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    Emily Malone

    culinary arts grad. nutrition facts lover. vegetarian chef. marathon runner. country music maniac. failed dog trainer. barre fanatic. loving mama.

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    EmilyBMalone@gmail.com

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    A Look Back.



Traveling With Two: Getting There.

When I was little, we road-tripped every summer up to New Jersey and then down to Hilton Head.  The Aerostar was packed to the gills with suitcases, coolers, beach towels, and anything else my mom could fit.  We’d drive for hours and hours, each of us with a small duffel at our feet filled with toys, books, and other entertainment (including small surprises my mom would always add at the last minute!).

I don’t think I even rode on an airplane until our big trip to Disneyworld at age eight.  And in the years that followed, I rarely went on another until I started flying by myself for things like spring breaks.  These days, living out on the west coast, we find ourselves in the friendly skies quite often!

One of the things we weighed heavily when we moved out to Seattle, was just how far we’d be away from family.  Of course there were the day-t0-day concerns of not being close, but also the logistics of not even being a car-ride away.  But the pros outweighed the cons, and travel is just a part of our life!  And we do it enough that it’s not even all that stressful anymore, although of course every new age brings new challenges and changes.  I have no idea how many flights Cullen has been on at this point, but Graham has done three in his first 9 months.

It’s worth noting, that we are also very, very blessed to be able to pay for almost all of our trips with air miles.  Casey travels for work enough that the miles he accumulates covers the cost of tickets for me and Cullen (Graham is still free).  Something I try to remind myself of when we are missing him when he travels! 

I get lots of comments and emails from terrified parents who are about to taking their children on first plane rides, looking for tips and advice.  And while I only know what works for my kids and our family, I am happy to share a bit of guidance for those traveling with young ones…

At the Airport

Even when we traveled with just Cullen, we always took both a carrier and a stroller to the airport.  The carrier is much easier with babies, because you can leave them strapped on through security, and it feels more secure in crowded spaces.  Some babies will even stay in the carrier snoozing during flights!

In the past, I’ve always taken my traditional Ergobaby carrier – which I LOVE for daily use.  But it’s a bit bulky when you are traveling, and it’s one more thing to lug around on the plane and through the airport when not in use. 

This time I tried the Ergobaby Stowaway carrier (which I’ve had for a while, but hadn’t used much!) and I absolutely loved it.  It is perfect for summer, as it is much more lightweight and a thin, nylon material.  The whole thing folds down into a tiny pouch that fits into a diaper bag – amazing!  (Also just noticed that for some reason the green color is half price on Amazon right now – a steal!) 

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We also took our Britax B-Ready stroller with the second seat attached (you can read more about the stroller in this post!).  In our day to day life at home, I prefer to use our BOB Duallie to stroll with both boys.  But it is super wide and I thought it would be obnoxious in the airport, not to mention I didn’t want to risk it being damaged during gate check. 

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Cullen is perfectly capable of walking through the airport, but actually prefers to be in the stroller in big crowds (which is fine with me!).  And even though we didn’t use the second seat at the airport, we needed it at our destination – so it served as handy storage for diaper bags and other carry-ons.  We have always checked our strollers at the gate, and have never had any issues (knock on wood).  Just don’t forget to grab it if you are connecting <— we actually did this once! 

On the Plane

Air travel is a constantly evolving process, depending on the ages (and number of!) your children.  So let’s start with the easy one.  I know there are parents who fill backpacks with stickers, books, crayons, toys, and more – and who tirelessly entertain their toddlers for hours upon hours in flight.  God bless these people, but I am not one of them.

From somewhere around age two and beyond, flying with our toddler became much, much easier.  Snacks + iPad + toddler headphones = not a peep for five hours. 

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We have a ton apps and games downloaded for him, as well as some episodes of Sesame Street, Super Why, and Daniel Tiger (the favorites!).  While he usually gets to watch one TV show a day while I put Graham down for the morning nap, he never gets to play on the iPad for several hours – so this is a fun treat! 

I always pack things like a sandwich, bunny crackers, sliced fruit, pouches, and an empty water bottle (the flight crew will fill it up for you!), so there is plenty to eat.  Depending on the length of the flight, sometimes we’ll buy a fruit and cheese plate too. 

