Motherhood

Traveling With Littles (Things I’ve Learned+Tips, Tricks & Pics)

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Last fall, we took an exciting family road trip to Cincinnati for our family vacation. It was our first-ever road trip as a family of 4. Our children were ages 3 and 6 months.

This (long) post is a culmination of what I learned from our 4 family vacations when my kids were 3 and under.

To be honest, ever since we had kids, when my husband says he wants us to go on a vacation I get a slight headache as I think of alllll the things I must do in preparation for this exciting excursion.

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As a mother, it is my job to smooth everything out. To ensure the comfort and nourishment of my family. Thus, I pack the snacks, bring all the items associated with comfort, hygiene, ect. It is my job to keep things flowing while we are away having adventures.

A does this too but his primary responsibility was driving so sometimes he was rather tired at the end of a traveling day. I don’t blame him…he often got the task of corralling our young son on top of that so yeah. Totally understand.

We had been on vacation with a baby before. J was 3 months old when we took our first family vacation. Between that and the other 2 challenging road trips we had, I felt more comfortable in my preparation.

Vacation #2…was when J was 1 1/2. We traveled over 2,000 miles. Half of it in a tour bus. Do not recommend a trip like that with small children btw. Vacation #3 was a total of 1,500 miles. You can read a bit about that vacation from this post.

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Vacation #2: Florida!
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Vacation #3: Aquarium of Niagara in NY. (One of our many stops.)

Here are some items that I found to be indispensable on our trip. Following the lists I will share some travel tips.

Note: My daughter was exclusively breastfed at this time, and had just started solids. Let me say that compared to our vacation with my formula-fed son, this made things way easier. J was exclusively formula fed as a baby. More on my comparison on breastfeeding vs. formula here.

Alright on to the list.

Toddler + Baby On the Road: Must-Take Items

 

Food (Things We Actually Ate)

Pantry/Non Refrigerated

  • several cases of water bottles
  • diced peach cups in 100% juice
  • chips
  • whole wheat tortillas
  • pretzel sticks
  • granola bars
  • baby food in jars or pouches, if your baby is eating solids. I kept bibs, spoons and baby food in a clear plastic shoebox.

**Fiber is very important! Lots of sitting in the car can really affect kids systems. I brought a few cans of black olives (and a can opener) and some baby carrots for J. But I forgot about the baby! I should have brought canned prunes!

Cold Items

  • string cheese
  • baby carrots
  • chocolate milk (small bottles)
  • juice boxes (partial pack in the cooler)
  • half gallon of milk
  • water bottles

Single servings of drinks were great. I often emptied them into a sippy cup for J. Or with juice, I mixed it half and half with water. We do this at home as well, to cut down on sugar.

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For the cooler, we packed all of our ice packs, then when we got to our hotel, we put everything into the hotel mini-fridge. Stocked the cooler with ice before we left and froze the ice packs if we could.

Keep in mind, if you are nursing that you will need a heaping ton of water/beverages for yourself. Also if your baby is drinking formula, you will need extra bottled water as well.

Helpful Non-Food Items

Kitchen Items:

  • extra sippy cup(s)
  • baby spoons
  • plastic utensils (we ended up just needing spoons)
  • dish soap

Entertainment:

  • Toys that interest baby. This will depend on age and the types of toys they love most at home. Eric Carle and Lamaze toys are brands we’ve loved
  • Toys that the toddler likes. We bought 1 or 2 toys from different places we went. J got a dinosaur grabber toy that he absolutely loved. Fun things that are durable and interesting are good. Toy cars, little figurines (big enough & safe, such as dinosaurs), small books.

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Linens and Extra Clothes:

  • Baby and toddler sweaters, if its that “in between” temperature/ season where you are going.
  • Extra pairs of shoes (because toddlers love puddles)
  • Big blanket.
  • This has multiple uses: 1) prop baby’s head for a diaper change in the car. 2) use for impromptu picnic. 3) use as sun shade in the car (edge of the blanket in a partially open window, then roll it up and shut the blanket in).
  • Hats for anyone that likes to wear hats, for sun protection in the heat. The baby wore a hat when we were spending a lot of time outdoors.

