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Aug 26, 2009

Seeing the positive in a bad day

Today could have been marked as a bad day. Not an awful day (nothing disastrous happened), but bad in the sense that a lot of small things went wrong.
It started with Daniel waking up with fever for the third day in a row. While his fever was much lower than in the 2 previous days (and his energy level was back to normal), the fever was high enough for him not to be allowed to daycare. From then, the stress started: calling the baby sitter, calling day-care, negotiating coverage schedule between my husband and me, reassuring Daniel who was to disappointed not to go to daycare today, etc...
The plan was for me to stay home with Daniel in the morning, the babysitter would take over around lunch time, and my husband would do the late afternoon shift. Although I wouldn't be in the office until noon, I was hoping to get some easy work done from home while watching for Daniel: email, phone calls, etc...

It didn't sound too bad at the beginning. But it turns out that, right at the time of an important meeting, my VPN and phone decided to freeze on me, making it impossible for me to contact the team. I lost 10 minutes of precious time at a bad moment. I also somehow managed to hurt my back again (third time in 6 weeks!), not sure how... But I can say I don't recommend it when being around an active, short and heavy 19-month old. The morning was definitely on the bad side.
To top it all, our baby-sitter showed up over an hour late. On the way to work (rushing), I stopped by a gas station, where the payment system was down. I had to drop by the cashier and pay cash, losing another 10 minutes. Needless to say, I wasn't feeling so happy about the day so far when I arrived at work.

But then, miraculously, the effect of the Gratitude Challenge kicked in. It is a 21-day project, sponsored by my company Tinyprints, where people are encouraged to see the positive side of life and blog about their experience. I am not an official participant, but I have been reading the posts and feeling very inspired. I am not sure if the change in my perspective had to do with seeing my colleagues who are Gratitude Challenge participants, or if it was from listening to customer calls and seeing how positive the experiences were. In any case, I realized that it was my opportunity to see the glass half full in my situation... And it worked!

After all, I shouldn't complain because
1. Daniel's sickness is nothing alarming, and he will be back to normal in no time.
2. I got to spend a few more hours with my son, at a time when he really needed me (Daniel is usually quite happy when he is with a babysitter, but when sick, he only wants to see "mama"). Also, I didn't have to rush to get ready to leave home early in the morning. I could enjoy drinking my coffee and having breakfast while sitting, a luxury these days!
3. My phone and email connections were up most of the morning, and I got some work done. And I have to say that technology is a life-saver when it comes to efficiencies and being able to work in different places.
4. We have a great baby-sitter who was flexible on a short notice, and helped us a lot during these 3 days... even if she missed one hour yesterday.
5. I saved money on the baby-sitter cost!
6. I was able to get rid of all the heavy coins in my wallet at the gas station.
7. I work in a cool company (Tinyprints), I love my job, and I am proud of the customer service with offer.
8. Since I didn't have to pick up Daniel from daycare, I could stay at work longer and get a lot of work done in the evening.
9. I am still looking for a positive twist on my back pain, but I could say that this reinforced my motivation to continue practicing yoga, despite my busy schedule. I will probably need to find a more robust solution to cure my back, though. Not sure how exactly.

So, after all, my day wasn't too bad. I am so grateful to the Gratitude Challenge for reminding me to see the positive side of things. It is great that the participants are able to share their experiences on blogs, so that the spirit can benefit readers too. I hope the impact will last past the last day of the challenge. I am sure I will have some other not-so-good days in the future, and I will need to remember how to turn my perspective around...

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Aug 22, 2009

Transitions...

I have been meaning to write a post called "Transition" for a while, where I would primarily have talked about the new job I just started a few weeks ago, and that I am very excited about (more about this below). However, as I was finally ready to write about this yesterday, I realized that there is another transition going on in our family, this one affecting Daniel, and it's probably going to be more challenging, both for him and for me.
As it turns out, back to school stress doesn't start at kindergarten or even pre-school level... Daniel's daycare, the Children's Pre-School Center (which includes both an infant daycare and a pre-school, and is great by the way - I talked about it here), also has their own fall class changes.

