Category Archives: Travel

Failing at Mommy Blogging

Motherhood is definitely a game of priorities. Unfortunately, mommy blogging hasn’t been one of mine in recent months. Now, I know what you’re thinking, maybe the world doesn’t need another mommy blogger, but this mommy does miss blogging!

The trick, I suppose, is weaving the blogging into my other priorities. Like making money for my family. That’s been a big shift for me in recent months. With E getting bigger and more independent, the worker bee part of my personality has been back in full swing. And, it seems I’ve returned a bit more scattered in muliple directions than ever before.

I finished (and refinished and then finished again…) my middle grade novel. I started teaching games at a Waldorf school. I ramped up my real estate efforts for my husband’s business. I started a home business selling travel items for kids. I…

You get the picture.

I guess the opportunity to reinvent myself has been just too tempting. Why pick one thing? There are so many options! And finally the chance to try IT ALL, or almost all… I’d also like to teach yoga and…

I think that’s going to be in my focus in 2016. Not yoga, but filtering through all the sampling I did in the second half of 2015 to hone in on fewer sources of work so I can accomplish more with my time.

But, while I’m still at it all–

Do you want to publish my middle grade manuscript?

Do you want to buy or sell a house in the Sacramento area?

Do you need any busy bags or cute t-shirts to help you survive your next outing with kids?

See, it is possible to blog and chase all my other goals simultaneously… Or, maybe not. I miss my old blog posts, about things like, you know, getting your stubborn toddler to FINALLY sleep through the night. That will just have to be the topic of my next post. Now that I’ve promised it, I’ll have to deliver, which I guess makes me less of a mom blog failure after all…

Happy holidays from my busy family to yours!

12389148_10104058758971313_1272516092_o

Busy, busy, busy bags for busy, busy, busy people!

Our beta bag is now available on our website: www.wandertots.com
Our beta bag is now available on our website: www.wandertots.com

I feel like it’s obligatory to apologize for being MIA from this blog for awhile. Between my new part-time job as a games (read PE) teacher, starting my own home-based business, and, well, being a mom, life is very, very busy. However, this writing part of myself and everything it encompasses is still at the core of who I am, so I feel I must share these new and exciting parts of my life here as well.

When I started this blog, I was moving into a space where I was giving up my regular teaching job to stay home with my daughter and write. As it turns out, I’m still home most of the time, but I’m doing a lot less writing than I envisioned. Not because I don’t love it, but because creativity comes in waves for me, and I had to put my middle grade fiction manuscript aside for awhile to let it simmer. Someday, I’ll return to it, but right now isn’t the time.

Instead, I’ve committed to some new ventures. For starters, I’m teaching PE in a Waldorf environment a couple days a week and it’s actually really fun. I get to play games with kids and give them the freedom to be inventive while also getting my own exercise alongside with them. Major win!

And, then, there’s my new business. WanderTots. While waiting for E to wake up from one of her marathon naps this summer in Hawaii, it hit me, I could try and market the same busy bags that were making our trip a success. Soon my husband had me ordering toys wholesale so we’d have an inventory waiting when I got home and I’d have no excuse but to leap head first into the world of entrepreneurship. (Thanks, honey!)

The name WanderTots camefrom my love of the word wanderlust. Travel has always been one of my passions and the opportunity to combine it with motherhood was too good to pass up. Thanks to the wonderful advice (and inspiration!) from friends before we left, I had carefully wrapped a collection of novelty items for E to take on our flight. The excitement of unfamiliar goodies kept her occupied almost the entire trip.

Then, to my great surprise, once we got home, that same bag was following us everywhere, to restaurants, family photo sessions, the grandparents’ house. You name it. Suddenly I was able to sit and enjoy a meal again instead of having to chase E around a restaurant. Busy bags literally changed my perspective on taking a toddler out in public.

Amazing how exciting wrapped goodies are for little people.
Amazing how exciting wrapped goodies are for little people.

One of the downsides of creating a busy bag is the time involved in tracking down unfamiliar items and then wrapping them individually. While I had fun in the process, I also recognized that for moms who work full-time or are caught up in other endeavors (like multiple children perhaps!), making a busy bag is a luxury. Likewise, while there are some crafty busy bag options available out there, more commercial-ready choices don’t seem to exist…

So, voila! WanderTots now offers busy bags for busy people! As with any good work in progress, expect more options as time progresses. But, for now, like us across multiple platforms (FB, Twitter, Instagram) and keep us in mind next time you’re out and about and need to occupy your little ones.

Secrets to Enjoying Toddler Travel

This was probably our peak moment of anticipation, not knowing how E would do on the 5 hour flight to Honolulu.
This was probably our peak moment of anticipation, not knowing how E would do on the 5 hour flight to Honolulu after a short night of sleep.

How to survive (and even enjoy!) toddler travel is a hot topic. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I’ll admit I was pretty nervous about traveling with 16-month-old E this summer. Below is what worked best for us, (a big thank you to everyone who shared ideas!).

1. Don’t count on technology to do the trick. While downloaded television shows and apps saved us a couple times on the road, they were worthless on the airplane. Having a back-up plan was key.

