Thursday, November 12, 2015

7 Books that make Perfect Souvenirs

Books, Books, Everywhere

When I went to Boston, I found myself picking up books everywhere--one on John Quincy Adams after going on the John Adams house tour, one on Judge Sewall after seeing the famous mural in the state capital.  I even read Make Way for Ducklings to my children before visiting the statues in Boston Common.  I realized I was grabbing books from the library about the Revolutionary War, the Pilgrims at Plymouth, and the War of 1812 (thanks to a trip to the USS Constitution) for my children at different age levels.

Wait. . .I'd done this before?

When I got home, I realized that this was not the first time I had bought books from different places on different vacation.  Books made perfect souvenirs and enhanced the experience of the vacation.  Most of the books were educational (often science or history based) or historic fiction, but a few were just plain fun.  And for my toddler aged children, the books were powerful memory makers as I would read to them and say "remember when. . ."

Top 7 List

1--Good Night Boston--this series includes many major cities like New York and Washington DC as well as more generic destinations like the beach. This is my favorite "remember when we saw..." books to read to my toddlers.

2--Magic Treehouse--This series has a book for just about every destination including Earthquake in the Early Morning (San Francisco); Buffalo Before Breakfast (Native Americans); Civil War on Sunday including Clara Barton; Revolutionary War on Wednesday: Twister on Tuesday (Westward Expansion); Thanksgiving on Thursday; High Tide in Hawaii; A Good Night For Ghosts (New Orleans) just to name a few.  In addition to the fiction series, they also offer companion books that teach the history including Abraham Lincoln, the American Revolution, and Colonial Life of the Pilgrims.

3--The American Girls Felicity Series and A Haunting in Williamsburg by Lou Kassem--When visiting the historic triangle area of Virginia, these books enhance the experience and make a historic site a virtual playground.

4--Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth Speare and The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox. If you are bringing middle schoolers on your vacation, these Newbery Award books provide a teens view into colonial life including the dangers and hardships of life.

5--Capital Mysteries--If you are visiting Washington DC, these mystery books can add a dash of excitement and silly for kids around age 7. But beware, these are whacky and adventurous plot lines, not award winning literature.

6--Curious George and the Hot Air Balloon--In this classic book, Curious George inadvertently flies over Mt. Rushmore. For a family with younger kids, this is a must pick up souvenir when visiting the famous monument.

7--Wonders of America Series--From the Grand Canyon to Niagara Falls and everything in between this series offers a book on dozens of famous sights at a beginning reading level. Geared for ages 4-6, these book give the educational background easy enough for a preschooler to understand. You can pick up a book before you go to prepare your child or afterward to preserve the memory. These are the preschool version of the Good Night books featured earlier in this post.

To Deepen and Remember

Books can deepen the experience of many vacation destinations and help preserve memories. They can help kids prepare for a destination. They can be educational. They can add a bit of whimsy or mystery to the vacation. And they can provide a memory to be shared every time they read that book again including to their own kids decades from now.

My list includes books we read on our cross country trip. What books would you recommend?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Cleft Baby at Disneyland--7 Steps to a Happy Baby Disney Vacation

Taking a 7-month-old baby to Disneyland requires extra planning and at least a little bit of an adventurous spirit. Taking that same baby with a cleft palate requires a lot of extra planning and gutsy parents (bordering on daredevil recklessness). But with an extended family vacation planned for over a year, we didn't have a choice but to pack up and make it work. And we are so GLAD we did. Here are 7 tips that made our Disney vacation with baby so much easier:

1--The Shows Are Equal to the Rides--this is true whether you have a baby or not. Planning on a few shows and street performances not only gives you a break from the rides but allows you access to Disney quality productions. We watched the electrical parade (thanks for blowing a kiss our way, Elsa), the fireworks, World of Color at DCA (my boys went crazy when BB8 came on), and my favorite, Aladdin. The Genie was a stand up comedian with zingy one liners that even my teens were quoting all week. Add to that the incredible costuming and special effects and we just saw a performance equal to the price of admission. The theater was air conditioned (did I mention it was 95 when we went) and gave everyone a much needed break in the day.

2--Pumping in the Park--in previous blog posts I've mentioned breastfeeding throughout the parks (its not hard). But with my cleft affected baby, I exclusively pump. I found trying to find an outlet when it was pumping time to be difficult (probably because I was chasing toddlers). My backpack pump has a battery operated adapter, which was a life saver. That meant I could pump in the middle of a playground (we love Redwood Creek Challenge and Goofy's house) or even when standing in line. The 10 minute wait to get into the park became a prime pumping opportunity. I just recommend wearing your easiest pumping shirts. For those a little more timid, both parks have amazing child care facilities where you can pump or feed baby including an assortment of baby food and formulas for sale. I did pump at DCA's baby center while my kids indulged with Dad at Ghiradelli's. It was kind of a win-win.

3--Cover those Ears--many of the rides are too loud for baby. We just put our hands over baby's ears and let her enjoy the moving parts at half the volume. Parents with sensitive toddlers might want to consider bringing ear plugs.

4--Bring a Sling and a Stroller--Disney without a stroller isn't adventurous, its just plain crazy. But in addition to a stroller, a good baby carrier can make life much easier. Strollers don't go in lines and baby may want to be held from time to time (they are funny like that). With younger babies, I use a bjorn but I've heard positives about lots of wraps. For a 5+ month baby, I use a seven sling ( It folds into my diaper bag and costs around $12 with a coupon code. My baby probably averaged 6-7 hours in the sling. The sling also kept me be hands free.

5--Lower Your Expectations--Disneyland is suppose to be the happiest place on earth but based on some people's faces, they need to add xanax into the drinking fountains. The problem is unrealistic expectations. We managed not only to have near record heat, but also near record crowds for a late September Wednesday. On a day the park should have been empty, it was packed and humid hot. It was so busy, Disney extended park hours (I didn't know they would even do that). Did this ruin our vacation--of course, not. We had a general plan and changed it up as necessary. With a baby in tow (and we had 3 kids age 4 and under), you have to be flexible and not try to see and do everything in one trip. Relax, enjoy it. Go on a few rides, watch a few shows, take a break and come back or sit at a playground.

6--Extra Outfit--With any baby this is a possibility, but our little cleft cutie has a way of spitting food out her nose. Between that and the unpredictable diaper region, an extra onesie (or two) in the diaper bag is just common sense.

7--Shade Oriented--Whether it is hot or not, Disney is almost always sunny and younger babies can't wear sunblock. I found myself constantly positioning baby to be in the shade (fortunately plenty of shade abounds). This included where I parked my stroller and how I stood in line. Some babies do great in a hat (mine yanks one off and screams). And don't forget to watch for little toes that stick out of baby carriers and strollers--those little piggies could get sunburn. With a good afternoon nap, we were able to stay up late (who wants to miss fireworks anyway) knowing baby was safe with the sun already set.

Do you have any baby tips?