The past couple months and a big announcement…

Wow! It’s been over 2 months since I updated this blog.

We’ve been a busy family these past couple months! Here’s what we’ve been up to since I last posted…

I spent a weekend at a women’s conference in Haarlam, Netherlands which included a fun trip to the tulip gardens.

 

Drew surprised me with a trip to Paris for Mother’s day.

We celebrated our 9th anniversary with our 10th blue cake.

We took a family vacation to Berlin (our first time!) and despite the fact that it rained every day we had a great time.

But perhaps the thing that has kept us the most busy by far has been our latest news…

We are moving back to the USA!

Drew has taken a new job that will locate us in sunny Arizona. The past couple months have been a whirlwind of interview trips, phone calls, job offers and then moving preparations. Our moving company comes in just over 2 weeks from today and we will leave Germany a few days later. Woah! Craziness. The move thus far has been bittersweet, we are excited to be moving closer to family and to plant roots in the USA, but it is also hard leaving our home, and the place our daughter was born to move to yet another place where we know very few people. Luckily all the work that goes into planning (our 4th) international move has left us with very little time to think about all the unknowns.

An adventure it is for sure.

Traveling Internationally with a Toddler, Part Four: Dealing with Toddler Jet-lag

Moriah, enjoying a new toy in the USA

If you are traveling internationally you will most likely encounter some sort of jet lag. And if you’re making that trip with a toddler- life just got a whole lot more exciting!

Here’s the truth: Dealing with a jet-lagged toddler is never easy.  There is no magic solution, no way to fully prepare your little one for what’s to come, and no way, other than canceling your trip, to get out of dealing with your toddler’s jet lag.

But!

There ARE things you can do to help your child make the transition to a new time zone a bit easier, thus minimizing your challenges and maximizing the amount of fun you have on your trip.

Overall you have to do what’s right for your family and your child. Here’s the plan that has worked for us…

A-    Well before you leave- establish a daily schedule for your child, which includes set times for naps, meals and bedtimes. We have found that our daughter thrives on having a schedule.

B-    If you have a large time difference- try to adjust your child to at least part of the time change before you go. (This really only works if you have established a set daily schedule). I’ll add that this isn’t possible for everyone due to work schedules, etc. so if you can’t do this step- don’t stress! But, if you can, it certainly helps.

  •  If you are traveling west: Lucky for you- this is by far easier than going east.  We did this for our daughter when we traveled from Germany to the USA and encountered a 7-hour time change upon arrival. We ended up adjusting her 3 hours before we left so she only had to adjust to a 4-hour time change upon arrival. We did this over a period of 2 weeks: every few days we pushed her bedtime back by an hour. Starting the next day, no matter what time she woke up we shifted her entire daily schedule by an hour as well. No matter what. (ie- even if she was rubbing her eyes and seeming ready to nap, we waited until the new naptime to put her down). It took her a couple days to adjust for each hour of change (the first few days she woke up at her normal time, thus getting an hour less sleep), but eventually she adjusted and started sleeping longer. When she seemed adjusted, we waited a day or two and then pushed the schedule back another hour. By the time we left she was going to bed at 10pm (she had been used to a 7pm bedtime), eating lunch at 2pm and having a nap from 3-5pm. It was a bit silly schedule-wise at the end, but we had the ability to change our schedules to accommodate the shift, and I believe it really helped out overall with the time change.
  •  If you are traveling east: Ok, this can be a bit trickier but it can be done! It just takes a bit longer. We recently shifted our daughter’s schedule one hour earlier to deal with daylight savings time. If your child wakes up around the same time each day, the best way to do this would be to wake them up an hour earlier one day and then shift their entire schedule earlier one hour from that day on.  Wait a few days until they are adjusted and then repeat with the next hour. You can also do what we did for daylight savings time and put your child to bed 15 minutes earlier (and shift the schedule for the next day earlier by 15 minutes), doing this every day for four nights for each hour of time change. While it works really well to adjust them to time differences of only an hour or two, it can get a bit tedious with all the 15 minute intervals, so I don’t suggest using that method for adjusting your child for multiple hours of time difference.

C-    Whether you have pre-adjusted your child or not, once you arrive to your destination- Rip the Band-Aid off and stick to your new daily schedule!

I cannot stress how important this step it! It’s not always easy but it is crucial. I think that when you hear Internet horror stories of children who take weeks and weeks to adjust to a new time zone, it is probably most often because the parents are not doing this.

