Monday, July 30, 2012

What's On Your Kindle?

Or your iPad, Nook, Kindle Fire or just plain old nightstand?  Whatever your device happens to be, I am always looking for suggestions from other avid readers.  Last year I read 36 novels over the course of the year and when 2012 rolled around I made an absurd resolution with myself that I would read at least one more book this year than I did last year.  Basically I have put myself in a position where I am constantly checking my "read" list against the calendar and making ridiculous calculations but I have read some pretty great things this year.  With nearly seven months of 2012 in the books, I thought I would go ahead and share my book list and solicit recommendations to get me through the rest of the year.  When I do not have books queued up at least three deep I start to feel nervous.  God forbid I lose a day to indecision!  So in order from oldest to most recent, here they are:

1. The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe -- Had to read this "classic" and definitely enjoyed it.
2. Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster -- Pass
3. The Paris Wife by Paula Mclain -- Loved it though you will hate Ernest Hemingway by the end.
4. Crossed by Ally Condie - Book two in semi Hunger Games-esque and entertaining
5. The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly - Liked
6. The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom - Slavery made into a soap opera.  A bit much.
7. The Darlings by Cristina Alger - Entertaining story
8. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett - Excellent.  One of the best books I have read all year and my Mom agrees.
9. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern - Very good.  This book is different and a bit spooky.  I have heard it compared to Harry Potter but I'm not sure I would agree entirely.
10. Matched by Ally Condie - Book one in the trilogy I previously compared to The Hunger Games.  These books are way easy to read and I have to admit, I have already pre-bought the third book which comes out in November.
11. A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick - El Bizarro
12. The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff - Very interesting and informative story about modern day Mormons as opposed to Mormonism practiced centuries ago.
13. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James - Ok, I'm very embarrassed to admit I have read these.  I really hated the first book and had decided not to buy the other two when in the last ten pages of book one, I was completely sucked in.  Funny how that happens, huh?  If you are easily freaked out by anything sexual, you should take a pass on these.  I'd classify them as borderline porn.
14. Fifty Shades Darker by E.L. James - porn
15. Fifty Shades Free by E.L. James - porn
16. Miss Peregrine's House for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs - Very odd book but highly entertaining.  I'm still not exactly sure I have grasped what happened.
17. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld - Great read, highly entertaining, twist at the end that sort of irritated me and tainted the book as a whole for me.
18. A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson - I always like this author's books and this was another good read.
19. My Fair Lazy by Jen Lancaster - Something about Jen Lancaster annoys me.  I kind of think she is an asshole.
20. The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan - If you want to have nightmares about cruise ships sinking a la Titanic style and living on a lifeboat for 21 days, this is the book for you.
21. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - Couldn't put this one down until I was done.  Haven't heard from anyone who didn't enjoy it.
22. Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson - Jenny Lawson reminds me of Jen Lancaster.  Enough said.
23. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter - Good story though a bit harder to get into than most books.
24. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn - Same author as Gone Girl but this book is slightly less entertaining and definitely has a screwy main character.
25. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker - Also one of my favorites of the year so far.  I only wish more had been tied up at the end.
26. Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead - Good read if you want something fluffy.
27. The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty - Great story, definitely enjoyed.

So there y'all have it.  I am in the process of reading My Year With Eleanor by Noelle Hancock and I'm really liking it.  It would appear that I am on track to read my goal this year but I always want to hear suggestions from others.  If you have read something recently that you couldn't put down, please let me know!  The winter is closing in on us in Germany (yes, I know it is only July but you would be scared to if you lived here) and I'll need to ensure plenty of reading to get me through the dreary months.  I'm looking forward to hearing what everyone has to say!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Mosel River Valley

