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traveling with a toddler

The Best Way to Travel With a Toddler and Newborn


The Best Way to Travel With a Toddler and Newborn

Something I wrote in January of last year that I really loved and figured I might as well share:

Lorelei and I traveled as far as the mailbox today. We put jackets on over our jammies and held hands while we ran down the driveway. The mailbox is two houses away from ours, and we got to use the very special mail key to retrieve all of our letters, coupons and credit card offers. Lorelei loves carrying the key back for me. She held onto it tightly, saying “Don’t worry, I’ll take good care of it, mama.” And she always does.

But when we got back to the house, the adventure quickly commenced. I went through the pile of mail creating a “recycle” pile that was much larger than the “keep” pile, and then I turned on the T.V. for Lorelei so I could make breakfast and coffee in peace before Baby Isla woke. The rest of the day involved a little bit of playing here and there, a lot of nursing and quite a bit of trying to keep Isla distracted from her teething pain. It was rough, but we got through the afternoon without too many tears being shed. That’s a win in my book.

By the end of the day I felt badly for not being a crafty, anti-T.V., cutely dressed, patient and inspirational mom. I tried to give myself a break because parenting a toddler and a baby is no easy feat, but I do want to provide my girls with a fun, memorable childhood (a goal I promise to tend to before I go to bed every night). But before I can sleep, the little ones must sleep, so I tackle the bedtime routine with fervor. When I tucked Lorelei into her bed, she sweetly said, “I love you sooooo much, mama.”

I thought to myself, why in the world does she love me “sooooo” much? We didn’t go anywhere exciting, she watched way too much T.V. and I cooked dinner in the microwave. By no means is that what a mother who could be loved “sooooo much” does.

I realized, then, that my two-year-old perceives the day much differently than I do. If you were to ask Lorelei what we did today, she’d tell you the following, because this is how we played during those few and far between spare moments of freedom:

"Today was so cool! Mama and I traveled all over the world to the most wonderful places. First, we set sail on the stormy seas to visit a fairy’s cave in the dining room. We found it all the way on the bottom level of the kitty condo, and she gave us some pixie dust so that we could use it to help Sharky’s heart beat regulate.

Then we had lunch (string cheese, dino nuggets and fruit, my favorite) before we attended a Katy Perry concert. I love Katy Perry and mama always takes me to one of her concerts when I’m feeling kind of moody. So we shook our “bom-boms” to the eye of the tiger song and the fireworks song while Baby Isla laughed and kicked her feet in her swing. It was so fun, I seriously didn’t want it to end, so I begged mama to not let it end but she said Katy Perry needed to go take a nap.

Then I got to watch my favorite show while mama helped Baby Isla stop crying. She spent a lot of time nursing her and putting on her chamomile oil. She even let me help put the oil on Isla’s little baby feet. A bit later, mama read me some books. One had a great story about a dragon, so I decided to call mama “Mama Dragon.” I fed her some magnetic alphabet soup while she made me dinner in the dragon lair. We flew to the living room together, flapping our dragon wings and laughing really loudly like dragons would.

Before bed, I turned into a mermaid in the bathtub and cleaned my fin in the soapy waters. Mama taught me a cool trick so that the water wouldn’t get in my eyes when we washed my long, golden mermaid hair. It felt really good so I closed my eyes, smiled and said “Thank you mama, I love you so much.” That made her smile, which made me really happy.

When it was time to get out, mama wrapped me up in my doggy towel, threw me on her bed (literally, it’s the best part) and tucked me in so I could be warm while she picked out my jammies. Then mama let me run around naked before putting my jammies on, which was so much fun. It always makes Isla laugh, too, which is SO cute.

By the time I was dressed and ready for bed, mama looked pretty worn out, so I gave in and hopped onto my bed. She sat Isla in the rocking chair next to us so that she could watch and listen to my bedtime stories too. Mama acted out all of the animal hugs in the Mommy Hugs book and read me my favorite prayers. It was so nice. I told her that I loved her sooooo much because I do, and then I reminded her to not forget Isla before she left the room. I’ve never seen her forget Isla, but I figure I should always remind her just in case. I can’t wait until tomorrow. I hope it’s just as awesome as today was." 

Wow. I’m not surprised that I’m exhausted. Who knew we could travel to so many places in just one day? And with two kids at that! 

