Friday, August 22, 2014

Eating at Tivoli

So.tired. Taking a break before my back collapses.

Dek  enjoys some of the Danish Ballet at the Peacock Theater

Finally Dinner in Groften - complete with a Cap!

We suffer from this need to do EVERYTHING on the first couple of days. Usually this is what crashes the trip. For example, we wanted our money's worth so we went from Tivoli Gardens and then took a bus to take a boat tour (20 minutes for the bus and an hour on the boat), then decided to go back to Tivoli so we could continue to rock out and eat dinner. Tivoli does have a Michelin star place and some amazing eateries, but all the walking left me completely drained. I went from feeling sad for those babies abandoned in their prams and happy to have Quinn snuggled to me to feeling completely envious of everyone pushing around a gigantic granny cart and wishing I had one so that Mike could tote me around.

No matter. We had a hard time deciding where to eat because 1) we didn't plan to take the boat tour detour and 2) everything was so expensive. I could not bring myself to pay 175kr (30 USD) for a kids meal. It was ridiculous.  Finally after gathering some energy from sitting stationary, we decide to head to Groften, a Danish family restaurant. I had some reservations because its early in the trip and I don't know what the protocol for eating with young children is.  Though it is family friendly, most of the children are at least 8 years old. Much of the trip, I spent worrying about the possibly ruckus and dirty looks that I would get from eating out, when truthfully, most places were very accommodating.  This place was so awesome, they gave out hats and high end markers to color with. Dek's kids meal was priced at 75 kr (15 USD) which was more manageable and Quinn was asleep so I could kind of just eat over her head. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Enemy

Europe posts have been coming slowly since I've been fighting Picasa and Google+ due to storage space. Its really a struggle since I need to be more judicious about how to use free time (usually I decompose into a pile on the couch). I'm slowly turning into a ludite anyway.In other news, I thought I would post about Quinn's epic fight with her enemy, the bottle.

My second time around with a baby, I should know the ropes a bit better. True to form though, second children know how to throw you for a loop by having different challenges. Nursing with Quinn from day 1 has been pretty awesome. She latched right away, never had weight gain issues and didn't experience the excessive food allergy issues that Derek had. She nurses well, sleep long stretches and has a sunny disposition (with me at least!).


The bottle.

First of all, I wish I didn't have to use the bottle. I want to return to work, and if there is anything I could change about my arrangement, it wouldn't be that I wouldn't go back to work but that I would go and could 1) work from home full time, so I could nurse; or 2) live closer work so I could easily come home to nurse. Though neither is the case, I'm fortunate enough to have taken 4 months of maternity leave with some ongoing telework 1-2 days a week. However, this means Quinn will still need to take the bottle 3-4 days a week while I'm gone for 9 hours a day. 

Derek took the bottle like a champ. Around 6 weeks, he would switch effortlessly in between and I felt less frightened of leaving him at home for a short stretch while I ran to the store or for quick errands. Derek was such a frequent nurser, that I would actually worry about him crying within 45 minutes of starvation. Quinn can really hold out between feedings. Not one to comfort nurse (until more recently at 3 and 4 months), she will go up to 4 hours in the day without a feeding and longer at night. I will try to offer to her in shorter intervals but she isn't interested. But when she is hungry, the girl really needs to eat.

When Quinn first rejected the bottle around 8 weeks, I didn't worry too much about it. In fact, I was secretly ecstatic that I couldn't be replaced by a silicone nipple even though it had my expressed nipple. She would cry and chew on it a bit more then completely ignore it. It sent our nanny into distress worried about how she would care for her (again comparing her to Derek our eating champ).  I told her not to stress and we moved to alternates like the dropper and the cup.  Both caused a big mess, along with a huge waste of breastmilk, and neither really did the job of feeding her.  I would let her just spend time with the bottle as a toy. It would hang out with us while nursing.

We spent every minute together in Europe basically. The one night I had to go out with Mike for his birthday dinner after bedtime, she slept until 4am the next day. We were going to try to get her to take a bottle a day, a few weeks before going back to daycare but, the whirlwind of life didn't allow for it.

On August 11, I had exhausted all maternity leave - I'd taken vacation leave, sick leave and even leave without pay for a few weeks. I had to go back in the office. I left 10 oz of milk and hoped for the best.

I came home the first day. All the milk was left. She had essentially taken nothing for 10 hours and was in hunger strike mode.  I felt so sad thinking she had cried so much that first day without me. But I had to remind myself, that she was with a loving caregiver.  It feels like the nanny and I might be having more distress over her not taking the bottle. I considered taking a cab home some days from work (cost be damned!) to just see her little chubby face.

