Category Archives: Travel

Month Six: The (Sometimes Wild) World Around Her

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Maybe not the most relaxing…

She sleeps in her big red stroller as we navigate the city crosswalks. I’ve learned to look ahead for curbs so I know where I’ll be able to get off and on the sidewalk before the walking man stops blinking and the cars swarm every inch of available asphalt.

Navigating San Francisco’s streets was much easier when I didn’t have two kids. Now the cursing bums, racing cars, and excrement-ridden streets present a gauntlet obstacle course. Her big sister stops to pick up leaves and I cringe at what might be on her hands. A bath is definitely in order.

We cross the path of a homeless woman drinking a forty. She has no hair and her makeup is thick, as though she performed on stage all week and didn’t bother to wash it off. She mumbles something about E being cute. E stops and looks her in the eyes, curious. I nudge her along but she sees something in the woman.

“You’re so pretty,” she says with complete wonder, as if she’s looking at an entirely different person than the rest of us see, if we even bother to glance her direction at all. I’m certain she’s the only one to look this woman in the eyes all day.

The woman stares back, speechless.

“She thinks you’re pretty,” I say as I pull E down the street to keep pace with her dad, who is pushing the stroller. After years of living in Berkeley, we know better than to let our children visit unfamiliar homeless people.

“You’re really pretty!” E yells from a few yards down the street, her eyes still glued to the woman despite being dragged the other direction.

I’m touched but also a little heartbroken. There’s no good way to explain to a three-year-old why she can’t stop and talk to this woman. Homelessness and mental illness are among the concepts that must wait, at least for now.

Last week my sister’s boyfriend had to put his dog down and E overheard us talking about it. Since then we’ve fielded a barrage of questions about life and death and who can possibly make the dog’s heart work again. She wants to believe doctors can fix all hearts. And, hearts, of course, are the magical secret to what keeps us alive. Adding homelessness to the list of big life ideas just feels like too much right now.

The rest of the weekend in the city passes without much drama. We get smarter and avoid long walks through the CBD. I’m acutely aware of how suburban we’ve become and how sheltered our children are already, but I prefer it this way, while they’re this little.

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Silly me for thinking we’d use two beds!

We order room service and enjoy the calm of our hotel room, fourteen stories up. The girls do their own thing while we eat and it’s as peaceful a dinner as I can remember in the last three years. The next day we go to the Academy of Sciences and M sleeps most of the time as her sister runs and explores, chasing real birds on the lawn outside and hiding from pretend earthquakes in the simulator.

For dinner, we decide to be brave and try a restaurant two blocks from our hotel. It’s the kind of place we would’ve picked before we had children. Stellar reviews, seven tables, authentic Italian cuisine. It also promises minimal street time and the possibility of sitting through a real, grown-up meal. Our first, alone, as a family of four.

We start off strong with M asleep in the carrier and E still in good spirits, a miracle really after such a busy day. I ignore the older woman at the table by the door, who loudly announces this isn’t a place she’d bring children. We’re not talking five star gourmet. This is a quaint, hole in the wall on a busy street. We’re not the only family present.

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Moments before the pizza incident.

M awakens after the first course and is all smiles. A relief, we just might make it through a whole meal! Then the waiter delivers the pizza and she sticks her little fingers straight into the hot dough and starts wailing. There’s no coming back. We get doggie bags and finish our meal in our room, a funny memory for later, despite my present disappointment. To console ourselves, we order two huge, but sadly mediocre, pieces of cake from room service.

Our first adventure to the city ends and we lie awake in bed at home, talking. E is sad to leave the castles, insistent we should’ve stayed forever. Out of nowhere, she finishes the evening with a sort of revelation.

“You know that woman I said was pretty, Mommy?”

“Yes…”

“She could’ve saved N’s dog.”

“What do you mean?”

“She was special, Mommy.”

An angel, perhaps? Or maybe just the excellent imagination of a three-year-old.

We’ll probably never know, but it’s a story I plan to keep for always. M six months old, a happy observer of this miraculous, crazy world, and E, almost 3.5 years, already throwing herself into the complex mystery of it all. I fall asleep between my two little loves, grateful to be in my own bed.

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!

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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.

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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!