Posts Tagged ‘ travel ’

The Pacifier Is Creating A Terror

Monday, June 16th, 2014

Any parent who has an addict for a child knows the pacifier is like crack. With Fia the crack was also my crutch. It could silence her in crucial moments–like on a 5-hour airplane where no one wants to sit next to a wailing baby. Or occasionally at a restaurant if she was cranky. We didn’t make her get rid of it until she was 3. But she was a rule-follower and knew the only time she could use it was naptime or bedtime, unless I specified otherwise.

Until recently Emmett followed the same protocol. But I could tell he was more attached, or maybe just not as much of a rule follower as Fia. He started to periodically sneak into his room and grab it from the crib and go racing down the hall, looking behind him to see how fast we were on his heels. He laughed and treated it like a game. But the minute we would take it away, he would start to wail. Then hit and throw things.

Then he got a bad cold and I basically let him have it all the time, thinking it was soothing him. Little did I know it was turning him into a beast. When he got better and we went back to the old routine, he would constantly ask for it or try to sneak into his room to get it. When we wouldn’t give in, he began to throw anything he could get his hands on–trains, his sippy cup, a fork, you name it. His pacifier was creating a monster. Still, I was scared to give it up. Looking back, I was just as addicted as he was.

Last week we went on a family vacation to Colorado (crying picture while making a snow-ant). We took the paci on the plane and he was great. But once again, as soon as we landed, he began wailing for it. Every hike we went on or family adventure, he was begging for it, eventually crying and screaming. I know realize this is the point as a parent where you give in all the time because you think it will make your life saner–or, you decide to take charge and set boundaries. We literally watched our funny, sweet boy become a complete terror over the paci. We gave in, thinking it would make it easier. But instead, I think it just made him more headstrong. He became bratty–verging on a nightmare child who was constantly tantruming.

As soon as we landed back home, we put on the Sesame Street episode, Bye Bye Binky. We also cued up the song on YouTube and he watched it over and over. Then we explained that in 3 days we were sending the paci to TT (his grandma) so she could give it to another baby. That’s the same thing we did with Fia. This week, on day 3, we will have him help us wrap it up and take it to the post office to bid farewell. Leading up to day 3, we have only let him have it in his crib.

Just putting up these parameters has already made a huge difference in his personality.  Literally in 36 hours I already feel–and can see–we are getting our boy back. It’s also been incredibly eye opening to realize what a difference it makes when you take back control and set boundaries for your kids. He doesn’t want to be fussy, but a 2 1/2-year old has no impulse control or emotional range to understand how to regulate his moods. The only person who can really regulate them is you: the parent. Basically everything I’ve read about this in regard to 2-year behavior is true: they want, and more importantly, NEED boundaries. Leaving them unregulated or with false threats not only makes your life incredibly difficult and frustrating, but theirs too.

Tomorrow we will happily say bye bye binky and at least until the next curve ball is thrown, have our good boy back.


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Why You Shouldn’t Pack Formula In A Suitcase

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

We went to visit some of Phil’s family last week. In true anal-retentive form, I did all the laundry before I left, taking great care to fold it in the order it would go into the drawers. Do I need to repeat that sentence? Yes, I painstakingly arranged the laundry just-so in the suitcase. In the order of where they go in the dresser drawers.

Phil has his own suitcase. I can’t blame him. In our new house we are going to have a walk in closet and neither of us wants to share with the other for fear of breaking up our marriage.

We arrived home late Friday night, exhausted from a full day of travel with Fia and Emmett. Particularly the latter since he’s a boy. Which means he’s into everything. Sitting still is like being a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay.

Sidenote: I honestly don’t know how the male species has sustained itself. There is no reason any boy should live past 2 with the constant death march they are on. I’m terrified to take my eyes off Emmett these days.

Anywho, we get home late, get the kids to bed, and I open up the suitcase to unpack. A plume of powder hits me. Fine, white, somewhat sticky powder. I’m surprised I didn’t end up on an episode of Locked Up Abroad for transporting cocaine. Then again, we didn’t leave the country. Nor was this cocaine.

The nearly full formula canister I had must have exploded in flight. Either that or the baggage handlers were hungry/thirsty.

Does anyone know how rank that stuff smells? And how hard it is to shake off clothes? Or vacuum out of a suitcase?

I have spent the last 3 days doing 7 loads of laundry and vacuuming and washing out my suitcase. It is now sitting in the sun to bake out the formula smell.

Phil is smirking. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be obsessive and anal…

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Why Are Car Seat Rentals Such Junk?

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

Is it too difficult for rental car companies to provide decent car seats to your kids? Apparently so.

