Christine Park

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

No More Pre-Boarding for Families

This hasn't been a great week of news for parents planning to travel with children this summer. The friendly skies? Not so much.

First, we learned that it might be harder to get seats together this summer because major airlines are reserving more and more seat assignments for passengers willing to pay an extra fee. People traveling together are finding that the only way to sit next to a spouse, child or friend is to shell out $25 or more, each way. And indeed, this is what I found as I was booking our flights on Allegiant from Fresno to Hawaii. There's no way I'm going to attempt a 5-hour flight with my 5-year-old and 3-year-old sitting next to strangers. So I had no choice but to shell out an extra $200 for our family of 4 just for the privilege of sitting next to each other. Airlines say their gate agents try to help family members without adjacent seats sit together, especially people flying with small children. Yet there is no guarantee things will work out.

And it gets better. United Airlines has ended family pre-boarding . The airline says it made the move to simplify the boarding process, according to the article in USA Today. So people lugging strollers, car seats, and tiny tots are expected to join the cattle call and fight for luggage space while the rest of the impatient passengers pile up behind you?

The airlines' approach can be summed up this way: "The customers that are more loyal, who fly more often, we want to make sure they have the best travel experience." -- Eduardo Marcos, American Airlines' manager of merchandising strategy. Which tells me very plainly: tough luck, because I'm not a frequent flier, I don't matter. I take offense to that. How is my hard-earned money that I spent on my ticket, somehow less valuable?

At least kids are still allowed to fly at all. You might think I'm being facetious, but I blogged a while back about Malaysia Airlines banning children altogether from first class, even entire flights.

I just read a NY Times article on Flying with Children, and it told the story of a family traveling with twins, who begged to buy some milk for the babies, and were refused because the milk was for coffee only. The article's experts suggest: "Even when airlines offer food onboard, often the thing you want is sold out. To ensure that your family has what it needs, bring it yourself." At this point, I believe a handful of family courtesies remain on flights, including checking a stroller and car seat at no charge and children under the age of 2 can fly free on a parent’s lap. I'm foreseeing it's only a matter of time before strollers and car seats are charged luggage fees.

I think airlines are missing out, by alienating families. Many of my friends are choosing trains, road trips or cruises over flying.

In the meantime, if you are looking for a child-friendly flight, here's what the NY Times found:

EARLY BOARDING No. Families who want to board earlier can ask the gate agent or pay $10 a person to guarantee a spot in the first boarding group in coach.

SEATING Bulkhead seats toward the front of coach are reserved for elite passengers or sold as “preferred seats” 24 hours before departure for a fee starting at $4.
KIDS’ MEALS Sells a number of “kid-friendly choices” like $10 turkey sandwiches with chips.

ENTERTAINMENT Free child-friendly movies on overhead televisions on most flights longer than four hours. Streaming video via Wi-Fi will be added to 85 MD-80 aircraft before the end of 2011.
STROLLER GATE CHECK Yes, except noncollapsible strollers or those weighing 20 pounds or more, which must be checked at the ticket counter.


EARLY BOARDING Yes (no age limit), ahead of first and business class.

SEATING Bulkhead seats may be available for families 24 hours before departure.

KIDS’ MEALS $4.50 kids’ peanut butter and jelly plate, served with fruit and vegetables.

ENTERTAINMENT Last year, Delta brought back the kiddie pilot wings it used to hand out. On flights with seatback televisions, Delta offers 16 On Demand children’s television programs that cost $1 per episode or $6 for a television bundle. (Flights without seatback screens may not offer children’s movies at all.) Some flights have Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network via satellite television (at no charge).


EARLY BOARDING Yes, for families with children under the age of 2, along with passengers who paid extra for seats with more legroom.

SEATING Bulkhead seats are reserved for customers with disabilities up to 24 hours before departure, with remaining seats sold as “Even More Space” seats for $10 to $65 extra.

