Monday, December 3, 2012

How I Survived a 16-hour Flight with 4-Month Old: 5 Tips I used, 5 I'm Glad I Didn't Have To

After much anxiety, I arrived in Sydney yesterday after a 16-hour flight alone with my 4-month old. In preparation for the journey, I talked to my sister and several friends, and consulted a few websites of seasoned baby/toddler travelers ( and Since many new parents have anxiety over flying with babies for the first time, I wanted to share some of the tips I got that helped me get through it!

5 tips that I'm glad I used:

1. Request the Basinette and/or Extra Seat
There are limited number of basinette seats on airplanes, and they are first-come-first-serve (you must call the airline directly and request this in advance). These are only available for babies that cannot yet sit up on their own (my baby qualified) - but be warned that they are very narrow and quite short (for my 4-month old that is in the 85th percentile in height, he practically touched end-to-end). Also, the official Ministry of Transport rule is that babies cannot be in the basinette whenever the seatbelt sign is on (ie: when there's turbulence). So if you have strict flight attendants, they may force you to take your baby out (yes - painful if the baby is sleeping!!). But all that considered, it was definitely useful in helping me and Little Dave both get some sleep.

In addition to the basinette, I also got an extra seat next to me. If you ask, the gate attendants will often help re-arrange seating so you have this. In my situation, I lucked out by having an extra seat to the other side of my seatmate and asked her to move over so I had extra room. It came in handy when I had to deal with the baby while they were serving meals, or mix up some formula while Little Dave was on my lap.

2. Babies Suck
Babies can't pop their ears on their own, so the best thing you can do is help them suck - on anything, whether breast-feeding, bottle feeding, or sucking on a soother. Little Dave did well on the take-off, but the descent was the worst part of the flight for us. He wasn't hungry, nor was he very interested in taking the soother, so I had to try to "force" him his soother, but he was still pretty cranky. Nevertheless, people tell me that ear popping can be the biggest challenge and the biggest source of a screaming/crying baby on a flight, so I did everything I could to help.

3. Extra! Extra! Formula and Diapers
I brought extra bottled water and extra formula just in case we were delayed or we needed extra feeding. He didn't need extra feeding, but the extra water came in handy as I realized I had to wash the bottles after feeding (since my flight was long and I needed to reuse the 2 bottles I brought) and the water in the washrooms on planes are not ideal for using with a baby.

At the last minute, a few people told me to bring extra diapers because babies poo on planes more than normal. Not sure why, but sure enough Little Dave did have to have more diaper changes than normal so having more diapers than you think is key. Another tip - bring diaper/nappy sacks for throwing away each dirty diaper as no one likes a smelly washroom on a flight!

4. Keeping Baby Entertained
When Little Dave was awake on the flight, I had to keep him entertained. Walking up and down the aisles may not always be an option if you're on a turbulent flight like mine and the seatbelt sign is on. I brought 2 books, a few toys, and my iPad to keep him entertained. I pre-loaded my iPad with nursery rhyme and Baby Einstein videos that I downloaded from YouTube with an iPad app called Video Downloader (Lite version is free). Even if you don't want to turn the volume on high, the visuals will keep him sitting still for awhile and you can sign along to baby softly.

5. Baby carrier or Stroller or Both?
Most people would advise you to use or at least bring a baby carrier (Bjorn or ergo). I didn't actually use the bjorn while on the flight, but used it to load and unload the plane, which is key if you are alone and also have a couple of carry-on bags. So definitely bring one of these on board.

For stroller. I had different advice from different people. Most people recommend using an umbrella stroller on travels as they are lighter and easier to carry. However, if your baby is younger than 6-months, like mine, than it's not really an option and you may want one that lays back more for naps on-the-go. So I chose to bring my full Uppababy Vista stroller with me, and opted for gettting it Gate Checked rather than Counter-Checked. Some people will advise the opposite and tell you to just use a Bjorn from check-in to the plane. But since my flight was at 11:45pm, I wanted to keep Little Dave sleeping as long as I could through the airport before we boarded since I knew he'd be cranky if I didn't (since we woke him from his usual 7pm bedtime). Air Canada allowed me to Gate Check the stroller, which meant that I could keep him in it alseep from the time we got out of the car through to the moment we stepped on the plane. The other big thing is that Gate-checking means less risk to stroller damage than Counter-checking. Going through Security this time, they actually let me keep Little Dave asleep in the stroller, which was NOT the case on our last flight (Van-Edmonton and return), so my guess is that it's hit-or-miss so you can't always count on that level of ease at Security (for many, getting through Security alone with a baby is one of the biggest headaches about airport travel).

