Category Archives: travelling with kids

Kid and Car Saftey: A Reminder About the Dangers of Kids Playing (or Sleeping) in Cars

According to an article from last year’s Momlogic Newsletter, 23 U.S. children died by mid-summer, 2010,  in hot cars.  Many of them were incidents in which the parent/care taker forgot the child was in the car upon arriving at their destination…and the kiddo remained in the car for hours (or minutes) thereafter and perished in the heat of what can basically become an oven on wheels.

As mentioned in the Momlogic article, approximately 36 American children die every year in hot cars.  And according to a study conducted by researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine, a car’s interior can heat up by 40 degrees within an hour–even if it’s a relatively cool day outside.  It all has to do with the size and shape of the car and whether or not the sun is out…plus the fact that the car’s windows act like a circumferential set of inward-facing magnifying glasses.

According to this article on the National Weather Service website, “Leaving the windows slightly open does not significantly decrease the heating rate. The effects can be more severe on children because their bodies warm at a faster rate than adults.”

***Follow any of the links above to learn more, especially additional hints about kids and car safety.



Filed under family, From One Mother to Another, General Health, Kids, travelling with kids

Making Memories

This past weekend, my family and I continued our California adventure with multiple, distinct experiences.

From where we are located, we could drive less than twenty miles in any direction and take in more than ten different farmer’s markets.  Now that spring seems to be here to stay, and the strawberries, raspberries, cherries and various and sundry veggies are maturing, a person can find themselves in a sensory Shangri la upon entering their market of choice.

The best part?  Going with the whole family and letting everyone pick something out.  This past weekend, we came home with pluots, berries, cherries, fat red tomatoes (picked at the peak of ripeness), various lettuces, lentil and pumpkin-filled Indian flat bread, and crispy green beans.  What better way to inspire a dinner party with new friends, than perusing the market for fresh food?

On Memorial Day, we headed for Santa Cruz and spent the first half of the day “hiking” (ok, walking along a paved path in the Big Basin Redwood Forest on one of the few trails open to canine companions)

and the afternoon at a dog-friendly beach where kids and puppy equally wore themselves out.  Maisy, our new labradoodle puppy, found no less than fifteen other dogs to romp around with in the sand, and our three kiddos enjoyed dodging waves for hours on end.  By the end of our beach stay, we’d observed a dolphin gliding by offshore, California Sealions lounging on a nearby rock, and a mother and pup sea otter duo floating supine while dining on whatever delectables they found in the surrounding kelp forest.

Dining at a swanky pizza joint in Santa Cruz’s downtown district, we enjoyed people watching from our patio table–at which point Santa Cruz’s reputation for eclectic eccentricity became understandable.

Post-dinner ice cream scoops consumed, we headed home amidst the holiday weekend traffic: kids sandy and sun-kissed, dog heavy on the floor of the car, immobile with satisfied fatigue.  Crawling along the pass between Santa Cruz and San Jose, listening to the soundtrack from Woman on Top, I remembered once again why we are so lucky to be having this California adventure:  it is absolutely the antithesis of life in Montana in so many ways and yet, in many more, it is hardly different:  I am still a stay-at-home mom with big hopes and dreams.  I ache for adventures outside the home come week’s end, and am thankful for a familiar home setting to return to come Sunday evening.  I aim to open our children’s eyes to new and different experiences whenever possible, and also strain to teach them gratitude for the everyday small graces that make up their common world.

I still miss Montana something fierce for all the familiarity  it came to represent for me, but I’m awfully glad to be here, too.


Filed under family, Kids, Living, Mommy and Motherhood, travelling with kids

Hello, My Long Lost Friend

What better way to start a Sunday morning, than with a warm cup of coffee, peach pie left over from last night’s dinner party, and a return to a long-lost companion…this blog.

What has kept me at bay all these months, you ask?  Life, I suppose.

