Traveling with a baby versus a toddler

If you ever start to feel “in control” as a parent, try traveling with your toddler 😉

But seriously, we’d traveled enough with Griffin as a baby that we felt fairly in control. Within the first year of his life, we traveled to Colorado, Utah, Florida, California and Costa Rica. Throughout that time, my husband tried to lighten our load as much as possible and we focused on streamlining the whole traveling-with-a-baby airport experience. So, we’ve put a lot of research into our travel preparations… and maybe we were feeling a little too cocky going into our most recent trip.

Everything went fairly smoothly during our time in Wisconsin — except the sleeping situation. It had been a few months since we last traveled, and we didn’t factor in how much he’d changed since then or how much he depended on his bedtime routine. It was “MAMA, MOM, MOOOM” for hours and lots of wake ups throughout the night. We felt like zombies at the wedding reception! Fortunately, we received a great tip from a family member (below) that we’re excited to try out this summer. There’s no way around the sleeping-in-a-strange-place adjustment, but it seems like it will definitely help ease the initial distractions.

We are in no way experts at any of this (who is?) but it can be helpful to see what works for others! Following are some things learned over the last few years, plus recent tips we’ve received that we’re excited to make the most of this summer:

Traveling with a baby: 

  • A front pack is GOLD (we used a Solly wrap and Baby Bjorn the first few months, then transitioned to an Ergo).
  • If you want to bring a stroller, it’s worth buying a cheap, lightweight one that folds up easily at the gate.
  • Make a sleeping plan: the first 6+ months, we just shoved our Dockatot in our suitcase. As Griff got bigger, we transitioned to a foldable pack-and-play, which I explain below.
  • Always pack more bottles/pouches, etc. than you need (and divide them between your suitcase and carry-on bag in case one is lost… yikes! We learned this the hard way in a different country).
  • Save a bottle for take-off (a tried-and-true tip that really does help).
  • Bring a few small toys for distractions once they’re a little older (Griff liked this light-up musical one and this amazing indestructible book).

Traveling with a toddler:

  • Don’t bring your own pack-and-play unless absolutely necessary! Most hotels provide them (just call ahead to confirm). We do bring a crib sheet to wrap over the pad, plus blankies/whatever your little one likes at night.
  • Ask hotels if they have any open handicapped rooms that weren’t booked so that there’s a large enough bathroom for the crib/pack-and-play (and there you go: a two-room suite! Thanks for the genius idea, Sarah!).
  • Let them burn energy before the drive or flight! I’ve had to take many deep breaths while I watch Griffin speed crawl across the gross airport carpet and touch everything in sight – but it’s always worth it when he naps later.
  • SNACKS! All the snacks.
  • Have movies and activities ready to go. We just ordered these mess-free markers for an upcoming trip, and Griff loves this magnetic drawing board!
  • There are more valuable ideas in this Everyday Mama article – I just ordered a sticker book too!

There are endless tips and tricks out there to improve your traveling experience with a baby or toddler, but the most important thing at the end of the day is just remembering: “This too shall pass.” Griffin has been “that baby” who screamed the entire flight, no matter what we did, but somehow we survived. It was just a small blip in our trip, and the next flight was better! We’re learning that parenting is all about perspective and teamwork… and those rough moments make you appreciate the good ones even more.

What has made your plane or car trips easier with little ones? Please share any advice or favorite items!

For the Love of “Ruff” 

There are several types of people in this world: those who have a dog and those who include their dog in their Christmas card picture. We are proud members of the second group.

We didn’t just consider Reagan to be “good practice” for kids when we got her—she was our first child. As soon as we were out of the puppy potty-training phase, she started sleeping on our bed. We planned weekend mornings around her dog park trips and happy hour locations based on dog-friendly patios. We worried about leaving her home alone too long and, like most new parents, probably took her to the vet more often than needed.

We even navigated our relationship differences and discipline ideas with her. There were days when my husband and I got upset at each other if he was too tough or I was too soft. What kind of discipline is warranted, for example, when she chews up my leopard flats? Is it really that big of a deal if she eats some table scraps every once in a while? At the time, these were major issues (oh, how our worries have changed!).

I worked from home when I was pregnant, which meant that Reagan and I were inseparable. I’d joke that I had the best co-worker in the world. Still, I knew that our little family life was about to change and she was in for a shock. Once our son was born, she was clearly apprehensive about it all. She has always been the sweetest dog, and she was just as gentle as we thought she’d be with a baby—from a distance. During those first few months together, she only reacted to him when he’d sneeze or scream. Who was this tiny human and why was he so loud?