This makes sense: as the oldest kids leave, spots open up in the pre-school classes for children to move up, and this then trickles down to the younger classes. The approach is to try to move as many children as possible at the same time in the fall, so that they stay together as they progress from class to class. The challenge is how to apply this in the toddler class, where Daniel is currently in. At the infant and toddler stage, it wouldn't make sense to batch all kids born in the same year in one group... A 13-month and a 23-month kid still have very little in common. So the transition to these classrooms is a lot more fluid, depending on development stages.

As Daniel was an early walker, a decent communicator, and a good eater (he eats everything), he was able to move to the toddler class at 12 months already, back in January. He adapted very easily, and quickly made friends, especially with the kids that are 6-8 months older than him.
By now, these friends are part of his life. Every morning, he runs happily to the door, ready to leave for daycare, calling out his friends' names. In the car on the way back, he tells me about his day with his friends (Granted, it's mostly babbling I don't understand, but I can recognize his friends' names in the sentences). When we were gone for a few days to Yellowstone, he asked for his friends a lot. He definitely has established strong bonds with them and misses them when he isn't around them. in the rare instances when I am not the last parent picking up Daniel, I can see these interactions with my own eyes. And yes, there is so much laughing, playing silly games, hugging. So cute at this age!

Daniel and his friends from daycare, May 2009

The problem is that, because his friends are 6-8 months older, they belong to the cohort that is moving up to the next class as part of the fall transition. Daniel will be staying behind for a few more months at least.

Objectively, this makes sense. Daniel isn't at the same development stage as his friends, from a language, fine motor skill and maturity standpoint. He isn't ready for pre-school yet, and this is OK. He is only 19-months after all.

There has been a lot of communication about this transition over the last months, so we have had the time to think about it and prepare for it.... So I thought. Yesterday, we got the latest email, informing all parents of the immediate logistics of the transition, and I realized all of a sudden that this is happening NEXT WEEK!

And I panicked! How am I going to explain to Daniel that most of his closest friends won't be here with him anymore? Just the thought of Daniel missing them all the time, the same way he missed them in Yellowstone for 5 days, is breaking my heart. I know kids are resilient, and that he will certainly make friends with the new toddlers that will join the class. Still, it will probably be the first time Daniel is faced with losing his good friends, right after working so hard on understanding the concept of friendship. I can't stand it... The transition doesn't only affect kids that are moving to a new classroom after all. It's definitely going to be a huge change for Daniel. Wondering who is going to have the most difficult time next week, Daniel, his friends or me?

As for my job change, this is good news all around. At least, one easy transition.
I joined Tinyprints 2 weeks ago, and I am very excited. I love the company and the products they sell. Who wouldn't fall for all the cute baby announcement cards or birthday invitations they sell? Also, they just launched Photo-books, which I am particularly excited about as I think this will become our annual Christmas tradition to grandparents who don't see Daniel very often. I had heard about the great culture of the team, and so far I haven't been disappointed. They welcomed me very well, and it didn't hurt that I was able to attend 2 parties in my first 2 weeks (a Marketing get together and the annual company picnic). Also, they just launched the Gratitude Challenge, a 21-day effort for people to take note of the nice things in their lives. I think it's very cool, the stories are so inspiring! Another side benefit is that my commute is a lot shorter. I can't complain...

If only Daniel's transition next week was that easy...


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Aug 18, 2009

Waiting for papa

My husband has been traveling this week, and I have been wondering how Daniel would take it. It's not the first time his dad is out of town, but it's probably been 9 or 10 months since my husband was gone for a full week. Since the last time it happened, the relationship between Daniel and his dad has become much stronger. I expected Daniel to miss his dad a lot. At the same time, I didn't expect Daniel to be old enough to clearly understand the concept of business travel. Recipe for potential disaster, I thought...

I have been surprised at Daniel's reaction so far, and at the level of maturity he has shown. As we came back home last night (first night without his dad), Daniel asked for "papa". I explained to him that "papa est parti, il a pris l'avion pour aller bien loin. Mais il pense beaucoup a Daniel et va revenir dans quelques jours" (Daddy is out, he took the plane to go far away. But he thinks of Daniel and he will be back in a few days).
As Daniel was processing this information, he repeated a couple of times "avion" (plane), demonstrating a plane taking off with his hands, and "gone" (he used to say the French word "parti" before, but since he learned to say the sound "g" "gone" has become the new word....the way he says it is so sweet, I don't mind). It happens somewhat regularly that my husband comes home late during the week, so I didn't think that spending an evening without dad would be the issue. And sure enough, the evening went well. Daniel didn't ask for "papa" any more.

