August 2011

For a fasting holiday, Ramadan sure has a lot of good food to eat.  I took in this market, and took home dinner, on one of the last days of fast.  Delicious!


We have flown every month of Miles’ life since he was 4 months old.  The notable low points were a redeye to Western Australia when he was 10 months (almost mobile, and very, very tired), and a flight back from Hong Kong at 14 months. Besides the tiny baby sleep-nurse puddle jumps we did early on (weren’t those the days!), our best long haul flight to date is surprisingly the 23 hour leg from Singapore to Houston we did just last month!  I think we might be getting the hang of it! I wanted to document some of the tips and tricks we’ve learned about traveling with a baby or toddler.

Miles' last bassinet flight. He's right at the weight limit, and about 4" too long.

Most of our travel has been by plane, and here are some of the things I find useful:

  • Timing: Mid-morning flights are ideal if you are traveling less than 5 hours; evening/redeye flights are asking for trouble.  If it’s a long haul, its best to start out pretty late, even if baby sleeps a bit before the flight.
  • Board last:  Sure there is a special time for infants and children, but I find the less time sitting idle restricting Miles on my lap, the better.  Split up with your partner if you are worried about overhead bag space.  Pre-takeoff and taxi time is the hardest for him.  I try and be last on the plane if he is up and running around.  Of course, if baby is asleep, get on there and recline your seat for a while.
  • Seats: Big planes almost all have the bassinet in the non-exit bulkhead seats and this is by far the best option on a long haul, the downside being an awkward tray table and potentially awkward TV.  Next best would be any aisle seat.  We learned a trick of booking both a window and an aisle (for a 3-3-3 configuration), with the hopes that the flight will not be completely full and the potential that the middle will be left free.
  • Harnessing: Many of the airlines no longer allow a baby to be in a carrier for take off and landing.  Until he was very mobile, I found keeping Miles in the Ergo while we flew was best for all of us. Also, if you do get a seat and want to use a carseat, double check the seatbelts are not equipped with airbag.  If they are, they will not let you install the seat.
  • Meals: Request specialty meals (we like Cathay Hindu vegetarian!).  These are always ready first and they will hold them if you need it. If you are 2 adults traveling with a baby, get one meal at a time.  I never count on airline food for Miles.  Pick up something to go at the airport or pack lots of snacks that are always on the ready.
  • Baby care: Pack a very small diaper bag to take to the bathroom.  Mine has just 2 diapers, a couple wipes, hand sanitizer and a clean pair of pants.  It’s the size of a big envelope.  Restock from your carry on throughout the flight.  It is so dry on the plane, each time you change baby, put lotion on the face.  Also, get fluids down them any way possible (frequent nursing, juice-spiked water).
  • Parent care: Sleep when the kid sleeps.  Skip meals when you have to, shade your eyes, do anything.  Drink water every time it is offered, grab 2 glasses if you have 2 free hands.  Ask for help.
  • Entertainment:  I have found I can actually get through some movies if I put them on with subtitles.  As for what to entertain a kid with, you have to know your kid.  iPads seem to be universally loved.  Miles is not huge into conventional toys, but loves any kind of junk around the seat or from the meals.  Stacking cups are small to pack and have thousands of uses.  I find a much-loved book to be a bigger hit than anything new.
  • Share the love: And the crying.  I typically get up and walk around (with Miles in the carrier) if he is fussing.  This spreads out the misery with all passengers and I have never failed to have a mom stop me and say “You’re a good mom; I miss those days”
After landing and tearful reunions the fun starts – jetlag.  General Rules:
  • Set expectations: One day for each timezone.  This includes baby and you, especially if you are getting up with them at night.
  • Tummies transition last, allow for eating and drinking at night for at least a few days.  I generally do food 2 nights, 2 more nights of milk/juice, then just do water at wake ups.
  • Get on the regular sleep schedule as soon as possible.  Limit naps, and do what you can to get kids sleeping at night.
  • Use light to your advantage.  Get out in the sun, especially around sunrise (good luck if you traveled west!) and sunset to reset circadian rhythms.  Leave it dark at night, no TV or computers.  Keep it light during the day, even nap with the shades partially open.
  • Back to expectations, as sleep deprived as a traveling momma is, remind yourself it is not the kid’s fault they can’t sleep.  Do your best, it will be over soon.
Age specific tips, based on experience:
  • 6 months (3 naps/day): By far the easiest transition.  Miles was still doing night wakings anyway, it was just a matter of stretching the naps to cover most of the nighttime and sometimes waking him up during the day.
  • 14 months (2 naps/day):  Sticking to the rules above, Miles was sleeping through the night by night 4.  After we returned to Penang, I remember laying on the floor of his room, holding him to sleep.  Not a habit I wanted to get into, but it got him sleeping at the right times.
  • 18 months (1 nap/day): Things get progressively more difficult.  I found that too late of an afternoon nap gets him into a long night sleep feeling and he wakes up grumpy for hours before going back to bed only to sleep a few hours.  I keep everything dark, and have gotten into a bad habit of sleeping with him in the spare room, making the transition to the crib painful.  Its taken more than 4 days this time, but I am relishing in small victories, like sleeping in my bed until 3:30am.
Tips for traveling with 2 kids are pending.  Traveling alone, with Miles and pregnant with #2, I took my own advice and asked for lots of help.  “Lap infant” has a different meaning when your lap is not so much any more.
Any traveling parents out there with sage advice, please comment – we can use all the help we can get!

