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Four

Four years ago today, I married my best friend.  It was an amazing, busy, peaceful, whirlwind, gorgeous, joyful day, and that kind of describes how the past four years have been.  Part of me feels like, "Really? Where have the past 4 years gone?" and another part of me feels as though we've been married forever.  Either way, I pretty lucky to be married to the person who is STILL my best friend, with whom I love both to traverse the globe and sit giggling on our living room couch; with whom I love to read books, cook, and eat; who supports me in my hobbies and is passionate about his own; and who helps me make some pretty darn cute babies.  It doesn't get much better than that.




Wedding photos by the incredible Anna Page, and family photo by the talented and patient Katie Hart

Yellow and Red and Birds, Oh My!


Blouse: c/o Go Jane (similar); Skinnies: Target; Sandals: Saltwaters

I felt very...bright in this outfit.  But I kind of loved it.
Also, welcome to my new Saltwaters!  Although I'm a little torn.  Their sizing is really weird and I think I got a size too small.  What do you think?  Do they look weird (although I know it's hard to tell)?  Should I buckle down and pay the extra shipping to exchange them?  Grr...I HATE paying double shipping.

I also realized I forgot to ask if anyone had any questions on the baby travel post.  Because my tips are certainly not the be all, end all.  So if you DO have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments and I'll do my best to answer.

Tips for Travel with a Baby or Toddler

Look, I know there are probably a thousand different versions of this out there already.  But I figure when you're a parent getting ready to subject yourself to travel with an infant, well, you can never hear too many experiences.  Nat's currently visited 14 US states & districts, 11 countries and territories, and 4 continents, so if nothing else, we have experience with sheer numbers.

I'll go ahead and start with my disclaimer that these are things that worked for US with OUR baby.  I'm sharing these tips in hopes that they will help you manage, give you peace of mind, or help you believe that it is, in fact, possible and enjoyable to travel with children.  But I make no guarantees that these suggestions are either universal or foolproof.  What I'm trying to say is, take what I say with a grain of salt.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people assume that just because you have kids, you have to remain chained to your house for the rest of your life, or at least for the next 18 years.  This is just SO not true.  Sure, adding kids to the mix means a little extra planning and preparation, but I'm anal enough that that just adds to the fun.  So when you run into the 87th person to say, "WOW!  I can't believe you're traveling with a child!" you can just smile graciously and tell them about your wonderful trip.

1. Know Your Child. 
I put this first because I cannot emphasize it enough - all of this is really SO dependent on YOUR child.  Nat happens to be fairly flexible in where and when he sleeps and eats.  He is not extremely shy, nor is he really super attached to his own crib and stuffed animals.  Don't get me wrong - he definitely sleeps better when he's at home and it's quiet and he's in his own bed.  But he won't NOT sleep elsewhere.  He's also fairly flexible with food - he's willing to at least try most things.  So what happens if you don't have a flexible child?  Does that mean you can't travel?  Not at all.  It just means that you will need to make sure to make him or her comfortable along the way.  Maybe that means staying in one hotel for several nights, and returning there midday for naps.  Maybe that means packing an extra backpack with favorite blankets and toys.  Whatever it is, you are the best person to know your child's routine and dependency on it.  