The week wore on. She started to weaken her resolve, but she still starved herself out for nearly a week. It wasn't until Friday did she have a few ounces.  In the meantime, I spent every waking hour at home with her attached to me. Mostly because I missed her, more than I worried about her starving. She seemed fine to wake up every few hours at night to eat and I was happy to have her do it.

So she's sometimes taking the bottle, she'll be 6-months in a few weeks here so I hope to just transition her to a cup soon.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Tivoli Part II

Milk Shake in the "Chinatown" Area

We let him look at the candy, but not eat any.

More in the Gardens

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Panda

One of Derek's favorite rides was "The Panda" - a mini-version of the tower rides that drop you from high. It was so joyous to see him laugh hysterically among his blond co-riders as the ride scaled up and down. He always favored the seat all the way to the left and never asked us to go with him. There was a "big" seat for one adult per ride but we convinced him it was a kids-only ride so he had to go alone. Not sure why it was called the Panda, one can only guess where amusement rides get their names, but he also enjoyed wrestling the Panda statue next to the ride itself.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Dek's Tivoli Obsession

We rode Vintage Cars at least 25x.

Derek loved.loved.loved Tivoli Gardens. Often referred to as Europe's oldest amusement park, it boasts a 100 year old rollercoaster (no, we didn't ride it -- "too scary" for Derek), beautifully manicured playgrounds and lots of overpriced foods. We only intended to go once. We went 5 out of 7 days - 3 included on Copenhagen card and an extra two days because Derek loved it that much. Yes, he is spoiled and overindulged.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Copenhagen Public Transport

Waiting for the bus, since the last one had 2 strollers already. In Copenhagen, strollers don't have to be collapsed, but there is a limit to how many a bus can hold. 
The best way to nimbly get around with kids is to ditch the car seats while traveling. Though there is a limitation to traveling by public transportation, it can actually be much easier to explore a city so you don't have to worry about driving and parking, or taking taxis without car seats. Copenhagen had an AMAZING network of trains and buses that made getting around very easy. We spent a week here and were able to get around easily, and even took a day trip to Roskilde.

Also, I cannot emphasize this enough for people traveling with kiddos and wanting to use public transport: GOOGLE MAPS. When I was a younger, more adventurous traveler, all I needed was a map to the city and I enjoyed navigating a place I'd never been. I would actually enjoy the experience of finding myself lost when I wandered off the beaten path, knowing that I could always get to a main road and catch a taxi back if all else failed.

Not so ,when someone is clinging to your leg and another person is physically strapped to your chest, the priority is to get there now.  The urgency is compounded by the fact that the bus/train/subway is the only option since walking for miles in the summer heat isn't feasible with little ones (though we did do that too). This is where Google Maps really saved us. In Copenhagen, since all the public transport information, e.g. routes, what bus and time tables, was incorporated into Google Maps, it was a life saver. We had neither the time or bandwidth to process how to get there and rather only the impulse that we should go immediately. Note that bus/train information is not always available in Google Maps, such as the case in Paris, and it made traveling significantly more challenging that we had to map things out ourselves by staring at a mop the old fashioned way. 

Getting Into Copenhagen via Train & Bus
I'll regale you of the adventure we had when we had to take the train into the city to meet our Airbnb host. When you land at an airport and need to get to your accommodations, the priority is to figure out the following 1)how to buy a ticket 2) how to use your ticket and 3) how to get where you are actually going (most importantly).

Uh. Lost again. In the Main Station
Maybe #2 on the list seems a bit odd, but in Copenhagen and in some other places I've gone, certain thingsmay be stopped and asked to show your ticket or be subject to a fine.  Similarly when we later bought a Copenhagen Card, your job is just to carry the card with you and show it if necessary, but we didn't know this so again we were spending extra time wondering where we should validate the cards. They actually trust you that you've paid to get on the train. That was odd but actually very comforting that the responsibility is placed on the rider.
are on the "honor system." For example, once we bought a ticket, there was no where to stamp it. But I didn't know that, so we're trying to beep it up against the validating machine that is only for passes. Apparently ,we found out there is only the policy that you

Then onto #3, when we finally get to where we're going, turns out there is maintenance on the end of the line. We had to talk to a friendly red-headed Danish woman helped point us to the transfer bus. Thank goodness that Denmark is 90% English speaking, a helpful advantage when you're coming off a 15 hours of traveling with lots of luggage and trying not to forget your kid on the bus. She was so nice that she waited for us to get off the elevator since she took the stairs and when she accidentally pointed us to the wrong direction, she came back, and directed us to the right bus. Yes, that was an adventure and midway through Derek was so tired from inadequate sleep on the plane that he fell asleep. So we were pushing 2 big luggages, backpacks and we had to carry his stroller on to the bus. Another nice cultural norm, that unlike in the U.S., strollers do not have to be collapsed on buses. 

