Keeping Your Toddler Busy When Traveling

Last week I hopped on a plane with my very active 13-month-old baby/toddler. Desmond and I took a 4.5 hour flight from San Francisco to Atlanta, just the two of us (well, and everyone else on the plane). We flew back home yesterday.

I will come out and say this for all to read – I was terrified to take this trip on my own. But that’s how most adventures in parenting start, right?

Airport baby wearing

Babywearing at the airport

To prepare, I scoured the internet for ideas for keeping small children occupied on airplanes. I found a lot of suggestions that work for kids over the age of 2 years – those kids that are less likely to eat the crayons or throw the blocks at other passengers. Dez is still not 100% accurate with putting food in his mouth – there is no way he would have luck drawing on a magnedoodle!

Having very little luck with my search on the internet, I proceeded to tear through my house looking for items that I wouldn’t normally let Dez play with but that also aren’t dangerous while supervised. I came up with quite a few things to put in my “forbidden items grab bag.” I then hit up my Facebook parenting groups to gather more ideas before heading to Target. (I came out spending way too much, but it was less than $100, which is kind of amazing for a trip to Target!)

In the end, I collected quite the mishmash of items to entertain my toddler on the plane. And thus I bring you tips for flying with a toddler (without losing your mind).

Ewokmama tips for flying with toddler

Ideas for Fun and/or “Forbidden” Items to Bring on the Plane:

  • a fun keychain with spare keys and a large paperclip attached
  • various expired membership cards
  • a bracelet
  • post-it notes
  • small, portable toys that are new to your toddler – we had Little People figurines, My Little Pony minis, a Little People clown car
  • a pill organizer filled with snacks
  • stickers
  • interactive books (i.e. a “slide & seek” book and Pat the Bunny)
  • a pack of playing cards from the $1 bin

My cell phone is the ultimate forbidden item, of course…so I also looked around the app store to find things that might appeal to a toddler. [Note: If your kiddo is closer to 2 years and above, Toca Boca makes some awesome apps.] The best app I found is called “Animal and Tool Picture Flashcards for Babies” by Open Solutions. It’s free and contains a mixture of animal photos and clip art pictures; when you tap on a picture, the app states the name of the animal and then plays a clip of the sound that animal makes.

That app was the best money I never spent! Dez LOVED it. Even aside from the animal pictures and sounds, he really enjoyed dancing to the background music. It came in handy in the hotel room later, as well.

A word of warning, though. Now that I’ve let Dez play with my cell phone, he is more demanding about it than ever. Still, it was worth it for peace of mind on the plane!

If I were to pick one item from the above list to suggest above all others (aside from the animal flashcards app), it would be the pill organizer filled with snacks. Dez thought it was great to point to the container he wanted me to pop open – over and over. The snacks were key! A well-fed kid is a happy kid!

Aside from items to schlep along with you onto a plane, here are a few more tips for flying with toddlers:

  • Opt for the window seat. Not only will your kid like the view, but you can use stranger anxiety to keep him from trying to make a run for it.
  • If you are flying with your child on your lap, upgrade to get extra legroom. You can let your kid stand up a bit or maybe even play on the floor (depending on how MUCH leg room there is). And in case of tantrums, flailing limbs are less likely to hit the seat in front of you.
  • Babywear through security.
  • Ask for an empty cup and/or water bottle for your kid to play with.
  • Make sure to nurse or give your child something to drink during take off and landing to help with eardrum pressure.

Hopefully these things will help you get through your trip without any meltdowns from your toddler OR YOU. If not and your kid has a tantrum, hang in there! And maybe buy your neighbor – and yourself – a drink to cope.

Moms and dads, what did I forget? What are your tricks for traveling with toddlers?

A Much-Needed Date Night

Since Desmond’s birth in September of last year, David and I have been out alone ONE TIME. That’s right, one measly time in over 8 months. And do you know what we chose to do that time?

We went to the movies.

Now, we like the movies but it’s not exactly quality time. We couldn’t talk to one another and we didn’t even see something romantic. We saw Birdman (it was weird – but good – and not in the least bit romantic). Afterward we ate at a crummy Thai place and then went home. The night was more about checking a task off our list than it was about spending time with one another.