As he woke up the next morning, Daniel asked for "papa" again. Usually "papa" is always back in the morning, even when he wasn't here in the evening before. So, I had to explain why "papa" wasn't here in the morning this time. I pretty much repeated the same explanation as the night before. "Papa est parti, il a pris l'avion pour aller bien loin. Mais il pense beaucoup a Daniel et va revenir dans quelques jours". And this is where Daniel's reaction impressed me. Beyond saying, "avion" and "gone" again, he just looked at me, with his resigned expression, hands open, and just said "wait".
That's right: we have to wait and daddy will be back. There is nothing else to do. No crying, no arguing, nothing... Just the mature response of a 19-month old who just started to understand the concept of waiting.

Yes, Daniel, be prepared, this notion will become very handy for the rest of your life. Glad you understand...

UPDATE: As the week progressed, Daniel did quite well, dealing with missing his dad. He seemed to understand what was going on at some level. However, his daycare teachers mentioned that he kept pointing at the family pictures hanging in the classroom and calling out "papa". This wasn't his usual behavior, and a sign that he was still processing the fact that his dad was gone.
When I put Daniel to bed last night (a few hours before my husband came home), I explained that "papa" would be back home when he wakes up in the morning. He seemed to happy and relieved. I think he understood. This morning, it was so great when they saw each other again! Everyone was so happy!


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Aug 16, 2009

19-month old baby & pacifier: one step forward or one step back?

Our 19-month old baby has always loved his pacifier(s). In the early days (as soon as 5 days old), we felt that it was a good relief since he would be able to calm his newborn emotions quickly as soon as we gave him the pacifier. We also thought that, by using the pacifier, Daniel would avoid sucking his finger with all the advantages that this represents.
Over time, the pacifier became one of the most important objects in Daniel's life: one of the first 5 words he learned to speak ("tetine" in French), and the only cuddle object he would want when going to sleep (except that he needs 4-5 at the same time, since he needs to have some in his hands as well to fall asleep). We tried replacing the pacifier with teddy bears, cuddle blankets, etc... without success.

Over the last several months, we had managed to limit the use of the pacifier to the sleeping time. Daniel was only allowed the pacifier in his crib, and he understands that he needs to leave the pacifier behind when getting up. We were moving towards the right direction.
Interestingly, over the last few weeks, Daniel has started to ask for his pacifier during the day again. He is even ready to go back to his crib outside of his sleeping times, just to be able to get the comfort of his pacifier. He never falls asleep, just rolls happily in his crib, talking to himself and playing with the many pacifiers around him. He is usually ready to get out of bed after 10 minutes, but this happens 4-5 times a day!

This is a little bit of a concern for us. Are we moving backward?
We asked Daniel's daycare providers if they had seen a similar behavior at daycare. They confirmed the trend. While the cots they use for nap are not available outside of nap time, Daniel now asks for his pacifier during the day and he proactively goes to rest on a pillow with it.
Daniel's teachers are not too worried so far, though. They observed that Daniel only asks for his pacifier when he is upset and when he needs to calm down. This is true at home too. Their explanation is that Daniel is developing self-awareness and that he knows that his pacifier is a tool for him to get over his emotions. Instead of throwing tantrums, he might just ask for his pacifiers to process frustrations.
This is a neat explanation, and I hope it is correct. This would mean progress, right? It would be great if this phase with the pacifier was a replacement to the tantrum phase for Daniel. I am not eager to experience tantrums, although we have seen a few of them already. We probably won't be able to avoid it alltogether.

In any case, what I really hope is that, as soon as Daniel has gotten better at processing frustration, he might be able to stop using pacifiers. This would be great. Wondering how long we have to wait?

Has anyone else experience the same toddler behavior? How did you handle it?

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Aug 14, 2009

My 19-month old is teaching me German!

Ok, ok, not really teaching me German quite yet. But Daniel read me a book in German!
I mean that he has come to a point, where he know his books* by heart, from reading them so many times. Instead of waiting patiently for me to show him the different pictures and explain what they represent, or for me to ask him "where do you see XX?", he now rushes through the book*, happily pointing to every single item, shouting the corresponding name. So far so good, very good actually... (whisper: as long as it's in French)
Except that this morning, he went through this one book* exclusively in German! And it had some hard words in it, such as "Fuchs" (fox), "Licht" (light), "schmutzig" (dirty), etc... Good I know enough German to keep up (and recognize the words after all... They don't always sound too accurate, especially the last one!)

