Sunday, December 23, 2012

Snapshots of the last Week

1. Remembered dehydration is bad at 2 a.m. one night when I had painful Braxton hicks contractions every 3 minutes for several hours. Packed my hospital bag the next day just to be safe.

2. Took Colby to Myanmar to renew our visas, and took a boat to Laos just for fun. Colby learned to say "boat" and has been obsessed with boats ever since.

3. Dr. Weissbluth (author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child) saved us again with his advice for Colby's sleep issues: "When returning a child to his crib, be silent and unemotional. Don't talk to or look at the child's face. Appear mechanical and uninterested". Sometimes I don't realize that any attention is viewed as a reward/positive reinforcement in Colby's eyes. This worked on the first try! worked yesterday but not today....still trying to get to the bottom of this.

4. Visited the Hall of Opium (or should I say "chased Colby through the Hall of Opium?")

5. Made a LOT of cookies- 90 peanut butter blossoms, 60 sugar cookies, and dipped over 100 pretzels in chocolate.

6. Discovered a great kid's toy website and ordered Colby a sandbox with Christmas money from his grandparents. It arrived today- only two days after ordering it and on a Sunday!

7. Skipped a staff Christmas party as one of the host's kids had whooping cough- which is pretty deadly for newborns. We decided it was not worth the risk.

8. Attended my first cookie exchange and even won Best Tasting Cookie (who doesn't love peanut butter blossoms?)

9. Attended another fun Christmas party. In the gift exchange I took home a small Christmas tree and Josh got stuck with SPAM. Awesome.

10. Slept HORRIBLY for 4 out of 7 nights.....from a combination of restless legs, braxton hicks, colby screaming, and possibly a christmas cookie sugar buzz

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Traveling with a Toddler, a Tummy, and a Tail-wagger

[Disclaimer: This post is excessively long and contains many details probably only interesting to Josh and myself.]

So it's time.....time to relive the horrible experience that was moving a dog and toddler to Thailand while being pregnant. I know if I don't create a written account of the experience I will regret it. The memories are already beginning to fade.

It is sort of like childbirth. They tell you when it's over you forget about all the pain. Which is sort of true. I can't REALLY remember what childbirth felt like. But I remember telling Josh that next time I was going to beg for an elective c-section. And I remember frightening my neighbor with a scream of agony in the garage. And I remember telling Josh over and over again that I "could not do this" as the contractions rolled off one by one.

And then eventually (after 48 hours in my case) it's over....and then a month or so of pretty uncomfortable recovery. And then you do sort of start to forget how bad it was. And suddenly I find myself planning to do natural childbirth all over again! Am I nuts?! But alas, epidurals are not an option here in Thailand. So my choices are natural childbirth or c-section. And I've heard enough bad things about c-section recovery and scar tissue that I think I will just suffer once more. I can only hope that the suffering will be briefer this time.

Ah but I digress....this post was supposed to be about traveling internationally with little ones! You can tell where my brain is these days with 15 weeks to go!

