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2013/08/30 / Shanan

BACK TO BASICS: THE KID’S ‘SPLURGE’

Last week I did a round-up of real clothes I was buying for my 2-year old daughter for the upcoming fall season. I’m sticking to my strategy of buying pretty simple, affordable basics but I did mention that I wanted to get one special ‘splurge’ item (I’m using the term ‘splurge’ for lack of a better one; every time I type it I cringe a little). Since it doesn’t feel financially realistic for us to build her a wardrobe out of solely handmade, small-batch pieces, my new strategy is to purchase just one of these things every season.  I think it’s really important to support local, independent businesses when you can, so I’m trying to make a conscious effort to forego the Joe Fresh aisles of the world every so often.  I’m hardly a saint in this department, but you gotta start somewhere.

I’ve been a fan of More & Co.‘s site for a while (coincidentally they are based in Portland, Maine, but their shop was closed the day we hung out there) and wanted to get their limited edition linen smock/shirt/dress for Theo. It’s a unisex, one-size style built to last, with fabric hand-printed in California and designed by Fanja Ralison of Le Train Fantôme.

Go Play kids smock more & Co Le Train Fantome

The sweet smock is $60, which feels like a somewhat reasonable indulgence (aka, more than I’d usually spend for a single piece of kid’s clothing, but only tangentially reminding me of that line spit out by Jennifer Aniston in the under-rated Friends With Money, about buying “your 2 year old $80 shoes from France”).

Is there anything you’d consider splurging on for your kids?

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2013/08/23 / Shanan

STATE OF MAINE: PART III

Isn’t it funny how just a week after returning from a vacation, it almost feels like it never happened?  Here’s the last of our trip highlights – it’s kind of a salt-water-taffy-esque grab-bag (hardly the Maine attraction, har har).

Image above: You can’t be a true ‘Maine-ah’ unless you have a lobster roll.  This one was from the Portland Lobster Company.

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Portland now has its very own set of love locks.  I mean it’s kind of romantic, right?

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portland maine children's museum

We visited the Children’s Museum of Maine which was fantastic, not the least of which because I remember going when I was little.  The displays have obviously all been updated since the Cambrian period (or whenever it was that I was a kid) but they still had many of the same type of attractions that were so vivid to me: a play supermarket, pirate ship, dress-up space, etc.

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Theo’s favourite was the room where you collected plastic coloured balls in buckets and got to drop them down different ramps and slides.  There were some crazy hyper kids in that room but she was laser-focused.

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2013/08/22 / Shanan

BACK TO BASICS: BUILDING A GIRL’S WARDROBE

I do love the heat but I’m not immune to the promise of a slight chill in the air and all that comes with that – I think you know what I’m talking about. FALL CLOTHES, people.  My personal shopping moratorium is still in effect, which does require some will-power but I’m okay with it (plus, the proliferation of jean shorts this summer clearly demonstrates that I deserve to temporarily belong in some kind of wardrobe purgatory. See examples here, here, and here.  Oh geez, and here).

So I guess that I’m set for now.  My daughter, however, is not.  In the last month she’s grown out of the vast majority of her clothes, so I need to do some substantial wardrobe replenishing for the fall.  Vicarious spending at its finest!

The only thing is that I actually hate most clothes for little girls.  So many bad colours, cheesy sayings, too-short skirts, and general frippery that to my eye just makes kids look tacky and obnoxious (which, let’s face it, they sometimes are, but they don’t need to dress like it).  I remember reading designer Claire Vivier‘s interview on The Glow where she said, “I think children are so beautiful, and they should just dress simply or else it takes away from their beauty,” which perfectly expresses how I feel on the matter.

I was going to do a wish-list of girl’s clothes for Fall, but it seemed like a cop-out because I knew that I’d be including items that I certainly would never shell out for for my own daughter.  I really wrestle with the big-box store conundrum, as in a perfect world I’d obviously like to be the type of mother who outfits her child in all organic fabrics made by independent designers… but then I see a pair of kid’s leggings for $40 and I just can’t pull that trigger.  I don’t know if there’s an easy answer here.

Anyhow, I decided instead that I’d show you my real list of new items that I am actually buying for Theo (4/5 of which I’ve already purchased), instead of just an aspirational round-up.  I set out browsing online with the intention of choosing pieces that could really work together interchangeably.  My issue in the past is that I usually bought things here and there on a whim, and as a result Theo often looks like she’s gotten dressed in the dark because nothing even remotely matches (and not that that should really even matter for a kid, right? Well, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that it does bother me sometimes).

