Ask The Moms, part 1 – Travel

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Categories Ask the Moms, Travel5 Comments

Thanks to Jessa for our first “Ask the Moms” question! You and I must have been psychically connected, because this was going to be my topic if no one asked anything.

Yes, today’s topic is air travel with twins. Not for the faint of heart. If you thought it took some organization to bring your multiples out to the park, just imagine what it takes to prepare for several hours on a plane. Here, for your enjoyment, are tips from all over.

Trip Planning

Whenever possible, buy as many seats as you can reasonably afford. Those airplane seats seem to be getting smaller and smaller, so you’ll be glad for the extra space. If extra seats are not in the cards, however (and with flight prices the way they are, that’s no surprise), be aware that there can be only one lap infant per set of three seats due to oxygen mask limitations. So you and your husband/travelmate will have to at least be across the aisle from one another, or in different rows.

If there is a secondary airport near where you live (I’m thinking Manchester, NH instead of Boston, or the like), I have found it very worth it to have the minor tradeoff in convenience and density of Starbucks, to have the smaller airport with friendlier TSA folks, smaller crowds, and generally happier fellow travelers.

Consider the time of day you’ll be flying. While some people swear by flying at bedtime because the kids will sleep, I have sadly found the opposite to be true for my kids. I don’t have easy sleepers, and they are very accustomed to their bedtime routine. When we flew at bedtime once, it was a screaming disaster. Know your kids…

Pack efficiently, and buy it when you get there

Depending on where you’re going, consider what you might be able to purchase when you get there. Especially if you’re visiting family, consider purchasing a few things and leaving them there. We now have a stash of bottles with both sets of grandparents, and two handy umbrella strollers in Florida. Also check out the local craigslist or try to find the moms of multiples club in the area. Especially if you have helpful parents or in-laws, they might be able to pick up a few gently used things for you before you arrive. Also, only pack enough diapers, wipes, baby food, formula, and the like to last the flight. Obviously pack somewhat generously in case of delays, but don’t bring a week’s worth of double diapers in your suitcase. There will be a grocery store or Target when you get there. Remember that, not only do you have to carry all of that luggage around while wrangling two babies/toddlers, but some of the airlines are even going to start charging for more than one bag per passenger. The nickel & diming never ends.

Travel Day

Get to the airport early. You do not want to be rushed trying to check in and get through security, because Murphy’s law dictates that it will be then that your babies have blowout diapers, or your toddlers have blowout temper tantrums. Give yourself plenty of cushion and everyone can be more relaxed.

Pack your carry-on judiciously. While you want to be well-equipped, you also don’t want to have to dig around and completely unpack everything in the middle of the airport just to find that spare pacifier. (Speaking of which, Lissa recommends a good stash of extra pacifiers if your kids take them. You never know whether the local store will carry the “right” ones.) Consider compartments, packing things in plastic bags for easy organization and retrieval. Obviously plenty of diapers and wipes, as well as extra clothes for everyone (nothing like arriving at your destination covered in spitup…). For older babies and toddlers, plenty of non-sugary snacks.

When checking in and checking your baggage, remember that even if you are not going to have the carseats on the plane with you in extra seats, you can keep them all the way until you board, and then gate-check them. Well worth it to have the seats/strollers with you all the way through security and to the gate. Reader AKLizzy also suggests that using the phrase “non-ticketed infants” is special airport code for “dear god, get these people a whole row to themselves if you can.” Hey, can’t hurt!

Security
Speaking of security, this one involves careful maneuvering. In addition to the usual shoes, jackets, and laptop rules that you have to deal with, you will most definitely need to have both children out of their stroller and/or carseat. When traveling with infants in carseat carriers, this is indeed a feat. Here’s how we did it: keep babies in carseats in the double stroller all the way up to the security table. Get shoes, jackets, etc. into the bins (good lord, avoid bringing your laptop if you can!). Assign one parent to be the carrier of babies. Undo both babies, parent 1 can go through security with both of them. That leaves parent 2 with free hands to turn over the carseats (they go through upside down, make sure you take hanging toys off and put them in your carry-on first), collapse the stroller, and push all of your stuff through the screener. Hopefully you’ll have helpful TSA folk and patient fellow passengers. If not, well, try not to scream at anyone.

