Pleasant(er) Travel with Small Children

Friday, June 30, 2017

Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum for 7 Quick Takes!

We have set out on our massive, crazy, summer trip! At this point, even at barely 5 and almost 3, the kids are pleasant travel buddies. They share our enthusiasm for exploring new places and embrace the experience of travel. But it is only pleasant with a decent amount of planning and organization. They are still normal kids after all.

Cleaning Day

Two days before we leave is cleaning day! The kids help. We start the laundry to get ready for packing day. We sweep, mop, and vacuum, clean out trashcans, wash all the sheets and towels, scrub the bathroom, etc. It is *so nice* to come home to a clean house and only have to worry about doing the laundry from the trip.

Yes, the helmet is overkill. But he was still helpful with it on, so it was allowed to stay on.

I have a list of things that must be done either the night before, or the morning, that we leave. Take out the trash and compost (including the coffee filter. Trust me on this one.), start the dishwasher if needed, and unplug/turn off all non-essential electric devices. Coming home to the smell of rotting garbage is best avoided.


It pays off to check the websites of your airport, airline, hotel, etc. for specific kid resources. Knowing what terminal has the kid play space is a life saver in the event of a flight delay.

Happy kiddo in the midst of a multi-hour flight delay. The kind that's so bad the airline gives out meal vouchers.
I also check for things like laundry availability at hotels and local attractions that have free or cheap kid admission costs.

Directed packing

Packing day is much less stressful if the kids can help with the packing.
We do directed packing. I have the master packing list and I send the kids off to their room to bring me a specific number of items. 5 short sleeve shirts, 8 pairs of underwear, etc. The kids get some agency in what clothes they bring, and only clothes that are appropriate and useful get packed. Win!

The kids currently share a big duffel as the "kid bag". To keep their stuff separated they each have a separate trash bag that their clothes stacks are wrapped in. Small items (socks, underwear, swim suits, etc.) are put in a gallon baggie so they are easy to find.

Kid Packs

Each of the kids has a backpack that fits them relatively well. They each contain:

  • 3-4 books (Picked by each kid, but fit easily in the backpack. It's an important qualifier with my kids. John tried to pack the fully illustrated Harry Potter once.)
  • A coloring book or activity book.
  • Small pad of paper
  • Stickers
  • Small baggie with crayons, pencils, and sharpener.
  • Kid headphones
  • Small toy
Each kid also carries their own water bottle in an outer pocket.

To test their choices, the kids have to wear their backpacks for a decently long walk. If it's too heavy, they have to swap something out or leave it out. They are in charge of their own packs in airports and other travel locations. Mom is not a pack mule.

Snacks go in parent backpacks

I learned the hard way that kid snacks are best portioned out slowly. The kid packs are designed for the kids to have free reign to choose from the materials. Having verboten items in there is a recipe for melt down, but if they all get eaten in the beginning there is nothing for when they are actually hungry. So snacks go in parent back packs!

I also have a wet/dry bag (the cloth diapering item that keeps on giving!) in the parent packs with a change of clothes for each kid, travel wipes, and hand sanitizer. Because if you need it, you need it NOW!

TripIt App

I love this thing! The last thing I want to do is be scrambling around for a confirmation number at the airport. I forward all of my itineraries to the TripIt email and it builds an itinerary that I can pull up via the app on my phone. It keeps plans in order and pulls the current part of the itinerary, and the next stop, to the top of the list. We have a complicated trip this summer, and this thing is a life saver!

White Noise 

Good at sleeping while traveling! Not so good at staying in place.
My kids are used to white noise and it's so helpful for getting kids to sleep in unfamiliar places. I go through the trouble of bringing our sound machines, because I don't want my phone to be held hostage during nap time by a white noise app, but I have used an app when traveling abroad to cut down on baggage weight and not have to worry about voltage issues.

What are your best tips for crafting a pleasant travel experience with kids in tow?

Travel Ambitions with Kids

Monday, June 26, 2017

This week begins our massive summer travels! Five states, two weddings, two kids, and a very pregnant belly - it's going to an adventure! 
Here's where we're going. It's a mix of flying and driving, hotels, friends homes, and rentals. 
Tips welcome! Follow along during the trip using #UTRtravels


It's our annual trip to North Texas for family reunion on the lake with lots of aunts and grandparent time! This will be our first year with both kids out of diapers and physically able to do most activities. It will be a blast!


We have a wedding in Denver but we are also going to be exploring Rocky Mountain National Park and staying part of the time in a mountain cabin.


We are driving from the Denver area to Idaho Falls, ID. Any tips for that 10 hour drive are more than welcome!
We get to see our very good friends and start adventures next door in Wyoming.


It's Yellowstone time! John wants to see Bison badly. He told me, rather mornfully the other day, "I WISH I could play on the prairie." His Little House loving heart will be happy.

We're going to try and explore Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole too.


Another wedding! And this one we're all in! John is ringbearer and Therese is flower girl. They are both taking their duties *very* seriously. 
John acts like he's going to be entrusted with the crown jewels. 
Therese just likes her pretty dress. 
This describes their personalities quite well.

