The Wonder of Air Travel

There’s really nothing like air travel. The ability to leave one edge of the country in the morning and be all the way on the other side by afternoon is nothing short of amazing. And traveling with kids is even more wonderful. My darling children live across the continent from their grandparents and yet they get to see each other fairly because of the incredible opportunities afforded to us by low airfares and so many flight options to choose from. There are, however, just a few challenges when it comes to flying with kids. They pale, of course, in comparison to the many benefits but they are worth noting all the same. As someone who has taken quite a few flights with young children, I want to share some wisdom with you so that you’ll know what to expect. The first issue you’ll encounter has to do with to do with packing. Please know that no matter how many children’s headphones you have purchased for this exact purpose, they will be missing when it’s time to pack them. This is why you can always buy another set of $50 headphones at the airport. No one can find the headphones when it’s time to go. Even if you had them yesterday, they will be gone when it’s time to leave. Trust me on this one and just be glad you found their shoes. 

Yoga can really help to prepare for traveling with kids. The breathing and focus of yoga will certainly come in handy when you find yourself trapped in a metal tube 3000 feet in the air with a toddler who has decided to use her head as a weapon or a preschooler who is flinging yogurt onto your shirt and screaming because he can’t connect to WiFi. But yoga is also a wonderful way to increase strength and balance, which will come in handy when you stop at the door of the plane to fold up your stroller with one hand while holding the kid who was in the stroller and as well all the bags that were hanging from the stroller with your other hand. Just use your core and remember to breathe. 

Then there’s the issue of small feet and seat backs. Children are biologically wired to kick the back of the seat in front of them. When a child sits in a seat on an airplane that child will, with one hundred percent certainty, kick the back of the seat in front of them. Don’t fight it. Just make sure your kids know they are going to take the hit when the pissed off passenger in front of them wants you to make them stop. 

If you are traveling with three or more kids, there will be an issue with bodily fluids during the course of the flight. I can tell you this, not because I’m psychic, but because of the law of averages. The chances are just extremely high that someone’s clothes will be contaminated with pee, poop or vomit by the end of the flight. At least one child’s, and probably yours as well, who are we kidding? I took a flight one time where two of my kids puked all over themselves, my husband and me. Since we were traveling with our five kids, there were still three not puking. However, one puke-free kid was holding our 2 month old baby and the other puke-free kid was holding a barfbag for his sister. Yeah that was a bad one… oh the memories. But I digress. The point remains, someone will probably puke so just know that going in. 

Be careful about flying on airlines that offer live TV. Make this decision very, very carefully because you will never, I repeat never, be able to undo this one important decision. Once you have taken your kids on a flight with live TV they will be psychologically unable to handle the in-flight entertainment options available on other airlines. I know you don’t believe me. You’re probably planning to just download some shows before you leave home. You should try that. I admire your intentions. And I wish you luck.

Children’s bladders have a way of predicting air turbulence, so you should assume that you’ll hit bumpy air right when you’re walking your kid to the bathroom. And on that subject, I suppose we should talk about airplane bathrooms and children. It’s just not pretty. Fitting yourself and one child into an airplane bathroom is tricky. With two kids you’ve gotta be a friggin’ contortionist to fit. But you’ll be able to do it. Your body has abilities beyond your wildest imagination. You may need some Advil to help your neck and back recover from this one trip to the bathroom, but you’ll be glad you did it when your kid sprays pee all over this one tiny room and not all over the passengers sitting next to you. It’s the little things, right?

Your child will sleep on the plan but only during the last thirty minutes of the flight. No matter how long the flight is. Kids are just weird like that. The only exception is if you’re taking a red-eye. On a red-eye they’ll sleep but you won’t.

Please know that by the end of the flight your entire area will be covered with trash and crumbs and God knows what else. You’ll lose toys, especially anything with wheels, and when the flight is over you’ll look like you’ve been attacked by a wild cat. Your children will cry and scream and disrupt other passengers and you’ll also want to curse and yell and throw things. But you won’t. You’ll only curse under your breath as you dream about a getting a really amazing shower and a cocktail when this current hell is over. In any fleeting moments of peace you’ll put on your headphones and try to find something, anything, downloaded onto your phone that you can listen to for one blessed minute. And somewhere, deep, very deep in the recesses of your soul, a tiny awareness will flicker. Awareness of the fact that your life would be sad and empty without these amazing little hellions. Calmer and cleaner, but lacking something precious. That awareness looks a lot like gratitude and it’s the only thing that is going to get you through. So take a deep breath and enjoy the ride, turbulence and all. 

