The City of Taipei
Welp, we did it - made it to Taiwan/CA and back with our toddler, preschooler and bun. :) Overall it was a great trip, we got to see grandparents, friends, and other relatives that we haven't seen in a long time, ate great food, and saw some awesome sights of Taiwan that people normally don't get to see. I wish I had written down the names of those places in English - but we were in the mountain regions where they grew tea and various veggies and a sheep farm! The weather up there was beautiful - a breezy mid-70s most of the time. Anyhow, the grandparents were so happy and that made us so glad we went. More on CA later...
The kids did relatively well, though the 12 hour time change really did a number on all of us. We also took turns getting strange fevers, which didn't help. The multiple layovers also made getting there and back a bit tedious. But thank God for some super helpful relatives that took care of the kids when we were too exhausted to!! A big thanks, also, to all the moms that gave great advice for traveling!! Anyhow, here's what we learned with pics to come soon. :)
-We brought a single stroller and the Ergo baby carrier. Man, those were lifesavers! If the kids wanted to walk, our lugagge went in the stroller. Plus, since the stroller was gate-checked, so it made the long walks from gate to gate a breeze. Aidan also fell asleep in it a lot, which helped so much. Now that we think back, a double would have been fine, as well, since we didn't end up schlepping it too much, though we did use the stroller some in Taiwan and those narrow streets and throngs of people wouldn't have been as forgiving as in airports. But having a single is definitely good enough. The Ergo was also a lifesaver and allow little Jana to take naps whenever we went. I just felt bad for Kev who had to carry her in the front, his backpack in the back and pull the luggage along with him at the airport. I tried carrying her in the back but it wasn't very comfortable anymore at this stage of the pregnancy.
-Babylegs were great in helping Jana transition from really hot and humid (FL, Taiwan) to cold and dry (plane, San Fran) - we love them!
-We also brought them their jackets and favorite blankets to help them sleep wherever we were at the moment.
-Klipiis bib clips were a lifesaver - they converted any napkin into a bib, so I didn't have to carry around wet, foody bibs. :)
-Avon's bug repellant was another lifesaver. Those mosquitoes in Taiwan were persistent, everywhere and huge! Just thinking about them makes me itchy! Since I have been known to be the moquito magnet, I found Avon's sunscreen and repellant in one lotion (DEET free) and their unscented Expedition repellant and suncreen spray which can be sprayed upside down (also DEET free) and they worked wonders to keep the bites to a minimum. So I only came back with about 15 bites. ;)
We had a lot of traveling to do - on the plane and on the tour bus - so it was imperative that we had a lot of boredom busters for the kiddies. The kids liked:
-sticker books and new paperbacks we got from Sort Floor Books (an online outlet with free shipping over $14.99)
-DVD player with some new DVDs (Taiwan has the same voltage)
-pipe cleaners to make things
-Dinosaur play scene from Mudpuppy
-little tubs of playdoh
-Under the Sea lacing cards from eeBoo
-lots and lots of snacks!! I bought some 100 calorie snack packs so it would be easy to pack and that worked out pretty well. On the way back, we bought some fun snacks at I-Mei and they loved those!! Taiwan definitely reigns in terms of snack assortment. Hehe.
-Aidan and Jana also took to a lot of the aunties and uncles, so they helped a lot in keeping the kiddies occupied. :)
-We even resorted to buying a Leapster on sale for Aidan but that never even got used. Can we say birthday gift? ;)
For next time
There were some things that we wish we would have done but didn't get to do.
-Show the kids pictures of all their relatives, distant and close, even if we weren't going to go on the trip. We feel that seeing those picture often and maybe knowing some of their names would be key in helping them feel more comfortable in meeting these people they haven't seen in a while. A friend of mine (Hi Leah!) has a deck of pictures in a ring for her kiddies. Will definitely have to make one soon!!
-Pack in less activities. Because we were in Taiwan and CA for such a short amount of time, we were busy visiting people. We also embarked on a tour of Taiwan for 5 days in hopes of spending time with Kev's grandparents, which was great but a bit hectic. If possible, we would have loved to have more time to do all this leisurely.
-Less layovers. We had 2 layovers because of the ticket we could afford but the kids kept falling asleep toward the end of the flight and had to wake up again to catch the next. And all that going up and down also woke them up a bit. We tried dum dums to help alleviate the ear discomfort but it was such a mess, I ended up getting gummies as a substitute for the way back.
-Nix the kids' backpacks. I think having them carry some of their toys, snacks and blanket would help lighten the load and give them some responsibility but since they kept falling asleep everywhere or was being really cranky from being woken up all the time, I ended up carrying them or putting them on the stroller. I would have rather have it all in one place, esp for security checks and for sanity of mind as I strove to keep track of all of our bags everywhere we went. 2 bags is easier to keep track of than 4. :)
I'm sure there is more but that's all my brain can unpack right now. Pun intended. :)
The Berkeley part of our trip was very refreshing and enjoyable. Our lovely hosts: Stephen, Hanna and Mayah did a great job helping us readjust back to life in the States. :) We got to visit Berkeley University, see some of our hosts favorite spots, and enjoy many delicious home-cooked meals (thanks, Hanna!). We even got to see a bunch of people from our old Youth Group - what a treat! Anyhow, we all must get together again!
Anyhow, I'm sure you're mostly here for the pictures. ;) However, we haven't had time to put them up just yet but when they're up, they'll be on this new site here since we ran out of room on our old site.