Toddler Travel Tips

Vacation! So fun! So relaxing!

Just kidding. We are going on vacation with three kids four and under. Traveling with kids. Oh so fun. Not kidding. I love showing them new adventures!

To be perfectly honest, we have never driven more than four hours with our children. From where we live, driving to Florida would be two full days each way, and we don’t have that kind of time (or patience). I have several sweet friends who do the driving through the night so kids sleep trick. But if you follow me on Instagram you know that I turn into a pumpkin at 9pm so that option isn’t available to us. Therefore, every tip or story you see here is from our flying adventures.

The first time we flew with children they were 2.5 years, 18 months, and 5 months. On top of their young ages, we had only known each other for three months. We were straight in the middle of figuring everyone out and learning how to trust. Before we flew I did a ton of research, some helpful and some not so much.

Here is my complied list of helpful tips if you’re flying with littles (especially if you’re also traveling with special needs and trauma):

1. Know your airline!

Researching your airlines policy on traveling with children is extremely helpful. We’ve only flown Allegiant with our crew. Allegiant only allows one lap child per row because of oxygen masks. But they do let each child have a free diaper bag. Knowing these kind of policies before arriving will put you at ease. Or, when someone tries to tell you that you’re not allowed to do something, you’ll be armed with policy language.

2. Don’t arrive too early.

Has anyone ever told you that littles are squirmy? Having time to kill at the airport is the worst. Airports are not sensory friendly and cause a ton of anxiety for a couple of my small humans. If you can, leave just enough time to get through security and let everyone pee.

3. There can never be too many snacks on travel day.

A couple of days of snack overload will not kill your routine. And trust me, we are the house where snacks are on a timer, and I still believe this tip. Snacks distract, but they also help clear airplane ears, and keep blood sugar high. Many a travel meltdown has been cured with a box of raisins. I put a gallon zip lock of snacks in each child’s backpack for easy access.

4. Pack brand new never seen before toys and activities.

This might be the most circulated tip but I believe it with all my might. I grab activity books, tiny stuffed animals, and trinket toys after major holidays when they are on super clearance and save it for travel days. Small children don’t care if they are coloring Jack-o-lanterns in June…for them it’s a brand new experience and keeps them engaged longer.

5. Stickers.

Same concept. Melissa and Dog have some awesome reusable sticker books. The reusable stickers can stick to almost any airplane surface and can easily be removed and restuck for at least 12 minutes.

6. Must have Accessories.

Blow up footstool, everyone’s favorite blankey, water cups with straws (again, help those babies clear their ears!), earplugs/headphones (my oldest has a hard time with noises, headphones make all the difference), socks.

7. Breathe.

Hey moms and dads! Take a breath, give grace, breathe. People are going to be grouchy and rude. But guess what, even if they never had annoying loud kids, at one point they were an annoying loud kid. Although we try our hardest to make sure our children are respectful and quietish…is that really legitimately possible at all times? No. So go ahead and plaster a smile on your face and enjoy the fact that your children get to experience the wonder of travel at a young age!

In travel, and in life, your mood and attitude will be reflected in your children. If you feel stressed and overwhelmed, your children will pick up on that energy and everyone will start to spiral. You can real and absorb all the travel knowledge. However, if you haven’t figured out what keeps you cool and calm, do that first. Find an essential oil to wear around your neck, do a breathing exercise, eat a snack. You can do this! You can make adventure fun for your family!

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Standing on the Sidelines

This is a story of amazing grace.

In this story I am standing on the sidelines, like a background mom or a funny best friend, and taking in the scenes between the hero and main characters. Although I’m right in the middle of all the action, and feel the effects of the storyline progressing, it isn’t my story being told.

It’s a story of a hero pursuing a princess. A beautiful, perfect, spunky princess with hurt and emotions far beyond her age. The hero reminds her she’s beautiful and shows her safety. The hero listens as she wines and even lets her stomp a bit. He wipes her tears while weeping alongside her.

The princess loves the hero but can’t know for sure if he’s safe.

Here come the supporting characters. Surrounding her and speaking with love of the hero. She hears of how he keeps showing up to save them. They sing his praises.

Her head and her heart meet up and decide he truly must be good and safe.

The hero shows up over and over and over for this princess. Gently pushing her to be brave and wrapping her in his arms when she isn’t. He catches her when she falls. He laughs when she’s silly and cries when she hurts his heart.