Anyways, it all started early on a Tuesday morning. Our flight was at 7 which meant being at the airport around 5. The night before my parents and Josh loaded everything into the rental SUV and rental van. Everything included 5 large Home Depot Moving Boxes, 2 large checked bags, one giant dog kennel, one stroller, one convertible car seat with wheels, one infant car seat,  2 rolling carry-ons, 2 backpacks, and a diaper bag. In the morning we just needed to load up the humans and hound. Here's a pic to give you an idea of how much stuff that is.
So in the morning we roll both vehicles up to the airport and my mom and I head to the curb-side check-in to ask for one of the big luggage carts. This is where our angel enters the picture. I have forgotten his name (shame on me!) so we'll just call him Angel. Angel asks how many checked items we have and I say 9 and a dog and expected him to act surprised. Apparently he sees this all the time....we aren't as weird as I think! He is excited to help us- maybe having someone work for a tip isn't such a bad thing! Curb-side checkin for an international flight with a dog is a little bit complicated though, so he does have to have me go inside to work with a ticket agent but thankfully we did not have to lug our stuff in. Except eventually the dog. The ticket agent for some reason takes pity on us and undercharges us for the dog and our extra bag. We should have been paying him $400 in fees but he only charged us $150. Wow. 
After Angel helps us get all our bags, strollers, etc, checked we realize I forgot to ask the ticket agent for a gate pass so my parents can come with us to our gate. I try to get back in line to do so but the woman assures me it is NOT possible. Angel overhears what is going on and intervenes on our behalf. "I can get them gate passes." he assures me and snags our tickets and my parents licenses and away he goes. A few minutes later he's back and has definitely earned the $40 tip my dad and Josh's mom (who wasn't present but gave us tipping money) provided him. 
Our trip is off to a good start. Bella is all checked in and we have two extra people to help us get Colby and our stuff through security. And Colby was doing pretty good too even though he was exhausted from being hauled out of bed early and was still wearing his pajamas. Here's a picture of us about to board the first flight. 
Our first flight was relatively easy. Colby had his own seat and we were able to get his car seat installed. It's never easy to lug a car seat onto an airplane. Even though we had the go-go babyz car seat roller attached it's too wide to fit down the aisles of most planes so josh had to carry it in addition to his carryon bag while I struggled to carry Colby, the diaper bag, my backpack and the other carry-on bag down the aisle. Not to mention my 22 weeks pregnant belly. We were usually a little bit sweaty by the time we got him buckled in. But man were we thankful for that car seat. It's a kind of confinement he doesn't necessarily like but he respects an extent. Without it, we would have constantly been trying to keep him in his seat or on our laps and we would have been failing. He is strong-willed and determined. 
Of course he got restless during the flight and the two of us did some aisle walking when the seat belt sign was off. He liked that. At one point he was crying and crying and wouldn't stop and an older woman says to me: "It's his ears, get him to drink something."    Hmmm thanks for the advice woman who knows nothing about my child and the fact that he's just frustrated because of confinement. And of course we offered him both milk, water, pacifiers, and his snacks throughout the flight. None of these helps when he is in a fussy tired mood. At one point Josh and Colby were both sleeping. 

Anyways we finally get to Los Angeles after the 5 hour flight and were thinking "well that wasn't so bad." Unfortunately we have another 5 hours before our next flight and Colby is getting sick of being dragged around the airport in a car seat. He's screaming as we try to track down Bella. We find her and a baggage guy helps us take her to an area where she can go to the bathroom and wait for our next flight. China Airlines was not even letting people check in yet so we were just hanging out in the airport. 

We took turns following Colby around the terminal until it was finally time to check Bella in. The ticket agent had told us we shouldn't check her in until 2 hours before the flight but we decided to err on the side of caution and give it 2.5. Wow, we never expected that that might not be enough time. We were near the beginning of the line when a huge group of mormon students- probably 50 of them going on some kind of music trip, get in line behind us. We are like, "wow good thing we didn't' wait or we'd be stuck behind that group. They are all very friendly and one of the girls tells me I have the "cutest family ever" because both Bella and Colby are apparently adorable. Anyways when it's finally our turn to check in, we go back to the same agent Josh talked to earlier. She seemed relatively intelligent but when we get up there we see her nametag says "trainee". Uh-oh, big mistake! Not so much a mistake as you can't really pick your agent, but definitely a bad bit of luck! We stand at her counter for nearly 2 hours trying to get checked in. At one point she tells us she needs the receipt we got when we paid for our excess bags with Delta in Orlando. Well we didn't have that receipt- a big whoops on our part! So Josh has to sprint back to the Delta terminal which is pretty far away from the terminal we are in now to have them print a receipt of the bag fees we already paid.
To make a long story short, she discovers we were undercharged in Orlando and feels she will have to make up for it by REALLY charging us. Ugh. We end up paying nearly $1,000 in fees for the dog, stroller, car seat, and extra bag. Wow. We expected to pay a lot for the dog, but not for the other stuff. Strollers and car seats are usually free, well apparently not with China Airlines.