I wanted to go back to basics, skewing towards a classic Holly-Hobby-meets-minimal-cool vibe.  I mean, she’s two.  I think she can pull it off.

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1. Shirt with stars and bib-detailing, Zara.

2. Basic cardigan in ochre, Zara.

3. Bib-front pocket tunic, J.Crew.

4. Dress with ruffle hem, Zara

5. Floral dress, Zara. (are you sensing a theme here? The Europeans know how to do kid’s clothing)

6. Corduroy jumper dress, J.Crew.*

7. Printed leggings in anthracite grey, Zara.

8. Leggings in grey/black stripe, orange, and pink, Gap.

* I’m waiting for this to go on sale, because a $68 dress made in China just isn’t happening on my watch.

There are still some gaps here (we’ll need some new boots and a few more shirts and sweaters) but this is how it’s going so far.  Thanks for reading what has apparently emerged as a novella outlining my personal philosophies on kidswear.  Also, it’s not lost on me that the graphic I created here indeed looks anything but ‘basic.’  Oh, irony.

Next week I’ll show you the one special piece for Theo that I do plan to splurge on.  The suspense is killing you, right?  (maybe don’t answer that)

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2013/08/16 / Shanan

STATE OF MAINE: PART 1

Pine Trees.  Blueberries.  Lobster.  Stephen King.  I was proudly born in Maine and lived there til I was five, at which point my parents moved us back to Canada, where they grew up.  My maternal grandmother (‘Tanny’) still lives in a house right on the sea and so every summer I make the trip to visit her and to re-experience a little bit of that laid-back New England charm.  This is the source of all my early sense memories – sand under my fingernails, damp slaps of little feet on the boardwalk, the squish of tart wild blackberries from the secret patch discovered by my dad.

But the place is stubborn – after nearly 30 years, those blackberries are still growing exactly where they used to be, and the boardwalk sounds the same even under an adult’s footfalls.  As a visiting teenager, the whole place felt backwards, even mildly oppressive.  “Thank God we moved away,” I’d say to my parents, “or I’d probably be ‘pah-king the cah’ at a friend’s house and doing whip-its in their basement every weekend.”

It’s different now, though.  Being a little older, debatably a little wiser (or maybe just more nostalgic), and with a family of my own to share all those things that never really changed, that are actually pretty great.  Clambering over barnacle-encrusted rocks, inhaling the scent of wild roses, bringing home pies from the Higgins Beach market.  Sometimes it’s damn nice to exist, for a little while, in the realm of the absolute.

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Speaking of absolutes, I think it’s fair to say that I absolutely must stop wearing my husband’s cast-off jean shorts in public.

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This beach outside my Tanny’s place is the one that I spent all my time on as a little kid.  Isn’t it beautiful?

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We were lucky enough to have a week of seriously fabulous weather.  In fact it was the first visit in memory where I packed a heavy sweater and never even had to pull it out of my suitcase.

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We moved around a fair bit when I was little, and this is the first house I remember living in.  We used to rent it from a couple who still own it to this day, and I got a sweet and generous hug from Mary when I ran into her on the beach last week.

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2013/08/06 / Shanan

HOW TO TRAVEL ON AN AIRPLANE WITH A TWO YEAR OLD

We are headed to Maine to visit my grandmother later this week and will be taking Theodora on what will be her fifth airplane trip (or, if you want to get technical, her ninth actual flight).  I fall somewhere in the middle of the whole traveling-with-kids spectrum – it’s not like I totally dread it, but I do feel like we’ve limited ourselves a bit as far as our planning goes because oh god, can you imagine being trapped in a metal box hurtling through space for 12 hours with a toddler?  This may or may not have something to do with the fact that I dislike flying, and often require an in-flight cocktail of valium chased with a steady stream of Kate Hudson rom-coms just to keep it together.  Hey, remember that scene in Bridesmaids?

But I digress.  Here are my 10 tips for smooth airline travel with your little one.  These are mostly culled from our own experiences, and I greatly appreciate and welcome any additional brilliant ideas that you probably have. At this stage, I’m pretty confident that my interest in reading kiddie travel tips will endure well into my 70s.