5 other tips I received, but glad I didn't have to put them to use for this flight... But will keep them in mind for my next flight (returning home)!

1. Ear plugs for travelmates
In case of baby that screams/cries the entire flight (which I have heard of, usually if they can't pop their own ears at take-off), my friend Sarah suggested that I bring two dozen pairs of earplugs. I had them handy in my purse in case I needed to hand them out (especially during the portion of the flight when most passengers are sleeping), but thank goodness I didn't have to!

2. Extra clothes for Baby and Mom
In case of extra spit-up, leaky diapers, etc... I had on hand 2 extra sleepers for Little Dave and extra shirts for myself. Again, thank goodness I didn't have to use these for this flight.

3. Baby Tylenol for Baby's Ears
If you can't pop baby's ears, my friend who is a pediatrician, suggested having Baby Tylenol on hand to help ease the pain. I had it with me, but didn't end up using it.

4. Baby B'Air Flight Vest suggested this item on their "Top 10 Items to Make Travel with Baby Easy and Fun" list. After alot of research, I had some doubts about it, but since it's only $23, I decided to go for it and have it on hand just in case I needed it. I didn't have to use it at all, but I think this is mainly because I had the basinette AND the extra seat beside me. If I had neither, I can see this coming in handy.

5. Making Baby Sleep
For this one, it's not so much that I'm glad I didn't have to use it, but unfortunately one thing that didn't happen for me. Some people told me that their babies sleep alot on flights. Little Dave slept about 8.5 hours out of our 16 hour journey. That's not as much as I hoped he would, but not as bad as it could've been I guess. The hum of the plane didn't help him sleep as I thought it would.... after the first 7 hour sleep (from about midnight to 7am local time), he only took 30-minute catnaps after that, which is shorter than he would normally nap at home. It may have been that the basinette is so narrow that he hit the sides with his hands/arms? Not sure exactly, but don't necessarily count on your child sleeping throughout a flight, or sleeping more than he/she normally would during that 16-hour period if you were at home.

So after all this, was it worth it? Absolutely. I want to continue to travel and have Little Dave fit into our travel plans, so will continue to fly with him as much as I can!

Friday, November 9, 2012

5 Keys to Getting a 12-Week Old to Sleep 12 Hours Through the Night

My baby (Little Dave) is now just over 3 months old, and when I tell other parents of small children that he sleeps 12 hours through the night, many are surprised. Some of it may be luck, but I like to think that some of it is also because of the schedule and sleep program we followed. Here are 5 things we did that I believe were key:

1. Start early.
We start sleep scheduling at 3 weeks old. We scheduled for day and night, but focused first on the night time sleep. Some will argue that you can't start that early. We did and Little Dave took to the schedule and is now used to it (especially his night schedule), but most importantly he started sleeping 7pm-7am at 12 weeks, so I would argue that you CAN start early. And in fact, why not start early instead of suffering through sleep deprivation for longer, if you can get it more manageable early on?

2. My husband calls it being dead-beat parents. I call it Cry it Out.
Joking aside, this can be tough. But we committed to it and started at about 5-6 weeks old, maybe earlier. It's a little hazy. We started with letting him cry for 5-6 minutes at his 7pm bedtime and see if he would stop and fall asleep. A couple of weeks later, we had to let him cry a little more some nights... sometimes up to 20 minutes (not straight, but on and off). If he was ever wailing hard (at any time), we would go to him, settle him, and help him go to sleep. But often times, it was 20 minutes of whimpering, fussing, or on-and-off crying.