2. Plan, Plan, Plan. 
Maybe before kids you were the type to fly by the seat of your pants and decide your itinerary along the way (that was totally me...not).  This may not work so well with kiddos in tow.  We knew exactly which cities we'd be visiting each day, how long each of the car rides were (we didn't do any marathon driving sessions, planned stops, and knew exactly how long to anticipate being in the car each day), and where we'd be staying.  We certainly didn't want to be driving around in the middle of nowhere in New Zealand not knowing if there was a hotel in a 100-kilometer radius.  We also took a GPS with us and had addresses punched in beforehand, which was infinitely helpful and cut down on a whole lot of stress.  Planning can also help you arrange your schedule so that you don't have 3 action-packed days in a row, which will be exhausting.  Try to include some lower-key days for everyone.
3. Be Flexible. 
This may seem to contradict the previous tip, but really, they go hand in hand.  Being flexible means you have done your research and you have several options.  If the baby's cranky, maybe reconsider going to a museum.  If the weather's crummy, you don't want a wet and cold and grumpy child on a boat tour.  If the kiddo is napping in the car, maybe give it another 30 minutes before dragging him out to walk around the city.  But planning beforehand allows you to be flexible - you're not showing up in a city wondering where and what you can eat and stay and see.  You'll be less stressed knowing your options, and being able to choose from them, rather than giving up in frustration and not doing anything at all.
4. Underpack for yourself, Overpack for the child.
The first part is pretty self-explanatory - pack as little as you can get away with for yourself.  Trust me, there is ALWAYS something you can cut out (remember the old adage about packing all you think you need and then cutting out half).  You do NOT want to be hauling around 6 extra pairs oh heels along with your baby and his stuff.  By overpacking for your child, I do not mean 12 extra onesies (although a few extra is probably smart, especially with a smaller baby).  I mean plenty of snacks and entertainment.  Don't take a huge favorite book, but rather, take a couple of small new books.  Stickers, pens and paper, and masking tape are all winners.  We had a portable DVD player (Nat doesn't usually get to watch TV, but I figured international travel was an exception), which we used not once on our whole trip.  Still, I would rather have had it and not needed it than desperately needed it and not had it.  Little snacks, like raisins and sunflower seeds and baby goldfish are all great because they take a long time to eat.  We always made sure to have milk on hand.  Bring several medicines that you may need - baby Advil, a nose suction, teething gel, whatever you could see yourself potentially needing.  You don't want to be stuck trying to find it somewhere else and risk giving your baby something new while abroad.
5. Find smaller ways of packing.
While you're making space for that extra toy car, think about other ways of creating space.  We have a Kidco Peapod (many places don't seem to sell them anymore, but you can find them on ebay), which is basically like a little baby tent.  It's WAY smaller and lighter than a pack 'n play.  If you don't carry the pump and blow up mattress (I don't like them, anyway) and just use a blanket, you can stuff some extra stuff in the bag, like diapers or sheepskin pillowcases you're bringing home.  Bassinets (along with car seats and strollers) are always free to check, so with such a small option, it's worth it to bring one.  Fit all your stuff into carry-on sized suitcases (this is especially useful if you're flying a really really terrible airline - cough, United - that can't get you checked in in time and thus can't check your luggage and you have to run through the airport with all your stuff).
6. Stick to as much of a routine as you can.
Even though you might be in a different place each night, try to keep whatever you can consistent.  Nat still sleeps swaddled.  I know.  It's crazy.  But he's always been a SUPER active baby, and has always had a really hard time settling down for bed, but once he's swaddled, he goes right off to sleep.  He can easily get out of it, but to him, it's just a comforting bedtime signal.  We were NOT about to change this before or during our trip.  We also took along the sound machine and tried to keep bedtimes and morning routines fairly consistent.  We tried to do car rides around when he would need a nap.  Kids need lots of active time during the day, so we always made sure there were ample opportunities for walking and running and climbing.  Still, be flexible in your routine - if you get in a little late one day, don't have a panic attack.  If baby's getting antsy, just go outside for a bit.  If the kiddo won't eat any dinner or has filled up on pretzels, it's not the end of the world.
7. Strollers (and carriers) are awesome, just not the huge ones. 
If you don't have an umbrella stroller, for heaven's sake, get one.  We have a Maclaren Triumph and love it.  It's compact and light and we can hang a backpack on the handles when Nat is sitting in it during the day.  In airports, Nat would be in the carrier, and the stroller would haul both backpacks, the Peapod, and the car seat.  I'd push (with Nat in a carrier) while Dan pulled both of our rolly suitcases.  We were doing a good bit of driving and walking, so both the car seat and stroller were pretty necessary, but depending on your trip, you may not need either.  Still, the stroller is useful for not breaking your back, if nothing else.  Speaking of, carriers are fantastic.  We have an Ergo and we made MANY comments on how it was maybe the most useful thing we packed.  So great.  When Nat was younger, the Moby was so, so helpful - it allowed me to walk around tours and go on safari rides while comfortably and discreetly nursing the baby and letting him sleep.
8. Plan on doing laundry.
Guess what?  Washing machines exist in other countries, and you don't need to pack enough underwear for your entire trip.  Trust me, with messy babies and snacks and planes, you'll want to wash your stuff.
9. Have an airplane plan of attack.
Think ahead of time how and when you'd ideally like your baby to sleep, and try to shoot for that.  Sure, it won't work perfectly, but at least you won't be sitting there thinking you're going to be singing songs for the entire flight until baby randomly falls asleep.  I know this is crazy for an 18-month old, but Nat is still well within the weight limit for the airplane bassinets.  He sleeps infinitely better (and so do we) when he's in a bed and not our arms, so we requested (and got) those seats on both long flights.  On the shorter flights without bassinets, we had regular seats and had him (probably illegally) sleep on the floor at our feet.  He slept much better there than in a car seat, but again, know your baby.  If it's an option in your budget (it certainly wasn't in ours), you can consider buying an extra seat, or if not, you can always request at the airport to try to be put in a row with an empty seat and ask if you can bring the car seat on if you want.  Know that walking the aisles is an option, but don't do it too early in the flight - otherwise kiddo will know it's available and always want it.  Know when meals are and when landing is, so you have something to look forward to, if nothing else.
10. Don't stress!
People have had children forever.  Most people are very nice and understanding and will be helpful rather than mean (and if they are mean, well, just stick your tongue out at them).  Kids are generally more adaptable than we expect.  And best of all, kids are great at having fun in any situation.  I honestly think this makes traveling with kids even MORE fun than otherwise - they find the fun and excitement in even the smallest things, and help you enjoy the whole experience even more.  Sure, they love playgrounds and beaches and feeding kangaroos (so do we), but they'll also be entertained by fish and ferry rides and all kinds of "adult" things.  I mean, how are kids going to learn to enjoy adult activities like travel and cities and architecture and sitting quietly in restaurants unless they're allowed to experience them and practice?  So don't be scared - do what you can to prepare beforehand, and then just have fun.  The trip, and your kid, will probably exceed your expectations.