Should this be that surprising? After all, my husband reads to Daniel in German a lot.

So his German vocabulary is increasing rapidly. Still, I had thought so far that Daniel hears a good balance of French and German, and that he is somehow starting to associate the right language with the right parent. And in general, I still think (hope?) it's true. Daniel has a lot of French vocabulary, but he learns a lot of words outside of books.

As it turns out, I hadn't spent a lot of time reading this particular book* with Daniel lately, while my husband had. So, Daniel might not have had the opportunity to learn the corresponding vocabulary in French yet. Poor guy, he didn't have any other option than reading in German!

In this situation, my competitive spirit kicked in. I am not going to let my husband be a full book ahead of me in teaching Daniel language. I need to catch up! So, tonight, I read many books* with Daniel... It's fortunate that he enjoys books a lot, so we had a great time together, while I felt good about reinforcing his French skills.

Wondering if Daniel might reach a point where too much language is too much if we try to cram so much vocabulary in his little head? He seems to be doing great right now, adding so many new words every day. It's very encouraging. Hopefully, this will continue, and he will eventually be able to know better than to speak with me in German!

* A book collection we like a lot for toddlers is "Usborne look & say". Very easy to read: objects are presented with big images and in context. Easy for toddlers to carry and turn pages.

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Aug 9, 2009

Our last-minute vacation in Yellowstone National Park

As I unexpectedly got a week off in the middle of the summer (due to changing jobs), my husband and I decided to take a quick vacation to a place we had wanted to visit for a long time: Yellowstone National Park.

We started planning one week before our trip, in the middle of the summer vacation time, so we were concerned about the logistics. Fortunately, we were still able to find accommodation in the park itself, although this meant we had to change hotel every day. This turned out to be a good solution, as it allowed us to visit all parts of the park without having to backtrack to the same corner every night. Also, once we were there, we learned of the major roadworks between Grand Teton and Yellowstone. We were glad we didn't go with the solution of staying in Grand Teton for the whole time and "commuting" to Yellowstone, which we had considered at some point. (even without the roadworks, I wouldn't recommend)

Booking flights and rental car turned out not to be too difficult: we got the flights we needed at a decent price and didn't have issues with our rental car rservation (although they hadn't prepared the car seat for us when we arrived. We could have done without the additional frustration)

Based on our hotel reservations, our program was as follows (details can be found by clicking on the links below).
Day 1: SFO-Jackson,WY. Drive to Old Faithful via Grand Teton.
Day 2: Old Faithful-Canyon-Lake
Day 3: Lake-Tower Roosevelt-Lamar Valley-Mammoth Hot Springs
Day 4: Mammoth Hot Springs-Norris-Old Faithful.
Day 5: Old Faithful to Jackson, WY. Fly home.

Overall, we had a great time. It was very relaxing to be either outdoors hiking, driving in beautiful sceneries, or having dinner in old restaurants with nice views. And we didn't have cell phone reception for most of the time, so no risk of being bothered with email:-)

It was a good experience for Daniel too, as he learned a lot of new words (he is an expert in "steam" and "bison" now), saw big animals and played in rivers. He did well despite spending so much time in the car or in a carrying backpack. He is at an age where we can be entertained with stories or crayons (at restaurants). This made it easier than it would have been a few months ago, I think. However, he missed his friends from daycare, as he kept asking for them all the time. Good it was only a few days and he is now back into his happy routine.

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Yellowstone vacation, Day 4-5