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Other Miscellaneous Necessities:

  • Half a box of diapers, kept in the bag. Stock the diaper bag with diapers so you don’t need to opwn it right away. For us, this was more than enough diapers for a week.
  • As many wipes as you think you need. We took a few packs.
  • A baby carrier was indispensable for us. It saves stroller space, keeps the baby happy too. Switch it up with your significant other, if you can so your back doesn’t go into spasms. Also, put some wipes in a ziplock and put this and a few diapers into the zipper pouch of your baby carrier, if it has one. Saves you from lugging a diaper bag, in some instances anyway.
  • A kids safety harness. We have this one. I frowned on using one initially but realized that in some instances (like near open water) it did prevent a bigger mishap and give us added peace of mind.
  • Any small pillows or comfort items for the kids.
  • A pack and play for the baby to sleep in if you think you’ll need it. Honestly we didn’t bring one this time and just did co-sleeping. Which works for us at home as well. It depends on your preferences and storage space.

 

Travel Tips

As for the actual traveling…yes, there will probably be hiccups. Our baby girl cried a lot because she hated not being held and confined to the car seat. Our son sometimes got worked into a frenzy too. We took breaks for bathroom, small walks/exercise and nursing.

A few pics from our vacation last October⤵⤵⤵

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At the Creation Museum. So excited to get his picture taken.
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Babywearing at the Creation Museum.
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Walking at the Cincinnati Zoo.

It helps to schedule downtime. An impromptu picnic, a trip to a local park. A place to get away from the noise and unwind. Those two things are some real examples and ended up being some of my favorite memories from our vacation.

If you can, schedule your hotel reservations ahead. This helps if you are staying in the same general area for a few days or so. We did this on our vacation and it made things so much easier. There is nothing quite as stressful as waiting around late at night while you try to find a suitable hotel room. Plan ahead and you will thank yourself for it. If you go with one particular hotel line you may be able to get a sizable discount after a certain number of days. I think we had 4 days paid and 1 day free.

Also, if you’re not keen on going out to eat a lot consider eating in. We did not eat out at all when we were on vacation. And by eat out, I mean at a sit-down restraunt, inside.

We got take out from places like Panara Bread and Bob Evans. Usually we just ordered online and my husband picked it up while I stayed at the hotel with the kids.

Routine is good too. Not too much, but enough to keep everyone steady. We liked to go out in the morning after breakfast, then in the afternoon as soon as our hotel room was ready we checked in and chilled out for a bit. Then we got supper, watched tv and maybe ventured out sometime around the supper hour.

One thing I wish we would have done was rented a stroller or cart at some of the places we went. Because the toddler will get tired of walking and want to be carried. And chances are the baby carrier may hurt your back at some point. A stroller would have been welcome relief, even if we didn’t use it the whole time.

That covers a lot of what I learned about traveling with small people. I think that each time I get just a little bit calmer about the whole process. It gets easier the more you do it 🙂

Happy travels with the babies!

~Rachel

Motherhood

Looking Back on a Year of Breastfeeding

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This post is an excerpt from a journal entry I wrote earlier this April.

I can hardly believe I am saying this, but I began breastfeeding my daughter over a year ago. Nearly immediately after she was born, we began this journey together. Only last month I breastfed her for the very last time.

Its not easy to talk about this. Its not natural for me to want to catalog my thoughts on something that became to me as natural and as easy as filling my lungs with oxygen.

Looking back on almost one year of breastfeeding, I think on the challenges.

Beginning was hard. I remember the first few weeks when I thought I’d not do much else besides feed her and change her diapers. I all but gave up on sleep. I was glued to Netflix.

One of the first major challenges was getting through the cluster feeding. For a straight month, it seemed I sat in the easy chair. Literally nursing her from 6pm-12pm. I was spent when I laid her down to sleep. But I didn’t give up. I stuck through it and things got wonderfully easy after that.

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I never really wanted to brag much when it came to breastfeeding. When others mentioned how good it was that I was breastfeeding, I would shrug it off. Hadn’t so many other women done the same?

Breastfeeding was a natural part of being a mother to me. A simple extension of my role as nourisher, caretaker. It seemed nothing to brag about.

Over that year, I had worries and doubts aplenty. I wondered if she was getting enough…she didn’t gain like her formula-fed older brother did.

I had laughs as I recalled all the cramped and silly and different places I’d nursed. The sweatiness in the summer and the wonderful warmth in the winter when I didn’t want to put her down.

