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"called to build the kingdom first through the romance and adventure of our home..."

 

Post 46 | Pink Air + Maya

“anything that works against you can also work for you 
once you understand the 'principle of reverse.'” 
maya angelou

In the news of her death, a well-deserved online observance is occurring for Maya Angelou.  Quotes, praise, and gratitude -- I hope her family and closest friends feels the support and honor.  She deserves every letter of it.  But it also makes me smile, a bit.  People who could barely answer basic questions about her life, people who have never read one of her books, people who have no idea what she did with her 86 years, or where she came from are all of a sudden so interested.   Most of us posting about her can recall popular tumblr .jpegs or pinned designs with words of hers, and perhaps didn't even know she said them.  Hailing her as their hero! Inspiration! What an incredible legacy! (which, she IS all those things)  implies that we, collectively, as a generation, know her life.   I immediately felt foolish snagging a line from her, and vaguely inferring that I had been deeply impacted by her.  I don't know Maya Angelou, or much about her.  And maybe I'm one of the few.  Maybe most people know that following her rape she went through five years of silence, until her teacher made the effort to go on a Marguerite Treasure Hunt and open the jewels in side her.  Maybe most people know her real name is Marguerite Ann Johnson, and that she was the first San Francisco African-American cable car conductor.  And that she was a professional dancer, had her one and only child while in highschool, worked in Cairo, Egypt as an editor, that before her the last poet to share at a presidential inauguration was Robert Frost.  Maybe most people know that she composed, sang and recorded her own album which turned into an off-broadway review (she performed there, too).  Did you know that she worked at the University of Ghana, in Ghana, and was a professor at Wakeforest?  That she defied social norms and her mother to marry a greek man as a black woman? Did you know she has two cookbooks? (NewsOne) I didn't. 

In the two or three days I've had the pleasure of reading more about this woman, I've been moved.  She's far more than an aw-moment at midnight, and her thoughtful words come from decades of torment, risk, exploration and pursuing her happiest things.  She, quite simply, can't be labeled by a job description -- she did a little bit of everything, and I would imagine that took some big girl panties.  It took steel skin despite hate and shame.  It took grace, poise and stubbornness.  She writes with experience, and it's just plain lame to pretend like we know what she was talking about, or what she means.  The beauty of life is that even without knowing her well, or understanding the depths of life she endured and rose above, we can commiserate with even a single sentence from her mouth. 

Since mom and Ryan have passed away, a familiar refrain in my head and amongst loved ones is "I can't wait for heaven."  And when I say it, I mean it.  I can't imagine looking forward to the promises of "pain erased, joy full, faces unveiled" any more than I do right now. Yet, interestingly enough, as the days tread by and by I find myself with more hope for being alive on earth than I ever did before.  Not just hope that someday earth will be gone, but hope here, now!  Hope that is dumbfounded at the joy that comes through overcoming a challenge -- there will be no challenges in heaven (praise God!)  I appreciate,  "the period of silence [and pain] that actually allowed [us] to absorb [our] surroundings more intensely" (Maya Angelou) in a way I simply couldn't have before mom died, before I delivered a dead baby in a bathtub.  My nerve endings are raw and to be frank, it feels "good" to learn.  It feels good to progress as a soul and mind, and to know that in two years I'll look back and say "Oh, I was so different then.  I'm so glad I changed."  It's empowering to look at death in the face and make eye-contact.  It's horrible.  But I can only dream of how much more vibrant heaven will be thanks to staring at those wicked black eyes.  Earth is more vibrant! And some nights, perhaps in the middle of May, at an acquaintance's lake house with my boys, I look around I am convinced the world has never been more beautiful.  I silently absorb the weight of a baby signing "more" with his hands -- completely out of context, which makes me wonder if he has any idea what it means.  Is it another "trick"? Like a high-five? "Sure, I'll do this... they seem to get excited and sometimes I get more food? Why not..." --, the weight of white against blue, air (air!) that is slightly pink, barbecue smoke, the clunk of water meeting a dock, my snow-man shaped shadow (I have the healthy body of a part-Italian-woman-mother), curious beetle-tap feet from a small boy and delighted laughs from a young dad.  Can you feel it?  Isn't it heavy on your back, warm over you in bed, whipping around you on a walk?  

The concluding moral of this post: know people and life well.  Don't fear the struggle, feel it instead.  Take five minutes or five years of silence to learn, do soul-push-ups and come back stronger, whole-er, happier.  The very things this life uses against you have the potential to be the strongest goodnesses. And perhaps when you die someone, somewhere will quote you.