It’s clear that no matter how challenging and boring the day appeared to be to me, an adult with different expectations of what should have been accomplished and what it takes to be a good parent, my daughter’s point of view is probably that we did a lot of traveling to a variety of magical lands without her ever having to be strapped into a car seat. 

And so, I tell myself this: I have NOT failed my children by staying home all day when I don’t have the energy, patience or funds to leave the house and set off on a big adventure. There’s a time and a place for that, and it is not right at the end of maternity leave during growth spurts and teething pains times two in the middle of the week. 

By being present and paying attention to my girls and playing along with Lorelei’s fantasies, I got be a part of a day trip that was cooler than my wildest dreams, and I traveled farther than I’ve ever traveled before in my life. Plus, magnetic alphabet soup is delicious, didn’t you know? Now, please excuse me while I guzzle a large glass of ice water. My throat is totally singed after breathing so much fire this evening. 





One year ago, I wrote about one of the most intense weeks of my life. When I was three months pregnant with Isla, I witnessed a birth, grieved a death and cared for Lorelei while she endured Hand, Foot and Mouth disease (which I then caught myself). We traveled to Orange County before the illness and were able to spend some much-needed quality time with Ryan's side of the family. It was my mother-in-law's father who had died, and we were blessed with the opportunity to say goodbye to him hours before he passed. 

This year, Ryan's family gathered at his mother's home to honor her father's life. Because Ryan was coincidentally given an extra two days off of work that same weekend, we decided to take advantage of the four-day weekend and have a mini vacation with our two girls. Isla would be meeting many family members for the first time, so the trip was meaningful on a variety of levels. 

I wish I could say it was an incredible trip and everything was super awesome and perfect, but it had THE worst beginning - worse than any bad vacation I've ever had before. We decided last minute to leave a day earlier than originally planned, but, due to bad timing, we ended up leaving right before rush hour. This caused our travel time to double, and we didn't arrive at our destination until 8:30 p.m., which brings us to a total of five hours in the car with a potty-training toddler and a baby. Word to the wise - never drive through Los Angeles on a Thursday, and bring lollipops if cry-worthy traffic is unavoidable. I also wouldn't recommend leaving during a full moon, let alone a Blue Moon, because you're basically asking for shit to get weird.

The Blue Moon taunting us toward the end of our incredibly long drive.

The Blue Moon taunting us toward the end of our incredibly long drive.

After a bad first day of travel, things improved immensely. Lorelei became besties with a Chihuahua named Dolce and, later on in the day, a cat named Simba; we got to sleep in a fluffy king-sized bed; and I woke up to enjoy a delicious home-cooked breakfast that was made by someone other than myself.

The girls and I spent the rest of the day with Auntie Taylor (Ryan's sister), and we checked out sea lions and tide pools (or "party water" as Lorelei decided to call them; photos of this excursion are at the end of this post) while our husbands surfed for hours upon hours. After reconvening, we drove to my mother-in-law's together for the gathering, and we enjoyed the company of family we wish we could see much more often than we are currently able. 

The day as a whole was slow, deliberate and fulfilling - despite the fact that it took almost three hours to get Lorelei to fall asleep come bedtime. She was so amped on life after spending the entire night re-telling stories of mine as though the events had happened to her. It was highly entertaining, and I couldn't help but let her stay up way too late just to hear her sweet voice compose all kinds of fiction for her loving, kind audience.

After the majority of the extended family went home, my mother- and sister-in-law joined me to view the Blue Moon that was hanging over us that night (so-called because it was the second full moon in one month). It was beautiful, powerful, huge and probably the main reason things had been so "off" for us the day before. I embraced it, came up with a few thoughts about things I'd like to release to the powers that be and went back inside to finish my wine and pass the fuck out. 

My crap photo of the Blue Moon that I insist on publishing to prove to myself that I'm not scared of future full moons. 

My crap photo of the Blue Moon that I insist on publishing to prove to myself that I'm not scared of future full moons. 

We spent our final day in Orange County slowly, yet again, enjoying coffee and breakfast in the backyard with my in-laws, watching Lorelei play, relaxing while Isla napped next to a beautiful succulent arrangement, avoiding an overly friendly bee, holding an ice pack to Lorelei's head after she ran into a closed sliding glass door and trying to decide if we should leave early, or if we should go to the beach and leave at bedtime so the girls could sleep on the way home.

Obviously, because we're not dumb, we chose the latter, and it was awesome/the only thing that really went completely right all weekend. 

