MASSACHUSETTS, USA: The Mouse Trap

MASSACHUSETTS, USA: The Mouse Trap

mickeyAs parents determined to raise global citizens, my husband and I were reticent to channel financial resources toward a Disney-vacation rather than taking our children abroad for enrichment. But, there is something that stirs inside both of us when it comes to celebrating the ephemeral days of childhood that made us reconsider.

Here in the US, a visit to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida or Disneyland in Anaheim, California is a childhood hallmark. In fact, I have met parents, who began planning their Disney vacation the moment they found out they were pregnant with their first child.

And even though a Disney family-vacation can cost upwards of several thousand dollars (with hotels, park tickets and flights), it doesn’t necessarily mean that parents will wait until their children are old enough to fully enjoy the experience nor, in some cases, are even old enough to remember it; tots, barely able to toddle, are a common site at Disney theme parks. (more…)

Kyla P'an (Portugal)

Kyla was born in suburban Philadelphia but spent most of her time growing up in New England. She took her first big, solo-trip at age 14, when she traveled to visit a friend on a small Greek island. Since then, travels have included: three months on the European rails, three years studying and working in Japan, and nine months taking the slow route back from Japan to the US when she was done. In addition to her work as Managing Editor of World Moms Network, Kyla is a freelance writer, copy editor, recovering triathlete and occasional blogger. Until recently, she and her husband resided outside of Boston, Massachusetts, where they were raising two spunky kids, two frisky cats, a snail, a fish and a snake. They now live outside of Lisbon, Portugal with two spunky teens and three frisky cats. You can read more about Kyla’s outlook on the world and parenting on her personal blogs, Growing Muses And Muses Where We Go

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MASSACHUSETTS, USA: Blind (play) Dating

MASSACHUSETTS, USA: Blind (play) Dating

playdateLast week my 7-year-old daughter invited a friend over for a playdate after school. My daughter and this child aren’t close friends, in fact, they aren’t even in the same class at school but they did play on the same town soccer team last year and the child has invited my daughter over a few times—including to her 7th birthday party—so we were due to reciprocate.

This particular little girl comes from a family of four children. She lives nearby in a large house in a posh sub-division and with four kids in her home, they have a lot of toys and things to play with.

Furthermore, her mom is one of those Alpha moms, who runs various nominated volunteer positions at school and who always seems to have her stuff together: pressed and polished at morning drop-off and calm and controlled when you see her in the pick-up line at the end of the day. You know the sort. (more…)

Kyla P'an (Portugal)

Kyla was born in suburban Philadelphia but spent most of her time growing up in New England. She took her first big, solo-trip at age 14, when she traveled to visit a friend on a small Greek island. Since then, travels have included: three months on the European rails, three years studying and working in Japan, and nine months taking the slow route back from Japan to the US when she was done. In addition to her work as Managing Editor of World Moms Network, Kyla is a freelance writer, copy editor, recovering triathlete and occasional blogger. Until recently, she and her husband resided outside of Boston, Massachusetts, where they were raising two spunky kids, two frisky cats, a snail, a fish and a snake. They now live outside of Lisbon, Portugal with two spunky teens and three frisky cats. You can read more about Kyla’s outlook on the world and parenting on her personal blogs, Growing Muses And Muses Where We Go

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Massachussets, USA:  Traveling Like a European

Massachussets, USA: Traveling Like a European

bags

Our luggage for a three-week trip to Europe for a family of four

We just returned from a family trip to Europe. It was the first time we took our kids, ages 7 and 4, on an overseas vacation and we wanted to be sure to make the most of the experience. Right from the outset, we did two very un-American things: 1) we took more than two weeks off for the trip, and 2) we packed really, really light. For four people on a three-week vacation we took just three carry-ons and one back pack.

Possibly demanding even more attention than our travel itinerary, our luggage became a bit of an obsession for my husband.

