Friday, September 18, 2015

4 Things to Know if You Want an Unmedicated Birth

Note: This post is written for those who desire to have a natural, unmedicated birth. Its not meant to shame anyone for having their baby a different way, whether by choice or circumstance. 

This one time, my brother was born in the back of a car on the way to the hospital. And I was there for most of it. To this day I have a very vivid memory of that event and I was concerned that my births would be as quick as my mom's with my brother and I (maybe I should have my mom do a guest post and tell his birth story?).

Remember that time when Lucy was born? And then Addy? And then Jack? Their births did not happen like I thought they would, and each was as different as could be.

When I was pregnant with Lucy, I wanted a natural birth. I researched and studied birth techniques. I attended an overly informative Bradley-ish type class. I made my husband, God bless him, suffer through pregnancy nutrition and breastfeeding classes. I practiced my mental calming techniques and breathing exercises. I watched, "The Business of Being Born" and other beautiful natural birth videos. I thought my birth experience would be like that.

And then I was in labor. For over 24 hours. At some point I remember thinking, "I'm done, I quit! This baby is just going to have to stay in and I'll try another day when I have more energy. Are there any stories of mothers stopping labor when they're already to the pushing stage? Maybe I'll be the first and set the record."

But I did it, I pushed that baby out without any pain medication! There were many times during my labor experience that I thought about an epidural and had I been in a hospital rather than a birth center, probably would have gotten one. My labor was long, and I was in hard labor and transition for about 10 hours with 3 1/2 hours of pushing, and I'm sure that hospital staff would have encouraged other medical interventions (i.e. pitocin, suction, c-section, etc). Later I thought, "That was really hard. But doable".

(Sidenote: I'm not against epidurals AT ALL, and am thankful they exist to help women during labor. I chose not to get one during my first birth because I was terrified of being temporarily paralyzed from the waist down (seriously, even my arm falling asleep almost sends me into a panic attack). All that to say, this isn't a judgement on those who get epidurals. Especially because when I went into labor with my third I was desperate for an epidural from the beginning, even though I was going to have a c-section! Girl, however you have that baby, you rock!)

My point is:

1) A natural, unmedicated labor and birth is hard, but doable. Women have been doing this for thousands of years, so you can do it too. (And if you need or end up choosing to have other medical interventions, they're available to you.) Its hard, it may be the hardest thing you've ever done, but you can do it.

2) If you end up with an epidural, it does not mean you're weak or a failure; there is no shame or judgement there. If you're hoping and planning for a natural, unmedicated birth, but end up having an epidural, medical interventions, or a c-section, you need to know that you're not a failure. I hear so many stories of moms who feel incredibly disappointed with their birth experience, or like they failed themselves or their baby in some way because their birth didn't turn out like they planned. Sometimes you just need to hear it from someone else: You. Are. Not. A. Failure. Don't put all your hopes and expectations on a certain birth experience. Think about how you will feel and respond if things don't go according to plan or if your expectations aren't met. Hold loosely the desire for a natural birth, and then embrace what actually happens.

3) Don't be afraid of the pain. Giving birth is painful, but the pain is productive. It means that your body is doing what its supposed to do,  getting ready to have your baby. Don't be afraid of it, learn how to work through it and manage it.

4) If you're serious about having an unmedicated birth, get serious about preparing yourself. Having gone through an unmedicated birth (with lots of pain), and later an unmedicated labor (hardly any pain or discomfort, so relaxed that I didn't realize I was in true labor until the very end) that ended in a c-section, I would strongly recommend that if you desire to have an unmedicated birth that you take a good labor class (like the Bradley method or Hypnobirthing) and prepare yourself for laboring. Its a little like running a marathon, and you wouldn't want to go into that without training, would you? Yes, your body will do what it needs to do, but you need to be mentally and emotionally prepared: have breathing and pain management techniques and have a support person or team around you. You can always get an epidural once you're in labor, but if you would rather not have one you will be as prepared as possible.

Giving birth is a beautiful thing, no matter how you do it! Giving birth without pain medication is difficult, but you can do it!

Have you had a natural birth experience? Have anything to add?

Linked up at the Weekend Wind-Down Linkup Party!
Tuesday, September 15, 2015

10 Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Became a Mom

One of my oldest and dearest friends is pregnant with her first baby and rather than just inundate her with information, I thought I'd inundate you all. Because babies.

