Pirate party on a budget

pirate headingMy little buddy turned 4 this past week.  Seriously…HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN?  I have a hard time believing it has been 4 years since I had this little guy and that I actually have a 4-year-old.  Sometimes I still feel like I am a young care free adult and not a mom actually responsible for others.  It is a weird feeling…but anyways on to the pirate party.  For a very long time, my little buddy has been asking for a treasure chest. I put him off for months because I thought having a pirate themed party would be great and easy. See his birthday is in October and pretty much anything I needed for a party I could get. WRONG.  No really, wrong. It is actually hard to find pirate stuff.  After several stops and back up plans, I pulled it all together thanks to one of the many different dollar stores.  No pirate stuff, no problem I have a complete list of alternatives since that was my original plan until I happened to locate some pirate themed items for a $1.00.




The whole purpose of the party was to have a treasure hunt to find a treasure chest.  It was cold and rainy, so we kept it indoors.  I was at a local craft store picking up a present for another kiddo, I noticed the treasure chest my little guy is holding (picture below.)  This was his present and part of his own treasure hunt.   Instead of doing favor bags,  I got wooden treasure chests at a local craft store.  They were only $2.99 with a 40% off coupon (and you could easily get them with a better coupon or coupons).  I got paint brushes and 2 paints for the kids to share at the dollar store.  We made simple maps and made big “X” marks the spot.  The kids had a good time looking for their treasure chests and getting their “gold”. The birthday craft was painting the treasure chest and telescope (toilet paper roll). 




 What do you notice in this picture?  Kids fully engage in their painting!  I promise I did not pay them to pose!


The kids also had a game of pin the eye patch on the pirate.  I just happened to find this at the dollar store I went to, however, I was actually just going to make my own on poster board, but hey for $1 why not?



I really wanted to make my own treasure chest cake but sometimes you have to accept you cannot do it all.  I worked 12 hours on Thursday, Halloween was Friday and the party was Saturday afternoon.  Thank goodness for Wegmans is all I have to say.


If you want some free printables you can check some out here.  I would say overall this was a great party and we had a blast.  I hope your party is just as great. Below are some other fun photos from today.




A &I

Party list:

Party Supplies: Any type of dollar store is great for balloons and other party supplies.  No pirates, not problem just choose black and red. 

Paint and brushes: Any type of dollar store. 

Wooden treasure chests: Any craft store.  Don’t forget your coupons!

Cake: if you make it you will save money.

Food: We did an afternoon party and provided snacks.

We had a great time.  If you do a pirate party I would love to hear about it!

Choose Happiness,

 Jessica Lynn




Birthing Day(s)

My son turns 4 tomorrow.  I have mixed feelings this time of year-feelings you may be surprised to read. But I have now given myself permission to admit this to myself and others.

On my son’s first birthday, I got many texts, calls, Facebook messages all saying happy birthday to my little buddy.  I was grateful that so many people remembered him. One of the text messages was from a friend saying “Happy Birthing Day”.  That was the first moment I allowed myself to feel all the feelings I had about my son turning one. Someone had validated that I gave birth a year ago and that is actually a big deal. See the thing about your child’s birthday is we are told it is a time to celebrate and remember all the positive things that have happened over the year.  It is a time to be grateful and be blessed. 

However, I get flooded with emotions this time of year.  My son will be 4 tomorrow and I think about how amazing he is but I also can’t help reflect about my own birthing experience.  Prior to actually giving birth, I had a lot of expectations for what my experience would be like; for one I wanted a natural birth.  During my pregnancy I had high blood pressure and it eventually became evident that my natural birth would not happen. I would need to be induced. I was induced at 39 weeks.  On a Monday evening I went to the hospital to begin the induction, only to be sent home when to many other woman came in that night that were in labor.  I went again on Tuesday morning.  It was not until Wednesday evening that my labor actually began and I had my son mid-morning on Thursday.  I will save you from the details, but a lot of this birth is not what I wanted nor expected.  That impacted me. 

My birthing experience impacted me

Have you ever acknowledge that before or said that out loud?  My birthing experience impacted me.  It feels good to say it.  We seem to live in a society that gets so excited about a new baby that we tend to forget that a woman just went through a huge life event. Maybe someone who comes to visit the baby asks how your labor was and you give a quick answer or share just the facts.  But what about your feelings? I know a lot of moms and talked to several about their birthing experiences. Not many share about their feelings about the actual birth. I am not talking about just the pain but the real feelings about their experiences of giving birth and the aftermath.  Here are some of the feelings I felt before, during and after giving birth.