Jesus loves her. He pursues her. He rejoices when she jumps in the pool. He weeps when night terrors rage through her body. He is angered by the injustice in her story. He is her perfect Hero and she is his beautiful princess.

This story is far from over. But as each chapter is written there are endless signs of truth and love. How amazing is the grace that Jesus has given me that I am able to be here, in the middle of her story, standing on the sidelines.

Perfect power.

Quite often in foster care I get bogged down with the paperwork, constant unexpected interruptions, and so many appointments. I certainly could go my whole life without hearing the words “status hearing” again. The hurry up and wait is never ending. The rules and regulations and standards we are held to can be exhausting.

But even as all the stuff swishes around us, their eyes are filled with wonder. Their voices are filled with questions. And their laughter is free and bubbling. The wonder of everything. Every snowflake, every time we drive by a cow, every time we sing Jesus Loves Me. There is excitement and expectation. Their sweet little faces light up. It keeps me smiling. It keeps me breathing.

Simply stating that it’s “worth it” seems so thin. But it’s true. I would fill out a thousand pages of paper a day if it meant being able to hear his giggle. I would drive across the country for her appointments if it meant hearing her sing bedtime songs with me. And I would invite daily I interruptions if it meant snuggling brother with a football game at the end of the day. It is worth it. It is worth it. It is worth it.

But foster mama, it’s also exhausting. And that’s ok. It’s ok to get tired. It’s ok to admit you’re angry at the system. It’s ok to beg for permanency. It’s ok to advocate loudly. It’s ok to serve frozen pizza for the third time this week. It’s ok to take respite. It’s ok to ask for your village to step in. It’s ok to take a nap. It’s ok to take a break.

They are worth it. And we will never be able to unsee the children, unknow the statistics, and unfeel the call. But maybe tonight you need to remember how full your cup was before you starting the process of emptying all you have. Give yourself permission to leave the dishes in the sink and go to bed early. Allow your phone to sit in the other room while you soak up scripture. Take a bath and listen to worship music. Read the twilight saga (again).

Because Christ is glorified and honored even when (especially when) I am at my weakest. So tonight I am going to rest in the power of his grace. Because, dear foster mama, today my weaknesses did shine through. And tomorrow isn’t looking any easier.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Intentional Legacy Building

I want my children to look back someday and remember that my lap was always big enough. That the countless hours I sit on the floor made them feel known. That even when there is chaos (and chaotic siblings) swarming around us, that this was a safe space to enter into. For the feeling of snuggling in close while squirming about to come quick to the surface of their memories. Mostly I want for my legacy in their lives to be of safety and healing.

Do you think about the legacy you will leave your children? It’s hard in the daily trenches of time outs and nose wiping and diaper changing. My daily, stay-at-home-mom life, with a 3, 2, and 1 year old is a blur. With days and weeks and activists running together.

But as we come close to three years without my dad, I’m remembering the memories I have of him from when I was young.

I’m remembering the legacy he left.

Remembering my dad also gives me such grace to myself as a parent. Because he got a lot of things wrong. I’m sure there were countless feelings of inadequacy. I’m sure of that, because I feel it too. I feel it when I let the kids watch more than one movie. Or when I yell for no reason. And when I put them to bed early so I can think in my own head. But when I think of my dads legacy, I don’t remember the inadequacies. I think of his loud encouraging voice in the gym, of his great servants heart for his family, and how provided for I felt. His legacy lives on though his children. The things he chose to engage in (coaching, cooking meals, being present) left us with feelings that continue to be remembered. He intentionally made choices that eventually became his legacy.

I’m choosing to sit on the floor in the middle of my circus, so that I may have eye level conversations with non-sensical toddlers. I’m choosing to let my coffee get cold in the microwave because my baby needs to just touch my face for a few more minutes. I’m choosing to explain the routine of the day for the nineteenth time because it makes my children feel comfortable. In the midst of our failures as parents, let’s go into this weekend spending time on the legacy in which we want to be remembered.

You’ll always be my baby.

“I may not always be your mama…but you’ll always be my baby.”

I said those words without thinking to our baby as I fed him tonight…and wept.

He has never in his life known another mama. I’m it. When the toddlers yell for mama, a part of me wonders if they have memories of their first mom. But not the baby. When he is looking for mama he’s looking for me.

