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Southwest Airlines Kicks Off a Mother and Toddler From Flight

by Amanda on November 3, 2009
category: 1 – 3 year (toddler),In the news,Travel

SOUTHWEST AIRLINES 737 Last week Southwest Airlines escorted a mother and her 2 year old son off a flight to San Jose, CA, because he was screaming “Go Plane Go!” and “I want Daddy!” according the Associated Press. The crew was concerned that the passengers could not hear the safety briefing to abide within FAA guidelines. The mother, Pamela Root, assured the attendants that her son would be quiet after take off and that she had planned to feed him while in the air. Southwest Airlines has since apologized to the mother, refunded her money, and gave her a $300 dollar voucher for a future flight.

I first heard about this story from a Facebook status of a friend that was applauding Southwest Airlines. Many of the comments of the status were in full agreement with the decision. As a mother of a toddler I was initially flabbergasted and angry.

I understand that the crew had a real concern with the safety announcements, but I really wonder how loud was the child. I read that the crew made offers of juice and colors to calm the boy down.

Some days are better than others when I go out shopping with my toddler. I know when to call it quits and try again at another time. Perhaps this was one of this instances where you just need to try again later, even if you are inconvenienced. Or do you just get through it? Thankfully the mother didn’t have to make a connecting flight or miss any major events.

I am glad that Southwest Airlines apologized, because this could have a set a bad precedent for future flights with kids. It would not be good if any flight attendant could remove families at their discretion for small matters. I wonder what would have happened if this took place in another country?  Cathay Pacific very kind and understanding when I flew with a 7 month old baby. The flight from Los Angeles to Hong Kong had several children, but everyone seemed to recognized it was just a fact of life and got through with the flight.

This incident on Southwest Airlines ended up not being a huge deal. The mother flew out the next day which I can only assume to have been a much easier flight, since she and her child did not get kicked off again. I hope it doesn’t happen again to another family. Otherwise, those of us traveling with toddlers may be in for some trouble!

Do you have any traveling stories with toddlers? What would you have done in that situation? Did the attendants make the right decision?

More on traveling with children:

When Husbands Travel

Christy’s post last week got me thinking about our family dynamic.  My husband works close to home (and even from home, occasionally), but he also does a LOT of traveling for his PhD studies.  He’ll be gone for anywhere from ten days to twelve weeks at a time.  The traveling can be difficult for him, with frequent travels through international airports (and their security), sleeping on couches at friends’ houses, and eating out every day (which he hates doing).  I’ve also witnessed how it has affected our children.

It’s hard on us when our husbands have to leave on business (or TDY), but it can even be harder on the kids.  When kids are young, they have little or no concept of time.  Saying “daddy will be home in ten days” or something along those lines just doesn’t register with them.  The first time my husband left us to do some PhD work at his university (in another country), he was gone for over two months.  Ten weeks?  Seventy days?  How was I supposed to explain this?  My four year old could only count to twenty!  Fortunately, I have a dear friend who was stationed overseas a couple of years ago, and during that time, her husband was deployed three times.  Her kids were also very young at the time, and she gave me some very helpful advice to get me and the kids through those very difficult weeks away.

Make a “daddy” book: Create a mini photo album filled with pictures of dad playing and interacting with the kids.  Let the kids carry them around, or prop it up next to their bed at night, so daddy’s right there with them. Some parents have put pictures of their spouses on the kids’ pillowcases (which you can order from Snapfish).

“Count” down the days until dad gets home: Whenever my husband leaves, whether it be for a few days or weeks, we create a Jellybean Countdown Container.  As you can probably guess, we take an old jar and fill it with jellybeans, and the number of treats corresponds with the number of days that my husband is gone.  The kids get one jellybean out of the jar every day, and that way, they know that daddy’s coming home when the jar is empty!

Let the kids use things that smell like dad: I would let my son use dad’s cologne if he wanted to smell like daddy.  Just dab a little on his wrist or spray his shirt, and he was good to go.  I, too, would occasionally use his cologne, spray one of his flannel shirts, and sleep in it at night.

Give them “kisses” from daddy: As an extra comfort measure, I would fill a jar with Hershey’s Kisses and place it on top of the counter.  Any time the kids got hurt or really sad, they would get a “kiss” from dad.

Skype before bed: If your husband’s involved with the kids’ bedtime routines, arrange for him to call around bedtime.  He can tell the kids a story (or, in our case, my son can tell HIM a story), sing them a song, etc.  If your husband is in a place where he can’t do this, have him record a few videos reading the kids’ favorite books.  Then, play the videos at night so daddy can read them a story before bed.

Does your husband travel a lot for work?  How do you handle this time in your house?