Enjoying the warmth of a wind-free beach day is so, so good for my soul. I was able to sit and relax with a margarita while two extra pairs of hands helped Ryan and I take care of our babies. Lorelei bonded with her aunt and uncle, she figured out how to have fun without any beach toys, she got her hair wet in the ocean and went deeper into it than ever before. Isla napped peacefully in her own beach chair to the sounds of waves crashing and people living happily outdoors. We stayed as long as we could before having to return to the responsibilities of real life, and one last long drive home.

We returned to the beach bungalow from whence we came, and I took a bath with the girls before we dressed them in jammies and fed them as much as possible in preparation for our final adventure. Had it not been for an unexpected detour, they would have slept the entire way home. Instead, both girls woke up, resulting in a mini cry-it-out session for Isla and all of us listening to "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" on repeat for Lorelei until she fell asleep again.

Thankfully, we made it home safely at a decent hour; both girls transferred to their beds easily without waking; and Ryan and I were able to binge-watch some Seinfeld before finally going to sleep in our own bed once again. 

Normal life resumed the next day, and I felt much like I did when Isla was four months old and thoughts of a third baby entered my mind before quickly receding in fear - I knew I would travel with my children again one day, but it definitely won't be anytime soon. That being said, we love our Orange County (and beyond) family so much. You're all welcome at our home anytime! 

Side note: the number two won't be a chosen number on any future Lottery tickets. 



Life and Death


Life and Death

I spent the first three days of last week helping a friend through the birth of her first baby. Since her baby was a week overdue, she was induced on Sunday, and I spent the following days with her and her boyfriend to guide them through her labor and delivery experience. It was slightly intimidating but immeasurably rewarding, and I felt even more confident in my decision to pursue a career in birth education and “doula-ing” (though I’m opting for the role of postpartum doula as opposed to that of a labor doula).

Although I have personally experienced what it’s like to go into labor and give birth, I had never witnessed someone else give birth, nor had I witnessed the induction process. Both were incredibly eye-opening, and to be relied on for information and support during one of the most physically and mentally challenging experiences a woman could have was truly life-affirming for me. I befriended both sides of this new baby’s family and put my own pregnant-woman needs aside as much as I physically could during the almost three-day induction process. Only going home to sleep, I could hardly even do that as I anxiously awaited texts and phone calls announcing any major change that would require me to hurry back to the hospital. I was so amped on the experience that my closed eyelids were literally twitching uncontrollably, and sleep was essentially impossible. The exhaustion brought on by my own pregnancy didn’t phase me, and for that I was extremely thankful.

After the baby was born (sunny-side up, which was super impressive), I spent some time with the new parents to help them get adjusted to holding their new little family member without being fearful, and to help mama start the ever-intimidating first breastfeeding journey. I left soon after that to give them time to introduce the baby to close friends and family, and for me to reunite with my own family. I had done my part and felt completely satisfied with the type of working mother I had become.

As I left the hospital, I spoke on the phone with my mother-in-law who told me that her father, who had been suffering from cancer for two years and had decided to forego further treatment after the initial chemotherapy was unsuccessful, had taken a turn for the worse and most likely had no more than two weeks left in his life. I stopped by my husband’s work to eat some lunch and discuss what we should do as far as going to visit his grandfather. The two days we could chose to visit were either the following day or this upcoming Sunday, and we decided that the three of us (Lorelei being the third) would drive to Banning (near Palm Springs, a two-and-half-hour trip) the next day to go say our goodbyes. It was very important to us that we are there for Ryan’s mom and grandmother and aunts and everyone else close to this situation. We had both seen the death of a grandparent before (we were in the room with Ryan’s fraternal grandmother when she passed three years ago) and were not at all afraid of what we would see when we arrived in Banning.

Despite our certainty, I cried the entire 30-minute drive home. I was overwhelmed with what I had just experienced (seeing the beginning of the first day of a newborn baby’s life) and by what was happening to Ryan’s grandfather, one of the kindest, funniest, sweetest men I’d ever been lucky enough to spend time with. I was overwhelmed by the idea that the beginning and end of life are such definitive moments that no one can really control, and that my babies are going to die one day and I am going to die one day and Ryan is going to die one day and that there’s a chance I might have to spend the last days/months/years of my life without Ryan. It was all way too much for me to process when I was surviving on two hours of sleep and a lot of unhealthy food while trying to grow a baby in my uterus, so I took a long nap when I got to my mom’s house, where Lorelei was staying while Ryan and I were working, and felt a lot better about everything when I woke up. That being said, I’m still somewhat haunted by the thoughts that crossed my mind on that drive home. 