He is now able to soothe himself, and go to sleep on his own (most of the times*). And if he does wake in the middle of the night, can put himself back to sleep without parental help.

* When I say "most of the time": he goes to sleep on his own without crying for his 7pm bedtime. For naps, last week he started unassisted sleeping and was successful for several days. Then we traveled and we are out of his comfort zone (home) so he went back to struggling/crying for his naps the first few days of our trip. We have been in our hotel for a week, and has fallen asleep on his own for naps for 2 days now. Hopefully it will go back to the unassisted sleeping regularly when we get back home!

3. Same shit every night: Establish consistent night bed time and routine.
7pm became our standard baby bed time by around 3 weeks old. Our routine starts at 6pm: nudie time (to dry out bum!) for about 15 minutes, bath time (every other day with soap), moisturize and massage (some nights more time spent on this than others), feed, lullaby, then in bed around 7pm. Some nights may be a few minutes off, and we are OK with that.

Even if we were at someone else's house for dinner (family or friends), we would at least do a little mini bath in the sink and put him to bed, and it worked. On nights where we are out at a party or dinner (which has only happened 3 times), we wouldn't be able to bathe him, but his internal clock had developed and he would fall asleep on his own right around 7pm.

4. Transitioning to Longer Night Sleeps with 5am Half-Feeds and Soothing
When he started extending from 11pm (after late-night feed/dream feed) to 5am, I started doing a half-feed at 5am. He would then go back to sleep right away and wake again to start his morning at 7am. After 2 nights (or early mornings) of 5am half-feeds, we tried just soothing him to go back to sleep at 5am (making sure first that he wasn't actually starving). This worked and within a few days he was soothing himself if he did wake at 4 or 5am, and go back to sleep on his own.

Now, he still may wake at 4 or 5am, but doesn't cry. In fact, he sometimes wakes now  at 6 or 6:30am but doesn't cry. He snoozes for a bit and/or waits in his crib until we come get him around 7am or later.

5. Do not use fall-asleep dependencies
We use Baby Whisperer and BabyWise's "Eat, Activity, Sleep" routine for every cycle during the day. This helped Little Dave NOT rely on eating (breast-feeding nor bottle) in order to fall asleep. He also does not rely on music, mobiles, rocking, walking, or soother in order to fall asleep - especially for his 7pm. Yes, we sometimes have to use rocking or walking to fall asleep for naps, but we really tried for unassisted/independent sleeping for his 7pm sleep very early on. Again, I think this helps him fall back asleep on his own easily if he does wake in the middle of the night.

So how did we start all this? Three main books we followed: Baby Whisperer, BabyWise, and The Contented Baby. We liked and disliked some things from each author, so we didn't blindly follow each one, but rather used a combination of things from each that fit us. Most of the concepts above fall in line with the theories in these 3 books. In addition to the books, there are other helpful online resources, such as: Baby Whisperer Forums (if you want things like specific tactics on implementing the "EASY" schedule), My Baby Sleep Guide (a woman who's obsessed with baby sleeping more than me, who has read or tried a lot of different theories).

For any parent out there suffering from baby-related sleep deprivation, I encourage you to try these tips and read more in some of the books above!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

5 Signs the 24 Producers Loved the 80's

If you're a fan of 24, this will make sense to you. (If not, you'll think the rest of us are obsessive and crazy). After two years of madly trying to catch up to 24, I'm finally on Season 7, and hoping to finish it before Season 8 starts airing in January. The casting decisions have been interesting to watch, and in particular, Dave and I have loved the comings and goings of several 80's actors.

Someone behind 24 must have loved the 1980's, and given these actors roles on 24 as a shout-out! I love seeing them on the show now, even though it makes me feel old and sad for them because they are all clearly past their prime. Alas, much like their careers, their stints on 24 are short-lived:

1. Sean Astin
When he showed up as Lynn McGill for half of Season 5 before dying in the nerve gas attack, all I could think of was Samwise Gangee and his big hairy feet. Even though I loved him in the 80's in the pre-pudgy days, as Mikey in the Goonies, I didn't like this casting. How could this short, lispy man be running CTU?

