Monday, December 28, 2009

A day in the life of Lillie

Note from mom: I'm experimenting with my new camera - a Christmas present from my parents. Merry Christmas to me!

Here's a peek into Lillie's daily life!
Wake up and come downstairs to drink milk and stumble across the box of wheat thins that mom and dad accidentally left out from the night before:

Back to looking cute!

Torment and cuddle with Harvey!

Play with my new Christmas gifts, including this tunnel from Grandma and Grandpa.

Breakfast and lunch are pretty uneventful, but dinner was a blast! Mom says I'll eat anything dipped in ketchup! Here I am going in for the dip:

So close I can taste it:

We have success!

Mission Accomplished!

Finish off with a good clean up from Harvey!

Thanks for checking in on me! xoxo Lillie

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Lights 2009

We just got news that our house placed 3rd in the subdivision's decorating contest!

We went simple and classy this year with 10 lighted wreaths and lights along our retaining walls. I like that the house looks good in both day and night.

3rd Annual Gingerbread House Making Party

Once again, my holiday season would not be complete without our annual gingerbread house making party! And yet again, Lisa served a yummy brunch while our houses baked and cooled. We have all agreed that our houses continue to get better and more creative with each year that passes.

Trina just bought a house earlier this year and it was only appropriate that her gingerbread house be modeled after her own house. My favorite part about Trina's house was her cute porch and entryway!
Mine - My theme was randomness this year! I decided to pick a color scheme of red, green, yellow, and white and I just ran with it. My favorite part was making the pretzel fence.

Mary Kay's house featured 2 gingerbread men and 2 santas (I don't want to be there when her kids ask about the 2 santas part!). My favorite parts of MK's house are her covered porch and her tree with the green glitter garland.

I had to keep myself from watching Jodi make her house because I kept wanting to steal her ideas! My two favorite parts are the snowman complete with a Necco wafer hat and her sled fashioned out of two mini candy canes and a cracker (I stole the latter idea).

Karen's house was classy this year! I felt like her design was simple but effective. My favorite parts include the arched door and the sour octopus taking a swim!

Lisa was going for a lodge theme and I think she pulled it off. Lisa won "Best in Show" this year! My favorite parts are the pretzel fence and the pretzel sides. I thought it looked like a rustic, cabin-like, gingerbread house!

This is my attempt to play around with some close up shots.
Santa sledding by MK's house while a gingerbread man watches in the distance (he's kind of creepy looking from this angle).

Jodi's walkway and snowman.

Creepy gingerbread man alert!

Trina's house - wouldn't this make a cute "I've Moved" card!

Reason #211 why an SLR would be great - no more blurry photos! Still a cute shot though!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Toddler travel tips!

Does the idea of traveling halfway across the world with a toddler sound less appealing than water board torture while having your wisdom teeth removed with no anesthesia?

Well, yes.. yes it does!

In this post, I'll share with you my strategy for traveling overseas with your toddler!

For our 8 day trip, I packed everything we needed in a large upright suitcase (26" to 30") and a backpack. I packed a pair of running shoes and a pair of black loafers. I made sure to coordinate all my outfits with these black shoes. Since shoes take up a lot of room and I needed this precious room for more essential items, my clothing choices were all based around one pair of shoes. For Lillie, I packed 5 outfits and 5 sleepers and I did laundry mid way through our stay.

While I checked the upright, I used the backpack as my personal item. A backpack usually has lots of zippered sections and it makes it super easy to find things - like when you're taking off and you realize that your screaming child needs a pacifier to help relieve the pressure in their ears! In the backpack, I had toys, books, food in a soft cold storage container, a change of clothes for Lillie, a day's worth of diapers and wipes, a small blanket, and necessary items for me in case we got stuck overnight in a foreign city (like the plane gets diverted and my luggage is lost).

Getting to the airport and getting through security
If someone offers to drive you to the airport, take them up on that offer! My dad dropped me off right in front of the check-in counter and it was a huge stress reliever.

At the counter, I checked our large upright and her stroller. Investing in a bag for checking your stroller is a must (see product information below).

As far as getting through security, just take your time. Don't stress about holding up a line. You will get through and remember everything is replaceable if you happened to leave something behind - everything but your child! I had a nightmare a couple days before our flight that I left Lillie at security! You'll have to take your shoes and your child's shoes off. You'll also have to take out any extra milk that you are carrying on so that they can "test" it. This basically involves holding a litmus type paper over your open container of milk for a few seconds. I traveled through the airport with Lillie in her car seat (see product information below) and I did have to remove her from her car seat at security.

Waiting at the gate before your flight or while on a layover
My main advice is let your child burn off as much energy during this time since they will be restricted while on the plane. Find an area near your gate where there aren't many people. We hung out in the gate area adjacent to our departure gate since there wasn't a departing flight at that gate, and therefore, no people. I put my backpack on one end of the aisle and her car seat on the other (about 20 feet down) and let her basically have free range of that entire aisle. I even befriended a family traveling to Geneva who had an 18 month old and a 4 year old and all three kids played together in the same aisle. We had them barricaded in with all our carry-on luggage! Another bonus - Lillie had 3 times the toys to play with!

The flight
When getting your seats, see if you can get bulk head seating. This is the first row in each section of the plane. This row means you have to put your bag in the overhead compartment during take off and landing because it doesn't have any storage at your feet, but you'll have about 8 to 12" of additional leg room.

Try to coordinate a snack with take off and landing. Anything to encourage swallowing during pressure changes is going to help with any ear discomfort.