We will have almost two days to explore around Atlanta. I have my eye on the Atlanta History Museum, but any other fun ideas (including must do food places for my foodie husband) are wonderful!


And now a belated My Sunday Best with A Blog for My Mom!

Dress: JC Penny's
Cardigan: Target
Necklace: Family heirloom
Bump: 27 weeks
It would appear that we attended mass at the Basilica from this picture. But no! We went to a picnic for young families held at the Basilica before making our way over to St. Thomas More in St. Paul for the Mass of Thanksgiving for a friend who is a newly ordained priest!

It is also a beautiful church.

We passed Maronite and Ukrainian Catholic churches on the drive down. So many cool places to explore in the Twin Cities!

Answering for My Catholicism

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

When I was in college and traveling I would often get into conversations with my airplane seatmate about my college thesis. It was a good follow up since my major is in the wide and vague field of Anthropology. Somehow I always managed to be talking to a former Catholic about my thesis on Catholic women and veiling. Their first response always included that one liner that you just know has gotten a lot of use since they left the Church.

"Oh, I'm a recovering Catholic." Like there's an AA for that.

"I used to be Catholic but now I'm a free thinker."

That one always galled me a bit. The implied idea that anyone who is truly intellectually curious cannot exist in the Catholic Church came up quite a bit. I would have to calm my internal ruffled feathers and ask more questions about their experience in the Church. I tried to keep in mind one of my favorite quotes from Archbishop Fulton Sheen: "There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing."

The top of my list of why I love being Catholic is that no matter how hard I investigate and seek to understand Church teachings, there are still more depths to plumb. It makes me so sad to meet so many people who came against an obstacle to faith and chose to turn away. For many it happened as a young kid. Young enough that the initial turning away came from being failed by the teachers and leaders they trusted and asked to help them understand.

It is true that the teachings do not have all modern sensibilities in mind. Thank God! I want a Church able to articulate who she is and not a chameleon one can never be quite sure about.

I find it amazing that I can read the desert fathers and hear someone speak to the heart of my struggles. A hermit man who lived thousands of miles away and over a thousand years ago can speak truth to my heart because that truth is still truth. That is the amazing beauty of the Catholic Church.

Understanding the teachings does not take faith to move mountains, it just takes a heart willing to listen. I love that the teachings are very logical - the reasoning of a position has been followed to it's logical conclusion and made sure that conclusion is still where we should want to go.

One of my guilty pleasures is reading about all of the heresies that have occurred through the ages.
(I know it sounds weird, bear with me!)
Heresies almost always start with a subtle, but important, misunderstanding of a theological principle. From there the heresy spreads, and what plays out is the full impact of following error to it's logical conclusion. It is not a place I would want to go. Getting intellectual concepts down has a huge impact on avoiding error, and when one reads about just a smattering of the many heresies that have led to great loss of life and terrible practices one starts to understand how important a role intellectuals can play in the Church.

I think we should all be intellectuals of a sort in the Church. Understanding theology is not just the arena, or responsibility, of a select few. Regular Catholics in the pew need to understand why we believe what we believe. Every Catholic, at some point, will be asked to answer for those beliefs. Best be ready!

This post is part of the monthly CWBN Blog Hop. Hop over to read more responses on this month's theme "why I love my Catholic faith".

Why do you love your Catholic faith?

Choosing Mother of Divine Grace

Friday, June 16, 2017

Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum for 7 Quick Takes!

It is homeschool planning time for us! This year I will have a Kindergartner and a preschooler, with a newborn making an appearance early on in the year. I will be using 26 Letters to Heaven with my preschooler this year, but with some added adaptions to help it better fit into our year and my daughter's specific needs (more on that later!)

For my Kindergartner we have decided to enroll in Mother of Divine Grace (MODG). There are a lot of pluses to the curriculum in the early years that I thought I would write down - partially for myself to read when the "February Dull-drums" hit and I need a reminder!

Rigor not busywork

Somehow education discussions have come to view being busy as equivalent to rigorous in a curriculum. I think what one truly means when one says "I am looking for a rigorous curriculum" is, "I am looking for a curriculum that asks enough of the student that they must keep striving ever further, even in areas they may not personally enjoy." I believe busy work always comes back to bite you. It does not foster sustainable learning in the child, and is a recipe for burnout for the teaching parent.

Just like any other healthy plan, having reasonable and achievable goals is the sweet spot.


MODG is beautiful. I would be remiss if these early years did not involve learning to see and appreciate beauty. Because this window for true awe and appreciation just does not open again in the same way.
All the art, and music, and poetry are not just beautiful extras but important in their own right. Learning how to notice detail in art, pick up tone and audible difference,  memorization and performance - these are all skills that might be fudgable for a while, but their lack does become painfully obvious further along in life.

I love that MODG teaches kids these skills early, while simultaneously familiarizing them with a cultural heritage that could seem far away and unreachable.