When we decided to take my cousin and his wife up on their invitation to visit them in Poland, we wanted to be as economical as possible, both about getting to Europe and traveling within it. Thanks to my husband’s frequent cross-country business trips over the past two years and the added perk that his company’s European headquarters is in Cork, Ireland, we were able to cover three of our four tickets without spending a dime. We figured once we got to Ireland, like well-traveled Europeans, we’d rely on discount airlines to get us where we wanted to go.

The challenge became figuring out which carriers would get us where we wanted to go for the least amount of money. From Ireland, we wanted to get to Poland, and from Poland, we wanted to fly to London. Then from London, once more to Ireland, for our return flight home.

Ryanair, a notorious (and insidious), Irish, discount carrier was top on our list for cheap flights. Following a close second was Easy Jet.

Though Ryanair has incredibly low prices—we bought tickets from Cork, Ireland to Warsaw, Poland for US$70 per person—they also have ridiculously restrictive carry-on luggage requirements. This is how they are stated on the Ryanair website:

“Strictly one item of cabin baggage per passenger (excluding infants) weighing up to 10kg with maximum dimensions of 55cm x 40cm x 20cm is permitted. (handbag, briefcase, laptop, shop purchases, camera etc.) must be carried in your 1 permitted piece of cabin baggage.”

If your carry-on does NOT meet these requirements or fit in the miniature luggage cage positionedryanair by the Ryanair ticket counters and flight gates, then these are the penalties:

Extra/oversized cabin baggage will be refused at the boarding gate, or where available, placed in the hold of the aircraft for a fee of £60/€60. Fees are subject to VAT on Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese and German domestic routes at applicable government rates. If you are unsure, check at the Bag Drop desk before going through security.

In other words, if your luggage doesn’t pass, at the gate you may be forced to pay as much as or more than your actual flight ticket to check the offending item.

I’m pretty sure Ryanair caters to the weekend travel crowd, whose weekend’s worth of necessities easily fall within these parameters but for a family of four on a European sojourn, the restrictions were crippling.

The restrictions caused two dilemmas for us. The first dilemma was that the standard size of all US carry-on suitcases exceeds Ryanair dimensions. In fact, after browsing multiple websites and purchasing and returning two, new carry-ons, we could not seem to find wheeled luggage small or light enough to fit their limitations. The second dilemma was that without wheels, our children were not old enough nor strong enough to carry their own luggage. Meaning that everything we needed for our three-week trip would have to be carried by my husband and me.

Armed with a tape measure and digital luggage scale, my husband became a man possessed by the Ryanair luggage restrictions.

Our packing list went from vacation-size to commando-style. Each of us was rationed: five tops (two long sleeve, three short), four bottoms (two pants, two shorts or skirts), seven under garments, three pairs of socks, two pairs of shoes, one sweater, a swimsuit and a travel-raincoat.

Added to this were toiletries, my husband’s laptop computer, business attire for the days he needed to put in at the Cork office (including a sports coat and a pair of dress shoes), entertainment items for the kids (foam-weight, modeling clay; travel journals; crayons; a travel game; a deck of cards; markers), a DSLR camera, and a tablet computer loaded with books, two movies and a variety of travel apps.

We divided these items among our backpack and three small bags, weighed and measured each one…twice. Then stood on our bathroom scale and weighed them again. When we were pretty confident that our luggage met the size and weight requirments—dictated most restrictively by Ryanair—my husband added a contingency plan, which involved wearing all of our heaviest and bulkiest clothing items on travel days.

We were determined to travel small, light-weight and efficient, just like our European counterparts.

So though Ryanair set the stage for our minimalist luggage, thankfully, we only flew one flight with them. In comparison, Easy Jet was a luxury liner with far less restrictive rules and the three other regional carriers we flew even allowed passengers to check items, free-of-charge.

