Tag Archives: travel

Stairs, Violet’s Evil Temptress

On a trip with Violet a couple of months ago, I almost lost my mind for reasons I wasn’t quite expecting. I knew she wouldn’t sleep well. I knew it would be hard to feed her without a high chair. What I didn’t know was that I would spend every second of the entire trip chasing the baby away from stairs.
What is it about stairs that makes them so alluring to babies? I know climbing up them occasionally can be fun, but why non-stop? Why would you want to go up something you can’t come back down without cracking your head open? Why? At every house we visited on this road trip, Violet would make a beeline for the stairs the second we set her down. She didn’t want toys or books or attention. She wanted stairs. We couldn’t sit in peace for a second. In fact, after a while we found it easier if one of us just made camp at the bottom of the stairs. Since it was my husband’s parents’ house, I let him do the duty.
He spent a lot of time like that. That man is comfortable no matter how uncomfortable the situation. He could sleep on jagged rocks. It’s not fair.

As the trip went on, even the big girls took part in Stair Watch 2013.
Violet doesn’t like it when people get in her way, even when it’s for her own safety.

Even at a children’s fun room at a museum, Violet was only interested in one thing.
She spent an hour going up and down those stairs. And we spent that whole hour making sure she didn’t fall down those stairs. It was torture.

Even when we were visiting the rental house my parents were updating for new tenants, Violet was after stairs.
Basement stairs AND regular stairs.

By the end of the trip, all I could dream about was a world where baby gates existed. I guess this trip showed that every house in America needs to be equipped with baby gates just so people with toddlers can travel peacefully.

And no, I can’t just travel with baby gates. A) They would take up too much space in our already cramped car and B) not all hallways and staircases are standard sized so even if I brought the gates with me they might not fit. It took us several tries to find baby gates that would work in our home.

So, basically you are screwed if you are traveling with a toddler and there’s no barrier between the living room and the staircase. I even tried to block the hallway to the staircase with boxes, but she managed to climb over them or move them out of the way. Nothing can stop Violet from getting to staircases! Nothing! (Except baby gates.)

I hate you forever stairs!


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Me and Al

In 1996, I went to my first (and last?) Chicago Auto Show with a friend of mine and his family. We got there close to when it opened and stood waiting. The opening time came and went and nothing happened. The doors remained shut. We learned that the opening was delayed by Al Gore, who was touring the auto show with something like a German ambassador. Al Gore was planning to speak and he and the German were taking forever getting a private tour of the auto show.

We waited and waited. Al Gore and the German took their sweet time inside the auto show. Everyone was getting restless and angry. My feet were already hurting and we hadn’t even walked anywhere. The show’s opening passed by at least an hour. Hundreds of people were left standing borred in the lobby while just two people looked at cars.

Finally (I don’t even know how late this was because it was almost 20 years ago, but it was significantly late.), Al Gore came to the stage to talk.

And he got booed off, even by my friend’s dad, who was an FBI agent! I missed my only chance to hear Gore speak, but at the time I was glad because I was 17 and SO BORED from waiting that a political speech would have sent me into a coma. The Auto Show was surprisingly entertaining after that, but perhaps my entertainment level was enhanced by the extreme boredom that proceeded it?

And thus began my inexplicable link with Al Gore. Every time I traveled in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Al Gore followed me. Whenever I got to a nice hotel, I learned that Al Gore had been there the day before or would be there the day after. If I was at an airport, Al Gore was also somewhere in that airport. If I went to a major event, Al Gore had just been there. We kept missing each other. It was like we were trying to meet, but we just couldn’t make it work. It seemed like I was stalking Al Gore, but I’d never find out that he was there until AFTER I actually got there. I joked that maybe the FBI had opened a file on me because of my constant Al Gore coincidences.

It ended as suddenly as it began. I blame George W. Bush. It was all his fault.

In April 2004 I was on a Southwest flight that had made a stop in St. Louis in route back to Indianapolis from San Jose. I was one of the passengers who had to remain seated while they boarded the people who planned to fly from St. Louis to Indianapolis (Why would you do that? It would be faster to drive!). I ended up getting stuck on that plane an extra two hours thanks to heightened security at the airport because George W. Bush was there. I could see Air Force One right out my window.

We waited and waited and when Air Force One FINALLY left our part of the airport, we cheered, not because it was cool to see Air Force One, but because it meant we could FINALLY leave. We were virtually being held hostage by the president’s presence!

After that, I never found myself in the same place as Al Gore again. I feared that maybe I’d switched to accidentally following Bush, but that hasn’t happened either.

Now that I live in Ohio, though, it’s like ALL the presidential and vice presidential candidates are stalking me. They are never not within 30 minutes from my town during campaign season. At first it was neat to live in a town with constant presidential interruptions, but now I kind of miss the days when I was accidentally shadowing Al Gore.



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Flying Baby

Let’s talk about flying with kids and how ridiculous it is.
Admittedly, I’ve been lucky. I’ve been on four flights (two round-trip) with babies and I’ve not yet had the crying baby on the plane. Considering Violet is almost 1 year old and we have no travel plans in the next year, we’ll probably never be the crying baby people on the plane. Thank goodness for that. Even without the crying baby, flying with a baby is no picnic.

Both of my flying experiences were nearly identical. The first time, we flew with 20 month old Lily from Detroit to Northern California for my cousin’s wedding. This time, we flew from Chicago to Southern California. They were both 4+ hour flights with lap babies. Both were torturous, though this time was possibly a little better.
The entire flight is devoted to making sure your baby doesn’t cry, which leads to the most intense parenting you do al year, especially if you are a laissez-faire parent about playtime like I am. Here’s a sketch of what you do with a lap baby to prevent them from crying on a 4+ hour flight (though nursing was no longer an option when we flew with Lily):
1) Nurse baby
2) Entertain baby by turning overhead light on and off and on and off and on
3) Snacks
4) Read 3 baby books 20 times
5) Make funny faces/sounds with baby.
6) Snacks
7) Overhead light switch play
8) Baby toys
9) Funny faces/sounds
10) Nurse/brief nap
11) Overhead light switch
12) Baby toys
13) Funny faces/sounds
14) snacks
15) 3 baby books 20 times
16) Nurse
17) Snacks
18) Overhead lights

Multiple this repetitive list times about a hundred and maybe throw in a few minutes of the baby watching two minutes of a movie on your laptop and that’s what it’s like to fly with baby. Fun!

It’s probably as much direct parenting as Violet gets in three days all jammed into 4.5 hours, especially when you consider she shares my attention with two other children, my husband and our dog.

It’s intense and hard. And travel days are always rough. With a flight like that, you spend at least 12 hours from door to door between car rides, airports and planes. Add a baby to that equation!
But I guess like childbirth, it’s just one day. After all that work, you get to your vacation and try to have fun. Will you have fun? That remains to be seen. We got lucky this time and fun happened. The baby behaved and adjusted to the 3 hour time difference better than we did. I managed to sleep relatively well in the hotel beds, an act that usually eludes me. I got to eat in restaurants for every meal– my favorite part of vacation. I suppose it was worth it, but the plane ride is still torture!

My hats off to the parents out there who actually enjoy traveling and take their children lots of places. I doubt that will ever be me!


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But We Have a Baby!

It’s amazing what a difference five years and two more kids make.

Five years ago my husband briefly considered going to his fifteen year college reunion, but we decided not to because Lily was a baby.

“We can’t possibly fly with a baby! It would be too hard!”

“What would we do with the baby while we were at events!”

“What would we do about the time difference!”

“We can’t take a baby! It would be way too much work!”

So we skipped the fifteen year reunion on account of Lily.

Flash forward five years to my husband’s 20 year college reunion. TWENTY YEAR college reunion.

It’s five years later and we again have a baby. Violet is now 3 months older than Lily was for when the fifteen year reunion is scheduled, but we essentially have the same situation PLUS two more kids. We decided to leave Lily and Rose with my parents and travel across the country to my husband’s reunion with “just the baby”.

“We’ll only have one baby with us! What a vacation!”

“We’ll just take the baby with us to all the events. What else are we supposed to do? People will deal.”

“Meh, time zones. She’ll just sleep in the stroller.”

Man, five years and two additional kids sure makes flying with one little baby seem like a piece of cake. I mean, it’s still a ton of work to travel with a baby, but at least we aren’t traveling with three kids! It’s weird to think about how hard one little baby was when we had Lily, but everything is harder with your first kid even if they are well-behaved and charming. You just don’t know what you’re doing yet, which makes it overwhelming. I’m glad that babies don’t seem hard anymore, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not still stumbling along trying to figure out 5 year olds.


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The Mirrored Ceiling

My husband recently voluntarily took a 3-day trip SOLO with the girls. You heard me right. My husband volunteered to take the girls on a trip to stay in a hotel and, get this, go to MY cousin’s wedding. I was too pregnant to travel and luckily didn’t go into labor while he was gone.

He doesn’t understand why this series of events turned him into a super hero or why all my mommy friends are making an example of him to their husbands. “Would YOU ever do this? You never would! You couldn’t handle it! Be more like Dr. Toy Warden!” = a lecture I know has happened in at least one of my friends’ homes.

The most excellent part of all of this was that I had THREE days without kids. This is the ONLY time I’ve been kid-free in the nearly 5 years since I had Lily. It was amazing, but I’ll write about that tomorrow.

Dr. Toy Warden claims the kids found the hotel the most exciting part of the trip. They loved running up and down the halls, climbing on furniture and most of all they loved the mirrored ceiling in the elevator. Every single time they got in the elevator, they lay on the floor and laughed at their reflections.

Who needs to do anything else on vacation when you have a mirrored elevator ceiling?


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Tunnels of Death: The City Museum of St. Louis

Yesterday I experienced the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen in my life. Some people call it a “museum”. In fact, it has the word “museum” in its name. But the fact is St Louis’s City Museum is more of a surreal fun house turned adult jungle gym turned death trap than it is a museum. I missed some of the exhibits, but while I was there I didn’t see a single factoid written next to an exhibit. I’m not saying that’s what makes a museum, but I have trouble seeing how this is a museum rather than a giant obstacle course.

Source: sodahead.com via Jenica on Pinterest


Most of the museum is comprised of a series of tunnels through increasingly bizarre and surreal landscapes. There are tunnels through wine barrels, fake dinosaur skeletons, ancient faux architecture and a tree house. Some of the tunnels are made out of faux stone and get increasingly narrow and dark. You can never see where you are going. You aren’t sure where you will end up. You aren’t sure if you’ll get STUCK in the tunnel, though I suppose that’s not as much as an issue as I thought it would be because I never saw anyone screaming for help .

Source: google.com via Jenica on Pinterest


Wire tunnels entwine their way outside of the building and people are climbing seemingly in midair. It’s kind of freaky. For someone who is afraid of heights, it’s absolutely terrifying. I could definitely see how it would be a ton of fun for two lean adults who enjoy climbing things, but as a chubby mother trying to keep her 2 year old from falling down one of the hidden tunnels in the ground, it was pretty frightening.

That’s another thing, it was totally surreal to be standing somewhere in the middle of the museum and suddenly see someone emerge for a small hidden hole in the floor that doesn’t look big enough to fit a person– yet out of the hole someone would squeeze.

It was absolutely fascinating.

And absolutely bizarre.

But we probably shouldn’t take our kids back there until they are at least 7 and we can send them off together with orders to meet us somewhere at X time. Even then, I will be standing there worried one of them broke their neck in a tunnel or that one of the wire cages collapsed hundreds of feet in the air.

Not that I’m paranoid or anything.

Except that I am.

Source: google.com via Jenica on Pinterest


This exhibit was way more our speed:


I’d like to go back sometime, thinner and without kids so I can fully explore the place. I’d probably still be too scared to do some of the tunnels, but I’d definitely love to explore it more.

They should probably advertise it more as a place to go rock climbing than as a children’s museum though. Just saying.



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Cleaning the Car for a Roadtrip: A Fruitless endeavor

Whenever we travel, I make it a point to clean out our minivan. Our minivan could stand to be cleaned every single day. We often eat snacks or lunch on the run since Lily has daily afternoon preschool and we try to get stuff done or see friends during our limited morning hours. It doesn’t take long for the kids’ snack wrappers, toys, various, receipts, socks, shoes, gloves, clean spare diapers, coupons, crumbs and mail to clutter the whole car. Often when I drop my daughter off at preschool, I’m embarrassed when a teacher comes to pick her up at the car because they can see the horrible mess– a mess that was often made in less than a week.

