Travel

today is the day

Moving By the end of the day, everything should be on the truck[1. If things have been a little quiet recently, we've been busy. I can't promise it will get better soon, but it will get better.].

Wow.

l o v e

Someone had her hair all done like a princess last weekend to be a flower girl and absolutely loved every minute of it. Curls

And then someone's dad drove her and her sister the long way around town between the wedding and the reception, because no naps had been taken up to that point. Someone's dad is a pretty smart guy.

Congratulations to the happy couple and thanks for including our little girl in the festivities.

L O V E

reflection

We came back through the Denver airport on Sunday, September 9th, 2012. I was in the same airport on Sunday, September 9th, 2001. At that time, I was there to visit Rhiannon while she had a layover on a trip home from a volleyball tournament. I went through security without a ticket, without taking off my shoes, and without any full-body scanning. I didn’t know it then, but it was the last time I was at an airport where the atmosphere of the entire place could be described as casual.

Flying out last Friday, we waited for 5 minutes for someone to use a laser to scan our 6 ounces of water in a bottle to mix up formula for Maddi on the plane[1. I don’t feel one bit safer getting on a plane having had this done to “protect” us.].

I have some strong opinions on the state of the security antics associated with flying right now, and I’m just a little saddened by the fact that my kids are growing up in a world where it seems like the default behavior is to assume the worst about people until proven otherwise.

Here’s hoping that 11 years from now, things will be better.

SFO

A few weeks ago I got add another airport to my list of places I've been in[1. Thanks to a flight delay, I had plenty of time there to walk around.]. If only a few more of them were international... SFO

sea life

At the aquarium On the last full day of our vacation, we visited the SeaLife Aquarium at the Mall of America. Brooklynn was really excited.

Maddison could take it or leave it, but we did get her to sit with Brooklynn for a photo.

Just before we went out the exit gate and back up to the mall, Brooklynn requested to go back and walk through the clear tunnels to sea the fish swimming over the top of her again.

Looking Up

And her favorite fish out of all of them? The sharks. And their big toothy mouths.

Shark!

holiday visits

Over the past few weeks from Thanksgiving to Christmas, Brooklynn has visited 3 great-grandparents, 4 grandparents, three aunts, two uncles, four cousins, and a whole slew of additional extended family. And I think if it were up to her, she would do it all agin starting next week. That would be nice if it worked that way. Of course, she'd also want us all to just play blocks and sleep in one big room, so we're really not soliciting firm ideas from her at the moment.

wonders of the world

This past weekend, we visited some friends out in Oakland, California. It was our first time in that area and the first time we've vacationed with Brooklynn. Up to this point in her life, she has lived in a world of the midwestern plains with very infrequent trips to the nearby mountains sprinkled in. So, of course we added in tons of kid-centered activities, right? Of course we did. Things such as

  • Wine tasting
  • Driving tours of the Bay Area
  • Sitting in adult type restaurants
  • Keeping her up late well past her bedtime

And to be honest, she did really well, considering the fact that she's two.

While we were busy wine tasting and driving around Napa Valley, Brooklynn found activities like putting fallen leaves in a fountain and watching them float and "going to work" by carrying Rhiannon's purse up and down some stairs[1. Rhiannon, who was our default designated driver, also got the job as de facto baby-sitter due to her not participating in the drinking of wine. Thanks, honey.]

When we drove around San Francisco, Brooklynn got it in to her head that she wanted to go swimming in the water she saw. And when we stopped at the beach, it was cold, sandy, and dirty. She wanted nothing to do with the water.

When we stopped to look at the Golden Gate Bridge, she occupied herself searching for bugs in the grass and mud.

And when we walked more than a few blocks from our restaurant to Ghiradelli Square for some dessert, she marched right along with us. Her biggest concern was not that we were traveling on foot across a strange city after dark. Rather, it was the fact that at certain places, she had three shadows from the various street lights. Three! More than one! Which one of them should she choose to walk on and what direction should she go?!?!

She participated in the chocolate and ice cream at the end of walk. See, we did do something she would enjoy.

At the Denver airport, she rode on a bus and train and an airplane. She saw the ocean and stood on the beach. And she won't remember any of it.

The joys of being little.

Looking Out Over the City

go, sarah!

Last weekend, we drove up to South Dakota to watch Sarah run in a cross country race. For anyone who has not personally attended one of these, they are typically on a golf course with the finish near the start line. Spectators can cut across the middle of the loop (in this case, two loops) and watch the runners go by a couple times. Start, cheer, watch the runners go. You run or walk quickly to the next place and wait for them to come by.

