Monthly Archives: June 2016

Monday Musings: What is a good mom?

“Remember that being a good mom is ultimately about the relationship you develop with your children and the important life skills, not about how your life looks on the outside to others.”

From the book Motherhood Realized ~

Many of us find the age of the internet a blessing and a curse.  Never has been so much information been readily available and accessible. What we do with all that information depends on our personality: do we obsess over it, comparing notes, trying to get it right; or do we let it go in and out without attaching significance to it; or maybe something in between….and maybe it all depends on the day and the topic.  Regardless, there is a lot for parents to read and consider as they grow their families.

Today’s quote really resonates with me for a couple of reasons.  First, I love the idea of working backwards in our relationship…what kind of relationship do we want with our children when they are adults?  And which life skills do we want them to have? When they leave the house, as they build healthy relationships…what does that picture look like?

Once we have an idea of the end-game, it helps to make the daily minutiae more meaningful. Maybe it helps us stick to our plan to have them help even though it takes longer to get things done (anyone else with me on that one??) It certainly helps me guard my tongue – we know that words can never be taken back. Bearing in mind the adult relationship I want with my children helps me (most days!) to speak gently.

The other reason this resonates with me is because it is reflexive.  It’s easy to compare ourselves to others…what are they doing? Is it right – wrong – hippy hoodoo – who cares?  Remembering that I am only building a relationship with my children and that there is no one else to impress keeps me from playing the “better than” game.

I have to be the best mom for my children…not the best mom in the world. Just mine call me mother, and keeping that at the forefront releases me to love and accept other mothers where they are, rather than comparing them and asking if they are a better or worse mom than I am.

What do you think – what does this quote inspire in you?

Air Travel: Toddlers

Travel Series: The ABC’s of Flying with Toddlers

Welcome to the second installment of our summer travel series…flying with your toddler! For the purpose of this series, we are going to consider children between one to three years old as “toddlers”. (Click HERE If you are looking for baby flight tips!)

The key to understanding this age: squiggle. Children this age are newly mobile, and they want to move!! They are exploring their new freedom, figuring out boundaries, and sometimes even testing them as they reach the mid-twos and into the threes.

What to do with all this energy? My best advice is to work with it instead of against it.

A.) Talk to your children about what to expect.

I am a big believer in having one-sided conversations with your children at this age. I know they are probably not answering in complete sentences…it doesn’t mean that the information isn’t being soaked in. Take the time to explain and describe the experience.

Some things to highlight and fill in the details about might be…

We are going to pack – we are going to drive and park the car – we will go through security – we will wait to get on the plane – we will have to sit in our seats with our seat belts on – we will have fun – we will get to see the clouds – it’s going to be an adventure – it’s going to be cramped and feel like a long hug – we will get snacks – when we get off the plane we will see (people? place?) – we will have fun!

Yes, fun is in there more than once because THOUGHTS ARE THINGS! Start planting the seed in your child’s mind that this is going to be FUN and maybe, just maybe, (okay probably!) you will have a fun time if you allow yourself to experience a trip from your child’s point of view. Everything is new – big – amazing – and because you are there, they know they are safe.

Show them pictures of airports and airplanes. If you are going to take their car seat on the plane, tell them they are going to have it on the plane and that it may feel like a very long car ride. You can explain the experience of takeoff and landing – the opportunity to introduce concepts and vocabulary is endless when it comes to travel.

If you still have to carry travel documents (usually a yes for children under two) such as a birth certificate or vaccine record – check with your airline for requirements – then show them those, and show them where they are in your bag.

Once our children were mobile, I would also make them a name tag (2″x3″) to attach to their clothing.  On one side, I would put their picture, name and birthdate.  On the other side, I would write our names, phone numbers, list any allergies and their blood type, and the phrase, “I AM A U.S.A. CITIZEN”.  I would laminate this, and then attach it to their clothing with a safety pin.  You may want to do some trial runs with this before travel day so that they are used to it, and you can figure out where best to put it so that it stays on without bothering them.  The best spot for our kiddos was at their waist right around the area where a waistband was out of the way of a seatbelt.

I would also fill out a couple of index cards with the same info and tape it to their car seats and the underside of their strollers.  I am a big “just in case” person – thankfully, we never had to use them.  My intention was that our children could be identified, cared for, and quickly reunited if we were separated or god-forbid, incapacitated for whatever reason.  Once I placed them, I would show them where they were and tell them that this information would help reunite us if we were separated.

B) Packing List for the flight

Diapers – Plan on taking two sizes for the flights…one that fits and one size bigger to catch blowouts – put the child in both of them for the duration of the flight. This would also work if there is going to be extended car trips at your destination.

Books – we love the Indestructibles series: they are lightweight, bendable, and there are no words! You can introduce vocabulary or make up a new story every time!! Even if you can’t find these, something your child can hold aside from your phone is great! At this stage, “reading” also includes eating the books sometimes. Pick two or three favorites if you are packing board books – and maybe read them in different voices, or change up the story a little bit every time and see if they notice!

Toys – some favorites that you know they like, some new ones wrapped up as gifts. We would buy a little set and wrap up each piece individually to be opened up every time the alarm rang on a watch or phone.

Snacks – I seriously believe that you cannot pack enough of these. We had a small soft-sided travel cooler that would carry a small ice pack and lots of cheese sticks. I also like the “handful” snacks from Trader Joe’s (lots of protein!), and also fruit leathers or cereal snacks. The cereal snacks serve a double purpose… first, you can make shapes or letters with them on top of a napkin on the tray table…and then your toddler can eat them up.

Wipes – do not leave home without them!! I put some in my purse and in the diaper bag.

Wet mat – I shared THESE last week as well – I never left home without several of these tucked into my bags…they are great for the car seat or your lap if your child is going to sit on you, and they also make great floor mats if you are going to be at the airport for a while and need a place for your child to sit aside from the dirty floor.

Extra clothes – for both child and parent!! When a spill or a blow-out happens, it is hardly ever contained to one person. As I mentioned last week, extra clothes is packed into zip lock bags – it lets you squeeze out the air for tight packing, and also provides a container to hold any icky smells/wet stuff you don’t want getting on the rest of the items you packed in your bag.

Wet bags or zip bags – I always carry an extra wet bag and a few quart-size sealable plastic bags…you just never know. They can store dirty clothes, uneaten snacks, serve as containers for errant toys or crayons…they have always come in handy.

Coloring or writing implements – a spiral notebook and triangle crayons or pencils that don’t roll are my favorites!!

C) Flight Tips

  1. As in last week’s tip list, do your best to plan flights around their sleep times. Allow yourself plenty of time to get to the airport, get through security, and then have time to feed them and play with them in the gate area before you board the plane. Walk up and down the concourse, or have races, or go window shopping if your airport has shops along the way…anything to get them primed for a nap on the plane. Once you board and get them settled, you can all sleep through the flight.
  1. Take advantage of any early boarding policies for families with small children. At this age, some kiddos will still use their carrier, others may be too big or too squiggly and your best bet to move through the airport is a stroller…either way, it adds up to a lot of gear!! Early boarding gives you extra time to lug on any of the bags, car seats, assorted gear, etc. that you don’t gate check*, and let’s you get your children situated without the huffing and puffing of the line of people behind you. Wait until they are pleasantly surprised when your child travels well…they will change their tune!
  1. Have a strategy for take-off and landing – at least two to three ideas to help them deal with the air pressure changing in their ears. If you are still nursing and you have a lapsit child, you can breastfeed them during take-off and landing. If your child is in their car seat and/or not breastfeeding anymore, then you can offer them a drink or show them how to yawn big and wide…make it into the “Yawning Game”…who can yawn the biggest?!? Or if your child is a little older, you may even consider chewing gum for them. Whatever it is, have a plan in place to help them move air down through their throat to help counteract the effects of changing air pressure.
  1. Definitely take advantage of empty aisles between service times if, despite your best laid plans, your sweet pea did not fall asleep for the duration of the flight. As long as the seat belt light is off, you two can go up and down the plane. I would also use a timer for this…when the alarm goes off, we will get to walk up and down the plane one time. Have them look for a color as they walk, or maybe a letter – let the walk be a little different every time.
  1. Relax – your child and the people around you feed off of your energy. If you are anxious, they will multiply it. If you are relaxed, your child feels your safety, and the people around you will feel your confidence and probably start to relax a little themselves. If I can make eye contact, I will greet them and make a little small talk. You can even invite them to help and make them your ally…

Hello, this is my Sweet Pea’s (x)th trip…we are so excited to have fun!! We have packed lots of entertainment in our magic bag…and of course, if you have any positive travel tips for toddlers, I’d love to hear them! Hopefully we will all get to sleep…and if not, we are going to have lots of fun learning and exploring along our trip to (destination)!!