Living in Europe comes with its advantages and disadvantages.  Certainly it is hard not being able to see our family and friends on a regular basis and never getting a refill on a diet coke with ice but we get to take some pretty neat little adventures.  This past weekend we took Evans to a friends birthday party on Saturday afternoon and then headed to the Mosel Wine Valley to stay the night in Cochem.  We didn't really anticipate that the drive would be a nightmare of winding roads and teeny tiny towns that slowed us down considerably so we arrived much later than we expected to.  By the time we sat down for dinner it was past 9pm and by the glares we received from the Germans, it was clear they did not approve of us being out so late with Evans.  At least his behavior was perfect and we didn't give them any reason to stare (though it didn't stop them).  We literally stopped at the first restaurant we came across that was open because we knew things were going to start closing for the evening.  Imagine this beautiful view (at dusk) while enjoying a nice big plate of enchiladas.  Ha.  I'm not sure how the one place we chose to eat happened to be Mexican but it was pretty funny.  We didn't have time that evening to explore anywhere and our time was also very limited on Sunday because we knew we needed to get on the road to Brussels.  However, we have decided that we would love to go back some weekend where we can actually enjoy the beautiful little town.  As Deaner pointed out, despite our endless journey to get there, we were only 43 miles from our house!
This was the view from our apartment balcony and a couple closer up shots of the castle.
Unfortunately I forgot my real camera and these are courtesy of Deaner's iphone.  Good thing we will go back sometime.  Especially if I find out you can drive up to that castle instead of hike!  :)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Gypsy Madness

How would you feel if you were visiting a city and on every street corner you came across a gypsy and child?  Not so bad right?  At least they are just sitting on the corner and begging.  How would you feel if every single time you sit down in a street cafe several gypsy women came pleading for money while holding a crying child?  Here is where it starts to get tricky.  I'm not a heartless person and God knows I have lain awake in bed at night thinking about unfair it is that these poor children are subjected to such a hard life.  I'm not without feelings, however, where do you draw the line?

Let me start off by saying that I am OVER Brussels.  I'm over the noise at night, I'm over handing getting Evans in and out of the apartment on my own but mostly I am over being harassed for money every single time I step foot out the door.  Folks, I'm from Atlanta so I'm no stranger to being hit up for cash while walking around in town but Brussels takes begging to a new level.  When Deaner gets finished working in the afternoons we love to stroll with Evans to a street cafe and sit down for a beer.  I didn't used to mind when street performers came by playing accordions but it is starting to seriously set us back some.  Who wants to feel obligated to tip every accordion toting dude that walks by?  Not me.  Unfortunately my son LOVES them and as soon as he hears them coming he starts to dance.  Not just a shake of the head dancing but a full on dance that causes people to stare at us as the street performer zeros in on us.  Easy money.  How could we not tip when Evans is clearly enjoying their services?  There is the key word people.  Services.  At LEAST these people are playing an instrument. They are annoying at best but I can live with that.

Last night Deaner, Evans and I went out to eat.  As we approached the door to the restaurant this gypsy lady who was begging on the street leaned over and opened the door for us and then shook her little cup at us.  I found it hard not to show my annoyance since I clearly could have opened the door myself and I did not feel guilty telling her sorry.  After being tucked away in our booth in the back of the restaurant and served our appetizer we were approached by a little girl who looked to be about 8 years old and was dressed respectably.  She stood at the end of our table holding her hand out for money.  I was simply appalled.  Come on!  We are eating dinner here!  Deaner and I both said "no, sorry" and she made a pouty face before then pointing to our appetizer plate, that we hadn't even touched yet, and ASKED FOR OUR FOOD.  Now some of you might start to feel bad here and say that this was just some poor starving child who NEEDED our food.  You might feel differently when I tell you that upon us telling her "no" again, she stood at the end of our table and said "f@*k you both".  I just sat there like a dummy not knowing what to do until thankfully Deaner came to his senses and told her to go away.  We received another "F*#K you BOTH" on her way out the door.  Something like this would have never happened in the States.  Why?  Because business owners don't allow beggars to come in to their restaurants and hassle their patrons like that.  Infuriating.  The restaurant where we had dinner two nights ago told two different people asking for money to get out and leave us alone.  It's not going to be a hard decision when deciding next time where to eat.

I might have been able to shake the shock of being cursed at by a child but when a different child held open the door for me today and then demanded money, I ceased feeling bad.  It wasn't the act of holding the door open that irritated me so much.  It was the fact that when I glanced at the child, all I could see was a nice green alligator staring at me from the chest of his shirt.  Trust me, if you are going to ask me for money, you really shouldn't do it while wearing a Lacoste shirt.  I don't think I need to say anymore.

So there are my thoughts on gypsies in Brussels for the week.  Brussels is great but I think we are going to take a break from each other for a little while.  I need some time to reignite the love affair I have with this city!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

New Culinary Delights

Brussels, Belgium.  Our home away from our home away from home.  The city we have traveled to consistently for Deaner's work for the past three and a half years.  It used to be that coming to Brussels excited because they had a Pizza Hut buffet and a Chi-Chi's Mexican restaurant.  Even I have to admit that after three years and many many meals, the old favorites have lost their allure.  I mean, it was always just a Pizza Hut, a place in Atlanta where I never would have dined.  You would think that in a city of this size we would be falling all over great restaurants with awesome food but sadly, that has not been the case.  Especially the area where we normally stay is full of touristy restaurants with mediocre food, none any more discerning than the next.  On this week long business trip I vowed to find new places in attempts of adding something worthwhile to our rotation here.  Having a sick child while here has left me with plenty of internet surfing time and Trip Advisor and I have been reacquainted.  Deaner and I both love a good steak so when I came across the reviews for La Villette, raving about the quality of their steaks, we set out to find the place.  Conveniently it happened to be about a one minute walk from our apartment!  I had a filet with a Belgian cheese and beer sauce and Deaner has the same except with a mushroom sauce.  Huge success.  Our food was delicious and the ambience was perfect.  Evans, who is still feeling subpar, lounged in his stroller and played on the iPad the whole time.  In case I did not make my point about the awesomeness of the food, I give you proof.
Dee-light-ful.  The real icing on the cake?  Our bill was less expensive than most of our trips to Chi-Chi's.

In another new dining establishment adventure we came across another hit.  Ellis is a gourmet burger joint without any of that pork/beef mixture that so many European places favor.  100% real ground beef.  It hard to believe what you will take for granted living in the States.
Once again Evans lounged in his stroller with no complaints.  Both of these places are in a shady area several blocks from the Grand Place so we seem to have found some places that aren't exactly touristy.  It only took three and a years.

Thankfully we are reaching the halfway mark of this trip.  Evans has been down for the count and that has been very hard on all of us.  At 2am he woke me up running a 102.4 fever and would only sleep if lying completely on top of me.  Think Brussels, in July, with no AC, in a single bed, with a 102 degree radiator on your chest.  Two more nights.  I know I keep saying it but SURELY Evans will feel better by tomorrow.  When we return home, I don't care what it takes, we are getting on a better sleeping schedule.  Happy Hump Day to everyone!

**I realize that this post is pretty boring but people can't be caught doing it outside your apartment EVERY day!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Just When You Think......

Just when you think you have seen everything there is to see in the land of appalling, the universe goes and treats you to something you never could have imagined.  Take this four sided steel framed advertisement that is currently across the street from our apartment in Brussels for example.  Pretty innocent, right?  When Deaner and I arrived on Sunday afternoon we both took the chance to check out the views from our balcony.  They don't disappoint I might add with a perfect view of the Stock Exchange a couple blocks away.
I never would have noticed this eight foot tall structure with mundane advertisements on it.  I mean, who would?  Until Deaner called to me from the other room that "something very weird is going on out there" and I had to take a look for myself.  Upon further inspection nothing seemed out of the ordinary to me.  This was all I could see when I peered out the window.
Deaner: "I swear, I just saw two people inside of that advertisement thingie".

Me: "No way, I don't see anyone in there".

Deaner: "No, I saw them, there were two of them".