But that probably won’t always be the case. Someday, our babies will go home to biological family, and quite possibly call some one else mama. It’s likely this baby will never have a memory of me.

But this mama. She will never forget.

I will never forget his chubby fingers or the way he sings loudly every time music plays. I’ll never forget that it took for-stinkin-ever to get him to sleep in anything but the rock n play. I’ll never forget how he snuggles his face into my chest when he’s ready for bed or how his face lights up when he hears my voice.

I’ll never forget how brother has to drum on everything or how sister needs to be carried around. I’ll will always smile when I think of our silly meal times or watch a video of their sweet toddler prayers.

These babies will always be mine, even when I am no longer theirs.

He is enough.

 

Bath toys and diapers and blankets…oh my!

That is me just sitting here on the floor in my living room, looking around and listing the land mines that are littered about.

Two weeks ago we welcomed into our hearts and home three little loves. Our home went from a huge farm house, just me and my sweet husband, to a giggling home full of diapers and love. We are the “right now” parents to the three amigos. Three loves two and under. And our lives will never be the same.

Now that we are past the first week of adjustments I feel I can truthfully say that we are doing wonderfully. If you saw us in the first week however, man, am I sorry. Both Chris and I were walking zombies…the three amigos were full of every emotion…and all five of us were trying to figure it out. Moving forward we recognize it will be a never ending phase of figuring it out, but we now have a good base. We trust each other.

One of the most interesting and challenging parts of being a foster parent is learning about your toddler. This handsome and funny two year old is now my responsibility. And instead of having two years to learn who he is, what he likes and dislikes, where his insecurities lie, or how I can best love him, we have a twenty minute car ride to our house. Praise Jesus for the grace he gives us as parents!

There are many many unknowns in Foster care, but this I do know, Jesus gives enough. There is nothing that I can do in my own power. When I try to work within my own power I fail miserably. But Jesus. He knows. He gives. He is enough.

Nothing could have prepared me for this stage of life. No training classes, or advice from others, or endless books I read. There is no way I could have known how many doctors we would need to see, or how much laundry I would do, or how truly tired we would be. So I am thankful for the promise of 2 Corinthians 12:9,  “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” He is enough.

We will never know how long a child will stay in our home, but this we do know, while they are here they are to be loved 100%. Not because I have 100% to give at all times (seriously, the physical touch is about to be the death of me!), but because we are called and commanded. And because in my weakness…He is enough.

Infertility Awareness 2017

This week begins our 4th year of unexplained infertility.

When we decided to “start” trying to get pregnant you could not have prepared me for what the past 36 months would be like. The buckets of tears I would cry after painful procedures and negative pregnancy tests. You could not have prepared me for how closely I would check labels on everything from mascara to ketchup. Or how many times I would have to quietly delete social media from my phone to stop from obsessing over others pregnancy announcements.

In the past 36 months I have gone from excited, to embarrassed, to outspoken. Excited at the thought of joining my best friends in the joys of motherhood, embarrassed that I seemed to be broken and unable to carry a baby, and now outspoken on the heartbreak that infertility brings. My life, and my heart is different. I am a different person.

I have panic attacks: Jesus redeems. I am weak to the point of inconsolability: Jesus is strong. My mind wants to live in the “what-ifs”: Jesus whispers truth. I mourn when my friends are joyful: Jesus gives grace. I am weary: Jesus gives rest.

My hope is not in my ability to carry a child in my womb. My hope is in the ability of Jesus to make me whole.

Month after month I read the story of the fiery furnace. Daniels friends were faced with the hardest choice of their lives and this was their response.

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18)

But even if He does not.

He could. God could have swooped down and delivered those guys from the fire. He easily could have said, “wow guys, thanks so much for sticking up for me and not bowing to the idols”. But instead Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the fire and God got the glory.

He is good. So good. He is able to deliver me from my hurt. But even if he doesn’t, I will not give in to the devil’s lies about my ability to be a mother. Even if He does not, He will still receive glory. This is my prayer and my hope. That others would see my fight, my story, my hurt, and see God getting the glory.

This past week was Infertility Awareness week. I am thankful for the stories I have heard  this week from women and men, telling their stories and bathing each other in grace. If you know a woman or couple who is currently battling infertility, send them a card. Remind them they are loved and cherished. Because you never know when the dark moments come, and there could never be enough support.

sometimes you need a giant stuffed puppy to cuddle you better.