2. Busy bags are amazing. They may be filled with simple-seeming items, but wrapped presents doled out strategically throughout our flights really helped to keep E occupied. Look for an entire post devoted to busy bags later this month.

3. Naps matter, but not always. I was paranoid lost sleep would make for terrible travel days, but I was wrong. She did fine on (much) abbreviated sleep. As long as I balanced it with chances to sleep on other days, she really hung in there and did an excellent job. We just made a point to give her as much time as she needed on non-travel days, especially when she started to show signs of exhaustion.

Our busy bags of wrapped goodies proved to be the most useful on the plane.
Hip-hip-hooray for busy bags filled with wrapped goodies!

4. STICKERS. Back to the idea of a busy bag, stickers stopped a lot of fits. All I had to do was offer her one before she got too wound up. In fact, stickers might be the best thing ever.

5. Double check your luggage before you leave. Toddlers like to move things to obscure places, like leaving behind much-needed shoes under beds.

6. Thrift stores can be lifesavers when you need to replace lost items, (like those pesky missing shoes!). A lot of towns have really cute second hand shops devoted specifically to kids stuff, which can be fun to browse. They’re also great for picking up used toys for cheap entertainment in otherwise sparse rental homes and hotel rooms.

7. Bring a set of extra clothes everywhere you go. The potential for food, bodily fluid, and/or excrement messes is high! Plastic bags to store soiled items are definitely helpful. I made a point to organize everything in my diaper bag in different zip-lock bags. This allowed me to find what I needed quickly and prevented spills from ruining everything.

An unexpected perk was traveling with cousins. We couldn't help but joke about finding E an older sibling instead of a younger one.
An unexpected perk was the benefit of traveling with cousins. We couldn’t help but joke about finding E an older sibling instead of a younger one.

8. Umbrella strollers rock. I was tempted to use our baby carrier and ditch the stroller but a friend offered to let us borrow her super compact umbrella stroller. While the carrier was great for going through security without having to chase E around, it saved us a lot of back ache to also have a compact stroller to check at the gate. As a bonus, she enjoyed pushing it around the terminal while we waited for our flight. It also fit easily in the car with all of our luggage, which is great because our regular stroller would’ve been much too big. On a side note, I discovered hiking strollers can be rented for reasonable fees and are delivered straight to your hotel room, so lugging around an enormous stroller isn’t necessary if you’re tight on space.

9. Airlines might pleasantly surprise you. Hawaiian gave us an open seat for E even though we didn’t purchase one for her, (and I’ve heard many moms say the same thing). The extra space was great, especially since it was free. However, it also made me realize her own seat was nice but unnecessary. We shared a seat on the way home and we both did fine. While I understand the car seat safety concern, I also know E would be a screaming mess if I insisted on strapping her into her seat during a flight. I considered the risk of her getting hurt pretty low, although I know this is a hot topic in mom groups.

Hawaii ended up being a pretty ideal place to take a toddler. Understandably, beach is her new favorite word.
Hawaii ended up being a pretty ideal place to take a toddler. Not surprisingly, “beach” is her new favorite word.

10. Accept things will be different than your pre-toddler days. I was able to fit in most of the activities I love, but for smaller chunks of time. Instead of being bummed I didn’t have hours to snorkel, read books or lie in the sun, I really made the most of the little stretches of time she gave me to relax. Same goes for restaurants, site seeing, etc. Roll with it while it works and move on when it doesn’t. The joy in seeing her explore her new surroundings helped to offset the lack of down time and regular naps gave us the opportunity to recharge while enjoying the view.

Over all, traveling with a toddler was much more enjoyable than I expected. Have tips I missed? Please share as I’m certain we’ll have many more adventures to come.

Celebrating Five Years of Marriage WITH Baby

Last weekend we celebrated our anniversary in North Lake Tahoe and brought along the baby. I know what you’re thinking. Not too romantic. However, we took a page out of a friend’s book, and invited the in-laws.

The result?

Weekend getaway bliss!

We got a couple hours to ourselves, enjoyed the sunset and live music on the lake, then took back over the baby watching so grandma and grandpa could have their fun. In fact, it worked out so well, we are now hoping to pair up with other couples to take weekend trips and trade the baby-watching duties for a couple hours apiece. That way, we get the best of both worlds, family and couple time.

A big shout-out to the Hyatt Regency at Incline Village in North Lake Tahoe for being so family friendly. Even though we reserved our rooms on Hotwire, we were still treated well, which is not always the case with some hotels when booked at a discount. If you’re interested in replicating our deal, check out Hotwire in Incline Village, the Hyatt is the only 4-star hotel with 100% positive feedback, so you can pretty much know which hotel you’re getting before you book. Our rate was even better once we clicked, so head over and check it out!

So much fun introducing E. to the lake for the first time!
So much fun introducing E. to the lake for the first time…
Dad loved dipping her toes in the cold water and her laughter confirmed she did too.
Dad loved dipping her toes in the cold water and her laughter confirmed she did too.