I was sitting down to lunch and wondering, do other people eat this?  If not, you should.  And so I share this ‘recipe’ with you.  It’s a salad of sorts, or a deconstructed burger with way too many condiments.  It’s also something I look forward to after barbeques, which we had one on Sunday.  We always end up with way too many fixin’s, and possibly a leftover patty or two.  Way this works is to build a salad from the veggies, top with a heated burger and garnish with your typical sauces, mixed into a dressing if you want to get fancy.  Bringing this into work and eating it at lunch on a Monday will make all your colleagues really, really sad the weekend is 5 days away.  Seriously, so good.

I used buffalo slider patties, but its equally good with chicken, veg, fish or anything left from the grill.  And without the bun, you don’t have to feel bad about eating next to a giant pile of oven crisped pregnancy craving purchased very foreign looking frozen spiced curly fries.  Miles preferred to eat ‘mack-tees’.

Hamburger Salad

  • Burger, or two
  • Lettuce
  • Tomato slices
  • Onions, sliced into rings
  • Pickles
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Mayo
  1. Heat your burger in the microwave.
  2. Meanwhile, assemble a beautiful pile of veggies.
  3. Top with heated burger, and dress to taste.

Talking and teething and tantrums, oh my.

  • Talking.  Wow, this month has been all about learning new words and putting them to use.  It’s frustrating at times when presented with just the first little sound of something Miles really wants.  He just repeats and repeats it until finally grabbing our hand and leading us around.  I’d guess he says about 50 intelligible words, and sings about 4 songs.  It’s fun.
  • Teething.  Oh, man.  We waited, and waited.  And now Miles has molars.  All but one of the first set, making our total tooth count to eleven!
  • Tantrums.  We do have a toddler.  One who is nearing two years old.  This month offered glimpses of what is to come.  A breakdown for him starts with some anxious pre-screaming panting, includes plenty of “mama”s and may or may not be accompanied by throwing something and/or swatting.  Fun times to come.
  • Travel anxiety.  For a kid who is on the go a LOT, and who never gets left behind (except this once), Miles has some major travel anxiety.  If he sees a packed suitcase or a travel toiletries case, he refuses to leave my side, let alone sleep.  Tim and I have taken to sneaking around packing, leaving out piles of clothes (that seems completely normal to him for some reason) and pulling out the suitcase in the dead of night, often getting it in the car before he wakes up.  Thirty-nine flights down at this point in his life, and at least he (and I) are getting the hang of airport time and flying.
  • Follow the leader.  Miles loves leading us around, grabbing 0ur hand or pushing from behind.  He will guide our hands to do something.  He likes to follow little instructions and “help” where he can, I even saw him do a little clean up!
  • Baby buck.  The last week of this month, Miles spent almost completely naked.  We’ve been giving him lots of bare butt time to become more aware of his body functions.  The first day was full of accidents, but since then he has been pretty good about waiting until we sit him on the potty or more often put on his diaper for sleep or going out.  Right now it kind of feels like diaper training, but at least he is learning to control when to let it go.
  • In love.  Miles is in love.  Her name is Ada and she lives downstairs.  All day he asks for her, he pretends to call her on the phone.  He looks out the window for her, goes to the door that leads downstairs.  He identified a girl in one of his books who has dark, curly pigtails, and points to her each time we are on that page, “Ada!”.  He watches videos of them playing over and over.  She is currently on home leave, too, in “dur-kees” (Turkey).  She’ll be home next week, and maybe Miles’ broken heart will start to mend.

Miles has 11 teeth, all of which he has teethed in a strange bed.  As if traveling doesn’t lead to enough sleep problems…

Here’s Miles’ dental passport:

  • 1-2: First month in Penang, before it was “home”.
  • 3-4: Camping in Western Australia.
  • 5-6: Home leave, Austin, after it was no longer “home”
  • 7: Borneo
  • 8: Home leave, Austin.
  • 9-10: Michigan.
  • 11: Penang, hours after landing and in the thick of jetlag.
That last molar wants to come out.  Just give it a week, Miles.  We’ll be on the road again.

Miles and I unexpectedly joined the flight of expat wives westward last month to spend 4 weeks on a US tour.  Due to last minute booking, we ended up on a flight from Singapore to Houston (via Moscow) with a flight time of 23 hours 5 minutes.  Added to the connections and short flights on either end of that, and we arrived in Austin after a surprisingly pleasant 38 hours travel time.