Considering the stress that packing for our trip caused up front, in the end, it was a great lesson in minimalist travel:

  1. confined to a week’s worth of clothes, we were able to do laundry twice on our trip.
  2. With careful and clever planning, our clothing choices yielded 21 different wardrobe combinations, preventing us from looking like we had on the same outfits in the copious number of pictures we snapped.
  3. The time we spent in airports was significantly reduced by the lack of our need to wait at the luggage claim each time.
  4. And, perhaps most rewarding, we’d like to think we blended in with other European travelers, rather than sticking out like typical boisterous Americans on holiday.

This is an original post for World Moms Blog by our Managing Editor and mom of two in Massachusetts, Kyla P’an.

Photos credited to the author.

Kyla P'an (Portugal)

Kyla was born in suburban Philadelphia but spent most of her time growing up in New England. She took her first big, solo-trip at age 14, when she traveled to visit a friend on a small Greek island. Since then, travels have included: three months on the European rails, three years studying and working in Japan, and nine months taking the slow route back from Japan to the US when she was done. In addition to her work as Managing Editor of World Moms Network, Kyla is a freelance writer, copy editor, recovering triathlete and occasional blogger. Until recently, she and her husband resided outside of Boston, Massachusetts, where they were raising two spunky kids, two frisky cats, a snail, a fish and a snake. They now live outside of Lisbon, Portugal with two spunky teens and three frisky cats. You can read more about Kyla’s outlook on the world and parenting on her personal blogs, Growing Muses And Muses Where We Go

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MASSACHUSETTS, USA: Preparing Them for the Path

MASSACHUSETTS, USA: Preparing Them for the Path

ThePathNot long ago, I attended a parenting seminar featuring excellent keynote speakers and a number of child development specialists. The seminar must have impacted me more than I realized because this is the second time I find myself writing about sage wisdom imparted during it (the other time I brought it up was in this post).

A major topic of the keynote address centered on how US parents today are getting more involved with their children, sometimes to a detrimental degree.

Most US women of my generation, Gen X—as products of mothers that fought for equality and women’s rights back in the 1960’s—are more accomplished, both academically and professionally, than our fore-mothers. After obtaining college and often graduate school degrees (sometimes more than one), Gen X women go on to establish our financial independence in the workforce; and in many cases, then elect to leave the workforce in order to raise children.

This trend is called “Opting-Out” and it’s common in tony suburbs around the US. But it’s a trend with consequences. Women, who had achieved success professionally find themselves somewhat under-challenged domestically. Eager to apply their professional talents at home, many of these women turn child rearing into a second career. Though fathers are not as likely to Opt Out, some still do, leaving the mother as main bread winner. As a result, helicopter and over-bearing parenting has become ubiquitous; the outcome of which has yielded a population of coddled and unresilient kids.

I am not claiming this phenomenon endemic to the US but it’s certainly a growing concern. Perhaps this is why the message in the parenting seminar’s keynote address by Robert Evans resonated so much for me. He spoke about how today’s parents are so focused on their kids that they are willing to do everything for them: intervene at the slightest sign of trouble; help them with projects and homework the children should be responsible for; even criticize teachers and authority figures for treating their child unfairly. In essence, these parents are clearing life’s path of all obstacles and challenges that would help a child build character, resilience and stamina.

“Parents don’t need to prepare the path for their children…instead, they need to focus on preparing their children for The Path.”

– Bob Evans

Preparing our children for the path…what does that mean exactly? And where do we draw the line?

I would not label either my husband nor myself a helicopter parent—Drill Sargent, perhaps–but as a freelance writer with a flexible work schedule, I avail myself to my children and their school and activity schedules. I’m a room parent, active member of the Parent/Teacher Organization and volunteer for many roles at my children’s schools and extra-curricula. But I don’t think I over-do it.

At my daughter’s elementary school, there’s a rumour that the teachers have an acronym for the (mostly female) parents who should get out of the school and get a job. I don’t know what the acronym is and pray it’s never associated with my name but I can understand why it exists.