2. Ricky Schroeder
Great casting, but WTF happened to his face? Silver Spoons was great as Agent Mike Doyle in Season 6, but instead of rolling him off onto a stretcher with his eyes blown out, they should've just killed him.

3. C. Thomas Howell
Hardly recognizable as Kim Bauer's creepy psychologist-slash-boyfriend Barry, he shows up for 2 episodes in Season 5. Lookin' a little rough, this was a bit part (hardly spoke!) for an actor that I will always regard as Ponyboy, and "stay gold" he did not. As well, this casting must have been some sort of favor, because this guy is the same age as Kiefer Sutherland and way too old to be Kim's boyfriend.

4. Chad Lowe
Looking the best out of all of these 80's actors, he has maintained some youth while living in the shadow of his brother Rob and his ex-wife Hilary Swank. He doesn't have the same screen presence as his brother, but his portrayal of Reed Pollock as the shifty deputy chief of staff was spot on in Season 6.

5. Other Randoms in Short (2-episode) Appearances

Sara Gilbert

From Roseanne fame, this actress hasn't shown up in anything regular since playing Darlene Connor in the late 80's. It's too bad her appearance in Season 2 was uneventful and passed pretty quickly... I guess they only had room for one female nerd at CTU.

Lou Diamond Philips
La Bamba shows up in Season 2 as the guard at the underground prison where Victor Drazen (Dennis Hopper) is being held. I think he called in a favor to his Young Guns co-star to get him this short gig on 24.

Kevin Dillon
OK, this isn't a big name from the 80's, but much like "Johnny Drama", I'm sure he's been trying to work since the '80s. When he appeared on 24 in Season 2 as the creepy loner living in the woods in the annoying Kim Bauer side-story of that season, he hadn't started playing Johnny Drama on Entourage yet. But by the time I saw Season 2 on DVD, I was already a fan of Entourage. So seeing him on 24 with the same voice, mannerisms and insecure personality, all I could think of was Johnny Drama.

Jesse Borrego
Remember him? He played Jesse in Fame in the 80's! In 24, he was Gael, the CTU agent in Season 3 that buggers with the skin-eating poison that ends up killing him.

Lukas Haas
Most people probably don't know who this is, but he played the little Amish kid (the witnesss) in the movie "Witness" in the 80's. A regular working actor without any big starring roles, for those that follow celeb gossip, he's probably now more known for being a member of Leonardo DiCaprio's personal entourage.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Walking the Path of Elizabeth Gilbert: 5 Highlights of Finding the Real People Behind "Eat, Pray, Love" in Bali

If you’re a warm-blooded, breathing woman, chances are, you’ve read (or at least heard of) the book, “Eat, Pray, Love”. If you haven’t, this best-seller from Feb. 2006 is author Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir of her journey to recovery from a divorce, by eating her way through Italy, meditating in solitude in India, and finding healing and love in Indonesia. I don’t compare my life to Elizabeth’s, nor was I one of the mid-life-crisis groupies secretly wishing I could leave my husband and travel the world for a year. However, since my travels were taking me to Indonesia for two weeks last month, I was intrigued enough by the Balinese chapter of her journey that I decided to walk in her footsteps for a few days.

The key “real people” she meets, establishes strong relationships with, and who change her life in Bali are two main people: Wayan, the healer woman, and Ketut Liyer, the old medicine man. I’d never gone to see any kind of fortune teller or alternative medicine doctor in my life. But was curious enough to open myself up to meeting these people and giving them a chance.
It was pretty easy to find them. A simple Google search produced this page from Elizabeth Gilbert’s website ( that gave us simple directions to find Wayan and Ketut. As she said, simply asking any local or cab driver will get you to them. Here are the top 5 highlights on my meetings with them.

  1. Their existence has not changed that much after being major characters in a best-selling book. Surprisingly, Wayan has her traditional Balinese medicine shop in a very non-descript building in the town of Ubud, where she has always been. Ketut Liyer is still sitting on his “porch” (though it’s not the type of porch us North Americans imagine) in his traditional Hindu-style compound. Both have definitely seen an influx in visitors, and I imagine will get even more after the movie version (Julia Roberts will be playing Elizabeth Gilbert), but neither had big flashy or expanded businesses as a result.