With all that said, I DO always still pack Cullen’s backpack with a few fun things – one or two new small books, a Water WOW coloring book, some mini puzzles, and a few tiny cars or trucks.  He rarely plays with any of this on the plane, but it is there in case of a long delay or an iPad failure, and it doubles as something to play with when we get to our destination. 

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Traveling with a baby is a bit more complicated, and it’s something that so many parents fear.  I assure you, while not always a walk in the park, it is not THAT bad.  We flew with Cullen for the first time at 9 weeks, and Graham’s first flight was at 11 weeks.  From infant to about six months, it’s actually fairly easy.  I would always try to time takeoff with naptime (keeping him up a bit longer if necessary to avoid a short airport nap!) and a feeding, which usually results in a long airplane snooze (love that white noise!). 

If you are breastfeeding, it’s a simple as a boob and a blanket or cover (and a window seat if you can snag one!).  For bottle-fed babies, flight crews are always willing to warm up the milk or provide water for formula, so don’t be afraid to ask!  I also always travel with my Boppy pillow – even now at nine months old.  It is much softer and nicer for both mom and baby, and provides a cushy spot to take a snooze.  (Worth noting that they do make a travel Boppy, and I kind of wish I’d gotten one years ago!)

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When Graham is awake, he is generally very happy to chew on toys, bounce on our laps, and play with non-toy items like hats, airplane cups, and straws.  For that reason, the minute we sit down on an airplane I immediately wipe down all reachable surfaces with baby wipes – tray tables, arm rests, windows, seat belts, etc.  There is no way to avoid a curious baby (or toddler!) touching everything, so the best I can do is clean it and stop thinking about it. 

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Once babies reach the solid food age, things get slightly more complicated.  At home, Graham does a lot of self-feeding of soft foods in the high chair.  But that doesn’t work on an airplane!  He is not a big spoon fan, and likes to grab them and then throw food all over, so that wasn’t going to work either.

For this past trip (at nine months old), I packed a lot of fruit and veggie pouches, along with no-mess finger foods like puffs and freeze-dried fruits.  Over the course of a four and a half hour flight, he got really bored sitting on my lap.  So I did something kind of weird, but it totally worked…

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I strapped him into my seat, and I sat on the Boppy pillow in front of him on the floor!  This only worked because we had the bulkhead, which had extra floor space and no one in front of us, but man – it sure made a difference!  I sat like this for an hour or so, and honestly I think we were both more comfortable.  He ate his snacks happily, and my arms got a nice break. 

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I love this Oxo roll-up bib because it packs and cleans really well.  It also acts as a serving vessel!  Once Graham was tired of taking puffs one by one directly from me, I’d put a few in his bib and he’d have fun fishing them out.  Endless baby entertainment!

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The thing about traveling with kids is that, despite the urge to arm yourself with as much as possible, you want to travel as light as you can so that you are able to tend to your kids easily and not be weighed down.  Here are the basics that always go into my travel bag:

  • Full pack of wipes
  • Two times as many diapers as I actually need (in case of delays)
  • Outfit change for Graham (gambling on Cullen not needing one)
  • Several different snacks for each child
  • Snacks for mom and dad (usually Larabars)
  • Baby teethers and toys (note: nothing that makes noise! Sorry, Sophie)
  • Two Aden + Anais blankets (one for covering, one for snuggling)
  • Wallet, sunglasses, phone, etc.

And that is IT.  I try to really only take what I need for the flight itself, and I put all other non-essentials into my luggage to be unpacked when we get there.  Also worth noting that I don’t bother with things like books or magazines for myself.  The chance of actually reading something is so slim, and if it does come I can always just take a nap.  Cullen has all his things in his backpack (other than snacks), and Casey packs the iPad in his computer bag. 

