Posted in family life

Traveling with toddlers, part 2

…schedules, routines, logistics, and sanity…

If your toddlers are anything like mine, they do best with predictable routines, familiar places, and people they know. They also tend to wake up early, go to bed early, and require multiple meals, snacks, and at least one nap every day. In normal life, where the family schedule accommodates these routine toddler needs, it’s not a big problem – but when every day is spent in a new place with extended family who aren’t accustomed to operating on toddler time, it can be more of a challenge.

For instance, what do you do when your toddlers are up at 7 but a few of the adults in the group like to sleep until 10? You can try to keep your kids quiet in the house during their most energetic hours, or you can take them out on your own with the result that they are going down for naps just as the rest of the family is finally up and ready – neither of which are great options! We used both of these options at different times, depending on how the previous night went, but I think the ideal solution would be to have an outdoor play space within walking distance, so the kids can get out of the house or hotel without getting totally worn out from a big excursion. Of course, this can be difficult to plan in advance!

The other big adjustment we found helpful for the trip was counting on car time for snacks and naps. If you’re visiting a city where most activities or people to visit are a 30 minute drive away (or more), coordinating a drive with a tired hour or bringing along food lets you get in the essentials without making the whole group sit around the house for an extra hour or so. With my parents, my brother, my sister and her husband, my grandmother, and various other family members who lived in the area, the added flexibility and time saved by utilizing car time was huge.

In the end, though, you can never really predict how a toddler will respond to the more spontaneous and potentially overwhelming schedule of a vacation, and it’s important to remember that. Encourage them when they are doing well, and reassure them when they’re struggling – after all, you are their one constant through the craziness of travel, and they need to know they can count on you to understand, love, and empower them. Don’t be surprised if they are a bit more clingy and cuddly than normal, especially at bedtime! Just enjoy the extra closeness and remember that they’ll be back to normal when they’re back home in their regular routine.

Posted in family life

traveling with toddlers, part 1

… in which planes are discussed, with their various pros and cons …

In general, I think car trips are preferable to plane trips with little kids. They tend to be less expensive (especially once the kids are too old to fly for free!), they allow for more convenient and accessible packing, and they don’t include quite as much waiting around in lines and other random airport places. However, certain places are just too far away for a road trip to be logistically pleasant. Most of my extended family lives in either upstate New York or South Florida, and the thought of a 33 hour drive (one-way!) with multiple toddlers and babies is daunting. Doable, perhaps, if necessary – but difficult, and the driving time ends up taking away from the time spent visiting family, since time away from work is inherently limited. So sometimes planes win, despite my distaste.

When a plane flight becomes necessary, the next order of business is to find a route and time. We were able to find a non-stop this time around, which is preferable for obvious reasons, but when it isn’t (like when we went to visit the New York branch of the family last year) I think it is easier to have one long leg and one short leg, so the littlest kids can (hopefully!) nap during the long flight. They do take a while to settle down, even when they’re young and tired enough to sleep comfortably on a parent’s lap.

As far as times go, I am of mixed feelings. When we flew with an almost-two-year-old and a six-month-old, the redeye flight was perfect for us. They both slept well through the whole flight and relieved us of the difficulty of entertaining two fidgety, trapped children for 5 hours. This year, however, with a three-year-old and an eighteen-month-old, the redeye was a bit more challenging. It took the boys a lot longer to settle down, and it was harder for them to get comfortable and to stay asleep. So my advice would be to take the redeye with babies (especially if they are good attached sleepers – I wouldn’t have wanted to fly with Rondel as an infant even though he’s great now), but try for daytime flights with slightly older children. Daytime flights have the added benefit of setting kids up for a good first night’s sleep on the vacation, instead of messing with their sleep schedules and leaving you with exhausted and cranky kids on the first day there.

And what do you do with those kids on the airplane?

I have to admit that I rely fairly heavily on snacks, especially snacks of a sort we don’t often eat at home – goldfish, chocolate granola bars, and so on. If I’d really been thinking ahead we would also have had healthier options like cheese, apples, and other fruits, but I wasn’t as prepared this time. Books are also great on an airplane, where you do have the chance to sit next to your kids and read to them that is often missing on a road trip and really helps with pre-readers! A few toys can be good, but I limit my kids at this age to two each (so they can carry them and I can easily keep track of them), and I make sure they aren’t too small or too round and rollable. Paper and pencils are also good, but as with the toys, I try to limit the options so that crayons and pencils aren’t falling all over the seats and rolling under the chairs. I try not to use devices and videos unless my margin is almost gone and the kids have reached a breaking point, because if I have the emotional energy for it I’d rather use the forced time together to interact and relate, kind of on the principle of it – but a video is far better than losing your temper and screaming at (or with!) your kids on the airplane 🙂

What are some of your experiences and tips for plane travel?