Alone- I have a pretty amazing husband who was supportive throughout, but there is something about not fully understanding what is happening that can be isolating.

Scared-Not knowing what is happening to my body.

Embarrassed-lets face it-birthing a child is not pretty!

I remember feeling confused because even though I had those feelings, I still had feelings of pure joy but just having no idea what to do.  I could not just get over those feelings. I remember people coming to visit being so excited about meeting my new baby and me feeling like I just want to be with my husband and baby but not understanding why I was feeling that way.  Then and now, I am grateful that I did have some people in my life that I could open up to and be honest.  I will never forget my sister’s wise words. 

Giving birth: “There is no other medical procedure that you are expected to have an audience” 

My sister is right. I can’t think of another medical procedure where people ask to watch, hang out for hours, or visit people that actually need recovery time.  Looking back, I think I needed to process this whole experience.  I needed time for myself and family.

Why am I sharing all this with you?   I share this because between 25-34 percent of women report that their births were traumatic.  The American Psychological Associate reports that 9-16 percent of women will develop postpartum depression.  These are women you encounter everyday.  You can reach out to them.  Sometimes women just need to talk, have their feeling validated, or just be told that they are not alone. Their child’s birthday may actually be a reminder of a difficult time.

This is just something we don’t talk about.  So maybe we could change that?  Maybe the next time you wish a child a happy birthday, you could acknowledge that mom about her birthing day.  It may not be something she wants to talk about or maybe it is something she is thrilled to talk about, but just remember that that day has a lot more feelings associated with it then just celebrating a birth. 

If you are still struggling with some of these feelings, please seek out professional help.


Happy early birthday to my amazing little guy!  It is hard to believe it has been 4 years.  I am blessed to be this guys mama!

Be Happy,

Jessica Lynn

Hiking with Toddlers


Hiking image 1

This past weekend, my sister was traveling to New Hampshire and invited my family to attend.  My husband and I lived on the seacoast of New Hampshire for several years and I miss it terribly, so I jumped on the chance to visit New Hampshire.  We stayed in the White Mountains.  Fall foliage in the mountains, it doesn’t get much better then that! This was a great trip.  HikingWe went to the Squam Lake Nature Center one of the days.  I highly recommend it if you are traveling in New Hampshire.  We also did some hiking.  I wish this was a post about how I was completely prepared to go hiking with toddlers, but it is more like, I went hiking with  toddlers and here are some things I probably should of done kind of post. 

 I am so proud of my kids, my niece and nephew.  They did a great job.  My 2-year-old walked a lot of it and my 4-year-old did the whole hike.  We actually thought we were doing a walk, but it turns out it was a hike.  When some boulders are involved and you end with an amazing view, that is a hike.  My kids loved it.  This makes my heart full because I love hiking, being out doors and hope to pass this along to my kids.  So, here are some lessons learned about hiking with toddlers.

Ezra hiking jpeg

Hiking with Toddlers

1.Go slow

This is actually something that I talk about a lot and just shared in my post about a mindfulness walk with kids.  Your little ones can’t go that fast and nor do they want to.  They have short legs.  It is just impossible for them to go fast.  Also, they want to stop and look at the rocks, sticks, bugs, whatever.  This is actually a good thing.  We rush to much.  Learn from your kids.  Go slow and enjoy it.

2.Let go of expectations

If you are expecting that your kids will walk the whole way, enjoy the hike completely, please just let that go.  Chances are you will hold your kid.  If you are going to put any expectations on the hike, expect to hold your kid at some point.  Maybe have enough adult/child ratio so that you don’t have to hold more than one.

3.Bring snacks and water

Kids get hungry and need energy, so make sure they eat.

4. Tell your kids they are doing a great job

Encourage your kids along the way.  They need that. 

5. Look up the hike and make sure it is appropriate for hiking with little ones

Remember to always be safe. Know you can turn around if you need to.