A few other miscellaneous thoughts on air travel with kiddos:

We have this car seat travel bag, and we check our car seats with our luggage.  Having a bag with wheels makes a HUGE difference!  Also, there is a good amount of extra room in the bag (in the space where a child goes in the seat!), and I usually fill this with a small duffle of toys, packs of extra diapers, and bulky things like extra blankets or Cullen’s puddle jumper

Be kind and be respectful of the people around you.  Most people don’t want to sit next to a young child on an airplane (for many good reasons!). But remember that you and your kids also have every right to be there.  Babies have grandparents to visit, just like adults have business meetings.  You don’t need to apologize for being there.  You just need to do your best to keep things under control. 

I don’t think it is necessary to hand out chocolates or earplugs or buy drinks for all the people around me.  If your kids are acting out or being obnoxious, devote all your energy to making it stop quickly.  Get up, walk around, take a trip to the back of the plane – whatever works.  Air travel is not the time to practice hard discipline or new parenting strategies.

Have a little faith in your kids.  We’ve had a few bad flights, but we’ve had mostly good flights.  We’ve flown straight through nap times and we’ve all survived.  Kids are usually so excited for the big adventure ahead and all the fun that comes with planes, airports, pilots, and little wings – try to relax and have fun with them! 

This is much longer than I anticipated, so I’ll follow up with part two – feeding kids on vacation!  I feel like I’m forgetting something, so feel free to ask in the comments if you have specific questions.  I hope some of you parents find this helpful for your summer travels!

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A Surprise Visit.

June was kind of a weird month.  We had all sorts of wonderful summer fun, but Casey also had a lot of work travel.  He went to Atlanta, New York City, Los Angeles, and did a long-ish stint in Europe.  Travel is just part of his job, and it tends to sort of ebb and flow – some months there is a lot, and then there might be a stretch of a month or two with no travel at all.  We go with the flow and make the most of all our wonderful time as a family of four, and when he’s gone I take lots of deep breaths and try to enjoy the extra responsibilities – like reading books to Cullen at bedtime (usually dad’s job!). 

The thing about work travel though, is that in order to prepare for visiting clients and doing business, the days leading up to travel usually involve really long hours.  All of this is to say that by the end of June, Casey and I were both really burnt out. 

He spent a few days in NYC, and then came home and worked non-stop for a week.  That week happened to be a week where my two year old pushed every button and struck every nerve.  You other mamas know what I mean?  Man, I remember saying out loud at his second birthday party, “this whole terrible two’s thing isn’t so bad!”  And one of my friends with an older little girl smiled and said, “give it ‘til two and a half.”  You win, Carly, you win.  Obviously he’s a great kid, but day after day of two kids and endless battles had just worn.me.out. 

On Friday morning, the day before Casey was set to head off to Europe, I said to him – “I have never felt this worn out going into a long stretch alone.  This is usually how I feel afterward!”  And then I went about my day – chasing the kids around, dicing up blueberries and grapes, and getting things together to help Casey get ready for his trip. 

That night, we had a fun open house event to go to at Field Roast (where we got a factory tour – super cool, but no photos allowed – wah!), so I picked up Casey after work and we all headed down together.  Graham screamed the whole way, and after an hour of bad traffic Cullen was super whiny (couldn’t really blame either of them).  I did a lot of deep breathing.

We parked and Casey handed me a card and said, “I have a present for you.”  This was huge because I LOVE CARDS – they are my favorite gift in the world.  I started to read the front and began to cry, and then I read the message inside and began to sob.  And then a piece of paper floated out, and my eyes darted all over the page trying to figure out what it was.  It took about ten seconds for me to register that it was a plane ticket.  With my sister’s name on it.  For the following morning.

And then I completely lost it.

Big fat tears falling down my cheeks, and a husband looking a tad concerned.  I finally blubbered out an “I AM SO HAPPPPPPY” and I think he was both relieved and excited.  It was the best surprise ever, and I am so eternally grateful to both of them for coming together to do something so nice for me.  Work travel is no fun but the perks of having a million frequent flier miles sure does help ease the time spent apart. 

And just like that, less than 24 hours later my favorite little sister was back in Seattle, and we were off to all our old stomping grounds together.  (For newer readers, Sarah spent two summers living in Seattle with us during college!)  First stop – Golden Gardens Beach!

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Followed by an evening of Revel takeout and hours of chatting on the couch.  Nothing better!

