Packing For A Desert Island

 

Most-Beautiful-Place-in-the-world-300x225Well, folks, it’s happening. I’m officially losing my mind. We are currently moving full speed ahead for The Big Move next week–that is, our second international move in 12 months…with two young children…and a dog…and more stuff than a family of four should legally be allowed to own. It’s no wonder, then, that packing all that STUFF has been at the forefront of my mind.

546289_364188803628554_1444868041_nLast week I was contacted by Man Crates, an awesome new company that creates unique gift crates for men (I actually can’t stop drooling over their bacon crate–do you know how long it’s been since I’ve had proper bacon?). Man Crates had a challenge for me: If I could pack my own desert island survival kit, what would I bring? So, with all of my packing know-how and current expertise in stuff I decided to take them on. Here are the 5 items I would chose to save if (God forbid) the cargo ship carrying all of our worldly belongings sinks in the Atlantic and I happen to end up on an island with my lone surviving things:

1. Sunglasses
Let’s get one thing straight here. If I’m going to be stranded on an island, it’s going to be a sun-drenched tropical island. You know, one of those lush beauties with pristine white sand and crystal clear water straight out of The Beach. And for this, I must have my sunglasses.

2. Cake
Cake is the one essential food group that I can not, will not live without. The world is a better place because of cake. Yummmmmm….cake.

3. iPhone
How did we ever live before iPhones? I mean, really. This little device that costs a small fortune, fits in my pocket, and allows me to wast countless hours of my life. I would bring my iPhone to the desert island so I could post photos to Instagram of the  beautiful sunsets on our beach and update Facebook with the details of our new island life. I would play Candy Crush with the waves lapping at my feet and maybe even download an app to help me find fresh drinking water on the island. If I got desperate enough I could text someone to come rescue us…but not until the cake runs out.

4. My Favorite Babysitter
HoohoI know that this is a bit unorthodox as a “thing”, but every parent knows that a good babysitter is indispensable. I debated whether or not I should leave the kids at home for this little escape to the desert island, but the truth is I kinda like them and I think this would be a great hands-on learning experience for them. You know, something they’ll look back on when they’re teenagers and say, “Wow, thanks for exposing me to the wonders of the world, Mom.” So, the kids are coming–but I’m bringing help. The babysitter will play with the kids while I nap under a palm tree, and then she’ll forage for fresh fruit and berries while our family goes on a nature hike. The best of both worlds, folks.

5. Running Shoes
I love to run. No, really, I do. Running allows me to explore new places, gain some energy, and de-stress. It also helps me burn off all the cake-calories. I’ll just make sure I install a reliable GPS app on my desert island iPhone before I leave for a run–wouldn’t want to get stranded or anything.

So, there you have it: five items that are essential to my existence. And, to be honest, this whole “stranded on a desert island” thing actually sounds pretty nice right now. I think I’m going to call the movers and just tell them Nah, I’ve got this. My iPhone and running shoes fit in my purse, so forget all the dishes and duvets and boxes of winter clothing. I’m moving to a desert island where I can lay in the sun all day eating cake.

Now I turn the question to you: What would be in your desert island survival kit?

10 Tips For Moving With Young Children

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This week has been…crazy. In just a few short days our family will be hopping on a plane to our new home in Ireland–which means we have spent the last few days running around like manic chickens with their heads chopped off. Just imagine moving with a dog and two children under the age of 3. Now imagine moving with those same young children half-way around the world. Now imagine preparing to move with two young children while your husband is in Ireland (and you are in Seattle)–oh, yeah, and you’re throwing a party for 75 of your closest friends and family this week to keep things REALLY interesting.

Crazy as this week has been, I’ve already learned a few things about moving with young children. Starting with:

1. Don’t move with young children.
Really, moving with young kids SUCKS. They don’t help, they get in the way when you’re trying to get stuff done, they require extra time and attention (of which you have neither), they have extra STUFF you have to move (which, of course, you don’t have room to move), and the stress of moving just throws them into a wild tailspin of anger and destruction. Have I convinced you to put your moving plans on hold yet? If not, you may continue reading.

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2. Get help with your kids (read: pawn your children off on a willing grandparent/friend/babysitter/responsible dog).
If you decide to move with young children, you’ve got to get rid of the kids on moving day. Otherwise, moving day simply will not happen. Enlist help for at least the time that you will be doing the bulk of your packing and loading. You may be tempted to try to get a few more things done with your children “helping” you. Don’t. It’s a terrible idea. Just get them out of the house, get things done, and reunite with your beautiful children at the end of the day.