I have attached another helpful article about hiking with toddlers here.  Being outdoors does a lot for our own happiness.  Connecting with nature, breathing the fresh air just helps one feel better.  Getting out and creating these memories with your children will be something that you both can hold on to.  I hope everyone gets out and enjoys the beauty this fall. Below are some pictures from our hike.  Not the best pictures, but I am glad I have some from this day.


all 4 kids2

Trying to get 4 toddlers to take a picture is impossible


lake pic

family photo hiking

 Be Happy,

Jessica Lynn

Mindfulness Skills for Children-Nature Walk

Earlier this week I had a great mom day.  To be honest, I totally rocked it.  I usually don’t rock it as a mom, so I was feeling pretty good about myself.   It was the kind of day that I thought, this is why I have decided to work part-time and wish I could be home full-time. The kids and I spent the whole morning together enjoying our time. I didn’t get frustrated and my kids didn’t cry, whine, complain or run off in two directions! It was amazing!

So what was different about this day?

First of all it was a Tuesday and I was present- fully present.

Nature walk 5

Tuesday are becoming my favorite day. I typically do not work Tuesdays so I don’t have to worry about getting home for work, what to leave for dinner, what needs to get done after I leave, or really anything related to life when I am not home. I can just enjoy the day and end it with a family dinner (which unfortunately isn’t every night due to our work schedule).  So I truly value Tuesdays.

I had decided to take the kids on a nature walk and thanks to www.makeandtakes.com I was able to print out these great nature scavenger hunt worksheets. Together the boys and I headed up to a local nature park to find all things related to nature. Each had their own sheet and I brought stickers to mark when they found something.  The boys had so much fun.


Nature walk

I use times like this with my kids to begin to teach and model mindfulness. As adults, going on a nature walk can be a quick way to become mindful in the moment and reduce stress. Here are some suggestions to help you begin to teach mindfulness.

1. Get down on their level.
When you are looking for your items in the scavenger hunt, kneel down to talk to your kids and see it from the view they observe.

2. Do not rush them.
As adults we can often be in a hurry, maybe our competitive side comes out or we focus on completing task, while our kids would rather pick up sticks. If they pick up the sticks, that is ok. Talk about it. What do you observe? Go slow during the walk.  It is not a race. Just be with them at their own pace.

3. Ask them about the item.
What do they see, hear, and feel (I wouldn’t necessarily recommend taste-but if they are anything like mine, you might be asking). Allow them to take a few minutes to observe the object.  For example: Pick up a leaf and have them touch it for a few minutes.  What are the colors, what do they feel, is it smooth?  Have them describe it to you.

4. When on your walk, ask them to stop and be silent.
Follow up with what did you hear. Teach them to listen to the birds, leaves falling or a squirrel running.

5. Use this opportunity to practice deep breathing.
Deep breathing is an excellent tool for adults and kids.  Take a moment to stop and teach them about deep breathing.  Follow up with a question such as “what do they smell in the woods?”

6. Talk about being grateful.
Use the time on your walk to talk about being grateful for all the things you see, hear, for the walk and each other.

Mindfulness is about observing your thoughts, feelings, and surroundings without judgment.  Kids may not  fully understand what being mindful is, but doing these suggestions Continue reading →

Moms Matter, Too

Moms Matter, Too


Crystal Saltrelli, CHC

There’s something especially confusing about birth-related trauma. Unlike those exposed to war, abuse, violent crime, or life-threatening accidents, new moms are supposed to be happy.  As long as the baby’s healthy, that’s all that really matters, right?

I remember people coming to visit my daughter the day after she was born, which was also the day after I hemorrhaged a liter and a half of blood and underwent two emergency surgeries. The hospital room was packed with smiling friends and family.  I was opening gifts and answering the usual questions – weight, length, time of birth — all while receiving my third blood transfusion in 24 hours.  It was a strange experience.   

Not that I didn’t want our loved ones there to celebrate our daughter’s arrival. I did and I was happy that they were all so excited to meet her.  I was excited, too.  See, this is part of what makes birth trauma so isolating and difficult to speak about.  There’s a tangled web of feelings that surround it. On one hand, I was so incredibly grateful for my baby girl and wanted her to be the center of everyone’s love and attention. On the other hand, I was desperate for those around me to acknowledge the physical and emotional pain that I’d just endured and make it clear that I mattered, too.

When we left the hospital four days later, I could not stop crying.  The nurses seemed slightly concerned, but nobody asked any questions. I suppose they thought my tears were due to hormones or the joy of bringing my baby home.  In actuality, I was

consumed with anxiety and a sense of overwhelm.  The hemorrhaging and subsequent surgeries had been the most painful and terrifying experiences of my life.  I truly thought I was going to die that day and I’d had no time or space to process any of it.

