Flying Solo With Children? Don’t. (Kidding, Sort Of)

travel kidsIt is the end of vacation season, and we are awash in tips for traveling with children

If you are adventurous and have more vacation time than your spouse, you probably travel solo with children, and often. I have flown solo with a baby, with two babies, and cross-Atlantic thrice with a 3 year old and 1 year old, most recently this past weekend.

Admit it: commercial flying with children isn’t pretty. Travel tips are literary Valium, allowing you to temporarily forget that flying with children carries a small but non-zero risk of death by frustration. 

Why? Not necessarily because of the planes, although it is certainly a riot trying to simultaneously wipe a poopie off one child and dissuade your toddler from eating a Cheerio off the plane bathroom floor. Unless you fly private, international travel requires arriving at the airport least 2 hours before checkin. Airports require security checks, and those ridiculous clear baggies. You will probably get stopped and frisked by security. During our recent long haul trip to the States, both our 18 month old and I were selected for a full pat down. She was clean, in case you were wondering. 

At Heathrow last week, because of a particularly cruel delay, the girls and I spent four hours comparing M&M packages, rearranging Harrods gift items and exploring every single bathroom stall. Then our little one lost her stuffed bunny, which required retracing every step we had taken in the past 90 minutes. Sensing my physical desperation during our second bathroom break with 22 pounds of baby in the Ergo carrier, 20 pounds of Apple electronics / plane entertainment in my backpack and 5 pounds of food slung across my shoulder, the most amazing woman picked up our older daughter to help her wash her hands. God bless her. 

When I fly with the girls, anything goes. Seriously, anything. I cary a holster full of raisins, Cheerios, almonds and blueberries to dish out on demand. If my daughters asked for a shot of whiskey, I would seriously weigh the potential damage (probably small, for just a sip . . . right?) against the elusive promise of quiet. 

The only advice that has worked consistently for me is to (1) dress your kids cute; and (2) ask nicely for help. This weekend, the nicest gentleman at the Virgin checkin at JFK ushered the girls and I, plus two massive check-in bags, straight through to the front of the line, even though we weren’t in the upper classes. It pays to ask, and probably to look a little tired. No one dislikes a beautiful child, and most people sympathise with an outnumbered, exhausted looking parent. 

Oh, sorry, wine. Whatever the mischief, however sticky and sprawling the mess, a glass of wine is sure to remind you of home, and of the fact that whatever the travails of travel, one way or another, you will get wherever it is that you are going. Godspeed.



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(No) Photos of Our Kids

IMG_3127You may notice that while I do post pictures featuring our two daughters, their faces do not appear in those images. Why?

I feel that our children are not at the age where they can consent to having their identities revealed on the internet. Kid-1, now nearly 4, has to hear and agree to every story about her that I write. Kid-1, nearly 18 months, is of course too young. Regardless, my full name and their names are not public, so their identities through stories remain private.

Photos reveal identities.

How do you feel about sharing stories, images and identities on public forums?

Here are some other writers’ perspectives on this and similar issues.

Viral Video Sharers and Non-Photo Parents Debate

We Post Nothing About Our Daughter Online

Posting Photos of Other Peoples’ Children


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A Mother’s Ambitions

A Mother’s Ambitions

Three years ago, I scaled back from a successful legal career to a four day-a-week schedule, just as Ms. Shorbrun scaled back from an academic one. For our family, it was never a good option for both my husband and myself to work full-time once our first daughter arrived. Litigators work long hours, frequently weekends, and my husband had a similarly demanding job. Plenty of families do the two-working-parent thing well; we were less successful.

First, like Ms. Shorbrun, I pulled back. Then I pulled out. 

At the end of last year, I ignored the advice of every professional woman I have ever met (including my mother, who worked full time until retiring as a top executive at a Fortune 100 company two years ago) and resigned from my NYC job when my husband was offered a good job in London.

It was intended to be a temporary hiatus from the law — just enough for me to pack up, transition the family and get our bearings in a new country. 

But the tumult and balance of relocation rests with the “trailing spouse” — i.e., me., and with a new city at our doorstep, it seemed wasteful to forego a summer of adventures with our family, even for a job that I enjoyed. 

More than seven months after first resigning, I remain an ex-lawyer, with uncertain prospects of re-entering the field in the same way going forward.

But here’s the thing: our older daughter loves me more now. This is a fact. 

[Read more...]

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One More Reason For Dad To Do The Dishes


Tanya Lam

Tanya Lam

Dad’s Housework Inspires Girls’ Ambitions

Want your daughter to become a computer scientist? How about an engineer? Or CEO?

Sure, you should talk to her about these professions, help inspire a love of science, logic and math . . . but there’s something else that might help.

Research shows that fathers who visibly, actively participate equally in household chores (traditionally a “woman’s duty”) have daughters who aspire to less traditionally feminine occupations.

How equal is your household?




