Monday, July 14, 2014

The Things I Learned and Re-learned While Traveling Internatinoally with Three Small Children

1. When booking a Japanese hotel room online, avoid places that claim to be only for foreigners or at least ask them to send the dimensions of the room you book. Otherwise, you end up with a "triple" room that looks like this:

Three year-old included for scale.

For the record, I cried when I saw this room, but not before Sky had a massive meltdown over its minuscule size. In case you're wondering, the meltdown occurred in the hallway because although he could look inside and see how small the room was, it took time for all of us to squeeze in with our luggage.

2. It really is possible to get three children and a stroller, four rolling suitcases, four backpacks, and a man with a cane on or off the train during the 30 to 60 seconds the doors are open, but it may require yelling.

3. When traveling through Japan during rainy season, you will get rained on, the children will splash you with puddles, and their umbrellas will turn into makeshift water funnels, dropping streams of water into your shoes.

To make yourself feel better, you should have your children re-enact scenes from movies they like.

4. There can never be too many convenience stores.

5. GFCF is not as easy as it should be but also not as hard as you might think. On the one hand, this:

See all the yellow arrows? They are pointing to the clearly-marked list of allergens found in each of the dishes. Most restaurants have this helpful information, so that's good, right? Well, kind of. You see, even though many restaurants are savvy enough to make sure customers know what's in the food, this doesn't actually mean they offer alternative options. I mean, I'm glad to know all of the things my kids can't eat. I just wish there was something they COULD eat. And, if you've spent any time in Japan, you know that asking them to simply remove an ingredient to make it allergy friendly doesn't always work. McDonalds absolutely would not take the buns off the hamburgers I ordered which meant that the kids whined and cried about not being able to eat them. Telling people the kids were allergic sometimes made things worse as there is clearly a protocol in place for making sure that moms of kids with allergies take full responsibility for possible cross contamination. On one flight, I had to tell multiple flight attendants that I understood that my choice to have my kids eat the food was solely my responsibility.

6. You can never have too many KitKats.

Image from:

7. I'll never stop missing Japanese-style customer service.

Each time we flew on All Nippon Airways, they gave each kid a toy. They also brought around warm wet towels for wiping our hands, plenty of extra wet wipes for eating with children, and hot soup broth as one of our drink options. Gas station attendants came out to greet us and make sure we knew how to pump our own gas. Hotel and restaurant staff walked us to the door and bowed us away. When Stow hit his head, not only did the concierge bring him ice, but she also checked on his well being the following day and every day after that until we checked out of the hotel. Every purchase was carefully wrapped, and wrapped again and bagged, and at one point, when I told the person at the register I was in a hurry, she called two people to help and still apologized for taking too long to wrap. I could go on, but you get the point.

8. It's still nearly impossible to go to a hot spring bath with a preschooler.

9. You can never get enough bad English. This sign took me awhile to figure out:

I had to read the Japanese to understand they meant no beer or wine and not necessarily no illegally produced, low-quality spirits. I assumed, since it was the Hyatt, that they probably didn't have a significant backwoods moonshiner problem, but then again, you can never be too sure about these things.

10. If you carry your things through US customs in a cardboard box, you will be searched, even if the thing in the box is a heated toilet seat in its original packaging.

This was not the first time we've been stopped for carrying a box of stuff (link). It was, however, the first time a customs agent laughed so hard at me that he waved us through while clutching the stitch in his side.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

It's Been Awhile Since I Made a PSA, So Here You Go...

We've been home from our travels for almost 72 hours, and we've already had a trip to urgent care. The doctor says this is a coin. Stow claims it's a key. Whatever it is, he managed to drop it from his fingers, into his open mouth, and down his throat while he was lying on the ground as I changed him for bed. I didn't realize he had anything in his hands until he gagged and jumped up. I guess the good news is that once something inadvertently swallowed has reached the stomach, there's usually smooth sailing. The less good news is that, to make sure it passes safely, somebody gets to be on poop inspection duty (or should I say "doody"?) for the next one to three days until it comes through. Ren seems bored. I'll let him do it.

But, seriously, this little trip to urgent care reminds me to remind you to be vigilant about your button batteries--you know the ones you use in watches and Hex Bugs. Unlike the gem currently resting in Stow's digestive track, button batteries, when swallowed, can burn a hole into the esophagus and cause life-threatening injury very quickly. When we were in Japan, we saw a news program demonstrate how fast this can happen by placing a battery on a piece of cut hot dog. Within minutes, it had burrowed deep down and out of sight. The nurse tonight said she's seen cases where the kids told their parents what had happened right away, and "They still had a bad outcome." So, here's my PSA: Make sure that your older kids understand the risk and that your younger ones can't accidentally get their hands on a button battery. After all, as our evening adventure proves, it really is pretty easily for kids to swallow things they shouldn't.