April 30, 2012

Balboa Island/Peninsula

The playground on the beach at Balboa Peninsula
After breakfast with some friends in Newport, and at their suggestion, we made an impromptu trip to Balboa Peninsula and Island. We hadn't packed anything special for the trip, just our usual water, snacks, diapers and change of clothes, which turned out to be all we needed anyway. We started at the island on our way back from our breakfast in Crystal Cove State Park, drove through the little downtown, and took the car ferry ($3) over to the peninsula (you don't have to take the ferry over, but we didn't know this. Plus it was kinda fun).

We made our way over to the pier to park our car. Right smack on the beach is a great playground with slides and swings and a neat rope climbing structure next to bathrooms and beach showers. You can watch waves crash from there, or walk down the dune and dip your toes. Hubby and I took turns basking in the sun and splashing in the surf with our son. He couldn't get enough of the freezing water, and we eventually had him down to his shirt and diaper (who needs a swimsuit if you aren't swimming?) He also had a good time playing in the beach showers as he watched the boogie-boarders do so in awe. We had a snack in the sand (including some of said sand) and then took a stroll down the beach and then back through downtown, peeking into the multi-million dollar homes. Does anyone know the open container rules at the beach? There seem to be several places where you could procure an adult beverage...
enjoying a turkey corn dog at the original Ruby's on the pier
 (Ruby's shows the calories for each menu item,
and this was surprisingly one of the better options!
The kids' double chocolate milkshake I ordered was not...)
Then we ended our trip with lunch at Ruby's at the end of the pier. While we waited for our food, M pushed his stroller around the boardwalk and watched the folks fishing. If we only could have found a good place for nap time, we could have easily spent all day here having simple fun in the sun! Though as it was, our little guy sacked out in the car and we all had a good nap when we got home. Something about sun and salt air induces sleep!

taking the car ferry over for $3
watching the waves and the boogie boarders with Daddy
climbing back up the dune
we took turns wading with him in the surf.
 He LOVE the chilly water and sea foam  at his feet!
pushing his stroller around the pier

April 26, 2012

Little Gym - a test drive

So today we took advantage of a free trial class from the Little Gym. A friend of mine raves about taking her 3-yr-old daughter and my curiosity has been piqued ever since. After we moved, I looked around for places nearby (and besides Gymboree and Little Gym, I had a tough time coming up with other venue options), and this place is about five minutes from the house. The only class offered outside work hours for M's age group was on Thursdays at 5:45pm. Hm... this might work, but what do we do about dinner? I decided to make two quick dinners Wednesday night so we could quickly heat one up after class. It still took us 5 weeks of rescheduling (with our moving and hubby traveling with work) to actually make the class. Not a good sign for fitting in our schedules. Especially since the payment structure is monthly membership (after your free class). Access to one class per week costs you $85. Hm. That translates to more than my fancy yoga class drop-in rates if we made it every single week... We kept all this in mind, as well as the rave reviews as we headed to our first class.

M had a great time playing with the cars in the waiting area. We had to be reminded to remove his shoes and socks before heading into the gym. I was worried about him getting hungry so I tried to slip him some cheddar bunnies while he played, but he was not interested. When we were called to the gym, M was stoked! He wanted to climb all over everything! But the curriculum called for sitting on the bare mat and singing an opening song. This did not sit well, even though the song involved shaking percussion instruments. I am sure if we went repeatedly we would learn the routine and the disappointment would not be so great. After singing the welcome song we went around the circle introducing the toddlers. They were invited to say their names, and then do an assisted summersault. M wanted to jump up the whole time... until it was his turn and he wanted to bury himself in my armpit. No summersault for him. Then we 'warmed up' by walking, then running, side-shuffling, and finally hopping in a circle. M didn't get this idea at all until the hopping, which he liked. We repeated the warm up using a parachute, which was nice since we had to hold the handles, it gave us some boundaries. 
Finally, the teacher explained the main things we'd be working on that day, and let the kids go explore the gym. M loved being a monkey and hanging from the parallel bars. He also liked walking on the balance beam holding our hands, and in general climbing wherever he could. More than once we had to steer him back to the gym from peering through the windows back at the lobby trucks, or trying to play with a basketball hoop that was tucked in the corner, but mostly he liked this part of class. We did have to remind him not to tackle other kids and that he had to take turns. We also had to strongly encourage him to participate in the main activities for the day, hanging like a basket on the parallel bars and walking on the balance beam on your hands (both of these sound complicated to me, but the teachers did a great job of explaining them to the kids so they could get their bodies to do what was being asked. When I tried my hand it, it felt like one of those trust activities where you tell a blindfolded person where to walk). M especially loved the flipping.
After gym play, we headed back to the mat for the basketball activity, which M and the other little boys flocked to instantly (I am a fan of staying gender neutral, but it is so striking sometimes how certain activities seem to attract particular genders), and this was his favorite part of class. Basketball was followed by cleanup, more circle time and songs (which involved blowing bubbles and catching them on your tummy... M was reluctant at first and I don't really blame him). 

