Top Ten Tips for Tearfree Tot Travel

We arrived home from our vacation about a week ago, and I am still amazed at how well my children did. I expected meltdowns and drama, especially from the 3-year-old. But we only got smiles, excitement, curiosity, and perhaps a fuss here and there at the end (from the 1-year-old). I think a lot of it has to do with our kids’ personalities.

Hula Girl, the 3-year-old, is the incessant questioner. She is always wondering about anything and everything. And when she’s done wondering about what’s in front of her face, she thinks back to yesterday, a week ago, or even last Christmas, and asks us random questions about past times. “Mommy, when we met Mr. Chris and he was showing us houses, why did he drive a white truck?” (Folks, Mr. Chris showed us houses in May. She went to three houses that he showed us.) Needless to say, her mind was abuzz and quite occupied with all the things to see and think about.

Gelato, the 13-month-old, is just plain happy-go-lucky. He let us know he wasn’t too excited about riding in his stroller and car seat all day long, as he has recently learned to walk and wanted to try out his new skillz, but he was fine as soon as we got moving. He had a steady stream of snacks and he fell asleep pretty quickly once we got in the air or on the road.

Obviously everyone’s kids are different, so there will be some things that worked well for my kids that wouldn’t be so hot for every family. But some things probably have mass appeal. So without further ado and in no particular order, here are some ideas that worked for us.

