Mum Connections

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A month ago, we had dinner at the Calgary Airport. What better restaurant to have our last meal in oil and beef-heaven than at a steakhouse?

The waitress greets us with a cheery smile, asks us how many we are. “Four adults, two children,” I answer, pointing out L and R. My parents are sending us off before they head to Montreal the next day.  As the waitress walks us to a booth, she asks if I prefer high-chairs or booster-seats for the children.

“What are booster-seats?” I ask, fully aware of my ignorance. “Little seats that you can move around. They add height to any other regular seat,” she replies, without a hint of condescension.

The booster-seats sound perfect. My kids hate high-chairs.

“Great! Come on over this way. I’ll get the brown paper laid out first, and then bring out the crayons.” She smiles as she walks away in her black pants, and black t-shirt; her blond pony-tail bobbing along behind her.

“Here’s the crayons, and some menus. You need anything else, give me a shout. I’ll be back for the order in a few minutes,” she assures us. How wonderful! L and R sit at the table happily, unrestricted; and they draw pictures with my parents.

When she returns, Maher asks if she can suggest any vegetarian options for my mum. She pulls her pen out of her apron and uses it as a pointer, “There’s the garden salad, the coleslaw, there’s a veggie fajita, and we can do most any of the starters’ vegetarian. You just ask me, and I’ll request it in the kitchen.”

“Fantastic!” he replies.

“One chicken fajita should be enough for the two children right?” I ask her.

“Plenty. Portion’s big here.”

We place the rest of the order, and just before she turns around to leave, she asks if we want the fries out first. Maher and I looked at each other and then up at her. She understands. “Yes please, and the guacamole, and anything that’s ready. They’re hungry.” We didn’t mention that they won’t stay put for very long.

She smiles, winks, and asks, “They twins?”
“Yes, 23 months old,” I reply.
“I have three kids. A four year-old, and two year-old twins. All boys.” She says with a gleam in her eyes.
“Really? That’s wonderful. So you know!” I sigh with a sense of relief that sweeps across me.

I don’t usually stress out about being at a restaurant with my toddlers. In China it’s easy. Children are welcome everywhere, easy-going restaurants for sure, fancy places are no exception. The hosts, even the guests happily chat and play with them. That’s not to say that I’ve had any criticism in Canada over the last 3 weeks, neither in Montreal nor in Calgary; but it’s on my mind that they have to behave a bit differently. I do my best to keep the situation as much under-control as possible, without making a big deal out of it. And with my parents there to help, at least we’ll all get to eat.  But the mess we leave is always bigger than at the other tables, and our sweet waitress is the one who’s got to take care of it.

My stress dissipates after she hangs out longer, and after she tells us about her children. I feel a connection with her just for being a Mum of Twins. It’s not rational. But she understands what it’s like to be at a restaurant with excited twin toddlers. She’s not fazed by their loud chatter, their need to switch seats as they spill the water, and their desire to reach for the knives.

Part way through the meal, L needs a change of diaper. As we walk back from the washroom, the appropriately positioned toy store – right across from the restaurant — with a large poster of a crocodile eating a monkey, sucks Leila in. Before long, Rahul and two adults in our group join her. 15 minutes into the discovery, and a number of different dynamics later, I am back at the restaurant finishing up my meal, with my mum. I pick at the colourful bell peppers and onions from the children’s fajita, after I’m done with my own dish. It’s time to go though; time to say goodbye to my parents. I ask for the bill.

While I pay, the sweet waitress and I have a little chat. She’s the kind of woman who calls you honey. Not in a patronising sense.

“Who helps you with the kids?” I ask.

“My husband. He takes care of them in the day while I’m here, and he works at night. I was just talking to my co-worker over there,” she tilts her head towards another waitress, “Was just tellin’ her it’s been a week since I saw him. ‘N’ we live in the same house.”

“Man, that’s not easy,” I sympathise. She looks up at me, shrugs her shoulders and smiles. That’s when I notice the dark circles around her eyes.

“Have a good flight!” She waves.

“Thanks, and good luck with it all,” I pat her shoulder, and push our over-packed stroller out of the restaurant.

My mum and I walk over to the crocodile and monkey toy shop to pick up the rest of the gang. We slowly make our way to the security check.

Just this morning, L and R talked about a crocodile eating a monkey.

Have you had random mum connections that you still remember?