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Sunday morning was overcast and cool, and perfect for hitting up our favorite breakfast joint and then strolling along the Burke-Gilman Trail.  We walked over to Gasworks Park – Sarah’s favorite spot in Seattle – and we had the place almost entirely to ourselves. 

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I brought a blanket to crawl on for my little guy, and a ball to toss for my big guy, and we hung out for a few hours.  Cullen is a BIG Aunt Sarah fan.

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I love this picture so much.

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Because it reminds me so much of this picture from two summers ago (when Cullen was almost exactly Graham’s age!).

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And of course, in between games of catch she did lots of snuggling with Graham too.  It’s funny to think that this is the age that Cullen was when Sarah spent her first summer with us.  So much has changed!

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Me and my sweet peanut – enjoying the beautiful views of the city and park, and relishing in all the unexpected family time.  (New cardigan from Stitchfix that I love – it has a HOOD!)

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When I found out Sarah was coming, I texted my babysitter to see if she was up for a last minute gig.  I thought it might be nice for Sarah to get to go out and enjoy Seattle for a few non-kid-related activities.  Thankfully, she was – so we had a fun girls’ night out!

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We had a delicious dinner at Monsoon in Capitol Hill, and then walked across the street to Seattle’s newest MUST: Hello Robin.  Let me explain.  To preface, there is Molly Moon’s Ice Cream, which is Seattle’s famously amazing ice cream shop.  There are all sorts of unique and wonderful flavors like balsamic strawberry, honey lavendar, or kombucha sorbet. 

Well as if amazing ice cream wasn’t good enough, Molly and some (cookie baking) friends partnered together to open up Hello Robin.  It is a fresh cookie bakery that has a walk-up Molly Moon’s window.  But the beauty lies within the ice cream sandwich…

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Omggggggg.  You have never tasted decadence quite like this.  We both got the whole wheat chocolate chip with sea salt cookies, with vanillia bean sandwiched in between.  Our cookies came hot out of the oven, which kicked up the awesome factor by one million percent.  By the last bite I was claiming I could never eat again, and by the next morning I was already plotting a return trip. 

And speaking of the next morning – Monday was gorgeous and sunny and one of those perfect Seattle days that leaves you feeling so grateful for all of the beauty here.  Casey and I had been to Carkeek Park a few weeks ago for the first time (and loved it!), and I knew it was a spot that Sarah would love too. 

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Breathtaking views in every direction, and only a handful of other people there in the early morning. 

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The beach can be a hard activity by myself with both boys, and this one in particular requires descending a really long, steep metal staircase.  I was so grateful to have extra hands for wrangling kids, filling dump trucks, and wiping sandy fingers before snack time. 

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The beach is also sort of a tough activity for a crawling, sand-eating eight month old.  Graham was a really great sport and hung out with me in the Stokke carrier.  I danced around and sang songs and played with his feet, and all four of us had a blast. 

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It was Sarah’s last day with us before an early Tuesday morning departure, and since the boys both took good afternoon naps, we decided to go for it and have one last adventure.  We slapped on the sunscreen, loaded up the stroller, and headed to Greenlake for this summer’s inaugural dip into the wading pool. 

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Graham’s first time!

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And certainly not his last.  He loved it, and I can’t wait to take him again next time in swim gear.  Thank goodness these summer days are so long, because we sure do love to pack as much into them as we can. 

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Sarah left early Tuesday morning, and Casey was back mid-day on the Fourth of July, which meant that I had a much more manageable solo stretch after she headed back home.  I filled my mornings with plans, prayed for good naps, and caught up with lots of friends on the phone. 

Dad came home and we all celebrated a festive and firework-filled Fourth together!

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And then less than 24 hours later, poor Casey turned right back around and headed to the airport again.  But this time – we tagged along!  He had back to back business trips, the second being in Cincinnati (my hometown!).  So rather than be away from dad for several weeks in a row, we opted to tag along and visit with all our friends and family in Ohio this week (including seeing Sarah again for one night!). 

We are having a great week and the kids are being spoiled silly by Grandma (which is also spoiling me, because I have so much help).  Next up – talking about traveling and feeding kids on vacation!

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