Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Traveling with baby, Part 2 

We're taking a bunch of trips with the baby in the next several months. Lots of discussions come up around whether to buy a seat, pay more to fly nonstop, and what equipment to bring. Here are my thoughts:

Seat or no seat - There are several factors to consider when deciding whether or not to get a seat. First, how crowded the flight is makes all the difference. If the plane isn't sold out, then you have a high likelihood that you can get an empty seat next to you, and you would get the extra seat without paying for it. But if the plane is sold out, it is a pain to manage an infant in a tight economy space. How much pain depends on the age, temperament and activity level of the baby. If he is still in the blob phase, then he won't care if he's sitting in one place. When the seat belt signs are off, you can walk him around. But once they are somewhat mobile - crawling, cruising, etc. or have active temperaments, it is a real challenge keeping them content in one confined space. You have to bring lots of "ammo" to prevent boredom! Finally, you have to consider the baby's nap schedule and the timing of the flight. If you want him to sleep sometime during the flight, think about whether you and him will be comfortable if he is napping for 1+ hour on your lap. If they are smaller, they will fit better in an economy seat and could probably sleep anywhere. The bigger they get, the more the extra space will aid in the comfort and ability to sleep. Keep in mind that if they sleep well, they will be happier and more patient for the flight. If they don't sleep well or at all, they will get CRANKY. And of course given all this, you have to decide whether saving the $ is worth all this or not.

As far as safe, of course it is safer for a baby to sit in his car seat with a seatbelt on than in your arms on your lap. But the likelihood that there will be such strong turbulence or an accident is low. Many people fly with lapped babies and it was fine. Note that there is no guarantee that you'll be able to use your carseat unless you buy a seat for him. If you don't buy a seat, and you bring your carseat hoping that you'll get an empty one next to you but don't, you'll have to check in your carseat.

Nonstop v. onestop - depends on your tolerance for having to manage 2 takeoffs and landings, dealing with the baby's sleep schedule or boredom, and gambling on how crowded *two* flights will be. Takeoffs and landings are usually OK if you breastfeed or have them suck on something like a pacifier. Again, you have to weigh the potential pain-in-the-ass vs. $ savings and see if it is worth it for you.

Car seat - depends on where you're going. Some countries don't require car seats in cars, so depends if you're comfortable driving around with baby on lap. If you rent a car, some companies rent car seats. Depends on whether you trust their seats or not. Plus since the baby is going to be faced with lots of unfamilar things, it might be nice to have at least his familar car seat. If you're not renting a car, I'd say bring only if you plan to use it on the plane. You can check it at the gate if it turns out you can't use it on the plane.

Stroller - it was helpful to have somewhere to put Isabella safely when we were at the airport, checking in hotel, etc. That said, depending on where you go, you may not need it and it's more a nice to have. Once we got to Puerto Vallarta we did not use it. We carried her in the Bjorn or in our arms. Think about how conducive your destination's streets and areas are to a stroller. You can check this in at the gate so it's not part of your luggage allowance.

Pack and Play - if your hotel provides one and you feel comfortable with its quality, don't need to bring. If you bring one, it'd be part of your luggage allowance.

Here are Rich's strategies of how to best finagle an empty seat next to you on the plane:

1) Buy a seat (typically at 30% off adult price) -- For Puerto Vallarta we had a bad 4-hr flight where the strategies below failed, and we just said "OK, no more of this." Also, if you do this you can bring the car seat on board (must be FAA approved, check with your carrier on policies) and have the kid sit in it. May be a plus if he wants a familiar seat to sleep in.

2) Book the adults in the Window + Aisle, hope that the middle seat goes empty. -- On a typical narrowbody with a 3+3 seating, this means you should book A+C or D+F (use If the plane is less than full and the middle seat goes empty, you've lucked out and gotten 3 seats for the price of two. If the flight is full, the stranger assigned to the middle seat will (probably) be very happy to trade you for the aisle seat. This worked out well for us on a few flight segments. Until the bad flight coming back from Mexico -- kid got to be a handful and that was when we had the bulkhead.

3) Plan to lap the baby from the start. Lots of people do this, and I once saw someone lap a baby all the way SFO -> Tokyo. But I can't recommend it.

Here is one forum where you can post your travel questions to.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Use broad spectrum sunscreen 

Sun is the root of all evil to your skin. Instead of throwing all your money into creams, apply some broad spectrum sunblock 30 minutes before going outside and wear a hat. Broad spectrum sunblock protects from UVA and UVB rays, and can ONLY be found in those with ingredients avobenzene (Parsol 1789), zinc oxide, titanium oxide, meroxyl (not available in U.S.), or hydroxyphenyl triazine (new UVA absorber still going through FDA approval). Any sunscreen that claims to protect again UVA/UVB rays but doesn't include any of the above ingredients is *NOT* giving you the best broad spectrum protection. Ideal is a sunscreen that includes Vitamin A, since it is an antioxident that reverses UV effects. (If you want to learn more, just pick my brain - I learned tons about this topic from researching a new Almay sunblock line.)

Bottom line - you will find healthier skin on those people who use broad spectrum sunscreen, drank at least 8 glasses of water per day, and ate more vegetables, fruit and fish.

I read an article that suggested eating the following foods to promote healthy skin:

Eat more essential fats and reduce saturated fats. Stock up on good mono unsaturated fats (extra virgin or cold pressed olive oil, olives and avocados).