I really loved this series of posts from moms all over the blogosphere, and I appreciated what these moms of kids a little older than mine had to say. Hearing what other moms said made me think about what I wish I had known when I was pregnant with my first baby. Not that I'm at all an expert, obviously I'm only 3 years into this. And I really only know about parenting my own kids. I'm sure one day I'll look back on this and think, "Oh Kacie, you were so naive". But as I'm parenting my third child, I'm much more relaxed and wish I was this laid back I had just my first.

1. Get ready for a constant new normal. Not just a new normal that arrives with the arrival with a baby, but one that constantly adjusts as the baby grows. Just as you figure it out, something changes and you have to refigure it out. Adjusting isn't a one time event, its a fluid motion.

2. Having "just one" kid is hard work! Don't let anyone tell you otherwise, and don't compare yourself to others with more than one. When you have your first child you have a vertical learning curve; you're getting to know your baby and yourself as a parent. Plus, babies are A LOT of work! A whole lot of wonderful but a lot of work too, the way they rely on you for every need and prefer not to sleep as much as you'd like.

3. Its perfectly okay not to enjoy every moment, but do embrace the big picture. The days are long but the years are short as they say. It may feel like forever when you're in the thick of it, but one day you may look back and realize how quickly it has gone.

4. Its okay to not enjoy or be good at parenting every stage of childhood. Children grow. So do we. Child care workers and teachers focus on an age group that they prefer, and it makes sense that in parenting we may enjoy or be better at certain stages than others.

5. When in doubt, choose connection. Connecting with my child, getting close to her and offering her love she won't get elsewhere: that's my job as a mom. When all else fails, get down on their level, wrap your arms around them and tell them you love them.

6. I recently heard someone say, "Don't forget to parent the child you have, not the child you want." Parent towards your child's needs and love them as they are, rather than as you wish that they would be (i.e. less strong willed, smarter, not ADHD etc).

7. Remember that character is what matters in the long term. Parent for the person you want your child to be in the long term future.

8. No matter what choice you make, someone won't like it. And no matter what you choose, some mom will judge you for choosing the opposite of what they chose. Just stay calm and carry on. You can't please everyone, and when it comes to parenting your child, you know best.

9. Trust your mom instinct. Seriously, trust yourself. You're the expert on your child.

10. Two words: Self care. For me, self care is not just about getting a pedicure every few weeks or exercising regularly, but its also taking care of myself on a daily basis (like putting on lipstick, wearing earrings, getting out of yoga pants into jeans that make me feel cute). It may not be those same things for you, but find something that helps you feel like a woman on a daily basis. You may not feel like it but just trust me on this one. It makes a difference.

Have anything to add? What do you wish you had known before you became a parent?

Linked up at the Shine Blog Hop

Saturday, August 15, 2015

So About China

I wrote this post waaaay back in the day before I left for America and didn't get a chance to publish it before my trip. So its a little outdated on the stories but I wanted to share this information in case you have a burning desire to learn more about China. 

Yesterday I had the opportunity to do some exploring in the city. My brother and cousin who were visiting, the hubs, Jack, Addy, and I trekked across the city in the rain in an attempt to see some museums. In a rookie move I forgot to check the days that the museums were open and the first museum we got to was closed on Mondays. I'm so frustrated with myself, because I checked the website later and there it was, plain as day, "Closed on Mondays". In English. Probably Chinese too but I can't use the excuse that I couldn't understand what it said. Not to be discouraged, the boys were happy to find a small restaurant selling questionable meat on a stick and steamed buns.

We finally got a taxi and headed across the city yet again to check out the Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Museum, full of posters from the last century, especially the Cultural Revolution. This was especially interesting to me since I just finished reading "Life and Death in Shanghai" by Nien Cheng, the autobiography of a woman who was unjustly imprisoned and tortured in the 1960s all because she had ties with the West. The book helped me understand China's recent history and gave me compassion for the Chinese people. Its hard to believe the effect that the events of that time had on an entire generation of people. Many cultural behaviors we see now (getting things through your personal connections, only looking out for yourself in public settings thus the pushing and shoving in any crowded situation, the one child policy that created a generation of "little emperors") are a result of the cultural and social upheaval of that time period. I'm no historian and perhaps thats not completely accurate but it does seem like the entire modern culture was shaped by the things that took place.