Natasha, mum of Leila and Rahul was an Ashtanga Yoga teacher until her little yogis became the teachers. You can find more of her thoughts and stories at Our Little Yogis.

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Going It Alone: Solo Air Travel with Twins

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Maddie, Riley, and I spent the Thanksgiving holiday with my in-laws in the Detroit suburbs. While the kids and I have taken a number of flights together, this was actually the first time I’d ever flown alone with them. In the past, I’ve been lucky enough to have a grandparent (Thanks, Ba!) available to help us on on the plane, and, while I could imagine how I could manage on my own, I’ve dreaded the day that I had to make a solo journey. Travelling solo with twin toddlers? It's easier than you might think. Dread no more: we did it, and it was so easy I’m embarrassed to write about it. Here are a few things that I think made our trip go so well and some things to think about if you find yourself traveling by yourself with your kiddos.

1. Talk it up before you go. I told the kids we’d be getting on the airplane, that they’d have their carseats, that we’d eat a snack and take a nap. I told them who we’d see when we got off the plane. We talked about the trip a lot before we left, and all the talk got them really excited about it all.

2. Travel at off-peak times. We left at noon on Thanksgiving day. The airport was empty. When we went through security, it was us and about ten TSA agents. That’s it. Not feeling the stress of the busy holiday crush made me feel more relaxed and made all of the logistics that much easier.

3. Check in ahead of time online. I had our boarding passes all printed out and I’d even paid for our checked luggage online so we had fewer logistics to deal with at the airport.

4. Hitch a ride. If you can, get someone to drive you to the airport. I was lucky enough to have a friend drive us in our own car, so I was able to have the carseats ready to go and our luggage loaded in advance. Our friend just dropped us at curbside checkin and we were all set. A taxi would have worked fine, too, but it’s nicer when a friend can see you off.

5. Limit your carry-ons. (Please stop laughing. Really. Stop.) You can do it! You can keep your carry-on luggage to one backpack. In my backpack, I had: a change of clothes for each kid, two coloring books, a bag of markers/stickers/crayons, a bag of new board books, a bag of snacks, two empty water bottles, and my essentials (wallet, boarding passes, phone, etc.) I also packed the twins’ hats and jackets in our checked luggage so that I wasn’t dealing with those bulky items in addition to the two kids, carseats, and my backpack. I packed my own purse in our luggage to use once we arrived at our destination, although I could have just used the backpack the whole time. I was able to wear the backpack through the airport and thus have both hands free to manage the twins.

6. Speaking of managing the twins, they rode in style in GoGo Kids Travelmates. I love these. They are amazing. I attached them to the carseats the night before, then strapped the seats into our car with the wheels on using the seatbelt instead of the LATCH system. Once at the airport, I lifted the seat—kid and all—out of the car and we literally hit the ground rolling. At security, we just popped off the quick-release wheels, and the carseat and handle went right through the scanner. On the airplane, I pushed on kid ahead of me down the aisle and pulled one behind me; when we got to our seats, I lifted the kids in their carseats one at a time into their airline seats and strapped them in. I have no idea how I would manage two kids and two carseats without our GoGos.

7. Let the kids run around a lot before you put them on the plane. This is pretty elementary, but always worth repeating. They are going to be stuck in those carseats for a long time and they will get fidgety. Run them around in the gate area before you board. You won’t regret it.

8. Travel during naptime. We took off at noon, when the twins usually start their nap. They slept from before the plane leveled out until it was parked at the gate in Detroit. Awesome. Of course, all those new toys and books I packed were for naught, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay. We’ll play with them eventually.

9. Be willing to bend the rules. I never let Maddie and Riley have their special frog and duck and their special blankies out of their cribs, but I did let them have those comfort items on the airplane. Even better, I packed them into little animal-shaped backpacks, so Maddie and Riley each had her and his own carry-on bag. They loved having the responsibility of caring for Duckie and Froggie as we went through the airport and really loved having them to snuggle on the plane. I also let them eat all manner of things that I would not normally let them eat, at least not all at once: fruit snacks, endless crackers, juice, cookies, and a lollipop each. It’s one day. It will be fine.

I’m sure you all have more tips, so feel free to share them in the comments. I have to say that travel, even solo, was much easier at 2.5 than it was a year ago at 18 months. I’m hoping the worst of the travel nightmares are behind us.

Of course, ask me that again after I fly cross-country and back with the kids at Christmas…

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