Category Archives: organizing

Have Infant Will Travel

With all my recent travel, I’ve received a number of notes from mommy-friends looking for a little advice on how best to prepare for their own travel adventures with baby. So, here’s how baby and I roll when we’re on the road–or should I say tarmac…

First, when we fly, we arrive ungodly early. It’s painful for me because I’m typically the type that arrives about 1 hour before the flight and carry on or bust. But now that I’m a mommy, I plan on being at the airport 90 minutes early if it’s a small airport like Savannah or Syracuse and at least 2 hours early if it’s a big airport like Atlanta or Baltimore. (I haven’t flown with baby out of Dulles yet, but I have to say that I might plan on being there 2.5 hours before my flight just because that airport sucks in more ways than I can count. But I digress.)

Baby gets wheeled through security, to the gate, to baggage claim, and anywhere else we may need to go in his car seat, which is clipped into the Snap ‘n’ Go stroller base. I’ve seen people with babies in those front carriers, but generally they are still pushing a stroller so it just seems like the carrier is just more thing to lug around that I really don’t need. I mean, no matter where you’re going you need the car seat, so you’ve got to take the stroller base. But the carrier? If you really think you’ll use it wherever you’re going, throw it in the bag that you check. (And no matter how much you hate paying the luggage fees, check the darn bag; you’ve got enough to carry onto the plane. )

I’m sure that it’ll come as no surprise that going through security with a stroller, infant, and other baby accoutrement takes a lot more time than you’re probably used. (I’ll get to more on security later.) So, just try not to stress. You’ll have to take the stroller all apart and put it on the conveyer for X-ray or someone will come and whisk it away and give it some wand action. In the meantime, you have to hold the baby as you walk through the metal detector. Grabbing your stuff off the conveyor and setting up the stroller while holding an infant on one hip is a challenge, but if you take your time, you’ll get through it.

Once you’re to the gate, definitely take advantage of your priority seating status. It takes more time than you think to deconstruct the stroller and get into your seat and settled. But basically, you’re going to just gate check the car seat and the stroller base. Leave them with their pretty pink tags at the end of the jet bridge. I’d recommend putting the car seat in a plastic bag, but I forgot mine the last time and we survived.

Now for carry-ons… I use this rather large shoulder bag to lug most stuff and then I bring a small purse-like thing for my pump, mini cooler, and extra bottles. I figure if my luggage gets lost, I have the things I really need. In my big bag, I throw in: a gallon ziplock bag with a thing of wipes and a bunch of diapers; a full set of clean baby clothes (not just an extra onesie because inevitably you will have some sort of inopportune diaper blow out that will make the pants baby’s wearing unwearable); a sweater/sweatshirt for baby; this plastic container thing that has 3 sections, where I put formula, rice cereal, and oatmeal; a bottle of water (buy it once you get through security); 3 rattles; one small stuffed toy; two large, thin receiving blankets/giant burp cloths (one to lay down on whatever baby changing table you find in the airport bathroom); a washcloth; and then my stuff (wallet, ID, phone, and that was pretty much it). If you’re traveling in the winter or on an overnight flight, I’m guessing you’ll need an actual blanket, too.

If baby happens to be traveling on your lap (although I would seriously recommend parents cough up the cost of an extra seat if you’re taking more than a 4 or 5 hour flight), I’ll just tell you right now that you won’t need the normal stuff you travel with (Kindle, iPod, book, etc.). The baby will sleep, but you’re going to have your hands literally so full for a lot of the time, keeping baby entertained and quiet, that I really think it’s overly optimistic to bring all that stuff. However, if you are going to be on a longer flight, you might want to bring something if you think the gazillion movies they’ll play won’t be enough. I just wouldn’t burden yourself with lugging all that stuff around the airport when you can throw it in your checked bag.

As for baby food… You can bring as much breast milk as you can carry and you can even put it in the big 8oz or 9oz bottles. When you go through security, they’ll pull you over to the side and make you open every single one of them as they wave this vapor stick over them. This takes also takes up more time going through security, but at least there are no restrictions. You’ll also want to pack some formula, even if you’re not feeding baby formula regularly. You don’t know what kind of situation you’re going to be in—maybe the dude sitting next to you completely creeps you out and you don’t want to whip out the boob when you run out of bottled milk or maybe your flight gets cancelled/delayed or maybe the top comes of your boob milk and spills all over the cooler. These are all things that have happened to me, so you want to be prepared.