1.  Bring a ton of snacks

Snacks for eating on the plane. Snacks for while you’re waiting in line.  Snacks for when you’re on the other end, waiting for luggage in an unfamiliar airport.  We like dried fruit of all kinds (goji berries, raisins in tiny boxes that tiny hands can pick out slowly, one by one), homemade granola bars, cashews, carrot sticks, and those fruit squeezie pouches.  I’m sure the French would have something to say about all this but I’m embracing my gauche North-American ways – we’re talking survival here.

2.  Surprise them with small toys

The key is to stock up on a bunch of new little things (this is where visiting a Dollarama comes in handy) that you can pull out at appropriate intervals.  It’s more about novelty than anything else, so if a random little toy gets lost under your seat, nobody will lose their shit.  Here’s what I’ve bought for our trip this time: finger puppets, a mini slinky, some Playmobil people, new stickers, and a couple of the Mr Men books (Mr Tickle always creeped me out so I’m curious to see what Theo will think).

3.  Always pack extra clothes

Everyone has their own story involving spilled drinks and/or bodily fluids that became the catalyst for ALWAYS bringing a change of clothes for their kids, everywhere they go.  I am no exception.  It’s only an hour-long flight, you say?  Proceed at your own risk, mama.  Also, bring a pair socks even in summer because those little feet always get chilly in airplanes.

4.  Wet Wipes, washi tape, and ziploc bags solve nearly everything

I make sure that the Wet Wipes are strategically placed and easily accessible in every bag we’re carrying with us. It’s not the most economical, but I usually buy a bunch of the mini packs from the drugstore’s travel section.  I also brought a roll of washi tape on a whim once and it worked great for keeping paper on the tray-table during manic bouts of colouring, as well as just being a silly thing to have around for sticking on hands, faces, on the window, etc. Sealable ziplocs will quickly corral errant toys and snacks, and are a godsend when your child needs to change into the aforementioned extra clothes (otherwise, where were you going to store those wet pants?).

5. Bring the umbrella stroller, even if your child doesn’t use it much anymore

You’ll feel a lot better knowing you can wait in the really long line at the airport Starbucks and then still zoom right over to your gate.  You can hang your purse and other carry-on luggage on the stroller, then fold it up and check it for free before you board.  And unless you’re one of those parents who uses a leash on their child (please tell me you are not), it’s nice to be able to keep them contained if necessary.

6.  Technology is your friend

Not to stereotype across gender lines or anything, but now’s the time to let your husband buy that iPad.  Load some games and a few kid’s movies on there and you’re gold.  Theo is rarely allowed screen-time at our house but while we’re traveling, almost anything goes.  Don’t forget to pack comfortable headphones (earbuds won’t cut it with most 2 year olds, so get an old-school-type pair).

7.  Scam an extra seat

Once your child turns two, you’ll have to buy them their own seat.  But an Air Canada employee gave us a tip that worked great for when Theo was little and we’d just take her on our lap.  If the aircraft you’re traveling on has a row of three seats, book the two outer seats in a row.  The chances of a single passenger booking that middle seat are very slim, so you will most likely end up with an empty seat between you and huzzah, now you have the whole row. There’s risk involved in this strategy but it’s always worked out for us (plus if someone does take the middle seat, they’ll be happy to switch so you can all sit together).

8. Don’t board right away

This is a great tip I learned from Hither & Thither.  Try to stay off the plane as long as you can, despite the ‘pre-boarding for families’ announcement.  Depending on the size of your flight, sometimes it can take half an hour or more for all the passengers to board and get settled before anything happens at all.  Just stick close to the gate, let your child stretch, move, and just generally get their yah-yahs out as much as possible, then slip in near the end.

9. Help with take-off and landing

In the past I’ve always nursed upon take-off and landing to help with Theo’s ears popping so this will be the first flight sans les boobs. I plan to bring both some lollipops to suck on and fun bendy drinking straws to use should she need them.

10. Don’t worry too much about other passengers

This is usually people’s #1 fear about flying with kids, that they’ll disrupt the people around you or cry a lot and everyone will give you dirty looks. Generally, if you provide your little ones with plenty of distraction and proper attention, they’ll do okay.  But meltdowns can happen, and you’re doing the best you can.  I’ve seen blogs where people hand out mini gift bags of treats and earplugs to neighbouring passengers, in order to foster goodwill should their kids cry.  Lovely in theory but jesus, isn’t that a little over the top?  I’m not saying don’t be considerate of the people around you, just that it’s not necessary to put extra stress and pressure into the mix worrying about it all.

So, there you have it.  Do you have any of your own great tips to fly the friendly skies with little kids in tow?