There are several other books on my list to read before I leave China. Unfortunately it can take me months to finish one book these days, as opposed to a day or two in my past (read pre-kids) life. Besides reading the amazing Lisa Snow novels, here's whats on my list:

Insepctor Chen series (by Qiu Xiaolong-I've read "A Case of Two Cities)
The Good Earth Triology (by Pearl S. Buck)
Stateless in Shanghai (by Lillian Willens)
Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China (by Leslie T. Chang)
Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the 21st Century (by Orville Schell and John Delury)
China Airborne (by James Fallows)
The Ugly American (by Eugene Burdick)
Message From an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Loss and Love (by Xinran)
1421: The Year China Was Discovered (by Gavin Menzies)

Honorable mentions to Last Train Home and Somewhere Between documentaries.

And I'm sure there are many more, but these are a good place to start.

Have you read any of these? Have anything to add to the list? I'd love to know!

I'm back...Literally I'm back in China

Hello you poor, neglected little blog baby. My precious...

Oh wait, did I say that out loud? Well I'm pretty drugged up on a bad case of pneumonia + back-to-China blues + summer is almost over + my house full of friends and family is suddenly just full of us + whine + whine + plus a bad case of feeling sorry for myself.

We had a FANTASTIC time visiting America.

Blue skies, fresh air, driving, car seats, good food, friends, family, Disneyland.

What more can I say?

Unfortunately I didn't bring my computer and didn't get to blogging sans keyboard, thus my sadly neglected little blog. If my blog was a baby and I was its mother, I'm pretty sure social services would not be happy with me (take it from a former foster/adoption social worker).

Anyhoo, I would love to know what you've been reading this summer. Favorite blogs, books, magazines? Cuz I know you have a lot of time for leisure reading. I sure do.

This may be old news but I recently discovered this blog and am loving all her tutorials. She's my hairspiration.

I'm sure everyone in the world knows about this blog but I just discovered her and I'm obsessed. She's helping me get my mojo back.

Also helping me get my mojo back are these ladies.

I'm loving what my friend Monica is posting over at her blog about mom self care.

This summer I took an online phone photography class. I haven't had a lot of chances to practice what I learned since I usually am juggling babies and such but it was really informative and she is a fantastic photographer. She also has an online DSLR course, which I'd love to take if I had a DSLR.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

#ETHAN Project Challenge 1: Friendship

I love that we're starting the #ETHAN project (Enjoy the Here and Now) with a mom friendship challenge.

I don't know about you, but sometimes I find motherhood a bit lonely. As a SAHM I'm isolated at home most of the time with my kidlets, and there are days when I don't ever go outside. Contrary to popular opinion, I'm an introvert. What that means for me is that I am energized by connecting with good friends on a deeper level rather than being out chatting up everyone I don't know at a party. Unfortunately, conversations with me while my kids are around sometimes resemble turrets syndrome (and I'm not meaning to offend anyone here).

Friend: So how are you?

Me: I'm doing well (Hey you guys stop! Off the table!). We've been busy (Hey! Don't sit on your sister! Hands out of your diaper!) We're planning to go on a trip (Hey! Where are your pants?) Maybe I should call you back.

Know what I mean?

Add to that the challenge of connecting with folks back at home via Skype or FaceTime and things just get crazy.

When my husband and I started dating, he told me about some advice he had received. Someone told him that when looking for a spouse, look to the right and to the left and find someone who is already running beside you, then run together. In my experience that can apply to friendships too. I used to try to connect with people that I met in all sorts of circumstances (church, running, college, dancing, jobs, etc.) by getting together with them one on one. Like I said, I feel most energized by getting to know someone in individual conversations rather than group settings. Now, I just can't get together for coffee dates with everyone I'd like to, so I've needed to figure out a new normal for maintaining my friendships.

This week I had an opportunity to meet a friend whose son is the same age as my middle daughter. The two of them play together really well, they're two peas in a pod. We met at an indoor playground down the street and sat and drank hot chocolate while they ran and climbed to their hearts content. (and then went home and took really long naps). It was good for my mama's hear to watch my daughter play with her little buddy. I haven't seen kids her age play so well with others, yet these two just love each other. I love that they enjoy each other so much.

And it was also good to connect with my friend, to shoot the breeze and catch up on our daily lives. It was so simple, just sitting together watching our kids play. Yet it was so needed; we each needed the encouragement of a good listener and positive voice in our lives that day. Connecting with my friend didn't need to be anything super involved or extraordinary, it just flowed naturally from what we were already planning to do that day (letting our kids play). We just did it together. 

Will you join me in this summer challenge to Enjoy the Here and Now? 