If baby is into solids, I recommend throwing some of the Gerber Nature Selects in the rectangular plastic containers into your bag as well. They are foil sealed and also have a plastic top if you need to re-close it. This last time I flew back with some jars of baby food Ian’s mom bought me and they made me open those but not the plastic containers.

As for keeping baby quiet and comfortable during takeover and landing, my secret was feeding him. I would try to hold off on actually giving him the bottle until we had pushed away from the gate and were taxiing to the runway. He’d be gulping away as we sped down the runway and then would be asleep by the time we’d reached our cruising altitude. I think the swallowing motion did a lot to relieve the pressure than can build up in the ears when taking off and landing. Same deal with the landing. If he was asleep, I’d just let him be and if not, I’d feed him until we were on the ground.

The only problem I had was at one point he just refused the bottle—either boob milk or formula. He’d never done that before. So, I had to pull out the boob for a couple minutes before he crashed. I was completely uncomfortable, but I figured it was a few minutes of self consciousness versus a crying baby.

Now, as far as seats go, I think I’d recommend mommies opt for the window seat. Although I do think on a long-haul flights, there could be some advantages to having an aisle seat; you might want to get up and walk baby at some point and having an aisle would make that much easier to do.

There’s also some row considerations. I got put in a bulkhead seat (you know the ones behind the business/first class and economy divider) once, and I didn’t like it at all. There was more legroom, but I didn’t like not having my bag with all of baby’s gear within arms reach. (I actually switched seats with someone.)

However, one of my girlfriends who also has an infant and will be traveling to the Philippines says that’s where she and her family will be sitting because the flight crew can attach a bassinet of sorts for the baby. For overseas travel, you might call the airline to find out if that’s a possibility because being hands free even for a little bit on what is sure to be a crowded flight would be awesome.

So, the last word: It’s definitely exhausting traveling with a baby, but it’s not impossible, even if you’re by yourself, if you’re organized.


Filed under babies, baby travel, breastfeeding, daily life, feeding, formula, infants, moms, newbie parents, nursing, organizing, travel

A First in Flight

So, I’ve finally returned from a 10-day whirlwind tour of the East Coast, where I’ve ping ponged my way from Northern New York to North Carolina to Washington, D.C., to Jersey and back with a six-week-old. Traveling with infants… definitely not for the impatient or disorganized (of which I am both).

He's got a ticket to ride

Out of the four different legs of the trip, I was most worried about the flight to North Carolina. I was stressing that baby would totally be that kind of baby that airline passengers don’t feel bad about hating. Think a hot, sweaty, totally over-booked plane meets wailing, screaming, and other forms of inconsolable crying.

But if the truth be told, it wasn’t so bad; the five hour drive from Fayette-nam (Fayetteville, N.C., home to Fort Bragg, for those of you non-military wives reading this) with just baby and me was much, much worse. All things considered, baby’s first flight was fantastic.

Of course a few things helped.

Number one: my mom. Yup, she went with me as my sherpa. She schlepped pretty much everything besides the baby–my carry-on (a.k.a. diaper bag), her purse, cooler pack full of breast milk, dirty diapers, stroller base, etc. I so needed her extra set of hands.

It would seem like with two of us, we’d have everything under control. But all it took was the top to snap off of one of my mini canisters of breast milk and it felt like the wheels were starting to fall off. Of course, then I was reminded of my utter incompetence when I saw a girl probably 10 years younger than I, toting her infant son onto the same flight with what seemed like half the amount of stuff and no mom.

But I digress… my number two savior was the Charlotte USO.

Now, for the non-military readers out there, the USO (United Service Organizations) is a group whose mission is “to provide morale, welfare, and recreation-type services to uniformed military personnel.” That encompasses a lot of things, but one of the cooler things they do for military–and that includes active duty military, national guard, reserves, retired military people, and military families–is operate a number of airport lounges, where people can hang out and rest up before their flights or during a layover.

And there happened to be one in Charlotte, where my mom, baby, and I had a three-plus hour layover.

This was my first time using a USO lounge. In fact, my mom and I had first headed to the US Airways club lounge, armed with her American Express platinum card and a hope that they had reciprocity with card members. (They don’t.) Rejected and wondering where we were going to find a suitable place to hang out (I was probably going to need to nurse given how fast baby sucked down a bottle of pumped milk on the first flight), I suggested we try out the USO.

It took us awhile to find it, but once we did, it was so worth it. The people

The Charlotte USO = Godsend

were so friendly, warm, and welcoming; they showed us every corner of the place from the video message center to the DVD viewing room to the kitchen area (complete with bottled drinks, fresh hot dogs, and other snacks) to the nursery (equipped with gliders, a pack ‘n’ play, and a bunch of toys and books for kids) to the bathrooms with the infant changing station. Our host even thought to tell me that I just needed to let her know if I needed diapers, wipes, or formula. (How awesome is that?)