Our final day in Yellowstone was focused on visiting the geysers between Mammoth Hot Springs and Old Faithful. We woke up early to visit the Mammoth terraces before the crowds (but also before the sun came out, unfortunately). Still, we were impressed. They look so fragile, yet so powerful and steady (they have obviously been around for many years!). The combination of colors and forms, and the steam coming out give the terraces a surreal look. Very unique.
Mammoth terraces
Mammoth terraces Yellowstone
Mammoth terrace Yellowstone
After a late brunch, we headed back South. Our first stop was at the Sheepeater Cliff, a cliff with interesting rock formations. However, the main attraction for us (particularly Daniel) was the river closeby. He enjoyed playing in it, walking, throwing stones, etc...
Daniel playing in the river at Sheapeater Cliff
Wyoming river at Sheapeater Cliff, Yellowstone
After at least 30 minutes, we somehow managed to get him back in the car with limited complaining, and drove to the Norris Geyser basin. It was great timing for Daniel's nap, and once again, our little boy did a great job with his sleep schedule, waking up right after we parked at Norris.
The large Norris basin was also very interesting, another large collection of geysers of all shapes and forms.
Norris basin
Norris Basin, Yellowstone
Norris Basin, Yellowstone
Norris Basin, Yellowstone
Norris Basin, Yellowstone
We also visited 2 "paint pot" areas (Artist Paint pot and Fountain Paint pot), known for their colorful, boiling mud geysers. They are fascinating to watch, entertaining adults as well as kids for hours...
Artist Paint Pot
Artist Paintpot, Yellowstone
We ended our visit with the Grand Prismatic Spring, which we found was the highlight of all our geyser visits. The colors in the late afternoon light were just perfect and the size of the formation impressive. This geyser section should definitely be on everyone's list.
Prismatic geyser
Prismatic geyser, Yellowstone

We made our way back to Old Faithful, where we enjoyed our last evening, eating bison and yummy chocolate cake.

Appendix, Day 5
We left Old Faithful early the next morning, to make it in time for our flight in Jackson, and drove through Grand Teton once more. The view of the Grand Teton mountains coming from the North is even better than coming from the South. It was a really great drive. We also saw a fox, not quite the moose or wolf we wanted to see, but at least something different than a bison.
Our flights went well. Daniel slept in both (because we had delay again on the 2nd one, and we found a playground in the Salt Lake City airport to keep him busy - and tire him out as it seems). We arrived home in the early evening, refreshed and excited, with a lot of photos and memories.

View other parts of our trip here
Day 1: SFO-Jackson,WY. Drive to Old Faithful via Grand Teton.
Day 2: Old Faithful-Canyon-Lake
Day 3: Lake-Tower Roosevelt-Lamar Valley-Mammoth Hot Springs

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Yellowstone vacation, Day 3

Our plans for Day 3 in Yellowstone included a lot of driving, with the aim to spend the night at Mammoth Hot Springs to the very north of the park. We left early, stopping quickly at the Visitor Center in Fishing Bridge and letting Daniel play in the lake for a few minutes (although he would have loved to stay there all day, I think). On the way North, we drove by a plain where over 100 bisons had gathered, including a lot of young ones. We decided to try to get closer to the herd, and we ended up hiking for 30 minutes and watching the bison activities along the way.
A herd of bisons by Yellowstone Canyon
bisons in Yellowstone
It really felt like we were in the movie "Dance with wolfes". The plain really looked like in the movie, and we were almost on our own in the wilderness (we can really close to a bison in his way to reunite with the herd).
bison in Yellowstone
As we came back to the car, it was Daniel's nap time and he fell asleep right away. We continued our way North. We first visited the North Rim of the Canyon, since we hadn't been able to do it the day before due to the weather. Parking is somewhat easy on the North Rim, and there is very little walking to do to get to the sightseeing spots. My husband and I alternated checking out the sights while the other watched Daniel nap in the car.
Yellowstone Canyon, North Rim
Yellowstone Canyon, North Rim
Yellowstone Canyon, North Rim
Yellowstone Canyon, North Rim

Later, Daniel once again woke up right on time for our next adventure. We quickly stopped at the trail head to Mount Washburn, but we didn't do much hiking. It was very windy, cold and it was already getting late given our heavy program. We visited Tower Fall quickly (although still took the time to eat ice cream), and continued our journey to find wildlife. We were hoping that the Lamar valley (to the North East) would be the place to spot all the animals we had come to see. Our next 2 stops were disappointing: we excitedly parked on the road next to about 25 other cars that had already gathered, just to find out that we had missed a grizzly and then a black bear. How sad!
The next encounter was better, though. We came really close to a herd of bisons who were crossing the street and stopping traffic. Very fun to watch all the interactions in the herd.
Bisons crossing the road
bisons in Yellowstone