Related posts:

Trina’s post about being a (temporary) single mom

How To Move Your Family Overseas

by Amelia on August 13, 2009
category: Practical Tips,Travel

We are moving to England in one month.  One month!  I am excited but our checklist seems to be growing instead of shrinking.  To move a family overseas there are a lot of details and things to take into consideration as you decide what to bring.  We are moving there for 4 years while my husband gets his PhD.  We’re moving into  furnished family housing through the university so some of the complication of buying furniture is lessened.

Here are some helpful tips we’ve either learned or done along the way:

  1. Start working on getting your Visa early.  And ask someone who has filled one out to help you if you need it.  Visas are complicated and take a lot of time to fill out. Depending on your reason for moving overseas the Visa application will vary.  We are going on a student Visa so we had to provide proof that we could pay for the first year of school in cash.  That may mean borrowing money from the bank, friends, or family so you can have cash in your bank account.  If you are planning on moving for work then I’m sure the process is a little different.  Jon had to make an appointment at a consulate to get his fingerprints taken for the Visa process.  After he did that he had exactly 2 weeks to get ALL the correct paperwork in.  Like I said, start working on the paperwork part early because you don’t want anything to go wrong when you are working on a timeline.  If things go wrong, and your Visa is not approved due to paperwork issues, you have to start all over (including paying for it).
  2. Work on getting your passports early.  Enough said about that.
  3. Don’t buy your plane tickets until your Visa is approved and you have a known date approved for your arrival.  It just makes moving abroad easier.
  4. Consider bringing a combination of duffle bags and crates instead of suitcases for your plane trip.  We bought 5 tickets so we have an allowance of 10 checked bags.  We opted for duffle bags because they hold a lot and are light, which means we can stuff more in without the weight limitations of a suitcase (ever noticed that they weigh a lot on their own without clothes in them?).  We purchased some crates that can be locked after going through customs.  We haven’t gone through a “dry packing run” yet (see next point) but we are planning on using the crates to pack some toys and other large items that may do better in a box rather than a duffle bag.  Keep a list of things other than clothing that you are bringing with you to go through customs in case you need it.
  5. As your move date gets closer, try a dry run pack to see what changes you need to make with whatever you are planning on bringing with you.  Stock up on space bags to have more room for your clothes.
  6. Learn about the weather in the country you are moving to.  England’s weather is much more mild than Texas–or Pittsburgh for that matter.  We acquired a lot of good winter/cool weather clothes while we were in Pittsburgh but I have recently learned that the summer weather in Durham (city we are moving to) is more like Fall weather.  Our friends who live there have posted pictures of themselves wearing long pants and long sleeved shirts or sometimes t-shirts.  There have been a few warmer days where they have worn shorts and short sleeves.  Knowing the weather helps you decide what clothes to pack.  It would be foolish to take up a lot of packing room with Texas summer clothes when we will need clothes for cooler weather while living in England.
  7. Go online and check prices for things like clothes and shoes for kids and adults.  At least in the UK, clothes and shoes are very expensive.  We will take advantage of using the charity shops for clothing, or waiting until we come back to visit to buy clothes for the kids.  We talked to a friend who lives in Whales as a missionary and she said to make sure that we get our shoes for the kids in the States before we move.  The quality of shoes and what you pay for them doesn’t compare to what you can get here in the States.
  8. Investigate weight limitations for luggage on the plane so you can decide if it is “cheaper” to pay for overweight bags or shipping them ahead of time.  Shipping things to the UK is not cheap so we are planning on going over the weight limit if we have to.
  9. Plan on taking advantage of the 2 carry on items per person.  Even though it will be difficult to get down the aisle carrying the 2 carry ons the kids are each allowed we will be taking advantage of that and carrying on valuables, important documents, and items necessary for traveling on a long plane flight with 3 kids.
  10. Having a friend who lives in the country you are moving to helps a LOT.  If it is also someone who moved to the country then that is even better.  We have friends who moved there the year before we did and they have been life savers!  They have connected us with other families who have finished their degrees and selling their stuff for cheap.  We have bought several kitchen items and a few pieces of extra furniture.
  11. Check online for the different stores and their prices so you can plan a budget for repurchasing the things you need once you are there.  We are planning on bringing a set of sheets and a towel for each person in our family but my friend who is there has also found a place that sells sheets for cheap.  We may decide to buy an extra set of sheets for the kids when we are there. Find out about the country’s version of “good will” so you can hit those when you arrive to purchase goods and save money.  In England they have many “charity shops” where you can buy appliances, furniture, clothing etc.
  12. We sold most of our furniture when we left Pittsburgh.  (For those of you who don’t know, we left Pittsburgh in June and came to Texas to spend the summer with friends and family before leaving for England.)  We decided that paying for storage while we were gone was too expensive.  We got rid of a LOT of stuff other than furniture and there was something quite freeing about getting rid of so much stuff (I digress).  I kept all of our kitchen stuff, dining room table and chairs, china cabinet, and beds.  When we come back we will have a lot of things to rebuy–but we are essentially trusting God to provide for us when we return.  We know a family who had a friend from church that owns a storage facility and gave them a super discount on storing their belongings while overseas.  We asked around our church hoping to get lucky in that regard so we wouldn’t have to sell so much stuff and rebuy it later but that didn’t work out.  Some people ship all their things overseas with them.  The Dean President of my husband’s seminary moved here several years ago only planning on staying for 4 years but now they are here indefinitely.  They brought everything with them even though they were only planning on being in the states for a few years.  It is an option if you want bring all your stuff with you.
  13. Before you leave the States, take everyone to get eye, dental, and well-visits at the doctor.  Depending on the country you plan on moving to, the health care system is probably very different and it is good to get in those visits before moving.  Get online and learn about the health care system in the country you are moving to.  You’ll need to find out if you will qualify for their national plan or if you will have to budget for health insurance costs.
  14. If you are planning on bringing electronics like computers or your Wii (haha!  We are totally bringing ours) then you’ll need to investigate getting the appropriate plugs for them.  In the UK the voltage is different not to mention the shape of the plugs so you need voltage converters and plug adapters.  Some electronics are set to work at a higher voltage and have the converters in them so you just need a plug adapter.  It’s confusing, I know.  That is why you need to investigate!
  15. Bring movies/music for your family in those cd storage books.  Saves on space!
  16. Buy a Rick Steves travel book about the country you are moving to if it is available.  It will help you discover all kinds of fun things to do in your new city and it often has some money saving tips on travel.