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The Modified Modified

Photo by Ms. Phoenix on Flickr

Photo by Ms. Phoenix on Flickr

After having two babies over the course of two years, I decided I needed to get in shape. I joined a gym and was happy to receive two free sessions with a personal trainer. The trainer was lovely — a young mother like me, kind and encouraging. However she was in great shape and I was in horrible shape! I pushed through my ever-present body image issues and kept my eyes on the prize, realizing that if I did nothing then nothing would ever change.

The first session with the trainer included  a standard fitness test — sit-ups, push-ups, walking on an inclined treadmill, etc. And I will never forget one thing that happened. When it came time to do the pushups she asked me to give it a try, to see if I could just do one good push-up. Toes on the ground, body stiff, chest lowering to the floor then back up. Well I couldn’t. Not at all. Not if my life depended on it!

So she tried again. She showed me how to do a modified push-up. She had me put my knees down on the mat and asked me to keep my body straight from my knees to the top of my head while I lowered my chest to the ground then back up again. Unfortunately I couldn’t do it. Not at all. Not even one.

So she tried one more time.  She asked me to try to do a “modified modified push-up.” Feet on the ground, knees on the ground, butt in the air — bending my arms and lowering my chest to the ground hinging at the hips. In the modified modified I would only need to be able to support the weight of the top third of my body. Well it worked. I did it. The modified modified push-up.

Now I wasn’t proud of myself for being able to do a modified modified push-up. In fact I was mortified. Who needs a double modified push-up? Apparently me. But as horrifying as it was that I had to modify the modified push-up, it actually reminded me of some important life lessons.

1) You’ve gotta start somewhere! It is easier to not start at all, than it is to admit your weakness and start there. We hate to see our weaknesses. We’d rather just ignore them and let them remain, than face them head on and become stronger.

2) It’s better to do something than nothing. And you can always do something. Even if it’s just a fraction of what you were hoping for, it’s better to go ahead and do that than to do nothing at all.

3) You can’t let your failures have the final say. As silly as a modified modified push-up sounds, it’s actually not a bad way to increase your upper body strength. If I had walked away in disappointment because I had failed the push-up test, I would have never done anything to increase my upper body strength and move toward being able to actually do a real (unmodified) push-up one day.

I go back to these principles over and over in my life. You see, I have a long list of things I know I should do. I should make dinner every night. I should exercise everyday. I should pray and read the Bible every morning. I should read to my children every night before they go to bed. I should recycle. I should write thank you notes. I should wear make-up and blow dry my hair. Etc, etc, etc.

But I’m just one person and the list of should far outweighs my actual time and strength. So I remember the modified modified. I also remember one of my seminary professors who said this: Anything worth doing is worth doing badly. Words to live by. I pray, I cook, I recycle, I exercise, I read to my kids. Every day? No. Every week? Hopefully. I even blow dry my hair — every once in a while.

But there is no salvation in perfectionism. And in many parts of life, the modified modified is an agent of grace.

Of Baseball and Babies

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Photo by Beverly Goodwin on Flickr

My fourth child was born in the month of March, which is a wonderful time to have a baby especially when you live in a four-season part of the country like I do. He was my only baby with jaundice and the best treatment for jaundice is sunlight. I will always remember sitting outside with my new baby stripped naked to his waist, taking in the sun. If the neighbors hadn’t wondered about us before they definitely started to wonder about us then. But we were so grateful to have our jaundiced newborn out of the hospital, away from the medical “light therapy,” and into the sunlight of our own front porch.

As I look out my window this morning at a snow-covered landscape I can’t wait for a sunny warm day, and I can only hope that we will get one of those in March this year. But as much as I long for spring, there is a part of me that dreads spring. Sunshine, flowers, warm days, snow melting — yes, I can’t wait. But along with all of that comes BASEBALL.

The profound significance of baseball in my life, both for good and for ill, has to be the subject of another post. But suffice it to say that a March baby born into a little league family is not afforded the luxury of a slow acclimation to the world. Or rather, I should say that the baby’s mother is not granted a long period to revel in the beauty of her newborn before jumping into the most demanding season of the parenting year.

And that, my friends, is how I found myself pumping in the car. Baby at home and me and the breast pump in the little league parking lot. And it strikes me that pumping in the car is a pretty accurate metaphor for the life I’ve found myself to be living. Running from place to place, trying to be multiple places at once, but also trying to express and contain that which is true, real and good. So join me, why don’t you? You can sit in the passenger seat and we can chat while I pump in the car.