It was so nice to be able to use the USO to regroup. I was even able to nurse comfortably (I’m still not totally down with whipping out the boob anywhere, anytime) while my mom put her feet up in an overstuffed leather recliner while watching the news and reading the paper.

Now, I realize that a lot of people reading this probably don’t have access to great services like the USO, so here are a few lessons learned:

  • Book a hotel. If you have a very early morning flight, seriously consider getting a room at the airport hotel for the night before. It probably is worth the money because you won’t have to get up so darn early, so your kid is likely to be less cranky, and you won’t have any last minute snafus like a late start, a pit stop for gas, heavy traffic, or flat tire.
  • Good things come in small packages. If you are bringing expressed milk on the plane, consider using smaller quantity canisters. If your bottles are under three ounces, you’ve got a green light to go. If they are bigger, it’s still no big deal–the TSA people will ask you to open the bottles so they can wave this paper strip thing over it and conduct a vapor test–but it will cost you more time getting through security.
  • Bag it. Bring a plastic garbage bag with you. When traveling with itty bitty babies, you will likely have them in their car seat with the clip-in base. (I have the Baby Trend Snap and Go, but there are other brands out there.) This stroller system makes it so easy to get to your gate, particularly if you’ve got luck like mine and you have to change terminals during your layover. But you’ll have to check it at the gate. I put the whole car seat part of the system in a plastic bag before giving it to the runway dude who threw it into the belly of the plan. It may sound strange, but think about how dirty it’s got to be–from the workers’ gloves, to the carts on which the baggage is transported, to the under carriage of the plane. Ewww. Plastic will protect the seat fabric.
  • Double bag it. I went for the bag-within-a-bag as my carry-on and I think it worked out really well. A friend had given me this great oversized, water repellent bag as a baby gift, so I packed that thing full of all my baby and travel essentials. And the bigger the better. I was able to fit my diaper bag, the cooler pack, my giant wallet, and a few other miscellaneous items in the thing and it was easy and compact to carry. Here’s a pic:

A carry-all carry-on

So, thanks to smart packing, planning, and a personal pack mule, baby’s first flight was pretty painless. However, although I’ve lived to tell about it, I’ll say that I wouldn’t exactly say that I’m ready to be a frequent flier family. In fact, I’m trying not to think about the trip to Hawaii that we’ve got planned with baby. (How long is the flight, again?)


Filed under baby travel, breastfeeding, daily life, infants, moms, newbie parents, newborns, organizing, Uncategorized

Gypsy Truck Diaries

So most of you have figured out by now through my posts that I’ve ditched the 90+ degree heat wave in D.C. for a summer at the River at my parents’ house.

In some ways, I can’t believe I just said that. I’m actually living with my parents and I’m in my 30s. I’m just glad it’s summer and I’m on maternity leave or I would’ve hit a personal low.

At any rate, getting here was a total project. I have to thank my very good friend Lesley for being such a trooper. She’s been an amazing friend through my pregnancy and beyond. You know you’ve got a friend when she’ll come for the weekend to help you clean out your basement or pack up your car and make the day-long drive to your parents’ with you.

Neither were easy feats to accomplish, but the latter is really worth spending some time on, especially for the benefit of newbie parents who no doubt will grossly underestimate the amount of baby gear is required for a weekend trip much less on that would last several months.

We have what would qualify as a large car; it’s a Toyota 4-Runner. However, I had known packing up the hubbie, myself, baby, the Doberman, and two cats for a summer at the River was going to be a challenge even with an SUV, so I had convinced my parents to buy the hubbie a roof rack for his birthday.

But as Lesley and I sat in my house the night before the big journey with all the bags and boxes and contraptions, I wondered if it was all going to fit, even with the roof rack.

Baby got me up around 6am-ish, so I was up and showered by 6:30am or so. Lesley wasn’t far behind me; I think she was up and in the shower by 7am. I swear we were maneuvering the obstacle course that way my backyard by 8am, at the very latest.

Construction on the deck in our backyard had begun the day before, so we had a deck frame and no stairs leading to our backyard. It was a bit of a balancing act to get to ground level. You either had to do a bit of a balance beam routine along a long board and then jump down to the grass or sort of lower yourself down to the ground from the door and then climb over one of the main supports a few feet away. It wasn’t pretty either way, but it seemed like the more sensible option versus a fairly long trip down the seriously steep stair in the front of our house. Plus, with the car in the back, it felt a bit more secure. This was D.C. after all; I don’t trust anything not to walk away on its own.