Here’s the truth about doing this: the first few days will be a bit rough. Your kid will be cranky, and you’ll be exhausted. You’ll feel like a schedule Nazi at times, but just do it. Stick it out and you’ll be glad you did because within a few days, and certainly within a week for even the longest time zone changes, your child will have adjusted (or will be very well on their way to adjusting).

Here are some tips in dealing with these first few days:

  • Certainly if your kid seems hungry outside of meal time- feed them a snack. Even if they don’t eat much at the new meal times, sit them down and offer them a meal at that time.
  • When your child wakes up at the wrong hour in the night (and they will for at least a few nights!)- go to them. Keep the room dark, keep the pj’s on and rock, pat, sing, hum, do whatever you can to encourage them to try to sleep, or at least rest. (A note- that they may need a little snack in the middle of the night for the first night or two until their tummy’s adjust). Do not get them up and have playtime! Yes, you will be tired, but stick it out. When morning comes, wake them up if you need to and make a BIG deal out of it! “Yey! It’s morning rise and shine, let’s sing a morning song!” It may feel silly but it will help reset the little one’s internal clock.
  • Limit naps during the day. As they probably haven’t slept very well those first few nights, they might try to take super long naps- discourage this- wake them up (otherwise they won’t sleep at night!). Our daughter was on a one nap a day schedule when we left and that nap would usually be about 2-2.5 hours. When we traveled we woke her up after 3 hours.
  • Get outside and get moving! Sunshine helps immensely when getting over jet lag.
  • Repeat after me: this too shall pass. :)

 

German Apartments = Good Preparation for Home Ownership

Unlike in the US, when you rent an apartment in Germany you are responsible to see to the majority of apartment repairs.

-Sink broken?

-Toilet Leaking?

-Drain in Tub backed up?

-Ceiling lights burnt out?

-Water Heater in need of yearly service check?

-Windows in need of better winter insulation?

The response to all of these apartment problems (all of which, we have encountered in Germany, btw) is a loud: DO IT YOURSELF. Don’t call the landlord, don’t ask a neighbor, get out your handyman cap and get to it.

Needless to say, Drew has become quite the handyman over the past few years. Like it or not, it is what it is and we making the best out of it and are choosing to see it as good preparation for future home ownership.

Mr. Fix-it himself, tackling the sink.

What was the last thing you repaired in your home?

 

 

 

Let’s put our cards on the table…

You’re beautiful, really.

But it’s not all about beauty.

Today I want to talk about feelings.

Let’s face it you’re not at all warm. You’re cold. Too cold. To be honest you send shivers up my spine, and I don’t care for it.

Frankly, life just isn’t as much fun or as easy with you anymore.

And let’s just talk about timing, because really your timing is all off. Right now your supposed to be gone.

But you’re here.

You’re making me cranky.

We need a break.

A long break.

Perhaps a forever break even.

Go away. Scram, Get! Run!

The view outside our window earlier today.

 

I am so sick of you SNOW.

 

Traveling Internationally with a Toddler, Part 3: On the Plane

Moriah, Momma and Koala making the best out of a long flight to the USA

I’ve already discussed Tips for Planning Ahead and Packing / Day of Travel Tips, today let me share with you my on-the-plane tips for traveling internationally with a toddler:

-Make friends with the flight attendants- They can really make all the difference in your flight experience. Remember your please and thank-yous and don’t be afraid to speak up if you need something (milk for your toddler, an extra blanket, etc.).

-Be friendly to other passengers. Smile when you board. Make a bit of small talk. Yes, some might give you “looks” just because you have a kid on board. There are also sure to be a few friendly faces on the plane.  Focus on those people.

-Offer your toddler a drink during take-off and landing- this will keep with any pressure in the ears.

-Bring on the surprises! If you took my earlier advice, you’ll have some surprises for your little one packed in your carryon bag.

-Drop the rules- In our household we are pretty strict about our little girl not watching any TV. However, while traveling on international flights most seats have personal tv screen where you can watch movies and tv shows at your leisure. Let’s be honest, with a toddler on your lap you probably aren’t going to be able to really watch shows. But turning on the cartoon channel, or an animated movie (even without the sound) can be a great distraction when needed.  And let me tell you, for parents on a 9.5 hour flight with a toddler any bit of distraction will be very much welcomed. On the plane, rules go out the door.