Make friends with the flight attendants! I had awesome service on all 4 of my flights to and from Germany. If they offer to help, take their offer! I had flight attendants holding Lillie while I installed her car seat. I had them helping get us and all our stuff off the flight. Seriously, check your pride to try and do it all at the door and let them help you!

A note about your car seat and flying: if you decide to take your car seat on the flight (which I highly recommend for any toddler who doesn't understand the concept of sitting in their own seat or your lap without trying to be a Houdini), make sure your car seat meets FAA standards. Most (if not all) do, but there should be a sticker somewhere on your car seat stating this. Just locate the sticker prior to your flight so if someone questions it, you can easily point to this sticker.

If your flight is long enough, you'll get to experience the joy of changing your aforementioned escape artist child in an airplane lavatory. You thought it was a tight fit by yourself? Get ready for some creative positioning and just laugh it off when your child accidentally opens the door and falls out of the bathroom while you're trying to hover over the toilet and go yourself. Just remember - you'll never see any of these people again!

For our trans-Atlantic flights, I brought a book with my own book light. If your child is sleeping in the seat next to you or on your lap, you won't want to use the bright overhead lights. A personal book light will work much better.

Another tip for long flights - Benadryl. I called Lillie's pediatrician about a dosage for Benadryl and while initially, I thought I would use Benadryl to help Lillie sleep better on the flight, the nurse also mentioned that Benadryl helps with any excess fluid that might be in the ear canal that could flare up and cause pain during take offs and landing. So bottom line, pack your Benadryl and if your kid happens to take an extra long nap during the flight, so much the better.

Specific product recommendations
GoGo Kidz Travelmate (approx $80 at BRU - in stores)This product hooks on to your car seat and allows you to travel through the airport with ease. Like most individuals, I only have two arms. One arm pulled this and one arm pulled my upright bag that I checked. That means that I only had this and the backpack to deal with in the airport.

A gate-check bag (or any bag) for your stroller. (approx. $12 at BRU - in stores)
I used the black fabric handle on this stroller bag to slide over the handle of my upright luggage and I basically stacked my stroller across the top of my luggage so that I didn't have to carry it separately (you know, with that 3rd arm I keep hidden under my shirt!).

Squeezable fruit and veggies packs like these (newly available at BRU)
These were a lifesaver for keeping Lillie on a somewhat balanced diet during the flight. Just remember that these count as a liquid and must be included in your quart size bag. What wouldn't fit in the quart size bag (I had room for 2) went into my checked luggage. Lillie had one everyday we were in Germany and I felt better knowing she was getting some fruits and veggies in her system.

Uncrustables PB&J sandwiches
I threw two of these in her cold storage bag and they made the perfect meal on the go. She had one in the airport while we waited for our flight to Newark and another during our long flight to Germany.

Toys - a travel magna-doodle, crayons and paper, magazines (Lillie likes turning pages and looking at pictures - a magazine provides more entertainment than a book), baby Einstein animal flash cards, toy cell phone and a toy remote. A note about noisy toys - unless your toys are obnoxiously loud, you probably won't be able to hear the little beeps and squeaks over the rumbling of the plane so feel free to pack small electronic toys. Another tip - borrow little "gadgety" toys from friends. You'll only be borrowing the toys for a week or two and they will capture your child's interest since they'll be brand new to them.

While too advanced for Lillie, the family that we met while laid over in Newark had Crayola Color Wonder pads and markers as well as sticker books for their 4 year old.

I hope these tips helped! Yes, it will be stressful, but you can do it! Our trip back to the states was especially difficult and I don't wish to repeat it soon, but we all survived and you will too!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Germany - A recap

Lillie and I ventured to Germany the second week of November to visit Roger while he was deployed to Ramstein Air Base. Here's a recap of our events. I plan to post later this week with tips for traveling by yourself with a toddler, but for now, here are some fun pictures.

One of the many amazing castles in Germany. This one was along the Rhine River.

We took a trip to an outdoor mall of sorts in the town of Kaiserslautern. Lillie experienced her first sucker from the Hummel chocolate store. She was a non stop drooling machine!

A quaint little town along the Rhine River.

The Heidelberg Castle. The weather was crummy - misting and cold - but the views were amazing.

Lillie asked Dad not to pull a Michael Jackson on her and dangle her over the edge.

Me and Lillie - my hot mess of a hairdo tells you just how lovely the weather was!

And no trip to Germany is complete without...
A ride on Mickey Mouse!
Mickey and his friends were in the Kids Center at the Ramstein Base Exchange (basically the equivalent of a mall on a military base).

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A week in pictures

On October 2nd, we took a trip out to Eckerts in Belleville for some apple and pumpkin picking. The weather was sunny, but windy! Lillie's hair in this picture cracks me up!

Lillie and I driving the tractor!

Apple picking

Lillie with her baby apple!

Lillie trying to roll her pumpkin back to the pick up spot!

Lillie found her perfect pumpkin!

And for comparison, rewind to last year!

Could Lillie's smile get any bigger?! I love how her nose wrinkles up - we don't know who she gets that from!

These days, no trip to the mall is complete without a visit to the kids area. You can only expect her to stay content in a stroller for so long. Her favorite toy was the car.

This is her getting sassy - telling those slow drivers to get out of the way!

And finally, we went out to Scott AFB to see dad at work! Lillie is just hanging out in the cockpit.

"And if I push this button, what will happen?"

Family Shot

Dad hard at work behind of the wheel of a C-40.