Top 10 Musts When Traveling By Plane With Young Children. (In addition to copious booze, which goes without saying)

This summer I survived -among other things- a 23 hour journey alone with a 5-year-old, a 2.5 year old, two planes, and a final long car journey and this is what I learned.

Bad hand-luggage, good outfits. See 4a, 4b,5a. All rights reserved.

Bad hand-luggage, good outfits. See 4a, 4b, & 5b. All rights reserved.

1. Don’t pack too much. You are better off paying a fee to get laundry done somewhere then having to lug endless changes of clothes with you. If staying with friends, I’ve always found access to their washing machine has been no problem.

2. Following on point 1, expect to carry, pull, roll whatever cute case or bag you have purchased for your wee one. Your best bet is to make it small enough you can chuck it into your own hand luggage if necessary. Check to see if your airline still gives out kid-packs. I found that my kids were entertained with their free sponge bob giveaway activity packs and the in-flight entertainment for the 16+  hours of airport travel. Imagine my joy having lugged 8kg of books or about 50% of Usborn’s toddler line.

2a. Leave space in your hand-luggage for kid’s bag.

3. Have them pack their own bag. That way, if they suddenly want a toy they don’t have, they won’t be able to blame you.

by CNdR creativecommons

4. Never, ever, ever bother with hand-luggage that does not have a set of wheels on it. Not a rolling suitcase requiring overhead storage but something that has wheels and can fit under your seat.

4a. If you simply cannot get something small enough that fits in your own luggage for your  kids, best to follow same adult hand luggage rules and acquire a backpack type bag with wheels so it can stay at your feet and get easy access. (Trunki cases, as seen here, were a very bad idea)

4b. Make sure you do the tipping-test with said bags. Nothing is worse – yes nothing– than a 4-year-old with a packed Thomas the train wheely bag that keeps falling forward. Hello Tantrums, I didn’t plan to see you ’til halfway through the flight, not before we’ve even made it through security! (I learnt this on my previous long haul crossing. )

5. Always pack a change of clothes for each child and adult. Pack each one separately in a ziplock bag. It will be easily found and then you already have sealed bag for juice, sauce, vomit encrusted clothes.


5a. Ladies, don’t forget an extra bra. Vomit is far-reaching. I was a 34DD/E when nursing and learned the hard way on a 14 hour flight.

5b. While we are on the topic of clothes, dressing the kids alike is also helpful to spot them in a crowd of if you’ve temporarily misplaced one.

6. Insist on sippy cups. I don’t care how precocious your kid is at drinking with regular cups. They will spill something at some point, most likely on the stranger sitting next to them or your last spare set of clothes.

7. Many planes have headset plugs that only fit their headsets, which do not fit small children. Bring a small beany baby or bean bag to help create a fit that won’t budge. Spongebob giveaway on Qatar was an emergency solution but far from ideal.

By CNdR all rights reserved.

By CNdR all rights reserved.

8. Make sure the airlines/transit airports you are visiting’s planes actually go all the way to the terminal. Having to manage kids & bags down metal stairs in the desert [hello Doha] and on to bus to terminal only to repeat the process to get on the next plane will have you wishing you were never born.

9. Pack plenty of hand sanitizer, kleenex and wipes. Also pack lipbalm and an extra one if you have klepto kids like mine. Finally lollypops for ascents and descents. Caution: give them too early and take off traffic will mean they’ve finished them before the plane has begun to flex its flaps and rev its engines.

10. Pick an Asian or Middle Eastern Airline if you can. Seriously. I’ll take an extra flight and layover anytime with people who appear to adore my kids more than their own flesh and blood relatives than a direct flight with people who look at me with that ‘don’t think I am going to look after your brat while you go to the toilet’ look. Thai Airways, Qatar, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Tiger, Asia, etc… these people understand children, their limitations on flights, and how a welcoming environment makes everyone more relaxed and as a result better behaved than a hostile one.

And for those of you who noticed it is actually more than 10…well has anything ever gone according to plan with kids? My point exactly.

A Week in the Life of a Multicultural Mom

EuropeanMama_all!I very excited to finally be back from the land of ZERO connectivity. Despite my much-needed break, I am catching up on loads of un-exciting parenting stuff and rather than bore you silly, risking the loss of your patronage forever, I am so grateful to European Mama for this hilarious tongue-in-cheek guest post she let me to snatch for my blog!