Conclusion: Hubby and I had the same impression that this class was not for us. The cost compared with the frequency that we'd be able to attend plus the inconvenience of getting from work to class to home and fitting in food was just tight. Maybe sometime in the future if we find we have a ton of extra time on our hands we'll change our minds. But with little leagues in our future soon enough, I don't see any reason to start rushing from here to there.

M seemed reluctant to the concept, but I think he would warm up once he got used to the routine. I do think this would be a great place to have a birthday party, or a great place to go during the week if I were home with him.

I also have to admit, that I secretly wanted to meet other moms there, but I just didn't really find the time. The park seems like a much better alternative, with a more relaxed atmosphere, affordable price (free!), and flexible time (open any time the sun is up). Plus you can bring food for any meal or snack and a stroller to get your own workout in.

Oh, and I asked M on the way home, "What did we just do?" He replied, "Play with dump truck. Bus."

Do you go to a kids gym? Which one? What keeps you going back?

Toddler lunch!! Spanikopita Burger Recipe

One of our favorite recipes is included this week: Spanikopita Burgers. I still haven't found the best way to introduce these, because I know the idea of spinach is a turnoff to so many people. Let's just say, the skeptics who've tried it have loved it... so you will love it, too.

Spanikopita burger (see recipe below), corn, blueberries, half of a Rise and Shine muffin;
Plain yogurt, steamed carrots
cereal bar, kiwi
Cauliflower Mac n Cheese, edamame, steamed carrots, blueberries
yogurt, cereal bar
Toddler Trail mix (Annie's snack mix, Mom's Best Naturals Toasted Cinnamon Squares, raisins, diced dried apricot)
OK... this one is sort of embarrassing... but it was a single mom night... and if you read one of those posts...
half-eaten piece of Cheers! Pizza, a quarter of a Spanikopita burger, green beans, halved cherry tomatoes, blueberries
Rise and Shine muffin, frozen peas
yogurt, diced mango
Spanikopita burger, half Rise and Shine muffin, halved heirloom cherry tomatoes, corn
Yogurt, orange slices & craisins
cereal bar, diced mango

Spanikopita Burger (adapted from Rachel Ray's recipe)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 red onion, 1/2 chopped, 1/2 thinly sliced
  • 10 oz box frozen spinach, defrosted
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 pound feta crumbles
  • 1 1/3 pounds ground chicken or turkey
  • 1 tablespoon Montreal Steak Seasoning by McCormick)
  • whole wheat buns
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. To one side, add the olive oil and butter. When melted add the garlic and onion. Transfer the onions and garlic to a bowl to cool. Return pan to heat.
Wring the defrosted spinach dry (we squeeze in in our hands). Separate the spinach as you add it to the bowl with cool onions, garlic and season with oregano. Add in feta crumbles then chicken or turkey, grill seasoning and. Mix and form into 5-6 patties, 1-inch thick. Raise heat on pan to medium-high. Add patties and cook 6 inches on each side.
Top bun with cooked burger. We like to lightly toast the bun and add regular mustard to ours! Enjoy!

What happened to my toddler?!

the truck is, apparently, much more fun to ride,
than to let sit around storing toys...
If you are reading this because your sweet toddler angel has suddenly started behaving 'badly', you are not alone.

Over the tail end of this weekend and into my Monday and Tuesday with him 1:1 we had a terrible time. I felt like I was losing many battles and possibly the war. Until now (at least in retrospect), I have been pretty happy of most of my decisions in parenting and the behaviors and habits I see coming out in my kid. But the past few days have been brutal. I emailed one friend in a panic "Help! M is testing me to the limits! How do I get my head back in the game?!"

