Thursday, July 25, 2013

Dance Like No One's Watching

Norah Grace heard her favorite song over the mall sound system (I Will Wait by Mumford and Sons). 
She danced her little heart out, oblivious to anyone who may be looking on.

To parents of toddlers (and kids under 42" tall): find a mall with a play area. It can be a life saver on those days when the weather traps you inside. Just watch out--sometimes parents bring kids that are too big and too wild to be playing around small kiddos. It's trial and error to find the right time to go. I find the best time of day is in the morning when the mall walkers are cruising past with their elbows flying out to either side and their orthopedic shoes a blur, speeding them down the hallways. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Yes, you can get peanut butter in Germany, but it's a bit, well...the quality ranges from a murmured "Bleh" to a disappointed "That's kind of like sweet clay that tastes something vaguely, yet nothing at all, like peanut butter."

But now we're back in the US and Norah Grace discovered how good peanut butter can actually be.

I guess peek-a-boo is a good game to play when your hands are covered in peanut butter and cracker crumbs.
I see you!


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Travels with Toddler: The Road Trip

Norah Grace has a hard time sitting still. She's a bit like a six year old boy: every once in a while something will keep her attention for 10, 20, maybe even 30 minutes but, other than that, she's go go go. She doesn't stop.

We drove from my parents' place in Pennsylvania to Amy's parents' place in Kentucky, what's supposed to be a 13 hour drive. However, with a toddler, two dogs, a few driving rainstorms, and a GPS that's a bit rusty at giving directions, it took a bit longer. Luckily, my wonderful wife had the foresight to book a hotel for us along the way.

The Car:

(I should get paid for this part)

We came back to the US without a car, so we needed to buy one. After months of research, I was leaning toward a Kia Sorento. Now that we have a child, safety was the number one priority. There are just too many drunk drivers and texting teens. Gas mileage was also important. 2011 and newer Sorentos are some of the safest vehicles on the road and get decent gas mileage for their size. We found a 2011 model for a decent price and bought it. We love it. Not only is it roomy for the passengers, but it also holds a large amount of luggage. On top of all that, our manual shift SUV maxed out at 31 miles per gallon on the highway. It's just about the perfect road trip vehicle.

Our new ride.

The Plan:

We would load up the cooler with drinks and stuff for sandwiches and picnic along the way, something that would allow both Norah and the dogs time to stretch their legs. The drive to the dog-friendly hotel (Ramada) would take about 9 hours including a picnic stop. The next day would take about 5 with the stop planned in. The computer and ipad were loaded up with Sesame Street musical guest youtube clips and veggie tales music videos to keep Norah busy in case she fussed.

The Reality:

Driving the first day ended up taking twelve hours. Not only did we stop for our picnic, but we also stopped about a half dozen other times for dogs who couldn't wait any longer and a toddler who needed to get out and move around and get a new diaper. On top of that, the GPS added about an hour to our drive and we had to pull off the highway twice because of torrential downpours. And the bonus: the rain took our temporary (cardboard) license plate from the back of our car and left us looking over our shoulders for the rest of the trip wondering when we were going to get pulled over. We lucked out and made it without seeing flashing lights in the rearview.

Day two was smoother and went more according to plan. The right lane was closed for more than half the time, but we managed to make it with only a few stops, including a very nice park in Elizabethtown, KY.

Putting Norah to work walking the dogs at the park in Elizabethtown.

Norah watched her videos for the majority of the trip leaving me with veggie tales songs stuck in my head for days.

The tips:

Plan everything out beforehand but be flexible. You may have to stop before you planned on. Parks and playgrounds are always a good idea. Let those kids get some exercise. Above all, keep in mind everyone's sanity: your toddler who has to roll around when she sleeps is going to eventually have a mental breakdown in the carseat, an event that stretches the limits of sanity in everyone stuck inside the car. At times like that it's best to let her nap in the park or spend the night at a hotel. Trust me. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Meeting a (Very) Distant Relative

While Mommy and Daddy had themselves a quiet day in, Norah went with her Gigi, Pop Pop, two aunts and an eventual uncle (oh you know I'll be right) to the Philadelphia Zoo. Here she came face to face with a gorilla.

No fear, this one.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Travels with Toddler: Jet Lag

I'm back.

Obviously, two weeks of nothingness is all you've heard from me since I've been back in the US. But, never fear. My little blogging hiatus after the Germany countdown project is done and I'm back. For this first entry after getting back from Germany I figured I would blog about something (recently) current, applicable, and may or may not be considered one of the many circles of hell.

Surviving a jet-lagged toddler. 

The time difference between Leipzig, Germany (where we lived) and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA (where we spent our first two weeks here) is six hours back. Lunch time in Philly means dinner time in Leipzig. It also means that when our plane touched down at 4:05 pm our bodies were telling us it's 10:05 at night. Which, for Norah, meant bedtime was about two and a half hours earlier yet it's still bright and sunny out. This is enough to make an 18 month old brain spin.

We were a bit nervous beforehand because you never know what's going to happen. Would I be walking back and forth, up and down the isles with my energetic little girl? Would she, for one reason or another, cry and fuss the whole time? Or, would we luck out and have a sleepy little girl who would just doze for the duration? 

Not long into our flight the clouds parted, the heavens opened up, and a mildly fussy Norah Grace stretched out across mommy and daddy's laps and fell asleep. Outside of periodic interludes for eating, drinking, and diaper changing, she slept the whole flight. It was a nice, relaxing flight. This also meant she was well rested when we landed. We lucked out. (Tip: If you have the option, try not to have a connecting flight after the long flight. The little one may have no desire to board another plane and could make you pay for it.)

But then came the jet lag.

She went to bed fine the first night and woke up happy and ready to go the next morning. Well, technically it was the next morning. 1:15.

She wanted to nap early and go to bed early each day for the following two or three days. I started out trying to stick with the normal routine and had no success and a perpetually fussy toddler. Then realized easing her into it would be better. Instead of forcing her to stay up until her normal bedtime I put her down an hour or so early one night, then half an hour early the next night. She kept waking up early, but that eventually worked itself out. I used the same process with her nap time.

After three days or so everything was back to normal.

The other tip: Before you travel across a couple of time zones with a toddler, accept the fact that you may be a bit sleep deprived your first few days at your destination and that you'll drink a whole lot of coffee. Have no fear, though. It will get better.