"I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you...
The very first tear he made was so deep
that I thought it had gone right into my heart.
And when he began pulling the skin off,
it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt.
The only thing that made me able to bear it was
just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off

 And there was I smooth and soft as a peeled switch
and smaller than I had been.
Then he caught hold of me –
I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath
now that I’d no skin on —
and threw me into the water.
It smarted like anything but only for a moment.
After that it became perfectly delicious.
As soon as I started swimming and splashing
... I’d turned into a human again...”

cs lewis // voyage of the dawn treader -- a book i have read ;)

[ps. If you really did know Maya Angelou and her works well before her passing, high-five.  You're the man.  No judgement ;) ha!]

Post 45 | Tips for Travel with A Child

Rowdy was born 11-months ago and he has traveled well over 11,000 miles by plane, train and car for "trips."  We're no experts -- having one child for less than a year and taking him a few places doesn't qualify for anything.  But.  These things helped us along our way during a dozen flights and 24-hour drives with an active baby, so I wanted to share in case they may help someone else, too!  There are many great posts on traveling -- a many more specific than mine ("Traveling internationally," "Traveling with multiple toddlers," "Flying with kids," etc) -- but I'm tossing my vague two-cents into the piggy bank.

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-- Packing + Planning --

[Booking Tickets]

I recommend three hour chunks at a time on an airplane.  If your destination is more than three hours away, I recommend choosing a route that gives you a spacious layover.   Once you get to hour four, five, six on an airplane with an active small person… you're asking for trouble (in my opinion).  If you're driving long distances the same thing applies: three hours max before a little break.  
{Reccomendation: if you're flying stateside, Southwest has proven to be nothing but wonderful.  Especially when bags fly free... babies equals stuff and stuff equals bags!  We also like choosing our own seats and potentially not having a seat-mate.  Most people try not to sit with kids, so most of the time we had three seats to ourselves!  Not to mention their rewards points are the best.  We basically travel exclusively by using points.)

 

[Stash Diapers]

Instead of packing one or two packages of diapers for the whole trip, I put about 10 in the main bag and then stashed one or two more in ever nook and cranny I could think of: in the pocket of the ergo, in the stroller pouch, in all carry-ons (even Caleb's violin case), the front zippers of the suitcases and inside the suitcases.  It's just nice to have back-ups everywhere.  When we arrived to our destination we made a quick grocery store stop to buy a package to leave at our hotel and stock-up as needed.  There were more than a few times where our emergency-stashes came in big (don't babies do their messiest blow-outs or wettest, fullest waterfalls at the worst logistical times? haha) 

 

[Air-Tight Plastic Bags]

This past trip we were gone for six weeks, and we took three suitcases.  That's not necessarily "light-packing" but considering I had bridesmaids-duties in cool Vancouver spring (including dress, heels, Caleb's dress shoes, jackets, etc) and then sunny, warm vacation in southern California with beach towels, and I had all of my camera gear since I had work there were a few different climates to take into consideration.  It amounted to each of us having our own suitcase.  And the air-tight plastic bags (you know the ones on infomercials?) were really a life saver.  I bought Sharper Image bags two from TJ Maxx for $9 to test the waters and see if they worked.  To our delight, they really do save quite a bit of room.  

Gear

[Backpack as Diaper Bag/Purse]

When traveling it's so nice to have both hands 100% free.  I love my diaper bag and when I'm putting around town it works great.  But when traveling, we've found, it's super convenient to leave the bag at home and use a back-pack.  Caleb and I each had our own.  So whether trudging through sand with beach gear, wandering and elbowing through Disneyland, riding trains, touring cities, going through airports, and more.  The backpacks were our carry-ons, purses, diaper bags, grocery carts, laptop cases and lifesavers.

(Recommendations:  We have this Hex backpack, which is also a laptop bag and iPad case.  We are sold and will be buying Hex again.  But Herschel, Fjallraven, JanSport, etc are also great bags.  I brought a cheap $5 one at FiveBelow and it's in the trash -- both straps ripped off and the zipper broke.  Not worth it.)

 

[Ergo]

Honestly, I don't know what I would do without a "baby-wearing device" for airports.  Rowdy likes an Ergo "fine" but for the most part he wants to roam around.  He likes seeing things, putting his hand out to touch plants/animals/legs, and having a little space to "play" so strollers are great for us.  BUT. There are just times when he HAS to be restrained.  We do take our stroller through security, but we basically just us it as a luggage dolly ;)  Rowdy gets in the Ergo the moment we get out of the car at the airport, and stays in during check-in, through all of security, gate-finding, boarding and sometimes flying (especially if he's fallen asleep).  He can throw whatever fit he wants -- he can't get out, and I have my two hands to re-pack the laptop, put on my shoes, dig through a bag to find our boarding passes, etc.  I'm telling you: two hands.  Travel with two hands.  It makes a world of difference. 
{Reccomendations: Caleb prefers the Ergo, I prefer the Snugli (it just fits/hits me better) but anything you can wear on front.  We needed our backs "free" for backpacks -- though, I suppose you could wear that on front! Like the cool boys in highschool!)