Nevertheless, we left the next morning, packing only what we’d need for a one-night stay at my mother-in-law’s, and hoped for an easy trip...

“Easy” is not a word that I should even say out loud anymore, let alone think. Lorelei was desperate to get out of the car and walk around a little less than halfway through the drive, so we got off the freeway and took her to the first food place we could find: McDonald’s. When a mother becomes desperate to not have to hear a screaming toddler in the car for more than an hour, she will, without giving it a second thought, feed that toddler French fries. She’ll even go a step further and get said toddler a happy meal so she will have a new toy to play with. Luckily the toy in this happy meal was a plastic Furby with googly eyes and Lorelei was thoroughly entertained. I was also personally amused by the fact that Furbies are still a thing.

When we arrived to Ryan’s grandparents’ house, the mood was slightly tense, but only  because things with his health were changing so rapidly. One thing I love about Ryan’s family is their complete selflessness. All three of Ryan’s grandfather’s daughters were there to help him and their mother, and they were all in very positive spirits. I felt very comfortable with our decision to bring Lorelei to say goodbye alongside us because she wasn’t being exposed to any negativity whatsoever. Instead, Lorelei enhanced the environment with her obliviousness to the situation. She was running around talking about the things she saw in the living room, eating chips and asking her Grammy (Ryan’s mom) to hold her. She explored the backyard and made friends with some duck lawn ornaments. She would curiously and happily peek at her great-grandfather resting in his bed and waved goodbye to him when it was time to leave. It was truly touching to see her sweet personality shine through what is certainly a sad situation.

The next morning, we found out that Ryan’s grandfather had passed away. This was a shock to everyone because we all thought he had at least a few more days ahead of him, but we felt the timing was serendipitous. We were able to say goodbye to him just in time, and he was able to pass before his health deteriorated to a point where he was unrecognizable. Ryan and I were also happy to be at his mom’s house when she received the news. It’s important to us to support the people we love, and it meant a lot to us to be lucky enough to be so close when this important event occurred. Needless to say we decided to stay another night and enjoy a day with Ryan’s brother and his girlfriend at the beach and pool. The weather was beautiful and it was nice to take a day off from normal life to really take in all that had happened so far in the week (which was truly a lot). The only downside is that we didn’t bring enough stuff to carry us through a two-day stay, so we had to go bathing suit shopping (miserable) and wear the same clothes over and over again (annoying). We also ran out of diapers and Lorelei had to run around naked while Ryan drove to the store to buy some. We are never so unprepared when we travel, so it was a little bit frustrating. All I can really say is, thank God for Target and end of summer swimsuit sales at local surf shops.

As all of this was going on, Lorelei had become a lot fussier and I noticed a few little bumps on her face. I didn’t think much of it (I thought maybe they were brought on by the heat), but when she woke up hours earlier than she normally does on the day we were supposed to leave, the bumps had multiplied and she seemed pretty miserable. In fact, she cried for the majority of the long drive home and Ryan and I were definitely at our limit when it came to anything that involved elevated stress levels. So I made a doctor’s appointment that was to take place as soon as we got home because my momma intuition was telling me Lorelei had hand, foot and mouth disease, an annoying but somewhat harmless disease that was making the rounds where we live. After enduring an unbelievable amount of traffic, a screaming toddler and some serious lack of sleep, Ryan and I went our separate ways, him to work and me with our still-screaming daughter to the doctor.

Long story short, I was right. Lorelei has hand, foot and mouth disease and her throat was covered in blisters. So, after a week of helping someone give birth and saying goodbye to a very beloved family member, I was quarantined to my extremely messy home to take care of my poor, sick Lorelei until this viral illness ran its course. Though adults don’t usually get HFM, I did, and it was the worst illness I have ever experienced - ever. 

I feel very challenged as a human being, and also very tired and constantly hungry thanks to my pregnancy. I’m sure everything would seem much more manageable if my brain were allowed to rest a lot sooner and a lot longer than it’s usually able to, but it’s not, so now that I’ve vented to my computer while watching mindless television, I’m going to rub cocoa butter all over my expanding belly (…and butt) and mentally prepare for what tomorrow may bring. Hopefully it brings a nap and a housecleaner.