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My Sole Kitchen Electronic

When we moved to the UK, I gave away or sold everything that plugged into US 120 Volt outlets.

Now my kitchen has two gadgets: a magical hot cocoa making machine (which I don’t count because it’s entirely frivolous, although used twice daily) and this:

Breville Blend-Active

Breville Blend-Active

Sure, we have a toaster. Somewhere, I think.

Didn’t expect I would stock a smoothie machine? This little beauty is much more. In fact, while I have yet to make a smoothie, I have whipped up pesto, milkshakes, mashed potatoes and carrot purees, plus the wet ingredients for pancakes, muffins, cupcakes and a terribly failed attempt at pain chocolate.

This is my favourite kind of gadget: one that renders all the other ones superfluous.

Now with all that extra space in my kitchen I’ll just . . . oh wait, kitchens are tiny here. I suppose I will just dream of endless, empty lazy Susans.



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Negotiation Challenge: Moroccan Rug Salesman vs. 3 Year-Old

negotiatiorOf these four, who do you think is the best negotiator: a Harvard-trained litigator; a Harvard-trained banker, a seasoned haggling crafts vendor in an African bazaar, or a three year-old?

Yes, you guessed it. It’s Kid-1.

Here is proof.

Mike and I just returned from Marrakech, haggler’s paradise and snake oil salesman’s bazaar. Whether you wanted it or not, there is nothing you cannot — and will not — buy within the Marrakech souk.  [Read more...]

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my favourite picture, ever (17-July, Paris, last day)

this may be my favourite picture ever of you.

Today we had our Sunset Eiffel Tower Climb.

We prepared for this for months. You have been at the tower at least four times before. We learned about the competition for the tower’s construction in preparation for the 1889 World’s Fair. You learned about Mr. Eiffel, the architect behind this magnificent iron lattice structure (and who also worked on the Statue of Liberty, which we saw in NYC!). I even wrote you a rhyming book about two adventurers, Lola and Clark, who learn about and explore the tower.

You are such an Eiffel Tower aficionado that you answered all the tower trivia that our tour guide posed to the group!

And then we went up. And up further. And further up still until we reached the very top of the tower. Eyes wide we looked out on this, our very favourite, city.

Your bedtime was two hours past. We watched the sunset. It was 9 o’clock, then 10. But the tower, which glitters with Christmas lights every hour, gave you energy.

Our Paris adventure had lots of BIGs, and lots of FIRSTs. A first time watching Bastille Day fireworks, first trip to Giverny, a memorable day at the Musee D’Orsay, your first time racing toy schooners in the Jardin de Tuilleries, first second and tenth carrousel rides.

DSC09786Tonight was the biggest BIG. Heads and hearts full of magic from our sunset Eiffel Tower tour, we stopped at the good carrousel’s ice cream stand for one last soft serve to enjoy on the lawn just North of the tower. Because ice cream improves even perfect days. It’s magic like that.

As we were about to leave, the clock struck 11 and the lights twinkled again. So we stayed, and we laughed. And you sat, head, heart and belly full of happiness, in admiration of this fantastic, fantastical tower.

Kid-1, I will never forget how happy you were this night. We walked back to our hotel, or I should say walked back, carrying you. You just stared out past my shoulder, looking at your tower.

What a trip. I promise we will have many more Mommie – daughter trips to follow. You are an angel, and I am one lucky duck.


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Pique-nique interdit (the forbidden picnic), 16-July, Giverny


IMG_3580Illegal picnics, illegal photos. Mommy & Clyde here! (that was terrible, sorry)

Poor puns aside, we had a wonderful day in Giverny, which as you know is the French country town where Claude Monet lived.

Now it is night, and I am writing this letter to you on a piece of artist paper at the brasserie, while we wait for our duck confit and mozzarella tomato napoleon, which we will share. You are colouring one of the many carrousel drawings you asked me to make for you, drinking your “sprinkling water.” You are also asking me to “look the other way”, presumably hoping to steal another bite of the chocolate pralines left over from our trip to Pierre Hermé visit. I will oblige you this . . . once, ok three times. As long as I get to steal the delicious morsels too.

Now it is Thursday morning. I intended to finish this letter last night, but there must have been caffeine in that duck confit because you were punch drunk with giggles and energy last night until past 10 o’clock, when I collapsed in bed. 

I woke around 4 to find the contents of my purse strewn about the room, a few incomplete drawings on the table and you snuggling my sleeping robe next to me.

Today is another big day, with an Eiffel Tower sunset tour, so I hope you get another second wind like last night!

[Read more...]

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Robin Williams, thank you

RWThank you, Mr. Williams, for the stories you created for our generation and the next. What a gift you had, and what a gift you offered in sharing it with us. 

Professor Keating’s infatuation with inspiring passion in his students, Mrs. Doubtfire’s athletic imagination and humour, Dr. Maguire’s love of the complicated mess that forms a life – these characters and virtues endure because they were so beautifully created for all to see.


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