KIDS’ MEALS JetBlue doesn’t offer meals on any of its flights, but snacks, including Animal Crackers, are free.

ENTERTAINMENT Seatback televisions offer 36 channels of DirecTV, including children’s programming and 100 XM Satellite Radio channels free. If time permits, pilots are encouraged to show children the flight deck and offer them JetBlue trading cards.



EARLY BOARDING Yes, for families with children up to 4 years old, after passengers in boarding Group A, which includes elite fliers, full-fare passengers and those who pay $10 (each way) for early-bird check-in.

SEATING There are no seat assignments. Like other passengers, families must find an open seat once onboard.

KIDS’ MEALS No meals onboard. Peanuts and pretzels are free.

ENTERTAINMENT Flight attendants are encouraged to offer children coloring books and airline wings.




SEATING Bulkhead seats are typically reserved for elite passengers or sold for a fee starting at $9.

KIDS’ MEALS Snacks and meals, including $7.49 cheese and fruit plates, are offered, depending on length of flight and time of day.

ENTERTAINMENT Most of United’s fleet has overhead screens that show in-flight movies. Continental offers satellite TV on more than 75 percent of its 737 Next Generation aircraft and plans to install the service on more planes in 2012.

STROLLER GATE CHECK Yes, except large, noncollapsible strollers, which must be checked at the ticket counter.

US Airways

EARLY BOARDING Yes, for families with children 4 and younger, along with elite passengers and those who paid extra for bulkhead seats.

SEATING Bulkhead seats are reserved for passengers with disabilities until an hour before departure and are assigned at the gate agent’s discretion.

KIDS MEALS Snack boxes, which include dried cranberries and almonds ($6), and meals including fruit and cheese plates ($8), depending on the length of the flight and time of day.

ENTERTAINMENT Nothing on domestic flights.

STROLLER GATE CHECK Yes, except for noncollapsible strollers, which must be checked at the ticket counter.

Virgin America

EARLY BOARDING Yes, for families with “small children,” after first class and passengers who paid extra for roomier coach seats.

SEATING Bulkhead seats are reserved for “main cabin select” passengers who pay more when booking or $39 to $129 extra to upgrade 24 hours in advance.

KIDS’ MEALS Half-sandwiches like peanut butter and jelly served with organic fruit gummy bears ($4).

ENTERTAINMENT Individual seatback screens offer parental controls, free satellite TV including the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, movies ($5 to $8) and premium programs like “Go Diego Go” ($2 to $7), free video games and seat-to-seat chat.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Baby Products that Moms Love for Themselves

I love  Johnson & Johnson's Baby Lotion. It's been years since we've had it in our house, but the smell of it triggers instant flashbacks to the time when my kids were little babies. I stumbled upon this Total article about baby care products that moms love for themselves. Not only are they gentle and all natural, but most of them smell SO good and are a lot cheaper than products geared towards women.. Do you have any secret beauty weapons from baby?

1. Arbonne Baby Care Herbal Diaper Rash Cream, $15
While this light cream uses natural botanicals and herbs to soothe and heal your baby's bottom, it can gently relieve your own chapped skin as well. Readers say this diaper rash cream is also great for "irritated thighs, C-section scars, or just basic chaffing."

Looking for a natural, talc-free powder to keep your skin smooth and dry? You might want to try Burt's Bees Baby Bee Dusting Powder. Readers agree that "it helps keep you cool and dry, especially in hot, sticky weather." One reader says, "I use it for my scalp, since my fine hair tends to get limp and oily. This versatile powder has many uses -- worth every penny!"

Tired of using body lotions that leave your skin too greasy or not hydrated enough? Readers say this one leaves skin feeling "soft and smooth." One reader says this baby lotion is a "staple in our home. Mommy, daddy, and baby ... we all use it! Want to know a secret? It's even gentle enough to use on my face. High five Aveeno."