24/7 service. En route to airport @ 4am.
Finally we get to the right station, but we have to walk further now since I got turned around. We're about to have a major meltdown as we are lugging everything and Dek who has now woken up from his short nap. Luckily, Quinn at this age will sleep through anything as long as she's strapped to me.  So maybe here a taxi would have been nice for just the transfer into the city, but given it would have probably cost over $100 (Copenhagen is one of the most expensive cities in the world, only second to Tokyo, I've heard) and the no car seats... here we are. Lugging it all with us. The city is relatively flat so many people choose to walk and bike, which we would have done more of, if Quinn wasn't so small. 

Overall though, the buses, metro and trains are really top notch. Everything is clean, runs regularly, there is signage everywhere so its easy to find your way and very family friendly. More later on "pram culture" in Copenhagen, but most people with a baby have gigantic carriages that fit onto buses and trains without issue. Our AirBNB host was kind enough to share ours while we were there for the week so we could enjoy our truly Copenhagen experience.

Napping on the go

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Whale of a Good Time

[Back to Arlington for a minute...]

Even with his eyes closed it was a good time! After all the fun in Europe, Dekboy returns home to enjoy some good ole fashion fun at the County Fair. This year at the fair, he's must more excited to go on all the little kid rides but still thinks the baby roller coaster is "scary".  We enjoyed the swings, jeeps and giganto slide.  It was my last weekend before the end of maternity leave, so it was fun to end with some summer fun before shuffling back to the rat race (which I document more at my Tales of the Working Minh Blog).

**I'm still having some trouble with getting all the Europe photos organized so I can blog. I frustratingly erased some and they disappeared to a phantom recycle bin that is neither on my computer or the network server. We'll continue with the Europe trip report outs soon.**

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Sleeping through the TIme Jump

Passed out!
To me, the toughest part to me is not the flight there but the time change. Europe is 6 hours ahead, but we typically adjust the kids even further forward if possible (to a 9 or 10pm bedtime) so that we have some flexibility in the evenings with dinners and then we're not stuck with the 6am wake up call. The first night was extremely tough as they are up and down constantly (and never at the same time).

When we finally arrived in Copenhagen our first night, we made it out to for an early dinner at 5pm and then the grocery store and somehow the kids were exhausted and asleep by 8pm (which is only 2pm our time). Derek was up a few hours later since his body probably felt like it was only a nap and Quinn did a bit better but was up by 1am or so. As you can see by morning, we have completely given up and they are both sleeping in our bed. Mike had relocated to the couch and I was in Derek's little toddler bed next door.

How come they always end up in your bed anyway?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

En Route to Copenhagen

At least one of them is sleeping.
2:00pm Leave House
3:00pm Arrive at Dulles Airport  (which was a zoo)
5:00pm Boarding

[Sit on Tarmac for 2 hours due to lightning storms]

7:30pm Plane finally departs
(3:30am EDT/9:30am) Arrive in Frankfurt
 10:30am Depart Frankfurt for Copenhagen
 11:30am Arrive in Copenhagen

The first part of the trip is always getting there. If you can survive that, you can survive almost anything. Being Quinn's first flight and Derek would be traveling sans nap (typically an essential ingredient for a disastrous flight), I was prepared for the worse. I will admit that given our luggage constraints, I did not pack as many toys/snacks/things to amuse as usually. I was hoping that the ban on TV the last few months would lead Derek to see the screens on the back of the seats as the best thing since sliced bread. Derek did relatively well to. We used the Lego Movie to placate him most of the time and he eventually fell asleep half way into the flight.

I would highly recommend *paying* for Economy Plus. The extra leg room in invaluable for a Transatlantic (or Pacific) flight. In my case, I actually upgraded to a bulkhead to get the infant bassinet seat, which is reserved for those traveling with small babies in many cases, so Mike and Dek actually got a middle seat to enjoy between the two of them. Who am I kidding, Derek sprawled into that thing immediately. The challenge is that Mike and I sat apart on the flight, but it was worth having the extra space.

Earlier in the afternoon, there was forecast for lightning storms all night so we started off the flight with a 2 hour delay on the tarmac. To be followed immediately by a blowout diaper. We have learned the hard way, pack at least 3 extra outfits for a baby in diapers. In some cases we use none, in others we use all three and are washing a dirty outfit in a lavatory (lovely, really).