It was great to reunite with Tim, and for a moment to feel the hairdryer-blast of 105 degree heat that came along with stepping off into our homeland.  During our 2.5 weeks in Austin, we caught up with friends and sisters, met new additions to some of our favorite families, ate Mexican and burgers, drank hoppy beers (all of us, some much more than others), went to the pools and splash pads, lake trails, farmers markets, and natural grocers we had missed.  We built in a bit of down time (I had one rough pregnancy week in there), and overall had a great time.

Then it was time to part ways with Tim again, as he needed to go back to Penang.  Miles and I flew north to see my family in Michigan and were greeted with lush, green, cool summer.  They had had a good bit of rain this spring/summer and the contrast to drought-stricken Austin was pretty astonishing.  We enjoyed what I was told was the best week of weather in MI this summer: mid to upper 70s, days of clear blue skies, evening rains and a lovely breeze to tie it all together. We first headed to the cottage, where Miles enjoyed the lake, but not so much the boat.  We saw grandparents and cousins, second cousins and neighbors, and I was reminded once again of the virtues of midwesterners.  We ate well, in a fortifying meat and potatoes kind of way, and at one point I found a cider mill (open! in August!) where I snagged a half dozen cinnamon sugar doughnuts that I all but hoarded for myself.  We ate berries by the bucketful, had tree-ripe peaches and the last of the rhubarb crop.  Back in Detroit, we met up with mom’s side of the family, more grandparents and cousins.  The best part for me was watching Miles bond with his grandparents (things with the dog fell off after a few days when the dog realized this little man would never go away or back down).  I loved seeing Miles search for fish with my mom and take my dad’s hand to show him around the playground.  My dad gave me a great gift one day when I wasn’t feeling too great and let me sleep while he took Miles for a walk then put him down for a nap – go grandpa!

We finished off whirlwind-style with a quick jet over to Chicago for some dear friends’ wedding (with reception at the zoo!).  We had a free day on Sunday before our evening flight to Penang, and I contacted some cousins whom I hadn’t seen in 15 years but have kept up with through blogs &  facebook.  Serendipitously, it was the day of their 2 month old’s baptism, and I got another family reunion out of the deal, making this short stay in the midwest the most I have caught up with family in literally decades!

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Back on to Penang, and we were ready to be ‘home’  (referring to Malaysia).  Our next scheduled trip out of the GMT +08 time zone will be in March, where we will introduce our expanding family (we plan to travel with a 10 week old!) to our expanding family (we’ll be gaining a couple Wilemans!).

Before pancake morning, there was waffle morning.  And before there was waffle morning, there was Saturday dad’s Belguim waffles loaded up with butter, berries and whipped cream sprayed into a tall mound from a can.  And before that, there was Grandpa’s thin and crispies, baked table-side with an old fashioned egg timer ticking down the 3 minutes until the next was ready to be devoured.  I come from a long line of wafflers, and its only with the lack of 220V waffle iron that we switched to those disk-like substitutes.  A recent trip back to Austin rekindled our old tradition.

Dad and Grandpa use the same Betty Crocker 1950s recipe, but I broke the mold with this heartier version.  I carried over many of their tricks – whipping the egg whites before folding them in at the last minute, checking for the instant when the steam over the iron dissipates to let you know when they are good and crispy done.  I picked up a few tricks of my own along the way – tenting the finished waffles to maintain the crisp edges, making enough to ensure leftovers for the rest of the week (toast them).  I use a Belguim style waffle iron (not by choice, but it seems to be the popular option these days, and this was the only option at Goodwill when I needed one, for $6), and two of these, one classic with butter and syrup, the other a nod to my dad with yogurt and fruit, completely fill me up.

Pecan Whole Wheat Waffles (adapted from Eating for Pregnancy*)

  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 6 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
  1. In large bowl, whisk together flours, powder, sugar and salt.
  2. In a measuring cup, whisk together milk and egg yolks.  Whisk into the flour mixture.  When almost completely combined, add butter and whisk until smooth.
  3. Heat waffle iron while batter rests.
  4. In a small bowl, beat egg whites until fluffy.  Right before you are ready to start making waffles, fold the egg whites and pecans into the batter using a rubber spatula.  Combine completely, but make sure you don’t mix out all the air you added in the extra step of beating the whites.
  5. Fill waffle iron adequately (mine takes 3/8 cup batter for each waffle – 3/4 cup for the iron).  For those you will eat immediately, cook them completely.  If you know they are going to be leftover, leave them slightly less done.  You can store them for a day or two in a plastic bag in the fridge, or put them in the freezer for your personal Eggos.
  6. Serve immediately from the iron, and top with delicious things like berries, coulis, yogurt, salted butter, REAL maple syrup, almond butter, bananas, more pecans, or even whipped cream from a can.
* Plenty of non-pregnant friends and family have enjoyed these waffles without immediately morphing to a pregnant state (although if you eat too many, maybe you can call it a baby bump?).  The book just tells you how to make good, wholesome food while you are pregnant, and has nothing to do with eating to get knocked up.  Just in case you were worried.

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