That’s another difficult aspect of dealing with birth trauma.  In those first few weeks, or months if you have a sleepless baby like ours, your basic needs are constantly compromised.  Had I been able to sleep, eat well, and prioritize my own self-care, perhaps the anxiety wouldn’t have continued to mount the way that it did. 

When Lily was three months old, I found myself parked in front of the Emergency Room, sobbing uncontrollably because I was certain that something terrible was about to happen to me.  When the panic subsided and I heard the baby screaming from the backseat, I knew that what I was dealing with wasn’t “normal.”  

I talked to my doctor, again hoping for someone to acknowledge all that I’d been through and help me figure out how to deal with it. Despite following her suggestions, I continued to have regular panic attacks and developed a host of frightening physical symptoms, including numbness, tingling, heart palpitations, vision changes, and dizziness. I saw a neurologist, a cardiologist, an eye doctor, and an ENT specialist. There was nothing wrong with me.  Except, I know now, post-traumatic stress. 

Throughout this whole ordeal, when someone asked me how I was handling it, I’d simply answer, “it’s been a lot.”  I couldn’t even begin talking about the postpartum complications, or the lasting implications, without breaking down in tears.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, few people actually asked – not even the doctors.  

Not many people want to talk about birth trauma. It’s uncomfortable, it’s scary, and it’s hard to understand unless you’ve actually been there. For a long time, I didn’t want to talk about it, either, for those very same reasons. I didn’t want to scare anyone who might be pregnant. I didn’t want to deal with well-intentioned but dismissive responses like, “at least your baby is healthy!”  I didn’t want to seem as if I was over-reacting, ungrateful, or seeking attention. 

Two years later, I’m still struggling with monthly panic attacks and lingering physical symptoms but I’ve since realized that in order to heal, I need to talk about it. I need to give a voice to my experience, to validate that it happened, and that it changed me — probably forever, but hopefully in a way that will make me more compassionate, more present, and more grateful in the long run.

Despite how isolating this experience has been, I know that I’m not alone. There are millions of women around the world who have experienced trauma related to giving birth, whether due to medical emergencies, forced interventions, unplanned C-sections, or feelings of mistreatment.  It’s my hope that as a community, we’ll continue to broaden this discussion, offer support to those who are struggling, ask more questions, and be willing to hear the answers. Because moms matter, too.  

Crystal Zaborowski Saltrelli

Empowering people to live WELL With gastroparesis and beyond


Positive Affirmations for Moms

positive affirmations

I am very excited about the upcoming year of MOPS.  This years theme is Be you, Bravely.  I feel that this has been a theme over the last few months for myself and cannot wait to explore this topic more, challenge myself and do something different.  To begin to be brave, I am working on sharing my feelings more, sharing more about myself and wanting to inspire.  I truly believe changing your thinking to be more positive can help one become happier.  I wanted to share one way that anyone can start to change their thinking…POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS!  I know, those don’t really work or that sounds silly.  I have heard it all.  However, when you begin to practice saying something nice about yourself it can help to lower your stress in the moment, focus on something more positive and it starts the process of changing your thinking.  I use positive affirmations a lot and I thought I would share some of my favorites.

Positive Affirmations

I am their mother and I know I can do this

This moment will not last forever

I am happy

I am worthy

Only I can give my kids a happy mom

You are doing a good job and sometimes an amazing job

I love my body, it created two amazing children

I love my children

I am brave

I am a blessing to my children

It does not have to be perfect

It is okay and I will be okay

I am enough

 Next time you want to complain that your kids are fighting over a toy or you have changed so many dirty diapers you begin to think you smell like one, say to yourself a positive affirmation such this moment won’t last forever or I am a blessing.  When it comes down to it, you are ENOUGH.  Remember this affirmation.

Be Happy,

Jessica Lynn





Getting Your Kids to Eat Healthy


I am currently watching the Today show  while I write this and the segment is “what is a healthier choice”.  We are inudated with media coverage on eating healthy and exercising.  Yet, as a country we still struggle with having healthier lifestyles.  Recently an anti-obesity video went viral.  At first glance I was a bit irriated about it because I don’t think blaming and shaming parents is a good way to motivate change.  However, the message is clear, healthy eating habits start young.  I remember reading an article while pregnant that stated something along the lines of ‘what you feed your child in the first 2 years of life will set the stage for their eating habits throughout life’.  I remember that because it made sense to me.  We all know it, but yet it is just so hard. 