Now, that baby is a crazy toddler who calls Reagan “Ruff” and regularly invades her personal space and suffocates her with hugs. He talks to her, kisses her goodnight and says “bye Ruff” every time we leave the house. She checks in on him during bath time and is there when he’s up crying at midnight due to double ear infections. She has overcome that initial distance and is fully comfortable licking him right on the face and, most importantly, sharing food. My heart aches every time I see their sweet interactions. To each other, they’re siblings; both integral parts of our family.

My husband and I laugh as we chase our toddler around, thinking about our “puppy parent” stress years ago. But we also recognize all that Reagan has taught us – and all that she’s currently teaching our son. She turned our selfish, young adult lives upside down with responsibility (in the best way possible!). It’s one thing to grow up with dogs and quite another to have your own; to feel the full weight of caring for someone who’s completely reliant on you.

A constant comfort for everyone in our house now, Reagan demonstrates unconditional love, entertains us endlessly and reminds us what matters. She didn’t hold it against me when her space shrunk to make room for another or my phone picture roll changed from all Reagan to all baby. Come to think of it, she’s the best model for forgiveness and selfless love I know. And we could all benefit from a little more of that in this world!

 

 

My Journey to Safer Products & Why I’m All in with Beautycounter

The EU has eliminated over 1,400 ingredients in their cosmetics while the U.S. has only eliminated 30. How is that possible? And has it really been 80+ years since Congress last voted to regulate any ingredients?

I’m naturally skeptical. But, when I was pregnant with Griffin, I started reading more health and beauty information – and I realized that I needed to clean up my act. I ate healthy food and worked out, so why wasn’t I putting the same amount of thought and energy into what I put ON my body? Facts like those above are not only true, they’re scary! I started by looking at my deodorant, shampoo and body wash after reading news articles about chemicals in those products and listening to a podcast with the founder of Schmidt’s deodorant. She is highly educated and started the company because we needed safer alternatives! I was so excited to try their deodorant, but a few days in I ended up with an extremely itchy armpit rash. As it turns out, my body was detoxing from the chemical it was used to (that’s normal!). I’m currently using Tom’s deodorant, but I have a different Schmidt’s deodorant and Primally Pure on my list to try next.

I began with the products above because they were easy changes that weren’t too expensive and would positively benefit my hormones and health. A few months after that, I began looking at my makeup. I had NO background knowledge on this, and had used random, cheap makeup most of my life, so I did what everyone else does these days: I turned to the internet. I read different articles from various sources. I listened to more podcasts and did some Googling. Regardless of the bias or company, everyone seemed to agreed: the beauty industry is unregulated and that can be dangerous.

I mean, toxins and heavy metals in makeup? That doesn’t seem right! As said in this Women’s Health article about clean beauty: “Since makeup sits on the skin for the day, it is important to select products that are free of chemicals that are questionable or contain irritants… Chemicals such as parabens, phthalates, PEGs, and synthetic fragrances are all linked to harmful health effects such as hormone disruption, cancer, and skin irritation.”

The first makeup product that made the most sense for me to change was my foundation. I slather it on my face daily and so my skin is absorbing whatever is in it. That’s where Beautycounter comes in. My sister-in-law has really sensitive skin, and had mentioned them before as a natural product option that didn’t irritate her eczema. I realized that an old friend from college had also talked about Beautycounter on social media, so I reached out to her to learn more. I browsed their website and searched reviews, and then ended up ordering their Dew Skin tinted moisturizer. I loved the feel of it – and that it includes sunscreen – but after using it for a few days, I decided that it wasn’t enough coverage for me at work (hi, breakouts in my late 20s!). I ordered Beautycounter’s Tint Skin foundation and haven’t looked back! I now use both the tinted moisturizer and the foundation, depending on the day and how much coverage I need.

Now, I’m all in – I completely support Beautycounter’s mission and love all of the other products I’ve tried too. In fact, I just signed on to be a Beautycounter consultant and advocate for safer beauty! That doesn’t mean I use them exclusively – I’ve been using that classic pink and green mascara tube for over a decade and haven’t been able to quit it yet! But I am focusing more on quality products and slowly cleaning up my makeup preferences. Once you’re aware of how bad some of the other makeup is for you, it’s hard to turn a blind eye.

From an armpit rash to discovering safer foundation, my clean product journey is just beginning! I continue to learn more every day. What kind of skincare and makeup products do you use? Are you willing to continue using them, even knowing that your skin is absorbing the toxins and it may be disrupting your hormones or leading to other health issues? I’d love to help you find safer swaps!

