Posted in family life

spontaneity and snow storms

Last Wednesday I looked at the weather forecast and realized that two days of cold rain here in the valley would most likely mean two days of snow up north. I thought to myself that a day trip might be nice, on Friday or Saturday depending on the road conditions, but when I bounced the idea off of Paul and my mom (both of whom might have appreciated a day trip being scheduled when they could join me), my mom suggested that I go up before the storm and stay through it so as not to worry about the roads at all. And Paul thought that sounded like a great idea and a good reason to take a few days off of work, so I set about planning it.

Note: this idea was forged late Wednesday morning, and the storm was scheduled to hit around 9 o’clock that evening. So that left me with about six hours to find a place to stay, pack two days worth of food in case we ended up snowed in, buy or borrow snow gear for the entire family, and pack clothes, activities, and other necessary items. I definitely had some moments where I regretted ever having had the idea to play in the snow in the first place! (Like when Paul called to tell me his car battery died so I would also need to pack for him and pick him up at work on the way up, when I had been hoping for his help as the crazy late afternoon itch hit the kids…)

In the end, however, I am so glad that I didn’t let my anxiety or insecurity change my mind.

Thanks to Air BNB allowing same-day booking, we found a little house in Prescott Valley that didn’t seem likely to necessitate four wheel drive (I lost a couple hours agonizing over a different cabin that was absolutely gorgeous but whose owner was very concerned about us being stranded there), and took the kids to experience real snow – not just flurries or random patches on the ground – for the first time in their lives. And this was serious snow. Prescott Valley averages 5 inches of snow in the month of February, but this storm brought in about two feet in just two days (the official totals range from 21 to 28 inches depending on location in the city) – and we were there to watch it all come down, to feel the fluffy lightness of the new snow and the dense strength of the old, to wake up to icicles on the eaves and a world glittering like a preschool art project, to taste the ethereal coldness of snow dissolving like cotton candy in our mouths, to catch individual flakes on our jackets and marvel at their complexity, to be pelted by hard fast-falling half-melting and refreezing almost-hail flakes, to see the world turn suddenly white and new.

Rondel was a huge help preparing for the trip, because he was so excited about the chance to go up to the mountains to see snow, and so he cooperated with all the crazy last-minute packing and helped keep Aubade and Limerick happy all afternoon – and when we got there, he loved the snow just as much as he anticipated (though I think he didn’t realize just how cold it would be!). He ate the snow, he pretended to be the unstoppable boar from a Kung Fu Panda short (in other words, he knocked people over and was knocked over into the snow quite often), and he just generally relished in the opportunity to run and play in it!

Limerick had a slightly harder time with the snow – the depth made it harder for him to move around, and he got cold more quickly. But he still enjoyed it quite a bit, in his quieter way. On one of our excursions, when Rondel was chasing me around as Boar Unstoppable, I made a snowball for Limerick that just didn’t seem to break, no matter how many times he threw it at me, so we dubbed it the Indestructible Snowball of Doom. Every time Rondel would knock me over Limerick would come up with the snowball and drop it on me and the look of mischievous glee on his face was so hilarious that I could hardly push myself up out of the snow from laughing so hard.

Aubade really wanted to like the snow; she wanted to go out anytime anyone else went out; but she got cold really fast and struggled to walk through the snow as well. It didn’t help that I couldn’t find more waterproof mittens in her size and had to settle for lined fleece ones, either – the few times I put her in Limerick’s mittens she seemed to last longer despite having almost no control over her hands. She did have a lot of fun until she got cold, though, and she definitely enjoyed getting all bundled up in the snow clothes 😛

All in all, it was one of the best times we’ve had as a family (and definitely the most spontaneous!). There was so little tension and so much laughter, as all of us were able to relax into the wonder and excitement and peace of our time away. And as Rondel keeps reminding us, each time he sees the snow-capped mountains in the distance, we will definitely go back north again some day.

Posted in family life

sand baby

On our first day at the beach, Rondel went into the water for a little while with me, but then retreated to the sand where my dad was sunbathing. The dry sand at this particular beach was burning hot, so he compromised by sitting on a towel and then scooping up the sand and pouring it over his legs:

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(At a subsequent beach he laid down on his belly in damper sand and had us cover his with it but I wasn’t able to get a picture 😦 He must’ve liked the feel of the sand on his skin!)

I remember a time when we had to avoid sandy parks because Rondel hated the feel of the sand on his feet, and when even the beach was only fun when he was in the water where the sand feels quite different than it does dry. He’s come quite a long way in his comfort with different sensations, even seeking things out now that he once avoided. And as a sand-lover myself (I spend more time digging in the sand than swimming when I’m at the beach), it’s fun to have someone enjoying it with me!

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, 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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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 😦

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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!