I'd love to hear about your experience with each challenge! Be sure to comment here or on Facebook by June 10 to be featured in next week's #ETHANproject post! Also check out the #ETHANproject Facebook page to follow all the great bloggers involved in this summer project!

Linked up at Grounded and Surrounded

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Ex-Pat Life Series Part 5: Acculturation: What's a trashcan go to do with it?

“You know you’ve acculturated when…” is the question I recently asked on a Facebook group for ex-pats. I got a lot of fun answers:

-“You see a crumb on the floor and automatically assume its gecko poop.”
-“You smile (and mean it) when someone says, ‘You are very fat’.”
-“You never feed the monkeys.”
-“You’re conversation doesn’t stop just because the lights go out.”
-“You can bargain in another language at the market and get a good deal.”
-“Brown water from the faucet doesn’t faze you.”
-“Personal space has no meaning.”
-“Your facebook friends post in 12 languages.”

Acculturation is, the process of adopting the cultural traits or social patterns of another group”. Its something that gradually sneaks up on you and surprises you with its dimming of peculiarities, its normalizing of differences.  One day you’re walking down the street and find yourself questioning the oddness of a hole and torn up sidewalk in the middle of a week day on a busy street in the rain, while vaguely recalling that the same sight a year ago would have sent you into a scathing Facebook status update.

Acculturation is a process of internal change, one of those things that takes time. The longer you live somewhere, the more you adapt and adjust to the customs and culture. Not only that, but the more open you are to new ideas and new experiences, the more flexible your attitude and more positive your outlook, the easier it will be for you to acculturate.

Of course there are always those who don’t seem to acculturate no matter how long they’ve lived overseas. And there are people who, no matter how seasoned a traveler and how optimistic, don’t seem to be able to adjust due to extenuating circumstances.

Last year after our move to China I found myself initially really frustrated by life here. (I still have my “Shang-low” days (as opposed to Shang-“high” days, get it?), but they’re getting further and farther between). There were 2 things in particular that just really irked me about living here: the size of our kitchen trash bin and trash bags, and lack of a garbage disposal. First world problems, I know I know! I knew these were little ticks on the back of world peace type problems, but they were my scapegoat for why I was frustrated. 

“I HATE not having a garbage disposal! How am I supposed to wash dishes? How can we even function like this?”

“I MISS having a large kitchen trash bin! I wish we had brought a stockpile of trash bags, these just don’t hold everything I want to throw out during the day and they always break! It’s so annoying!”

I’m ashamed to admit it now; I know how petty it sounds. Like I said, my kitchen was my scapegoat for the stress of relocation.

One day, upon taking out our kitchen trash yet again, I had an epiphany. I asked myself two questions that empowered me in a stressful situation and shifted my attitude from that day on.

What can I change?

In this situation, I had control! I could find a new, larger trashcan and trash bags, adventure though it may be. I could ask people from the U.S. to bring me trash bags when they visited (er…awkward!). I could find a better garbage situation. Its my kitchen and my trash after all! I could change things if I didn’t like how they were done! I may not be able to change things outside of the walls of my home, but there are things I could change behind them.

What do I need to accept?

There was no way I was going to convince my landlord to install a garbage disposal, really I don’t even know if that’s a thing here. So rather than get frustrated every single time I went to wash a dish (and lets be honest, its not that often), I could choose to accept it and move on. I could learn to do dishes differently. I know that in many countries its not the norm to have garbage disposals and many homes in the States don’t have them, so really this was a luxury that I could easily learn to live without.

These are two SMALL, miniscule even, examples of things to which I needed to adapt. Like I said, I know how petty these things are, and there are things happening in the world that are so SO much worse. In no way do I feel entitled to having a large trash bin or garbage disposal, they were just silly things about my previous lifestyle that required an adjustment.

When moving, especially internationally, sometimes it’s the little things that help make the adjustment just that much easier. Its empowering to take a reality check of your life to determine what is actually in your control, and what is out of your control but you have to live with anyway.

Whether you’re living overseas or in your passport country, the next time you find yourself frustrated by your circumstances, ask yourself what you can change and what you can accept, and watch how your attitude shifts. Hopefully for the better. 

And hopefully you have a garbage disposal in your kitchen sink.

Lived overseas? What bugged you initially and how did you cope?
Monday, June 1, 2015

How will you Enjoy the Here and Now this summer?