  2. But they are charging a lot more than 25¢. Each of them charged us $25 for our services, and in a country where the average daily wage seems to be $5, they’re not doing too badly either.

  3. Wayan’s palm & body reading were more accurate than Ketut’s. I went into both experiences with sceptical curiosity – some hopes of being told that I’m brilliant and will be a millionaire soon, yet bracing myself for some bullsh*t response. Since we had come all the way to Ubud and found them, my husband Dave and I both jumped in and had palm/body readings with both. It’s probably no shocker than Ketut is quite old (he says he’s now 93), and therefore, I blame it on his age that he said some of the exact same things to me that he said to my husband two minutes later. Wayan, on the other hand, was bang-on with some pretty specific details of my past, so I listened to her more intently when she doled out advice on my health and hints into the future.

  4. Wayan’s magic may be the real thing. While we were in Wayan’s shop, where people are treated simultaneously – not in privacy and not exclusively – we met a few other foreigners who had come to get her “magic” treatment. Some had heard of her from the book, and others had been referred to her by other patients. One of them was an American man in his 40s who had come to her seeking help for a damaged shoulder. After a 30 minute Balinese treatment by Wayan and her assistants, he was in shock. He exclaimed to us that he had seen numerous chiropractors, massage therapists, and physiotherapists in the US, and still had constant pain and inability to raise or rotate his shoulder for 15 years. He was incredulous that one treatment would “heal” him. He went on to say that he would listen to anything Wayan told him to do, including taking herbs she recommended for clearing his liver, and reconciling with “whoever he was angry with for the past several years because it was causing physical damage to his liver”. (He did say that that would be harder than getting the shoulder treatment since that would mean probably apologizing to his ex-wife).

  5. They were both anticipating the filming of the Balinese segment of the movie with Julia Roberts. We literally missed the cast and crew of “Eat, Pray, Love” arriving in Ubud by a few days! Wayan was already anticipating them coming, posting a picture of Julia Roberts right below Elizabeth Gilbert’s picture on her wall. Surprisingly, though the producers had already paid them a visit to explain what was happening and to let them know that actors would be playing them, neither of them knew much more detail than that. I would only hope that Julia Roberts would take the time to visit them like we did and experience traditional Balinese readings, healings, and treatments to truly walk in the steps of Elizabeth Gilbert.
Would I recommend visiting them? Absolutely. If you’re going to be in Indonesia, visiting Ubud is a must and seeing Wayan and Ketut will take one day out of your trip. For less money than a spa treatment in Vancouver, you can experience traditional Balinese healing and judge for yourself how much of your body reading to believe.

Monday, November 23, 2009

5 Lessons in Comparing Office Cultures

Having just changed companies (from Maximizer Software to ActiveState), and now getting used to the culture at the new office, here are five specific ways in which the two companies are different.

1. Political Hierarchy
Keep in mind Maximizer has 100 people in Vancouver, and another 75 in international offices (UK, Australia, South Africa, and Hong Kong), while ActiveState has less than 30 people in Vancouver only. That said, Maximizer is no Microsoft or Oracle. But the flatness of the ActiveState culture at first caught me off guard. At Maximizer, as a member of the senior executive team, I mostly socialized and collaborated with the other senior executives, and those that were one level under me (directors and managers). I rarely spoke with staff level (unless they were in marketing), and the staff in sales and support (the largest groups) would never speak to me at company social functions. In fact, most of them never came into my office, and if they did, they acted very nervous. ActiveState is entirely different in that everyone is more on equal ground and anyone can go into the president's office even.

2. Gay Office Managers make for Fun Times
At ActiveState, our gay office manager/receptionist/accounting & customer service assistant provides a core element of our open, fun, friendly, and humorous workplace. He jokes around with everyone, from the marketing staff up to the president in the same tone. At my old company, a gay office manager certainly would not have fit into the culture.