  1. Glow sticks. My friend Jaclyn recommended this one to me and she is RIGHT. You can get these things from the dollar section in many major stores. Cheap, self-contained fun. All you have to do is rip open the wrapper, crack the stick, and give it a little shake. The only note here is to avoid using the blue/purple ones in daylight- they do not show up at all in the sunlight. Green and yellow glow brightest overall. We got several varieties- fat sticks, small “bracelets,” and even several smaller rods that connect and bend into a ball. Kids loved these. LOVED.
  2. Snacks. The key with snacks is to not give your children junk you wouldn’t normally give them. You don’t want an upset tummy on top of traveling stress. We stuck with apples, crackers, rice cakes, and granola bars. All organic. I did two types of crackers- one sweet and one salty. Honestly, the rice cakes and crackers were a bit too messy for my liking, but the kids were happy with the offerings. It really helped Gelato to be able to munch an apple during takeoff.
  3. Routine. We have a pretty regular routine. My kids get up at the same time every morning, and they nap and go to bed at generally the same times every day. They eat meals at the same times. Everything in between sleep periods and meals is generally in the same order. Give me a time and I can probably tell you what my kids will be doing at that time next Tuesday, within about 15 minutes. THIS HELPS TREMENDOUSLY when traveling. I scheduled our flight times to coincide with Gelato’s nap times so that we’d have the best chance of him actually falling asleep on the plane. He did, and other passengers were appreciative. We also stuck to our routine pretty much the entire vacation. We had two nights that were later nights than we expected. But we did not have severe behavior problems, with one notable exception- wait ’til you see the pictures of THAT one!!! HA! We were not stressed out, we were able to relax, and everyone had an enjoyable time because we knew what to expect. **I’d also like to point out that my in-laws are AWESOME and they respect and utilize our routines and schedules while we are visiting them. It really helps add to our fun and relaxation because we know our kids are well taken care of and they’re on schedule so they’ll stay at their optimum the whole time, too. It’s absolutely fantastic to have such support!!!**
  4. Surprises. Hula Girl was so surprised and overjoyed to be tasting her very first lollipop on our plane ride. We have never let her have candy really, so this was something she had truly been longing for. She always walked past the displays of the “World’s Best Lollipops” in stores and asked me if she could have one. I always agreed that they were pretty and looked good, but turned down her request. What a delight for her to open her backpack and find a pink strawberry shortcake flavored lollipop just waiting for her!!! (We gave it for her to suck on so her ears would stay clear. Worked like a charm!) Other surprises were things like a portable DVD player and an Elmo video, the glow sticks, and for Gelato, some small cars and animals he could play with.
  5. Pieces of home. Hula Girl had her blankies and Daisy, her bear, to sleep with. We also brought her Gro-Clock and her sound machine. Gelato had his sound machine and we brought one of his sheets to put on the pack ‘n’ play so it would smell more like home. We brought some of the kids’ favorite books and toys.
  6. Organization. I had a list that showed me every piece of luggage and exactly what was in each bag or suitcase. We carried on two car seats, a suitcase, and three bags. We checked two larger suitcases. My bag held all of Gelato’s plane essentials- change of clothes, diapers and wipes, snacks, water, and small toys- along with my own plane gear- a light sweater, my glasses (I never check these; I’d be lost without them), and a book in case Gelato fell asleep- and all our travel documentation- IDs, birth certificates, boarding passes, etc. Jonathan’s backpack held random electronic stuff like cameras and phone chargers, Hula Girl’s DVD player, a book for him, etc. Hula Girl’s backpack held her travel snacks, toys, and crayons. The carry-on suitcase had all our kids’ sound machines, Gro-Clock, and random extra things. Our checked bags held Gelato and Hula Girl’s clothes and Mommy and Daddy’s clothes. I was GLAD things were organized well. Plus I like lists.
  7. Plan ahead. Sounds like organization. But it’s different. And I was fortunate enough to marry into a family with a mother-in-law who indulges my whims and has a few of her own. Therefore we knew what activities we’d likely be doing, what we’d need for them, and what we definitely would not need to pack. We knew we needed lots of swim gear since there was a splash park nearby, but since we didn’t want to pack our (very expensive) sunscreen, we just had my mother-in-law get some in advance. She also got coconut oil and baby wash to make sure our kids’ skin was pampered and our clean clothes stayed that way on the flight.
  8. Talk it up. We made sure Hula Girl was SO excited to travel. We made it sound like an adventure for sure. We read books about traveling on an airplane and watched videos about going to the beach. We acted out scenes during which Daddy and I got stopped by TSA and were searched while we were getting to our gate. We reassured her that if TSA stopped any of us, none of us would get left behind. She practiced how she’d greet her relatives, and we talked about what to do if she couldn’t find someone she knew. (In case you’re wondering, we told her to look for a MOMMY WITH KIDS and ask for help. She can spell her name and she knows Jonathan’s and my phone numbers by heart. So that helps me feel more comfortable. We even practice “getting lost” a lot at home, just so she knows what to do and is SURE of herself in the event it happens someday.)
  9. …But don’t talk it up too much in advance. My daughter is a worry wart. (I have no idea where she gets it…) She gets VERY excited about things and she can’t sleep for DAYS in advance when she knows something is coming up. Therefore we did not tell her the exact date, but just kept conversation focused on what we’d do when we get there, and how great it would be to see Ama and Papa. We finally told her on the morning of our flight that THAT was the day we were going to see Ama and Papa. It definitely worked out for us.
  10. Expect delays and rudeness. When you’re traveling with children, SO much work goes into planning, organizing, corralling, carrying, and keeping everything (and everyone) together. Any task, from checking in to going through security to using the restroom to actually boarding the plane, takes about five times longer than it would if you were alone. And when you consider the bundles of energy and excitement who squirm and hop along with the massive amounts of luggage and the GIANT CAR SEATS you have to haul around… well… just know it takes a long time to get from here to there. At least 2 hours longer than you’d imagined at first. And other people are generally helpful… but some flight attendants can be downright snarky and rude. Especially the ones we flew with. We were interrogated several times on each flight- “Did you purchase tickets for your children? Are they supposed to be sitting there? Are your car seats FAA approved? I’m sorry, but I just need to SEE the approval sticker. I’ve never seen people bring car seats on the plane before. Are you sure you don’t want to gate check the car seats? Do you want to make sure to sit near the back so that other passengers aren’t bothered by your children?” And on and on. And do you know what?! There was NO NEED for them to be rude to us. We got in, we got out, our children were SILENT the entire flight (except for the one time Hula Girl burst out in a song from ballet class). Again, other passengers were very pleasant, offering to help carry bags and watch items for us so we could manage. But the flight attendants… wowie wow wow.
  11. BONUS TIP!!! Purchase tickets for your children. Even if you don’t do the car seat thing (which I am vehemently AGAINST but whatever), at least it gives your child AND you a bit  of room to stretch out. The other passengers will appreciate it. 🙂

Kind of a Downer

As a general rule, I embrace fall and welcome any day that is not super hot and super sunny. But today just feels cold and yucky. Not even dreary. Dreary I could deal with. I suppose the weather is aided by our circumstances today-making me feel blah and discouraged is what the two of them have teamed up to do. Mission accomplished. Anyway, I am so ready for my in-laws’ visit in October, it’s ridiculous. I will have fully embraced fall by then and hopefully our circumstances will have changed a bit. Allow me to expand.

Hula Girl.

She went away and spent the weekend with my parents. She had a super good time.

