

And it is really terrible. 

And there are people who will give you dirty looks even though they can clearly see that you are trying to do what you can to soothe your little one. Which is awful. But there's not much you can do about it but wait for the baby to calm down or fall asleep, which he or she eventually will. I promise. 

And hopefully someone will steal the bag of the people who glared at you.

All this being said I can only hope our own travels in the morning will prove drama free. As my husband and I always remind each other as we step onto the flight, whatever happens after we get into our seats, in three-and-a-half hours we'll be there.

The state in which we and our fellow passengers arrive is yet to be determined. But we put our faith in years of travel experience....

...and a well-packed bag of snacks.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Not the Best Week Ever

So I kind of make some sort of effort not to dwell on super gross things on the blog.

But when you have three children under four, life is so unrelentingly yuck-filled that it sometimes seems impossible to write about motherhood on a weekly basis without getting into some of the job's gorier aspects.

With that being said, I am here to tell you that we here at Short Fat Dictator headquarters have spent the week in the grip of a massive all-family diarrhea outbreak.

I'll take a brief pause for those of you wise folks who wish to stop reading at this time.

For those of you that remain: First of all, it might seriously time to look into a hobby. Second of all, I promise to keep the details of our recent epidemic as un-detailed as humanly possible.

Suffice it to say that diarrhea has taken over our home entirely. It is all we think about. It is all we talk about. I have uttered the sentence, 

"Oh my God, is that poop?"

more times in the last three days than I ever imagined I would over the course of a lifetime.

Diarrhea in all its personified glory has become a sixth member of our household. Poor Snoodie has been suffering the worst and has gotten fairly vocal on the subject.

Each butt-clutching trip down the hallway towards the potty now involves the angrily shouted phrase,

"I don't want anymore of you the diarrhea!!"

Truly the only positive thing I can think of to say about the week is that all but one of the victims of this devilish plague is potty trained. In order to avoid discussing this at any length I will instead provide you with this simple formula:

Diarrhea + Diapers = Soul Crushingly Unimaginable Horror

Yesterday I foolishly allowed myself to believe that the disease might have finally run its course. After an incident-free overnight and a potty trip-free morning, I decided it was time to head out to the local playspace for some fun and lunch anywhere other than our house of pestilence.

Things seemed fine until about 20 minutes after our meal when the Snood shouted down from the apex of the tubing:

"Oh no Mommy! The diarrhea! I think it's back!"

The looks you receive when your child delivers this line in a crowded fast food establishment are not kindly, let me tell you.  I gathered up the children in a whirlwind and sped for the minivan under the withering glares of french-fry cramming diners.

So, we're back to sitting at home and stuffing ourselves with toast, bananas, rice, and any other "binding" food you can possibly think of. 

Which is not so bad really. It's not like we're welcome back at the playspace anyway...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Lullaby Gone Wrong

I've always enjoyed singing to my kids.

When the Snood was first home from the hospital I would sing John Lennon's classic "Beautiful Boy" to him every night as my husband and I gave him a bath, then again as I laid him in his crib at bedtime.

In case you are not familiar with the song (hi Mom!), it is a lovely lullaby that Lennon wrote for his son Sean. The lyrics feature the famous line, "Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans," and the chorus that repeats the phrase, 

"Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful / Beautiful Boy."

The song has remained in heavy rotation at our house. I continued to play it for Snood as he grew, and I sang it anew at bath time when we welcomed our second son 19-months later.

In the final line of the song Lennon sings,

"Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful / Beautiful Sean."

Taking a cue from this I began inserting my own kids' names into the lullaby as I sang it.

As it turned out, letting my boys know that a lyric change was an option for my sweet little lullaby was a mistake of epic proportions.

It started out innocuously enough when my flight-obsessed two-year-old stopped me as I sang before bed with a request,

"Buuu-fulll Airplanes!"

I figured what could be the harm in engaging this adorable suggestion? And so I sang, 

"Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful / Beautiful AIRPLANES!"

He smiled brightly, clapped his hands and immediately requested:

"Buuu-full Helicops!"

I sang "Beautiful Helipcopters", "Beautiful Supersonic Jets", "Beautiful Boats", and even "Beautiful Monster Truck Tires".