Posted in family life

a day trip to the mountains

Last weekend my husband and I attempted a day trip with the boys, heading up 2.5 hours into the mountains to get into the mountains and out of the heat. I had forgotten just how lush and rich northern Arizona is in the summer – maybe that is why the rest of the country gets so excited about summer! Here in the low desert we mostly just try to survive the summer…




The boys were excited when we first arrived to explore the trails, the sticks, the walls, the rocks, the sand, the grass, the flowers, and so on. For a while, we just hung out in the field while we waited for my husband to park the car and join us (the trailhead parking lot was full of everyone else trying to escape the Phoenix heat).

I don’t think they’d ever seen so many different types and textures of leaves in one place before! We got to feel the coarse ferns, the velvety mullein, the feathery grasses, and more. The boys hugged all the trees and marveled at the little green crabapples high above them. They sat down in the sandy trail and drew pictures, and made tracks behind them with big sticks. And I breathed in the pine scent and the clean air and reveled in the opportunity to be out of the city… I think I realized for the first time how emotionally oppressive a big city can be, despite all its benefits.

Our hike didn’t last long, unfortunately – the boys grew tired pretty quickly (the car ride up probably didn’t help, and we should have gotten started sooner), and Rondel fell in the creek and melted down because his dry clothes were back in the car. But while it lasted, it was great, and now I’ve learned a few tips to make the next time better! And there will definitely be a next time, because I need to get out of the city again, into the open clean air, to see and smell green growing things. I must admit, I’m a bit jealous of those of you who live with this kind of summer in your backyards 🙂

Posted in family life, phfr

{pretty, happy, funny, real} – our trip to San Diego

This past weekend we were able to drive out to visit my husband’s brother and his family in San Diego! They were incredibly gracious in opening their home to the four of us and squeezing themselves into one bedroom so we could squeeze ourselves into the other bedroom – without that hospitality, it would have been a lot harder financially for us to travel out there, and we want to try to maintain the friendship between the cousins in a way that is difficult if we only see them for Thanksgiving and Christmas, so the trip was a priority for us.

While the weather didn’t exactly encourage the kind of outdoor beach-y activities we’d hoped for (cold and rainy, anyone?), we did still have a great time with family. Limerick in particular loved interacting with his cousin F (who is Rondel’s age) and Rondel loved the adventure of a new city. And to my great surprise and relief, both boys handled the long car ride incredibly well; we only had to stop in Yuma both coming and going, and the boys were relatively cheerful even when they weren’t sleeping or snacking.


My in-laws have a year pass to Sea World, and used their guest passes to take us for the day. The sea turtle exhibit was one of our favorites – the kids wanted to sit and watch the fish forever! Fish always leave me amazed at God’s creativity: there are so many unique shapes and colors that you don’t see in land animals.

Rondel was also hugely impressed by the orca whales and their ability to jump right out of the water!




The sea lions were another exciting exhibit as Rondel and his cousin actually got to feed them by dropping tiny fish over the edge! It kind of looks like he is trying to climb over the edge himself though! This was also the first exhibit where Limerick (who had fallen asleep on the drive over and then woke up too early) stopped clinging to our necks and became keenly interested in what was happening around him, which made me quite happy.


The next day we attempted to go to the beach despite the cool and cloudy weather, and Rondel and his cousin had a blast running and digging in the sand. Rondel even got completely knocked over by a wave at one point and got back up with a huge smile on his face – not at all a characteristic reaction for my sensitive boy. But he has always loved the beach, from the first time he set eyes on it two summers ago, and this visit was no exception.


Limerick, on the other hand, was not impressed by the beach, which really surprised me. He is normally my adventurous and free-spirited boy, and I was expecting him to be running with cousin F up and down the sand. But I think he was just overwhelmed by it all: the roar of the wind coming in off the sea, the crash of the waves, the endless water stretching to the horizon, the unfamiliar feel of the fine, soft sand. He spent the entire time snuggled up with me or my husband 😦

The closest Limerick got to the water – see how he’s nestled up to my husband so sadly? It wasn’t like him at all.

To top off the whole weekend, my parents surprised us by deep-cleaning the entire house while we were away! There isn’t much nicer than coming home to a sparkling clean house after being gone for a few days 🙂 And so I have been basically feeling very blessed and very loved this week, basking in the friendship of our extended family and the generosity of my parents. Sometimes I think I must be the most fortunate person in the whole world, to have these people loving me so much!

Head on over to Like Mother, Like Daughter today to join the link-up and share in each others’ joy or travails from the week!