A Simple Dress



 Dress/Jacket/Sandals: Target; Cardi: borrowed from sister (American Eagle); Necklace: F21

Sometimes dresses are hard for me.  I love them for their simplicity and comfort and ability to make me feel put together, but I often feel I need to do something "more" to them.  I originally wore a belt with this dress, but ended up not liking it.  The layers were mostly for warmth, and during the heat of the day, it was just the dress.  And you know what?  I liked it - for its simplicity, not in spite of it.  Sometimes simple is good.

Oh yes, and that spot in my hair?  Not a lovely flower petal, but a sticker.  Welcome to life with a toddler.

Grateful

I have it pretty easy, I'd say.  I live in a fantastic city.  I have a job I love that allows me to work a few hours a week from home.  I have opportunities to travel and meet and learn from people around the world.  I have a wonderful family and friends.  I have two actual and many more symbolic mothers (and fathers) who teach me about sacrifice and generosity and kindness.  And very most importantly, I have two other jobs that I would trade for not one thing - wife and mother.

Yesterday, as I sat in church, I reflected on the fact that I get to experience the two biggest blessings I can imagine.  I thought about how I not only get to be married, but my husband is someone who considers my needs before every one of his.  There were dozens of little Mother's Day considerations and gifts filled with thought and love. There were baby giggles and cuddles and slobbery kisses.

I'm sobered when I remember those who want to but can't yet experience families of their own, and love them all the more for it.  My dear friend Rachel lost her baby son to a rare genetic syndrome a few weeks ago.  Her sweet boy was born just a couple of months after Nat, and I remember emailing each other during pregnancy and in the new phases of mommyhood and hearing her joy.  Despite how utterly heartbreaking the last few months were, they only made her kinder and more conscious of those around her.  We were supposed to meet up with her when we passed through San Francisco on our way back from Australia, but, of course, her baby's passing a few days before and needing to go to Utah for his burial prohibited that.  Another friend told me that Rachel had called her the morning after and asked her to apologize to me for not being able to be there.  Then at his funeral, she told the same friend's baby that they were going to be little buddies.  At such a time, I think I'd have little energy to think of anyone else, much less befriend another's baby.  And through it all, her trust that her family would still be together forever never wavered.  She's an inspiration to me of faith and courage.

I sometimes feel guilty that I get to experience the blessings I do.  It hardly seems fair, especially since I've done nothing special to deserve them.  But Rachel's faith and kindness remind me that for today, for now, I'll just be grateful.