The real trouble began when my older son overheard the evolution of my beloved song. Immediately he had some requests of his own:

"Beautiful Thomas the Tank Engine!"

"Beautiful Cheeseburgers!"

"Beautiful Mommy!"

So lulled into happiness was I by this last request that I didn't see where this game was so obviously heading.

"Beautiful Poo Poo!"

My horror at this suggestion only fueled my sons' fire. 

"Beautiful Boogers!"

"Beautiful Butt on Your Nose!"

"Beautiful Poop in the Kitchen!"

Control, at its most basic level, had been lost.

As my kids laughed themselves silly I took a moment to acknowledge the end of a favorite nightly ritual.

Later that night I rocked my newly minted baby girl and sang to her softly,

"Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful / Beautiful Girl" 

I figure I've got at least another 18 months left and I'm going to make the most of it.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Inner Two-Year-Old

My middle child turned two last week.

And, yes, I mean it's crazy terrible with the tantrums and the "I won't!"s and the falling to the ground in agony at random intervals. I feel quite sure that if he possessed the requisite manual dexterity my son would, in fact, be rending his garments on a daily basis.

Watching my son in all of his wondrous expressiveness has made me think about just how emotionally repressed I really am. The reality is that my days are FILLED with a host of frustrations that my two-year-old can't even imagine. Unfortunately, though, I've been socialized to such a degree that I do not feel comfortable kicking those who offend me in the face repeatedly and am instead relegated to expressing my rage through the occasional passive aggressive note.

It's enough to make me wonder what life would be like if I were to take a cue from my son. Just imagine how much internalized stress I might free myself from if could only get in touch with my inner two-year-old!

It might look a little something like this:

MONDAY: The week is off to a rough start as a fellow Mom at school pick-up edges me out for a parking space. Instead of plastering a fake smile on my face and searching for another spot I exit my vehicle. Gesturing towards the space I begin shouting in a high-pitched voice, 

"MINE!!!!! MINE! MINE! MINE! MINE!!!!!!!!!!" 

My fellow Mommy tries to argue that she saw the space first but her words fall on deaf ears. Literally. Because I have shoved both fingers in my ears and I am shrieking loudly enough to drown out her words. If she does not relent I drop to the ground and begin rolling around to show her how committed I am to my cause.

TUESDAY: At the grocery store I reach the checkout stand only to be told that the total for my weekly groceries is nearly two hundred dollars. This seems like an awful lot of money and I am upset. So, when the clerk asks for payment I shut my eyes tightly and repeat, 


three hundred times at increasing volume.

When the people behind me in line begin to complain about the delay, I arch my back dramatically, shake my head angrily and swat at them furiously with both hands.

WEDNESDAY: My husband comes home from work and asks what's for dinner. I open the refrigerator and begin throwing whatever contents I find towards his head. If he persists in his requests, there is biting.

THURSDAY: The kids are running wild. Their roughhousing culminates in them breaking the handle off the oven. I consider calmly giving each of them a time out before gently explaining the error of their ways, but instead I grab a blanket, pull it over my head and lie down in the middle of the living room floor while emitting a high-pitched wail. I refuse to emerge until my husband returns from work.

FRIDAY: I finish up the week with a night out with the girls! Conversation is flowing but the service is a bit on the slow side, so I take the situation in hand. I begin by banging my face into the table repeatedly while shrieking, 


This lights a fire under the service staff and our meal appears without further delay. I take a few bites of my meal before announcing loudly,


I then throw the remainder of my meal onto the floor and commence pulling out tufts my own hair.

Now I'm not trying to claim that I'd make a lot of new friends during my week as a two-year-old, but I do have a strong suspicion that I'd sleep better at night. I know I'd be freed from rocking back and forth sleeplessly as I tried to craft the perfect rejoinder to the parking enforcement dude who gave me a ticket EVEN THOUGH I WAS CLEARLY ABOUT TO PUT MORE MONEY IN THE METER!!!!

Perhaps there is some happy medium to be found in which I summon just enough of the terrible twos. I might be able to let fewer things slide, and perhaps I could find a few more opportunities to express my true feelings without going into full-blown tantrum mode.

No matter how tempting my son makes it look