Step one, it seems, is reach out to your mommy friends for support and advice. Honestly, I was utterly embarassed about the behavior going on in our house. It was taking two full grown adults every ounce of energy we had not to explode over trying to quell throwing utensils and refusal to help pick up toys (that he repeatedly dumps out) and melt downs over changing poopy diapers. And my former genius sweetheart was now a 'bad kid'. I was almost too embarassed to bring this up to my friends. But I am SO glad I did. The first email to my pal with a toddler about 3 months younger than ours yeilded much empathy and wisdom. I sipped my coffee while I read:

      "Knowing that it won't last forever and that what he is doing is to learn and grow and explore his world helps, too. And that you are not a bad parent nor are you alone."

I was starting to feel less stressed...

My status, "I think I need to re-watch the 'Don't Shake the Baby' video, now that we have reached toddler-hood" attracted the attention of another friend with a toddler the same age as ours, and she replied, "I laughed out loud... the same thing is happening at our house!" I felt 50 lbs lighter.

After one whole day of self-therapy, and the hubby returning from out of town, the gremlin turned back into our (mostly) angel. And I didn't even have to drink a bottle of wine... but I did treat myself to chocolate. Interestingly, another suggested therapy was to scream! In the shower, garage, or walk-in freezer. I am squirreling this one away for later.

Here are some links to some resources - even if they tell you stuff you already know (but keep trying to remember in the heat of the moment), it may make you feel better to know that this does happen to everyone, and that people got rich off selling books on the topic!

Aggression, hiting, and biting (BabyCenter)

When Push Comes to Shove (Parents.com)

The Reasons Behind Bad Behavior in Children (whattoexpect.com)

How Kids Develop

What buttons is your toddler pushing? How are you handling it?

April 25, 2012

Kid Friendly Chick-fil-A

say what?!?!
Way to go Chick fil A: your kids' meal now offers *grilled* nuggets, a fancy squeeze pouch of all natural applesauce, 2% milk (which our pediatrician recommends), AND a mini board book (instead of the regular toy for kids under 3). And a place mat that sticks to the table. And you have the indoor play area.
AND: At our location offers a great Tuesday evening deal: buy one adult combo, get one kids' meal free! Each week they offer a different theme to the evening. Check your local store for their date!

I have to say, I am also looking forward to M being old enough to climb the play structure by himself. I will be going here for some mommy time to drink a cup of coffee or enjoy an ice cream cone while I read.
the truck is ours, but I was thrilled with the other contents of the kids meal!!

(This opinion is entirely my own, I have not received any payment or product from Chick fil A... besides the free kids' meal that everyone gets on Tuesdays with the purchase of their adult meal!)

the parts he can play with for now.

April 22, 2012

Take me out to the ball game...

backpacking it from parking to stadium
Baseball season started the day we moved out of our apartment that was across the street from the stadium. I was happy to get out of the apartment for many reasons, but I was sure that avoiding game day traffic could be added to the list. However, being able to just walk over for a game would have been pretty cool. Our new place is only a few minutes' drive, and we paid $5 to park in some business's private lot and walk a couple blocks. $10 would have save us half the walk... worth it? The weather was nice and we were able, so it wasn't a big deal. We didn't tailgate beforehand, but if we had wanted to we couldn't from where we parked, and there were plenty of families that did. In fact, it seemed like half the fans in attendance were Little League-ers, all in uniform, which was pretty cute. When we walked up there were still plenty of fun and games going on at these kid friendly tailgates... something to consider for next time.
Enjoying the game in the shade!
We didn't already have tickets, so we asked the nice gentleman at the box office to recommend something near an aisle so we could get up and let M run around if he needed to, and so we wouldn't be out of sight of the action. The ones we got were about $30 each (M was free). I overheard our seat neighbors later say that tickets were going very cheap for this game right before, so I'll squirrel that info away for next time, too, but this may vary by opponent. The kiddo was actually pretty OK with sitting in our laps the whole time (and slept for part of the game), but our location was VERY convenient to the bathroom, which was nice for the couple of diaper changes we had.

We had to remember not to scold the little one for cheering for the wrong team, because he was very happy to join in the clapping with the home team fans (we were in the 1% minority of visitor-supporters), and encouraged us to do so as well. He probably thought we were crazy asking him to clap at other times.
getting a little bit of a nap
There is a lot to see and hear at the game. We had hoped that M would make today a two-nap day, one before the 12:30 first pitch and one towards the end of the game or on the drive home. This didn't happen, even though we took him to the playground for over an hour that morning. But I was hoping he might still crash in the backpack on our walk over (also didn't happen) or even just get sleepy and snuggle in our seats. This did actually happen, but after over an hour in, and hubby finally just put his hands over the little guy's eyes to block out the action. He was literally out like a light after that (wish we would have thought of it sooner!) and kept sleeping for nearly an hour (which did not fulfill his quota). We paid for this lack of sleep around dinner time until bed time.