As you may recall, my family and I underwent a HUGE transition a few months ago–we moved from small town Montana to the San Francisco Bay area on January first of this year.  The ensuring four + months have been full of new school transitions for our three kids (now ages 3, 5 and 7), establishing new friendships, finding a new church to attend, frantically exploring the millions of things to do around here, hosting visitors, working at the co-op preschool our boys attend, getting our youngest started with a new speech therapist, researching grad school options for myself, getting a new puppy and, oh yes, finishing my latest manuscript.

In short, life in the Hull household is the same as always.

Now that spring has finally sprung around here (it was apparently a much rainier spring than normal in these parts) we are enjoying the warmth of the sun, the multi-color floral blooms in our rental house back yard, our frequent visits to the beach, and family life in a new setting.

And now, some photos for you to enjoy:
( I promise, I’ll be back soon…)

See the Pacific Ocean for the First Time

Nursing Mermaid in Ghiradelli Square

Flamingos at San Francisco Zoo

Sand sculpture Buddha

Ano Nuevo State Park


Filed under breastfeeding, family, friendship, From One Mother to Another, Kids, Living, Religion, travelling with kids, Writing and Publishing

Starting Anew: Life in San Francisco

Three weeks after arriving here in the San Francisco Bay area, I am struggling to re-emerge and return to some semblance of a writing life.  Boxes unpacked and an odd approximation of a daily schedule materializing, I have high hopes for whatever opportunities this area may provide me in relation to my various loves (writing, childbirth education, supporting mothers, writing about the challenges of motherhood, friendships, family life in a new place).

But with two of our three kids back home with me full time, and the absence of the network of friends and childbirth ed/doula colleagues that fueled so much of my desire-driven work in the past, I find myself asking the self-pitying questions:  did I ever actually have a writing life?  How did I combine stay-at-home parenting with increasingly satisfying career pursuits?

Friends from conferences I attended of late, (and friends in general) write occasionally to ask how I’m coming on my (new) manuscript, how my agent queries are going and whether or not I’m working on anything new.  This is the kind of support, I’m coming to understand, that writers need to keep each other going.  It’s called:  accountability.

That’s what, among other things, I’ve used this blog for.

Last night I watched Julia and Julie, the book-based movie about Julie Powell, an  inner-New York-city woman who blogs her way through a year of cooking Julia Child’s recipes in the famed Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  Protagonist Julie starts out using the blog as a witty documentation of her lofty goal but, ultimately, witnesses her own emotional and career-momentum-transformation through her on-line writing, and the public act of posting her way through this transformation.

Now lacking babysitters, preschool for our boys, familiar coffee shops in which to write (although the Starbucks I’m currently sitting in seems to be doing the job) and seratonin-sustaining get-togethers with girlfriends, I find myself wondering, can I really recreate what I had only recently established for myself at home?  Can I arrange an (affordable) schedule that will allow me to: 1) continue caring for my children in the way my priorities dictate and 2) glean enough “me time” during the week to further my career pursuits and therefore enable me to be the better mom I think I had only recently become?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not lacking for things to do here.  In the past three weeks since landing here we have:

-visited the San Francisco Zoo

-visited the Pacific Ocean beach

-visited The infamous downtown SF Pier 39 (and ate Nutella-stuffed crepes…yum!) (and visited the public restrooms fifteen times because our three kids can’t seem to coordinate the timing of their excretory needs)

-visited the California Academy of the Sciences

-(twice) visited Coyote Point Park and museum (we love watching the river otters, and two of the three kids have become brave enough to pet the boa constrictor)

-visited the San Jose Children’s Discovery Museum

-found a church to attend

– I have found and joined the California Writer’s Club-Sf/peninsula

-walked around famed downtown shopping areas of Palo Alto and Burlingame

-found, visited and purchased from the local IKEA (believe me, having lived in Montana for the past seven years, this is a notable event)

-signed the kids up for art and gymnastics classes

-had a tea party for our daughter and two new classmates

-had two playdates with the neighbor boys…

And yet, here I am, living in a city ripe with possibilities and suddenly, feeling awfully alone.