When I was a young mother, I had to learn the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness, for me, is that light, easy feeling that comes when life is simple and good. Joy is the persevering peace that abides whether life is easy or complicated, full of strife or full of contentment. Learning to live in joy (en-joy) is a vital skill to master. – Tessa from "The Homestead Lady

If you follow me on facebook, you won’t be surprised to hear that I’m participating in the #ETHANproject this summer…since I announced it. I couldn’t wait! I’m so excited to be joining some of my favorite bloggers in a 10 week series of summer challenges and want to invite you to join us too.

#ETHANproject stands for “Enjoy the Here and Now”, and was developed to encourage moms to intentionally create space to be present (not just physically, but mentally and emotionally) and enjoy their kids this summer.

If you’re like me and you’re a mom of young kids, I know you can identify when I say that life is a whirlwind. The days often are long but seem like nothing got done and are full of busyness that I have trouble remembering at the end of the day. I mostly feel like I’m in survival mode and am trying to get everyone through until bedtime. Since my kids are not yet in school, summer pretty much feels like the rest of the year, perhaps with less resources and activities available. I’m hoping this challenge will help me parent with intentionality this summer.

In Shanghai in the summer, many families visit their home countries while the husbands stay here and work, so it can be a bit of a lonely time. This means that there are less activities taking place and that many friends are out of town. On the flip side it provides an opportunity to get to know people on a deeper level, and I’m grateful I had that experience last year. If you’re in a similar situation, perhaps the #ETHANproject is the just the thing you need to help you through the summer!

I’M SO EXCITED that we’ll be visiting America as a family this summer for the first time since we moved to China! I’m looking forward to letting these prompts direct my time with my kids and with my people. I’m hoping this will help remind me to tune into my kids as we travel and are a bit out of our routine, to help me connect with them in the midst of this fun time, as well as during the transition and the challenges of leaving family and friends and coming back to China.

If you don’t have children there’s something here for you too! We can all learn to live with a little more intentionality, learn to better reach out and connect with others, and practice the discipline of “presence”.

Every Friday I’ll be sharing my experience that week as well as introducing the next challenge. I’d love to hear from you about how you lived it out each week, about your experience and stories from your week. Be sure to comment on the Friday post introducing the challenge, or on my Facebook page, by Wednesday and I may feature your story in my post!

You can also join the #ETHANproject Facebook page to hear from other bloggers and participants, and check out the weekly Friday link up page.

Are you interested in becoming an #ETHANproject blogger? Click here for more information.

      As a mom, life goes by so fast and we don't usually get the chance to really enjoy it as it is happening. Sometimes you get so caught up in the dishes and the laundry and the everyday stuff, that you don't see the bigger picture. Take some time every night, or once a week, and just reflect on what you did with your kids, what you think you did right that needs repeating and the things that you would like to change going forward. It doesn't have to take a lot of time, but it does take conscious effort to just reflect on the immediate past and enjoy the here and now a little more. – Kristen from “The Practical Mommy” 


Saturday, May 30, 2015

10 Things

Today was just a typical day, a whirlwind of diaper changes, feeding, cleaning up, nursing, refereeing, cooking, more diaper changes, more cleaning, cuddling, and disciplining until we finally got everyone to bed around 9:30 (which actually isn't a typical bedtime, we were out late for a birthday party). With some Chinese thrown in there too.

Sometimes I go an entire day with just a glance in the mirror in the morning and by the end of the day I'm shocked at how I look, an untamed ponytail and smeared mascara on the bags under my eyes. Its not that way on purpose,  I don't intend to loose myself by the end of the day. But it happens. Its just a season I know.

I need to reconnect with myself today, I need to remind myself that its me still in there. Behind that tired mascara, underneath the shirt with spit up on the shoulder, that I, Kacie, exist. Not just as a mother, or a wife, or an expat trailing spouse, but simply me.

So here are 10 things about me today, to remind myself that I'm still here.

1) My muscles are sore from a work out I got in yesterday. My legs HURT, but they feel good because I know I chose to do something healthy for myself, to take care of me.

2) I drank 3 Coke's today. I'm starting my sugar detox tomorrow. Well maybe Monday, but definitely by next week. Or maybe in June?

3) I'm finally listening to the Serial Podcast. I'm addicted, its a fascinating story! I miss listening to the radio and radio dramas! It reminds me of growing up overseas while my parents were missionaries with a radio broadcast organization and hearing my dad on the radio in the mornings.

4) Today a friend and I were discussing our future repatriations, moving back to our homes, and decorating ideas. I really enjoy decorating and creating a pretty space for my family and a welcoming place for my friends. I felt excited about the prospect of having my own place to decorate, but apprehensive since I don't know where that will be next.