But she’s getting her 2-year molars. I can see the one on the bottom right almost coming through the gum. Rumor in the mom group has it that the 2-year molars are awful. They ruin sleep, they ruin attitudes, they ruin routines. For instance, I just got up from the computer (literally, between these two sentences I took a break) and went to her room in the middle of her nap because she woke up crying about her nose being itchy. She’s been crying about this several times during sleep periods (yes, even in the middle of the night) and we’ve had to go in and remind her to use her handkerchief (tied to the crib rail so she can find it easily) to blow her nose. Yep, poor little girl has a runny nose constantly from those darn teeth.

Anyway, the short of the long of it is she’s building up a major sleep debt and it’s compounding significantly regardless of our best efforts to get her down for bed and naps early (or even on time!) these days. I just struggle to get her down when I am dealing with both kids at once. Which brings us to our next circumstantial issue:


He has not been on his normal schedule (substitute the word routine here if you so choose- I have a lot of friends who don’t think it’s wise to “schedule” a newborn-but they don’t exactly know how flexible my “schedule” can be) for the past twoish weeks. In fact, he’s been so off-schedule that I’m not even sure what a good schedule for him would look like. Especially because he’s so young and their optimal waketimes change so much in these early days.

Anyway, he had  a growth spurt at 4 weeks. Then he went through a wonder week at week 5, and then he hit a biiiiiiig growth spurt at 6 weeks. He nursed literally every 2 hours for several days straight. The 6-week growth spurt also ushered in an old enemy of mine: the 45-minute intruder. Hula Girl dealt with this for the first 20-21 weeks of her life. Short 45-minute naps. I could not get that girl back to sleep for the life of me… and that meant her feeding schedule was really wrong. So I am doing all the things I can possibly do to keep Gelato on an age-appropriate schedule while now dealing with the 45-minute intruder (at most naps, ugh) while juggling a toddler who can’t be left alone for 20-minute segments four times a day while I rock the baby back to sleep. Most moms suggest just moving the newborn to the swing and letting him finish his nap there. Sounds great, right!? Right. Gelato hates his swing. Other moms suggest using a pacifier and when he wakes, just briefly visit his room and pop it in so he can soothe back to sleep and finish the nap. Sounds great, right?! Right. Gelato hates his pacifier.

Ho-kay… what’s plan C? Working on it… I am not interested in leaving Gelato to cry it out mid-nap yet. BTDT, HATED every moment of it. My heart (and Hula Girl’s) can’t take the stress of listening to a crying baby for 45 minutes at a time, four times a day. Nope. Pretty much I’m just praying that God will allow Gelato to just stop having sleep transition issues altogether. If you would please also pray for us in this manner, I would really really appreciate it.


This weekend Jonathan and I decided to take a drive up into the mountains for our annual leaf-viewing adventure. The aspens are starting to turn, and the mountainsides look like they’re ablaze with beautiful yellows, oranges, and reds mixed in with the evergreens. Really, Colorado mountains in the fall are lovely. Since Hula Girl was with my parents, we only had Gelato and decided he’s little enough to have a day TOTALLY off his routine and we stuck him in his car seat and set off on our 3-hour adventure.

About two hours into our trip, on the descent, we heard a “ding!” We looked at the dash… and our engine temperature was all the way up in the “H” range- we were overheating. Jonathan found a place to pull over and we got out the manual and tried to get the car to cool down… it wouldn’t. And we had absolutely NO coolant in the…coolant holder thingie? (I’m kind of not up-to-snuff when it comes to my car knowledge, so terminology isn’t my thing… but I do know that no coolant=bad.) So we sat there. Then we got out and tried to use our cell phones. No luck. Finally Jonathan got through to our insurance company to call for roadside assistance. Apparently tow truck drivers aren’t allowed to carry coolant so they’d have had to tow us. Unfortunately, they’re also not allowed to carry car seats. So we would have to call family or friends to come pick us up. An hour and a half away from home. In the mountains. On Saturday afternoon.

Then these random folks pull over and let me tell you- I learned a lesson in humility. They were chain-smoking and had four children in the backseat of their Jeep, none of which was buckled in. But do you know what happened next? They booked it to the town that was a little over a mile away, bought coolant and water for our car, spent an hour and a half on the side of the road flushing our engine with coolant and water, and made sure our car was fine before they left. And we don’t even know their names. They would not tell us or even let us try to pay them back for the supplies. All they asked was that we pay it forward. Now that I think of it, that will be easier said than done. But we’ll make sure it happens.