Travel Fashion Part 1: The Basics

I mentioned before how I tried to pack a basics and layers.  But what exactly does that entail?  This seems like a cop-out, but I think it will be a bit different for everyone.  I happen to generally prefer skirts to pants, so I packed several of those.  I knew I had to throw in some stripes and a couple of button downs.  I also happen to enjoy and be fairly comfortable with pattern mixing, so I threw in some fun patterns that I knew I'd be willing to put together.  I also love my red pants dearly and almost consider them a neutral (who ever would've thought red pants could become a neutral?), so decided to throw them into the mix.  These are all items that I knew I loved wearing by themselves, that travel well (nothing that wrinkles really easily or needs to be dry cleaned!).

International (or any) travel is not, in my opinion, the time to try out a bunch of new trends you've been considering - you want outfits that will make you feel comfortable, happy, and relaxed; that will let you enjoy all the activities you have planned; and that you'll be willing to wear several times.  For us, since I knew we'd be in several different climates, I needed items that could be layered on top of one another for more or less warmth - a bunch of tees wouldn't do, either.

I also discovered THE most comfortable travel outfit - a maxi dress with a sweater.  I'd always traveled in my skinnies with a bit of stretch, but after hopping on the maxi bandwagon after making mine a month or so ago, I had to try it out.  And let me tell you - I will never get on an airplane in anything else.  I mean, no waistbands! The ability to sit in whatever position you want without flashing anyone! Material as comfy as your favorite pajamas but not looking like a hot mess upon arrival!  I'm sold.

So that's how I picked out my basics.  So, drumroll...

5 Tops
 Blue striped button down, white lace over-tee (I figured I could wear it over other shirts to change them up), birds blouse, white button down, & aqua striped shirt

3 Sweaters
Navy pullover, mustard cardi, blush cardi

2 Pants
Denim skinnies, red skinnies

One Dress
Gray striped maxi (made by me)

3 Skirts
Green scalloped pencil skirt, orange gingham skirt, knit gray striped skirt (made by me)

3 Shoes
Flip flops (disregard how icky and old they are...they were for beach purposes only), boots, yellow flats

So, all in all, 14 items of clothing and 3 pairs of shoes for 20 days.  Keep in mind that I wore the maxi dress and navy sweater on the plane, so there was basically no way I could wear them again until they were washed (think lots and lots of snacks to keep the baby occupied on the plane).  So that dropped it down to 12 items.  We were able to do laundry once, which was glorious.  Stay tuned for how I put them all together!

Travel Fashion: Intro


I really appreciated the helpful suggestions on packing basics that mix and match for our trip.  And that's exactly what I did!  But what exactly are basics?  What's a good number for that amount of time (2.5 weeks including travel)?  How many sets of underwear did we take (you know you want to know)?

In the next week or two, I'll be addressing some travel-related issues - I'll go over what exactly I packed, both for myself and for the baby; I'll talk about packing for two very different climates (there was one night that we actually slept in our down coats, and another day we were roasting just walking around wearing an undershirt); and I'll tack on a couple of posts with toddler travel tips and how to take an amazing trip on a budget (for those of you who think we're millionaires, rest assured that we're not - we did this entire trip in just over $2,500).

And don't worry - I'll be mixing it up with outfit posts so those of you who couldn't care less about travel won't be bored out of your minds. :)

Stay tuned!

Milford Sound, New Zealand
Great Barrier Reef near Cairns, Australia

An Outfit Post



Top: Old Navy; Skirt: J.Crew; Sandals: Target (many thanks to Janssen for tweeting about them and - hopefully - not being annoyed that I shamelessly copied her); Chunky necklace: H&M; Bead necklace: borrowed from sister

Why, hello!  Guess who actually got dressed at the end of last week?  I finally decided that 2.5 pajama days was enough, even with jetlag.  Plus, we had our ultrasound that day, so I figured showing up in snowman pants might be vaguely inappropriate.  We'll just ignore the very-poor-quality pictures.  We're still working out the kinks.

Also, many, MANY thanks for the helpful suggestions/support.  Thanks to your wisdom, Nat slept for 13 hours each on Friday and Saturday nights - hallelujah (only 10 last night, but still - far better than before).  Fingers crossed that we don't have to endure an hour of sobbing before naptime today.  On the other hand, we got a sheepskin rug while in New Zealand with which Nat is obsessed (as in, will go into our room 15-20 times a day to just sit/lie/cuddle on it and/or show it off to his stuffed animals), so maybe I should just stick that in his crib.