 Anyways I'm looking at the clock and realizing it is time to board and we still don't have Bella checked in. Oh and I forgot to mention but Colby started screaming a few minutes into this check-in process and the screaming lasted for more than an hour. No amount of walking, bouncing, strolling, snacking, milk or anything would appease him. He was miserable and he was making us and everyone around us miserable. I don't think the girl in line found our family so adorable anymore. Oh well the entire group of 50 mormons and everyone else on our flight got checked in while we stood at the counter at LAX. It was the never-ending check in process. When we finally got our boarding passes we tried to take Bella to the dog drop off area but there was no China Airlines representative there to accompany her there so I had to run back to the ticketing area and request someone. At this point I'm thinking Bella's never going to make it on the flight, we'll never get through security in time and Colby is still screaming.

Eventually a China Airlines person comes and rolls Bella away so we can proceed to security which we are hoping is fast so we can get to our flight in time. Well our hopes were crushed quickly as my bag was flagged, nobody would do an inspection of our car seat, and Josh and Colby set off the alarm and had to wait for a pat down, except nobody was available to pat them down. The short version is it took us about 20 minutes longer to get through security than it should have and we were already running late. Colby's STILL screaming for no logical reason the entire time. We run to our gate and are for the first time in our lives thankful that our flight has been delayed by about 30 minutes giving us breathing room. I sprint back down the hall to buy Colby some fruit, which is the only thing that I think might make him happy. 
I guess I should mention that we were pretty worried about Colby at this point, he's never had a screaming fit that lasted this long except maybe when he was a collicky newborn. The night before he had taken a tumble and banged his teeth on the tile floor. His mouth bled for awhile, and we debated taking him to the emergency room to get him checked out, but eventually decided that since he seemed to be feeling better we wouldn't. The next morning when I woke him up to go to the airport we had found a pool of blood on his sheets where his head was laying. So scary! I felt terrible. So with all the screaming in the airport I'm wondering if his teeth are hurting from the fall yesterday. I'm half expecting that he damaged the roots of his teeth and they are going to go dead and fall out. he was having some definite trouble biting down with them. 
Anyways finally we all board the flight and are just thankful we can lock Colby in his car seat and have a little break. Josh says that that is literally the sweatiest he has ever been getting on a flight, even more so than times he flew out of non-air conditioned airports in the Congo. All because of the terminal sprinting and carrying all the bags, car seat, and baby. My feet were aching horribly so sitting on the plane felt good. 

Overall taking the car seat on the plane seemed like a good decision except Colby kept kicking the seat in front of him and the guy in that seat was not too happy about it. We told him that there were two empty seats in the bulkhead and maybe he could take one of those seats if the kicking was too bad. He did NOT like this suggestion. We thought it was weird since the bulkhead seats had so much extra legroom and we wished we were sitting over there, but they didn't have 3 seats so we couldn't. 
Anyways a few hours into the flight while Josh is sitting next to Colby he leans over and tells me that Colby needs a diaper change. Okay just a minute I said. "No it cannot wait." Colby has had a major blowout all over his clothes and his car seat. When I picked him up to take him to the bathroom I got poop all over myself too. Ugh. I hold him out away from my body as we run down the aisle to the bathroom. People are literally leaning far away from us as we run past because they can see the poop on Colby's legs! Hasty airplane bathroom cleanup of baby and myself while he screams the whole time because he finds the changing table in the bathroom terrifying. Plus he is covered in poop up to his neck somehow so i am giving him a major wipedown while he is buck naked. 
Finally we are all cleaned up except Colby's car seat which it was pretty much impossible to clean but we did our best which really resulted in it being wet now. We were able to fold the seat cover down so he's not sitting directly on a wet spot. Lesson learned- always put a pre-fold cloth diaper under baby's butt in the car seat while traveling. I used to do this all the time but since he never has the blow-out kind of poops anymore I had stopped. 
The flight continues and finally Colby is ready for bed except he just couldn't get quite comfortable in his car seat and as a I watch him try to sleep but jerk awake again and again we finally get him out and lay him across our laps where he falls dead asleep immediately. Great plan except my butt goes to sleep a lot while I'm pregnant and I'm trapped beneath him. I finally have to get up and I just let Colby have my seat to lay in while I wander the plane for an hour or two. Eventually the woman in the bulkhead invites me to sit next to her and I take a cat nap there before Colby wakes up from his 4 or 5 hours of sleep. 