Filed under Balancing career and motherhood, Childbirth Issues, family, friendship, From One Mother to Another, Kids, Living, Mommy and Motherhood, travelling with kids, Writing and Publishing

I Come From the Land of Nordstrom Customer Service

OK, I’ll admit it:  I grew up in the land of Nordstrom.

Pretty much anyone  from Seattle (who has a pair of ears and a brain between) has heard of Nordstrom’s reputation for extraordinary customer service.  Reportedly, as the retail giant overtook the industry as far as excellent customer experiences goes, there were stories about people bringing in pairs of shoes that were years old, in poor shape, and definitely not from Nordstrom.  These people approached the sales desk, demanding a refund for the shoes they no longer cared for.  They got what they asked for.

In Nordstrom Land, the customer is always right.

OK, so that may be taking it a bit far.  As a person who cares A LOT about customer service (I’m married, after all, to a man who works for a software company whose sole purpose is to improve other companies’ provision  of customer service) the Nordstrom thing about customers always being right may be a bit over the top.  Especially having heard stories told by my cousin, who is a paralegal for Nordstrom, in which customers have taken that right to always be right a bit too far.

But here’s my rub for the day:
Yesterday, on my way home from Spokane to Bozeman, I stopped in a Starbucks (another Seattle company, y’all) mid-drive to get my kids out of the car, indulge in a quick snack and re-caffeinate myself before completing the six hour drive.

At some point during the brief stop, I dropped my cell phone (my work phone, the phone I’m hoping to receive a call from a literary agent on any day now) in the store.  I realized I couldn’t find my phone upon returning to the car.  I went back into the store and searched.  No luck.  I asked the gal at the counter to keep an eye out for it and, if it happened to be found, please notify me.

By the time I got home to Bozeman, the phone had been found.  It was safe and sound behind the counter.  It is three hours away from where I live.

When I got the girl on the phone who’d located the cell phone, I asked if she could, pretty please, stick it in an envelope and ship it back to me–postage to be paid upon receipt, or at least expect my immediate reimbursement for her efforts.

She said she couldn’t do it.

“I’m not sure how we handle that.  I’ve never had it happen before.  Call back tomorrow morning after six and ask for the manager.  He’ll be able to help you.”

OK, so a Starbucks underling doesn’t know the corporate policy for returning a customer’s misplaced cell phone to them.  Logic and basic humanity aside, I can accept that.

I called back this morning at 7:30.  The manager wasn’t in.  The guy who answered the phone told me, “we’re swamped right now.  I don’t have time to write down your name and number.  Can you call back in, like, an hour or two and ask for the manager?  He can help you then.”

OK, now I’m starting to lose my patience.

If I were working at that store and happened upon a person’s lost cell phone–one which the owner had already contacted me about–I’d screw corporate policy and take the damned thing to the post office myself, buy a $2 padded envelope and send it on its merry way.

But I possess common sense.

A professor of mine once told the physician assistant class of which I was apart, “Common sense isn’t so common.”  Boy, was she ever right.

I don’t exactly feel naked, vulnerable or disconnected by having my cell phone out of my possession like some people I know might feel if this happened to them.  It’s a cheap bit of technology, and I do have a land line, after all.  I can do without a cell phone for a few days.  My basic biological functioning does not exist by cell phone alone.

But, come on.  If you worked at that Starbucks, what would you do?  Would you consult corporate policy?  Punt to the manager?  Tell a customer you don’t have time to help?  Huh?  Huh?  Or would you mail the thing back to its rightful owner, just because that would be the most logical, the most sensible, the most helpful and humane thing to do?


Filed under travelling with kids, Uncategorized

Disney Vacation #1

I had great intentions.  There was plenty of fodder.  After spending nearly a week at Disney’s Orlando Magic Kingdom, plus events before and after our trip, I could’ve written volumes.  Instead, I took a break.

Sitting here now, 1/2 day after our return on our good-old comfortable living room couch, our two boys creating a fort with our dining room furniture and sundry blankets and sheets, I could write about how our two other family members–my husband and daughter–are both sick in bed with fever, chills, cough…how the boys both had a horrendous cough during our vacation…how our daughter spiked a 102 degree fever on the plane flight home (and successfully learned how to unplug her painful ears by holding her nose and blowing hard).

