Take The Animals To The Zoo

What to do on a long holiday weekend with the Animals Things? Take them to the zoo!

The weather was absolutely perfect so we went to the National Zoo in Washington, DC. It’s something we do once a year. It’s only a 45 minute drive, why only once a year? Because that’s about how long it takes to get over fighting the crowds for parking and trying to get through the hot monkey house while pushing two strollers.

Thing 1 got to see a Capybara, which, for unexplained reasons, he finds hilarious.

Thing 2 got to see a tiger. He is obsessed with tigers and calls them Shere Khan after the one in The Jungle Book Movie. He stood at the railing, totally mesmerized, watching the tiger pace back and forth. Then, the tiger did something that amused every kid there to no end. He pooped in the water! This remains the highlight of the trip to my kids. I have to admit, it was pretty funny.

Shere Khan Pooping

Thing 3 was just happy to be out and about, shoving cheerios into his face, and watching the crowds of people go by.

At The Zoo

Vacationing With Kids Is No Vacation

We just returned from a so-called family vacation. When I went to work Monday morning, I heard comments like “Welcome back. You must be so well rested.” and “It must have been so hard coming back to work today.” These were obviously not people with three kids under 4. When you have young kids, there is nothing relaxing about a vacation. For the kids its a vacation. For the parents, a vacation is actually a lot of WORK!

Our trip (I won’t use the word ‘vacation’ anymore) was to Sandbridge, a quiet beach area just south of Virginia Beach. We rented a house for the week. The house was actually quite nice, with plenty of room for all 5 of us and our minivan stuffed with gear, toys, clothes, snacks, books, DVDs, and everything else we could squeeze in.

The thing about a trip like this is that it still has many elements of a real vacation, the kind of vacation that existed pre-kids. Except those moments are very short lived, or they are combined with the new post-kids vacation experience.

The very first morning I didn’t mind waking up before dawn to feed Thing 3. After all, I got to watch the sunrise over the ocean from the deck. What a great start to a vaca–, I mean trip. That post card moment was short lived, as Thing 1 and Thing 2 woke soon after, and immediately went into their let’s-take-every-toy-out-and-fight-over-them routine. Not to worry, we’re across the street from the beach, so let’s get dressed and head out.

Walking a few hundred yards to the beach seemed like a simple proposition. Then we started to figure out all the stuff we needed to bring. Drinks, snacks, cooler, toys, diapers, extra diapers, formula, bottles, chairs, umbrella, towels, bouncy seat. Luckily, we had a beach cart and double jogger stroller to help. All I had to do was wheel everything out. Or so I thought…

Sandbridge had just completed a multi-million dollar beach replenishment program. What would have been a short walk to the ocean on packed sand, turned out to be a trudge through a few hundred yards of deep, fresh sand. Jogger strollers don’t do well in deep sand. Especially when one of the tires is flat. As you can see in the pictures, getting to the beach each day turned out to be the most grueling workout I’d had in years.

beach2.JPG beach1.JPG

As difficult as it was at times, the trip wasn’t without its good moments. Sitting back on the beach or deck, even for a few minutes, enjoying the breeze and peaceful ocean sounds. A quiet morning bike ride along the ocean was very nice, with Thing 2 in the back seat, other vacationers smiling and waving as we cruised by. Except the last mile and a half, when he decided he didn’t want to wear a helmet anymore, and then the quiet ride became a wake up call for every other house along the ocean as we rode by. Let’s just say the other vacationers were no longer smiling.

Flying with a toddler and preschooler

I recently experienced the joys of airplane travel with my 3 year and 19 month old boys. It’s one of those things that seems miserable at the time, but in retrospect, turns to it wasn’t that bad…, and before long, you are planning your next trip.

The trip down to Lake Worth started off well enough. It was an early morning, midweek flight so Dulles wasn’t too busy. By the way, the so called self checkin is anything but, and it only makes the checkin process slower. I guess it saves the airlines a few bucks…at our expense, of course.

What I thought would be the worst part of air travel with young kids was getting through security. The kids need to come out of the stroller, shoes and coats off, bags through the x-ray machine. There are special security lines for premium passengers. How about dedicated lines for families? Take note, if you are traveling, always get in the security line without strollers and small kids.

But the security check was easy compared to the trip back home, after the flight was delayed two hours in West Palm Beach, and we were well past nap times. My wife and I split up, I had the toddler, and she sat with the preschooler on the other side of the plane. A half hour into the flight, I couldn’t contain him anymore, so we went to stand outside the bathrooms with the flight attendants, hoping the noise at the back of the plane would sooth him to sleep. After a few minutes, we hit some turbulence and had to return to our seats. The toddler was NOT happy.

The meltdown started as we squeezed past the gentleman sitting on the aisle in our row, and I attempted to put the screaming kid in his window seat. I pulled out every trick I knew, offering crackers, milk, books, toys. Nothing could calm him. It is a scientific fact that a wailing toddler has the strength of ten men. He threw everything I gave him into the surrounding seats. By this time, everyone within five rows was staring at us and giving me the why don’t you do something look.

Meanwhile, I could see my wife with our preschooler on the other side of the plane. He had fallen asleep by now, and she was calmly reading a magazine and laughing with the friendly woman next to her. I recalled that Seinfeld episode – The Airport, where Jerry has a great time in first class while Elaine endures an awful ride in coach. Never again, I thought, as I quietly withstood blow after blow from this screaming kid. But, after 45 minutes he finally wore himself out to sleep, and now, one week removed from the experience, I find myself thinking It wasn’t that bad…I’m ready to take another trip.

Here are some tips for traveling with kids:

Leave the winter coats at home
It was around 30 degrees when we left, and we had to walk 10 minutes from the parking garage to the terminal, so the kids wore their winter coats. But once we were in the terminal, they didn’t wear them, and I had to carry the coats through the airport, onto the plane, make sure not to lose forget them in the hotel, and back home again. It would have been much easier to leave them home. I don’t think anyone ever froze in ten minutes.

Slip them a mickey
There is nothing wrong with drugging your kids before boarding a plane. In my case, my only regret is that I didn’t give him enough.

Earplugs and a straight jacket
When all else fails, there is one sure way to restrain a screaming toddler and drown out the noise during meltdowns. The people around you will hate you, but you can calmly read a book and pretend you don’t know what’s happening.