3. Set up a staging area.photo (2)
Find a space in your house that you can use to store already-packed boxes. This could be your garage, a spare bedroom, a corner of the office, or the end of a hallway. As you pack a box, move it to the staging area so you’ll be able to keep everything contained (and make loading into the moving truck go that much quicker).

4. Pack non-essentials first.
Packing up a family is a daunting process. Start by filling one box (yes, just one box–one is a good number to start with, and you know you can actually do it) with non-essential items. This could be off-season clothing, your grandmother’s china (You weren’t planning on using that for Cheerios each morning, were you?), holiday items, or extra toys (now is a good time to start clearing the clutter!). After you pack your first box, the rest come more easily. Starting a couple of weeks before the big moving day, try to fill at least one box per day with non-essentials. Even if you only get a few boxes packed, it will be that much less that you have to do last-minute.

5. Talk up the move and your new house.
We’ve been talking about our “Ireland House” for months with our 2-year old. There are several things that we’ve done to help ease the transition for him. We look at photos on Google images of Ireland (since he’s never actually been there), we find Washington and Ireland on a globe and trace the path that we’ll travel, we point out airplanes in the sky and say, “we get to fly on an airplane to Ireland soon!”. Now that we (finally) have a house over in Ireland we also look at photos of our house and talk about the wonderful things we’ll see there (“Look, there’s our yard where we’ll throw the ball for Bota!”, “Oh, here’s a picture of your new room with your big boy bed!”, “Here’s the toilet you’ll use when you need to go potty.”). We try to make the new house sound as comfortable, inviting, and exciting as we can.

photo (1)6. Color-code your belongings.
We bought 3 colors of low-stick painter’s tape so we could color-code everything in our house. Since we are moving from a reasonably large house to a small, furnished house there are a lot of things we had to put into storage. We used one color for items going to Ireland, another color for items going into storage, and a third color for items we were going to loan out to friends. You could also use the color-coding system for items to move/sell/store, items that are essential/non-essential/seasonal (so you’ll know what to unpack first), or color-code each room of your house. The possibilities are endless!

7. Be all stealth-like and pack your kids’ things when they aren’t looking.
I made the mistake of trying to pack one of David’s balls while he was in the same room. BAD, BAD IDEA. He freaked out and it took about 3o minutes to console him. Lesson learned. Any time you are packing your kids’ belongings, just do it when they aren’t around. They don’t understand that they WILL see these things again soon, so it’s quite traumatic for the little ones.

8. Hire a moving company.
Jon and I have moved 6 times in the last 8 years, but this is the first time we’ve ever had a professional moving company help us out (thanks to Jon’s business sending them out!). It was incredible having 2 guys show up with boxes, spend 6 hours packing our stuff, and then drive our stuff off to where it was supposed to be. I don’t know if we could actually afford to hire those guys on our own, so we usually “hire” our friends with the promise of free beer and pizza on moving day. Either way, get some help with the heavy lifting and the whole move will go a lot more smoothly.

9. Expect your child(ren) to act out. Plan accordingly.
Moving is stressful for anyone, and especially so for young children. They will get frustrated, angry, sad, confused, anxious. They may cry or act out more than usual. That’s to be expected. Just go with it, scrounge up some extra patience, and drink a nice glass of wine after you tuck the kids in at night.

10. Say goodbye.photo (24)
We ended up bringing our kids with us on our final day of organizing and cleaning our “old” house (we also brought along Auntie and Uncle to help babysit them). I was a bit nervous about how David would react when he saw our empty house, but I think it was actually really good for him. He had fun running through the cleared out rooms, seeing our storage space (the garage) packed high with our belongings, and yelling down empty, echo-y hallways. Before we left that day, we walked through each room of the house and said goodbye: “Goodbye, old bedroom. Goodbye, blue curtains. Goodbye, tall stairs.” And that was it. We said goodbye and we left. He was happy waving at our house as we pulled out of the driveway and drove out of our neighborhood for the last time.

So far as I can tell, we’re actually less than halfway done with the move at this point. We still have to get to Ireland, adjust to life in a foreign culture, wait 6-8 weeks for our “stuff” to arrive on a cargo ship, unpack, and settle into our new “normal”. For this chapter of the move, though, we can finally close the book and call it done.

To be continued…

Ireland, Here We Come!