Wait, cheer, watch, walk. Rinse, repeat.

Brooklynn was very excited to see Sarah and a little confused as to why we weren't going with her. Sarah was running away and we should go find her!

So, to pass the time until she came back around, we helped Brooklynn learn how to cheer. The best (or worst) part of this - right after stopped recording, she started yelling, "Go Sarah!" as loud as she could all by herself.

the easy life

Rhiannon and I have been to beaches in southern California, the north east coastline, and the Mexican Gulf coast, (and I've even been on the Mediterranean more than a few years ago,) and of all of those places, Hawaii has to have some of the nicest beaches and ocean we've seen. The weather was basically perfect every day - in the mid 80s, not too humid. Never too hot to be outside, but never cold, even when the wind was blowing a little. After being back at work for a full week and then some, I understand that if we actually lived down there, we would still have to work and do normal household things. Not every day would just be a day on the beach. However, if I ever happened to win the lottery, I think I might have an idea where you might find me.

Footprints in the Sand

We have had some excellent weather here at home recently, so I really can't complain all that much. We laid a blanket down both days this past weekend and basked out in our own backyard. It was just missing the sound of the ocean (and maybe the actual ocean itself). Rhiannon and I discussed getting one of those nighttime ambient noise makers with the crashing wave sounds to play during the afternoon. It seems like a great idea - the sounds of the beach without getting sand all over the place - until you look up and recall that you are much closer to snow on the mountains than anything resembling an island in the Pacific.

plantation

One of the places we visited was the Dole Pineapple plantation. There were a few things to do there (eat pineapple ice cream, dried pineapple, and pineapple gummi bears), including a train ride and a self guided tour through the "gardens". They had just harvested pineapple, so the train ride didn't feature any actual fruit in the ground. We opted for the photos the gardens would provide. Coffee beans.

Coffee Beans in need of roasting

I've neve seen this on the tree in person before. Heck, I've hardly seen unground beans from a package as most of the stuff we buy is is already in small pieces. I could get used to the lush vegetation all around, all the time.

it's all a blur

I know some of you may be wondering when the real set of pictures from Hawaii (as in the ones not linked from Twitter) are going to hit the site. I'm working on it. The trip was a blast and it turns out we have a little one at home who really likes to have my attention when I'm not at work. Still, it will get done faster than her baby books are. I'm only two years behind on that already so what's a few more weeks of putting it off to work on Hawaii pics, right?

Blurry Night

This picture is my new background for my computer. It was taken along the canal in Honolulu that seems to be popular with rowing teams out practicing. If you follow it far enough, you eventually get to the ocean. I know that's true of pretty much any major waterway, but in this case, far enough is more along the scale of a couple miles rather than hundreds. I'm still trying to find some reason that I shouldn't want to live there.

leaving on a jet plane

Just putting up a note that Rhiannon and I are headed on a little vacation over the next week. It might be quiet around here - not to say that it has really been a beehive of activity or anything. I would usually try to post some pictures on here, but I make no promises because we are travelling without a computer (gasp!). If you want to follow along, the best places to keep track of us will be on Twitter (either the Tidbits side bar or on Twitter itself) or maybe Flickr (depending on what photo apps on my iPhone we're using). New Flickr pics will also show up in the side bar here, so I guess if you want to see if we're active, check back here.

Other than that, enjoy your next week. I certainly hope that we do.

so this is winter

Rhiannon had a snow day on Monday. Yes, at noon, it was sunny outside. But at 7 am, it was snowing, cold, and windy. Mostly the kind of stuff that people in Denver haven't had to deal with all winter up to this point. Three days later, nothing has really started to melt yet. Residential roads are still snowpacked and slick in places. (And all our family who lives to the north of us just rolled their eyes. Snowpacked roads! For three days! Call the national guard!)

We didn't know if school would actually be canceled or delayed or have no impact at all. When I woke Rhiannon up in the morning to tell her she could sleep in, she assumed that I was going to tell her that school was running on time and she needed to get going early because traffic was going to be bad.

It took me a little extra time to get to work on Monday morning, but I did leave the house early enough to beat most of bad traffic. The difference between growing up in a small town in North Dakota and a bigger metropolitan area on a snowy morning isn't that the roads are better or worse in one place than the other. It isn't that the average person knows how to drive better on snow. It's that there are so many more people, you don't get the roads as much to yourself and the chances of that one stupid person being an idiot, causing an accident, and creating a traffic jam of hundreds of cars stretching for a few miles is a little higher in the metro area.

Ok, maybe people in North Dakota just know how to drive a little bit better too.