If you have kids in convertible carseats, LauraC heartily recommends the GoGo Kidz, which essentially turns those seats into a rolling suitcase. Much less bulk than a stroller!

To Pre-board or not to pre-board

Depending on the age and energy level of your kids, you may or may not want to consider pre-boarding (yes, you now qualify as someone who needs extra time getting down the jetway!). If you have infants in carseat carriers, or if you’re bringing your carseats into the plane with you, consider pre-boarding so that there is less of a risk of hitting other passengers in the head with all of your stuff. If you have mobile toddlers, and especially if you are keeping them on your lap, LauraC advocates waiting until much later to board, letting the kids run around (controlled, please, don’t let them pester other travelers) and burn off energy before the confinement of the flight.

On the plane

First, we all remember back in our pre-parent days when we were traveling. A parent came on the plane with a child, and we crossed our fingers that they wouldn’t sit next to us, and hoped against hope that they wouldn’t scream the whole flight. Be considerate of your fellow travelers. Make extra efforts to keep your kids happy and entertained. Some people have even been known to bring a bunch of inexpensive earplugs and pass them out to seatmates. It’s a thought.

For sensitive ears on takeoff and landing, it helps to suck on something. Nursing (please be discreet and considerate of fellow passengers – yes, you absolutely have the right to nurse in public, but I would argue that this is a good time to put effort into garnering goodwill with nearby strangers), bottles, pacifiers, even a lollipop will help with the changing pressure and avoid some of the worst screams.

For all but the youngest babies, new (small) toys can be something interesting and keep their attention for a few extra minutes. LauraC also suggests asking the flight attendants for extra cups, stirrers, etc. if they get bored (much in the same way that boxes are almost always more fun than what’s in them). This also may be a time when parents of toddlers might consider an exception to a no-TV rule: consider a portable DVD player, or find the kiddie channel on planes with televisions in the seat. Also some of their favorite books will come in handy. Reader AKLizzy suggests playdoh and finger puppets!

We have heard some people suggest a little dose of Benadryl to help kids sleep during the flight. If you’re considering it, please discuss it with your pediatrician. If you decide to use it, try it first at home, as some children actually become more hyper instead of drowsy. We aren’t advocating it, but we’ve heard of it being done. Desperate times and all…

Traveling diaper changes

Be aware that not all planes have changing tables in the lavatories, and even the ones that do can be next to impossible. For short-to-moderate length flights, consider a fresh diaper before boarding, and then tough it out until you get to your destination (unless you have diaper rash concerns or a poop incident, of course). The plane bathrooms are awfully hard to navigate, and people don’t take too kindly to you busting out the changing pad on your seat.

At your destination

Remember how it always felt like you waited forever for your bags at baggage claim? There’s a funny side effect to being the last one off the plane and stopping for diaper and outfit changes: twice I have gotten down to the baggage claim and found my flight was already long gone and they were moving the bags off to the side! From now on, I take the kids into the ladies’ bathroom (where there’s more likely to be a changing table, anyways) and do diaper and clothing changes while my husband heads down to the baggage area. After all, since I gate-checked my stroller, it was right there waiting for me!

Hotels

Some hotels offer a babyproofing service. Not sure if it’s worth the expense, since how much time will you be spending in the room, anyways? LauraC found a great (and cheap) method on Parent Hacks. Also, while some say they offer portable cribs, a lot of times they just mean a Pack & Play.