!o-irelandWell,friends, it’s actually happening–we finally have everything we need for our move. Our visas came through about 2 weeks ago but, due to a family emergency, we put everything for the move on hold for awhile. Jon went back to work this week and got the proverbial ball rolling again. He will be going out to Ireland June 24-28 to sign a lease on our house, set up a local bank account, look into leasing a car, and just getting things generally set for us to move. We will have to see what the terms are for the lease that he signs, but if the house we want is available right away we will try to be in Ireland by July 8th.

This, of course, means that it’s crunch time for us to get everything ready now. I made about a dozen appointments today: the vet, a house cleaner, the dog groomer, dentists, doctors. I really don’t even know where to start with the whole packing situation. Since we won’t know if we are getting a furnished or unfurnished house until Jon signs a lease, it’s kinda difficult to know what all will stay and what will go. Jon is meeting with the moving company this week to get things sorted out, so hopefully they’ll be able to help us out. In the meantime, I will attempt to throw things into boxes in a somewhat organized manner.

This whole move has been such an on-again, off-again ordeal that I’m relieved to know things are moving forward. Now, to get through the chaos of the next month!

Traveling With Bebe, Part 2: Pre-Travel Arrangements and Packing

IMG_2635Booking Your Flight
Try to schedule your flight for a good time of day for you and your baby. I have found that it’s best to assume the baby will not nap on the plane, so plan accordingly (nap time + no nap = fussy baby, so try to avoid in-flight nap times). Try to schedule your flight for the morning so you can arrive in your destination before baby’s usual nap time. Or, if you still get 2 solid naps out of your little one, you can try the evening after nap #2, but still try to arrive before baby’s usual bed time. Obviously if you have a really long flight this logic won’t work, so just try to travel at the time of day when your baby is usually happiest (for us, that’s the morning).

If you can choose your seats ahead of time and will be traveling with a “helper”, choose two seats together (the best scenario is to find a row with only 2 seats so you don’t have to split the row with a helpless stranger). I like to sit on the aisle so I can get out easily to tend to baby’s needs, but some people prefer the window seat so they can entertain baby with the view. Also, the back of the plane is usually more kid-friendly–fewer passengers choose the back of the plane so there are usually more empty seats and you’re closer to the bathroom (for diaper changes) and the galley (if you need to stand up and bounce baby around for awhile).

If you will be having a layover, always opt for the longer time over the shorter time (i.e. take the 90 minute layover instead of the 60 minute). It takes longer to get from point A to point B when you’re carting along a stroller, car seat, diaper bag, carry-on, and an infant. Plus, you’ll want some extra time to do diaper changes, use the bathroom, get snacks, and get some wiggles out before the next leg of your journey. Short layovers always induce panic, so just don’t do it.

If you are traveling with a baby under age 2, It’s also a good idea to call your airline the week before you travel to confirm that you will be traveling with a lap infant. That way they can ensure there will be an extra oxygen mask at your seat and that you are seated in an appropriate spot (babies aren’t allowed in exit rows).

Packing
It’s every parent’s worst nightmare–you travel to some far-flung destination with your child, everyone arrives safe and sound, and then you realize that you forgot IT. You know, that one thing that your child NEEDS to survive, that thing that you NEED for your sanity, that very important thing that unless we find it NOW our entire trip will be RUINED!!!! So packing is very important. There are a lot of little things to bring with you when you’re traveling with young ones, and if you don’t pack them, nobody else will.

I have learned that I need to organize my packing well in advance of our travel. Otherwise, that shirt that I needed will be in the dirty laundry hamper or that baby food I needed will already have been eaten. I usually start packing bags about 3 days before we leave. This allows me to have everything I need in one spot, clean and organized. It also allows me a day or two to remember that thing that I forgot.

I keep a packing list stored as a document on my computer, then I print it off before I pack for a trip. Our list is broken down into what each member of our family (including the dog) needs for travel–whether we’re going for an over-nighter or a week-long vacation, we still need to bring most of the same things. If there is something on my list that I don’t need for this particular trip, I just cross it off my list before I start packing. If there is something additional I’ll need for this trip that is not on my usual list, I add it to the list before I start packing. As I’m packing, if I think of something else I might need, I also add it to the list. Then, after each item has been packed, I cross it off the list. Since I pack a few days ahead of time, there are usually a few items that have to be packed last minute (like our toothbrushes and my son’s “lovey” Mimi). I highlight those last minute items on my list and keep it with the bags. Then, at “the last minute”, I grab all of the highlighted items and toss them in the bags as we’re loading up the car. Yes, I realize that I sound really anal about all of this. But it works and I’ve never forgotten Mimi or my underwear.