I worry that family members will judge me when they enter a cluttered car, so I always clean right before we leave. It is all in vain. By the time we finish an 8 hour car ride, the car looks exactly the same as it did before we left. In fact, it’s worse. In addition to snack wrappers and empty juiceboxes, there are Color Wonder Markers, books, DVDs, a fresh coat of dog hair from the traveling dog, new crumbs and discarded stickers all over the place.

So, by the time we get there, it looks like the car hasn’t been cleaned in years. In reality, it was spotless 24 hours before.

Why do I bother? To have less mess when we get there? I don’t know if anyone can see through the debris of our trip to know the difference.

I dream of a day when I have a clean car to present, but the reality is it wasn’t all that neat BEFORE I had kids. I just had less people looking in my car then.

But, because I’ve had to clean up after kids instead of just myself, maybe things really will be neater once the kids stop trashing the place?

A girl can dream. Or, you know, start picking up after herself better.


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Friday Funnies: The Last Rest Stop

We used to have this problem every time we were on our way back to Northwest Ohio from Northwest Indiana on the Indiana Tollway.

For the first four years we lived here, there was no rest stop on I80 for at least 50 miles east of the Ohio border. It was awful. We learned to stop at the last rest stop in Indiana no matter what because there as absolutely nowhere to stop in Ohio until we were practically home.

Well, now they FINALLY built a rest stop closer to the border in Ohio and it has THE BEST CHANGING STATION EVER.


These side-by-side changing stations are in a wide aisle in a hallway that connects two separate aisles of stalls at the back of the restroom. Most people in the restroom would never walk through this hallway. They would enter either aisle of stalls from the front of the restroom. The changing stations don’t block sinks or stalls. They don’t put your child’s butt on display for people the second they walk into the restroom. They are close to garbage cans for easy diaper disposal. They don’t accidentally set off any automatic hand dryers or sinks. You have plenty of room to do your job AND two people can change diapers at once.

I was way too excited about the discovery of this changing station. And this rest stop. I can’t tell you how happy this makes me. Public restroom designers of the world, take note: This is how it should be done.


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Changing Station Week: Awkward Situation

This changing station was in a restaurant in St. Louis.

What a thoughtful location.

This changing station inconveniences EVERYONE.

Rose makes it hard to tell, but a regular-sized adult would have to turn sideways to fit between the changing station and the stall doors. The doors open outwards into the changing station. Not only does the changing station block people from getting to the stalls, but people already in the stalls are trapped inside them once the changing station is down.

It’s a poorly thought out, stupidly placed changing station. There is no reason this station should be where it is when the handicapped stall has plenty of room for a changing station.


Really, I should start a business designing public restrooms because the people doing it now are complete and utter morons.



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No Hangers

Over the weekend, we had the privilege of staying at the JW Marriott in Indianapolis for a conference. If you aren’t familiar with the chain, it is an upscale version of the Marriott. Considering we usually stay in Best Westerns, a regular Marriott is pretty ritzy to us, so this was a real treat! I walked in and I felt underdressed.

Anyway, I had to giggle while lying on our puffy, high-end bed to look up and see this sign.

It is a warning not to hang things from the sprinkler system, which to me implies that some ritzy high-end hotel customer saw that sprinkler up there and thought “Hey, that’s just the perfect place to hang my suit. I mean, why use that giant closet over there? Let’s mess with the sprinkler system!”

I imagine that then, since “contact with sprinklers will cause flooding”, the entire sprinkler system went off and that set off the fire alarm. I’m picturing a bunch of rich people rushing out into the street until the firemen came to clear the place all because some idiot decided to hang their suit from what is practically the ceiling.

And so they created this beautiful “no hanger” sign to put in the middle of a luxury hotel room. The room is beautifully decorated, but some idiot out there had to interrupt the decor by thinking the sprinkler system made the perfect closet so this bizarre sign is there making people like me (and hopefully you) giggle imagining what led to the sign being put there in the first place.


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