Adventures of the Stroller Brigade

I’d been waiting 10 long months for this:

Love Snuggling With Papa

And this:

Wrestling With Uncle Luke

Oh how I love those Brittan men. They didn’t disappoint. Watching my boy snuggle and play with his Papa and Uncle Luke made my heart soar.

Washington, we have arrived.

And how about those Brittan girls? Yes, there was dancing. There was singing. And there was copious amounts of candy. There were memories and laughing and a few tears here and there (mostly from laughing.)

There were two hour sessions at the gym. (And 45 minute ones, thank you very much.)

And there were cousins.

Loving the drama

Oh those cousins. Max learned how to colour, ate all kinds of new foods, got sick from eating said foods, and learned that sometimes if you want to keep a toy you gotta squeal or push a little bit. I know, I know… he’ll learn sharing. But until then, surivival of the fittest kid under 2 is pretty hilarious.

And so are 6 kids in strollers being pushed through crowded holiday sale aisles at Nordstrom rack by 3 skinny model looking girls and their big sister.

The “stroller brigade” we were dubbed. We got smirks and smiles but mostly smiles. I mean, the kids are pretty much the cutest ever… as long as they were fed rapid-fire doses of Cheezits and Kix. With double packed pockets in every mommy’s coat, there were plenty of smiles to make up for the fact that the stroller brigade was not armed with a reverse beep and crashed into a rack or two.

Thank God for the play area at the mall.

And for snow. And sledding… behind the ATV.

Auntie Bek's Got the Giggles

For Christmas parties and Christmas plays and Christmas lights…

I love me a gaudy Christmas Light Show

And date nights.

And mostly for family. And unconditional love. And making memories and cuddling nieces and nephews. And long talks with mom and dad. And pretending like we lived there and never left.

It hurt to leave. But we are cherishing the memories we made and looking forward to the future. Good things are in store. Stay tuned.

My Little Snowman

Until then, stay out of the way of the Stroller Brigade. 😉

Dear Relatives,

Okay. Our relatives are AWESOME. To the Martins, the Wislers, the Kings, the Bears and more… we must say… Facebook did not do you justice. We like you a lot and were so glad to meet you in person.

To Auntie Ann – are you Martha Stewart? Because only she would bake 73 different types of cookies in one day… and then declare a batch of chocolate dipped pretzels not very good because of a misplaced grain of salt and force us to eat them. All of them. Thank you for making us fat and for stuffing Max’s face with sugar while we had our backs turned. You are everything a great aunt should be. Just don’t let Max know we said so.

The Wislers

To Uncle Greg – you are not only our hero for holding the land-speed record (Top Gear has yet to get back to us on that interview)… we also are astonished by the grace you had to drive in a blizzard with a sleepy baby… and get us to the airport in once piece… in body and in heart. You’re awesome.

To the Kings – you remind us of Carolyn so much. From your sweet thoughtful gifts, to the bear hugs… you just make us smile. Thank you for making that long drive so we could meet you. Our hearts are complete.

Because bear hugs are awesome

To the Young Kings – little did we know Jared’s cousin married such a cool, fun girl or that you were expecting what will probably be the cutest baby ever. We like you and decided that if we lived in Indiana, we would want to be friends with you. Please find an excuse to come to Australia. Its not really as far as it looks on the map.

Evidently we didn't make the cut...

To Grandma Charlotte – you rock. You’re every bit as sweet as those cards you faithfully send us. A picture with you and Max is really one of our favourite treasures.

Three generations

To the Bears – you guys are nuts. But you knew that. And you make us want to be nuts too. We’ll never try making candy again. Because we suck at it and were told that to our faces. Okay. WE don’t suck. But I suck and I’m writing this and I’m taking everyone else down with me. We’ll keep blaming the temperature of that stone and call it sabotage and secretly wish we could be there with you next year having another go. And hopefully we won’t ruin a brand new stove that time.

Drool mobile dancing with his second cousins twice removed... or something like that

To Dale & Ruth – thank you for ordering the biggest pizza we’ve ever seen in our entire life. You are our heros. It is bigger than anything we ever dreamed and still wonder whether it was a figment of our imagination. The bed is made and the hammer is ready to kick off your Australian walk-about. What time does your flight get in!? Oh, and your kids rock too.

California. Wisconsin. Indiana. We are three for three… onto Washington we go.

Oh Come All Ye (UN)Faithful

Its been one of those years. Big. Awesome. Challenging. Wonderful. Hard.

Its been one of those years that takes it out of you a bit. Like the end of a marathon… when you know you’ve accomplished something great… but it feels like you’ve just taken a massive beating.

Not that I would know, having never run one. But I ran a 10k once and in the midst of feeling like an Olympic Champion receiving a gold medal and giant bouquet of roses as I dab at my tears and listen to the Star Spangled Banner, I also felt like I’d been run over by a truck. So I can only imagine what you’d feel like after a marathon.