And then the time came for her to try cow’s milk. And once she got the hang of it, she no longer preferred the milk that I so dutifully pumped for her.

The day came when she had breastmilk no longer. And while I expected it, it still suprised me and left me with an indescribable emptiness.

Contentment. Pride for what we had accomplished. Happy for her progression. Yet strangely left behind, now that I had fulfilled her needs for this first year of her life.

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~Rachel

Motherhood

Breastfeeding vs. Formula: The Good, The Bad And Everything In Between

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I realize that this is a loaded topic. Not everyone will see eye to eye with me. And that is ok. But this is a post filled with care and consideration. It’s from the heart of a mama who understands both sides of the “coin”. For each of my babies, I made a decision according to what was best at the time. Did I experience guilt when I chose to formula feed? Yes! Did I sometimes doubt my choice to breastfeed and want to give up? Yes, yes and more yes. It’s not easy, being a mother. Making decisions that are hard…especially with so many voices around you trying to tell you what is best. What you need to do.

This post tells the story of my feeding experiences with each of my children. A window veiw of the subject. Because there is much to say and much I could say, but I’ve chosen to narrow it down.

My journey with each child was unique. One was breastfed, then had supplementation, then was exclusively formula fed. The other child was exclusively breastfed, then made the transition to pumped breastmilk.

I hope to encourage both the moms who have chosen formula and the ones that have chosen to breastfeed. This post also goes out to the mothers who supplement and who pump exclusively or partially. You are all important and loved!

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The Baby Stories

J was my first baby. My pregnancy with him was remarkably easy. I was active and young(er) and fairly carefree. I thought that breastfeeding would be easy and natural. Though I was somewhat educated on the topic, but it was perhaps not enough for me. There were many factors that influenced my feeding choice. His birth was somewhat difficult. Adding the task of breastfeeding to my recovery was very hard for me. So when he was a few days old, I began supplementing. When he was about 1 week old, I quit breastfeeding entirely. I felt like a failure but there were 2 people at the hospital whose words stuck with me. Breastfeeding was pushed but these people, they told me not to feel bad. Not to feel guilty. I had done enough and I was not a bad mother for choosing this.

My daughter L was a different story entirely. My pregnancy with her had its challenges. I had the adventurous task of raising a toddler…think walrus chasing after a butterfly. Then I got diagnised with SPD (also called Pelvic Girdle Pain). The pain was thankfully made bearable with the aid of a pregnancy girdle. However…her birth was so different. It was not a difficult birth. And I was incredibly suprised that it happed the way it did. Because of this, my decision to breastfeed got some positive reinforcement. This along with my research, advice, prior experience and good support system made it easier for us to continue breastfeeding.

Positive Aspects

(In my experience, these are all things that I found to be true.)

With formula, there is…

  • more personal space
  • less emotional issues
  • more freedom with diet
  • the ability to feed baby anywhere
  • the fact that the husband/significant other can help
  • no issues related to breast tenderness and leakage

With breastfeeding, there is…

  • more opportunities for bonding
  • more time for downtime and rest
  • the option to feed baby while lying down, half asleep!
  • the assurance that milk will be warm, sterile and fresh.
  • the beauty that your milk is tailor-made for your baby (and changes daily and hourly too!)

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This and That

With formula there was no biting…but with BF, the biting wasn’t often (thankfully).

With formula, I could eat whatever I wanted…but with BF I became more conscious of my diet and ate healthier.

With formula, my husband could help feed…but with BF he could still help by bringing me things I needed and by helping me with J.

With formula, I experienced much less soreness, engorgement, and leakage…but with BF I still dealt with these issues, yet they lessened over time.

With BF I had lots of beneficial down time when L nursed…but with formula I felt I had greater freedom to feed J wherever I needed to.

With BF there was no “gear” I had to carry around (aside from my breast pump on occasion)…but with formula at least I knew J would be fed, even if I was away from him.

With BF we saved money in a few ways…less gear, yes, but also less milk was wasted. There were times when I misjudged J’s hunger or a bottle got left out, etc.)

And I wonder…would it have been any easier to get up and chase down my toddler if L was bottle fed? Any insight to add? I just remember how hard it was to do anything but just sit while I nursed. Ask me about the time I changed J’s diaper with one foot and one hand. Haha…oh the fun.

