Traveling With Kids | Cuba

San Clemente Family Photographer _ Cuba-50 San Clemente Family Photographer _ Cuba-52

I feel like any gosh-I-hate-this-term “mommy blogger” has at-some-point written a post filled with advice about traveling with kids. I’m pretty sure if I dug through my own archives, I’d find one that I even wrote prior. But if time and experience has taught me anything about traveling with kids, it’s that the key – the secret ingredient – is not something you can fit in your suitcase, forget at home, or buy when you get there. What makes or breaks traveling with kids is nothing more than your attitude and the perspective and expectations you use to funnel your travel experience.

Because what parent is going to forget the bag of snacks or to download their child’s favorite cartoon on the iPad or your iPhone? No one. We all have a similar bag of tricks and there’s no secret trick that you can buy, other than maybe Benadryl – and sure, I recommend that, too – that’s going to make your trip go as smooth as can be. Except, that is, for your attitude.

When we first brought Jimmie home, life sucked. He’s not an easy dog and there were times Willy and I both wanted to throw in the towel. Those that have been reading my blog since the acquisition of Jimmie know that his anxiety is through the roof, so-much-so that he’s on prozac and still looks as though he’s going to have an aneurysm should we even use the word “go” or “leave” in a conversation. In any event, the boys picked up on the tension in those early days and were not so nice to Jimmie. They’d hit him and speak mean to him; behaviors that, in hindsight, mirrored how Willy and I were affected by his behaviors.

Point being, kids notice shit. And they mirror what they see. If you’re calm and relaxed, they’re calm and relaxed.

So how do you keep calm and relaxed while traveling with kids? You take care of yourself and nurse that attitude I’ve spoken so highly of. Little things, like making sure you stay fed and hydrated. Other things that help facilitate a good attitude:

-Realistic expectations. Traveling is never easy. Airports suck. People can suck. Spending money you didn’t expect to spend sucks. Changing time zones suck. So planning on and expecting the worst sometimes makes it so the little victories – like a plane that’s not full and a free seat next to you – really shine through. I set myself up for such grand disasters so that when the plane lands and we’re all still alive, I smile. Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but you get the point.

-Talk with your spouse before the trip about your concerns and fears. When you can know what’s really going to throw a wrench into one another’s trips, it’s easier to navigate and avoid such. For example, I’m not one to make many plans when I travel. Before having kids, I’d go wherever and find a place to stay when I got to wherever “wherever” was. Prior to leaving for Cuba, Willy expressed concern about the potential of running into difficulty finding a place to stay once we arrived in Havana. And trust me, finding a casa particular (home to stay in) before actually arriving in Havana is in no way as simple as booking a hotel. I had made reservations with one only to be told weeks later it was no longer available, with no reason provided. In any event, I found us a home just two days before we stepped foot on the plane. Crisis averted. Fear squashed.

Really though, the point is to be on the same page with one another; to communicate and act and support one another as a team. Because nothing wears you down faster than having children. Oh wait, that doesn’t have anything at all to do with traveling, does it? Are you sensing my point? Traveling makes those little rascals wear you down even faster and to a even smaller entity than you ever thought possible. So build the trust in your partner to hold you up when you need a little lift and vice versa. And if you’re both being worn down at the same time – go back to my hydration plan and grab a beer. Sometimes a little break with a cold one in an outdoor eatery where the kids can run around in circles like crazy lunatics is a game changer, an energy recharge.

-Slow your roll. If you’re the type that travels with an itinerary, loosen it a bit. If you’re a planner, schedule time to do nothing other than relax. Because sure, seeing King Tuts tomb while in Egypt is certainly important, but so is that 2 o’clock nap. And arguably, the former may only be enjoyable if the latter is accomplished. Catch my drift? Don’t fill your plate, fill yo’ cup.

Have other tips you’d like to recommend to one another? By all means, sharing is caring.