We recently went to New Orleans to visit my Aunt Nancy, known to the tots as “Baba Yaga.” Baba lives on the bayou and is a self-proclaimed woman of the swamp. Naturally we did all the things one would do in swamp setting. We caught a wild turtle…

 …saw wildly huge grasshoppers, went on a wildlife safari, taught Fia how to hold a fishing pole, went on boat rides, and swam in the hot tub.

The biggest challenge was to keep both kids from killing Baba’s birds. She has two lovebirds. They are gay. Peepers is friendly though only has one claw due to a stroke (during a hurricane) that rendered the other one useless. His partner, Peg, is bitter. And mean. He has a peg-leg. I’d probably be bitter too.  Fia was obsessed with holding Peepers. Emmett was obsessed with grabbing Peepers from Fia. Feathers, tears and screams–both from babies and beasts–were a simultaneous occurrence.

In short, it was our normal trip to Louisiana.

Except for the car seats.

Rather than lugging ours, we decided to rent from the car company. We were also flying home late and figured by renting we wouldn’t have to reinstall ours in a dark parking lot with cranky kids upon our return.

But the problem is, despite paying a fee to rent car seats, they are absolute junk. I’ve found this no matter what company we rent from. This time it was Dollar. They had none in their inventory that had the LATCH system. How long has the LATCH system been around? Oh, well, since before 2002. All their rental cars had latches/anchors in them. Just not car seats to go with them. Which leads me to believe their filthy, flimsy car seats are more than a decade old. We kept trading in different ones until we had gone through all 5 of their “inventory.” All were equally horrible, some even missing the straps that hold your kid in. It took us over an hour to install the seats and even then, they weren’t secure.

The thing is, when you call to rent a car and tell them you want car seats, they won’t tell you if they have ones from the Ice Age or up-to-date models. Car companies remain completely vague about what their inventory is and at least every company I called on the phone refuses to commit. I started searching websites.

I came across this one that talks about which car companies offer what. Ironically, it lists Dollar in the top echelon, saying, “Not only does Dollar Rent A Car have car seats and booster seats at all of its locations, but some models of the Dodge Caravans rented there come with built-in child safety seats.” 

Um, sure, they have child seats at all their locations and are happy to charge you for them. But what condition are they in? That is the question.

We travel a decent amount. I need decent car seats. Surely there is a company that does this right.

In the meantime, we flew back from Louisiana, leaving Peg and Peepers–and perhaps a Yak or two–breathing signs of relief.

At the airport, we grabbed our luggage and climbed into our car, grateful that our car seats were already installed but wondering if perhaps it’s worth the hassle to just bring our own next time.

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How Spontaneous Are You With Your Kids?

Thursday, February 21st, 2013


I always thought when you have kids, spontaneity goes out the window. In the beginning it kinda does. But during these early years–before real school gets in the way–I’m finding myself more spontaneous than during my pre-kid/marathon/climbing Kilimanjaro years. Take, for example, last week. We went to Hawaii. On a whim. No sh-t.

Phil got an unexpected window in his schedule last Friday–a whole, glorious week off between scripts. We looked at each other like, “Should we go for it?” I got online and began calling places to stay. With kids, we wanted a house. And I only wanted the Big Island.  It doesn’t rain there. Yes, I was picky and determined. Not an easy combo.

Every booking agent laughed.

“This short of notice? Villas book out 6 months in advance.”

After multiple calls I was about to concede defeat. Then a woman named Anne returned my call.

“I have a house that no one has rented before. The owners weren’t planning on renting it this week, but they are game.”


Then Phil and I took it a step further. We called his parents–Rev and Bev (Rev is a retired Episcopalian priest). They live in Wisconsin. We asked them to come too. It’s a place they’ve always wanted to see. And of course they always want to see the grandkids. They are almost 80-years old. Rev’s back is bad. It’s a 12-hour flight. And though retired, they still have plenty of things on their calendar. Meals-On-Wheels, Tuesday Club, Ash Wednesday, you know the drill.

Phil’s mom, at first, said No Way. His dad said Yes Way. Then apparently Rev said to Bev, “You just aren’t spontaneous.” Well that’s all it took. Spontaneity might not be her thing but stubborn is. And she isn’t about to let Rev “be right.”  She called us back. They were down. Woo hoo!

I called in a sitter and worked for 4 hours on securing a place, renting a car, and booking flights. Travel, planning, and cleaning are my forte. I should have been a cleaning lady-travel agent.

I began doing all the last-minute things you do before you go. Find someone to feed the cat. Throw in laundry. Put paper on hold. Pack. Pack more. Arrange for Cynthia Roelle to write some blog posts. (Thank you, Cindy!)

48-hours later we were on our way to 6 perfect days. We had a house with a pool and the beach in the distance.

