Lessons Learned: Two Weeks in Minneapolis with a Toddler

It was quite a trip, and I did a fairly good job having the right stuff on hand. A couple things I want to remember for our next big travel:
  • Bring fewer toys and books. I brought probably 20 books and nearly as many toys. I had visions of playing and reading in the hotel room. Uh ... it's not childproofed, so we spent most of our time out and about. Also, we did plenty of shopping, including some books and toys of course! So a better idea would have been just a few toys and books for the plane, and then play it by ear otherwise. For books we can always go to the library. Even though we can't check them out we could always read, read, read there.
  • Bring fewer clothes -- especially if I know I'll be doing laundry, just do it twice instead of only once -- and then that adds space in the suitcase to buy more clothes! (Particularly MY clothes -- I way over packed and for some reason forgot that I can wear jean shorts more than once.)
  • Bring a booster seat! We had to buy one, which turned out OK. We found a folding travel booster on Amazon (affiliate link) that had pretty good reviews and was available at Babies R Us. It made mealtime infinitely easier. It folds down flat and weighs less than 2 lbs. I highly recommend it, and now we have a booster for our October trip and to use for coloring/stickers at the kitchen table. It's a Thing that I Bought That I Love. Some of the reviews talk about how the seat collapses under the toddler -- I don't think that can happen if the straps are tightened properly -- it's pretty cool how it works actually.
  • Gate check the stroller! (Although it managed to get home OK without any further damage by checking it as luggage.)
NAILED IT. Things that worked for us for toddler travel.
  • Always bring a small First Aid kid. We had Band Aids with us, which were key when Jane cut her index finger in the elevator. It was fine, but I was glad I had them. (Hotel had some too, so there's always that, but I like relying on myself, probably more than I should.)
  • STICKERS STICKERS STICKERS -- these are great on the plane and for downtime in restaurants or really any time she's in the mood. I like the bigger stickers that are round -- easier for her to place and less frustrating. I had a little mini notebook that she could put them in, and bonus she can later flip through them and relive the fun!
  • Water bottle and tote bags -- definitely a city vacationer's friend. (I'm in the market for a flat water bottle I think ... I've been using my Life Factory glass one, and it's super heavy even when empty -- although water always tastes great.)
  • Cool towels -- we went to MN in the middle of a heat wave, so these were great to have while we were at the zoo and other outdoor activities in the heat.
  • Dog backpack -- I got this at a consignment sale before Jane could even walk. It's basically a leash, but it gives her more freedom than she'd have otherwise (there's probably an analogy for life in there somewhere). What I mean is that I don't have to grip her hand tightly and we can walk a little easier knowing she can't jet away from us. Jane's very much into walking now and rarely wants to be carried. She'll ride in the stroller some, but we didn't have the stroller with us in the airport so the dog was good. It was also a nice hugging friend on the plane and served as a pillow/arm prop for the one flight she actually slept.
  • Bigger diaper bag for me -- I tried on all of the bags I own that were about the size I was thinking (remembering from the Berlin trip), and I settled on a luggage-style soft-sided bag that had an adjustable strap. So I was able to make it long enough to hit my hip. I wore it with the Ergo or just pushing the stroller, and it was great.  
I tried "hypnosis" from this Scary Mommy blog post about traveling with kids.  I told Jane how she'd feel sleepy and cozy when we got on the plane. When I asked her what she'd do when we got on the plane, she'd respond "Shhh..." But the first flight was no sleep, even though it was still early. I guess 6:30 am is about her normal wake up time, but she'd already been up for more than 2 hours, so what gives? I was exhausted and ready to sleep! After monumental amounts of play in the DFW airport she did sleep for over an hour on the last flight, and she didn't have any trouble falling asleep in her own crib back home. So I think I should count myself lucky. I certainly do!

Minneapolis-St. Paul in Bullets

I didn't write a blog post every day like I did when we were in Berlin. But I did take brief notes and thought I'd save an outline of our trip itinerary here -- and in case it's ever useful for anyone looking for kid-friendly things to do in Minneapolis-St. Paul. We had the best time, and I'm thinking it might have been my best vacation yet!