Now the weather… The month of May started out a little on the chilly side, but it was heating up fast as the days ticked by. And on the morning of our big pack-up, the D.C. weather didn’t disappoint. It was sunny and steamy–a two shower before noon kind of day.

Between lugging the stuff outside, making sure baby was (sort of) happy (he definitely screamed a lot that morning), and strapping it down (damn those ratchet straps), it took us four hours–four hours!–to pack the car. And when I say pack the car, I don’t mean pack my stuff. That was done. It took four hours to make sure all of my bags, boxes, bins, and stuff (including live animals) fit into the car.

Truth be told, we probably could have done it in three and a half hours, but two friends stopped by to give us a sweet send off, complete with yummy pastries that were scarfed down within a few blocks of home after we finally set sail. So, in my mind, that extra half hour was totally worth a buttery, flaky, dark-chocolate pain au chocolat.

At one point during the packing session, I was sure the stuff wasn’t going to fit. Lesley and I were standing there with the bouncer seat, turning it every which way and trying to flatten it to figure out how we could shove it in the overflowing car.

Finally we made it work, and the pack job was complete. The cats were in the car, panting in the heat; there was a small space carved out for the dog; the pack ‘n’ play, my bag of clothes, and the stroller were seemingly secure on the roof; and nothing appeared to be threatening to topple over onto the car seat in the backseat.

It was a freaking gypsy truck. All that was missing were the tambourines. Check it out.

Damn Bouncer Seat

Roof Rack Saves the Day

Poor Joey

Even the Kid Was Crammed In

But everything was in the truck and we were off. Nothing appeared to be ready to fly off the roof, so all was right in the world.

Until it started raining.

I had considered throwing a tarp over everything on the roof when we were packing up, but given that the ratchet straps nearly got the better of us (yes, they can go on upside down), I figured I’d skip the tarp and save our sanity.

And at first, I wasn’t too worried. It was only sprinkling. The stroller and pack ‘n’ play would dry out just fine, and my clothes were in a military-grade, water-resistant tactical bag. But whether the bag could keep out the torrential downpour we encountered in York, Pa., that lasted through Scranton, Pa., was another question.

Amazingly enough, when I pulled into my parents’ driveway, my stuff was pretty much dry. (Darn good tactical bag, if you ask me.)

But even more impressive was the fact that I had made it from D.C. to my parents’ house in about 8.5 hours. I’d say that the whole trip in the gypsy truck took only about a half hour to 45 minutes longer than usual. Not bad considering the roof ornaments and the fact that we were transporting three animals–well, four if you count the breastfeeding baby.

But we made it–many thanks again to a friend who definitely earned her stripes–and couldn’t be happier. And good thing, too, because I don’t think I have the heart to try and pack the truck up again. It might take me all summer to figure out how to do it again.

My advice to soon-to-be parents is simple: Get yourself a roof rack or roof-top carrier. You’ll need it.

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Filed under daily life, newbie parents, newborns, organizing

Isn’t My Nest Feathered Enough?

With my due date now a four-day-old memory, I’ve been doing the best that I can to keep busy enough to get my mind off of the one thing everyone in my family’s itching to know: When is this baby going to arrive?

I’d like to say that I’ve been able to use some of this extra time awaiting Baby P’s debut doing the one thing that nearly every young mom has strongly urged me to do–stock up on sleep. Unfortunately, for as much as I’m trying to heed their advice, the sandman keeps shortchanging me. The best I did was a nap yesterday afternoon, which ran a surprising four hours long despite the sounds of my neighbor weed-whacking his lawn to Latin carnival music floating in through my window. But the reality is that I’ve been spending my so-called “free” time doing more cleaning and organizing.

Now, I thought I had done a pretty good job already. My nesting instincts definitely kicked in pretty hardcore around month six. Our kitchen remodel was finally complete, so I was able to move pretty fast from organizing my cupboards and putting away my nice dishes, which had been in boxes for the past year and a half, to finding a cleaning lady to come once a week (god bless Joselyn); installing a new closet organization system for our master-bedroom (Container Store and Elfa, you rock); re-planting about half of our front garden; hiring a carpenter to complete a set of built-in shelves in my living room (thank you, Scott); throwing out about half of the stuff in our basement before sealing the walls and floors (thank you, Lesley); and decorating the nursery.