The Angels' Rally Monkey is a really genius idea to recruit fans while they are young. M shrieked and pointed every time that silly monkey came on the jumbo-tron. He even jumped up and down with him. The other key entertainment were the 'big kids' sitting around us. M found them fascinating to watch, and copied what they were cheering, noticed that he had on a hat like they did, and coveted their cotton candy (with longing eyes until one little boy asked if he was allowed to have some and shared - so sweet!).

We upgraded our mini-diaper bag to a real backpack for this outing. I admit, this was because I wanted to sneak in a water bottle for us grownups and it wouldn't have fit in the diaper bag. But, in my defense, the real backpack had much better organization and space and things weren't getting all crammed. We had 4 cloth diapers, a wet bag, wipes, hand sanitizer, a muslin blanket, Nalgene bottle of water for us and a kid's Nalgene for M, an apple, a banana, raisins, Larabar, snack cup of Annie's snack mix, toy cars and motorcycles, phone, wallet, and a change of shorts for the wee one. We needed 3 of the four diapers, so I was glad we had so many. If we'd dressed the kid in pants, we wouldn't have needed the blanket, but I wasn't sure where we were going to end up sitting and how the weather would be. We went through nearly all our snacks, so I was glad we had 'em. I was especially glad to offer M a sweet banana after his taste of cotton candy.

We were pretty satisfied with this trip, but would have loved to get another hour of toddler-nap in - anyone else have any ball game tips?

April 20, 2012

Dinner --> Toddler Lunch Leftovers

This week's lunches are the toddler versions of this week's dinners :) They are made from the very same food (with a can of Bebe's homegrown greenbeans to sub for the lettuce in the salads) + our not-so-green (we will work on that!) pre-packaged snacks.

summer salad: chicken, almonds, strawberries, goat cheese, green beans (instead of lettuce) and Annie's snack mix (original)
steamed carrots and raisins
yogurt and a cereal bar
taco salad: shredded cheddar cheese, ground beef/red&yellow peppers/onion mix, green beans, Annie's snack mix
cherry tomatoes, blueberries, raisins
cereal bar, yogurt
chicken nachos: rotisserie chicken, avocado/tomato/onion mix, black beans, shredded cheddar, Annie's Snack mix (in the pink container)
applesauce, raisins (we had a lot of these from our plastic Easter eggs!)
yogurt cereal bar
Cheers! Pizza! heirloom cherry tomatoes, orange sections
raisins, applesauce
cereal bar, yogurt
Sausage and Rice, strawberries
blueberries, raisins
blueberry multi grain waffle, yogurt

April 17, 2012

How to Find a Park Near You: Shaffer Park

ride on animals
Our Sunday morning plans went bust (our dog picked a fight at the dog park, so we promptly left, tails between our legs), but we wanted to find someplace to get our energy out between rounds of unpacking boxes. We didn't have a lot of time, because, those boxes were still a' callin' and we certainly hadn't researched a backup plan with all the craziness going on lately.

The Tot Lot
So I opened up the maps app on my smartphone (which I have lived by since moving here, learning my way around and getting directions from here to there), found our current location, zoomed out a little and looked for a patch of green. There were two rectangles relatively close by, and one was named Shaffer Park. We weren't sure what we were going to get, but we have had pretty good luck with this method before, so we steered the car a few blocks away and found this little gem of a park.

There were two play structures, one for big kids and one for littler ones, each with their own swing set, and plenty of mulch padding. There were picnic tables and a covered shelter, lots of grass and shady trees, and a baseball field that was not being used at all. And the best part was that it was less than 1.5 miles from our house - so in the future we could walk, or better yet RUN, there, get a break while M played and then walk/run home.

baby swings
There are an abundance of parks in our area (to make up for the fact that no one seems to have much yard), but I can't help but wonder if this method would work in other areas too? Granted, sometimes, you really just end up in a big green field, which isn't bad if you happen to have a ball in the car (and we always seem to have a couple different sizes). But sometimes you get a real gem that you would have never found otherwise! I do a lot of asking around for suggestions, and following of a few local outdoorsy-parent blogs and Facebook pages for activity ideas, but have still found a good percentage of parks with this simple method of living in the moment (and capitalizing on technology). What can we do from where we are right now?!

What's the best park or activity you've stumbled upon? And how did you end up there?