That was back at the beginning of February, so we have been in dire need of a real date night – with time to connect and be US! The problem was that we didn’t have a babysitter to call. Believe it or not, I haven’t actually used a babysitter since Jack was about a year old! I’ve always relied on friends or just stayed home. (Mostly the latter.)

Enter UrbanSitter. I signed up to become a member and was instantly able to search for someone who had infant experience, was CPR-certified (because Dez is putting everything in his mouth he can get his hands on!), and had a background check on the website (I’m a little on the paranoid side). I filtered the results further by searching for sitters close to my house and those that are known through my local parent networks (in this area, Berkeley Parents Network is a go-to for all kinds of things!).

When I connected my account to Facebook, I saw that some of the sitters in my area had been hired by my friends! Further, I got a personalized welcome email from a representative with the site who provided recommendations .

I searched and found a couple of babysitters in my price range that I wanted to interview, and I also posted my request for a sitter on the Jobs section of the website. Almost immediately, responses from sitters who were interested in the job started rolling in! I selected a couple more babysitters to interview from that pool of people.

The phone interviews were super easy to schedule – sitters plug their schedules into a calendar on the website and keep them up to date, so you can look directly at the individual calendars, find a time that works, and click to request the interview spot. The sitters then log in and confirm the time – then the site emails a confirmation with contact information. Easy peasy.

Every interview (four total) went perfectly. It was a tough choice and ultimately the person I choose had to cancel a couple days later when she got sick (which, I completely appreciate – we’ve had so much illness in our house already). By that time, the other sitters I had interviewed had all taken other jobs, but it was not a problem at all! I ran a search again with the date/time I needed plugged into the search parameters, and found a couple more sitters who were available on short notice. I scheduled two interviews and ended up booking the first person I spoke with right over the phone!

Meet Jane (yes, that’s her real name). She is a nanny, a former non-profit employee, and a future Waldorf teacher.


Jane and a peacefully sleeping Dez

Dez took to her within 5 minutes of her (perfectly on-time) arrival. She was warm and friendly and started playing with him right away. We chatted and got to know one another for a good 20 minutes, then David and I took off for our date night. Dez didn’t even make a peep when we walked out the door – he was completely absorbed with the strings on Jane’s hoodie.

We had a blast! We went to a wine & tapas bar close to our house and treated ourselves to everything our bellies desired. We talked about anything and everything (podcasts, vacation, plans for our house and future), somehow managing to branch out beyond the topic of our kids. We were able to truly relax and enjoy ourselves for the first time in months!


A toast to us!

After dinner, I checked in with Jane just to make sure Dez hadn’t turned into a monster while I was gone. He had fallen asleep and all was well. David and I then hopped over to another restaurant for dessert, Prosecco, and coffee. I will admit that I got a bit tipsy (but it was totally worth it!).

When we arrived back home, I thanked Jane, paid her with my credit card through the UrbanSitter app, and David drove her to BART while I snuggled with my baby.


Nighttime snuggles!

Dez slept super well that night and we couldn’t have been more pleased with our experience. UrbanSitter may have just saved our marriage, you guys (or, at least, our sanity)!

I highly recommend the site for your next date night or quick getaway. You can find all kinds of care for your child – in advance, last minute, overnight – and have access to wonderful caregivers who are reviewed by other parents or have a background check. If you use the code FORFREETRIAL when you sign up for your UrbanSitter account you can get a free month to try it out (normally membership is $14.95 per month).

When is the last time you went on a date night or had some precious personal time?

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

An Uncommon Mother’s Day (Review)

Note: This is a sponsored blog post. In exchange for blogging about my experience with UncommonGoods, I received a free product to review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Mother’s Day is coming!

I know you’re thinking, “Shut up, Crystal. It’s only April!”

BUT, Mother’s Day is coming fast – it’s on May 10th. That’s only 25 days away. And if you’re living a life that resembles mine in any way, shape, or form, then that feels like tomorrow. It is going to sneak right up on you if you don’t get on it now!