Beautycounter Quick Facts:

  • It’s not the kind of MLM you’re thinking of: It’s a direct retail company, which means you can go to their website and order whatever you want on your own! They also have a store in NYC and pop-up locations around the country. Our founder wanted to have consultants because she knew that women educating other women within their community is far more powerful than anything else. The benefits of going through a Beautycounter consultant include: education, product assistance and to support those who are advocating for safer beauty!
  • As a Certified B Corporation, Beautycounter is committed to using business as a force for positive change.
  • Since the industry isn’t regulated, we created the “Never List,” which is a list of 1,500 questionable ingredients we’ll never use in any products.
  • Beautycounter takes the nerve out of ordering makeup online: You can return anything within 60 days and get your money back! You can also switch out shades, no problem.
  • Every product is cruelty free, nontoxic and safe for pregnant and nursing women.

My Beautycounter Favorites:

Not sure where to start? This skincare quiz is helpful!

The Environmental Working Group is also a great resource to check the score of your current skincare and makeup products.

Favorites: Better Beauty Products

“The skincare product that Megan Markle swears by”

Who hasn’t fallen for a headline like that? Even if you aren’t as royally obsessed as I am, there is probably some other celebrity or athlete who piques your curiosity. I want to know their secrets! Of course, when they’re revealed, it often seems unrealistic – either the solution is a skeptical drugstore hack or it’s exorbitantly expensive.

Now, we don’t all have millions of dollars to spend on custom dermatologist-recommended regimes or weekly facials. Between watermelon masks and the latest CBD trend, the number of products and ingredients on the market today can be overwhelming. Fortunately, there are safer, accessible products out there today that work well, have simple ingredient lists and won’t break the bank.

I first started looking into more natural skincare and beauty products when I was pregnant with Griffin. I was being so cautious about every area of my life, from exercise to food and vitamins, but I hadn’t realized the impact of my personal products. And our skin is our largest organ! So, I did some research and began learning about how ingredients in deodorant, lotion, moisturizer and more can affect our hormones and health – some have even been linked to infertility and diseases.

 

I first changed my deodorant (great resources on why here and here!) and then turned to my makeup. The one product that I wear every day? Foundation and moisturizer of some kind. So I decided that I should probably be more aware of what is being absorbed into my skin daily! In my quest for cosmetics that were clean but not completely crunchy, I found Beautycounter. It’s a safer beauty option that actually works! In fact, after using their products for a while and learning more about the company and their mission, I decided to join the Beautycounter team! And I’d love to explain more if you’re interested.

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Anyway, a few favorites that I’ve been loving lately include:

Dew Skin tinted moisturizer

Tint Skin foundation

Countercontrol clear pore cleanser

Thayers rose petal witch hazel

Tinted lip balm

In terms of baby products, we’ve been using Burt’s Bees or Honest Co. shampoo and body wash. I also LOVE Original Sprout lotion. 

EWG’s Healthy Living App is a great resource that I just discovered thanks to The Fitnessista – you can scan any product at the store or search for products in your house already to see the ingredient score and health rating! It’s a great place to start if, like me, you’re still in the process of trying to find better alternatives for items you use often.

What are your favorite natural products? I’d love any recommendations… especially mascara or dry shampoo. I haven’t been able to quit my Maybelline mascara or Batiste habits yet!

The significance of a sailboat skirt 

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“Just throw on a t-shirt,” my husband responds automatically any time I’m struggling to pick out clothes or questioning what I should wear.

He knows that is rarely my outfit of choice. I dress for my mood and associate clothes with feelings or events. Because of this, I can rarely pick out clothes in advance. What if I don’t feel like wearing that tomorrow? Before motherhood, this was occasionally an inconvenience or frustration, but it never had any ramifications other than a slow packing process or a late arrival. I always eventually figured out how to prepare and what to wear.

I wore a green dress for a major college internship interview, with a white blazer that never felt like it belonged on me. For my dad’s military retirement ceremony, I bought a blue lace dress that is still a favorite years later. Before my first date with my now-husband, I went with a go-to classic: my turquoise skirt with tiny white sail boats on it. I had just graduated from college, and it seemed to perfectly capture the lightness of the afternoon; the idea that this could be the start of something.