So why do both kids and parents struggle with healthy eating habits?

These are the reasons I have learned about why I have struggled with healthy eating habits:

Convenience- this is probably the biggest one for me.

I feel I  deserved to eat that dessert (due to stress, I ate well that day, I want to finish it, whatever! I have an excuse for anything unhealthy I eat.)

I do not like to just eat raw vegetables

It is to much work to cook healthy

I won’t be full

Over the last year I have learned and accepted that these are just excuses and justifications for my eating habits. I don’t want to teach these bad habits to my kids. 

So lately I have been thinking about what do I want my kids to know about eating healthy?

 -I want my kids to understand moderation.

-Babies and toddlers automatically stop eating when they are done.  It is not dictated by anything other than themselves…until us parents try to control it.  I hope they continue this and know that they do not need to “clear the plate”.

-I want them to know that you do not need to eat until you feel full. 

-I want them to understand what they are eating.  I want them to know why a certain food is healthy for them, but also know why others are not.  However, understanding it is okay to treat yourself once in awhile.

-I want them to understand that food is meant to fuel and nourish their bodies.  It helps keep them strong and healthy.

-I want them to know that when they eat healthier it will help their mood.

-If they work as a cashier in a grocery store, I also want them to know what the vegetable is instead of having to ask! 

I don’t always eat healthy and neither do my kids. 

But…I am working on it.

 However, while they are young, I mostly control what they eat.

If I want them to eat healthy, I need to eat healthy. 

That can be hard to swallow.

It is just fact.  I cannot serve my children peas and chicken, while I eat pizza.  Life just doesn’t work that way.

What are your thoughts about healthy eating?  Do you worry about it? Do you struggle with figuring out organic food vs. whole  vs. clean eating?  How do you get your kids to eat healthy?

Choose Happiness,

Jessica Lynn

P.S. I totally ate a chocolate chip ice cream sandwich while finishing this post!








How I Became Okay With Passing Up the Play Date

To the mom who passes up the play date invitation…

Please know you are doing okay and what you are doing is enough.

I am saying this to myself.

My Ideal Play Date:

This is my take on play dates.  I love the idea.  My ideal play date is happening at about 9am and at someones house.  The kids are in a different room playing nicely and you know, SHARING.  The other mom and I are enjoying a cup of coffee and are having a real meaningful conversation that I often crave.


We both become referees.  We have to say no, please share, give so and so a chance etc.  I worry about spilling my coffee as my son comes up for a big hug.  I can’t be as open as I want because I can’t share about my struggles in front of my kids. Sometimes it is just hard getting there on time or if the play date is at my house, that means I  have to clean, which may not happen.

When I first started going on play dates, I tried to make sure that I had a lot planned, got out of the house and I wanted my kids to socialize. 

What happened? 

Often they would take a longer nap or no nap, get sick or I would just be to overwhelmed.  I set expectations that could not be met by myself, my kids or the play dates. It was just exhausting.

I struggle with getting out of the house on time, I struggle when my kids are not “behaving”, I struggle with being judged on my parenting and so much more. So I learned that it was okay to just pass on the play date.

My solution:

I have learned for me I like to keep the kids busy with activities, but they do not always need to be formal play dates.  Want to meet me at the park? Great.  I will meet you there and probably only give you about a 30 minute warning I am going.  That is just how I am.  Parenting has really taught me to take it one day at a time.

What are your thoughts on play dates? Do you need them, kids need them or would you just rather pass? 