It can be a huge struggle to decide what the heck to buy your mom (or another special mom in your life) for Mother’s Day. She either has everything already or she is impossible to buy for or after a few decades of Mother’s Days, you’ve just plain run out of ideas. You want to get a gift for her anyway, though – even if it’s only a small token of the deep appreciation you feel for her.

Or maybe YOU are a mom and your kids or significant other are pushing you to tell them what you want. You want something unique and different but also useful because you have a hard time doing nice things for yourself. (Mmmm hmmm.)

Possibly it’s none of those and you just like to shop on the internet and find new things to buy.

Whatever the case, you need to check out Uncommon Goods. They have come up with a huge collection of gifts for Mother’s Day – you can browse by recipient or by occasion. The site excels at finding creative and unique items from individual sellers. They also strive to be environmentally conscious and socially aware. In their own words:

Founded in 1999 and headquartered in Brooklyn, New York, UncommonGoods is an privately-owned retailer that endeavors to feature unique designs and handcrafted gifts created in harmony with the environment and without harm to animals or people. We run all our operations out of the historic Brooklyn Army Terminal, including our warehouse where the lowest-paid seasonal worker starts at 50% above the minimum wage. We make it our mission to support and  provide a platform for artists and designers; in fact, half of what we sell is made by hand. Most of the products we carry are created right here in the USA, and about one-third of our entire collection incorporates recycled and/or upcycled materials. At the core of our company is a great respect for the integrity of the creative individual and the belief that it is our responsibility to use our business to impact the world in a positive way.

I’ve been a fan for years. They are my go-to site for housewarming gifts and for anyone who is tough to buy for. Many of the items end up on my Pinterest or just straight up in my house. I LOVE the fact that the company supports charities like RAINN and Women for Women International. They are just all kinds of good!

For this post, I’ve taken a look at the curated gift lists on UncommonGoods and pulled out a few of my own favorites  to create my handy-dandy Pinterest Board – Uncommon Mother’s Day.

Follow Ewokmama’s board Uncommon Mother’s Day on Pinterest.

UncommonGoods let me choose a gift of my own for Mother’s Day. It was so very hard to choose ONE thing I wanted, but I went with the set of 8 Bicycle Glasses. They are absolutely gorgeous – each has a brightly colored bicycle silhouette screen-printed in epoxy ink.

20905_bikesThey have a good weight to them, so they don’t feel too fragile OR too heavy in your hand – just sturdy and comfortable. And they are dishwasher safe, so they are still practical (satisfying the mom in me). I’ve already run them through the dishwasher a few times and I can attest that they came out looking as good as new!

Now, if you know me you know I do not exercise. At all. So a set of glasses with bicycles might seem like a strange choice, but bicycles have meaning in my house. When I met David almost seven years ago, he biked to work every day. Coincidentally, we worked down the street from one another, so he would ride by my office on his way to work, and I’d run downstairs to get a hug and kiss every morning. He also rode his bike over to my office at lunch so that we could picnic together under a tree we nicknamed Fred (Fred the Palm Tree). As an ode to our lovey-dovey early days, I’ve incorporated bicycles into our home decor in a few ways – we have a bicycle print I bought on Etsy hanging in our living room and our dishes have a bicycle chain pattern. Adding these bicycle glasses to the mix just made sense!

Now I just need these tall, customized tandem bike glasses to match. (Honey, are you reading this?)

So, look…I’m giving you a head start on picking out a gift for that special mom in your life for this upcoming Mother’s Day. Go forth and and find awesomeness at UncommonGoods.

And come back here to tell me what YOU are going to buy (or ask for) this Mother’s Day!

Disclosure: I was provided with the above-referenced product in order to provide my review but have received no compensation for this post. For more information on my reviews, please see my disclosure page and my summary of sponsored content.

A Wish Come True in Time and Space

After waiting nearly two years, Jack’s wish finally came true.

Initially he’d told Make-a-Wish he wanted to meet Lady Gaga. He made a dance video to the tune of Monster (which was the first time I’d ever seen him dance!) to send to her and he waited patiently for his turn. But he kept slipping further down the list due to kids in more urgent health situations and then Lady Gaga got injured on the road and canceled all her shows in order to get surgery.