I felt like myself in that sailboat skirt, which is both a major feat and a laughably deep association for a piece of clothing. Still, I catalogue these outfit choices in my mind like tiny milestone markers representing a larger event or moment in life. They have significance to me, if no one else. The first thing I bought after learning that our baby was a boy? An airplane onesie. My dad is a pilot and it seemed like a fitting first purchase as I browsed through clothing racks and tried to wrap my head around the fact that I was going to have a son.

During the last few months of my pregnancy, I lived in swing dresses and swim suits that were a few sizes too small. Fortunately, the latter was always worn in the privacy of my parent’s pool, so I didn’t have to subject the public to the fear of a chlorinated water birth. But still, this period of time taught me to let go of control – of my body, of my wardrobe, of my plans. He would come when he was ready and I would eventually stop waddling. I was limited to only a few outfit options that covered my giant stomach but didn’t suffocate me in triple-digit heat. I became both indifferent about my clothing and yet uninspired by my three repetitive choices. I missed my old jeans and at the same time I couldn’t imagine who I would be the next time I was in them.

As I prepared for motherhood, I often found myself standing blankly in front of my closet wondering what the mom version of me would wear. I had quickly given up on packing a glorious, Pinterest-worthy hospital bag, but I knew that I needed something in there besides socks and jolly ranchers. The summer my son was born was a scorcher and the heat seemed to fuel my anxiety. I might never care what I wear again, I thought, as the responsibility of caring for a tiny human loomed and reality set in. How was I going to handle this? Instead of googling more hospital bag lists or overthinking my labor wardrobe, I focused on washing his impossibly small clothes.

As it turned out, I didn’t need to worry about choosing the best hospital clothes or bringing the right robe. Of course my outfit choice didn’t matter when it came to becoming a mom. I put on a hospital gown and was delirious for much of my transition into motherhood. It didn’t matter how I looked. It didn’t matter what I packed in my bag. He arrived in the midst of a million emotions and full of overwhelming love.

After a foggy newborn period, our infant phase was marked by stretchy black yoga pants and more uncertainty, while toddlerhood emerged with a newfound love for skinny jeans and a budding confidence. So, in this aspect of life, I choose nostalgia over minimalism. There are some clothing items I won’t get rid of, even though I rarely wear them. Others have obvious seasonal or practical limitations, but they still have personal value to me; like an old picture in a frame that you never update. Because sometimes in our quest to get rid of everything, we forget why we’re holding on and that who we used to be shaped who we are. The day Ryan proposed to me, three years after our first date, I wore another sailboat skirt as we walked by a marina on the California coast. It now hangs next to the turquoise sailboat skirt from college. My closet may be slightly more full – and certainly less organized – than others, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

When I look back on my first year with Griffin, there’s a tiny, applesauce-stained outfit next to mine in the mental timeline of events. From the light cotton onesies that got us through the Arizona summer to the cutest Hawaiian shirt he wore for a tropical wedding, his outfits are pressed into my memories along with his eating schedule, sleeping preferences, silly faces and so much more. He’s crazy and messy and perfect. Life is far less curated and much more wrinkly than it used to be. And I’ve never felt more significance in my choices than I do now.

Favorites: Book Review

“My book club only reads wine labels.”

That infamous Pinterest quote was actually my life during the first few months of motherhood — I wasn’t reading many books and I definitely felt the void. Now, I’m happily reading as much as I can to make up for lost time! Below are a few favorites!

I just discovered this author, and love her conversational style! This book was an easy, fun read and it covers super relevant topics today — from navigating working mom life to our obsession with the internet and perfection. I definitely recommend it! Her book Life and Other Near Death Experiences is on my list next.

This book was out of the ordinary for me, but my sister-in-law recommended it! I’m not usually a big mystery/thriller fan, but I ended up really liking this one. It’s a fascinating fiction escape that intertwines the stories of a journalist and a young widow, but it’s also scary to think that some of the political/financial scandals could be based on true stories. It’s a page turner and I’ve already passed my copy on to a friend!

 

This book was hard to get into initially, but I was hooked by the second half! It seems like a simple beach read at first glance — two long-lost friends are brought together again and so on — but I found myself still thinking about it a few days later after the story gets more complex. It would be a great book to bring on vacation this spring!

Easy love & hard-won happiness

“It used to be so easy,” my husband and I mused over margaritas and guacamole on a recent date night. We were checking in with each other and discussing how we’re feeling about work, stress, the future and so on. We never used to have to say “let’s check in” when we needed to vent or wanted to bring something up — life was a continuous date full of connection and conversational opportunities.

Now, we try to steal a kiss while tripping over our dog and catching the bowl of salsa our toddler is attempting to throw. We still text throughout the day, but it’s changed from debating the happy hour we’ll hit after work to questioning our budget (yes, I did need those shoes!), gushing over said crazy toddler and planning when we can chat in person. Life involves more bills and babysitters and less sleep and relaxation than ever. Our time used to seem endless, but now it feels like a constant, limited loop. It’s marked by work schedules and nap timelines and so much else we couldn’t have imagined back then.

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It’s taken us years (almost seven) to get to this point. We started out just as starry-eyed as everyone else. You don’t realize at first that you’re building the base for a big future full of marriage, babies and a mortgage. Dating begins with an indescribable feeling of possibility; a flattering pursuit. My husband and I met through mutual friends and he quickly convinced me that a first date would be worth it even though we lived in separate states. It took just one shared pizza to realize that I wouldn’t be able to walk away from this.

I admittedly see a lot through rose-colored glasses, but I knew marriage wasn’t something to be entered into lightly. He gave me confidence. I was also fortunate to have an excellent example of what marriage could be. My parents always put each other first, above us. As a kid, I thought it was strange that they wouldn’t take our sides when one of them was (clearly) wrong. As an adult, I recognize the respect they gave each other and the hard work that’s gone into their 30-year marriage. They are always a team, and in many ways, they make marriage seem easy — which is the ultimate sign of partnership. I recognized similar partnership potential in my husband early on, which made it a clear choice. I could see us choosing each other again and again, whether that was picking a date night over a work event or backing each other up in front of our (future) teenage children.

“Shouldn’t this be the easiest part?” One of my best friends asked when struggling with a long-term relationship that didn’t yet include marriage or kids. I listened to her explanation and quickly realized that she was right. The reality of love is so different than we expect. I recalled that recent check in date with my husband (along with the planning and money that went into it) and agreed that it only gets more difficult to connect and prioritize. It isn’t always easy initially, but it certainly doesn’t get easier when you add more stuff and tiny humans into the mix. You need a solid foundation before all of that comes along; an infrastructure that’s strong enough to withstand all of the inevitable trials. Sleepless nights and colicky babies require a lot of grace for survival. We all have different courtships and stories woven together by our decision to choose love; to put another person’s happiness above our own.

So maybe love should be easy at the beginning, but there are too many variables and tests over the years to maintain that level of simplicity. It can set your foundation, and that’s it. Everything else is built in time, through a partnership comprised of obstacles and accomplishments that may or may not include: paid debt, achieved goals, happiness, unhappiness, moves, children, travel mishaps, broken A/C units (testing love and our civility!) and so much more. If marriage starts with spontaneous notes and weekend getaways, it’s sustained by intentional compliments and on-going, sometimes mundane, acts of love and commitment. Now, he fills up my gas tank because he knows I’m too impatient to do it. I cook for him because I know that otherwise he’d subsist solely on scrambled eggs. Life is full of sweet memories and difficult conversations. We’ve gone through college courses, career shifts and vacation disasters. We’ve had periods of more money and then less. Our love has changed, grown and solidified. We still have a lot to work through and figure out together.

It’s not easy anymore. But it’s hard-won, and it’s ours.

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday! It was a long week of sickness in our house, and we are READY for some fun adventures and family visitors! Here are a few of my favorites this week… please share any of your favorite finds or tips in the comments too!

Travel-sized rollerball perfume: If you’re like me and always forget about perfume, these smaller rollerball perfumes are perfect to stash in your purse and the car! I currently have this one from Target and this set from Urban Outfitters (especially love the pistachio brulee scent).

Coffee & Crumbs podcast: This has been my saving grace at the gym, on walks and in the car for the past year! I’m eventually going to run out of new episodes though, so any other podcast recommendations would be appreciated.

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Houseplant tip: I have a black thumb, admittedly, but I recently took a cool houseplant class at a local nursery and they let us in on an insider tip: Stick a chopstick into the soil to check for moisture! That can help you determine how often it needs water. I also learned that you only need to water most houseplants once every week or two — and it’s not always that easy to keep succulents alive (validation!).

Sleepless thoughts: I wrote an article about not sleeping after a week of not sleeping… as I said, sickness really got to us this week 😉 Maybe you can relate? 

How to make potatoes crispy: It’s the small battles, you guys. If you’ve always wondered how to make your roasted potatoes crispy, there’s finally a solution. I’m now soaking my potatoes before baking them. And if that’s not ending on a high note, I don’t know what is!