And now, dear reader, you will get a glimpse into my wonderful world of packing. I don’t include our everyday clothes on this list because I pretty much know that we’ll all need pants and shirts while we’re traveling. Here is my essential packing list, well-refined from years of implementation:

Mom and Dad:

  • Camera
  • Meds and vitamins
  • Cell phone and charger
  • Laptop and charger
  • iPod and charger
  • Sunglasses
  • Hats
  • Running gear: shoes, pants, shirt, socks, bra
  • Swimsuit and flip flops
  • Nursing pads
  • Breastpump and bottles
  • Coats
  • Hair straightener and makeup
  • Sunscreen
  • Entertainment: books, load apps and music
  • Passports

Dog:

  • Food
  • Food bowls
  • Treats
  • Leash
  • Toys
  • Dog bed
  • Pills
Boys:

  • Diapers and wipes
  • Mimi and Gigi
  • Swaddling blanket
  • Extra baby blanket
  • Spit up rags
  • Baby monitor
  • Pac ‘N Play
  • Toys and books
  • Booster seat
  • Bibs
  • Baby food and spoon
  • Sippy cups
  • Toothbrushes and toothpaste
  • Tylenol
  • Snot Sucker
  • Pacifier
  • Snacks
  • Diaper bag
  • Stroller
  • Ergo
  • Coats and hats
  • Copies of birth certificates
  • Passports

Before we leave:

  • Take out garbage
  • Empty diaper pails
  • Turn off heat
  • Check mail
  • Run dishwasher
  • Lights off
  • Doors locked
  • Garage closed

Prepping For Travel Day
Time is of the essence when you’re traveling with young children. You get about 1 minute per year of their age before some earth-shattering disaster erupts in their world. I try to make our time in the airport go as quickly–and as smoothly–as I possibly can.This means calling the airline a few days ahead of time to notify them that I’ll be traveling with a lap infant (and making photo copies of his birth certificate in case anybody actually questions that my 6-month old is actually older than 2).

This means checking into my flight and printing our boarding passes at home before we leave for the airport. This means practicing how I will carry all of our stuff through the airport (yes, I’ve actually been known to do a trial run in our house with the luggage before the big travel day). This means loading our car as much as possible the night before we leave and keeping good notes on what still needs to be packed so we don’t have any last-minute forgettings of vitally important equipment (like the time I had to wake two sleeping babies at 5 AM to rush a laptop to the airport). Anything you can do ahead of time to minimize time and stress on your travel day is time well spent!

Think ahead to what will *potentially* entertain your baby or toddler on the plane, and make sure you’ve packed it. Snacks are usually the best bet–especially if it’s a special treat that they don’t get to enjoy very often. Also pack a few novel toys that he’s not already bored with. And, if you have a 2-year old boy, maybe even stash some earplugs for you and your fellow passengers. Just sayin’.

Travel Apparel
What you wear on the plane will make a big difference in your comfort on travel day. Here is, in my opinion, the perfect outfit for flying with a baby:

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  • A long-sleeved v-neck that is easy to pull down for nursing. Sleeves can be rolled up if it gets hot or pulled down if I’m feeling cold (temperature regulation on planes is always pretty wonky, so I like to dress in layers)
  • A nursing tank (underneath the t-shirt)
  • An extra-large scarf: it can keep me warm, I can pull it off and use it as a lap blanket if my legs get cold, it works as an on-the-go nursing cover, and it makes for a quick game of peek-a-boo if baby gets fussy. And it’s kinda cute.
  • Stretchy leggings that I can pull down easily to pee if I need to carry the baby in the Ergo with me into the cramped little airplane bathroom. Plus they’re oh-so-comfy.
  • Shoes that I can easily slip on with one hand during the security check. No laces, buttons, snaps, etc.
  • I’d probably also bring a light jacket with me in case things get really chilly.

For baby: Dress him in something comfy that is easy to take on and off (if you need to do an in-flight diaper change you’ll be glad you choose a no-fuss outfit). Think: elastic waistbands or zippered pajamas–leave the cute outfit with a thousand buttons in your suitcase.*Note* Not all airplanes have changing tables, so you may be doing mid-flight changes on your lap!

Now that you have your bags packed and your clothes laid out, you’re ready for travel! Check back tomorrow for my tips on getting through the airport with little ones.