News + Baby Post-Vacation Sleep Help?

One of my pet peeves is when people say how much cuter little girl clothes are than little boy clothes.  Having a (rather adorable) little guy obviously sways my opinion a bit, but I think little boy clothes are every bit as adorable as little girl clothes.  I mean, seersucker and bow ties and tiny vests?  I die.

Still, I can't deny that items like this are pretty dang cute:



And it's a good thing I think so because it turns out we're having a baby GIRL!  I'm still a little in shock; I can't quite believe it.  I think Dan and I both assumed we'd have another boy, but we're couldn't be more excited for her.  I can't wait to see those two little ones teaching and loving one another.  Yay!

********************************

On another subject, I need help.  I also posted this on our personal blog, but I'm desperate, so I'm posting it again here (I know 3 days doesn't really qualify as desperate, but whatever).  Since we returned from our trip late Monday night, Nat's sleep has been, frankly, miserable.  Well, it's not even really the sleep.  It's the refusal to be by himself.

You see, we were spoiled.  I'm not exaggerating when I say that he was sleeping 8 hours at night by a month old, and 12+ by 2 months.  Ever since dropping his morning nap around 13 months, he's slept, with just a couple of little hiccups, 11-12 hours at night and 2-3 hours during the day.  For his naps, I would turn on his sound machine, hold him for a minute or two while singing one song, and put him down in his crib completely awake.  He'd drift off to sleep all on his own.  In the rare instance when he really wasn't tired (or after he awoke from his nap), he'd play happily in his crib, chatting or singing to himself.  In addition to this, he'd regularly play for upwards of an hour by himself, just reading books or playing with toys or doing whatever.

I fully acknowledge that we got totally lucky and that this was through NO amazing parenting feat.  I'm even more convinced of that now, because all of that has gone down the tubes the last few days.  Now, when we're with him, he's still perfectly happy and giggly and playful, but insists on being held for much of the time.  He falls asleep fine when we're with him, but wakes up when we leave the room, or freaks out and screams bloody murder if we leave him awake in his crib.  I put him down about 45 minutes ago (when he was clearly really tired) and he's been crying since (I went in once for about a minute to comfort him and explain that I would be in the living room and he could come out after he'd had his nap).

I'm fairly certain this has to do with some sort of post-vacation separation anxiety.  He was with both of us pretty much 24/7 for nearly 3 weeks, and slept in the same room as us.  If he woke up at night, we would immediately pick him up and bring him to bed with us for fear of waking up any hosts or neighbors.  And now, he's clearly used to that and is terrified of being by himself in his room.

So, HELP!  All you experienced moms, please tell me what to do!  Do I just let him cry for forever and hope he figures it out?  Do I rock him to sleep for a few more days to let him adjust?  Do I just pray like crazy that he remembers his good sleeping habits (I think that one's a definite)?


Back

Hello, all!  We are officially back home and are on a completely weirdo schedule.  Our flight got in at 11pm DC time last night, the baby was wide awake until 3, and we woke up at 10.  The baby's still sleeping now, at 11:30am, although that's only 8:30 California time (where we were for a 24-hour layover), and only 1:30 Sydney time, so I can't blame him.

All this is to say that we're a little loopy still, but could not be more thrilled with our whole adventure.  Everything was as perfect and beautiful and amazing as we could've imagined, we got to do everything we wanted, the weather was beyond gorgeous, and Nat slept on every flight.  We got to see fjords (best word ever?), mountains, beaches, and lots and lots of animals.  Nat particularly enjoyed running and playing with the baby kangaroos (yes, I almost died of the cuteness, thank you for asking).

In any case, huge thanks to the amazing guest posters, readers, etc. etc. You guys are fabulous!  It will probably take me a few days to dig out and actually manage to get dressed in some sort of semi-blog-worthy outfit (clean clothes, how I love you!), but rest assured that you'll be bombarded with lots of pictures, unsolicited advice (travel-with-a-toddler tips, why you should never fly United, packing counsel), and gushing about the beauty present in that part of the world.  Stay tuned! :)