Be Happy,
Jessica Lynn


Believe in Love

Guest Post by Marissa 
My husband and I have been together since 2002.  We have been married since 2009 and have two beautiful little girls ages 4 and 2. When I think of our relationship, the first word that comes to mind is, easy.  Don’t get me wrong, there have definitely been rocky roads that have strengthened us as individuals and as a couple, but on a daily basis, it’s so easy to be married to Alex.
On September 11, 2001 (before our relationship), Alex was working for Rural Metro in Buffalo when he received the phone call that the entire nation was tuned into.  He was asked to report to NYC to help rescue any survivors that next morning.  Unfortunately, there was nobody to rescue.  At the time, Alex was a twenty-year-old college student who involved himself in everything academically and socially.  He never knew how that day would affect him, as well as millions of others, for the rest of his life.
He among most who served at 9/11 was diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).  PTSD can be triggered from any traumatic event in one’s life and without proper help, can destroy someone.  Alex sought help in 2002, when we first started dating.  The counselor taught him to put up walls to block his anger, fear, hatred, guilt, which at the time may have been what he needed, but it definitely was not good for him in the long run.
Fast forward to March of 2013.  I was on my way home from meeting my college friends (Jessica being one) for dinner. Alex sounded “off” on the phone. He is usually an easy going, happy person but his temperament was being tested for some reason.  Thinking he was upset with me, I became defensive.  Suddenly, he sprung upon me that he thought for the past month something was wrong with him. PTSD was then explored again. He explained that it was difficult for him to recognize feelings other than anger and hurt.  He said that he knew he loved me, he knew he loved the girls but he couldn’t feel it.  It surprised him when he realized that he couldn’t truly remember the last time he felt love.  Like a bolt of lightning, my “easy” marriage took a dramatic dive. 
I didn’t understand. We had the ideal life. We were blessed with health, family, love, jobs, everything that we needed.  I ordered two books on PTSD immediately-one to help him cope and one to help me understand. It was uncanny how each book painted the exact picture of us individually and as a couple. Wow. Talk about an ah-hah moment.
We talked more in-depth in the two weeks that followed than we had in the past 13 years.  Many of the conversations scared me. There were points were he mentioned how he wasn’t sure if this life was the life he envisioned. He wasn’t sure if the feelings he “didn’t feel” for me and the girls were because of the PTSD and if it was, he feared he would never be cured from it.
Of course, my world was upside down.  My mind was rapid exploring every road that this could possible go. My house was never cleaner. Ha. I started planning possible scenarios in my head, where would I go? Who would I live with?  How am I going to tell the girls if this doesn’t work out?
To distract me one day, I went to Old Navy to get the girls some socks. As I walked in, there was this sweatshirt hanging. It was a simple cream sweatshirt, no hood and there was writing on it “Believe in Love”.  I liked the simplicity of it.  I grabbed the only one that was my size and went to try it on. As I slipped my left arm into it, there was a 3″ hole in the forearm.  Damn.  I took it to the checkout and the cashier said it was a final sale because she discounted it due to the rip.  I contemplated, and thought…I guess I could just mend it.
As I walked out of the store, it was as though enlightenment slapped me across the face.  I just bought a sweatshirt that was torn (I am struggling in my marriage), I decided to mend it (Alex, we can fix this), and agreed not to return it (I am not giving up).  At that moment, I knew that we would be ok.  I needed to touch base with my faith, which I somehow lost in the turmoil.
A year and a half later, Alex has successfully completed a PTSD program to help him move on.  We aren’t exactly where we want to be, but have made many strides.  I just needed to be reminded to Believe in Love.

Traveling Before and After Kids

Guest Blog Post By Kim

Kim blogs about her adventures over at www.travelonafullstomach.com

Traveling Before and After Kids


Before I had my son, my husband and I were fond of armchair quarterbacking the parents we saw when on vacation. And we were judgmental. Judgy McJudgerton. After our discussion of what was so wrong with those parents, we would remind ourselves that nobody asked us and laugh that we would never be in that position anyway. Because we weren’t having kids. Ever. Never ever.


Vacation/travel was way of life for us. A couple weeks in Italy in the summer; long weekends in DC, San Francisco, Traverse City, Galveston, the Finger lakes, Toronto; bike tours of Ireland; motorcycle trips in Switzerland; almost three weeks in South Korea; an unhealthy dedication to the Disney Food and Wine Festival. I had spreadsheets, travel apps, plastic folders, and the details of every trip down to the minute. I even planned “free time.” Seriously, it was marked out on our schedule as free time. And then…summer 2010. The Tierce Release Party at Fox Run, Italy for two weeks and then more Finger Lakes wineries. Over the course of a month with more wine than I can reasonably calculate we began to speculate that I might be pregnant. All that secret advice for traveling parents was going to come back to haunt us.

We made a decision to not let having a kid change our lives in terms our travel enjoyment. Excuse me while I collapse in tears of laughter. What were we thinking? So how does a couple bitten by the travel bug maintain that lifestyle with a kid? Lots and lots of changes. How does anyone with a hobby they love keep that part of themselves alive when your new life means you aren’t the center anymore?

Adapt, change, learn and remember what you loved about that hobby in the first place.

I still plan as if I suffer from some kind of travel OCD but now my bookmarks include travel tips with kids, kid friendly hotels, airline policies, and stroller/crib/toy rental companies. My flight plans no longer focus on arriving somewhere as early as possible but instead on the least amount of time in airports. I never checked bags (two weeks is about my max) before but now have lists of what can be checked and what I want to carry on. Most importantly, we travel both with and without our son. I know this is controversial to some and I’ll be the first to say that the pangs of guilt are tremendous and can only be dampened by lots and lots of fine dining and booze. I’m not kidding about that last part. Facetime and drinks can easy many a pang.

So what does our travel life look like now?
We still travel often, but with more repeated destinations to make planning a bit easier. There are two week-long vacations annually; one with our son, one as a couple, usually Disney World and Key West (I’m sure you can figure out which trip is which). Also, three-four short adult trips annually, usually nearby and usually one-two nights; Finger Lakes, Boston, Detroit (I know, but we have lots of friends there…), Vermont, etc. And finally, two-three mommy/Adam trips per year to visit with friends and family. Nothing out of the country yet but we plan to go back to Italy in 2015 for our wedding anniversary with our first family trip to Europe in 2017, probably every other year after that with hopes that Adam will be ready for and interested in cycling tours when he’s 13 or so.
Minimal daily planning—we fly by the seat of our pants more and really try not do everything. I’ve always wondered about those people who stand in the an amusement park demanding that their kids have fun because the trip was expensive (I wondered that before and after having my own) or who insist that their child needs to stop having fun doing what ever it is they are doing to go do some other thing that might be fun. If Adam wants to go on the Indy Cars in the Magic Kingdom eight times in a row (then Dumbo, then seven more times on the cars…) I’m not going to stop him. He’s happy, I’m happy he’s happy, rock on.
My parents go with us on family trips and it’s the best money ever spent. We bought into the Disney Vacation Club just so that this could happen. With our DVC membership I can get a two-bedroom villa with a full kitchen on Disney property for six nights and put my parents in their own room. I get babysitting for two or three nights on those trips. Sometimes that means a nice meal and sometimes it means sitting on the pool deck in the dark with drinks.
I have a kid who thinks it’s normal to sleep in the bathroom. I know some people won’t like this either. Adam has never been a good sleeper and most certainly cannot sleep with other people in the room. It’s never happened, not once, since he was just weeks old. He also doesn’t sleep in cars. I’ve got a horror story from when he was six months old and we tried to sleep all in one room…Until he was just past two he slept in a packnplay in the extra bathroom of the DVC villa or the spare rooms of who ever we might be visiting. Now I use the Intex inflatable toddler bed for our trips and he still sleeps in the sink alcove in the DVC villa. That bed is worth 10x the $35 it cost. I’m hoping that next year he can handle sleeping in the living room on the pull out sofa, but I’ll bring that bed just in case.
I have a checked bag with a noise machine, twilight turtle, toys, blow up mattress, sheets, and goldfish crackers in it. No explanation needed. My carry on has duplo/lego blocks (a quiet toy that is also many toys in one and keeps my kid occupied for long periods on airplanes and in airports), gummies, extra pants, a tablet with headphones, and a Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal in it. I still wonder what all those other parents are carrying in all of those bags!! We’ve used a sling carrier and rented a stroller for most trips and now that Adam is three we use neither. I hate the car seat in the airport nonsense, but you can’t count on a rental car agency to have a good one, so I still carry that. But not much else. I can buy food and drinks anywhere, even an airplane, I don’t feel compelled to carry food for a village on the plane ride.

I don’t drink as much in airports. I don’t sleep as much on vacation. I make paper chains to count the days to our trips. My three year old knows how to go through security. I’ve argued with TSA about breast milk and pumps (that’s one conversation I NEVER thought I’d have…). I’ve carried a backpack on my back and a baby in a sling on my front for longer than any human should have to. My travel memories now include waterslides, pony rides, kiddy roller coasters, failed sand castles, and pushing all of the buttons on the elevator (I’m sorry to all who endured that…).

Our next trip is a Mommy/Adam road trip to Michigan, in two weeks. We’ll drive across Canada and I will answer “why” 10,000 times an hour. We’ll stop to see Niagara Falls and the Blue Water Bridge, eat fast food in rest stops, and play on new playgrounds. We’ll sleep at a friend’s house with our blow up bed. We’ll visit the zoo and science center. Mostly, we’ll continue to make travel fun and an important part of our lives.