Look for galley areas- most long-haul aircrafts have large open galley spaces near the bathrooms, (sometimes they leave out snacks in these areas, sometime the flight crew will sell on-board goods here) In less busy times, these are excellent places to seek out for a little change of pace with your toddler. We also found that in the couple of occasions that a screaming fit emerged, these were great areas to take the little one as we could walk around with her and be away from other passengers making things a bit easier for everyone.

-Keep Your Cool- I was recently on a plane where I observed a parent yelling at their toddler and forcing a pacifier in their mouth because they were acting up. It really made me feel bad for the kid. And it didn’t make the parent look good at all. In the case of a crying fit- Sing, play peek-a-boo, bounce up and down, offer a drink, offer a snack, offer their favorite stuffed toy, check the diaper, seek out the galley area, make a fool out of yourself. Don’t ignore your kid. Don’t yell at your kid. Please, don’t force a pacifier into their mouth as an easy “shut-up” method. Don’t worry about what other passengers are thinking- if they see you trying your best to calm your kid, they will be fine and may even offer to help.

-Sleep when the baby sleeps- Don’t be tempted to watch tv if your child falls asleep. Ok, go ahead, watch a little if you want, but seriously consider sleeping as much as you are able. The flight is only the beginning of your international journey. A jet-lagged toddler and all of excitement over traveling is still to come, and trust me you will need an extra bit of rest you can get.

-Take a photo- Good or bad experience as it may be, someday your little one won’t be so little and will enjoy hearing all about how wonderful (or horrendous!) they were on that flight. You’ll appreciate the memory.

-Breathe. It’s an international flight. There will be times where your little one is behaving like an angel, there will be when that same little one is crying or throwing a temper tantrum. It probably will go better than you expect. Take it one moment at a time and when all else fails repeat after me, “this too shall pass”.

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Next week I’ll finish off this series with my tips for dealing with toddler jet-lag.

Attention IKEA Shoppers….

Attention IKEA shoppers…. Keep your eyes open for a 23-pound miniature shopper sporting a pink bow and overalls. She’s serious, she’s fast and she’s on a mission! The Little Miss of BlueCakesBlog is on the loose!

Our very serious little shopper

Considering the amount of time (and sometimes agony!) we have spent with IKEA since we first arrived in Hannover- it’s even been called our “second home in Germany”-  it seemed only natural that our darling daughter would someday learn to love the big blue and yellow retailer. Well my friends, that day has come.It wasn’t her first visit, oh no sir (perhaps it was her 3rd? or 4th?), but it was the first visit where she was old enough to walk around on her own.

She loved the kiddy section of the store and took it upon herself to test out each and every toy they offer. She also helped us pick out her new table and chairs set (apparently for 15-month olds high chairs are “so last month”, and all the “cool kids” sit at tables… at least that’s what Moriah seems to think as she has recently refused her highchair at mealtimes.)

Best of all though, was our visit to the cafeteria where, after a healthy lunch, Moriah got to indulge in a bite of Daddy’s chocolate Mousse. Her first taste of chocolate. I’d say she liked it.

So excited to be trying chocolate

 

And so it’s true, IKEA has roped in another member of the BlueCakes household.

Tips for Traveling Internationally with a Toddler, Part 2- Packing / Day of Travel Tips

In case you missed Part One- Planning Ahead, here’s a link.

Day of Travel Tips:

-Dress the toddler smartly- comfortable, layered clothing that is easy to change / do diapers changes in is best. Sweats or pjs are never a bad idea. This is not a day for high fashion toddler-wear.

-Make eye-contact with gate and security agents, have a good attitude, and be friendly. With all of our travels, we have never once asked to cut in line or be given special privileges at the airport, but more often than not we found ourselves taken to the front of a security line, put in much shorter “family lines”, or given special accommodation in airports. I’m not 100% sure why this is, but I’d like to believe that part of it stems from having a good attitude. Be sure to make eye-contact with airport officials so they know you are there and they are aware that you are traveling with a baby, be friendly, and leave it at that. If they help you out, you will appreciate it. If they don’t you’ll be just fine too.

-Pre-board, if possible. As we discovered on our trip, not all airlines are allowing families to do this still. Personally, I think it’s a great idea if you have the chance as it gives you time to find your seat and get your toddler interested in the plane without having to jump over other passengers or hold up the line in passengers trying to board.

Packing Tips:

-Less is best! Stick to the basics. Honestly you will probably end up actually needing a lot less than you think you will; and, in most cases you can always buy things at your destination in the case of a real emergency. If you plan ahead and pre-order some of your supplies like diapers and wipes online, you will also save space.

-Pack your carry-on bags wisely:

Again, less if best here. Remember you will be lugging your child and any carry on baggage all over the airport, so the lighter the weight the better. That said, here are some essentials to include:

-Plenty of snacks and drinks for your child (You can take milk, water and juice through security when traveling with a baby or toddler). Don’t bank on the airlines to provide these things for your baby- some do, some do not.

-Diapers and wipes- bring plenty. Wipes double as hand washing / clean-up cloths.

-An extra pair of clothes for the entire family- I can’t stress this enough. With a baby, you never know what might happen. The last thing you want is to be sitting in dirty or wet clothes covered in who knows what for several hours on a long flight. I ended up using my spare pair of pants myself on one of our flights when, actually by no fault of my daughter, water was split all down the front side of my pants. I was very glad I had those pants.

-A couple plastic bags- for trash, and other cleanup needs (such as wet pants- see above) that will arise.

-A couple favorite toys / stuffed animals / blankets  / books- The idea here is to make your child feel comfortable. Only you know your child and what items that would mean. Our daughter has a special “koala” blanket that she sleeps with every night and loves to snuggle. It seems to help calm her when she is upset. It was an essential item on our list (don’t tell our girl, but we even brought our “back-up koala” in our checked luggage- just in case something happened to the first one- can’t lose koala!). There were also a couple books we routinely read her at nap and bedtime that also made the trip with us.

-A small bag of “surprises” (at least one “surprise per hour of flight time plus a couple extra) for your toddler to discover throughout the flight. They don’t have to be expensive for elaborate, toddlers just love to explore things that are new to them. These can be wrapped up as little gifts as desired. We found this helped pass the time and kept our girl entertained quite well. Some of our “surprises” included:

-wooden clothes pins

-stickers

-finger puppets

-a mini magnetic writing board and stylus

-a slinky (BIG hit)

-a small book

-a roll of funky ribbon

-masking tape

-post-it notes (another BIG hit)

-small key chains

-a sliding puzzle

-miniature dolls

- a little animal rattle bracelet

BlueCakes Review: NapCabs, Munich Airport

We were all tired and a bit cranky as we disembarked from our international flight back to Germany. Sure, things were about as uneventful as we could have hoped, traveling with a 14-month old and an in-cabin dog, but the 9-hour flight (and the 7 week trip that preceded it) was still exhausting- physically and mentally draining. As we strapped the baby into her carrier, made sure our dog was comfortable in his travel bag, and began to haul our carry-on bags and winter coats through the airport we hoped for a miracle. “Please, Lord, let us get on an earlier flight back to Hannover”, we thought. But there was no such flight available to us. And so we looked around for something to do, anything to help pass the 3.5 hour lay-over. And then, staring right at us in the middle of the terminal, there it was. It was the perfect option.

NapCabs.

Small, modular rooms complete with a bed, desk, free wi-fi and a computer with alarm clock that keeps track of your upcoming flights and alerts you to delays / gate changes, etc., located in the middle of the international terminal in the Munich airport. There was a 2-hour time minimum, or 30 Euro minimum charge to use them. It seemed a bit step, but also seemed so worth it. What else were we going to do with a toddler, dog and a bunch of bags?

And so we chose to have an adventure and checked in. Thankfully our daughter agreed to nap with us.

2 hours later we exited, all of us having benefited from a good nap and our dog very thankful to have had a break from his travel bag for a bit.  We were all just that much more refreshed and ready for the next leg of travel. And it was perfect timing to get to our next gate just before boarding.

Needless to say, if you get a chance to use them, I highly recommend NapCabs. They are clean, comfortable and can be a huge blessing to travelers like us. The only small complaint I have from our experience was that they aren’t 100% soundproof from the terminal outside- thus, if you are a very light sleeper, it could be a problem.

You can learn more about NapCabs here and even watch a video of them here (on a funny note- the NabCab in the video is actually the same one we stayed in!).

Tips for Traveling Internationally with a Toddler, Part One: Plan Ahead

Moriah's First Flight: Traveling with a Toddler CAN be fun!

Having just returned from a 7-week international trip with our one-year old, (which consisted of 6 flights -over 24 hours of flying time-, 2 countries, 4 US States, 3 Homes and 1 Hotel ), I feel it is appropriate to pass along some of the things I have learned about traveling internationally with a toddler. And so, the newest four-part BlueCakes blog series is born. Today I’ll discuss planning ahead…

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Part 1: Plan ahead

-Get all of your documents together- remember that when traveling internationally, even little babies need a passport! Call the airlines to ask what is needed and give yourself time to get these documents in order.

 

-When making reservations speak up! Inform the person you are talking with that you are traveling with a toddler and ask questions.

Examples:

With the airlines: What are the baggage allowances for toddlers? (even lap-babies usually are allowed their own carry-on, and internationally they usually get a checked bag). Are special infant rows or bassinet seats available? Can the airline put an infant hold on extra seats next to you if the flight is not booked? In the very least, choose seats carefully: Many larger planes have a few rows in the back that have only 2 seats across due to the curvature of the aircraft. These seats can be excellent choices as they give you your own row. Seats near a bathroom or galley area may also be desirable.

With Hotels: Do you provide a toddler bed / toddler bedding? Can you reserve a room with a mini-bar (useful for storing milk / snacks) or make sure you get a room with a bathtub (bathing little ones in a shower isn’t easy and can be scary for the kid).

-Arrange for diapers, wipes, and any other must-have baby supplies to be sent to the location you will be traveling to. (Most hotels will even accept shipments and you can order pretty much anything you need online at Diapers.com or somewhere similar). This will give you much more space in your luggage and save you from making a trip to the store to purchase this stuff the day you arrive.

 

-If possible, consider renting items like a high chair, car seat, stroller, etc. if your destination won’t have these items. We rented a stroller, highchair and box of toys while in Arizona and it really make the trip a lot easier.

 

-Have a check-up with your child’s doctor a couple weeks before you go to discuss any medical questions you may have. Arrange to bring any special medications your child may need. It is also not a bad idea to bring along a copy of vaccination and medical records, in case of emergency.

 

-Talk to your toddler about your upcoming trip! Although they often can’t say much themselves, babies and toddlers understand a lot more than we often give them credit for. Frequently talking about “visiting Grandma” or “going on the plane- up in the sky” can help some kids prepare. In the very least, it can’t hurt.

 

-Pack and prepare your carry-on bags

 

-If dealing with a time change, consider adjusting, or at least beginning to adjust your little one’s schedule over to the new time zone before traveling in order to make for an easier transition. (More on this to come in this series)

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Next week I’ll continue this series and discuss Packing and Day of Travel Tips…

Homemade Goldfish Crackers.

A trip to the grocery store with Grandpa leads to the beginning of an obsession...

My precious little one year old found her first addiction while we were in the US: goldfish crackers.  They are hands down her new favorite snack. Not only does she love the taste of the little fish, she also loves playing with them, pretending each and every one is swimming in the sea before she pops them in her mouth. She has even developed her own little sign language sign for goldfish crackers that she uses to inform us of her desire for a fishy snack. What a goofus.

So needless to say, a box of goldfish crackers found a spot in our luggage on the way back to Germany. The only problem is: the box has a bottom. And, although we have rationed them out and limited the fish as best as possible, the bottom of the box is quickly approaching.

So, what’s a mom to do in a country where small cheesy fish crackers are almost impossible to be found?

Find a way to make them myself of course!

Yes, I am serious. And, no, I am not ordinarily willing to bend over backwards quite this far just to please my little lady, but I was intrigued by the idea of homemade goldfish crackers. So, after finding a recipe online, off I set, miniature homemade fish cookie-cutter in hand, ready to make a bid for mother of the year 2013…

Cutting out the fish

Laid out on parchment paper and ready to bake!

The crackers were relatively easy to make (and would have been MUCH easier if I just cut them in squares, but let’s face it the fish shape is half the fun). They tasted pretty good (although not as crunchy) and were also probably much healthier than the real deal. The color was a bit off, but probably only because I used whole-wheat flour and gouda cheese in mine as cheddar isn’t always easy to find in Germany. I’m told that with cheddar the color is much more “realistic”.

And, most importantly, the little lady enjoyed them. :)