When you're in the shower, there's nothing worse than the sting of shampoo in your eyes, and this no-tears baby shampoo can solve your "lather, rinse, repeat" issues. "I bought this for myself because I have sensitive eyes. Not only was there no irritation, but after I used it, my hair felt like baby hair -- very soft," says one reader. Another admits, "I even use it on my pets so their eyes won't burn.

5. Johnson's Baby Lotion, $3.99
When you think of baby care products, chances are that Johnson's comes to mind. Their weightless baby lotion is well known for its signature powdery scent and mild formula. Readers agree that it "moisturizes without being greasy" and that "the price is great, too." One reader says, "You can't beat this stuff, ever. It's not just for babies! It leaves my skin soft, smooth, healthy, and moisturized. Plus, the smell is absolutely amazing." If you haven't taken this one from your little one already, it's time.

The bubble gum pink bottle and iconic Coppertone baby are American classics. But what's even more memorable is this sunscreen's powerful protection, which is gentle enough for baby and great for adults with sensitive skin. "I use this religiously on my kids and they have never had a sunburn ... it's so great, I always end up using this on myself," says one reader. Another says, "It moisturizes all day and does not irritate my skin or my children's skin. It also absorbs very well. It's just perfect."

Mustela's Bebe Shampoo is made from wheat, chamomile, and coconut oil extracts, which nip tangles in the bud and leave hair smooth and shiny. Readers agree that it's an amazing product for babies and moms. "I love this shampoo. It smells good and makes my hair feel baby soft," says one reader. Another, who originally bought it for her two toddlers, says, "After using it once on them, I decided to try it myself -- let's just say there is a bottle in both bathrooms now!"

Monday, May 14, 2012

What's Your Parenting Style

By now, you've all seen Time's controversial cover on attachment parenting. The title taunts, "Are you mom enough?" as a young, gorgeous mom stares defiantly while her nearly 4-year-old son nurses on her exposed breast while standing up on a chair. 

Sexy sells. Controversy sells. Shock and awe sells. I get that. Time editors knew what they were doing when they decided on this cover, and so did its subject, Jamie Lynn Grumet.
But the title's implication that I'm not mom enough or strong enough or committed enough to practice attachment parenting... THAT I do resent. Why do moms have to constantly be at war with each other? Working vs. stay-at-home. Breastfed vs. formula. Organic vs. non-organic. Can't we just all get along?

Maybe it's because the responsibility of raising a tiny human being is so heavy, so important, so overwhelming, that moms take everything so personally? It smacks of insecurity when a mom declares MY way is best and all the rest... well, your kids will end up feeling unloved, unstable, or worse, homeless, addicted to drugs, or in prison.

Most experts agree: when it comes to parenting, trial and error works best. Armed with all these conflicting philosophies, every parent tests different approaches to see what ultimately works for them and their children. The author of Time's article writes: "parenting is about embracing contradictions." While I don't pretend to understand all the tenets of attachment parenting (to each her own), I wonder if at some point attachment parenting becomes more for the mom than the child?

I am the first to say breast is best. I breastfed both my babies because I thought it was the best gift I could give them. I believed it was the healthiest start to their lives. Did it suck lugging my pump as a tourist around NYC? Yes. Did I have to kick my photographers out of the live truck in the rain so I could pump? Yes. But I was determined to not be one of those 60-something-percent of women who start, but don't keep it up. And I loved breastfeeding (and all the extra calories I could consume). 

Yet when they weaned themselves (at 10 months for my daughter and at 7 months for my son), I moved on. I remember being sad that they didn't need me for their nutrition anymore. I still miss the closeness I felt with them during our feeding times. I would have, and could have kept going. I guess that would have made me an extended breastfeeder. But they were ready for solid food and cow's milk. Remember that Desperate Housewives episode when Felicity Huffman's character works with a woman who was breastfeeding her 5-year-old so she could still eat whatever she wanted yet still maintain her weight? While producers made light of it, the point made was that the boy was past the point of needing breast milk but his mom wasn't ready to give it up, for her own reasons, whether it be the tongue-in-cheek reason of calories burned or the real reason of not wanting to lose those baby bonding precious moments.