Anyway, we get going again and the check engine light comes on so we pull over again. This time, we couldn’t even get hold of the insurance company and NO ONE stopped. We sat there for about 30 minutes trying to decide what to do. I finally got my phone to get enough signal to pull up a map and realized we were about 10 miles from the next town, and we knew we were going downhill. So we risked it and drove to where we could get a signal. We called my dad and he agreed with me when he thought the check engine light just needed to be reset after we were out of coolant. So we drove on to the next town, which was right by the highway. And we stopped for dinner. ‘Cuz we didn’t pack lunch OR dinner for our “3-hour adventure.” (Side note: thank goodness we only had Gelato with us. I can at least feed him anytime, anywhere. Hula Girl would have been hungry, my friends. And crabby.)

After dinner Jonathan noticed our car had a huge puddle under it… and no more coolant. G-reat. We contacted my parents’ across-the-street-neighbor, Dave, who knows everything about anything mechanical, and who kind of repairs cars for a living. He told us we could just keep adding water every 10 minutes and risk the drive home. We got to the auto shop, left the car in the lot and dropped off the key, and asked our across-the-street neighbor, Brett, to drive us home. We got home SEVEN hours after we left. That’s four more hours than we planned on. Ugh.

And we learned today that our car will cost about $450 to fix… as long as the only thing that’s wrong with it is what they think is wrong with it. See, they can’t keep coolant in it long enough to drive it and see what could be the issue. Nice. So, there’s another prayer request- pray that our car will be fixed with only $450… we can’t really afford that, let alone anything else. Which brings my to my next circumstance:


We’ve always lived on less than most people. In fact, Jonathan makes just enough to put our family over the poverty line for a family of four. But we’ve learned to live small. Think about this- before Jonathan was out of grad school, we lived on my measly teacher’s salary for three years. Yowza. We don’t have a TV, so we don’t pay for service. We keep our house relatively warm in the summer and cool in the winter. We don’t have anything new or fancy. Our wedding/engagement rings are the most valuable things we own. So basically, we can’t afford anything that’s not budgeted.*

Jonathan has a wonderful chance to receive a scholarship repayment through the state of Colorado. He has to commit to 3 years of service in an underserved area or working with an underserved population. His current job qualifies him. If he gets the award, his student loans will be paid off in December… by the state! Considering Jonathan’s student loans are our second largest budget area (second only to rent), we could sure use that money elsewhere. Say, oh, to pay for Gelato’s delivery. Or for our car to get fixed. We also desperately need a new car since both of ours are not in the greatest condition and neither are really large enough for a family of four (when you factor in car seats, what sedan really IS large enough?).

So please pray with us that the Lord will provide a way for us to pay for the things we need to pay for, whether it be through this scholarship repayment program or some other means (hey, Jonathan’s boss, if you ever read this, we sure could do with a raise! 😉 ) .

*I want to clarify a few things before I start sounding like we’re destitute or foolish. First of all, we have no debt aside from Jonathan’s student loans. Secondly, we make very informed decisions before purchasing anything… including a new child (so to speak). So before anyone gets all “if-you-can’t-afford-stuff-why-did-you-have-another-kid?!”  on me, let me kindly remind you that we are aware that children cost a lot of money. We are also aware that we made a choice to have a child. On purpose. We asked God to give us the blessing of another child.** Because guess what. Our children are worth far more than any sum you could ever offer or imagine. And not just to us. To God. So when God chose to give us another sweet baby, we were overjoyed (and a heckuvalotta nervous). We can hack it financially, especially with the knowledge that Jonathan has nowhere to go but up in his career and I can always always always find a way to earn money if we really need it. Who has ever heard of a tutor? Yeah, okay. Like I said, we are not destitute or foolish. Just blessed beyond reason to have reaped an abundance of love.

**I also want to clarify that we are done having kids. We’re not going Duggar on ya.




First Illness (besides a stupid cold)

Hula Girl is sick. As in, not with a cold. As in, she woke up crying at quarter past midnight last night, because she was throwing up. Awesome. We thought it might be because she has the same cold thing as us, and the mucus was upsetting her tummy.

However, this morning, she had an axilliary temperature of 100.5°. Being the selfish person that I am, and wanting Mother’s Day at my parents’ house, I watched her for a bit before deciding she “seems” fine enough to come to Grammy and Grampy’s house for the weekend.

She threw up again in the car. And then she fell asleep during independent playtime, a full hour and 15 minutes before her next nap was scheduled to begin.


We are praying for a speedy recovery for our little girl. Please join us.