First real snow of the new year

when things work out too well

Knowing that we would be traveling over 1400 miles on the road in a span of just over a week, we gave some thought to how we were going to handle having a non-talking child in the car. She doesn’t understand the concepts of “We’ll be there in an hour” or “Be good today and you’ll get presents tomorrow”, and the last time we a drive of this length, she had just started walking. Now, running around seems to be one her main pastimes. We considered getting an iPad and a mount to play movies on for the drive. Brooklynn loves to play with my iPod, but she can't resist pushing the one button on the face of it - you know, the one button that immediately exits whatever movie or program we're trying to help her run. Which is why we looked at a mount to put an iPad on the back of a seat like an in-car entertainment system. The same sort of entertainment system that Rhiannon and I tend to ridicule when we see them going around the local streets of our suburb.

And, in the end, we did admit to ourselves that an iPad was more of a toy that we were interested in and not something for Brooklynn or a car ride.

Some people told us that we were crazy for not at least having a portable DVD player and that one of those was the only thing that kept them sane in the car on their last trip with kids. So we looked at getting one of those. Much cheaper than an iPad with far worse battery life or a requirement to be plugged in. Do you know what Brooklynn does with cords? She pulls them. Until they come unplugged. And if they don't, she pulls harder and then sometimes she screams. And, just like the iPad, she pushes buttons if they are available.

So we decided to give it a go without any sort of electronic movie device. (Yes, I really wanted to justify the iPad purchase because I think one would be cool, but we're going without for now.) Rhiannon wrapped a few books and we grabbed a couple of the smaller presents we already had picked out for her. We figured that unwrapping a new toy every so often might provide a distraction for a tiny person trapped in a car seat.

Traveling in the winter for Christmas tends to fill the car up. We haul presents up and back, we take winter clothes which take up more room and we throw in some winter coats and survival gear for good measure. This means that we fill in the back of the car and start putting bags in the empty back seat. (Yes, I realize this does not bode will if we do in fact have another child with our current vehicle line up.)

We anticipated that Rhiannon would spend some of the drive in the back with Brooklynn which would mean that all of the stuff piled in the empty seat would have to moved to front seat. Not ideal, but we were preparing for the worst. If the drive there was really that bad, we said that we would buy a portable DVD player for the way back.

We didn't buy anything extra. Rhiannon spent zero minutes in the back seat.

Over three days of driving and around 20 hours in a car, we opened one wrapped book on the way there. On the way home, she played with a pillow and a new cat piano she got for Christmas. Most exciting item both ways - a water bottle that fit in the cup holder on her car seat.

Yes, Rhiannon unbuckled a few times to turn around and reach things that Brooklynn dropped. We spend a little extra time stopped for lunch both ways to let her get out and stretch. She's still in a diaper, so we never ran in to the situation of someone requesting a bathroom a mile past a rest stop or five minutes after leaving a gas station.

We have ourselves a road tripper.

Unfortunately, I'm still looking for a good justification to buy an iPad.

not feeling the holiday spirit

Depending on how you choose to count "days until" or "nth day of" any of the other count down stuff that's going on, we're now within 12 days of Christmas. For some reason that number and the phrase and everything seems really familiar, although I'm having trouble placing it. This means that if you're planning on ordering gifts for the holidays, it might be time to actually start thinking about getting around to it. And, if you are planning on heading out to your local store to find that hot ticket popular item, you might be surprised to find that it's starting to be slim pickings out there.

We don't watch tons of live TV in our house, and so, except for the car and jewelry commercials that run over and over and over during football games (really, we saw the same Dodge Challenger commercial four times in about six minutes yesterday), we don't see many ads. Without cable, we are also spared from the majority of commercials for kids toys as well. Brooklynn isn't really old enough to grasp the significance of the season and doesn't have a wish list. I expect that this might change by next year. Right now, she's pretty content to look through (and destroy) home furnishing and kitchen catalog that we get in the mail.

For some of you in the country, the past few days have brought some snow to make the dreams of a white Christmas a very good possibility. Not so much here. We're looking at a month without snow, highs still from the 40s to 60s, and just enough freezing temperatures to official make everything look dead and gloomy. Last year at this time, we had 29.5 inches to date. This year, 1.5 inches. I think it lasted for all of about 7 hours total.

This is in no way a request for the white stuff. Rhiannon has heard me often enough voicing my opinion that we should consider moving to a warmer climate that she may be starting to believe I have some personal role in the lack of wintry weather. And I don't mind that the shovels have remained stationary in the garage.