Protein builds collagen which gives skin resilience and elasticity. Coldwater fish (wild salmon, herring, bass, trout, snapper) contain important Omega 3 fatty acids, also found in flaxseed.

Antioxidants work wonders on skin. Eat more berries (blueberries, strawberries, blackberries), tomatoes (cooked even better), cooked carrots, and tea (green, black or white).

For babies, buy sunscreens with the best sunscreen ingredients. It doesn't matter if you use a physical block (titanium dioxide or zinc oxide) or a chemical block (avobenzone) as long as you use something. Waterbabies and a number of other sunscreens marketed specifically for babies don't have the 3 best sunscreen ingredients. Instead, its main ingredient, oxybenzone, can actually aggravate free radical stress.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

I finally feel relaxed 

After more than 1 1/2 years of feeling stressed and overwhelmed over breastfeeding the baby, her extreme clinginess and sensitivity, her crying from being separated from me, my mountain of household chores and errands, etc. I can honestly say that I finally feel relaxed. I don't know if this is related to Isabella starting a third day at school, or if her beginning to communicate is making things less frustrating for me. But I finally feel like I can relax and breathe. I feel at peace. And it's a good thing, a very very good thing.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Be prepared. 

Hurricane Katrina victims need MAJOR HELP. Donate here.

This disaster reminds you how important an emergency supply is, especially here in earthquake country. Ready America has good recommendations of how to prepare. Here are the basics:

- Water, one gallon of water per person per day, for drinking and sanitation
- Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
- Battery-powered radio and extra batteries
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- First Aid kit
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust mask or cotton t-shirt, to help filter the air
- Moist towelettes for sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
- Unique family needs, such as daily prescription medications, infant formula or diapers, and important family documents
- Garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation

From FEMA, on earthquake preparedness:

Before an Earthquake
- Repair defective electrical wiring, leaky gas lines, and inflexible utility connections. Get appropriate professional help. Do not work with gas or electrical lines yourself.
- Bolt down and secure to the wall studs your water heater, refrigerator, furnace, and gas appliances. If recommended by your gas company, have an automatic gas shut-off valve installed that is triggered by strong vibrations.
- Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves. Fasten shelves, mirrors, and large picture frames to walls. Brace high and top-heavy objects.
- Store bottled foods, glass, china, and other breakables on low shelves or in cabinets that fasten shut.
- Anchor overhead lighting fixtures.
- Be sure the residence is firmly anchored to its foundation.
- Install flexible pipe fittings to avoid gas or water leaks. Flexible fittings are more resistant to breakage.
- Locate safe spots in each room under a sturdy table or against an inside wall.
- Reinforce this information by moving to these places during each drill.
- Hold earthquake drills with your family members: Drop, cover, and hold on!

During an Earthquake
Minimize your movements during an earthquake to a few steps to a nearby safe place. Stay indoors until the shaking has stopped and you are sure exiting is safe.

If you are Indoors:

Take cover under a sturdy desk, table, or bench or against an inside wall, and hold on. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.

Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.

Stay in bed - if you are there when the earthquake strikes - hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe place.

Use a doorway for shelter only if it is in close proximity to you and if you know it is a strongly supported, loadbearing doorway.

Stay inside until shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Most injuries during earthquakes occur when people are hit by falling objects when entering into or exiting from buildings.

Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.

DO NOT use the elevators.

If you are Outdoors

Stay there.

Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.

In a moving vehicle Stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires.

Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped, watching for road and bridge damage.

If you are Trapped under debris

Do not light a match.· Do not move about or kick up dust.

Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.

Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available.

Shout only as a last resort - shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.

After an Earthquake
- Be prepared for aftershocks. These secondary shockwaves are usually less violent than the main quake but can be strong enough to do additional damage to weakened structures.
- Open cabinets cautiously. Beware of objects that can fall off shelves.
- Stay away from damaged areas unless your assistance has been specifically requested by police, fire, or relief organizations.
- Be aware of possible tsunamis if you live in coastal areas. These are also known as seismic sea waves (mistakenly called “tidal waves”). When local authorities issue a tsunami warning, assume that a series of dangerous waves is on the way. Stay away from the beach.

Info on emergency starter kits:

The Red Cross has a great starter kit that were sold at Safeway for a while
but are available from the Red Cross on-line store. The link for the store is at the very bottom of the page

Another idea is to supplement this with items from REI or similar backpacking/travel store.

-small hand held water purification device (these you can find lots of rating on) and container
to hold the results, like the First Need Deluxe Water Purifier and Nalgene Bottles

-food you like to eat and can rotate through (like Clif bars, nuts, etc.) Don't forget the
can opener, like the OXO Good Grips Smooth Edge Can Opener

A nice thing to have are little hand wash packets by basis available from They are individually wrapped so they're refreshing facial cleansing clothes - they are like a mini-shower.

Everyone has their own strategies - but Red Cross give you a great checklist in their starter kit and remember ...get stuff you really use and food you enjoy eating. What would make life survivable and easier for you and your family? Make sure you have ziplock bags to put these items into. Let them breathe for now.

Friday, September 02, 2005

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye 

We said goodbye to Georg today, our city parking friendly 4 door family oriented VW Golf. With our zero population growth, our car count is back down to 5.