Towards the end of this flight we hit some horrible turbulence. Hmm combine horrible turbulence with pregnancy and a predisposition to motion sickness and what do you get? Me vomiting on myself. I grabbed the motion sickness bag but the opening was so small and my sick feeling so strong that I couldn't entirely aim in the instant it overcame me. As I went to the bathroom to dispose of the bag, but found all the lavatories occupied I had to puke again in the galley. I had my bag and got most of it in there that time. In the bathroom I threw up a few more times and then felt much better. I tried to get the puke off of myself and my pillow. I had already switched into my extra shirt when the poop incident happened so I was all out of back-up clothing and just had to use the water to wash the puke out as best I could. 
Finally we are in Taipei. It's our last airport layover. We lug our exhausted selves and stuff through the airport following a series of very confusing signs only to get to the terminal our flight was supposed to be in and get told we have to go back to the original terminal and go through security there before coming back to our gate! I would have been livid if i had the energy for such an emotion. Instead I just felt a little bit like crying but didn't. We made our way down the windy path, back onto the train and up and down escalators until we finally get to security. Thankfully security was quick and easy but then we had to make the journey to the other terminal a third time. Finally we got there to await our final flight. At this point everything is hard and I felt dehydrated and sent Josh on a mission to find some water. For some reason he can't find any on his outing and comes back empty handed. I'm like "um you obviously don't understand the seriousness of this pregnant woman's dehydration. I need water NOW!" And I send him off again. This next time he is successful! Water! 
Colby is in good spirits but running around the waiting area with one of his cars. He insists on playing on the tall stairway which requires heavy supervision as he could fall easily. I try to pull him away from the stairs several times but it throws him into a series of tantrums which involve throwing his head back against the hard floor and screaming. oh quite a show he can put on! Maybe we'll just let him play on the stairs after all....
Finally we get on the last flight which goes fairly smoothly and get to Bangkok around 2 a.m. We make the long walk to immigration. Colby is screaming loudly as we wait in line here. For once, his screaming works to our benefit and a woman pulls us out of line and up to the front. :-) We sail through immigration and go to find our bags and Bella. All have arrived, but it's 3 a.m. by the time we have them all loaded onto the cart. And it's 4 a.m. by the time we have Bella through the quarantine paperwork and have gotten our rental car. And it's 5 a.m. by the time we are all checked into our hotel and ready to pass out! 

I have to say the rental truck was awesome. The hotel was awesome. And the next couple of days were just an awesome feeling of relaxation knowing that we made it to Thailand and are all re-united and on our way to jet-lag recovery in our new home. The worst is over! I had already written several chronicles on the rest of our journey and the jet lag recovery so I think this story ends here. Phew! 

Friday, August 17, 2012

How to Move a Dog from Thailand to the USA

During our first year living in Thailand we acquired for ourselves a wonderful mutt named Bella. When we adopted her, we knew there was a chance we might move back to the US and need to take her with us. We researched in advance to make sure this was possible. As soon as we found out it was, we brought her home with us. A year later, I was pregnant and our visas were about to expire. We needed to leave Thailand a little sooner than originally planned. I wanted to write out the process we went through to move Bella since it was a little bit complicated and there isn’t that much information out there.