In the mean time, Jack’s interests evolved and he became obsessed with Dr. Who. He will debate with you about the scariest aliens in the series and has strong opinions about which doctor is the best (the 11th Doctor, played by Matt Smith, is #1! Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor is #2 and David Tennant comes in at #3). Jack has watched Dr. Who almost every day for the past two years or so. He rarely watches anything else.


Doesn’t he look like a mini Matt Smith??

Last year we decided to give his room a little makeover since we wanted to build him a loft bed anyway. We did our best to turn his room into our (weak) interpretation of the TARDIS. We had limited money, but Jack was happy with the results. He’s got a good imagination, after all, and was able to fill in the blanks.

Not soon after, we talked about his wish and he decided he wanted to change it. He wasn’t very interested in Lady Gaga anymore. Instead, he wanted to meet the aliens from Dr. Who. Unfortunately, Make-a-Wish has a rule that the kids can’t switch from one celebrity wish to another (due to the long wait lists), so Jack settled on a more extensive room makeover that would add a console to his room and really make it into a TARDIS.

He submitted his new wish back in November and then we waited. During the wait, Jack made a lot of comments about how he wished he really had a TARDIS so that he could bypass the waiting altogether. Since the project was so unique, it took some time to find the right designer to work on it. Eventually they found Julie Giampaoli from Showcase Your Place, an interior designer in the area who was up for the challenge despite not knowing about Dr. Who!

She knows now!

Julie and Make-a-Wish pooled together some awesome resources and on July 22nd, the team arrived to get to work. I’ll admit it – I was more than a little nervous when they started drilling into my ceiling. But this was Jack’s wish and I just had to trust the process.

We were not disappointed. This video of the room reveal shows Jack’s stunned reaction pretty well:


And here are more extensive pictures of the process:

Jack LOVES his bedroom. He says it’s “too awesome!”

We are all so very thankful to the Make-a-Wish Foundation, their volunteers, and supporters for helping bring Jack’s wish to fruition and put some magic back into his life. We will treasure this experience for the rest of our lives!

This Is How I Nest

I think it’s safe to say that I’m officially nesting. It looks a little different than I thought it would, though.

Rather than focusing on cleaning and organizing (although I’ve done a little off that, too), I’ve been working on getting projects completed. It started with creating a baby book using Project Life products (PL Baby Book example found here). That didn’t take long (since the baby isn’t here yet), so I moved onto hanging pictures on the walls.

We’ve lived in this house two years now as of last week and most of the walls were devoid of pictures even though I had a ton of stuff already framed. So I took care of that (pic 1 and pic 2).

Most recently I’ve been working on migrating photos from the albums that our dog destroyed when we first adopted him into new albums. I’m using Project Life for this, too – I had two photo albums full of pictures from my trip to England and France 10 years ago (10 years ago this month, even!), 8 pages worth of journaling, and a pack of souvenirs that I’d saved. I still have to transfer the more of the journaling into the book but I have all of the pictures and memorabilia set up in the album now. (David does not understand this at all – he thinks I’m spending way too much time putting together an album that I might take off the shelf and look at once a year or so. To him I say PFFFT.) I feel accomplished.


On the more traditional nesting front, this weekend we visited a furniture store that just opened up nearby and took care of getting one of the TOP things on my list of “I NEED this for the baby!” – a rocker recliner. Initially when I mentioned that I wanted one, David was totally opposed (due to the cost and the space it requires) but I ignored him because I’ve been through this before and I NEED a comfortable chair for rocking and nursing a newborn baby for hours on end! So he good-naturedly accompanied me to the furniture store and watched the World Cup while I negotiated with the salesman and made the purchase. Et voila:


Now I’m focused on trying to find a place within a few hours of us to have a nice little getaway before the baby is born. So far this task has proved to be very challenging, as August in northern California means an influx of tourists and tons of local events (making everything much more expensive!). We don’t want to spend a ton of money but we really want to do SOMETHING before the baby is born (especially since our anniversary is 6 days after my due date). Hopefully we’ll stumble upon a deal or a quaint, little-known town to visit.

Or maybe a generous benefactor will come out of the woodwork and offer us something. WILL BLOG FOR VACATION! (Don’t worry, I’m not holding my breath on that one!)