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So in the end, you can rest in the fact that your baby will thrive on whatever you have and whatever you are comfortable with. Because breastmilk may be good, but formula is good too. Because babies are hungry. And either option is nourishing. Do not feel bad about your decision.

Either way, either decision, method, or combination thereof you make, you have still proven to be a good mom.

These are my observations and experiences with formula and breastfeeding. So many factors go into the choice that is made. People may give you flak and judge you for your choice. But you are the only one who can decide what the best choice is. It may be breastmilk. Or pumped breastmilk. Formula. Or supplementation. Or any combination of these. But whichever you choose, be it born of necessity or preference, remember that it is enough. You are enough. You are nurturing your child and that is all that matters!

~Rachel

 

Motherhood

Pregnancy, Parenting and God’s Grace

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My first clue came on that super-hot second to last day of July 2015. A thought came into my head suddenly and just as strong. I must have peach ice cream. And I must have it now.

It was odd and unfamiliar. My son was then barely 2. I put the possibility out of my mind. Because it couldn’t be. It was crazy to even think about.

I think God read my thoughts and laughed at me. Like the quote from one of my favorite movies Bella (2006) “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”

Lord, my plan is to not be a pregnant mama of a toddler.

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However…my suspicion on that peach ice cream day led to confirmation 3 days later. I could hardly explain the emotions I felt. Shock, disbelief, joy…there was a little bit of despair and resentment in there too, if I’m being honest.

 

I had no idea how I would make it through not only the pregnancy, but also the toddler stage for both children. Simultaneously. It boggled my brain.

(Here I hear the maternal voice of Marilla Cuthbert saying, “If you are going to borrow trouble, borrow it from a handier home!”) Meaning, don’t sweat the future there Rachel. Take it one step at a time. And although I’m a worrier, I did my best.

But being honest…carpe diem, as a mother isn’t all that easy. But day after day, amid many mistakes, we try our bestest.

Is it perfectly done? No. Such things do not exist.

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What does exist is grace. More grace than you could paint the sky with. More grace than drops in the ocean. I don’t know about you but I need that. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sobbed in prayer over my failings as a mother and I felt the sweet, sweet touch of grace from my Heavenly Father.

And although it hardly makes sense and nearly overwhelms me, I am so thankful for God’s grace.

When I got my hair cut not long ago, my hairdresser told me that she thought her one baby was all she could handle. And oh how I understand! “I thought that too. But you adapt.” And you just do. Your heart opens up in ways you never thought possible. Some days will be dark. And some will be so bright.

Being a parent will never be a walk in the park. But that’s the thing about parks. They have sunshine and shadows.

Nowadays I’m on the other side. The baby that my belly held is now no longer a baby but a toddler. And my toddler very soon will leave behind toddlerhood forever.

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When I look back on some of those days, I remember moments that make me smile.

Here are a few:

When my husband was visiting his brother out of state for 3 days my son, newborn daughter and I stayed home. I vividly remember trying to give my grubby son a bath while trying to feed my daughter. I struggled because she wanted to sit down and eat for hours regardless of whatever I was doing at the time. I laugh about it now but at the time I remember lots of tears were shed.

One day I decided it would be a good idea to take the kids on a long walk. My daughter was 4 or so months old. My son was about to turn 3. We walked for about 2 miles I think. I bribed my son with lots and lots of chocolate milk, which was spilled everywhere. My daughter was in my ergo baby carrier, so I got very sweaty (it was summer at the time). I felt bad because I couldn’t carry J, who got very tired. But once in the car, they cooled off and took a long nap. We survived!

My last shared memory is nothing too remarkable but the simplicity and the sweetness of it still stays with me. Last spring my daughter was so tiny and light. I carried her everywhere because she slept often. With just as much regularity, my son was a restless warrior who needed to wiggle and run. Almost daily, I took them both outside for walks. L in my arms sheltered by a blanket. J beside me, shouting and running, digging and exploring till his heart’s content.

There can be so many difficulties at this stage of life. But if you look hard enough, you can see the sweetness buried ever so slightly in the chaos, the noise, the dirt. Parenting is beautiful. And so are you, my friend! If you feel in despair as a pregnant mama of a toddler, or overwhelmed with your young brood, take heart. There is grace, and there is hope. ❤

~Rachel