In my experience, kids need to learn independence to thrive socially. Kids need to learn patience, that every need in life can't be immediately gratified. Yet breastfeeding on demand, co-sleeping, and baby wearing teaches kids that if they cry they will immediately get what they want. Attachment parenting makes the case that secure, trusting attachment to parents during childhood forms the basis for secure relationships as adults. But I would argue attachment parenting can create a needy, unhealthy co-dependency. Dr. Sears' website has a whole section called "Helping a Toddler Ease Into Independence." But babies will naturally become independent.... unless you've stifled that natural instinct with over-parenting. He reminds his followers to fight the urge to hover and cling to their children. How can they not if that's all that they've done in the early years? It's not just a switch moms or kids can turn on or off.
I sleep trained my children. Let both of them cry it out. It wasn't fun. I didn't enjoy it. Attachment parenting guru Dr. Bill Sears calls this convenience parenting, putting a parent's ease and convenience above an infant's feeding cues or emotional bonding needs. Yes, I had a timeline. I wanted them to sleep through the night before my maternity leave ended. And they did. And still do. Since they were just 8 weeks old, my children have both slept well... 11 hours of uninterrupted slumber every night. They prefer their own beds, unless they're sick or having nightmares. And when they are, I'm there for them. They are cuddled and comforted, and placed back into their own beds. They are both affectionate and loving and know they are loved back by a well-rested mommy and daddy. My marital bed is kid free. Just because you become a parent, doesn't mean you have to sacrifice intimacy and spontaneity with your spouse. I have many friends who co-sleep with their children. I don't judge them. That's their choice, and many confess they love it. But I will say, with nearly every single one of these women, their marriages have suffered because of it. And what good is co-sleeping for the child when their parents' relationship is rocky because of it? Even though the point is to surround the child with love and affection in the home... many a fight has erupted because the baby has taken over the bed.

Obviously I'm a skeptic when it comes to full-fledged attachment parenting. Just to confirm it, I took Time's quiz to find out my parenting style:
Sears skeptic: 0 - 20%
Partial proponent: 30-70 %
Committed Sears disciple: 80-100%

I scored 20%

The only reason I didn't score 0% is because I got credit for breastfeeding, which goes to show many moms, even me, are incorporating some tenets of it based on what works for them and what they believe is best for baby. Balance is key. After all, when it comes down to it, aren't we all attached to our kids? Just not at the hip, with a sling for me.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Personalized Mother's Day Gifts

I'm a sentimental fool. Which explains why I cherish personalized gifts. Hand towels are merely towels until they have a monogram on them.  Coasters made from my Instagram pictures.... swoon! A necklace with my kids' birthstones... I already have one!

To me, personalized gifts convey extra thought, meaning, and effort. Which is why last year , my husband got extra points. He got me this $40 handprint canvas kit from Red Envelope. Adorable. Mommy, daddy, daughter and son... a square for each member of the family. It hangs proudly in our playroom, a reminder of small hands and big hearts for years to come.

Mother's Day is Sunday, May 13th. Less than a week away. If you're stumped, consider one of these fun, personalized gifts I found:

I recently discovered this little company called All Aboard Custom Wood Signs. I've already ordered two of their personalized sign blocks.  The quality is excellent, and I've never paid full price ($80). Check their Facebook page for coupons. Any mom would proudly display this on the mantel.

These $26 frames "I Heart Mommy" collages are really cute. You can also choose from Grandma, Grandpa, and Daddy. Pre-fill each letter cutout with a favorite photo of the kids, grandkids, etc.

Along the same lines, bring your family tree to life with the $39.99 "Heritage Tree" from Things Remembered. This is a gift that can be passed down through the generations and used to teach the children of their heritage.

There's a ton of personalized jewelry out there. But these are two that caught my eye:
How cute are these vintage love letter necklaces?  A bit pricey at $89.95 but the envelope locket contains a small attached “letter” that may be personalized with a unique message... mom can wear close to her heart.