I have written several Trip Advisor reviews while we've been here, so just linking to those for some of the descriptions. Unfortunately, I can't link directly to my reviews but just to the actual attraction page. My name on Trip Advisor is "silvermari" -- no surprise -- if you want to click through and see what I wrote.

I took over 700 photos in two weeks, and as much as I want to share all of the best ones of Jane I've decided not to. I might post one or two on Facebook (and I did as we "checked in" places with free wifi -- another perk of a big city). BUT I did take 40 photos that turned out in which Jane isn't the focus of the photos (although she is in a couple!). I forgot to take any pictures of our FEET on vacation. D'oh!

Saturday 7/13: ARRIVE, plenty of hassles (see damaged stroller)

Sunday 7/14:
  • Getting supplies/groceries
  • Minnehaha Depot and Minnehaha Falls (surprisingly fun, and kind of a stumbled-upon thing that we would have gone to later in the trip otherwise I'm sure)
  • Swim in the hotel pool
Monday 7/15:
  • North Loop Playground by Mississippi River (walking distance from the hotel -- brand new and so nice)
  • Target downtown for more supplies
  • Como Town Zoo and Conservatory
Tuesday 7/16:
 Wednesday 7/17:
Thursday 7/18:
  • North Loop Playground by Mississippi River
  • Minnesota Central Library baby story time -- WOW. This is a bigger system than EBR, and the quality was outstanding. The group was much smaller, they provided copies of each book read so everyone could read along, and there was toy time afterward! Also it was in a room separate from the bigger kids, which was less distracting and more focused than what we're used to. I miss this library!
  • Walker Art Center
  • Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
Friday 7/19:
  • Webcam with Katie
  • Family story time in Cancer Survivors Park
  • IKEA and Target
Saturday 7/20:
  • Mill City Museum
  • Swim in the hotel pool
  • Dinner party at a house on a lake about 30 minutes from Minneapolis (so beautiful!)
Sunday 7/21:
  • Mall of America rides, lunch and shopping
  • Webcam with Popeye and Grandma Dale
  • Wild Rumpus "Tail Time" and book shopping
  • University of Minnesota walking tour with Daddy and shopping at UMN book store
Tuesday 7/23:
  • Downtown St. Paul, Landmark Plaza and Peanuts character statues
  • Minnesota Science Museum
  • North Loop Playground by the Mississippi River
Wednesday 7/24:
Thursday 7/25:
  • Target (again!)
  • Minnesota Central Library baby story time (different librarian but still amazing and fun)
  • Swim in the hotel pool
Friday 7/26:
  • Guthrie Theater Endless Observation Bridge
  • Stone Arch Bridge / Mill Ruins Park
  • Family story time (instead of in the park was in the library because of sprinkles)
  • Toddler yoga (which was actually big kid yoga and we missed most of it because they had it in the park and we were still in the library when it started!)
  • North Loop Playground by the Mississippi River -- was so hard to say goodbye to this beautiful park, and the amazing weather in July (but I keep reminding myself we'll get there in October and November when Minneapolis is in the snow!).
Saturday 7/27: HOME, with plenty of hassles (mega storm, main road closed and Toad's Wild (taxi) Ride to get home, but all luggage and passengers in tact -- our house still standing too!).

Retail Scenes

Balloon Race Ride at Mall of America
I made it to the Mall of America on this trip. And it was underwhelming -- or perhaps overwhelming. I'm sure I would have had a better time -- and better shopping luck -- if I had been on my own. (A toddler always slows you down.) It also would have helped if it weren't so crowded. We went on a Sunday; although I'm not sure if it's any better during the week.

Basically I went to this retail mecca and didn't buy much of anything (although I fell in love with a store: Typo ... OMG full of such fun stationery type things). We got Jane some educational place mats (easy packing!) at a game shop, and I bought some post cards. But otherwise the lines were too long, we were all melting down -- we showed up an hour before stores even opened but were able to spend that time riding rides, which was fun and Jane's first time! Lunch there was good too, and I felt extraordinarily happy just before we ventured back into the fray of the crowd.