I may have to make this a two part series because there is so much to plan when you move overseas!

I know at least one of our readers has moved overseas a few times (Sharon!).  Have any other helpful tips to add to this list? Know anyone who has moved overseas?

1 Day, 18 hours, 2 Parents & 2 Kids Traveling by Car

by Amanda on July 27, 2009
category: 0 – 1 year (baby),1 – 3 year (toddler),Travel

acereading I am late getting my post up today, because I spent 18 hours traveling by car with my husband, 2 year old daughter, and 4 month old boy. We came home to San Antonio after visiting Dawn and her family in Hunstville, AL last night. I hadn’t seen her in person in 11 eleven years. Our families had a great couple of days hanging out together.  On the drive there we drove to Memphis from San Antonio and spent the night. Then continued the last 4 hours after a visit to the Memphis Zoo the next day. My kids were champs throughout the entire trip.

Here is how we handled traveling with 2 kids under the age of two.

Both of my kids are still in diapers and I think this helped the potty situation. It was easy to pull over and change diapers or just do it whenever we stopped for food.

Driving most of the way in one day, spending the night, and traveling a short distance the next day worked for us.  The morning after a day of driving we went to the zoo to wear out my daughter. We got back in the car, ate lunch, and she slept most of the 4 hour drive.  On the way back we didn’t spend the night, but we spent an hour and a half in New Orleans to give us a break from the road and the car seats. While the New Orleans stop added to our overall traveling time, it was worth it to eat some yummy beignets and stretch our legs before the last haul home.

I brought plenty off of snacks and toys for Annabelle. One of my favorite traveling toys are the Crayola Color Wonder No Mess Markers and coloring pad. My daughter can color to her heart’s delight without coloring the car or herself.

We borrowed a DVD player from friends and had plenty of Dora DVDs. We waited as long as we could on both trips before we even let her see the player in the car. Once the player is on no other toy will do. Also, for my daughter she doesn’t fall asleep watching TV. Both times she watched about 4 hours of Dora straight and never fell asleep once even though she was incredibly tired.

To get my daughter to nap I wouldn’t give her anything else to eat or play with. She would sit there bored until she finally decided to close her eyes and sleep.

As we were traveling we didn’t stick to a lot of rules with Annabelle. We did try to get to her to nap, but other than that we did whatever that would keep her comfortable and happy.  Although, after the first day I think I let her eat too many sweets on the drive while watching Dora. She was incredibly hyper our first evening in Memphis running up and down the hotel hallway and jumping on the bed.

My 4 Month Old Boy

romaninstroller My baby boy, Roman, is 4 months old and he had a harder time dealing with car than my 2 year old. He is still breastfed so I would have to get him out to feed him, but there wasn’t anywhere to lay him down and really let him stretch. Sometimes we would have to get him out of the car seat and just hold him for a while to calm him down. He did sleep a lot on the trip and didn’t cry a lot until the last leg home, when he was just done with being in a car seat.  Even though he was with us, we both missed each other.