One more thing…

More than anything, and this is obviously the case with all stressful parenting situations, keep your patience and sense of humor about you. If you’re stressed out and snippy, you probably won’t have happy kids on your hands. Practice and model good behavior ahead of time, prepare older kids for what to expect. Stick to routines and rules whenever possible, and listen to your kids’ cues and respect their need for rest (even if they claim they aren’t tired). If you stay positive and consistent, your kids are more likely to be relaxed in a new and overwhelming situation. And remember what my mom told me: “once you have kids, they aren’t vacations anymore – they’re trips.”

From the archives, travel stories from the moms of How Do You Do It?

LauraC had a successful trip with her boys to Florida, and a more harrowing one to exotic Fargo (though she did see a newly-twin-mom-minted Mia Hamm in the airport).

Yours truly has made two trips so far, once at 4.5 months to Chicago for Christmas (when I learned the “don’t fly at bedtime” lesson for my kids), and a month later to Florida for some grandparent time. God help us, we’re flying cross-country in two weeks for my brother’s wedding. I must be insane.

TraceyS had a busy trip to Washington, DC, and quite a Christmas saga this past year.

Major props to CarrieinAK, as there are no short trips to and from Alaska. She made it to and from Chicago in one piece, and then did it again at Thanksgiving to Washington and Oregon. Her boys are super travelers!

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The Milestone Competition

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Categories Identical, Infants, Other people, Singletons7 Comments

It is interesting to me how much of a competition mothering has become. Sure, conversations about our children appear to be nice and friendly on the surface, but underneath it is there. Lurking. Our natural competitive nature secretly keeping track of whose child did what first. And by how much. And who is doing it better.

In an ideal world, all babies would hit their milestones at the same time thereby eliminating this Mommy Milestone Competition. With my older daughter, I found myself getting caught up in the game. I would (subtely) brag when she accomplished something before one of her “peers”. I would wonder what I could do better as a mother when someone else’s baby accomplished something first.

But since my sons arrived, I no longer have the drive to compete with other Mommies. Part of the reason is that I am very content watching the competition in my own house. Currently we are waiting for Brady’s first tooth to break through and we expect he will crawl across the room any day. While Aaron doesn’t appear to be near-ready with either of those things, he sits unsupported and holds his own bottle. Brady isn’t interested much in either of those things. The race to be “first” is an ongoing event between the brothers and as I am the Mommy of both – I always come out a winner!

But, it’s also something more than that. My sons share the exact same DNA, are raised in the same home, and are in the same room with the same teachers at daycare. Yet, even THEY do not hit their milestones at the exact same time. With these differences, do I consider one to be “ahead” or “behind” in any particular area. Do I think that I’ve parented one of them better than the other? No, absolutely not. They are simply different.

So, if they – the identical twins with the exact same nature and nurture influences – are different from each other, what possible benefit can come of me comparing them to other children? Especially if those children were born a) full-term; b) a singleton; or c) first in their family. My sons have taught me that every single child – and their family situation – is truly unique. And that often makes comparisons a bit unfair.

This time around, there is no more dwelling on who is “ahead” and who is “behind”. There are only warm, well wishes and proud feelings when something is accomplished. Very liberating and much more enjoyable!

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One if by Land, Two if by…Mini Van?

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Categories Travel10 Comments

Traveling with small children is always an adventure. Traveling with multiples – well, that’s really more of a quest. Whether you have twins in diapers or triplets in big kid underwear, bathrooms (and where to find them) are always a main concern.

I’m past the baby stage of traveling, so I’m blessed with a much-less-stuffed-full “diaper” bag. (I need a new name for our diaper bag, as it no longer holds diapers.) My twin boys are four years old. Both are long since potty-trained and yet, the attention to potties has not yet ended.

Car travel is one of the (few) times when it may be to an advantage to be a boy. I have traveled with the boys several times by myself through the middle of nowhere Missouri when one of the boys shouts out the dreaded “MOMMYIHAVETOGOPOTTYNOW!!” Never mind that we just stopped at McD’s three exits ago – he didn’t have to go then, of course. So I have been forced to pull over to the side of the road and let him go. (Luckily that usually prompts the other guy to go too.) As a woman, I’m slightly jealous at the ease at which they are able to just go, anywhere, anytime. Then again, I don’t have to worry about getting pee on my shoes.