I could write about the fatal explosion that rocked our quaint little downtown area the day before our departure, which is still splashing across the local news with grizzly images of store fronts flattened, brick & mortar debris scattered across Main Street.

I could write about how fantastic it was to meet up with my editor from my first book, Ashley Shelby of Book of Moons Literary Services in the Minneapolis airport–a friend through a work venture who I have never met face-to-face before that day.

I could also write about the awesome hotel we stayed in for the majority of our vacation:  Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge where African animals such as zebras, giraffes, long horned cattle, flamingos, African gazelles, etc. roam the 33 acre reserve-like grounds surrounding the hotel.  I could write about the hours our kids gleefully spent in the hotel swimming pool–having been decked out in thick, winter coats and snow boots only days before.

I could write about the Mad Hatter’s Tea Cup Ride, the race car ride (along side of which we saw a small armadillo strolling by,  unfazed by the noise and commotion of young children poorly steering 5mph mock race cars),  the flying Dumbo ride, Aladdin’s Flying Magic Carpet Ride, and the spectacularly decorated Carousel (which, out of all the attractions our Montana kids  were exposed to, and are unlikely to see in their near future, captivated them the most), It’s a Small World, and Snow White’s Scary Adventure (yes, it was scary for our two-, four-, and six-year-old kids)…but I might not have enough energy to do these things justice.

I could also write about Disney’s Animal Kingdom park which we visited on our third day–at which point our kids were fairly exhausted by the (relative) heat & humidity, the (relative) crowds, and the (relative) change to their normal schedules.  During our four hours at this park, we rode exactly one ride (the Safari drive which was really quite cool–being driven around in a convincingly designed safari bus through a mock African wild animal reserve (much like the hotel we were staying in) where we saw more fauna to tune of crocodiles, hippos, ostriches, a lion, elephants, etc.  Our gayer than gay tour guide lisped of our necessary vigilance in watching for (make believe) poachers during our (mock) two week safari trip, his enthusiasm for the dictates of the ten minute ride fairly contagious.

If I were chronicling our first big family vacation, I could also write about how hard it is to stay in one hotel room with three little kids (nap and bed times get really messed up), how fun it was to watch the Magic Kingdom parades and stage shows with those same three little kids who are in the midst of awestruckdom when it comes to Disney character’s, bright lights, princess castles and the like.  I could talk about how our two-year-old boy got his foot caught between the shuttle bus seat and adjacent wall, and how the quick-thinking bus driver pulled a packet of Neosporin from her trusty bus driver’s emergency kit so we could slip his swollen little paw free.

If I really wanted to be long-winded, I could go on to write of the awesome African conservationists who Disney hired to staff our hotel, and one of whom was always available to teach guests about the animals on the grounds, and how those animals live and fare in their native home land.  I could talk about how, on the third swimming pool day, our four-year-old son regained his courage in the water and remembered how to swim under water like a fearless fish, and how much of a bummer it was to return to nineteen degrees and snow on the ground after being in a balmy summer environment just twelves hours prior.

If I wanted to finish a post on a sentimental note, I might expound on how proud Andrew and I were to be able to take our young family on such a fun, experiential vacation, despite the fact that after $5,000.00 worth of plane tickets, hotel stays and theme park entrance fees, we rode no more than nine rides, consumed less than two servings of ice cream a piece and collectively returned home sleep deprived and guzzling as much Motrin as we had been prior to departure.

The thing is:  traveling with young kids requires patience;  it requires reasonable expectations and careful planning.  We aimed low, as far as our assumptions for how much we would “see and do” while on vacation and so, from that standpoint, our trip was a success!  Even though the kids ate more French fries than they will in the coming twelve months, they all had fun in their own little ways and our first big trip together in no way turned us off from the potential of future vacations together.  We will have enough photos to fill a lovely album, a few souvenirs to jog our memories, and the desire to travel together again in the near future.


Filed under family, Kids, Living, travelling with kids