After enduring two eight-hour flights with the 7-year-old in tow, and seeking advice on other 'international travelers with kids,' I have compiled the following list of tips to jog my memory next time I'm attempting a marathon, er, taking an international trip with the little guy:
Rolling carry-on: Big, big mistake on my part. I should have just sucked it up and spent the $20 on one of those kid's sized rolling carry-on luggage pieces. Asking a jet-lagged and sleepy Dylan to, at 3AM our time, carry a backpack stuffed with all of his toys/games/etc. versus having to carry his backpack, my backpack, his car seat, our two travel pillows, and my purse, were not options I enjoyed. Next time, I'm going for this. Lesson learned.
Build up the excitement of being an 'international traveler': Per a friend's suggestion, I really started playing up the 'international traveler' bit days before our trip. We talked about how I do not know ANYONE Dylan's age who is an international traveler, so this is a big deal! Dylan was excited to learn he would get stamps on his passport JUST LIKE YOU! Also, how at the airport, they will look carefully at his passport and then at him to make sure it is Dylan who is the international traveler, not some imposter... which leads me to the next point:
Set expectations: I also let Dylan know that it is very difficult to be an 'international traveler' and that he would have to perform certain duties, including getting up at 3AM and walking through an airport carrying his backpack (umm, see point #1), and riding on a plane for a looooong time, and waiting in looooong lines, and so on.
Of course, bring fun stuff to do: We packed all the DS games, the DS, card games, books, paper, markers, crayons, a new DS game, and a new coloring set.
Side note: Dylan mostly played his DS and watched the selection of in-flight kids' movies.
Reward positive behavior (and patience in itself): Keeping in mind this is an exhausting, tiring and looooong trip for a young person, I brought small 'rewards' that Dylan would be interested in (currently: Pokemon cards and Blinkus) to surprise him with along the way. Every few hours, I would pull out a surprise and tell him he has been doing really well as an INTERNATIONAL TRAVELER! so he earned a prize. And yes, I do resort to bribery.
Prepare beforehand: This doesn't really have anything to do with the actual plane trip, but I was excited to utilize the 'International Travel Clinic' offered by my son's pediatrician. I was impressed with everything we were provided- the doctor had researched the spots we were traveling to and gave us a nice binder with information on everything from traveler's diarrhea (which we also got a prescription for medicine to use just in case), sun screen, heat exposure, foods to avoid, and so on. She checked to make sure he had all necessary immunizations for the trip (which he had), and answered all questions I had about medical safety, and so on. She also had recommendations for the plane ride, which are part of this post.
All in all, it was tiring but well worth it to get here.
Alternate title: Ode to my Smartphone
Bear with me. So you know how I had to turn in my FINAL portfolio by 5pm today, right? So with the 35 minute drive to my university, between stuff I had to finish up at work and having to pick up Dylan and then the "Oh my gosh I'm so hungry" stop at McDonald's, we were cutting it close until I hit.... (dun dun dun).. the TRAFFIC on I-75 S (funny how quickly I forget these things). Sidenote to self: avoid commutes at all costs. Well.
I'm just going to add the disclaimer here that I in no way work for or am compensated by any smartphone companies.. because the tale I am about to tell may sound like one long ad for a smartphone. BUT IT SAVED MY LIFE.Okay, so old me would be all "Oh my god, death! despair! panic! I cannot make it to school on time and I will never get my certification and then I will die alone on the street, homeless."
BUT new me has a smartphone and has learned to manage her anxiety! SO! I use my smartphone to first look up the e-mail sent by the secretary and call her directly by the simple touch of a button. I explain to her that I am in traffic and she's all, "Nope, leaving at 5, sucks to be you!" No she didn't really say that, and I can certainly understand needing to leave at a certain time but seriously you don't need to be all robot about it.
Please keep in mind I am at I-75 and 11 mile at this point, and it is 5pm. The whole getting-to-school-on-time thing was not happening.
I almost panicked. A little. But then I used my SMARTPHONE (insert some superhero theme song or something here) and used Google to find the number to the UPS store near our home. Please keep in mind it is 5pm and I am at 11 mile and there.is.traffic. Oy vey.
So I call UPS near our home and calmly ask if I ship something overnight, can it get to Detroit by 10AM tomorrow? And THANK THE LORD JESUS, it can! By golly!