Overall, my kids are champs and did great being in their carseats for extended periods of time. We drove a rented Tahoe and I think this also made the drove more comfortable for them as well. I hope my story will help you if you are planning to do a road trip with your kids!

Have you done a long road trip with your kids this summer? How did it go for you? What did you do?

Raising Third Culture Kids: A Guest Post by Sharon M

Sharon M is a full-time mom with two children, ages 4 and 18 months.  She and her family live in the Middle East, where her husband is a teacher.

sharon.jpg Packing Boxes.  Shuffling through papers and toys, trying to decide what should stay and what should go.  Finding new friends, new work, new EVERYTHING.  Where do I shop?  Where should my kids go to school?

Most of us have experienced the stress of moving to a new place.  Now, imagine that you’re not only going away from the place you call home, but you’re also diving headfirst into an entirely new country, usually complete with a new language and new culture for you to experience.  Sound insane?  Scary?  Exciting?  Welcome to the life of an ex-pat.

We’re all living abroad for different reasons.  Some of us work for religious or non-profit organizations, a few of us have husbands who work for international companies, and many are working for the US government and are stationed overseas.  I’d like to talk a little bit about my corner of the world, the Middle East.  And what it’s like to raise what we call “third culture kids.”

These kids (TCKs for the rest of this article) have grown up a significant portion of their lives overseas outside their parents’ culture; they build relationships within all of the cultures they come in contact with, while never really having full ownership of any.  Translation: Someone asks you, “Where are you from?” and you answer, “Uhhhh… (thoughtful silence)… America?” They tend to connect best with other kids that have had a similar childhood, and they are generally more mature than American kids their age.  Mave, a mom of five (with #6 on the way), lived overseas for nine years with her family before returning to the States.  She said:

Four of my children are settling into school in the US now.  Three of the four have been naturally drawn to the “internationals” in their classes.  My eldest son enjoys his friend from India.  My second daughter enjoys a Korean- American and my youngest son plays with a boy from the Netherlands.  I don’t know if this would be the case if we had not lived overseas.

Initially, language acquisition is the biggest concern for us as parents, because there is no way that these kids will ever feel connected to the locals if there isn’t some proficiency in the local language.  One of my friends (a mom with three children ranging from 11 to 4) expressed frustration with a local private school – she had to “fight the schools to accept [her] children and school them as though they are nationals” when she first moved here.  The kids have tutors every day, but she is so proud of them because they have learned the language.  Her eldest sounds just like a local kid!  Another friend of mine has a six year-old son who is rather shy and understands Arabic, but rarely speaks; he gets embarrassed when he doesn’t know what to say, and in a culture where boys are encouraged to be bold and aggressive, it can be a struggle for him.

As Americans living in the Middle East, our children stick out; the light-colored eyes, fair hair and fair skin practically scream “I AM NOT FROM AROUND HERE!”  When the kids are young, it’s actually a wonderful way to meet people.  I remember meeting one of my neighbors through my son.  He saw her children playing on the patio, walked in the gate, said “Marhaba!” (hello) and joined them!  And since people in general here are very hospitable and love children dearly, it wasn’t at all odd or rude.  However, as the children get older, it is more and more obvious that they don’t look like everyone else, and it can be uncomfortable for the kids.  Every mom I spoke with said that it is so important to have a strong family life, not too burdened with extra-curricular activities, and to connect with other moms who are living like you are (I call it “the sympathy circle”).   This is important whether you live abroad or not, but as a mom who has lived in the US and overseas, I can tell you, it’s a necessity for my sanity!

We all love to see our kids eat “weird” things and like them.  And when you’re outside your home country, it’s guaranteed that your kids are going to have to try the local food at one point or another.  My fellow blogger Um Tulip said this about her son:

He likes foods that American boys wouldn’t touch.  I remember taking him to a Middle Eastern restaurant with friends when we were back in America and he gobbled up the grape leaves.  Our friends were astounded but it’s one of his favorite foods.

And remember, these TCKs are also growing up in the USA.  They tend to be the children of immigrants or diplomats; they are Hispanic, Indian, Middle Eastern, African.  While they might grow up to look and even to sound American, they have parents with a different set of cultural values, and who (often times) have built a little “home away from home” with other people from the same ethnic background.   Many of them are grateful when, say, a co-worker invites them over for dinner or a mother they meet at the park arranges a play date.   Being among strangers in a new country can be intimidating, and a simple gesture by you can make a world of difference in their lives.

For more information on this topic, I highly recommend Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing up Among Worlds by David Pollock.

Have you experienced the life of an ex-pat, either as a child or an adult?  Have you been able to reach out to the ex-pats in your community, make them feel more at home where they live?  If you’ve lived overseas, what sort of advice or encouragement would you give to other moms in a new cultural and linguistic environment?

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