 

[Small, Sturdy "Travel Stroller"]

With luggage, other people's car (or rental cars), airports, crowds, buses/shuttles, small hotel rooms, and the like it made our life far easier to have a small stroller that could fit in an overhead bin on a plane (we never put a stroller there, but I'm meaning size: small enough to fit in that sized space.)  Sometimes there wasn't room in the trunk for a stroller, but with a small one it can fit in the back-seat or across the back floor board.  It's helpful to know you can squeeze into small spaces, have some storage space, and can toss some crap onto it's handle or seat without the stroller falling apart ;)  We have a Cybex (it's our only stroller, and one of the few travel system "umbrella"/lightweight strollers.  I have been very very pleased -- someday when there is more than one child we'll probably get a CitySelect).  If we had a more "all-terrain"/large regular stroller I would probably have bought a smaller second stroller like Maclaren (hands-down the best lightweight strollers.) for these travels.

{Reccomendations: Maclaren, Cybex, UppaBaby -- I would recommend finding one of those, or other, nice brands used at a yard-sale/consignment store/friend/etc than spending the same amount to get a "cheaper" version.  Quality counts.)

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Emotions (yours, not the baby's!)

[Go. Slow.]

You know that feeling when you've been shopping for a little while?  The stuffy, tired, swirling-head feeling?  It's kind of laughable how quick that experience is remedied by taking off a layer and getting something cold to drink.  It's easy to overheat and then become ooooverwhelmed on accident.  I think the same goes for traveling with kids.  Stay cool.  Stay calm.  Go slow.  Don't try to set any super-mom records about getting through security the quickest.  For the most part people are helpful or neutral when it comes to children traveling.  Most try to stay out of the way and carry on with their agenda (like when a Student Driver is on the road?)  I think our kids can sense when mom and dad seem especially rushed, snappy, overwhelmed and it can sometimes rub off on them.  (Ps: kids will lose their bleep-bleep minds when you're calm, too.  It happens.  But, handling a Hulk-baby-horror while calm is easier than handling one while overheated with a boiling blood pressure.)  We've tried to give ourselves plenty of time -- I'd rather let Rowdy run around for an hour at Gate 12 than be gritting my teeth in a long line because we're going to miss our flight.  We try to talk with him and to him like "normal," and tell him about what we're doing, give him kisses, let him know we're aware of him even in the chaos of an airport.  It's not a magic trick, but being emotionally stable and going physically slow do help. A lot.  So do cookies.

 

[Let Travel Days Be Travel Days]

We recommend planning your trip in such a way that your only "agenda" on the schedule for travel days is: traveling.  If I'm flying solo or with Caleb we can fit an entire day into a few hours when we arrive at a new destination!  But with a baby, my vote is to just arrive.  It's more of an expectation thing: if you fly/drive, check into a hotel/someone's home and you find everyone is feeling pretty nice and the baby is handling himself well, sure! Let's go get dessert somewhere!  Or go for a walk on the beach!  Or try this restaurant I'd been eyeing! Or whatever.  It's like a nice little surprise that worked out.  To me that feels better than having a thick plan for the day, and then feeling bummed when the rental car shuttle took 45 minutes, and then the rental car place took an hour, and then it was rush-hour and NOW WE HAVE TO CANCEL OUR PLANS.  It just doesn't start the trip on the loveliest note -- and something always happens. 

 

[Pictures]

Take the time to take pictures.  (I have never regretted having a pictures of my guys enjoying new places and things, especially with a real camera! It is so worth it).  And yet, don't even think about stressing over pictures -- it's not worth getting into a funk or ruining a memory to have a photo of a "fake memory."  When you can, do.  When it doesn't happen, laugh and let it be a private memory in the soul.  And lastly: do your best to be included in pictures.  Ask your husband to snap a few on his iPhone.  Ask someone to take a quick family picture.  Heck, rock some selfies.  Just document your life with your kids, even if you don't feel, or feel like you look, up to it.  (As someone who lost a mother, a mother who left behind children in elementary school, I can vouch for this: I don't care what the heck she looked like in vacation -- or any! -- pictures.  I care that I can see her there with us.)

 

I hope somewhere, sometime this helps someone!  And at the very least it'll keep a record for me.  Enjoy your business trips, fun vacations, family visits and adventures!

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