In the next couple weeks we will begin our usual 1500 mile road trip, except now we have someone along who would much rather be running around than sitting still. And she is more than willing to voice her displeasure at being denied the opportunity to do what she wants. Should be a fun time. So, if the lack of snow and harsh conditions mean we get to where we're going just a little quicker and if said conditions remain favorable until we can get back, it would be most appreciated.

Last year, we were delayed in returning by road closures. The first year we lived in our current house, we returned to find two feet of snow covering the driveway between us and garage and spent an hour shoveling just to get in to the house. Two years ago, we set out with the temperature gauge in double digit negative territory and it only got colder the farther north we went.

Perhaps we're due for some smooth sailing. Maybe someone out there knows the travails of traveling with a toddler and doesn't think we need any additional challenges. And it might not be a bad idea for me to take my own advice from the second paragraph of this piece and actually procure some gifts. Brooklynn informs me that it's bad form to show up for the holidays empty handed.

This, coming from a person who hasn't even asked for toys. Thank heavens for small miracles.

curious incident of the apple juice on the plane

Last weekend, we flew to North Dakota. And then we flew back. We had a few comments at how good at traveling Brooklynn seemed to be, and our standard response has become some form of the phrase “this ain’t her first rodeo”. By my unofficial count, subject to correction, Brooklynn has now been on twelve plane flights covering four different airports, and this isn’t counting the six flights when she was still just a beta version in utero1.

As well seasoned a traveler as the little one is, she isn’t without her moments. These moments are becoming more pronounced as she gets older and increasingly vocal and willful about making her own decisions.

Moment 1: Security line in DIA

From everything I know about DIA, most of which comes from second hand sources, the musings of overheard business traveler conversation, and occasional commentary on the news, it was designed to successfully handle far more people than it currently does. I tend to believe this since the C terminal sits half empty every time we see it.

I also know that when the security screening area was put in place, it wasn’t designed to handle the current federally mandated regulations. Unfortunately, this is the case with most major airports these days. With airlines charging borderline ridiculous bag fees, more people (like us) are going with carry-on luggage only. Taking off shoes, taking out laptops, isolating approved minuscule amounts of liquids in a clear bag and shoving everything plus coats, five bags, and a stroller through the x-ray machine takes time.

So, the security line backs up.

Like I said, from what I know, DIA can handle a lot more people than it typically does, and we generally have a wait consisting of less than 3 minutes in line. Brooklynn is fine with three minutes.

Apparently, Friday mornings are actually busy times. Our wait was more on the order of 20 minutes or the length of time it takes to shuffle slowly back and forth in the queue 13 times. Brooklynn was great through half of it. She sat in her stroller and watched the people on either side of us also trudging slowly back and forth, like beginning skiers traversing across the slope of the mountain, to afraid to pick up speed to actually turn in the direction they really want to go.

She wanted to get out and seemed ready to cry. We let her out. No meltdown. She wanted to walk not holding Mommy or Daddy’s hand. She’s a big girl. Plus, she’s still just wary enough of strangers that we weren’t concerned about her wandering too far away. No meltdown. She wanted to push her stroller by herself. It’s an umbrella stroller: very light and very pushable by small children. No meltdown.

Small children pushing their own umbrella strollers tend to ambulate in more of a general direction than in a particularly straight line2. The requirements of the security line course we sought to maneuver through actually had a straight line stipulation, particularly when passing around the poles holding up the rope. This means that Rhiannon had to touch the stroller ever so slightly in a course-corrective manner.

And Brooklynn wanted so badly just to push the stroller by herself is that too much to ask WHY ARE YOU TOUCHING MY STROLLER MOM GET AWAY!?!

Meltdown.

Face down sitting puddle on the floor in the security line. Tears. Sobs. A minute later, a nice older lady several people in front of us waved to Brooklynn going around one of the 180 degree turns and everything was fine.

Meltdown 2: Beverage Cart

On weekends, we typically let Brooklynn sleep in. She gets up early during the week due to our work schedules, so it’s good for her to catch up a little. By letting her sleep in, I really mean that we ignore her first time she wakes up, wait for her to go back to sleep, and get up when we’re all ready to see each other for the day.

On Sunday, her Grandma came and got her from outside our bedroom the first time she woke up. She had been coughing a bit that night and neither Rhiannon nor I slept all that well, so we didn’t mind the reprieve. We slept in. Brooklynn did not.

We drove see Brooklynn’s cousins and family, who also just so happen to live about five minutes from the airport3. She slept on the drive there, about an hour, and then played hard for the afternoon. With us, she might take a two or three hour nap in the afternoon. Too much excitement to sleep and a short nap lead to a tired baby getting on the plane.

