All about Peppa

Peppa, peeking out from her new playhouse.

Peppa, peeking out from her new playhouse.

Our girls brought back a number of souvenirs from our four-month stint in London: handmade fairy dresses, silly British accents, handfuls of two-pound coins and Nutella. They also returned with a completely maniacal obsession with an animated swine, Peppa Pig.

While the intensity of their interest in many of these British treasures has waned over time, their love for Peppa has not.

To be blunt: My kids are still just as hog-wild for the old gal and her pig peeps as they were over there.

At first, this passion was a problem; though Peppa is HUGE in England (heck, there’s even a Peppa Pig World) she wasn’t nearly as popular here in the U.S. Now, however, it appears Peppa has arrived: We’ve spotted Peppa cartoons on cable here in Northern California (Nick Jr., to be exact) and have started seeing Peppa books and merchandise everywhere.

Naturally, then, then the girls got their hands on the Peppa Pig Peek ‘n’ Surprise Playhouse, they practically snorted with delight. When they got the Peppa Hug ‘n’ Oink Talking Plush, they couldn’t put it down. And when we managed to score some Peppa books, the kids practically were ready to burn just about everything else on the shelves.

What is the appeal? I will admit: The damn pig is funny.

For starters, she loves rolling around in muddy puddles, which rules. Second, she always gets herself into “I Love Lucy” type scenarios. One particular episode, about a parrot named Polly who learns to snort, almost always gets me chuckling—a reality that, in turn, gets L giggling uncontrollably. Another episode, about a cuckoo clock, triggers laughter that has sparked asthma attacks. (Seriously.)

But Peppa is genuinely good, too. She’s the perfect mix of sassy and proper, snobby but kind. Her baby brother, George, his hilarious in his affinity with dinosaurs (he says, “dine-sores”). And her parents, Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig, are brilliant in the way they caricature most of the British parents we met.

I’ll stop myself before this post becomes an essay on Peppa and the postmodern picaresque. Bottom line: The show is worth watching, and we’re stoked that it followed us home. SNORT.

What sorts of “souvenirs” do you like to bring home from a faraway family trip?

Non-Tech Options to Pass a Long Flight

R's window after 10.5 hours in the air.

R’s window after 10.5 hours in the air.

We’ve been home in the U.S. now for almost two weeks, and we’re just about settled back into the swing of things. We’re (almost) all unpacked. The kids have (just about) gotten over their jet lag. The lot of us has rediscovered our love for the true American pastime: Driving cars.

All of this has helped Powerwoman and I glean some healthy perspective on the logistics of our return. In particular, we can’t believe how easy the flight home really was.

Allow me to reiterate: The flight home was 10.5 hours. And our kids rocked it like pros.

Before I share the secrets to our success, it’s worth noting that we are not raising our children to be technology addicts. Yes, we allowed them to watch a few shows on their Kindle Fire devices over the course of the trip home. But this screen time was by far the exception instead of the norm; generally speaking, we used “Doc McStuffins” and “Peppa Pig” as rewards for good behavior at other times on the flight.

For the most part, our strategy comprised three tenets: Arts-and-crafts, story time and geography.

The arts-and-crafts was a no-brainer; both girls exhibited a true passion for creativity during our time in London, so Powerwoman and I made provisions to indulge this interest on the plane. We started with stickerbooks. We moved on to basic coloring (I pre-packaged two Ziploc bags with crayons and markers for each of them so they wouldn’t fight).

At cruising altitude, I broke out the window clings and let each girl decorate her window (we were sitting window-middle, window-middle in two consecutive rows; an intentional effort to divide and conquer).

Later in the flight, when R took the first of her two brief naps, L and I made paper-chain necklaces for each of the flight attendants—gifts that scored us free wing pins, free drinks (Scotch for Dad; milk for daughter) and enough special treatment to make the Big Girl feel like a VIP.

We interspersed art time with story time. This didn’t only comprise books on those aforementioned Kindles; Powerwoman and I took turns telling stories and encouraging both girls to make up their own. Some of this make-your-own-story play was open-ended; we also mined ideas from Rory’s Story Cubes, a product about which I blogged last fall.