5) I collect globes. I love decorating with them, they remind me that I'm a global citizen and have called many places in the world home.

6) My baby is becoming really smiley and starting to laugh. He's so much easier to make laugh than the girls were at this age. I'm so thankful for this kid who is so happy to see me all the time. What a little joy bringer!

7) I use essential oils and just found out I have a new little product on its way to me, a diffuser necklace. One more thing to look forward to when I get to America in a few weeks!

8) Lately, at the end of the day, I've been fighting claustrophobia. I'm not sure if that's the right term, but I start to feel a strong sense of cabin fever. Even if I've had a chance to get out of the house like today, in the evenings I feel an overwhelming sense of being stuck inside.

9) We're going to America for a visit in a few weeks!!! I'm starting to feel EXCITED!!!!!! But also dread, because its really just a short trip and I'll have to return. Although I want to come back here, I also don't want to leave there.

10) I went to what we call the "fake" market yesterday, a place that sells all kinds of goods including knock-offs of everything, from Beats Headphones to designer hand bags. I bartered in Chinese and got pretty good deals and felt incredibly proud of myself. This time last year I had barely visited the fake market, and now I was there by myself, haggling in another language. What a difference a year makes!

What is something about yourself that you are proud of today?
Thursday, May 28, 2015

5 Tips for Travel With Young Kids Part 2

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I realize that this 2 part series should actually be called "10 Tips for Travel With Young Kids" as I shared 5 tips last time and am sharing 5 more today. Oops! That's why I went into social work and married an engineer. I don't do math. I went to school before common core and all that so its pretty amazing that I can even use a calculator.

We're gearing up to travel back to the U.S. for several weeks, and that means taking 2 flights that will amount to a total of 16 hours on planes and a 3 hour layover. Its very likely that our flights will be delayed either while we're still in the airport or after we've loaded up on the plane and are sitting on the runway, as this seems to happen with every flight in China except those going directly to the U.S., so I really need to plan well.

1) Pack as light as possible. When traveling with 3 little kids it can be a challenge to pack light. And actually, traveling with toddlers and babies, it NEVER feels like you're traveling light so the less you can bring, the better. For short trips as a family we typically travel with 2 carry-on suitcases (or one carry-on and one checked bag, depending on how long and where we're going), one diaper bag, and one activity bag for the kids. On our way to China I packed an entire carry-on suitcase full of activities for my then 18 month old. While she definitely got into the toys and books, her very favorite activity was something my mom, a seasoned kindergarten teacher, put together for her, containing plastic easter eggs and puff balls. My point is that it didn't take an entire suitcase to occupy her, it took a few well planned and inexpensive activities of things that my mom already had on hand.

I use these guidelines to keep things to a minimum:

-What can I do without for this trip?
-Is it something I can buy or borrow at my destination? (For example, I usually can replenish my supply of diapers and wipes when I get where I'm going with the exception of international travel, which may be more trouble than its worth.)
-Follow the "one outfit per day plus 1 extra" rule, unless I can wash clothes, in which case I bring a mini capsule wardrobe of about a week's worth of outfits. For the kids I bring 2 outfits per day plus 1 pair of pajamas per day. I bring 1 pair of shoes each (though I might reconsider this after we had to buy shoes for someone on our last trip); for longer trips I bring 2 pairs of shoes per person including sneakers and sandals.
-Bring travel size toiletries and toss the containers as they run out. 
-Remember that I typically need less than I think I need.

This is an example of what not to do if you want to travel light.

2) Use an umbrella (or super light, super easy to fold) stroller. One of these days I need to do a "best stroller for travel" review. In China we have 2 strollers, a City Jogger City Select double stroller and a MacLaren umbrella stroller. While the City Select is a fantastic stroller and lots of people love it, including myself, its not great for travel (you have to take off the seats and wheels in order to put it in the travel bag and that takes like 10 minutes. Can you imagine doing that at the gate with all the kids and the carry on bags and all the people and all the stares? Been there, done that). Invest in a really quality umbrella stroller that is light and easy to carry and folds up in a flash. We've done many a trip with 2 kids and our one trusty MacLaren because it just is so easy to use, and now that we have 3 I'm planning to invest in a good double umbrella stroller. (As a side note, internationally "gate check" does not always mean "right by the plane door". It means that you turn in your stroller by the airline counter and the gate could be a half a mile down the way, and that you'll get your stroller back at the baggage claim.)