The condensed version is that all you really need is:

  • Airline approved crate (window ventilation on all 4 sides)
  • Rabies vaccination certificate stating rabies vaccine was more than 30 days and less than 1 year ago
  • Health Certificate from veterinarian
  • Export license from Chiang Mai Animal Quarantine Office obtained within 10 days of trip
  • Flight that allows pets in the cargo hold

Here’s the long version of the process we went through:

For starters I should mention that we lived in Chiang Mai so that was our  exporting destination. The first thing I needed to do was find a flight itinerary that looked manageable for a dog. I knew she would be locked in a crate in the cargo hold for the duration of our journey so I didn’t want one of those 36 hours itineraries where you have to go through Bangkok. Instead we found a 22 hour itinerary with Korean Air. Much more manageable amount of time for our pooch to be locked in a cage. Our travel agent booked the flight for us but I called the airline to confirm that we would be traveling with a dog and give them all the necessary information about our dog. They wanted to know her weight and size as well as the weight and size of the crate she would be traveling in. One thing we discovered was they have a 32 kilogram limit for the combined weight of the crate and the dog. Bella, our german shepherd/husky, thai mutt mix weighed about 20 kilos and our crate weighed 13! She was just over. So I had to search for a lighter crate that was still big enough. Not easy to find in Chiang Mai, but I did find one at the pet store on the Superhighway (just past Carrefour, now called Big C). Now their combined weight was exactly 32 kilos. Yikes, we put Bella on a diet to be sure she didn’t go over the weight limit. If you have a larger dog, there is no way they can travel with Korean Air. If you have a smaller dog, you will not have a problem. It should be noted that some planes don’t have air in the cargo and they won’t let you take a pet, so you always have to check before making definite plans.  
We prayed that Bella and the crate would be light enough on the day of travel. We still needed to put food and water bowls inside attached to the door and knew that would add a little weight. We were planning on begging for mercy and hoping they’d look the other way about an extra kilo or two.

Now that our flight and crate arrangements were made, it was time to think about the export license. The most important thing is to make sure your dog is healthy and vaccinated leading up to the flights. The only vaccination absolutely required is the Rabies vaccination. You need your dog to get this at least 30 days before their flight. Then you need to have a vaccination book or certificate stating that your dog has received it. This should be signed by your veterinarian. Also ask for a health certificate from your veterinarian stating that the dog is healthy and ready to travel.

Within 10 days of your flight, you will go to Chiangmai animal quarantine station which is over near the Chiangmai zoo and next to the police station. Bring your itinerary, vaccine records, health certificate and the passport of the person traveling with the pet. There is a form there you fill out. We were told to bring our dog, but they looked at us kind of funny when we showed up with Bella so I am not sure it was actually necessary. I figure it can't hurt though. Anyways make copies of all your papers beforehand because they will want to hang on to a copy. After you fill out the form and give them the vet records they will probably tell you to go home and come back a few days later to pick up your export certificate.

The day of your flight you are usually told you need to show up about 4 hours before your scheduled departure. We showed up at the Chiang Mai Airport 4 hours early and they looked at us like we were crazy. Once they finally let us get checked in, they weighed Bella’s crate and asked for its dimensions. Then they told us we could hang onto the dog until about an hour before the flight.

They did ask to look at all of our papers- the export license, Health Certificate, and vaccination record. Eventually they wheeled her away from us. Poor Bella’s whole body was shaking and I was crying thinking about how scared she was.

Then a little while later we boarded our flight to Seoul, South Korea. When we got to Seoul, we stopped by a Korean Air ticket counter and asked if someone could check on our dog. They did and told us she was doing fine. Again when we boarded our flight, I asked a flight attendant if she could confirm that our dog had been loaded on board before take-off and she went and confirmed this and let us know. J

Finally in Chicago, we waited in line at immigration and I eagerly peered past the immigration counters and I could see our crate sitting on a luggage cart next to baggage claim with an attendant waiting next to it. We waved at the guy and he saw us and waved back. We had taped a picture of ourselves and Bella to the outside of the crate so people would know she was a well-loved family dog and be nice to her.

We went through immigration and were so excited to get to her, but we knew we couldn’t let her out of her crate until we got outside because she would surely be dying to pee. We tried to wheel her right through customs but they told us we needed to stop by the CDC (center for disease control) first and the pointed to it in the corner. We went over, rang a bell, someone came out, glanced at our rabies vaccination record, scribbled something down and sent us on our way. That was all there was to it! 

If you have any questions feel free to comment and I will answer to the best of my knowledge. I know a great travel agent in Chiang Mai who helped us with some of the arrangements too. :-)