Our drive in Lamar Valley didn't lead to as much wildife as we had hoped (a few deers, gazelles, and a bear family that we just saw for half a minute). But the drive itself was fantastic. Watching the river valley, surrounded by the mountains, in the evening light, was spectacular.
Views from Lamar Valley
Lamar Valley Yellowstone
Lamar Valley, Yellowstone
Lamar Valley, Yellowstone
gazelle in Lamar Valley, Yellowstone

Daniel got tired of sitting in the car for that long, but we managed to keep him entertained for a while by teaching him words and counting, and singing a lot of kids songs (the joys of parenting!). Eventually, he fell asleep quietly at sunset, and slept until we arrived at the hotel... late (just in time for us to buy a few snacks for dinner before the grocery store closed). We had a great family dinner in our room, though. Daniel was so happy to be "home" (in this case, this meant "not in a car seat and able to play with the trains we had brought along") and so relieved he didn't have to sit in a high chair for yet another long dinner. He was so much fun, and a great end of a long and eventful day.

View other parts of our trip here:
Day 1: SFO-Jackson,WY. Drive to Old Faithful via Grand Teton.
Day 2: Old Faithful-Canyon-Lake
Day 4: Mammoth Hot Springs-Norris-Old Faithful.

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Yellowstone vacation, Day 2

Our second day at Yellowstone started with a hearty breakfast at our hotel, the Old Faithful Inn (large, old, wooden building... beautiful), and an encounter with a bison. One of many during this trip.
Old Faithful Inn
Old Faithful Inn
We then proceeded with a 1.5-hour hike along the geysers in Old Faithful, a very interesting collection of various geological formations: big, small, active, dormant, predictable, irregular, etc...

Hike around Old faithful geysers
geyser at Old Faithful

geyser at Old Faithful
By the late morning, we started our drive to the Lake Area via Madison and the Canyon. Daniel fell asleep in the car per his regular nap schedule, and we were able to do some sightseeing from the car. Daniel was well refreshed when we arrived at the Canyon section (although I inadvertently woke him up a few miles before when I spotted a bison by the road).
Bison by the road
bisoon at Yellowstone
So we went to visit the South section of the Canyon. The sights from the Artists Point at the very end are fantastic: a big waterfall in the distance, yellow shades on one side of the canyon, pink-reddish colors on the other. Unfortunately, we caught a thunderstorm while we were there, so we probably didn't see the canyon with the best light. Still, it was beautiful.

Yellowstone Canyon, Artist Point
Artist Point, Yellowstone Canyon
Artist Point, Yellowstone canyon

We continued our drive towards the lake while the drizzle continued. We stopped by Sulphur Canyon (which seems to be a great spot for bisons... we could see many of them both times we passed by) and Mud Volcano.
Sulphur Canyon and a bison family
Sulphur Canyon and bisons

Given the weather, we went straight to our hotel by the lake after these visits. We enjoyed a nice, relaxing evening inside. The hotel has a great view to the lake (by then, the weather had cleared up a little), and a string quartet was playing in the lobby while we could enjoy drinks and dinner.

View other parts of our trip here:
Day 1: SFO-Jackson,WY. Drive to Old Faithful via Grand Teton.
Day 3: Lake-Tower Roosevelt-Lamar Valley-Mammoth Hot Springs
Day 4: Mammoth Hot Springs-Norris-Old Faithful.

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Yellowstone vacation, Day 1

Our first travel day started early, with a flight at 7:30am. We (parents) had to wake up before our 18-month old baby, which we are not used to anymore. We left home somewhat late and had some frustrations when checking-in. But we made the flight.
Our flight plan included a stop-over in Salt Lake City. Our first flight went very well. We were able to entertain Daniel with breakfast, watching take-off and landing, and reading the airline magazine (at his age, he now knows enough words to recognize a lot of pictures in travel magazines.. very convenient).
In Salt Lake City, our 2nd flight was delayed and we ended up seeing more of the airport than we wanted. Fortunately, Daniel did great during this whole time, despite the fact that it spanned past his regular nap time: he enjoyed watching the planes come and go, and all the activity preparing for take-off. Then, he fell asleep before we even took off the second time, happy and excited.
Upon arrival in Jackson, WY, we started our drive to the Yellowstone National Park, via Grand Teton. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed the scenery a lot. We made 2 stops in Grand Teton: one at Jenny Lake, one at the Grand Teton Lodge overlooking the beautiful Grand Teton Lake.
Jenny Lake
Jenny Lake Grand Teton
Grand Teton from Grand Teton Lodge
Grand Teton
Finally, we entered Yellowstone. We stopped twice to watch and take pictures of the Lewis river canyon and falls. Then, we went straight to our first hotel in Old Faithful (the rest of the drive wasn't that interesting).
We arrived at Old Faithful right before one of the eruptions of the geyser, as the sun was getting down. It was a great, warm evening, and the light was perfect.
Old Faithful
Old Faithful geyser eruption We enjoyed being able to stretch and walk after the long travel. Daniel was particularly happy to have the chance to run around, and to find a group of teenagers who were jumping on benches and became his role models for the evening.
Daniel and a teenager, preparing for the jumping competition