Me: "Well, what could they possibly be doing in there"?

Deaner: "I don't know, maybe it is covering a manhole and they are doing some work"

Me: "I guess, I don't even see anyone in there".

Deaner: "Or....maybe they are doing "IT".

Me: "Impossible".  (See?  The Germans really are starting to get to me assuming everything is impossible!)

Several moments of silence go by.  Passersby are just strolling by the structure like nothing is going.  I started to lose interest in Deaner's sighting when it happened.  Just like that, the canvas walls started shaking.

Me: "Oh. My. God.  You are right.  Someone IS in there and they ARE doing IT"!!

Deaner: "I KNEW IT".

Me:  "How are they going to get out when they are done"?

Deaner: "I have no idea, I didn't see them get there in the first place".

Several more moments of advertisement shaking.  Finally, I couldn't hold it any longer and announced I had to RUN to the bathroom.  As soon as I started to turn away Deaner yelled "THERE THEY ARE" to which I sprinted back.  I was greeted with laughter as he was just jerking me around.  I went to the bathroom for real this time only to have Deaner yell from the other room.

Deaner: "They are coming out!  THERE THEY ARE!  For real this time"

No way, I have got to get back to see this.  Ensue much running in slippery sandals and tripping over furniture to get to the window.  Sure enough there were two people, a GIRL and a BOY, no older than 15 years old, were attempting to extract themselves from said steel structure.  The boy was attempting to hoist the girl up and over the top but was failing on every attempt.  This was better than reality TV.

Me: "Holy crap.  They are never going to get out of there".

Deaner: "Well not that way at least, maybe they should tilt it from the bottom".

Sure enough the next approach was for the two to start tipping the structure on its side so one could crawl under to the safety of the streets.  I regret not having my camera for what happened next but during a very zealous round of structure tipping, in which multiple people were passing by, the two crazed love birds managed to knock the entire advertisement over, narrowly missing multiple passersby.    Two CHILDREN escaped out the bottom, quickly ran around and uprighted the tipped over advertisement and were on their way while smiling and laughing at each other.

Me: "Did that really just happen"?

Deaner: "They really could have hurt someone if that thing tipped over ON TOP of someone".

Me: "Did that really just happen"?

Call me a prude, call me an old lady, call me naive but I have a really hard time wrapping my head around witnessing such trashy behavior.  I was recently asked, along with several other women, how I would handle discussing the "birds and the bees" with my child when the time eventually came.  With Evans being 23 months old I plead the fifth and put the issue, impossibly far in the future, out of my head.  I'm not sure how, and I'm not sure when, but when the time does come I'll have to make it very clear that behavior like that is disgusting.  Get a room.  Oh wait, you probably have to be at least 16 to do that.  At least figure out an extraction plan that doesn't involve potential injury to others BEFORE entering a steel structure to get it on.  Check out the arial views that others might have of you.  And for God's sake, no one wants to see your private life like that.  Now run along home and do your homework or something.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Nightmare in Brussels Part I.

Remember the days were I used to brag about Evans going to sleep at 7:30pm and sleeping until 10:00am?  About how I am always so well rested and can't understand how some Mom's always claim to be run down and worn out? (ok, well that last statement might be an exaggeration) I believe the glory days are over.  Or at least on an extended hiatus.  I always spend plenty of time worrying when we head to the States and then back again that the jet lag is going to ruin us.  Thankfully on the way there this vacation it was a piece of cake.  Coming home?  Not so much.  After night two of midnight play dates I decided it was time for the cry it out approach since we had been operating on European time for 48 hours.  I realize that this is controversial with some people but we have used it several times in the past and after the first night of hell, my fabulous sleeper typically returns.  To date, we are on night NINE, and still experiencing massive issues.  Evans is relentless.  The screaming can endure for an eternity.  The kind of screaming that provokes shaken baby syndrome, if you still had an infant.  To top off this catastrophe, we are in an apartment in Brussels for the next five nights. I'm pretty much staring at 5 nights together in a single bed with my two year old if I want anyone in our building to sleep.  Evans will instantly fall asleep if Deaner or I am holding him and sitting in the den.  As soon as we even begin to walk towards the back of the house he starts to freak out and point to the den.  Sigh.  Why did I agree to come on this business trip again?  Oh yeah, because if I hadn't, I'd be sitting at home alone for the next five nights listening to the crying.  I'm starting to lose faith and since Deaner announced earlier that "things were never going to be the same again" (a bit drastic I'd say) I think he is losing faith as well.

So, I wrote this post yesterday at the height of my stress and fear of no sleeping.  Evans took about 20 minutes to cry it out and fall asleep.  Miraculously, he slept all night.  I was so instantly relieved that I was lured into a false sense of security because shortly after Deaner put Evans in bed with us at 8am, he threw up on me.  Upon further inspection I have deduced that he threw up three other time in his pack n play as well.  Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about throw up.  And it isn't good.
We have pretty much spent the day doing this.  After our morning "episode" we haven't had anymore throwing up, thank God, but it is pretty clear Evans isn't feeling his best.  And yes, his feet are black.  Don't judge, this apartment has all hard wood floors and it's either get black feet or black socks.
At least Daddy was able to finish work up early and be home by 3:30p.  Now the real decision making starts.  To venture out or stay cooped up, that is the question.  Please pray for another smooth night AND zero morning barfing!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lake Keowee 2012

By the time we got to Lake Keowee on Wednesday afternoon Evans was so excited he could hardly contain himself.  As you can see.  Five minutes into our first boat ride he could not hide his sheer exhaustion from the wild rumpus that was three cousins for four days straight.  As the ratio of adults to children was much higher at Lake Keowee, Evans being the only child, he basked in having all the attention turned back on him.  After his initial pass out and power nap on the boat he was ready to go.
Just a little snooze on Susie looking like a limp rag.  
Lucky for Evans (and even luckier for me) my brother, Uncle Sam, and his girlfriend Kelsey, were able to come home for a week from Baton Rouge to see us while we were home.  Evans LOVES Uncle Sam and Kelsey and I think that the feeling is mutual. 
Evans could not get enough of their attention and I have to admit that it was pretty nice having 14 adults around watching one child.  Made my job a lot easier!
Uncle Sam had a wake boarding accident before we arrived at the lake on Wednesday which resulted in a perforated ear drum.  Therefore he could not get in the water the rest of the trip and his sole job was to kayak chauffeur Evans around our cove.  I don't think he minded.
E would not go anywhere all week without that juice cup and the yellow hat posed a bit of a problem as it proved to be a rather fast sinker.  Fast sinking hats and toddlers do not go together and I'm not sure why Deaner kept blaming me for letting it sink.  We now have a new pair of goggles at the dock for the sole purpose of locating the yellow hat (and once for Deaner's sunglasses).  
Corrine also took several shifts of paddling Evans around the cove.  I'd say that he was very much spoiled by all the adult attention he got while here.
Evans and his doting Grandparents, Buddy and Susie, on Buddy's boat.
This is pretty much how we spend our time at the lake.  Since it was 107 degrees in Seneca the day before we arrived, we spent a lot of time in the water and on the boat.  You had to stay wet so you didn't die of a heat stroke!  It was fine with me because I got to soak up some much needed sun and Evans was worn to a nub every night.  In the evenings the assortment of floats on the dock was quit redneck.  Finally, it would not be a 4th of July lake weekend if there wasn't a Didgeridoo playing contest.
Frank is the original didgeridoo buff and we have all received lessons on playing from him.  
I don't know how Foster holds it all by himself because that thing is HEAVY.
See?  I had to have Kelsey hold it for me.  I'm not sure about my technique with the clenched shoulders but I did get it to make the correct noise after about four tries.  Then I had to retire due to lightheadedness!  I'm not sure why Deaner and I are the only ones still wearing our Hawaiian necklaces.  Anyways, a good time was had by all.  Things will be much better once I can get Evans back on a normal schedule and he stops crying so much at night.  I don't remember re-entry ever being this rough.  I think that he has been so used to being around a million people that he doesn't know what to do with only Deaner and me.  Wish us luck!  We have to get this fixed by this weekend because we have to spend all next week in Brussels in a hotel!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Lake Rabun 2012