During long road trips, my husband and I are divided on the best strategy. My advice is to put them in pull-ups to avoid accidents. He disagrees, believing that they should be able to tell us when they need to go potty. I rebut, saying that a sleeping boy doesn’t have much ability to speak, except to awaken screaming that his clothes are all wet, his car seat is all wet, and we are to blame. At that point, my husband doesn’t want to talk about it anymore, as he’s remembering all the times when I’ve been right (at least, that’s what I tell myself).

Once your kids are potty-trained, it really comes down to this: can they hold it while they are sleeping? If they are napping or sleeping at night in big kid underwear without accidents, you are probably safe to leave them in underwear while traveling. If not, then save yourself the stress and just put them in a pull-up.

Other crucial items for car travel from a potty-perspective are extra pull-ups and/or underwear, extra clothing (all the way down to the socks, please trust me on this one), wet wipes, a plastic bag for holding wet clothes, two or more bath towels (to dry off with and to place on the wet car seat), and possibly some candy as a bribe to get them to calm down. Or is that just me?

This past weekend, we had a four-hour road trip with our boys, and it was the first time we have made it that far without: a) an accident; b) stopping by the side of the road (it was about 18 degrees that day); or c) going potty in a water bottle in a moving vehicle (by the boys, not myself or my husband). The water bottle trick is an interesting one taught to me by my husband. Apparently men do this all the time (at least that’s what he told me). I was outraged and appalled. Then it came down to the emergency potty-situation (too cold to stop and no restroom in sight), and I was forced to give it a try. As strange as the experience is while it’s happening, it’s even worse to try to figure out what to do with the water bottle after the incident.

My advice is to make Dad figure that one out.

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How American Gladiators ended a friendship

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Categories Famous Twins, Multiples in the News, Other people7 Comments

While on bed rest for over three months, I picked up a nasty habit – gorging myself on television. The internet, terbutaline, and my husband Jon were my constant companions but TiVo was my best friend. TiVo gave me something to look forward to besides doctor’s visits and ultrasounds. TiVo was always there for me to help me find a way to laugh or cry. I thought things would change when the boys came along, but then Jon and I watched countless hours of TV while feeding babies. When the boys finally started sleeping through the night, we were so exhausted the only thing we could do was veg in front of the TV.

Being a child of the 80s and a newly confirmed couch potato, you can imagine my delight when I heard American Gladiators (AG) was coming back. I ALWAYS wanted to be on AG, but this time around, I’m a twin mom with a full-time job and a husband who travels for work. I have a million reasons why I’m not back in shape yet, and about a bazillion reasons why being on AG is out of my reach.

I’m going to assume you did not watch the season finale. Monica, A TWIN MOM, won the whole shebang. She is going to be a Gladiator next season. During the season finale, she said, “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I have twins.” Did you notice how she qualified her statement? She tried to think of the only thing harder than AG and it was TWINS. Maybe it’s because I’m in the trenches of twin toddlerhood (or one might say terrible twos times two), but if a twin mom says something is harder than having twins, that something has to be insanely hard.

Seeing a twin mom win AG opened my eyes. Having young twins, I often think, “I can’t do XYZ because  ______.” Instead of thinking about what I can’t do, Monica has made me think about what I CAN do. She made me realize if I can be a mom to twin toddlers, there’s very little I can’t do if I set my mind to it. I already do so much – being a twin mom takes patience, dedication, energy, physical stamina, creativity, and perseverance – that I’m ready to see what else I can accomplish.

I have no more excuses for being a couch potato. TiVo was my best friend when I needed him, but it’s time to for us to part ways. After so much time giving to my boys, I need to reclaim some of that time to focus on gaining some of me back. I may not end up on American Gladiators, but at least I won’t be sitting around watching other twin moms accomplishing their dreams.

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