That’s about all I can think of for now. Did I forget anything? I would love to hear what works for your family – please leave me your best tips in the comments!


*gate check: once you get to the gate with all your gear, you can check anything you don’t want to or can’t carry in the main cabin due to size restrictions. I would pack a couple of large garbage bags to store the gear in and attach a name tag and claim ticket to the outside of the bag.

Monday Musings: Struggles

“Successful mothers are not the ones that have never struggled. They are the ones that never gave up despite the struggles.”
~Sharon Jaynes

This quote takes on a whole new meaning today as I think of all the mothers who will go forward without their sons and daughters after the tragedy in Orlando. There are not enough words to express our deep sorrow.

In today’s image-driven society, it is easy to set ourselves an impossible standard portrayed by filtered pictures that show the best of our moments with our children.

I love this meme that has been making the rounds on social media:


As the popular saying goes, the struggle is real. Some of us struggle with being on time. Others, organization. Some, our temper. Others, mood disorders. Some, with self-esteem. Others, self-acceptance. And the list goes on and on.

The point is, you are not alone. I am not alone. Somewhere, someone is struggling with the same inner demons that you are facing. Take comfort in the fact that even though we don’t all want to admit it, we are all hiding something.

What matters more is how we go above and beyond that to do our best for our children. Are we providing a safe place for them? Are we recognizing their needs? Are we responding to them?

We won’t get it right all the time. We can strive to do better; resolve to show them the best that we have to give more often than not.

I truly believe that if we operate from a place of love, we will make the right decisions for our family. A parent that makes decisions from a place of love for their child will make decisions that are best for their family.

And by the same token, we must also allow ourselves a measure of grace. For we are only human, and it is impossible to be at our best all of the time. Inevitably the pressures of “adulating”, the fatigue of trying to do too much in too few hours, the stress of daily life will sometimes crowd out our best intentions to show up as whole, patient humans raising other humans.

So today I invite you to name one small thing, just one, that you can strive for today. What is one small way that you can do best by your children and your family today? Then go for it! Do it, and go to sleep tonight with the satisfaction that you did one thing right today. Even if it was just keeping everyone alive for the day – it was worth it.

I leave you with these closing thoughts:




Air Travel: Babies

SERIES: Traveling with your Sweet Pea(s)

Flying with Babies

Otter and I had the pleasure of attending a very special family occasion over Memorial Day Weekend. We had to fly, and the crying babies reminded me that we know a few travel tricks and tips in regards to traveling with small children. I felt funny going up to the parents to see if I could help, however, I resolved to share the things we have learned about traveling with Sweet Peas over here any of you that are going to be traveling with their littles this season, so that you can benefit from the little things we gathered along the way. I have also drawn from the brain trust of our SPB community to offer you the best of what we have collectively learned about traveling as parents. Thank you to our amazing group of students who have their own awesome tips to share!!

The first posts in this installment are going to deal with travel by air, broken down in three categories: babies, toddlers/preschoolers, and elementary age children. After we share about flying, we’ll talk about ways to have successful road trips with those same age groups. So here we go on our “Summer Travel Series”; let’s start by talking about flying with babies.

Babies (0-12 months) have very basic needs that have to be met: hunger, cleanliness, and comfort. They must be fed regularly to stave off hunger, changed from soiled nappies to clean ones, and they crave the attention and care of a loving adult. Add in,” attending to the discomforts of teething” when appropriate. We have found that by meeting those needs, we generally had happy babies that traveled surprisingly well.

There are a some planning items before your trip to make things smoother:

  • Plan to travel according to your child’s naptime or bedtime. We would schedule flights so that we would have a higher likelihood of sleeping children while we were in the air.
  • Remember to bring a birth certificate or vaccine record for your infant. Call your airline to find out if a copy or an original is required, and what kind of documentation they need to prove that you are traveling with your own child – usually until they are two years old. We have not had to provide authentication documents for our older children.
  • Figure out how you are going to move your baby and your gear. Most of our students feel that babywearing is easier than carting a stroller. There are others that take the stroller to cart all the stuff and wear the child. I suggest taking a couple of mall trips with what you plan to bring and see what works best.  Malls offer air conditioned walking space – see how it goes with what you think you are going to bring so you can best plan for your trip.  It may look funny, but at least you will be prepared!!