Finally, we passed time on our LHR-SFO flight with interactive geography lessons. Using the real-time map feature on the seatback television screens, we prompted the girls to describe what they saw out the window and match it up to where we were in the arc of our flight.

Through this method, L learned once and for all that Greenland isn’t green, and that Nunavut (one of her favorite words to say) is covered in snow. R was able to distinguish mountains from plains.

Looking back on the flight, perhaps the only hiccup was that L didn’t actually nap until about three minutes before we disembarked. With all of these fun activities to keep her occupied in mid-air, perhaps that partially was our fault.

What are your secrets for surviving a long flight when traveling with young kids?

4 Things to Love About Intergenerational Travel

Grandma and L hit the park.

Grandma and L hit the park.

My parents have joined us here in London, essentially transforming the next 11 days of our experience into an intergenerational family trip.

At first, both my wife and I were concerned about the length of their stay: Eleven days is a long time for a visit from anyone. After the first 48 hours, however, those concerns have disappeared completely. We are delighted to have my folks in town, and we have identified a number of benefits to the notion of traveling with grandparents.

Benefit 1: Extra hands
If two hands are better than one, it stands to reason that eight hands are better than four. Translation: Adventures with the extended family are much easier because we’ve got two extra humans to pitch in.

From a logistical perspective, this means we’ve got four extra arms to carry children, push buggies, lug bags and/or help getting on and off the Tube. From a practical perspective, it means Powerwoman and I can breathe a little easier when we’re out and about and tired of schlepping around a bunch of crap.

It also means negotiating buggy time isn’t nearly as difficult as it usually is. Normally, when the girls are tired, we give each daughter ten minutes in the one-seat stroller before making the two of them switch. With two extra humans, however, there are three times as many options for carrying tired girls (and, subsequently, three times as many options for resting tired arms). That keeps everybody happier.

Benefit 2: Additional perspective
Our elders have been around a while, which means they’ve had plenty of time to get pretty smart. On a family trip, the addition of this perspective helps couch everything in a different light—a reality that usually enhances the experience for the kids.

During our first few days as a family of six, Grandma and Grandpa have pointed out stuff that Powerwoman and I never would have noticed. Animal statues! Men dressed in gold! M&M’s in footguard costumes! Dancing flautists!

It’s been a treat watching the girls see new stuff around London at the behest of such fresh perspective. It’s also helped Powerwoman and me recalibrate our own respective radars to be more aware of sights and sounds we otherwise might have overlooked.

Benefit 3: New dynamic
Normally, the dynamic in our tiny family involves four; when my folks (or my wife’s folks, for that matter) are around, that number increases by two. Extra humans in the mix mean a multiplicity of additional potential interpersonal interactions. Put differently, having grandparents in the mix simply changes up the vibe.

Admittedly, sometimes (especially when the kids are tired) these extra bodies can make things stressful. But most of the time, life as a party of six is more unpredictable, more lively, and—as a result—more fun.

Like when Baby R got silly during a diaper change and had her grandmother crying with laughter. Or when L forced her grandfather to watch her favorite episode of “Peppa Pig” and he spent ten minutes snorting like a swine. Long after my folks fly home, these are some of the moments I’ll remember most. So far, they are my favorite moments of this extended visit.

Benefit 4: Built-in babysitters
Finally, one of the best things about having my folks here is that we’ve got built-in babysitters—babysitters with whom the girls are completely and totally comfortable.

This will come in handy in the early part of this coming week, when I will call upon Mom and Dad to watch the girls on a few afternoons while I furiously wrap up a huge guidebook project. Later in the week, as Powerwoman and I celebrate our birthdays (which fall six days apart) with a romantic three days/two nights of solo time, the girls’ grandparents will come to our flat for some live-in help.

Could I/we survive without my folks watching the kids? Somehow, yes, I’m sure we could. That said, it sure is nice to know they’ve got our backs. And it sure will be wonderful to savor some Mommy & Daddy time for a change.

What are your favorite things about intergenerational family travel?

%d bloggers like this: