Wonky Love

Love is not always a humped crimson orb tapering to a perfect point.  Sometimes it’s a little asymmetrical, dirty and rounded. 

Or life has taken a big hunk out of it.  

Occasionally it’s cracked, misshapen, and poorly sprinkled – yet still delectable.  

Sometimes it’s fuzzy and a bit standoffish.

Unexpectedly its feathery alien aspects will push you to new limits.  

Yet pure glimpses into its soft irregular perfection will overwhelm you.

Whatever the shape, size, or consistency of your love today embrace it.  Happy Valentine’s Day from my afthead (and forehead) to yours.img_1238

Sewing Knew Year

Oh, I have knit, I have painted, surely that’s all I accomplished this New Year, right?  Wrong!  On New Year’s day I completed a project to ensure my chickens stay warm through subzero winter temperatures.  I made window blankets for our chicken coop.  What is a window blanket?  It is Mr. Afthead’s brainchild, which I executed.  (Okay, he helped with the grommet hammering part.)  Window blankets are insulated pieces of fabric created with hanging mechanisms at the top, which can be placed over the windows of the chicken coop to provide insulation and protection from our chilly winter days and nights.  They also keep snow from blowing into the coop.  Let me show you some pictures.

 

I think the window blankets provide a nice pop of color in the chicken run too.  Thankfully these got finished before the snow and subzero temperatures arrived this week.

What!?!  No!  These are not just curtains!  Curtains go on the inside of structures and these are on the outside.  Also, curtains must be ironed and sewn with matchy matchy thread, and these do not.  Finally, these might get chicken poop on them, and that’s probably not a concern with your curtains, right?  Totally different.  The only similarities are that they are made of fabric, cover a window, and must be measured with a smidgen of accuracy.

Let me tell you, we may have to patent these wonderful window blankets, because this past week the chicken coop was eleven degrees warmer than the outside when we had the heat lamp on and the window blankets attached.  Without the window blankets the difference was 4 degrees.  So the chickens are staying toastier thanks to my handiwork and my husband’s invention.

It’s the least we can do for these feathery gals who keep giving us eggs and provide us so much joy.

Oh!  You want to make your own window blankets?  Instructions are coming soon…

If at First you Fail Spectacularly

Fostering cats.  It’s the one thing in life that I can look back on and say, “Well, I sucked at that.”  Last year five tiny baby kittens were taken into my care and four died three different ways.  I broke when the fourth one had to be euthanized and kept the last one to heal my heart.  She has since become a beloved member of our household.


For the past year I’ve held onto this failure.  I have to admit that I have dubbed myself the Cat Grim Reaper.  I’ve lurked on the foster parent group on Facebook and watched litter after litter of healthy kittens grow and thrive under other foster parents care.  I’ve watched sick and hurt cats become sleek and healthy.  Quietly I’ve kept my training up to date in anticipation that I was going to try again.  Once and for all I was going to cement my definition of the kitten event:  bad luck or killer.

Our local shelter just had an influx of animals and needed foster parents to take sick, but not dying, animals home to make room for the new really sick animals.  With little input from my family or friends, I volunteered to take one of the cats.  He has an upper respiratory infection, his leg is bandaged hip to foot, he just got neutered, and he has a heart murmur that needs to be evaluated once he gets over the other ailments.  His name is Bart and he’s a beautiful long haired light grey cat.  He loves my daughter and has a purr that vibrates his whole body when she pets him.


As Bart snores away on the other side of the bathroom door – he is quarantined because of his infection – I’m not confident that he’ll make it.  He hasn’t gotten better in the five days in my care.  We’ve had to change antibiotics, and he’s not eating.  The plan was to take him back to the shelter Tuesday to have his heart murmur evaluated, but already they are saying I might have to keep him longer because he’s not improving.  He is living in a mist of water vapor as I try to keep his nasal tissues from bleeding each time he sneezes.  

Thursday I dreamed Bart was playing with my parent’s cats, and woke with one thought in my head, “This is too much.”  Fostering is just too much for me, for my family, and for my other cats.  I hate saying that.  I feel like some aristocrat looking down her nose at hard work and saying, “Oh no, I can’t do that.  It’s hard and messy and time consuming and inconvenient.”  No part of me doesn’t feel like a failure.  But I’ve had to put a litter box in my bedroom to stop our cats from peeing and pooping on my bed, because the presence of the foster cat near their normal boxes makes them nervous.  My daughter sits stroking his soft fur with tears running down her face. “I’m going to miss Bart,” she says.  I drive back and forth to the shelter to drop him off and pick him up so his bandage can be changed.  I wipe bloody snot off our walls, off of my daughter, and off his fur.  The truth of the situation is that this is not our path, and not our way to help.  Bart will be our last foster and if he dies I will take the mantle of Cat Grim Reaper and wear it, but I will not partake in a third foster experience.  I will find other ways to make the world a better place.

It isn’t all terrible, don’t let me mislead you.  There are moments like this. I hope that Bart recovers and some amazing family gets to enjoy this giant  purr for years to come.

For all those who care for shelter animals, either at the shelter or in their homes, I applaud you. It is the hardest thing I have ever done, and I wish you all the strength and courage to keep doing what you do.

 

Pets 0; Cars 2.

Yesterday was the Girls on the Run (GOTR) practice 5k, and I volunteered to be a running buddy for my daughter and a group of 16 third and fourth grade girls from her school.  They have been training for months and the final race is Sunday.  Wednesday was a big day.  The first time they would actually run five entire kilometers.  Buddies were needed to ensure that no one was left behind as the sprinters and walkers spread out across the course.

It was a warm fall afternoon and the sun was shining.  I had decorated the sidewalk by the side of our house with chalk hearts, GOTR, and arrows, because our house was on the route.  It was my special surprise.  At school, the coaches met with the excited girls for a few minutes and gave them their matching sunflower yellow shirts to wear.  The parent buddies marveled at the amazing weather while waiting to start running.  After no other parents seemed willing to wrangle the sprinters, I took off with the lead group.  Steps into our run we heard a horrible noise: a thump and then a cry.  One thought crossed my mind as I turned back toward the school and the crosswalk we’d just passed.  A kid got hit by a car.

Relief when I saw a golden dog limping and whimpering it’s way across the street.  There was no blood and no gore just sad sounds and a slow moving animal.  One of the Girls on the Run coaches and a mom ran to help the dog.  My 6 girls and I were the only ones who didn’t witness the dog getting hit.  We paused and the kids asked hard questions like, “Will the dog be okay?” and “Will the dog die?” and I said, “I don’t know.”  In no time the singlemindness of 8 and 9 year-olds took over and the runners started again, so I went with them.  After all, we were there to run.

There was no hysteria.  There weren’t even any tears, but each intersection I stopped traffic – the sound of car hitting flesh fresh in my mind – and girls passed me talking to each other. “That dog reminded me of my dog.”  “My mom was crying.”  “Do you think it is dead?”  “I would be sad if it was a cat.”  The conversations continued throughout the run and after we celebrated our accomplishment the dog news was relayed to moms, dads, teachers and siblings.  The coach who stayed with the dog told her story.  The owners were called, but not contacted and a nice neighbor took the dog to the vet in his truck.  “Will the dog be okay?” the girls asked.  “I don’t know.”


 

Today is my work from home day, and I watched our new backyard cat stalk mice, our chickens, and investigate our maple tree.  My house cats dart from window to window not growling but fascinated by the cat that’s outside.  How did she get there and why isn’t anyone making her go back inside?  She’s not our cat, and she isn’t friendly, but chicken bring mice and I’ve been happy to see her hunting the past couple of weeks.  It’s been a few years since Mark the cat stopped coming around and since I’d watched his muzzle and then coat turn from orange to white I assumed he’d passed on.  He used to leave us mouse presents on our front stoop and while the baby  mouse piles were disturbing, I was glad he kept the pest population down.

After picking up my daughter from school I watched the grey cat prowl around our yard.  When she disappeared behind a tree I went back to the basement to finish my work day.  I glanced out the egress window and there she was, her sleek grey fur gleaming and golden eyes staring at a rodent or bug just beyond the edge of the window where I couldn’t see and she couldn’t reach.  I called to my daughter, “Come see the new cat.”  My cats each stretched into the window screen and our family examined her.  My daughter cooed, “Hi cat.”  The huntress didn’t waver from her prey.  Suddenly her focus broke and she glanced down at us before leaping into the front yard.  We all went back to watching TV, typing, or napping in our cat bed.

Fifteen minutes later I heard my husband come in the front door.  He thudded around upstairs and tromp tromp tromped down the stairs.  He greeted my daughter who ignored him in favor of her show.  He stood by me and said quietly, “You know that grey cat that’s been around.  I think she got hit by a car.  I saw someone stop and pick up her body from the middle of the road.  She’s lying in the yard across the street.  She’s not moving.   She’s definitely dead.”

“I just saw her.  She’s been around all day.”  Back upstairs I stared out the kitchen window at an unmoving pile of familiar grey fur sprawled in our neighbor’s yard.  Her positioning and stillness left no room to wonder if she was going to make it.  Her body was right across from the colorful hearts and arrows I’d drawn.  Our new outside cat wasn’t going to help manage the rodent population anymore.

My husband pointed to the white car with blinking hazards, “That was the person moving her.  I hope they are calling someone.  Did she have tags?”  I didn’t remember.

Numbed I went back to my computer and when my daughter asked what was going on I said, “I don’t want to tell you.”  I kept working and my daughter went upstairs to find her dad. I held myself together until her little arms wrapped around my neck and she said, “I’m so sorry mom.”  Only then did I cry.  I cried for the pets, for the owners, for the kids that witnessed a car hit a dog on what was supposed to be a magical day, and for my daughter who would have been “sad if it was a cat” the day before.  When I was done, she sobbed.  “Mom, animals do so much for us.  Why do we run them over?” All I could say was, “I don’t know, kiddo.”

I glimpsed the grey cat’s body across the street while I made dinner.  When I noticed my daughter crying while staring out the window I paused.  We hugged and she moved on. When dinner was finished I looked and even in the dark I could see that the remains of the outside cat were gone.   “Mom, do you think an animal got her, or did her owners find her?”

“I don’t know.”

Call me farmer Afthead

The Afthead family got some chickens.  After the rough experiment fostering kittens last year we left the mammal group of the animal kingdom in favor of the bird group.  Meet Buffy, Rosie and Hope.

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“What?!?!  You got chickens?” asks Hope.  The girl with her face in the camera was named after Hope Solo.  We got the chickens during the Olympics and little Afthead decided the representative of the Ameraucana breed had to be named after an American athlete.  As a big soccer fan she decided Hope was a good chicken name.  (Given Ms. Solo’s antics during the Olympics I think having a chicken named after her is appropriate.)

This goofy girl is a Buff Orpington.  I really wanted to name her Buff Orpington the Third, because she’s such a formal sounding breed, but Mr. Afthead won these naming rights.  Buffy was the obvious choice for this brave vampire hunting fowl.  In the coming years I’m hoping that in between laying eggs for our family she’ll star in her own sitcom or maybe a movie about a vampire, werewolf, chicken love triangle.

Finally we have Rosie, the littlest of the chickens.  From the beginning she’s been the sweetest, the most friendly and, of course, was the one that almost got sick and died the first week.  Yeah, we appear to attract sickly animals.  After panicked googling, visiting feed stores, and syringe watering this little girl she’s now in great health.  All that hands-on attention in those early weeks has made her brave, well socialized and willing to pose for pictures.   “Who’s a pretty bird?  You are Rosie!”  Momma Afthead got to name this one, and I went for the obvious color-related name for this member of the Rhode Island Red breed.

So that’s our flock.  Really, I have no idea why we are trying this adventure.  We aren’t big local food people.  We aren’t even big egg eaters.  I think Mr. Afthead wanted a project, and converting little Afthead’s old playhouse to a chicken coop seemed like fun.  Of course little Afthead was in: what kid doesn’t want chickens?  It’s all I could do to keep her from grabbing bunnies, turkeys, miniature goats and peacocks from the feedstore the day we got the birds.  Man, that kid loves animals.

Me?  I’m still on the fence about about being a chicken farmer.  While I love them much more than I expected I don’t appreciate my morning, “Are the chicken’s dead?” routine.  I’ve never cared if skunk, fox, coyote, stray dogs, feral cats, or opossum lived in my backyard before, but now they are all chicken dismembering predators waiting to infiltrate every nook and cranny of our chicken habitat.  Ugh.  I’m crossing my fingers and hoping we can get these girls through to the spring, so at least we start getting some eggs.  I’m also hoping if something gets them it isn’t a week when my husband is traveling.  I don’t want to handle a chicken murder scene alone.

Now off to go find some overalls, a nice straw hat and a toothpick to chew.  Come back soon, y’all.  I tell ya more chicken stories.  Ah yup.  “Bawk!”

The Third Day of Third Grade

I watch you.  I watch you watch them.  The pair labeled your “best friends”and the other one.  They laugh and touch and a little girl gravitational force pulls them together as it repels you.

I watch you.  I watch the jealousy and anger coil up inside you and I hope that it finds release before you snap inappropriately.  You stare unblinkingly with your ice blue eyes and the look is pure hurt because you are left out.

I watch you.  I watch as your new friend, “Well maybe friend,” you’ve said, “but not yet” walks up to you and you don’t even acknowledge her presence.  I talk to her and compliment her sweatshirt and make pleasantries, which you should be doing, but you don’t because you can’t stop staring across the blacktop as your best friends and the other laugh at something.  They are too far away, so we cannot hear what they laugh at, but we can see they are having fun without you.

I watch you.  I watch as the second maybe new friend walks up and you ignore her too.  Opportunities surround you but you can’t see them because you want to be over there with them in their class.  You want the comfort of last year.  You want familiar.  You want to be inside the threesome again and not stuck outside looking in.  The two maybe new friends stand silently ignored and you continue fester until you turn and say, “I told you I’m not popular anymore.”

I want to hurl idiotic phrases at you.  You catch more flies with honey.  Life isn’t fair.  Make new friends, but keep the old.  I want to stop your stare and refocus it on the sweet kids around you.  I want to plaster over your hurt and wounded heart and tell you it will be okay, but I don’t do any of that.  It might not be okay.  You might lash out at your old friends and miss the opportunity for new friends.  You might lose them all.  I wish for a tree to sprout between your class’s line and the other class’s line so that you don’t have to see them having fun without you.  I know it might be a long and lonely year.

I think of Rachel and Stacy 34 years ago on my playground.  I remember wishing for what they had: for the heads close together and the whispers and hand games and true friendship and wondering, “How do they do that?”  I remember longing for what they had, but never finding it.  I watch you and hope the hurt of my third grade isn’t repeated in the next generation with a different pain of loss instead of longing.

I watch you and feel the agony of a mother’s anguish.  I watch you and hope it will be okay.

The bell rings and the pain of everything makes reach for a hug and kiss, needing to be loved too much to remember I’m embarrassing.  I pour my heart into you, because you are loved and you are amazing and you can do this, and then we part.  I watch you.  I watch you walk away alone.

 

 

Kiddo Travel Hacks – Kid Phase

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Now that my daughter is a rational, reasonable, logical human being (mostly) I love traveling with her.  Her bodily fluids stay inside of her (mostly.)  She’s helpful at the airport (mostly.)  Her eyes see wonders that a solo traveling adult would miss.  We wait to watch the airplane drive under us on the walkway to the terminal.  (Yes, airplanes drive under walkways sometimes.)  She notices a friend at a neighboring gate, and we have a lovely conversation that I would have missed with my head down in my electronic device. I’m an observant traveler, but she really makes me be present.

My absolute favorite trick to traveling with kids is a game I made up on the spur of the moment.  It works for any kid who can count to at least 20.  The day the game was invented we checked our bags and headed toward the security line (cue ominous music).  In one of the mysteries-of-TSA moments the line was long.  So long.  Longer than the line had any business being.  All around me adults were “F-ing security!” and “F- you, why didn’t we leave sooner?” and “F- I’m going to miss my flight!”  In response to my rising panic that my kiddo would hear these angry adults, inspiration hit and I said, “Kiddo, how many big steps do you think it will take to get through this line?”

We started counting big steps.  “Mom, how many do you have?  12?  I have 23.”  I watched as she took an extra big step and stood too close to the person in front of us.  She nodded and said, “24.”  We made it through one wiggle – a phrase coined during the game development which means one length of the barricade wrapped line – and after she tallied our steps she proudly announced, “I’m winning!”  Of course because she has smaller legs it took her more big steps to travel a wiggle so she won.  Silly grown-up me had assumed we were trying to get the least number of steps in per wiggle.  Any game my daughter always wins is a great one, especially in an aggravation filled place like the airport.

Now we play the giant steps game through security.  We play it down the jet way.  We play it wherever there is a line where adults are acting like children who need to have their mouths washed out with soap.  She always wins.  It’s worked for five years, this giant step game.  This year, at 8, she was a bit more shy and afraid of what people would think of our game so we played, but quietly, and she still won.

The other upside of this game is that we almost always attract the attention of someone else who is just trying to make the best of a crappy situation.  We’ll get a smile or a nod, and it makes me happy being goofy with my kid and making others a little happier with our silly game.  The downside of this game?  I abhor long lines at airports when I’m not with her.  It’s all I can do to keep from challenging the angry “F-ing” guy next to me – “Hey, jerk-o, which one of us do you think can take more giant steps through this line?”  Wonder how that would turn out?


The final in a series of Kiddo Travel Hacks where I share my best advice for not just surviving, but enjoying travels with kids.  Also check out the infant phase and toddler phase posts for other tips and tricks.

Kiddo Travel Hacks – Toddler Phase

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Traveling with an infant is uncertain and scary, and traveling with a toddler is just like that, but louder and more mobile.  There’s less screaming for no reason and more, “Want down now!  Now!  Now!” followed by the toddler death screech.  These are the children holding their parents hands walking up and down and up and down the aisle whenever the fasten seat belt light is off.  In my opinion, toddlers are the hardest travel companions.

Melissa, from Parenthood and Passports echoed my thoughts in her comments on my infant post, “The infant days were much easier than the toddler days, I have come to realize.”  She’s so right! (Check out her site if you travel with kids or travel at all!  It’s a fun read.)

How do you travel with a toddler and keep your sanity?  Let’s start with the no/low-cost suggestions:

Talk about the airport ahead of time

Make your toddler aware of the whole flying process.  Talk about the security lines and sending the suitcase off when you check it.  Explain where all their stuff is going, so you can remind them as you go through the process.  “Now remember, this is when blankie goes in your bag and through the x-ray.  Then we’ll go under the bridge.  First you, then Mommy next.”

Make flying an adventure

If you grouch and gripe it doesn’t help, but the airport is filled with amazing things. Notice them with your toddler.  “Don’t the security policemen have cool blue uniforms?”  “You are so special!  You don’t have to take your shoes off!”  “Do you see our bags going on the plane yet?”

Make others like your kid before they become obnoxious

Teach your kid the three rules of flying before you go, repeating them over and over.

  1. You MUST stay in your seat when the seatbelt light is on.
  2. You MUST NOT kick the seat in front of you.
  3. You CANNOT smoke when the no-smoking light is on.

Have your kid repeat these rules as soon as you get on the plane.   Point the lights out.  Explain what the seatbelt rule is and that it is not your rule, it is the plane’s rule.  It won’t end the “I WANT TO GET UP!” tantrum, but it will provide a way to explain without it being your fault.  Also, fellow passengers will appreciate hearing that if their seat starts being kicked endlessly by little feet you are their ally.  The smoking thing is just funny.  Trust me, a three-year old saying the third rule is “No smoking!” is hysterical.

Finally, teach your kid that take-off is called “blast-off.”  Nothing is cuter than a tiny voice shouting, “Mommy?!?!  Is this the blast off?!?!”  Your kid is adorable.  All toddlers are.  (If kids came out at 18 months old and potty trained I’d have a dozen.)  Let their cuteness shine through before it gets tarnished by hours in the plane.

Bring familiar foods and treats

You love the chance to try exotic foods prepared in local styles when you travel.  Your toddler does not.  On the plane bring their favorite cup, and fill it with their favorite drink after you get through security.  Bring bags of their favorite foods.  Slip in a treat or two that they don’t often get to eat.  My kiddo was a pacifier blankie loving toddler, so she got her pacifier and blanket the entire flight.  She also had a sippy cup of juice, sliced apples, and goldfish.  When she wanted a treat she got a ring pop: the pacifier in lollipop form.  Throw away your rotting teeth and nutritious food worries for the duration of the flight.  Make it a comfortable, special smorgasbord.

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Now, if you are lucky enough to have a little extra money to spend there are some higher cost things you can do to make your trip more enjoyable.

Devices and television are your friend

Sure, if you are lucky, your toddler will fall asleep when the plane takes off, but if you aren’t lucky it’s okay to ruin their brains with TV on a phone or tablet while they rot their teeth with treats.  It’s a vacation!  Fun fun!  Also, sometimes there are built-in televisions on a plane that cost a bit to purchase.  Trust me, if you only buy one TV, it’s better to get Disney and Nickelodeon for your kid than HGTV for yourself. Invest in some over the head folding headphones for your toddler.  They won’t be able to keep the earbuds in their ears, and you risk a “I CAN’T HEAR!” tantrum.

Get them their own seat

I know travel can be expensive but if you are traveling solo with your toddler it helps to have an extra seat and an extra under the seat.  I used to travel with my daughter’s carseat because her seat was a familiar space for her.  Also, she was a great car sleeper, and often that translated to a plane sleeper if she was in her own seat.  From a safety perspective, it was easier to ensure she was belted in if she was in her carseat.  That said, try hauling your gear, your kid’s gear, your kid and a carseat sometime.  I had wheels I could put on my carseat, but I have vivid memories of me wearing a backpack, pulling my roller bag – with her bag strapped to it – and carseat on wheels while balancing my daughter on my shoulders walking out of baggage claim.  I swear, I must have grown two extra arms to pull that off.

One thing to know, if you do travel with a carseat make sure it is approved for flight by the FAA and that you put the seat in a window seat.  Those two steps will save you embarrassment and the attention of angry flight attendants.

Pay for stretch seating

If you don’t splurge for the extra seat, try splurging for extra legroom.  My daughter spent many hours on the floor of the plane playing between my feet.  Yes, it is filthy.  Yes, you risk the little one eating some random dropped food.  Yes, it’s amazing to get your child off your lap and get a little space during a long flight.

There is one thing you must do if you are traveling with a toddler, and it will cost you nothing.

Rely on the kindness of strangers

People will be jerks and mutter nasty things under their breath.  People will recline their seats so your kid can’t see the TV.  You can get yourself all bent out of shape, or you can look for the kind smile from the lady across the aisle who has been in your seat.  You can marvel over the car rental person who, when you were returning your car, noticed the toddler in the back and says, “Get in the passenger seat, I’ll drive you to departures.”  There will be an uppity business man who talks Dinosaur Train with your kiddo the third time she launches Buddy at his head.  Turns out he’s a dad under that suit.  I remember the awful flight to Orlando in generalities, but six years later I remember the specifics of the people who were wonderful to me and my challenging, adorable, loud toddler.


The second in a series of Kiddo Travel Hacks where I share my best advice for not just surviving, but enjoying travels with kids.

Kiddo Travel Hacks – Infant Phase

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I love traveling with my daughter.  She’s at an age where she understands that the pain of the drive, the airport, and the lines is more than worth the adventure at the other end.  That said, I remember preparing for infant trips with a pit in my stomach.

She took her first flight when she was a few days shy of six months old.  My husband’s dear aunt was supposed to come visit us, but instead of flying she was doing another round of chemo.  Her cancer was back, but I desperately wanted her to meet her grand-niece.  “No problem,” I said, “We’ll come to you.”  Brave words, but the idea of flying with an infant was terrifying.  On the plane there is so much stuff to bring and so little control over her.  Who hasn’t wanted to rip their ears off because of an infant screaming during an entire plane ride?  Did I want to be that mom with that kid?  While I knew most problems could be solved by baring my breast and feeding her I was not confident nursing in public, so I came up with a backup plan.

My brother-in-law was traveling with us.  Rather than sit with our family, I asked if he would sit in the row in front of us.  Then I made my request.  “If she starts screaming, will you please stand up and start berating me?  Loudly?”  He looked at me with surprise and I justified, “See, I can’t handle some stranger going off on me, but if you preempt it and just start telling me to ‘shut your damn kid up’ and that I’m ‘a terrible mother’ you might circumvent others yelling at me.”