Global Children via Plushkies.

Global Children via Plushkies.

So, if you’re a parent, you’re bound to get conflicting advice. Even if you’re a multicultural parent, because no matter how good a parent you are, the French/Chinese/Dutch/whatever do it much better than you do. So, I tried to imagine how it would look like if I tried to take all these advice to heart? I made a plan. Every day of the week, I would parent like another culture, and see what happens. I will stick to the books, “Bringing Up Bebe”, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”, and “The Continuum Concept”, and also this article.


So, I go French! I want to start my day with a nice warm coffee and croissants, but the children eat all my croissants before I can even slip into my role of a French mom, and the coffee gets cold before I even get to drink it. Slowly and hesitantly, I assume my role. I tell the children that from now on, we’re going to have a few rules. Such like: no snacking. Food will be served four times a day and not more. And that no actually means no. I take them to playground to practice to practice my “no” saying skills. I try it: in Polish, “nie!”, in German, “nein!”. It doesn’t work, so I try French, “non!”, and that doesn’t help, either. I try to give them the famous French “big eyes”, les grands yeux, but my children only look at me, think that their mom is actually a crazy person and start laughing so hard that they get a belly ache and start complaining. So we go home. They’re hungry and it’s one hour left till dinner! They’re crying from hunger but today I am a French woman and won’t let them do “n’importe quoi”. I am actually kind of lucky that this is French day because I get to pour myself a glass of red wine. And then another. And another. I am starting to panic because I have to prepare a 3 course dinner, and haven’t even started yet. So, another glass of wine it is. I realise that I haven’t gotten the ingredients, so we go to the store to get them. The children are super hungry but I just can’t give in! The trip to the store was traumatic and I’d just skip writing about it. I cook dinner which takes me another 2 hours, and by the time I’m done, the children are too hungry and tired to eat what I prepared: oysters! Frogs legs! Boeuf bourguignon! And cheese! They want me to cuddle with them when they go to bed but I calmly explain that they have to learn to be independent. So, another no it is. I am so tired after this day. I wish my father was here to make his famous crème caramel. I hope next day will be better.


I wake up my children in the morning, calling them lazy and bad people and what will they do without me. Uh Oh. This is not going well. They, of course, rebel against me, but I am a strong mom, a Tiger today. So I tell them that they will get no food if they don’t get up and dressed right now. This ends with everybody screaming and fighting and a scene so ugly that I won’t even describe it here. Let’s just move to dinner. I serve rice and Peking duck. I tell my children to set the table and criticise everything about the way they do it: not neatly folded, not symmetrical, not pretty enough. My children, they’re so lazy. After dinner, I make them practice the violin and the piano for 6 hours. It is true what Amy Chua says: the 5th hour is the worst, for everybody involved. But they can’t go to sleep until they’re done. I am so exhausted and pour myself some sake. I know that it’s not Chinese, but I don’t want to be so discriminating. I am off to bed.


I wake up on the floor in my bedroom. I decided to co-sleep today and the result was me falling from the bed. The baby wakes up, and of course, I feed him on demand. This is actually quite nice. Until I remember that I need to go diaper less. That changes the day to the worse, because while my big girl is pretty much potty trained, I have still two more to go. My little girl doesn’t run fast enough to make it to the potty, and the baby, well, he’s a baby. Which leaves me with lots of pee and poop, pretty much everywhere. I need some alcohol, but don’t know what kind. I decide on a shot (or two or three) of homemade nalewka. It’s homemade so it should do. I am busy the whole day: preventing poo tragedies, feeding them when they’re hungry (all.the.time), breastfeeding, baby-toddler-and pre-schooler-wearing. I don’t even have the time to meditate or smell the flowers or go outside to hug the trees. At the end of the day I am so tired I want to go to sleep. But I can’t because the children aren’t tired just yet. So I wait. And wait. And wait. In the end, we all fall asleep on the floor.


So today I can be an American mom. This is harder than I thought because they have all these kinds of parenting methods: attachment parenting (which I pretty much went through yesterday) and there are free range parents and helicopter parents, and it’s so complicated and I only have a day for this! So, OK. Maybe I’ll be a helicopter parent for a while and then I’ll be a free range parent for the other half of the day. I follow my children everywhere. I always ask what they’re doing and why they’re doing them. I also decide to take this one step further and apply to University in their name, and started to look for jobs. I also constantly praise them for how clever, pretty, intelligent and funny they are. After few hours the children are more than annoyed with my constant putting my nose into their affairs (and the constant praise that goes with it) and want to play by themselves. So, OK I go free-range. The plan is, we go to the park, I leave and they go back home by themselves. Sounds easy! We get to the park. I explain that at 2 and 4 years old, they’re almost ready to go back home by themselves! I thought this was a great idea!  They didn’t. They started to cry and cling to me! And at home they couldn’t even wait for me to leave me alone! But I praise them for how well they’re doing and we go home. But I totally forgot about the cheerleading, and baby-genius enrichment classes! I need me some brownies. And a few hamburgers and fries! With ketchup! And pumpkin pie! Any alcohol? Well… maybe some Starbucks pumpkin latte would do? OK, we go to sleep.


OK, as you may know the Dutch are very focused on routines and order. So, I make a schedule for the day. 8:00- we get up. 8.30-9.00 – we eat breakfast. I feed the baby after that. 10.00-11.00 we go to the park. 12:00- we eat lunch, bread with cheese, ham and some tomato (in Dutch, they call it “broodje gezond, healthy bread, I am awesome!). We drink coffee, yes, the children as well, I just add milk to theirs. But wait, I am too late for shopping! What would the employees at my local Albert Heijn (that’s the biggest supermarket chain in the Netherlands) say if I show up too late for my shopping? OK, maybe it’s not that bad… what I’m 10 minutes too late? For shopping! Oh, no…I am so stressed at the supermarket that I buy a bottle of Jenever and some Heineken to help me with this. O, and some Belgian chocolate wouldn’t hurt either… or appelflaps and stroopwaffels, oh, and I totally forgot the apeltaart! I also smoke a joint. But wait, that’s not the time for eating sweets, not to mention the alcohol? Whatever, I eat them anyway. But then, I need to get right back on schedule. I nag the children to finish eating dinner so that they go to bed on time. This day reminds me why I hate schedules. We go to bed.

How good that it’s the weekend and I can go back to my usual parenting style, which is pretty much everything mixed up together. Of course, I didn’t do all the things described in this article (I do, however, have some homemade nalewka at home). And, in case you’re asking, I am not really making fun of other cultures. I am making fun of myself for having such a chaotic parenting method (meaning no method whatsoever). If you manage to parent like the French/Dutch/you name it and it works for you, more power to you. If you set out to do it and failed, don’t beat yourself up. You don’t need to follow one culture. You can make up your own parenting culture that fits your personality, personal beliefs and your children.

The Advent Calendar: Cardboard Windows, Mediocre Chocolates and the Christmas Countdown.

advent-calendar-little-angels via

Turns out, as I sit here, fingers poised, waiting until the last possible second to get this post written, it dawns on me that the advent calendar tradition never really was that much of a tradition in my house. That said, I do have this wonderful childhood memory of occasionally having these. What I remember loving most, were the calendars my mother bought that featured a dense Yuletide tableau. I could spend hours staring at the little scenes depicted, transporting myself to a world more colourful and exciting than mine ever seemed to be, all while hunting for the right number and my chocolate treat, knowing that this gesture was bringing me ever closer to my favorite holiday.

The other anticipation I recall enjoying was not knowing what the chocolate would look like; would it be a teddy bear? A christmas stocking? Of course by the 24th, you could be sure that upon opening the last cardboard flap, you would find yourself, face to face, with Santa…well not Santa per se but a tiny chocolate reproduction of him. This foretold the arrival of the real Santa, hopefully ladened with toy-booty, most of which would hopefully be tagged with my name.

The truth is that the chocolate advent calendar was mostly a torturous time. Early on, I was so so so desperate for my chocolate each day, it actually hurt. As I got older, I would succumb to my naughty urges and ‘eat ahead’. This would be followed by my wallowing in guilt, with the horrifying knowledge that I had zero self-control. So of course, why wouldn’t I share this ‘wonderful’ tradition with my kids?