I apologize to those of you who were, like me, unaware I was going to be MIA for the weekend. I blame my mom. (Don’t we all?)

Hula Girl and I took a short weekend trip to my parents’ house just to do a sort of trial run for our vacation coming up on Thursday. We worked through a few kinks in the packing/scheduling. I am really glad we went, because I learned three things about Hula Girl’s sleep that were quite surprising:

  1. She can sleep in her new car seat!
  2. She sleeps when it’s time for her naps, no problem. Perfect naps.
  3. She has a hard time falling asleep at night when she’s not in her crib at home.

OK- the car seat sleeping and perfect napping are a total relief. The difficulty falling asleep at night was really hard to handle for me, since she always falls asleep with no difficulty whatsoever here at home. It really threw me for a loop. However, now I know what to expect on our trip. No problem.

My mom and I had a great time playing with Hula Girl. My mom spoils her rotten. She got so many new toys and new (new to her- yay consignment!) clothes. We even drove to Babies ‘R’ Us just so we could pick up a rubber travel placemat with a food catcher for messy baby hands.  That trip also afforded Hula Girl some cute shoes and slippers for next winter. They had a great BOGO sale for all clearance footwear! We are definitely bargain hunters.

Anyway, Hula Girl turned 10 months old yesterday. She is official 5/6 of the way done nursing. I am super happy about that. But I am also growing slightly nostalgic. Maybe I don’t want her to be done that soon? We’ll see how things go. I just really enjoy our snuggle time together four times a day. It’s really precious time for me. She has such a beautiful soft blond head, and her eyelashes are so dark against her cherub cheeks. She usually has some kind of goobers coming out of her eyes or nose, but those are easily wiped away. Oh, my precious girl. She’s growing up too fast.

That is enough for now. I will be posting again tomorrow at the regularly scheduled time.

Did you miss me?

Happy Birthday, Momma C!

I remember being pregnant and feeling awesome all the time. I seriously didn’t have that much to complain about. I never got morning sickness. I never got (too many) cravings. I never got any swollen ankles. The only issues were SUPER-sleepiness during the first and third trimesters and a major pain in my hip and lower back during the third trimester.

I think I could be pregnant all the time. I could not, however, be a sick mommy all the time. This morning, poor little Hula Girl woke up from her nap early and was crying. Now, she normally sleeps just fine through all her naps, but with this sickness, she’s been waking early. To help her get back to sleep, I’ve been going in and holding her. It’s worked perfectly for both of us for the last few days. However, today, I was unable to do this because I feel like death warmed over and I’m coughing nonstop. I figured the coughing nonstop part would pretty much make me useless as a sleep-inducing comfort object for Hula Girl. Any time she’d fall asleep, I’d end up coughing and waking her. Therefore, I had to leave her there to moan and cough all by herself until nap time was over.

Of course she still smiled at me and laughed like crazy when I tickled her tummy. But that made me feel even more guilty!

On to brighter topics.

I am so excited because I’m anxiously anticipating the arrival of Hula Girl’s new car seat. Oh, it’s so pretty. Here’s a picture of it:

This image is from

Pretty pretty car seat!

We were going to go with a different one, but we decided on this one per a suggestion from my good friend Rachel. She brought to my attention the fact that it has the same safety ratings, a metal frame (the other one is plastic), AND this one is skinnier- meaning you can still fit another adult in the backseat! It’s not like we do a lot of driving others around. But it will still come in handy.

I also like this one because it has such high weight and height limits. Hula Girl can ride in this seat rear-facing until she’s 45 pounds. This is AWESOME to me- I want her rear-facing as long as possible. She can also use the seat forward-facing until she’s 80 pounds. A 5-point harness for an 80-pounder? I am so excited about this. This will be her seat for a long long time. It even has a carry strap so when we go to California in April, we won’t have to lug around her infant seat and base! And now it is clear why I am so excited for it to be delivered!

Speaking of California, it is my Momma-in-Law’s birthday today! Happy Birthday, Momma C.! I hope you enjoy your day and live it with all your wonderful 35 years of experience. 🙂 You were 7 when you had Jonathan, right?

Also speaking of California, my sister-in-law has foolishly accepted another holiday challenge. We are having an egg-dying contest this year. She’s going down. My sis-in-law is probably the greatest sis-in-law one could have. She humors me by playing Monopoly and many many card games whenever we’re together. Let’s just hope the Easter Bunny doesn’t lose an eye this year. May the best eggs win.

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