All in all it was a bit of a disappointment, but I was only tempted a little bit to go back in the week and reclaim the retail therapy that could be mine.

I took Jane to a bookstore story time and made up for it by buying here a Twin Cities themed ABC book and a purse/book bag/cross-body bag for me. I had to ask the sales lady to get it down, and when she told me the price ($45) I was too embarrassed to say I didn't want it. It's handmade (this was a hippie, independent bookstore so it's not the worst thing to support it!), and is black and white with tons of pockets. I don't know if I'll be able to use it without feeling bad about having bought it.

So much for retail therapy.

Coffee Filters as Toddler Dishes

I didn't bring enough plastic baby bowls on this trip, and before I went and bought some more that I'd have to pack and carry home I actually had an idea -- well recalled an idea I'm sure I read on a blog or Pinterest or Facebook -- and used some of the 100 coffee filters I bought for the coffee maker here.

(They are a bit too small for the machine, but I've managed to make due -- rookie mistake ... and they're definitely too small for the home machine; I like unbleached anyway. And even if they had been the kind I like would I really want to waste valuable suitcase space on taking home coffee filters?!)

Anyway, they have been great for corralling grapes, yogurt melts, avocado chunks and the like. Then the messier foods (cottage cheese, pesto pasta, etc.) can go in the actual bowls I brought. (The bowls are called "take and toss" but I can't bring myself to toss them!)

American Airlines Damaged My City Mini Stroller

Flash Back:
City Mini in happier days:
last summer in Berlin
And all I want to do is cry!

It is so dumb to be this irrationally attached to an object. And I didn't even know I felt this way about it. But seeing its metal frame handle bent and the gripper slashed makes me sentimental and sad. Not to mention the expensive carrying case being effectively destroyed -- zipper all but ruined and the straps ripped off -- that just makes me angry because of the obvious negligence or intentionality to open and damage it. When we got it off the carousel it was wrapped in plastic, but there wasn't a "hey, we had to inspect this and the bag broke" note. Just a jacked up stroller in a ruined bag. Waaah!

An American Airlines baggage counter worker was somewhat helpful (working with Shawn, because I probably would have been raging ridiculously and not helped matters). She said the bag might be covered or replaced. She's still checking into it, and in any case we have to take the whole contraption to a baggage counter within 30 days. Lovely.

But the stroller won't be covered because "airlines don't cover strollers." I get that an unpackaged stroller is a liability and likely to be damaged -- they're bulky and non-uniformly sized. But our Baby Jogger City Mini model is specifically designed for travel. It folds up, the wheels had clicked off and were stowed carefully inside the carrying case, which is smaller than a regular suitcase but just as stable as (or maybe more stable than) a soft-sided bag. So I feel like it should be covered just like any other bag. If the contents of a suitcase get strewn about, torn or bent, doesn't the airline compensate for that? At least partially? Maybe I have the wrong idea about how protected I am when I check a bag.

In any case I tweeted about my woes, because someone I follow had tweeted about how helpful American was to him with delays -- the corporate social media types knew more about the delays than the ground crew he was working with. @AmericanAir tweeted back to me to keep working with the baggage agent and then "sorry for the bent handle" when I tweeted an update for a couple friends who had expressed twitter sympathy. If AA is actually sorry they should cover the damage. Surely there's a way to fix the stroller, right?

I've emailed the Baby Jogger customer service to inquire about the availability of a replacement handle with grip. Hopefully it either isn't too expensive or the airline will actually cover the damage.

*Whimper, whimper, whimper*

Twinset: Rainbow Round Ripple

A starburst kind of blankie to go with the Gumdrop Roulette I already had made. Using up more of the rainbow yarn I got for some other projects.

This pattern is by designer SmoothFox and is called SmoothFox's Beginner's Round Ripple. It's the same basic pattern as the Christmas tree skirt I made earlier this year. I loved how fast it worked up and what a neat look it gave. I added a crab stitch/reverse single crochet edging to finish it off -- mostly because I love that look and actually doing the stitch is so fun.

I'm also really happy with how the two blankets look together. I think they'll make a nice gift. This is the third set of twin blankets I have made and the first for a set of girls. Love, love!

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