Now onto how we meet our baby’s needs when traveling by air on Travel Day.

Tip Number 1: Our first tip addresses the area of “comfort”. Find something  – anything – to help with the ear popping.
If you are changing altitude, your little one’s ears’ are going to pop. There really is no way around it that we know of. With that in mind, have a strategy for take off and landing. Is it breastfeeding a lap child? Is it offering a bottle of breastmilk if your child will be traveling in their car seat? Is it offering a pacifier or a teething toy? Or maybe they will suck on a blanket with tags on it, or the sucking pads on their car seat or a rolled up baby carrier? Maybe they like to suck on fingers…theirs or yours will do. Whatever the mode of delivery is, find something that makes them move air back in and through their throat to release the pressure that builds up in the ears during take-off and landing.

Read latest TSA info if you are bringing any liquids. You can check the link HERE.

Tip Number 2: if possible, purchase a ticket for your child so you can use their car seat on the plane.
We heard from several flight attendants that children who traveled in their car seats did better on planes. They attributed it to the fact that children relate the car seat to traveling and sitting still for extended periods of time. Whatever it is, it did seem to make for smoother rides in our case.

The car seat is required to be in the window seat so other passengers wouldn’t have to climb over it in an emergency. The other caveat with this is that if you have a car seat, your child is required to use it for take off and landing, which means breastfeeding is out as an option to help with ear popping. You will have to consider some of the other options listed above to help with that.

When we traveled with our children as infants in their car seats, we would offer them breastmilk in bottles during take off and landing, and then if they were awake, I would nurse them during the flight.

In researching this post, I found that Southwest Airlines still offers reduced fares for children under two to encourage parents to travel with car seats. Check with your carrier to see if they will do the same.

Tip Number 3: Take full advantage of family priority boarding/de-boarding.
Not all airlines offer this if they board by group number, however, it doesn’t hurt to ask the gate agent what their policy is. We have found this to be subjective – sometimes it depends on the person and the kind of day they are having. So just ask – the worse that will happen is that they will say no.

Tip Number 4: Sit near the front of the aircraft, and near a bathroom for changing access.
Being as close to the front as possible makes for a shorter walk with all the gear. Usually, there is a bathroom near the front so it’s a two-for-one win. We have also taken advantage of the long aisle between beverage service times to take a walk to the bathroom at the other end of the plane. It just depends on how much energy your child has at any given time.

Tip Number 5: Practice up on “distraction techniques” in case baby gets upset or wants entertainment.
Along with that, don’t stress it if something goes awry – whether your child is fussy or another passenger is being nasty – children seem to pick up on this and it doesn’t help the situation. Have fun! Make a joke out of it – humor is a choice, too!

Depending on the child’s age, distraction techniques may be silly faces, baby games (peek a boo, where’s the person/toy), songs, food, or toys. Keep any physical favorites at easy reach within the outside pockets of your diaper or travel bag.

We would also pack a couple of new toys that we thought might be interesting because they were different from anything they had, or maybe a variation on a toy we know they liked. I would gift-wrap them to add to the suspense. To this day, our older children look forward to travel day to see what kind of “gifts” they will get.

Tip Number 6: Put the baby in two sizes of diapers if using disposables.
The current size your child is wearing is the first line of defense, and one size bigger in case of leaks or blowouts.

Tip Number 7: Aside from packing a couple of extra outfits and blankets for your sweet pea, at least pack a clean shirt for each parent in your carry-ons.
Just in case your baby has a blow out or vomiting incident, you all get a clean shirt. There is nothing worse than smelling like the accident that happened at the beginning of the trip for the whole flight. We pack extra clothing in ziplock bags. This serves two purposes: one, it makes for more efficient packing. Roll up the clothes, squeeze it in the bag, squeeze out all the air, and now you have a compressed slick packet that easily slides into a full bag. Two, it makes a great container for the soiled clothing you are trading out for the the clean clothes. We packed all the extras in their own bag so that there would always be a 1-1 trade of clean for dirty items, be they baby clothes, blankets, or parent’s clothing.

Tip Number 8: Waterproof pads rock.
I would put one in the sweet pea’s car seat to protect against the blowouts, and also have an extra one handy to put in my lap if I was going to hold our sweet pea. You can never be too safe when it comes to guarding against spills of any kind. HERE is a link to some that we used – funny to see that they are still available although they are discontinued. (Not an affiliate link – click away!)