DSC03422

Such a wonderful way to celebrate five years married, together as a new family.
Such a wonderful way to celebrate five years married, together as a new family.
Grandma and grandpa were such a huge help. We got plenty of time alone and as a family of three, then enjoyed breakfast together as a big family before we took off Sunday morning.
Grandma and grandpa were such a huge help. We got plenty of time alone and just the three of us, then enjoyed breakfast together as a big family before we took off.
Co-sleeping also made a huge difference for traveling, E. fell asleep easily between mom and dad despite the different environment. We're excited for more travel adventures soon!
Co-sleeping also made a huge difference for traveling, E. fell asleep easily between mom and dad despite the different environment. We are excited for more travel adventures soon!

Baby Road Trip Tricks

Rested baby = everyone happy
Rested baby = everyone happier

I always envisioned parenthood involving plenty of travel adventures. However, now that I have a little one (LO) of my own, I realize just getting out the door can feel pretty intimidating. This summer we have taken three road trips with Eloise. It hasn’t always been easy but we have learned a lot in the process. Here are some of the tricks we have found most useful:

1. Unless you have one of those magical babies who will sleep anywhere, you have to build in nap time(s) for your LO. This changes the dynamic of travel. In my opinion, accommodations are key. You want to stay somewhere comfortable enough that you still enjoy being away from home while your LO sleeps. A view is a major plus.

On the flipside, you have to be strategic about actually getting out and seeing/doing things during your LO’s wakeful hours, otherwise the trip may feel like a waste. This may mean sacrificing a nap or two. Finding the right balance is key as too little sleep can make for terrible evenings but too much may mean you don’t get to enjoy your destination.

We spent a lot of our trip to Mendocino in bed so Eloise could sleep. It helped to be somewhere with such spectacular views.
We spent a lot of our trip to Mendocino in bed so Eloise could sleep. It helped to be somewhere with such spectacular views.

2. Bring a sound machine! White noise will help baby (and you) tune out unfamiliar noises and sleep better. A rested baby (and family) makes travel more enjoyable.

3. Pack more clothes for your baby than you think you will need. Blowouts don’t just happen at home. Two plastic bags, (one for soiled clothes, the other for trash), help too!

4. Be prepared for shifts in feeding (and sleeping!) patterns. If you are a breastfeeding mom, this may mean bringing a manual pump. Eloise is a distracted nurser and it takes time for her to focus. This means she sometimes skips feedings on the road, causing me a lot of physical discomfort. On the same token, a major traffic accident left us at a standstill for a couple hours on the way home from Mendocino. Expressed milk would have been wonderful when she started screaming. Instead I did the famous lean-over-the-carseat trick. Not fun, (except maybe for the bored passengers in nearby cars).

I was reluctant to give Eloise a pacifier at first but it does the trick to get her to sleep in the car. The blanket around the head trick helps too, but I wouldn't try it without someone sitting in back next to her to make sure it doesn't cover her face.
I was reluctant to give Eloise a pacifier at first but it does the trick to get her to sleep in the car. The blanket around the head trick helps too, but I wouldn’t try it without someone sitting in back next to her to make sure it doesn’t cover her face. The carseat safety forum would probably tell me to move the buckle down to her sternum.

5. Carseat safety seems obvious but it is easy to make mistakes when harnessing LOs. In Eloise’s case, I had the straps too high above her shoulders, (straps should be positioned at or below shoulders). Little things like this make a huge difference. Check out this FB group for advice regarding seat safety. You can even post pictures of your LO and techs will tell you whether you’re using your seat correctly.

6. Long rides inevitably involve a meltdown or two, (unless of course you have one of those aforementioned magical babies). I discovered a good bag of tricks goes a long way. Light-up toys that make noise distract Eloise during a tantrum. Likewise, a selection of pacifiers helps to put her to sleep. We hit up the local grocery store before our first road trip this summer and bought a variety. I now won’t drive without a pacifier handy and prefer to keep a few different kinds as she alternates preferences. And, if all else fails, you can annoy other passengers by singing Christmas songs, or my absolute last resort, play cell phone videos. Eloise has a thing for watching her cute self. I’m sure she’s not the only vain baby out there.

7. Don’t bring your whole house. You won’t need it. The second trip we took this summer I brought way more baby gadgets than we needed. Clothes, diapers, medical supplies, carriers, and a small selection of toys is enough. Bigger items like activity gyms and rock ‘n plays did not prove necessary. To save space, babywearing can be a good alternative to a stroller.

Board books definitely make the list for the bag of tricks. Eloise loves looking at the pictures.
Board books belong in that bag of tricks too, Mama!

8. Get gas and stock up on grown-up food before you depart, that way if baby is asleep you don’t have to risk waking the LO for a pitstop. The farther you can make it down the road before stopping, the better. It sucks to be cruising along peacefully and need something you could have prepared for ahead of time. Babies know (and don’t like!) when the car stops.

There you have it. I worked hard to learn these seemingly simple tricks. Traveling with baby has proven to be more work than expected, but definitely worth the memories. I would love to hear your tricks as we are bound to end up in the car again sometime soon (and I still have anxiety about being stuck on the road with a screaming babe). Also, for those of you who have flown with babies, please share what has worked, I need some major encouragement to take that leap!