These $24 Personalized Monogram Necklaces on Etsy are different because each piece has the option to have charms created from your child's own handwriting.

 I've been getting a TON of half-off coupons for gallery-style canvases. The latest one is $34 for a 16"x20", including shipping and handling. That is a steal! I've used a similar service several times, including for Mother's Day last year, and the results have been stunning each time.

You can turn a favorite family photo, vacation picture, whatever you please, into a work of art.

Whether mom is a gardener, chef, athlete, or tech savvy gadget geek, there are countless gifts you can personalize.

Check these websites for some ideas:

Things Remembered
Red Envelope
Personalized Gifts
Lillian Vernon
Personalization Mall

Obviously roses and chocolates, massages and manicures, brunch and bubbly are always appreciated. But why not make that extra effort this year to come up with something different to show mom how much you care.

Friday, May 4, 2012

TV News Mom Makes a Guest Appearance

Thanks to fellow mom and Central Valley blogger Nicole Scholl.
Check out her site Seamlessly Savvy and her profile article of yours truly.
She's awesome and takes saving money to another level.
Thank you all for your continued support!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Baby Bumps are Big Business

 When you have a mommy in Hollywood... you get "Mommywood."

Good Morning America's JuJu Chang did this story on celebrity moms cashing in on their pregnancies and product lines. One of her opening lines is: "It's not just their bellies that balloon, but so does their popularity and profitability."

She points out Jessica Simpson hasn't had a successful album in years... but every time she tweets about a specific baby product for her newborn, she makes a couple thousand dollars. I can see her popular clothing and shoe lines, which includes a girls collection, expanding as well, to include infant wear. Say what you will about her intelligence, but she's one savvy businesswoman.

Obviously, she's not the first and only celebrity mom to turn her baby bump into a business.


One of the first to do so--Tori Spelling. After 90210, she could have faded into obscurity (what ever happened to Shannon Doherty?), but thanks to her own reality TV series... she's making money off books, her blog, "Little Maven" clothing line, production studio, to name a few. I mean, even Forbes takes her seriously, with this feature on her being a serious businesswoman and entrepeneur.

Gotta give the girl credit... she's one hardworking "stay at home mom." I say that in quotes b/c she obviously can afford help and isn't tied down by the typical SAHM's concerns over what to make for dinner every night.

Jessica Alba launched The Honest Company, named after her daughter Honor, which features diapers made of "100% non-toxic, chlorine-free, sustainable, and plant-based materials"... She's on to something. The diaper industry alone is worth $75 million.

Which got me thinking... how can I get a piece of Mommywood? After all, as a news anchor, I'm told I'm a "celebrity" too in my small corner of the world called Fresno, CA. I'm a mommy of two munchkins under the age of 5.

Obviously I have this blog. But with all of two dozen readers, I'm not going to be monetizing anytime soon. Unless they make a "Real Housewives of Fresno County," I think reality TV is out. And I doubt Elle will pay me to pose nude pregnant (not that THAT will be happening again EVER.) And as for business savvy, I think a 12-year-old with a lemonade stand probably has more than me.

So here's what I came up with. A children's book. It sounds cliche, but hear me out. As a working mom, bedtime stories are the only quiet one-on-one time I have with my kids during the weekdays. So no matter how tired I am, I try my best to never miss one of these cuddle and read sessions.

There are a few favorite books that are sacred in our house. But the other day, my 5-year-old daughter surprised me with a "book" she made, out of cupcake-shaped paper stapled together, filled with carefully printed prose about a princess named Sophia and her prince. Because she wrote it, she took so much pride and pleasure in reading it to me at bedtime. And honestly, that inspired me.  

So I dug out some old notes on possible book ideas and felt a renewed sense of purpose. I can't wait to embark on this new project... even if I don't get rich off it, and the only readers end up being my own children. : )