In parents’ defense, however, we can’t help feeling more protective and sometimes over-bearing about our kids. We want to be able to let go of their hands and let them find their own way but there are a lot more demons along the path now. Social media, for one, has rendered our lives  more public than ever before. I often find myself more concerned about the fall-out of a misstep on Facebook than a misstep in real life. Take for example the recent milestone our daughter achieved, which I was initially so proud of but ultimately never posted online about:

Our house is a half-mile away from our elementary school. To get there, you walk along a lovely open path along a ridge, down the hill across the soccer fields and arrive at the school. You can see the school from the top of our street. My children and I have been walking to school along this path, which we dubbed the Faery Path, for four years now. Recently, we allowed our independent 1st- grader to walk to school on her own. There are other kids in our neighborhood who also walk to school but none of them without a parent. For this reason, I got nervous about it.

I wasn’t nervous for our daughter, she’s a very capable and spunky 7-year-old, I was nervous for what others would think about my decision to let her walk alone; how they would judge my parenting style.

Later that day, when I picked my daughter up from school, she effervesced about how exciting it was to walk to school on her own and how responsible it made her feel. With heavy-heart, I informed her that it was the only time she would get to walk the path on her own for a while.

It’s just not how today’s parents are doing things.

How do you help prepare your children for the Path? Do you feel the judgement of others has a negative outcome on your child rearing decisions?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Senior Editor and mother of two, Kyla P’an.

The image used in this post is credited to Nina Mathew’s Photography. It holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.

Kyla P'an (Portugal)

Kyla was born in suburban Philadelphia but spent most of her time growing up in New England. She took her first big, solo-trip at age 14, when she traveled to visit a friend on a small Greek island. Since then, travels have included: three months on the European rails, three years studying and working in Japan, and nine months taking the slow route back from Japan to the US when she was done. In addition to her work as Managing Editor of World Moms Network, Kyla is a freelance writer, copy editor, recovering triathlete and occasional blogger. Until recently, she and her husband resided outside of Boston, Massachusetts, where they were raising two spunky kids, two frisky cats, a snail, a fish and a snake. They now live outside of Lisbon, Portugal with two spunky teens and three frisky cats. You can read more about Kyla’s outlook on the world and parenting on her personal blogs, Growing Muses And Muses Where We Go

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Massachusetts, USA: Quantity Time

Massachusetts, USA: Quantity Time

Aside from the obvious: food, clothing and shelter, kids really require just one thing from their parents—and a ton of it—low quality time.  — Dr. Robert Evans, psychiatrist and human relations specialist

DSCN1983

the author with her daughter and in-laws seven years ago

Seven years ago, while I was still in the hospital recovering from the birth of our first child, my husband’s family came and spent an entire day with us. It was torture! Not because I dislike my in-laws, nor because I wanted to be alone, just my husband, infant and me as a new family, but because I felt like I needed to entertain them.

My husband and I had only been married for two years at the time and I was still getting to know his parents and younger sister. And—despite having endeavored 36 hours of labor and a whole night as a breastfeeding-first-time-mom “rooming-in” with my infant—I remember feeling more anxious about filling the space and time with his parents than I did about how to care for our newborn child.

It was entirely a self-afflicted torment because no one else in the room expected anything from me. They were all there just to BE with me, with US, and this was a completely foreign concept to me. (more…)

Kyla P'an (Portugal)

Kyla was born in suburban Philadelphia but spent most of her time growing up in New England. She took her first big, solo-trip at age 14, when she traveled to visit a friend on a small Greek island. Since then, travels have included: three months on the European rails, three years studying and working in Japan, and nine months taking the slow route back from Japan to the US when she was done. In addition to her work as Managing Editor of World Moms Network, Kyla is a freelance writer, copy editor, recovering triathlete and occasional blogger. Until recently, she and her husband resided outside of Boston, Massachusetts, where they were raising two spunky kids, two frisky cats, a snail, a fish and a snake. They now live outside of Lisbon, Portugal with two spunky teens and three frisky cats. You can read more about Kyla’s outlook on the world and parenting on her personal blogs, Growing Muses And Muses Where We Go

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