But if there’s one thing that my mom’s really good at it’s getting to that expert level of organization. If it were up to her, about a third of my stuff would be sitting in garbage bags in my alley this morning waiting for the 7am garbage pick-up, another third would be in a box marked “Free” on the sidewalk in front of my front stairs, and the remaining third would be either folded neatly in a drawer or shoved in a plastic bin to be stored in the basement.

Although she really just naturally doesn’t mess around when it comes to getting organized, it feels like it’s in overdrive, which makes me think grandma-to-bes also have a certain nesting urge that rivals many mommas-t0-be’s own instincts. Take my mother for example. In the week that she’s been in town, she’s checked these items off the to-do list:

  • Organized all the silverware, cooking utensils, and junk in my kitchen drawers (again Container Store is the best)
  • Steam cleaned all my living room furniture and rug
  • Scrubbed my porch
  • Hung pictures/artwork
  • Purchased a new dining room rug
  • Put together a new laundry sorter and laundry butler/organization system
  • Re-organized my linen closet
  • Helped me sort through/get rid of a ton of old papers

And, if you can believe it, we’ve still got a to-do list for today that includes some additional organizing in my bedroom and the basement and a quick trip out to the grocery store to stock up on some provisions–assuming we don’t need to take a detour to the hospital, which is totally possible, even likely, at this point.

But I really wish someone would have included this tidbit of information about grandmas’ nesting instincts in any of the gazillion pregnancy books out there, especially the basic how-to-have-a-baby manuals like What to Expect When You Are Expecting, which is by the way, a fantastic book for mommies-to-be like me who just want facts and not a lot more. Because it’s just not my mom. My mother-in-law also exhibited some of this behavior. She came for a five-day stay last month and spent at least a couple days of washing baby clothes and then ironing them before putting them into dust-free plastic bins, which were organized by size.

The other thing that I wish I’d realized before now is that the nesting instinct spikes very close to labor. According to this Web site:

“The nesting instinct generally kicks in around the fifth month of pregnancy, however it can also occur much earlier or much later. Many women acutely experience the nesting instinct in the final days of their pregnancy, and this can often be a sign that labor and delivery is close at hand.”

I had no idea. I thought it was something that kicked in somewhere in the second trimester–thus the suddenly urgent need to wash baseboards–and sort of held steady before tapering off close to delivery as you get everything just-so in the nursery. (By the way, that whole baseboard thing is no joke or exaggeration. I was in my half-bath just this morning and happened to glance down and had the thought that I should really take a sponge to the baseboards in there again.)

So, just as an exercise, I decided to chart my nesting instinct intensity. I looked back over the past 41 weeks and thought about when I started to get really serious about getting stuff done.

As you can see from the chart above, there was some ebbing and flowing of my nesting instinct intensity. Contributing to the spike very early on in my pregnancy, before I even knew I was pregnant, in fact, was the kitchen remodel. I spent a lot of time stressing over the design of the kitchen and the product selections, racking up one major meltdown brought on by an out-of-ink fax machine that had me running to a local gas station to use their fax machine so I could save $1,500 on cabinets. In retrospect, my anxiety and all-over-the-place emotions (not to mention bad skin and bigger boobs) should’ve been an indication that something was up.

But that really didn’t get confirmed until I was in the 13 to 14 week mark. The news that Baby P was on the way definitely kick started some nesting instincts anew. The next big bump came after my 20 week sonogram when it was confirmed that baby was indeed a boy. (Good to know my maternal instincts weren’t completely off.) The news got my brain turning over some nursery theme ideas.

I hit another new peak around 27 weeks or so, when I spent the better part of my vacation in Chamonix, France, on the Internet, researching childcare options (still haven’t found one) and building my baby registry.

Things started going off the charts after 30 weeks. I wanted all my big house projects to be wrapped up by May 1 on the off-chance that Baby P would arrive early. (Good thing that didn’t happen because we wouldn’t have been ready.) As my husband can attest, I was pretty much a slave driver, insisting that we spend every waking hour on the weekends doing one of three things–cleaning, organizing, or throwing away. (He was not exactly happy about this.)

But by May 15th, I was feeling pretty great as I washed and folded a few newborn onesies, rolling them neatly and placing them in small plastic bins that I decided to use as drawer organizers. I had already stocked up on newborn diapers and wipes, as well as some breastfeeding relief products that friends had recommended. I was ready.

Or so I thought. But it’s amazing how a motivated mom can light a mommy-to-be’s nesting fire once again. I guess no nest can be over feathered.


Filed under due date, moms, nesting, organizing, pregnancy