As I sit here and listen to Evans watch the British satellite children's channel it is hard for me to believe that our very American summer vacation has already concluded.  It always goes much faster than I anticipate it will and no matter how long we are home we never get to do everything we want.  This trip was no different.  We arrived in Atlanta on a Thursday afternoon, my sister-in-law and niece and nephews arrived Saturday, my car broke down and required $2,000 worth of work with multiple venue changes, Evans got Hand Foot and Mouth disease and ran a fever for days on end and then it was time for us to leave to spend the week split between our parent's lake houses.  While the first week of vacation did not go as planned since we didn't get to see any of our friends the rest of the vacation was a lot of fun.  We spent Saturday through Wednesday at Lake Rabun and Wednesday thru Saturday at Lake Keowee.  Evans was thrilled to get to play with his cousins the first part of the week and their two "goggies".  Evans and Karis are 9 days apart, though Karis can do practically everything while Evans can't do anything, and it was really fun to watch them play together.
I am not sure why it appears that Evans' diaper is about to fall off but it is getting a little bit low on that right side.
Karis could be the model for the tan little girl on the Water Babies sunscreen bottle.  Evans could be cast easily in the role of Casper the Friendly Ghost.
I like this picture because it shows just how much bigger Evans is than Karis.  That being said, Karis is totally the boss of Evans.  She gets what she wants when she wants it basically because all she has to do it take it from Evans, who is a very easy target with his translucent skin.  It was pretty funny to watch Evans get dominated by his younger girl cousin when he is so used to getting what he wants.  The next few pictures will illustrate Karis' dominance.  
I'm not sure what she is doing to him here but it involves a dog leash.  This object was the source of a lot of angst as it was decided early on that it was the hot toy to be playing with.  
Here is Karis politely joining Evans in the chair.  
While secretly plotting to kick him straight out once she settled in next to him.  Evans is very concerned that she has his binky although they did both have this color.
Every afternoon we would take a boat ride over to Hall's Boat House for the kids to get a "treat".  I'm not sure Evans has ever been into a store before and told he could pick out a treat because while his cousins were all picking out candy and ice cream, Evans returned to me holding a potato.  Thankfully he traded in his raw potato for a bag of potato chips and he continued to choose them for the rest of the week.  Typically the cousins were all finished with their treats before even leaving the boat house but there were no worries for Karis as she knew Evans was savoring his chips and that he was a sucker. 
Below is a picture of Aunt Brittany and Evans.  I don't think I need to point out how many floatation devices Evans is wearing.  I swear, if Brittany had let him go, he would have still found a way to drown.  He could not get the hang of the water wings and his new swimmie unitard didn't really do the trick either.
Here is the bigger picture of everyone in the water.  
Y'all see those pink water wings?  Umm hmmmm, that is Karis.  Just floating and swimming around all by herself while Evans is being supported by three floatation devices and an adult.  Pretty funny.  I am a firm believer in learning to swim EARLY as I was on the swim team by age 4.  Things aren't looking good for this summer so I think I'll focus on the swimming NEXT summer!  
Evans with Daddy
Karis, Evans and Old Dad
The first night we were home in the States my dad held him outside while he was watering his plants with a watering can.  When Evans discovered this watering can at Lake Rabun he instantly imitated Buddy.  Too bad there wasn't really water in the can because he couldn't lift it with water.
We had an awesome time spending  time with family while my sister-in-law was in town.  It might be like herding cats trying to get everyone together but when we make work, it is worth it.  We should probably start trying to plan Christmas time now!  Maybe I can toughen Evans up a bit by then.  Stay tuned for part two of the 2012 lake adventures! 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Ten Very Random Thoughts On Traveling

It's no secret that we log A LOT of hours in airports and on airplanes.  This past weekend marked the 12th transatlantic flight Evans has completed in 22 months of life and the 18th for me in the past 36 months.  I can't even begin to calculate the numerous European and American domestic flights that have occurred in between.  Needless to say, I know how to do it.  I'm lucky enough to have a very laid back traveler in Evans but I can't help but think that SOME of this success comes from insider knowledge and perfected practices.