To clarify, I'm not talking about the cheap ones at the check out counter of the big box baby stores. I'm talking about a high quality, well made stroller that will survive being thrown around at the airport and in and out of taxis. It may not provide you with a lot of under-carriage storage, but if you pack light then you should be able to handle everything. We've also done several days at Disneyland with just this one stroller and the baby carriers and it was enough.

3) Use a backpack style diaper bag. Best. Idea. Ever. I know that backpacks are not the most stylish accessory ever. In fact, when I just had Lucy I vowed never to use a backpack as a diaper bag. Then came the diaper bag that had straps to use as a backpack. Then came the diaper bag made as a backpack. Its been one of the best investments I've ever made. And its purple, so that makes me happy! This is the key to traveling light no matter where we go. I typically fit all of the diaper bag things (fodder for another post perhaps? Who really cares?!) plus snacks and a few toys. The kids either have one bag for activities or each have their own small backpack (which I usually end up carrying), and my husband has his carry-on filled with his computer and a bunch of books he never ends up reading. Because someone is almost always being worn in a baby carrier, using a backpack is the most practical bag to have because I can use it while wearing a carrier. It also is the most comfortable and allows all of my hands to be free to push the stroller and wrangle the other baby.

On a recent trip to Hong Kong (minus our 2 carry on suitcases and the girls small backpacks).

4) Plan activities well. Most of the time the kids mostly enjoy exploring their environment and kicking the seats in front of them. But in this case I need to pull out the guns.

The Challenge: 
-Two flights for a total of 16 hours of flight time 
-One 3 hour layover 
-Two highly probable flight delays

The Challengers: 
-One very active and busy 3 year old
-One very opinionated 22 month old
-One 5 month old with unknown variables

In the activities my mom put together for Lucy there were several plastic easter eggs filled with random things such as puff balls, little dollar store toys, a mini troll doll and comb, and stickers. There was also a little box with pipe cleaners and clothes pins and a few other things I'm forgetting. These little things kept her busy FOR HOURS and the best part is I didn't worry about whether or not she lost something. The other things that kept her occupied were a deck of playing cards and a miniature Go Fish game.

Since that trip when we have travelled shorter distances the kids are always most interested in walking and exploring the plane, exploring the "seat pocket in front of you", and eating. Always with the eating. Besides bringing the normal diaper bag stuff and snacks I plan to pack each of the girls a large ziplock size bag of activities that I think they'll enjoy including:

-Stickers (especially the foam filled kind, they're easier to remove) and sticker books
-Color Wonder markers and paper (They don't write on ANYTHING BUT THE SPECIAL PAPER!!!!!!!!! So I can relax and let them color at will.)
-Mosaic sticker activities
-The aforementioned Easter egg activity
-A few favorite books

I will plan to keep a few things hidden away for the end of the trip when they're bored and tired of their activities. And also DO NOT FORGET to save some activities for the trip home. This time it shouldn't be a problem since I have enough time to get some new stuff, but I've pulled this rookie mistake before and the ensuing meltdown after my 2 year old expected her stickers was not amusing.

You know your kid best and the kind of activities they enjoy, and obviously these ideas may not work for everyone. Perhaps you have the type of kid who will happily sit for 10 hours watching TV. In which case don't even talk to me, I don't even want to know!

My oldest daughter is very into arts and crafts as well as music, so I know if I can find something that isn't messy (like the color wonder markers) she'll be happy to draw or create something for quite a while. My middle daughter is mostly into climbing and screaming, she's only 22 months after all, so we'll see how it goes. Currently she wants to do anything she see's her sister doing and so I need to pack 2 of everything.

5) A fully loaded iPad, in my case I need 2. Both with a few episodes of Daniel Tiger, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Jr, Sophia the First, and Elmo.

I just asked my husband what his travel tips for travel with kids are, and he said "Lots of snacks...and an iPad?" So you could just get by with those 2 things apparently.

Linked up at
Shine Blog Hop Thursdays via The Deliberate Mom
Thoughts for Thursdays via Home of Malones

Do you have a travel tip to share? What has made your travels with little ones easier?
Monday, May 25, 2015

5 Tips for Traveling with Young Kids Part 1

I sat down to nurse the baby to sleep and thought I'd check out this new show. You guys. I'm terrified, in a good way, and can't wait to see what happens next! I've been an M. Night Shyamalan fan for a while and am really intrigued by this show (but having only seen the first 2 episodes I can't say I recommend it and all that). Needless to say the time I intended to use for writing after the baby went down for his nap was spent binge watching the first 2 episodes (well, 1.25, as it takes twice as long to load anything and because shows or movies constantly start and stop-our internet dumb). Plus, the baby is on a sleep strike, preferring to be held at all times, and so I just had to keep sitting there watching TV.