Up early. Short nap. Hard play. We had a tired child on our hands getting on the plane and we were hopeful she would fall asleep with the noise and vibration of the plane. I think she would have. She cuddled on my lap with her blanket, and each time, just when it looked like she was going to close her eyes, the kid across the plane one row behind us cried.

And he cried for the first 40 minutes of the flight.

When the flight attendant came by with the drink cart, Brooklynn was still up and suddenly very interested in what was going on. On Friday’s flight, we got some juice for her. She doesn’t drink juice, as in I think we can count how many times she’s had it in 16 months and still have some fingers left over, so we figured maybe it would be a nice treat. So we got juice again.

The little plastic cups on planes also have little plastic lids and little coffee stirring straws work just fine for little people to use. Brooklynn’s sipper cups are all straw-based, so she’s no stranger to using pressure differential to move liquid from low potential energy to an area of higher potential energy. Her sipper cups are also spill proof, and we don’t worry about inversion.

Airplane cups, however snuggly the lids are on4, still have a significant hole in the top to allow the straw into the liquid reservoir area. When the cup is tipped far enough, liquid comes out. You may ask yourself why any sane and rational person would actually do this when they are perfectly capable of using the straw in the preferred fashion. I would posit that you are asking the wrong question. The real inquiry here is whether any small child can actually be considered sane and rational.

The answer is no.

Brooklynn took the cup and tried to tip it as she drank. Rhiannon held it level. Brooklynn took the cup again and tipped it, and I pulled it back level. Brooklynn took the cup, indicated with some wild hand waving that she was in charge and we should back off, and proceeded to pour juice on herself, into Rhiannon’s hand (thanks to her fast reactions), and a little bit on our pants.

At this point, the juice cup went away, our glasses of ginger ale were quickly finished, and the seat-back trays were properly stowed in the take-off and landing position, and everything disappeared.

Meltdown.

Some snacks, blanket time, and cuddling with Mom, everything was better. She even had time at the end of the flight to stand in the aisle and flirt with the guys sitting in the row across from us. (Hopefully the guy in front of us didn’t mind too much, especially considering he was the recipient of the sipper-cup-turned-geyser event earlier in the flight5.)

So, for several hours of travel, to limit the outright meltdown time to around 10 minutes it good. Seasoned traveler good. Awesome baby good. And everything can be traced back to her wanted to do everything herself don’t touch it IT’S MINE! type of reactions. I guess that’s what you get with a 16 month old.

Irrational outbursts stemming from mundane actions. Well, that also describes some adults I’ve seen when traveling. And they aren't nearly as cute doing it as Brooklynn is.


  1. Has anyone ever documented how less noisy and disruptive kids are before they’re actually born? The differences are amazing, especially from the male perspective.
  2. I present this statement as a fact, but, admittedly, my population sample consists of one child, my own. Statistically speaking, this is both biased and insignificant.
  3. Sometimes the benefits of living in smaller, rural type cities cannot be understated.
  4. We know by trial that the lids are actually liquid tight.
  5. Seriously, pressure differentials are nothing to be messed with.

baby blue eyes

We have a baby of our own under two years old and I'm still amazed at how much kids can change when you don't see them for a few months. When we last saw Bennett, he was about half as old as he is now. And he didn't have teeth. And he wasn't crawling. And he didn't pose like he was looking to score the cover of GQ. GQ Look Down

Just when we feel pretty confident that Brooklynn has the title of "Cutest Grandchild" wrapped up, we go and visit her cousins and realize how much work she has to do to keep up. At least she still has that distinction on my side of the family.

I also forget how nice it is to be able to sit four feet away from a kid to take pictures and not be constantly rushed by a toddler who wants to play with the camera.

Baby Blue Eyes

Check out those eyes. Brooklynn takes after her mother in the fact that her eyes are a combination of colors that vary with the time of day. When people ask what color her eyes are, we're sometimes hard-pressed to give a definitive answer. No such problems with this one.

packed and ready to go

All Packed Up We got back from our trip to Minnesota and left the suitcases with the clean clothes laying around in our loft for the next week. You know that it's more efficient to just take clean clothes from there and put them in the wash at the end of the day than moving them back into drawers, only to take them out again, right?

This weekend, Brooklynn helped us unpack the rest of the clothes. I thought it was very helpful of her up until the point that I realized she was just making a little more room for herself in the suitcase.

(In case you were wondering, she does fit in there with the top closed. Not that I tried it or anything...)