Flying for ten hours anywhere is a daunting thought.  Add a child to the mix and it can feel like it will never end.  Your child can be perfectly behaved for 5 hours straight and just as you are about to start patting yourself on the back for your superb parenting skills they can morph into the devil.  And guess what?  You still have five more hours to go!  On this last vacation I had PLENTY of time to really mull over what works and what doesn't and had several situations thrown in my face that made me realize a few things that you should NEVER do while flying with or without children.

1.  If you have a cough, please take some cough medicine BEFORE getting on the plane.  And then again during the flight.  As much as you can possibly take without overdosing.  If your child has a cough, please give them cough medicine BEFORE getting on the plane.  And again during the flight.  It is very simple.  I am certain I have been guilty of this before and I understand that sometimes it is impossible not to cough but we had coughers on both legs of this trip and I can't tell y'all how it makes my skin crawl.  Some things are impossible to avoid but at least pretend like you are trying to control your disgusting hacking cough so I don't feel like you are actively trying to give me the plague.

2.  If you are traveling with a child on a flight longer than 4 hours, buy an iPad.  Think it is ridiculous to spend $500 on a device for a 2 year old?  Get on a plane with one for 10 hours and then email me to thank me.  I used to find it absurd that little kids had their own gadgets.  Then I gave Deaner's iPad to Evans and he played with it for ten hours straight without saying boo and the battery was still at 54% upon arrival.  Now it is referred to as Evans' iPad and if he broke it tomorrow I would get him another one immediately.  Sorry Daddy, you lose.  Maybe you can get a new one but kiss this one goodbye.
3.  If your child is acting out on the plane, it really and truly doesn't help to scream or yell at them.  Let me make myself clear in case this point is hazy.  If your child is fussing over something, that is annoying enough to other passengers without hearing your obnoxious voice added into the mix.  Distract them.  Get out a new toy to play with.  Bribe them.  Threaten to cut them out of your will (quietly).  Refer to tip #2 and pull out your iPad with new apps freshly downloaded.  Anything without making the situation worse.  Do not scream at them telling them not to get out of their seats again unless they have diarrhea.  Not acceptable.

4.  On the same sort of note, I understand you can't jump at every demand a child makes on an airplane.  However, if you at least ACT like you are trying to entertain and keep your child quiet, other passengers will be much more tolerant.  Ever sat next to someone who ignores their child's fits for hours and lets their child whine or cry loudly while they do something self serving?  I'm much more likely to cast death daggers at those parents than the ones that I see trying to help the solution.  (all parents get bonus points for pulling out an iPad because it shows TRUE commitment to keeping your child quiet).

5.  Scissors are not a great toy to let your child pack for the plane.  Frankly, I don't know how you got them past security but it was a stupid idea.  No one wants to sit next to someone chopping up spiral notebook paper and dipping it in water.  Enough said.

6.  God forbid your child is sitting in a middle seat but if they are, YOU get up and let them out to the bathroom.  Do not expect that the person on the other side be your child's exit row.  While you are standing to let them out it's probably best to just accompany them to the bathroom.  Those doors are tricky even for people like me.

7.  Snacks snacks and more snacks.  Did y'all miss that?  Bring as many different types of snacks that you can possibly fit.  Have you ever tasted airline food?  Your child probably won't taste it either.  Be prepared.  (please feel free to include snacks like Benedryl or Nighttime Delsyium.  I'm just saying).  Some of our favorites are Go-Go Squeeze applesauce, goldfish and Pringles.  Sound healthy?  It's not, but it's a novelty and novelties work.