All of my in-laws think I’m crazy, and I did nothing to change my brother-in-law’s mind that day, but he agreed.  I boarded the plane confident that the worst I would have to endure was a baby crying and my brother-in-law acting like a maniac.  I could handle that.  I was armed with bottles, pacifier, diapers, changes of clothes, toys, and digital devices to keep her happy, but if those didn’t work I was also armed with a plan to keep the meanies away.  As usual, when you’ve planned every contingency, the flight was easy.  My daughter fell asleep drinking her bottle as we took off and woke up as we were landing.

When traveling with an infant, figure out what scares you the most, and make a plan to deal with that.  Puke?  Pack two changes of clothes.  Poop?  Do the same.  Germs?  Bring a bag full of 3 oz bottles of hand sanitizer.  Mean people?  Bring your own meaner person.  Travel with an infant is a total wildcard, so do what you can to address your own fears.  If you are calm, you’ll be able to better deal with whatever surprises come your way.


The first in a series of Kiddo Travel Hacks where I share my best advice for not just surviving, but enjoying travels with kids.

Hiatus and Compromise

Oh my dear blogging friends, I have missed you.  The insanity of May flowed into the craziness of June and my poor blog suffered.  In hindsight I should have told you all I was going to be missing from this space, but alas, I just went and left no forwarding address.  Now refreshed and full of stories from a week’s vacation I return ready to blog again.

For starters, let me just say I have finally figured out this “vacationing with a child” thing.  Now, 8+ years of parenting has taught me that the second I utter such words that hubris will destroy me leaving me in the land of horrid vacations for years to come. I shall not be daunted!  I believe this knowledge will endure!  The key to successfully vacationing with a kid is… duh duh duuuuhhhhh…. compromise!  Let’s look at some pictorial evidence from my recent Tour de Soutwest Colorado, shall we?

In order for child(ren) to enjoy the seven mile hike to Lizard Lake, you must first incentivize them with a gnome home contest.  Then, when the whining and complaining part of the hike begins you may be lucky enough to notice a bonanza of snail shells (What?!?  In Colorado in the mountains???  It’s like Mother Nature was on the parent’s side) which will lead to the creation of a snail-shell-walkway which will result in a champion gnome home.  Everyone is happy, especially the gnomes.  Tune in, because I am certain this home will be featured on gnome HGTV for years to come.

Oh, not more hiking.  We adults love hiking, and somehow we think if there is a waterfall at the end the children will like hiking too.  That may work for you, especially if the hike is short and the waterfall is amazing like this one is, but maybe, just maybe, giant inflatable pool toys are more amazing?  Try coupling the success of passing a swim test with an hour of “Water Ninja Warrior” competition – where your child legitimately crushes you on 6 of 6 obstacle runs. (She’s over a foot smaller than me, how was I supposed to fit?  And don’t get me started on her strength to weight ratio….)  The whole way up to that waterfall there will be nothing but joy, especially if you couple the hike with really great rocks in the path.

Oh dear God. You are not done hiking yet?  You want to hike to a cave?  A dark creepy cave?  Well parents, just stick a horseback ride on the front of that cave hike and let Yuma the horse do the majority of the hiking for you. Sure, you won’t be able to walk for a couple days while you develop real understanding of the term “saddle-sore” but your kid will love every minute of the ride there, and then might even surprise you by being the only family member willing to follow the guide “just a little farther into the cave.”  Try not to hang your head in shame while you let your kid go spelunking into the depths of a cave with some guide you met less than an hour before.  She’ll probably be fine and besides, your butt hurts too much to crouch.

EVEN MORE HIKING?!?!  What are you insane?  Is this a death march or a vacation, I ask you?  Well, if you can hike in a creek and, I don’t know, pick up even more cool rocks then maybe you can squeeze one more hike in.   Note: we may have failed on the rock portion of “take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints” goal of hiking, but that’s okay, because you are done hiking now, right.  RIGHT???

Let me tell you, at some point you have to put your butt down.  Sure the top of the sand dunes are very tempting, but that sand is hard to walk on and after awhile there is so much of it in your ears you can’t hear the pleading, “Can’t we just go a little farther?”  Fine, go a little farther, but me and your backpacks of water and snacks are staying here, far away from the sand ledge of death – which somehow didn’t claim my family (or any other lives) during our trip.  You go on to the top.  I’ll wait for you, even without any rocks to gather.