Tot Lot structure
lots of green space, and a baseball field
the bigger kids' play area

April 16, 2012

Tanaka Farms: Harvest Tour

wading through broccoli

Wow. What a great activity for kids of all ages!!

We had planned a month or so ago to check out Tanaka Farms in Irvine for a Strawberry picking tour, but with our house hunting schedule not meshing with the tour schedule, that got delayed. We finally got the chance to go a couple weeks ago only to find out that the strawberry tours were on hold due to the all the rain we had the previous week or so, which wiped out the crop that loves drier climates. Instead, they were offering "Harvest Tours" which meant that we got to check out 6-8 other crops they were growing, harvest some of our own, and take them home with us. And we were the only ones at the 9:30 slot (tours leave every half hour... reservations required in the busier seasons), so we had a personal tour!

learning about the crops
This was actually really fun for hubby and me. M enjoyed tasting the crops, fresh from the dirt, and surprisingly he tried pretty much everything we did: fresh sugar snap peas, fresh celery (which he carried around like a sword), carrots, and broccoflower, which was all of our favorites. We also took home some Maui onions, bok choy (please let me know if you have a recipe for cooking this?), regular broccoli, and red and yellow beets, too.

celery sword!
We learned about how the farm used a lot of companion crops (for example, planting onions in the snap peas to confuse the bugs), since they are organic and don't otherwise use pesticides, etc. Our guide was very knowledgeable.

We loved how hands on this was, and that we even got a tractor tour of the farm afterwards, to take us back to our starting point. There, we could use our tickets to get a discount for any of the produce they were selling.

We will definitely plan to come back for watermelon and pumpkin seasons, and we'll need to try again for strawberries!!

Strawberry Farmer-in-Training
waiting our turn for the tour to begin
a shot of our guide and the farm from our tractor ride

April 15, 2012

More Toddler Lunches

I apologize for the scarcity of posts lately, as we have been moving and traveling the past couple weeks. But for the few lunches I have packed for my little one, here are some highlights!!

Veggie pasta, orange sections, hard boiled egg (Easter leftovers!!), blueberries;
cereal bar, kiwi
yogurt, Gerber's toddler banana cookies (an Easter basket gift from his Gigi)
The toddler version of tonight's dinner: A summer salad with chicken, almonds, strawberries, goat cheese, homemade apricot-Dijon dressing, and (canned) green beans instead of lettuce!
Admittedly, the goat cheese didn't go over all that well (you should have seen the face he made!!) but it was worth the try. Everything else I was very confident he would enjoy.
look familiar? more veggie pasta, orange sections, hard boiled egg, blueberries
strawberries, yogurt
cereal bar
Sausage and rice, blueberries, (multi-colored) heirloom cherry tomatoes, yogurt-covered pretzel
steamed carrots (funny looking because they are made from REAL carrots, pulled right from the ground!), yogurt
cereal bar, kiwi
the packed-lunch version of the summer salad:
strawberries, almonds, rotisserie chicken, (canned) green beans, Annie's Snack Mix
steamed carrots, raisins (from his Easter eggs!)
cereal bar, yogurt

April 13, 2012

Flying with a Toddler!

one way to entertain an 'infant in arms'
We just flew across country with our son for the third time, and we are starting to get the hang of it. I think we will only be getting one more in before he turns 2! If you are planning to take a trip by plane soon, and will be traveling with your toddler, check out our tips and experiences below!

The setup. Since we were going to need our carseat at our destination, we purchased this simple carseat- suitcase strap to attach it to a carry-on suitcase (M's, in fact, so that we could get to extra clothes and diapers if needed, and to be sure that his stuff made it to our destination). Attaching the seat can be a little frustrating, but its nice to have the seat with you, especially if you get lucky and the flight isn't full, you can ask at the gate to be re-assigned next to the empty seat and use your carseat. If the flight is full you can always check the carseat at the gate.

a blurry look at our carseat-carryon setup

I also dusted off our old, full size diaper bag to be my 'personal item' and filled it with toys, snacks, diapers (cloth ones! traveling with cloth can be another post altogether! but also a couple disposables that we always keep on hand for backup), headphones, my phone and wallet, etc. One other thing that we bring when we have room in our carry-on allowance is a trunki (we bought ours through Amazon). It is mostly useful during layovers (to ride, or provide a fresh set of toys or refill essentials), since its pretty unwieldy to be opening in your seat, unless the little one has their own, and even still... but it could make a good suitcase for short car visits and be an extra toy at your destination if you don't expect there to be others.
Also in preparation for our plan trips, we've been reading this amazing airplanes book. I am not sure M totally gets it yet, but he loves the page where the cabin crew are passing out snacks, and a doggie passenger is drinking a beverage with a straw. And he is sure to point out every plane in the book.