Caveat: Must get there by 6pm for this to happen. Oh.
Now I am faced with the challenge of getting from 11 Mile to our home in a matter of 45 minutes. BUT ALAS, enter the SMARTPHONE (superhero music.. yadda yadda). I pull up my GPS and am all, "TAKE ME TO THE NEAREST UPS... pleeeeease." The SMARTPHONE TOOK ME TO THE NEAREST UPS. No joke. I nearly kissed the UPS employee and told them a million times that they saved my ass, when I arrived at UPS a mere 15 minutes later (hooray for the smartphone!). I shipped that brick for the low low cost of $40 (ouch) and it is on its way to be reviewed, critiqued, and ripped apart ONE. LAST. TIME.
AND Dylan was entertained by several rounds of Angry Birds on the way home ON MY SMARTPHONE.
I got home at 6:30, ate a gallon of Butterfinger ice cream and swore up and down I will never. ever. ever. go through school again.
Morals of the story:
1) I am finally able to handle stressful situations in a rational and calm manner. WE ALL SURVIVED me almost not turning my final portfolio in. Look at that!
2) Dear Smartphone, I'm so sorry for anything bad I ever said about you. I totally understand that you need to take rests and not like, actually make phone calls or turn on from time to time, but you are there when I need you. And for that, I love you. I may want to marry you. You saved my ass, is all I'm sayin'.
I would like to be a professional fort-builder for kids. Equally as fun as my current job; likely to get more praise and positive feedback for my work. Although children may point out that the roof is sagging too much, and they would have put the pillow on the LEFT side, not the RIGHT side... hmm.
So I was contemplating our discussion about chasing happiness versus 'being' happy (or as my friend, you know who, would say- creating your own happiness). This friend was also reflecting some yoga teachings a few weeks back and mentioned the focus on cleaning, cooking, and gardening. While this sounds very anti-feminist, I actually relate to how this can bring you peace and well-being. A clean home makes me feel so much more, well on top of things (even if I didn't do the cleaning) and also allows me to relax a bit. Gardening.. well I can't really do that now. In the past I've complained that I wouldn't be interested in gardening and it seems like a waste of time but now I can really see the beauty in planting your own flowers and seeing them bloom.
I decided I would like to find some sort of focus instead of feeling so lost and miserable and I would like to focus on cooking. I hate the way I am eating lately (or the past several years, whatever) and I would like to incorporate more naturally-occurring nutrients and try new things. I searched some recipes and here is my goal list (I think I made the wonton soup before but everything else is new):
Some sort of quinoa recipe.. I'd like to also try this 'superfood'
I know it sounds all hippy-ish of me but I would really like to spend more time cooking, since I enjoy it and if I get home at a reasonable hour (which I typically do) I can use it as sort of a catharsis instead of plopping down in front of the computer and being a zombie for the rest of te evening. I'm really enforcing the 'no thank-you bites' and Dylan has begun eating more things like tacos, and... tacos, but hey, tacos! That's a big deal!
I would also like him (and me) to eat more vegetables and less processed food. I've already taken steps towards organic meat and dairy, and I would like to start eating more foods where I can actually pronounce the ingredient list or know what is in it. I don't want to be one of those people who obsesses about food all the time and only eats vegetables or is lacto-ovo-whatever-vegan and went to vegan academy or what not, I just want to start eating more 'real' food, and cooking more.
I hope this brings me some sort of emotional peace (OMG I'M A TOTAL HIPPY NOW, WHERE'S MY GRANOLA?). But, you know, the focus of cooking dinner and serving a meal that is good for me (even though Dylan will likely take one bite and then gag and fall on the floor) will, I think, allow me to care for myself which is something I try to do in order to give more to those around me.
AND NOW the behaviorism aspect- I plan to make this a goal and create a calendar of when I will cook what to implement antecedents (i.e., scheduling) to the behavior (i.e., cooking) and eliminate barriers (i.e., not having ingredients) (i.e., do you think you can use 'i.e.,' in a sentence as many times as I just did? I BET NOT).
(And overuse of parenthesis).
(A comment that was made as feedback for one of my reports stated, "Your wordiness hinders you. Frequent use of parenthesis make it somewhat unclear.")