Needless to say that, after all this activity, we didn't have any issues putting Daniel to bed on that day, despite being in a new environment.

View other parts of the trip here:
Day 2: Old Faithful-Canyon-Lake
Day 3: Lake-Tower Roosevelt-Lamar Valley-Mammoth Hot Springs
Day 4: Mammoth Hot Springs-Norris-Old Faithful.

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Aug 7, 2009

The perfect evening...

Had to write this... Tonight was such a great evening and I wanted to capture some of the highlights. As I have written before, Daniel is currently a lot of fun at his age (18 months), although we are seeing tantrums and strong will show up more and more. We definitely experienced some of it during our trip in Yellowstone.
Tonight was one of these evenings that couldn't have been better.

I picked up Daniel from daycare, and he was very excited to see me (this is quite usual). However, the good part today was that he didn't make too much fuss getting into the car. Sometimes it takes us forever to go from the daycare to the parking lot, because he keeps wanting to go back to daycare, to say good-bye to the teachers, wave to the other kids, hug the teddy bears, etc... This is a long process.
In the car, Daniel discovered books I had picked up from the library, and started to read them happily by himself. I hadn't seen them myself, so I didn't quite know what he was looking at and couldn't do much to read with him (I was driving after all). But
he seemed to be completely in control and satisfied.

We stopped by a park along the way. It had been a while (probably 2 weeks) since we hadn't been at this park. When Daniel saw we were stopping, he was soooo excited. Did I say he was excited? I should have recorded his reaction. So great! Daniel played very well in the park, sharing his sand toys with other kids with no complaining, trying the different activities. Right when it was getting colder, Daniel decided by himself it was time to go back to the car to read his new books again (that was also a first... I usually have to drag him out of the park).

Once at home, Daniel played by himself for a long time, building towers, playing with his shape-toys, telling himself stories (I think), cleaning (he loves using his toy broom or wipes like a big boy). And he was so happy the entire time, laughing and talking excitedly. This allowed me to do laundry, clean up the kitchen, prepare dinner, check email, all with no complaining at all... I am sure any mom would appreciate that this alone made the evening amazing and much better than expected.

Dinner went well too. Daniel interacted with us a lot, and he was very cuddly.

Oh, and this entire time, he didn't ask much for his pacifier (he even brought it back to his crib as he is supposed to). This is something that had been concerning us for the last few weeks: Daniel seemed to be asking for his pacifier more and more during the day, although we had come to a point before where he only needed it at sleep time. Hopefully, tonight was a first step toward using the pacifier less and less.

Anyways, this was a great evening. Funny how expectations and criteria for a great evening change when you become a parent, don't they?

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Aug 6, 2009

Delta Airlines needs to rethink their check-in line strategy

For our trip to Yellowstone National Park, we flew with Delta Airlines from San Francisco to Jackson, WY via Salt Lake City, UT. This was the most convenient and a somewhat cheap flight, so we took it, even though we usually fly with United Airlines. We have flown with our now 18-month old baby on lap many times over the last year and a half, and we thought we had gotten the routine down: check in at the counter, ask for an extra ticket for the baby on lap, done... Easy enough.
However, our experience with Delta Airlines this time was nothing short of easy or efficient. They should re-think their check-in strategy if they want to keep happy customers.

The flight was early in the morning, and we were a little late arriving at the airport. My husband dropped Daniel and me in the check-in area, and went to park the car. In the meantime, I was going to get our tickets. Seeing that the line for the check-in counter was quite long, I thought I should be able to get our flight tickets (at least for us adults) through the automated machines first. At least, I would have tickets, so I would be sure we wouldn't get bumped if timing got too tight... Then I could always go back to the check-in counter to get the ticket for Daniel.

As I proceeded to the line for the automated ticketing machine, a Delta Airlines worker saw me with Daniel. Realizing that I was flying with a child on lap, she urged me to go directly to the ticket counter, arguing that I would need to get his extra ticket first. Sorry, no automated ticket for you, miss.
Fortunately, the line there went faster than expected, and I could check-in before Guido had come back from the parking lot. Unfortunately, this meant that the agent didn't want to issue his flight ticket, although I had his ID with me. I also found out that I didn't need any extra ticket for Daniel, as children on lap with Delta are just included in the parent's ticket (which the automated machine can do too).
Since I ended up getting just one out of the 2 tickets that I needed, I went back to the automated machine line, where I could obviously get Guido's ticket alongside mine, no questions asked...

Morale of the story: I had to stand in 3 different lines to get tickets I could have gotten directly from the first line I was in. Each time, a Delta agent urged me to change my plan as it was "their policy", and it turned out to be a disaster. Is it their policy to have their customers spend more time waiting and interacting with their agents than needed? How efficient is that?
Morale of the story #2: If you fly Delta with a child on lap, don't bother talking to an agent... It would be no help. I think I made a comment to myself about this inefficient process, which a Delta employee heard and asked me to explain. When I tried to, she didn't seem to get it. Sigh!
Morale of the story #3: Avoid Delta Airlines all together?

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Aug 5, 2009

New accomplishments of our 18-month old toddler: speaking, friends, etc...

During our recent trip to Yellowstone National Park, we had the chance to interact with Daniel 24/7 for 5 days, a change we appreciated much, considering that he usually goes to daycare full time. This gave us the chance to observe his latest developments and to teach him more French and German words. New words from the trip included Dampf (steam from the geysers), riviere (river), nuage/Wolke (cloud), tonnerre/Donner (thunderstorm), rouge/rot (red color) and the concept of colors in general.
On a side note, there is one word that Daniel always seems to get wrong, although he knows exactly what it means and how to use it: bateau (boat). Daniel knows how to pronounce the sounds "ba" and "to" separately, but his word for bateau is reverse "ta-bo". No matter how much we tried to correct it, Daniel was determined in calling boats "ta-bo" (or boats... he gets the English/German version right and can use it appropriately as well). At this age, we still think it's cute... We just hope this will get fixed by itself at some point.

A big milestone was the start of 2-word sentences. They are still very rare and require some prompting. But we noticed that Daniel is really starting to understand how words go together. Examples of sentences would include: more cookies, papa dodo (daddy is sleeping - this is still baby French, though), mama's shoes.
One day in particular, we were able to witness Daniel's first long sentence and how his brain was working processing it. It happened as we passed by a family with a little girl who was crying from hurting her foot when hiking. Daniel noticed it and described: pleure (cry). I responded with the full sentence: "oui, la petite fille pleure, elle a fait "owie" au pied". (yes, the little girl is crying, she hurt her foot). For the next 5 minutes, Daniel kept repeating the story his way:
tit'fille... pleure... owie... pied.
Wow! That is a lot of meaning coming out of his mouth. And what a focus, ignoring everything else that was happening around him to repeat this one story for 5 minutes.

Along the same lines of processing, Daniel made the connection between the many dead trees lying on the ground (from previous fires) and the fact that people/animals lie when sleeping. He kept pointing at the trees saying "Baum dodo" (trees are sleeping, although this is a mixture of German and French - we'll fix that later). So cute!

Other interesting observations from our trip included
* the fact that we are usually able to entertain Daniel for longer periods of time by just pointing at objects around us, whether we are in a plane or at dinner. Very convenient. Daniel now knows enough objects that we are usually able to find a long list of things to show him or ask him to find, and he enjoys playing along. He is starting to be interested in drawing with crayons (still mostly strikes, but he understands the concept of putting color on a drawing and enjoys it for a while). This helps a lot in restaurants.
* the fact that Daniel really missed his friends from daycare, and kept asking for them by their names all the time. This is quite recent, as he just started naming them in June. But his friendships have become so strong over the last few months that he literally was asking for his friends all the time. He was definitely very happy to be back home and go back to daycare.
And we were happy to have our routine back, although spending time as a family was great too!

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