As it turns out, I had in fact completely blocked out the memory of the advent calendar, that is  until I came across one in a Singaporean supermarket. Surrounded by tropical jungle and intense sunshine, I needed every bit of help I could get my hands on to help me into the Christmas spirit. I bought two of these, one for my three-year-old and one for my husband. The baby was too young and I had numerous public trysts with Starbucks chocolate molten cakes under my belt to warrant any additional sweets. Of course the SGD30 price-tag helped encourage moderation.

The plain-jane picture should have raised the first red flag. The confirmation of a complete waste of money award was the lack of attention my husband paid to the calendar after eating December 1st.  This is a man who *must* have something sweet after dinner and went to bed ‘without’ for a month.

I vowed never again. And then, the next tropical Christmas arrived, and my fingers twitched, reaching out for yet another over priced Advent Calendar, this time in a Bangkok market. I held off, barely, and vowed to make my own. One Ikea shopping trip later, I had my cardboard Santa and 24 small drawers to fill with goodies for my two little elves.

For the price of a reusable Santa and all the goodies —a selection of jelly beans, stickers, hair-clips and some chocolate coins— I still spent less than one of those rubbish imported store calendars. More importantly, the experience was intensely personal and I felt a great sense of satisfaction, which is pretty ridiculous since all I did was unwrap little items and re-package them in the pre-made drawers.

 Advent2012 cc CNdR

Maybe next year, I’ll take it up a notch and go the Danish route, preparing a ‘packet calendar’. I was fortunate enough to have one made for me in a previous life: twenty-four little packages tied along a string, hanging down. It was like having a touch of Christmas every day, which is the point really…

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Yule, Saint Nick and Sadeh. And let us never forget: a Festivus for the rest of us.

Those are my innards you are patting affectionately.

When I was pregnant with my first, I was so excited to be expecting at last,  I couldn’t wait to ‘show’. Having taken two years to conceive, I welcomed my new round belly with delight. Of course said belly had, for a long time, nothing to do with an expanding uterus and baby and everything to do with jumping back on the carb wagon I had forsaken in order to conceive.

My excuse? Pretzels and pasta did wonders for nausea.

The bigger I got the better, until the point my knees gave in and most people assumed I was having twins or nearly due. Of course, I hadn’t even entered my third trimester.

Something else happened: the bigger my stomach got, the stronger the positive force of attraction drawing people’s hands. What else could explain the phenomenon of perfect strangers reaching out and stroking, what is considered by most to be an intimate part of the body? Until you are ok with me reaching out and stroking your stomach, don’t even think about reaching out to touch mine! I digress.

Fast forward to baby #2 conceived about 19 months after having our first. I am sitting in my wonderful midwives’ offices. I am about 8 weeks in and already looking exceedingly pregnant. People are once again are very excited to see me and hands are already starting to reach out! I don’t even know if this one is a keeper yet–we lost one in between at about 10 weeks–and I am already having to contend with bump molesters.

I am perplexed. I know it is too early for a proper pregnancy bump and yet I seem to have one. I pose the question to my midwife. She raises her eyebrows slightly and responds something along these lines:


That’s a combination of the relaxin (aptly named) released in pregnancy to loosen ligaments and muscles, combined with completely weak abdominal muscles letting all your organs push your tummy out.

Me in disbelief:

Sorry? What exactly does that mean?

Midwife, tutting:

Oh honey…well you should have been doing more post natal Pilates or something else to firm up your tummy. Too late now of course.

Me slowly entering state of shock:


She ignores this comment and since she is inspecting things deep in my nethers, I decide not to push it. She and I both also know this wouldn’t have changed a thing given that I totally ignored her warnings about eating too much, subsequently gaining a hefty 65 lbs during my first pregnancy. But it feels good to lay the blame elsewhere.


So wait, you are telling me that those people who insist on patting my stomach without asking permission are in fact patting my…well… my nice jam-packed sluggish intestines?”

(Yes folks, when you are preggers food moves slowly through your ‘system’ in order to allow the body to get as many nutrients as possible out of it. Best not ponder that.)

Midwife pauses momentarily:

“Why yes, I guess you’re right”.

She then kindly suggests I get a corset. The last of my dignity walks out of the room, leaving me perched on the edge of the table, naked from the waist down.

The next time a near-stranger and the like approached me, practically cooing with arms outstretched, I decided against initiating evasive tactics and welcomed their pats as did my last week of meals still stuck in there. I call it instant Karma.