8.  Let your toddler run around in the terminal before boarding the plane so that they don't want to run up and down the aisles during the flight.  Deaner and I take turns following Evans around while he pushes the stroller himself.  It wears him out before a very long period of sitting down.  On our Frankfurt to Atlanta leg Deaner worked up quite a sweat running after Evans, who kept trying to exit the secure area over and over.  An even better idea?  Get a Crown Room/Sky Club pass and enjoy several drinks while watching your child push the stroller around.

9.  While on the plane, do not encourage your child to walk up and down the aisles.  Thankfully Evans was a late walker so I have only had a handful of flights where walking was actually his preferred mode of transportation however, I also don't let him think walking around is an option.  When we head to the bathroom for a diaper change I always carry him because once he figures out he can walk himself, it would be all over.  I put his carry-on toy bag and my own carry-one under his feet so he can't slide out of his seat.  I always sit in the row of two seats so I can block him in against the window.  Long gone are the days of sitting in the bulkhead because there is way too much escaping room in those rows.  If all else failed, I would consider binding his feet.  :)

10.  Lastly, be prepared for the jet lag.  Nothing is worse than dealing with a toddler who is completely off kilter.  Luckily for the way our flights normally work out Evans is ready for a long hard nap as soon as we walk in the door where ever we are.  If you are tired in the least, you better take that opportunity to sleep as well.  Two year olds won't stay in their cribs quietly just to let you catch up on sleep later!  Unpacking can wait.  Specifically it can wait until 2am when you are up playing trains and entertaining a wide awake child.  I allow Evans 2-3 nights of waking up for a midnight play and after that it's tough love and he has to cry it out.  I make sure to wake him up in the mornings at a reasonable early hour, limit nap time to 2 hours, and then extend bedtime by 1 hour.  By night #3, you should be getting somewhat back to normal and seeing more of this.
Traveling with a small child is what it is.  Living overseas the way that we do it is just a part of our way of life that we cannot avoid.  I'd rather spend 10 hours on a plane with a crying child than not get to watch all the Grandparents dote on him for weeks.  December will be here before we know it and it will be time again to face the long flight.  Until then, we are gladly accepting visitors who want to make the long trek to see us!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Whirlwind Tour

I think this picture does a pretty good job of illustrating just how exhausting this current trip to the US has been on all of us.  Somehow three weeks seems to have slipped through my fingers and we are staring down the last three days of our summer vacation.  Without even laying eyes on any of our friends and less than half of our family's.  I am never sure how this happens but I find that the last several days of being here are always filled with anxiety and stress of scurrying to fit everyone in at the last minute.  This summer was particularly difficult for us because we spent and entire week between Lake Rabun and Lake Keowee.  Despite our lack of social time outside of visiting with our family's we have managed to have a blast.  This type of nap, as photographed above, was a pretty normal part of every day.  When I say that we are not used to the Atlanta heat anymore, I'm not exaggerating.  I think it is pretty safe to say that Atlantans themselves aren't used to sultry 107 degree days that we experienced last week and we Deaners, very nearly expired.
It might appear that Evans was taking a nap in this picture but I'm pretty sure that he was just in a heat induced coma.
Here is Evans playing with Uncle Sam and I would just like to direct attention to his flaming red cheeks.
There was a lot of only diaper wearing these past couple weeks and I think that despite Evans' casper like coloring in this picture, the child might actually have a tan line.  Nothing like his cousin Karis but it's a start!  Please also note the welts on E's back.  These did not coming from severe beatings, rather simple mosquito bites which apparently he has never had.  We don't have mosquitos in Germany and his reaction to them wasn't pleasant.  This shot was taken a solid four days after the initial bites.  Right around the time they turned to resembling bruises and making me look suspicious.  There are plenty more pictures and stories to come but we are headed out the door for Night #1 of family farewell dinners.  Stay posted for more stories!