A Family Session, with The Inges

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I received an email from Anne-Marie stating that her and her family would be in town to visit friends; they are from back East. My heart was warmed immediately; to be included in a family’s vacation plans? To say it’s an honor is an understatement. We toyed around with meeting up in the desert but Anne-Marie…

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On having kids…

San Clemente Family Photography-5717The other night our neighbor, who is an older man with no children of his own (by choice), gave the boys ice cream. As we sat together on our shared front yard he mentioned having not heard the boys all day, alluding to the fact that most days the chaos and ruckus that is our everyday filters it’s way over like the smoke from a BBQ.

The ice cream dripped down their cones and in true childhood fashion made for sticky hands and a rim of chocolate around their mouths. Our neighbor glanced over at his long-time girlfriend and said something along the lines of, “Now see, no need to remind me why I opted not to have children”. We made a few jokes about releasing the boys in his newly carpeted house and eventually we parted ways; they, presumably, to enjoy a quiet and peaceful evening and, us, to clean the chocolate off our kids’ faces, fight them on brushing their teeth, and remind them for the umpteenth time that it’s not nice to say that they “hate” us or that we’re “not their friends”.

I know life as a parent only from the mother’s perspective. And having children, for me, was a very innate desire. I spent my childhood training for motherhood; taking my cabbage patches to pretend school, filling out forms I’d take from the drawers of my dad’s office, and loving and cuddling any baby that came within a ten foot radius of me.

That night, I glanced over at Willy – who was struggling to get pajamas on one of the boys – and asked him if he’d rather have had it another way. His answer was true and sincere, he said, “I think I would have been perfectly okay if you didn’t want to have kids. But at the same time, I wouldn’t trade any of this for the world”.

It would be hard to argue that parenthood is where it’s at to a neighbor who realistically sees (and, errr, hears) you struggle nearly every day. I suppose it’s hard, in general, to make the argument for having kids to someone who clearly never wanted kids. And while the days are generally a struggle, all I can say is that the hard days, filled with relentless whining and tantrums, are all but forgotten in the second it takes for them to tell me that they love me.

I think any mother would agree; sticky hands, chocolate crusted mouths, booger filled noses n’ all.

Cuba

Going through video footage and piecing it together is a lot like editing images from a wedding; by the time I’m done I know every image – all footage – better than I’d like and I’m not pleased with any of them… a direct result that comes with looking at anything too long. In any event, I’ve started and restarted the making of this video more times than I care to admit due mostly to user error, followed in a close second to user dissatisfaction. I’m happy with the final result, but it’s hard to view it without knowing the downright struggle, errrr challenge, it was to make. In any event, here lies a small glimpse into our time in Cuba… A place that’s unlike any other and is changing in so many ways. I have a few more posts on Cuba to share but if you want to see what I’ve already shared thus far, here’s some links:

Cuba, The Good

Cuba, The Bad

Cuba, Part I

Cuba, Part II

Childhood Unplugged, Cuba

All The Heart Eyes

the stork & the beanstalk _ ikea2I’ve been incredibly stressed lately. All first world problems, so I hardly feel I have the right to complain about any of it. That said, we’re hoping to move sometime this summer into a home that has a yard because living in a townhouse with two wild boys and one that will soon be wild – because time just moves too fast, dammit – has proven to lead to varying degrees of insanity. For all of us. The other day Hooper came up and asked me if he could go ‘run outside’ and he literally sprinted around in a circle like a caged animal. In any event, the hope of a new home inevitably brings on the search / hunt of what to fill it with. Not that we need more ‘stuff’ because, really and truly, minimalism is where it’s at; especially in respect to said insanity. We just donated two large boxes of toys and it feels like we hardly made a dent. We’ve only been in this home for two years… where does all this stuff come from? Anyway, I digress. I’ve been scouring all my usual one-of-a-kind haunts; the thrifts, craigslist, etsy, eBay, the flea market, etc and while I’ll never turn my back on any of them, I have to say… Ikea?… well, they’re killing it. Came across this new collection and have to say I practically stood up by my desk and gave a round of applause to an empty room. I’ll definitely be nabbing a few items from this collection. Where have you been finding stuff for your home lately? I know Target has a much-improved home line too…