And what I imagine is a little like how I feel.

Good. Awesome. Great. Weary. Crusty. Dry.

And that’s why singing my baby to sleep as we road-tripped across the home of that Great Star Spangled Banner was the best thing I could ever do.

Christmas carol after sweet Christmas carol – or should I say amazing worship song after worship song – my heart melted. And was restored. And refreshed.

I rejoiced. Silent tears fell remembering that silent night.

My heart craved heavenly peace – and the One who gave His life for it.

I remembered that He does call us to come… the faithful… and the unfaithful.

Because He wants us all. He came for us all.

My heart is singing and I hope with all that is in me that THIS Christmas – this joy in my heart – will last all year.

Yes, pleas

Yes, please. I'd love a bit of that Heavenly Peace!

Can You Guess Where We Are?

Wind. Pizza. Socks… (er, Sox). Did that give it away? Bulls… Cubs…

Yep, we made a mad dash to Chicago on the way to Indiana to meet Jared’s relis!

And, like any good tourist would do, we woke up, ate a continental breakfast at the motel and scoured the brochures in the lobby for a good idea on how to spend the day.

The boys planning our day

I have never seen my husband so excited as he was about this card.

Lincoln Park Zoo. Always Open. Always Free.

“We’re going to the zoo,” he triumphantly declared! And off we went.

Despite the fact that this zoo is like a giant park in the middle of the city, it was freezing (literally) and snowing and the place was absolutely creepy and empty.

Ahhh... body heat

We decided to brave it anyway and we are oh so glad we did. What an amazing day! This place is the best and having an entire zoo to yourself is … ummm … awesome. The seal show was more like the seal chat as we huddled up with the zoo keepers.

And the lions? Yeah… when no one is around they really like to show off and roar super loud.

And the baby? Well, he thought it was cute to roar back.

Pretty sure the lion won the roaring contest. But I think the mommy and daddy were the real winners because what mommy and daddy doesn’t love to watch their kid being ridiculously cute roaring at a lion?

RAOOOOOAR!

And how’s this for adorable?? These two couldn’t keep their eyes and hands off each other. It was seriously hard to pull ourselves away from the window and if it wasn’t nap time, we might’ve stayed there all day.

BFFs

And while Max slept, we took a visit to Africa, and Australia, and the great North West and even the North Pole. We learned about animals we’ve never heard of and marvelled at our Creator.

Finally found the giraffes

We made mad dashes through the snowy outdoors into heated buildings and frolicked like two kids in love and laughed when we caught two other kids in love making out in the aviary. (Ooops… maybe we didn’t have the entire zoo to ourselves!)

And we ended our day like any good Chicago tourist would… with a pizza.

Pepperoni Rocks My World

Pepperoni Rocks My World

 

A Cold Welcome

We touched down in the land of panthers, blizzards and cheese to the tune of chapped cheeks, goose bumps… and chest colds.

Jared could not resist

We expected wintery Wisconsin to be cold and embarked on a steep learning curve remembering what its like to care for dry skin (we live in the tropics!!) and figuring out the ever-growing mystery of how to keep socks on baby feet (We remain unsuccessful as of yet, the fact of which is pointed out to us anytime we go out in public. Yes, we do realise our child’s nose is dripping down to his belly button, its 7 degrees outside and he is barefoot! We are, indeed “those” parents… woops.)

First taste of snow

But despite the weather and a nasty flu, our hearts were warmed by these:

A Big Welcome to US

A welcome banner bigger than bikipsy!

And these faces… which actually resemble angels, if you ask me. Wait until they talk. Your sides will be aching from laughter.

Little Cherub

We got in trouble for drinking fresh milk… only because it took Jared more than 30 seconds to open the fridge to get the glass out. We ate pancake breakfasts that lingered into taco salad lunches.

We drank London fogs and played settlers.

We laughed at Max entertaining the dinner party crowd by playing peek-a-boo with the fancy table cloth which was covered by a gorgeous dinner spread. Fortunately expectations of table manners for a 10 month old are quite minimal.

We huddled on the couch with brothers and sisters to beat all those top scoring Facebookers on Family Feud and we gave points to each other because that’s what family does.

Are we winning, Dad!?

We had fellowship dinners and ate one of my top three favourite foods – potluck casseroles. (Pour a can of cream of mushroom soup over just about anything, cover it with cheese, and bake it and I will be your friend for life. I could eat comfort foods forever.)

We cheered the alma mater and the awesome uncle at his very first varsity basketball game (What senior starts basketball his senior year and still gets to play in the opening game?? Apparently someone with the name Jordan and the number 23.)

Love me some Grandpa John!

We made gingerbread houses and went to elementary school Christmas plays.

Mmmm... candy.

We drank tea, we had chats, we made memories, and watched dreams come true.

Thanks Wisconsin.