Tip Number 9: Be flexible.
As with so many things in life, taking a measure of grace to help you go with the flow is always helpful. My husband never understood why I packed for every “just in case” I could think of…my worse case scenario was getting stuck in an airport with no access to food or diapers. However, he humored me as I stuffed diapers and snacks into every empty space once our carry-ons were packed with essentials. We never got stuck in an airport without food or diapers. We did experience travel delays every once in a while, and those extras did come in handy, though never to the extreme I imagined.

Understand that just about everyone is freaking out when flights are changed and/or delayed. Be the cool family with happy kids by remaining calm. As mentioned above, our children pick up on our vibe – so keep it cool…you are prepared with food, diapers and distraction techniques – you’ve got this!!

Tip Number 10: Have fun!!
It never ceases to amaze me that tubes of chunky metal get off the ground and move us from one part of the world to another. If your child is awake, count how many seconds it takes for lift off. Look outside the window with them and notice the wings if you are over a wing, or the landscape, or the clouds. Even if your child isn’t verbal yet, if they are seeing they are processing. Start offering them words for all that they are experiencing. You never know – they may surprise you with their memories of early travel someday…they are definitely taking it all in.


How about you – what are your best travel tips for babies??

Monday Musings: On Parenting

“Being a parent is not about what you give up to have a child, but what you have gained from having one.”

Bruss and I just completed our 24th and 25th Bradley ™ series over the weekend. What a wonderful and exciting time for all of our students as many of them embark on parenthood for the very first time!!

For the last segment of our final class in the series, we each share our thoughts on “being mom” and “being dad”. Here are some things we share with our students about what is gained from becoming a parent:

1.) Your greatest teacher.
Each child that joins your family is unique, individual, and will require you to parent them in a particular way. If you take the time to watch them and listen to them, they will share some amazing insights and open your mind in ways that you never knew were possible. We aim to parent them in such way that honors them as smaller humans capable of experiencing and expressing their thoughts and emotions.

Their statements, actions, and questions allow us to be constantly evolving as parents. We have learned so much about ourselves, and how to be individual parents to each child, just by following their cues.

2.) The opportunity to be curious.
One of the best pieces of advice I received as a newlywed was from the mother of adopted children. She stated that her children were free of pressure to “be this” or “do that” because she and her husband had no way of imposing their expectations on them based purely on genetics. I resolved then and there to allow our children the same opportunity to be themselves, even though we are genetically related. Hence the curiosity: what is their talent, their gift, their calling??  Our statement to them is that we hope to help them find their calling, whatever it may be, and then support them 110% in their pursuit of their passions so that they can glorify God in their way with their gifts.

3.) The opportunity to play.
There are some places that are great to revisit as parents: the floor and the park. We take the opportunity to sit on the floor with our kiddos and play with our children. Not all the time, and not for their entire playtime, just when it works out. If it’s a super-busy day and our children want to play, I will say yes, for “x” minutes I can stop what I am doing and play with you.

We can also visit the park and play with our children. Maybe we won’t get on all the features of a playset; we do however push them on the swings or run around a little with them. And when we can, we do clamber up after them on the ladders and slide down the slides – it’s all in good fun.

4.) The opportunity to become a better version of yourself.
Being a parent is so much this. We try not to fall into old patterns that we learned from our own experience as children. Instead, we see the opportunity to decide what kind of parent we want to be, and do that. Whether it’s trying something new to set a good example, to being brave in situations you would usually avoid, to basic things like yelling less and laughing more, there are ways we can strive to be a better person every day.

5.) The truest love you will ever know.
One of my favorite movie moments is from the film, “Maleficent”. After sixteen years of protecting and growing to love the child, it is Maleficent’s kiss that breaks the curse she spoke to Sleeping Beauty.

The love I have for our children is fierce, protecting and caring. It wants to hold them tight and at the same time give the wings they need to fly. I hope that despite all the mistakes I have made and will make as a parent, our children will know that they are loved. The moments I treasure are the contented sighs in their sleep, their sleepy faces in my arms, the little hands reaching for mine when we are out for reassurance and safety, the spontaneous laughter around the kitchen table when we have “a moment” …those little moments make my heart swell to bursting.

While I love my husband to pieces, it is different to love and adult and to love a child. He is my lover, they are my beloveds. I am grateful for the opportunity to love them all.


So those are five things I feel I have gained from the opportunity to be a parent – how about you? What is something you have gained from having children?