There is a lot of wiggle room in MODG in terms of which books you end up using for each kid. It's flexible and allows for adaption from kid to kid and family to family. I love that I can tailor the curriculum but I don't feel like I have to right off the bat. There is nothing that I greatly dislike or feel the need to avoid in the curriculum as it stands.

It forces me to have limits

MODG is very simple in the early grades. It's all about building a solid foundation. A newborn is expected to make an appearance in the early part of our school year, and the reality is I need to know what is important and focus on THAT.
Because I am type A and would totally try to do all the things if the curriculum did not reel me in a bit.

Solidly Catholic

I do not need to pay money for materials that undermine the Catholic base I am trying to instill in my kids. That being said, the curriculum does not feel the need to make anything and everything about specifically Catholic things. MODG utilizes books that are not from Catholic specific publishers but produce solid materials with nothing anti-Catholic in that specific book. I like the attitude that secular or Protestant materials do not automatically need to be excluded. We are still meant to live in this world after all.

Enrollment and Accreditation

While enrollment is certainly not strictly necessary when I only have a Kindergartner and a Preschooler, it is comforting to be able to enroll in the school and have a consultant on call in the event that an issue does arise. If we feel like we need to change a book, if something is just not working, or specific learning issues come up, I can email, call, or text my consultant and know that she is familiar with our materials.

Accreditation is something I don't worry about until the middle/high school grades, but it does not hurt to have it - especially when talking to people who are unfamiliar with homeschooling.

It's Familiar

The big reason MODG initially stuck out to me is it uses the materials I largely know and would have chosen anyway. Many of you know I was homeschooled up until high school so I've made the transition from homeschooled kid to homeschooling mom. Living through the experimentation of the 90s Catholic homeschool world left me with big opinions about what does and does not work for me.
Starting out with what I know helps my confidence that we will arrive at important destinations without (too many) tears.

We are adding in a few things to the curriculum, such as: Little Lambs Family Formation, Ballet, science and history plans, etc. A post on our specific curriculum adaptations will be in the works soon!

What do you love about your curriculum? How do you envision next year in your house? 

Small Children and the Perpetual Questions - #bctgp

Friday, June 2, 2017

Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum for 7 Quick Takes.

A little while ago my friend Anni from A Beautiful, Camouflaged, Mess of a Life started The Gratitude Project that challenges us to post about the small blessings in our lives. I tried to think beyond the obvious and came to a funny discovery. One of the things I am grateful for are the questions I get asked by my kids every day.

As any parent of little kids will tell you, once kids learn to talk the stream of questions is not far behind. The perpetual questions can be annoying, and I am not claiming to always answer them with sweetness, but there is a beauty to the repetition. Here are the top seven questions my kids ask me everyday.



It's in caps because it's nearly always yelled as though I was far far away on top of a mountain. 
John asks this question every morning. He asks so he can pick clothing that is appropriate for the weather, and I love his persistence in accepting that each day might be very different from yesterday.

"How many weeks until snow?"

John has asked this question every morning since we moved to Minnesota. Part of me wants to write this down just to remind him once we're well into February that there was a time when he wanted this. The less pessimistic side knows that he could very well love the snow every day as though it was the first day. It's one of his gifts.


The universal kid question, "why?"
Both John and Therese ask why at least a dozen times a day. It can be hard as a parent not to get exasperated with the question sometimes, but I'm so grateful they ask why. Kids do not take the world for granted, and they have caught on that things do not just happen. There is a reason and method underlying the world. It's a everyday reminder to me that I, and other adults, could do with remembering to ask why more often. 

"You wanna snuggle me?"

Hands down this is Therese's most frequent question. 
When she gives a hug, she melts into the person like her whole body has suddenly become more liquid than solid. She can use physical touch as a way to show deep trust and love. I am grateful that she is able to trust so reliably. Her requests for snuggles are a reminder to me to slow down and enjoy the presence of their sweet littleness for a bit.

"How does that work?"

John has an insatiable need to understand how things work in minute detail. Tell him about how you accomplish a task and he will give you full attention. He wants to know the ingredients in the dishes served at dinner, if you used pegs or screws to put together a table, and how the construction workers know what machine to use when.
That appreciation of detail, and the work and skill of others, is something I want to foster in myself. I wish it came as instinctively to adults as it does to little kids. 

"Can I do jobs?"

I noticed the other day that my kids rarely ask to help, they ask to "do jobs". I asked them about the difference and they said jobs were "kids working on their own." They are asking to independently contribute to the work that needs to be done everyday. They don't want busy work, they want to do meaningful work.

The question is a challenge for me to allow them to explore their own capabilities and practice working together to accomplish what needs doing that day. I am grateful for the chance to try again every day.

"What time is it?"

Therese is obsessed with time and numbers right now. She asks "what time is it?" a few dozen times a day. 
She does not ask the question the way an adult would - trying to see how long they have until they can move on to the next thing. Therese just wants to know what time it is for the sake of knowing. How often as adults do we take a moment to learn something just for the sake of learning?

What little things are you grateful for? What are the most frequent questions from your kids?

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