Oh don't forget your water bottles!! They have to be empty through security, but finding a water fountain to fill them up is an entertaining activity! M likes to press the button and drink from it, too.

Infant in arms: if you aren't buying a ticket (only allowed for kids under 2), you should indicate with your carrier that you have an "infant in arms". And be prepared to show proof that your kid is, in fact under two. The first several times we flew (on Delta), no one asked, but this last time Southwest wanted to see some ID A birth certificate or shot record preferred, but we had a MetLife ID card that showed his birthday that they accepted.

Wardrobe, please! There were two legs of our trip out and two changes of pants (one was needed during the security check). We went through 4 diapers on the first 3.5 hr, leg, and he was totally dry on the second, 2 hr, one. My recommendation is to pack twice as many as you think you'll need and have more handy in stowed carryon that you can get to in an emergency, or to refill your stash during layovers. On the trip home, I double-stuffed our cloth diapers and they lasted a bit longer. Each way we put a fresh one on before boarding if it was the tiniest bit wet. Depending on how risk-averse you are, you might pack and extra shirt  or outfit for yourself and other family members. One of the other toddlers on our flight got sick all over her parents. We definitely did this when M was still nursing, since the chances were much higher that some bodily fluids would be getting on us.
Food for flight. A friend recommended we pack 'double the snacks', which was good advice, since our flight was around lunchtime, and I was hungry too. It can be a while before they start cabin service and make those little peanuts available! And if its a short flight you might not even get that. So we packed some steamed carrots (from our farm visit), Colby-cheddar cheese sticks (one for each of us, and those went fast!), Cheerios in a self serve cup (which were consumed right after the cheese and right before a big nap), an apple-carrot baby food pouch (and packed two more in the suitcase - I am excited we are finally able to use these. I am glad we found organic ones and veggie combos, but I am bummed about the packaging waste... I will research some reusable options...), a whole apple, snack packs of cheddar bunnies, Lara bars, raisins and snagged a bag of Wheat Thins from the free Southwest snacks to keep with us over our visit. Be choosy about what you bring to avoid needing ice packs. We also bought some sandwiches to eat on the flight for ourselves, but I spied other families consuming homemade PBJ's. And, after M fell asleep on leg 2 we both ordered ourselves adult beverages! (one other note, our Delta flight did have whole milk available, but the Southwest one did not have any kind of milk. If you want to take milk try these milk boxes that don't need to be refrigerated - but be prepared for a pat-down in security if you carry them on.)

Ear popping. Our little guy sucks his thumb, which helped with ear clearing. But also we brought a sippy cup that requires some effort to extract its contents just in case. If your child still nurses then you have a built-in option, too. If its any consolation, I think the pressure change helps make them sleepy...

Time to play. For entertainment we played with a new peek-a-boo book about trucks, a mini can of Play-Doh, his Leap Frog Tag Jr. book reader and two books, iPad (with the newly loaded Pat the Bunny app, but also old favorites, Elmo ABCs app, Ink Kids flash cards app, and The Monster At The End Of This Book book). Other entertainment included sleeping, eating, looking out the window, and standing on our laps +  playing peek a boo with the other passengers. Other toys on deck include coloring book + crayons, a few small trucks, and more apps. And more snacks.

Rockabye. M is too big for our fabulous sling that we used last time. I brought an adult sized neck pillow, even though I have never successfully slept on one. But this flight it proved to be a great elbow rest while I had a 30-lb toddler in my arms. We had packed one of our muslin swaddle blankets to keep him warm during the chilly flight. On the second leg, it was bedtime, and we found out that our guy is pretty wed to sleeping on his tummy. After about 15 super squirmy minutes, he finally ended up with his head in hubby's lap, body across mine and legs dangling. And snoozing solidly. After we landed around 9:30 home time, he was awake, but sleepily and somewhat grumpily greeting his grandparents. We took the opportunity to change into his nighttime diaper and pjs. On our 45-minute ride to the house, he fell back asleep and transferred beautifully to his already-set-up pack-n-play at Grandma's.

And by all means, allow your little one to stretch their legs during layovers! They will have to sit still a lot so if you can afford to go slower and let them walk between gates, do it. And don't forget to ride the people movers or escalators, too. The afore-mentioned Trunki helps here a lot, too.

What are your air-travel tips and tricks?

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