3. Perks are Good
Maximizer was getting to the point, and with the economy and all, where we were pulling away things like food and snacks for staff (though we did still have massages). At ActiveState, I was pleasantly surprised with fully stocked kitchen with fresh fruit, tons of snacks, breakfast, and lunch options. Then, I learned that there was staff yoga/pilates three times a week that the company subsidized! This feels like the tech boom of 1999 or a video game company, and I'm liking these perks.

4. People Invite Each Other to Parties
At Maximizer, in all my years there, I don't recall ever being invited to a house party that a staffer was having. In one month, I've already been invited to three. Very surprising and different coming from my old world, but seems to be the norm here.

5. Operations need to be Streamlined for Growth
ActiveState, having grown up in the open source space, and being a smaller company, has some streamlining to benefit from in operations and IT. Even before I started, and they asked me what type of software (OS, apps, etc) I wanted on my laptop, I was surprised. And I was allowed to bring in my new BlackBerry, while others were using iPhones or other mobile platforms. Choice is good, but I definitely wasn't used to the ad-hoc nature of IT operations.

Monday, August 31, 2009

5 Things NOT to Say to Make a Kid Cry

If you're like me and haven't had much exposure to children, yet are now thrust in the midst of your mid-30s friends' kids, here are 5 things NOT to say to their kids. Trust me - toddlers don't have the same sense of humor as us and don't think sarcasm is funny. At all. In fact, you may scare them shitless if you say these things, which I quickly learned after my attempts to make them laugh, backfired and made them cry.

1. "Your mom has asked me to drive you to Kelowna."

Saying this as you jump into the drivers seat of a mini-van that has 3 children strapped into carseats in the back may elicit a 3-year old to burst into tears. Then, his older brother MAY say something to you like "you don't know much about kids, do you".

2. "When you were a baby, your older brother vaccuumed you up and you got stuck inside a vaccuum cleaner."

You'd think that I'd learn from the incident above, but no. A year later, I said this to the same kid. Of course there were no giggles, but rather a pout/frown and beginnings of a "waaah" type sound. I quickly retracted my statement and told him I was just joking, which was followed by "that's not funneeeee!!"

3. "A bear's going to smell the honey and PB on your face and come and lick it off."

Again, kids don't understand sarcasm, and this elicited a facial expression which seemed like a combination of fear of big bears and confusion that perhaps I was referring to Winnie the Pooh... followed by "Bear coming?"

4. "I don't care what your parents let you do, you have to go to bed now."
Trying to be their parent and lay down your own rules when you're just baby-sitting for the night does not work. I tried to play "bad cop" and my husband ended up having to play "good cop" while this toddler cried herself to sleep. I was never asked to babysit her again.

OK, so I only have 4 again this time. Probably a good thing, and will try to NOT make more small children cry.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

5 Things that Make New Orleans Unique

Everyone knows to go to New Orleans for Bourbon Street, Mardi Gras, post-Hurricane Katrina support, etc... And I've always suspected that New Orleans would be a culturally unique experience from any other American city. In my few days here this week in NOLA (which I learned stands for New Orleans, Louisiana!), I've already discovered evidence of unique things to experience.

1. Alligator Fritters & Turtle Soup
No joke, they actually eat that here. I ate a gator fritter last night; haven't tried turtle soup yet, but my colleague did. Not as freaky as you think - and yes, tastes like chicken.

2. Current culture & language reflects French history
The only place in America that isn't so, well, America. They actually use the Fleur-de-Lis as their symbol here - not just in Quebec! And they still teach French in some schools, not Spanish.

3. Mugginess
The only place I've ever been where you step outside, it's so muggy that your eye glasses steam up immediately. So muggy that Bikram's could hold his yoga classes here outside.

4. Jazz
Their airport is named after the legendary jazz musician. What other city names their airport after a musician? And you can see why when you walk down Bourbon Street and hear sounds of traditional and modern jazz from several hole-in-the-wall clubs/bars. Very unique - love it!

5. Deep fried everything - and they got grits!
Not just fish and chicken, but beans, artichokes, alligators, mushrooms. It was so difficult to find non-deep-fried food at the party last night that I cheered when we found raw carrot sticks at one of the tables. And for northerners - you can try grits in New Orleans, served even at fancy restaurants!