I just read this blog and had a good giggle.

This article really resonated with me (any other Oregon Trail generationers out there?!). I've always felt like I didn't quite fit in with Generation X or the Millennials but couldn't quite decide why.

I'm always looking for tips and advice that will help make travel with kids a little easier. I'm talking about intense, long distance airplane travel here, not a short road trip (although I'm sure these ideas can apply). I can easily find list after list of toys to pack, activities to bring, or tips for smooth airport and airplane transitions. After traveling with my kids a little bit, here are my top 5 things to know about going the distance with little ones.

1) You can't prepare for everything. You can be as prepared as possible, armed with new or favorite activities, spare changes of clothes, fully charged iPads, and lots of snacks, but there are so many variables and things are always subject to change. In my experience, not one flight has gone according to plan and every single time we've travelled has been completely different. No matter how much planning has gone into a trip there are many many things I simply can't control. I cannot be prepared for every contingency but things usually work out. A 3 hour plane ride could feel like a hellish never ending flight (especially if a certain lovey has been lost en route to the check-in counter-ALWAYS have a spare!), or a 6 hour train ride could be delightful tolerable depending on how tired and well fed my children are. I've been on flights where I had very minimal activities or toys, and flights where I had an entire carry-on dedicated specifically to carefully assembled pintrest worthy activities. I can't say which was easier or better, they were just different experiences.

2) Flexibility. Go with the flow. Things are always subject to change: Flights could be delayed for hours, luggage could be lost, all changes of clothes could be vomited upon, security lines could be longer than expected, etcetera etcetera. When I graduated from high school, my dad took me with him on a business trip to England and we also got to visit our ancestral home (is that a thing?), Scotland. Our mantra during the trip was, "Whatcha gonna do?" because of several unanticipated situations. This is a harder attitude to live by when you have little kids who thrive on routine and eating at regular, 17 minute intervals, but it helps to understand that this is part of the travel thing and just go with it. One way or the other, things work out. It may not look the way you want it to or it might take longer than you'd like, but you'll get there eventually. As they say, its about the journey, not the destination...right? I'm not sure "they" had little kids, but they do have a valid point.

3) Anything goes. When flying, my kids can get away with almost anything in order to keep them happy and quiet. They want lollipops for dinner? Done. Endless reruns of the same Sophia the First episode? You got it, kiddo. Rules and routines fly out the window and its all about minimizing crying and meltdowns. Now I know that everyone is different and just because this is my philosophy doesn't mean it will float everyone's boat. And it also doesn't mean that we don't have meltdowns on the plane, because it seems like somebody is always crying around here. I think that has to do with the ages and developmental stages of my kids (for example, from the time they start walking until about 2 1/2 they want to be moving and exploring constantly), although I've discovered that a stash of lollipops "for emergency purposes only" seems to assuage many a nuclear meltdown.

4) Eat whenever you can. I've learned this hard way, from being stuck on a plane sitting on the runway in the line up for several hours with 2 hungry and bored toddlers, to a 4 hour flight delay waiting for a flight that didn't end up serving food. Keep those kiddos fed with real food whenever possible and save your snack stash for when you really need it. When traveling internationally you may have less options for food and you just don't know what will be available on the plane or if your kids will actually eat it.

5) You CAN still travel with little kids. It can be done, don't let it intimidate you! Okay, traveling with my 3 mini-macs totally intimidates me. But it doesn't (always) stop me. Do I travel as much now as before I had kids? No. Do I hope to be able to travel more frequently when they're older? Yes. But! You can still do it and make some great memories while you're at it. Its not realistic to think that we can see as much or do the kind of activities we're used to doing, but we've still been able to make it work. Know that traveling with little kids is just that, its travel, not vacation. It could potentially and very likely will be more work than if you had stayed home, but it will probably be well worth it. I have amazing memories from a very early age of traveling around with my family, something I hope to be able to give to my kids too.

Tune in next time for some more practical tips on what to pack and to hear how we travel light with a family of 5.

What are your favorite travel tips and tricks? Have a funny travel story to share?
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