You’re cold. But you warm our hearts.

Travelling with a Baby These Holidays? Take Some Tips from the “Experts”

Jared and I like to think of ourselves as expert parents. Never mind the fact that we only have one child and that he’s only 9 months old. We like to tell ourselves we’re good at this gig. Mostly so we don’t break down wondering what they heck we’re doing wrong every second day but hey… you take what you can get, right?!

So, let the “experts” give you some tips on travelling. I mean, in 9 months, we have travelled with Max numerous times by plane, train, automobile… and boat. If that doesn’t make us experts, tell us what does!

So here they are, our top tips for travelling with a baby this holiday season:

  1. Pack Light. This is my number one piece of advice (hence why its number 1.) Try to be somewhere you can do laundry and do it often rather than trying to pack for everything. Yes, you’ll get sick of your clothes, but it will feel like you have a celebrity’s wardrobe when you get home!
  2. Do what you gotta do. Even if that means your luggage cart is stacked so high you can barely get up to the checkout line, much less the bathroom and you have to change your child’s exploding poopy nappy on the filthy floor of the the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX while a Chinese man laughs at you in Mandarin. Its better than getting more poop all over you and your baby. Trust me.
  3. Forget the toys. Remember your first flight? An in-flight magazine, a flight safety booklet, a BARF bag?? These are the most fascinating things to someone who has never seen them before! Especially when that someone is little and fascinatable! Use what is around you and pack light on everything, including toys!
  4. Bring snacks and don’t worry about making a mess. I know, I know. Its a rule to never feed kids out of boredom. But there is an exception to this rule and that’s when you’re travelling! Healthy snacks are the best distraction. And packing your own is way better than paying $6 for a small water and banana in an airport (sometimes, we get desperate). And don’t worry about apologising for the cheerios that are all over the floor. The flight attendants will just tell you its someone else’s job to clean them. (Okay, they might do that but its still nice to pick the cheerios up as much as possible. Unless you can’t and then just pretend that you’re at a baseball game and everybody’s doing it, then walk away swiftly.)
  5. Accept Help. When someone offers to hold your baby while you go to the bathroom, take them up on it. Its going to be really hard for them to do anything naughty with your baby since there are 300 other people watching them and no where to escape. And besides that? It sure beats setting your baby down on the floor of a aircraft “loo.” (Although, if you find yourself in this situation, don’t worry about it – just remember you’re doing what you gotta do.)
  6. Pack an extra set of clothes in your carryon for every traveller. There will be spit up. There will be pee. Pumpkin puree WILL go flying. Plan for it and bring an extra set of warm but lightweight clothes for everyone. And a set of shout wipes.
  7. Routine SHMOOTINE! Plan to be extra tired, plan for your kid to eat and sleep at different times. Just do what you can when you can. You will all settle in a lot quicker than you expected. Sleep as often as possible and work to get back into a rhythm slowly. A nursing cover (whether you’re breast feeding or not) and baby carrier can help block out stimulation if you’re in a busy place like an airplane or public place.
  8. Request the bulk head seats on an airplane. Even if your kid is too big or too curious for the bassinet (ummm… I think he’s about to jump out of there), it still provides extra crawl space for baby and leg space for husband. You will be everyone’s favourite wife and mommy.
  9. Compartmentalise. Jared thinks I’m ridiculous to pack bags in bags, but hello? I don’t want to be digging around for the change mat, the nappy AND the wipes when the Chinese man is laughing at me in Mandarin. I had it all handy dandy ready to whip out in one swift movement (Jackie Chan, eat your heart out!) Pack your snacks close together so when the cheerios have redesigned the aircraft carpet and upholstery, the rice cakes are ready to work their magic. And keep all your travel documents in one case too. That way you won’t wake that baby (who is FINALLY sleeping in that baby carrier) while you dig for a pen, an itinerary, and the passports, while trying to figure out where the heck you put that silly customs card.
  10. Choose to have fun! It will be inconvenient. It will be challenging. You might be carrying a baby with a blow out poo and walking a luggage cart taller than yourself through the rain and ask for help and the guy (whose job it is to help) will tell you that you with a mocking tone like like you can handle it and glare at you like a crazy person as you walk by. But who cares?! This is the making of family memories! Embrace every moment and instead of crying or getting overwhelmed, find the humour and laugh. Right then. Right there. Yes, people will think you’re even crazier than you already were as you stand in the rain laughing with yellow goop leaking out the side of your baby, but its a lot better than crying. Make it a moment you and your kids will remember with joy forever. That’s what its all about, right?

So, happy travelling! And when you get home, be sure to post lots of pictures so we can ooh and aah at how cute your baby is and post an update on your blog or Facebook so we can laugh with you at all your mishaps!

Oh, and if you want some REAL travel tips, ask my friend Tiffany. She has some awesome products that are very cool or my friend Adriel who is pretty much a pro by now too! 🙂