This was last week. Now we are back and I’ve realized a few things:

  • When you book last-minute, you have no time to anticipate. Therefore, when your vacation is over, your letdown isn’t as great. I’m not writing this from a pit of post-vacation depression. Just a little blue. But also totally rejuvenated.
  • You become super-efficient in getting ready. And you accept that some things just have to be left undone.
  • It’s hit or miss, but sometimes you can get deals. Flights weren’t bad, we used miles for some, and since the villa wasn’t going to rent out anyway, we got it for slightly less.
  • You have no time to worry about the what-ifs. “What if Emmett gets a cold?”, “What if Fia won’t sleep?”, “What if my father-in-law snores so loud it keeps us all up?”
  • And if you have it, throw money at the problem. Case in point:

I found a company over there that rents everything for kids. It is an amazing idea.  For the week, I got two cribs with bumpers and blankets (taken to house and assembled before we arrived, taken apart when we left), a big tub of toys picked out specifically for Em and Fi, a highchair, beach toys, and a play yard. All for less than $300. I think that’s pretty good, considering.

Needless to say, we had an amazing time. We played in the pool every day…








We went to the beach a handful of times…

We saw whales. And waterfalls. Big and small.

We bought fresh fish from a local market and grilled. We watched Emmett walk…

…and Fia swim (yes, after I declared her swim lessons awash, she suddenly started to “get it.” And enjoy them. So we’re sticking with it for now). I sat outside one morning and read my book.  It was heaven.

Now we are back and I feel refreshed and rested. I’m so glad we seized the moment.  We did the same with our Death Valley adventure in December. So is it possible that kids make you more spontaneous? That they help you to live in the moment, embrace what’s present? I guess if you let them and let yourself. This was a big way to do it, but there are small, everyday ways, too:

Fia wants to take a different route to school so we can go past “the little blue car.” Okay, let’s do it…

We get stir-crazy, but it’s late in the day. We decide last-minute to run to the zoo. Even if we only have time to see the reptiles…

Stuff like this. Of course, if you have a husband who never knows when he can take vacation, you’re kinda forced to live impulsively on a larger scale. I am rarely bored.

I also really give Rev and Bev credit. It seems the older you are, the more stuck in your ways you become. They even took a red-eye home, landed, and went to church, then drove 3 hours home from Chicago. But I know it was worth every minute…

I feel like this way of living must keep me young. I also realize there is a difference in being flexible versus spontaneous. As parents we have to be flexible. You have plans but your kid gets sick. You cancel. But what if spontaneous could be attained by choice rather than necessity. It’s something to think about….

Consistency is good (especially with sleep/sleep training), but throwing it all to the wind isn’t a bad thing either.  It also keeps my spirit free and adventurous. I can tell it rubs off on my tots, too. For me, parenthood–and even life is general–is all about finding that balance.  I definitely think we did last week.

Until next time…Mahalo.

P.S. As a side note: I’d love to hear how spontaneous you are with your kids. Please share!

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Did You Change Your Name When You Had Kids?

Monday, February 4th, 2013

After 13 married years (and many more non-married years) of exclusively being Jill Cordes, I am partially changing my name. I am going to use Phil’s last name for personal travel with my kids.

I have always been proud of my Cordes name. I have more than 90 people in my extended family, 25 of them first cousins. My father came from a long line of ranchers in Western South Dakota. Most of them still ranch there and it is a place I really feel connected to. And somehow my last name is part of that connection.

So why I am changing it? Because I feel like a partial outsider when we travel as a family. My kids and Phil all have the name Johnston. I am the odd-woman out. One time when I was traveling with Fia, we didn’t have seats next to each other at time of booking. So when I got to the gate the agent said, “Shoot. I saw that you weren’t sitting next to each other in the reservation and was about to give you the bulk heads, but then I thought maybe your daughter’s father was also on the plane and she was sitting with him.” Obviously she still managed to find a way for us to sit together, since Fia was only 18 months old, but it was the most concrete example of why I want the same last name. It just feels more cohesive.

However, I have to confess another hesitation in doing this. It’s the vain side of me. I don’t like the way “Jill Johnston” sounds. My initials would be JJ. It feels campy.

I also keep trying to picture myself typing in credit card charges, etc, under Jill Johnston. It just doesn’t feel totally right to me. Basically it doesn’t feel like me. But hyphenating would make it a really long name. I could use Cordes as my middle name, but then I either give up my middle name or have 2 middle names. And since middle names are kind of pointless, why have two of them? Especially one that is a former last name?

For now, I’m only changing the bare minimum for travel. So no one really even needs to know. I will still introduce myself as Jill Cordes.  I’m hoping all my credit cards, etc can just remain as is. I will continue to act like nothing has changed until I hear differently.

Who out there has done this? Are you glad you did? Did you feel hesitant?

It’s a big step, but I’ve sat on the paperwork for a year, and decided it’s time.

I remain, as always on my blog and in my professional life, including mommy-blogger life, yours truly, Jill Cordes/Fearless Feisty Mama.


Name Change pic via Shutterstock


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