Its hard to get both kids to sleep at the same time, but it helps that at least one of them sleeps so you can juggle back and forth.  I called ahead to secure the bulk head set that includes an infant bassinet. It was really nice to have somewhere to put Quinn - though it was just a little basket mounted to the wall, it came in quite handy. I was a bit nervous about putting the required "cover" over top which made it look a bit coffin-like, but I peeked in every 20 minutes or so while she slept and all was well.

I've flown a lot for leisure and business before I had kids and always prayed that I would not be the person seated next to the infant. I've seen some pretty bad stuff with toddlers who kick the crap out of the back of a chair and parents too tapped out to do anything so I'm very cognizant of my responsibility when I fly with a small person I have little control over. However, I am very vigilant in meeting my baby's needs swiftly and often to help reduce the possibility of melt down. If she's just about to whimper to signal hunger, I feed her. Heck, sometimes I just nurse for as much of the flight as possible, especially when they are young and the nursing helps them feel sleepy. 

It was worth it. When the 10 hour flight (remember we were on the tarmac for 2 hours in addition to the 8 hours in the air), Quinn had not made a peep the whole flight. It was miraculous. All the passengers who had previously avoided eye contact with me finally smiled and my proudest moment of the trip (since it had just started after all) when a well-dressed man who sat just across the way said, "That was the best baby I've ever had on a flight." I beamed. Its all luck, but I'm glad the universe got me back so quickly after that very.very.very long delay. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Packing Down

Derek finds a new reading nook

Where to start?
In the weeks leading up to the trip I had a few big concerns about what to bring and what to bring it in.  Maybe I'll provide some thinking on that first ...

Picking the Bags
There is the sheer logistical exercise of figuring out which and how many suitcases/bags to bring that we can carry and also be able to carry both kiddos. I figured that I would either wear Quinn in a sling and Derek would walk or be pushed in the stroller. We decided only to bring one umbrella stroller that reclined (which meant that Q would possibly be able to sit in it from time to time). I found a McLaren Quest off Craiglist for $70 - a good deal when brand new ones retail around $250 and this thing would be pretty eat up.

Note: difference in taking a stroller internationally is that most of the time we could not gate check it. Meaning that even if you brought it past security and to the gate with you, it would not be delivered plane side and would instead meet us at baggage claim. Even when we didn't gate check it, bringing it was a bigger pain than we imagined since Dek could ride on the luggage cart, or in Copenhagen they have loaner strollers (truly child-friendly!)

Back to what luggage to bring:

1 large suitcase (the big one from this Costco Samsonite set)
1 carry-on bag (our loyal B&R bag that has amazing expansion powers)
1 B&R small duffel (that fits on top of the carry-on backpack)
1 extra duffel (packed away for end of trip)
1 diaper bag
1 umbrella stroller + 2 soft baby carriers (Ergo and Maya Wrap)

Lugging it Around
Airports have luggage racks, but if you are using public transport - you'll need to be able to carry everything without elevators (there is always the possibility there won't be elevators, or they will be broken - which happens alot in Europe)

We figured Mike could wear the backpack, and roll both suitcases. I would be in charge of wearing and pushing the kiddos. Later, I'll discuss how its VERY important to determine how far away your apartment/hotel is from the hotel as you will need to drag all of this with you as well.  Though taxis are possible, I am a bit of a nervous nelly since we didn't have car seats for most of the trip (except for when we rented in Paris, more on that later). We did break down in Lyon and started using Uber since our backs and legs were killing us at that point.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Big Journey - European Vacation!

At Dulles at the beginning of the 16+ hour journey
Hi all, we've returned from 23 days of travel with the children to Copenhagen, Zurich, Paris and Lyon. Yes, we are crazy. It was quite the adventure and a different travel experience, especially with both the kiddos. I will be slowly posting blogs on...
  • What we did and ate (a very important thing)
  • Observations and considerations for planning, packing, traveling with two kiddos in tow
  • Highlighting things I might have done same/better/differently if we actually can get away and travel again (tricky since alot changes so much from trip to trip as the kids' maturity level can change so much)
  • How the kids fared in different parts of the trip - adjusting to the time change, surviving naps on the go, experiencing different food, etc.
I tried to take notes on different parts on the trip since I constantly want to improve on how I would do things or do things slightly differently if I had just known a few more things - so bear with me as I gather thoughts so the posts can be somewhat coherent rather than the usual stream-of-consciousness incoherence.

Meltdown Mode after 2hr delay + 8 flight + transfer at Frankfurt + 2 buses and then arrival in Copenhagen.