Traveling With Dumplings (toddlers)

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The boys and I arrived back at LAX one week ago tonight.  Somehow I had managed to get them both asleep somewhere over Lubbock.

Back on December 1st I went to the mat for four days in a row and then I left for San Francisco – San Antonio – Dallas.  Though I have completed some sporadic sun salutations, on the road and my commitment to yoga has not wavered — my commitment to yoga and writing about it has.  To be honest, the concept of it is not very interesting to me because it was such a surprise the first time, and this time it feels forced.

I’m going to the mat.  I’m writing.  But I’m not writing about going to the mat.  So … 60 More Days on the Mat retired on Day 3.

I realized while traveling with the boys this time that I could never go back to the mat in quite that way.  Two years ago I had a literal rebirth that led to the actual birth of the Dumplings.  There is no second act for that.  There was a time in my life I would force my way through something to say I did it.  Now?  I force nothing.

Boys on a plane

Two years later I have more practical concerns in life.  Perhaps more mundane.  Though I often think trying to find the excitement in the mundane is one of the keys to an extraordinary life.  Most of it is mundane — if you can make that interesting, you’re on to something.

When I was on the plane from Dallas to LAX I started thinking about the slogan — “You’ve Come a long Way, Baby”  

Why?  That I cannot tell you.  But I can tell you — not all who wander are lost — because I wander.  A. Lot.

As James snored and my mind wandered — I determined the Virginia Slims commercials were utter bullshit.  “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby”   Bullshit.  I mean in theory, yes.  I am certainly not someone who thinks women can’t earn and do and be and achieve equally to a man — we can — but at what cost to our family?  Before I had kids I was convinced any woman not having it all was lazy.  Except for my mindless pinning on Pinterest I can confirm I am not lazy.  Hence, Virginia Slims Ad = Utter Bullshit.

Daily, I try to figure out how to make food interesting to two 15-month old boys for 21 meals a week.  I often long for the opportunity to be June Cleaver.  Her entire world revolved around Ward and Wally and the Beaver.  That’s it.  (at least in the 30-minute increments I was privy to) I’m sure there was a sequel written in the 70’s no one picked up — the one where she becomes a raging alcoholic because Wally and the Beaver married women in the Virginia Slims commercials and moved far, far away to a life in the big city only to visit every other Christmas.  Ward was too cheap to fly, of course.  She had not come far enough to to be able to stand up and tell him she was going anyway.  He still had the checkbook.  She still made a great meatloaf donning pearls and panty hose.  The end.

During my TV Land days I met Barbara Billingsley, Tony Dow and Jerry Mathers.  More than once.  But that is a different blog altogether.

My point is — yes, we had come a long way in the 70’s … and 80’s … and beyond.  But at what cost?  We came a long way only to find out we can’t DO IT ALL.  We can HAVE IT ALL (with lots of help).  But we cannot DO IT ALL like the women in the ads — starting with that Virginia Slims ad back when I was a kid.  So no matter how sexy they make it look in print and on TV there is still a woman standing behind a stove making macaroni and cheese (with peas mixed in) and chicken nuggets (again) because there is a grant deadline tomorrow.

Perhaps today that is what amounts to doing it all?  It does for me.

I never planned to have to work this hard, and yet, who am I kidding?  My ambition has pushed me in certain directions throughout life — but what happened when I got there or why I left has always been and will probably continue to be a complete surprise to me.

For instance —  traveling with 15-month old twin boys to three cities in nine days.  Who does that?  Why would anyone CHOOSE to do that?  The Dumplings aren’t fully formed people yet. They’re neanderthals that grunt and scream and carry on in a most uncivilized fashion at various points throughout the day.

Adorable? Yes.  Civilized? No.

Somehow it was easier to travel with the boys when they could not move around too much.  When a meal was a bottle.  When naps were more frequent.  When opinions involved less throwing.  When tantrums basically meant I’m STARVING.

Now I look down and sometimes two 31″ little beings are grabbing onto my legs — wailing.  Big, giant tears streaming down their chubby, red little cheeks.  Ma-ma-ma-ma-ma.  Quivering chins.

Though a good chunk of the time they are happy as babies in a bath tub.

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Travel with toddlers is beyond challenging.  In the beginning, I was constantly searching for advice online — but now after traveling to Nashville – DC – Chicago – Philadelphia – DC – Little Rock – Denver – Madrid – San Francisco – San Antonio and Dallas … I have a few tidbits of my own to impart from our successes and mistakes.

  • Vacation rentals are great with kids — but not when they involve a 4-story walk-up in San Francisco — a three level house and stairs everywhere.  (No, that was not nerve-wracking at all.) The stroller we rented was 35 pounds, the babies are 50+.  It was a beautiful property … for adults.  When possible rent ranch style homes and stay away from anything that calls itself “charming.” The house in San Antonio was “charming” — and falling apart.
  • Car seats are worth all the effort involved in getting them on the plane.  Even though the kids will undoubtedly complain, ultimately they feel secure in a seat meant for them.  They sleep easier.  At 15-months kids are too little to sit in a regular seat with a seat-belt — and even though it is legal to do so — they are frankly, too big to sit in your lap for any sort of extended flight.  Buy them a ticket if at all possible.  It’s worth whatever perceived financial sacrifice.     james PlaneJackson Plane
  • Get wheels for your car seats.  Our car seats are Britax so we have these:  Britax Car Seat Travel Cart
  • Buy this backpack:  Okkatots Travel Baby Depot Backpack Bag  — It holds everything for the boys — plus, it holds my laptop, Nikon camera, iPad and Bose headset.  I cannot say enough about how easy this bag is to organize.  I wheeled two toddlers in car seats and threw this on my back.  Hands free travel — which is the only way to travel alone with two.
  • Always carry flashlights because you never know when your power will go out … twice.
  • Bring a couple of books and a couple of toys.  Toys are a waste of space, and even though I have definitely cut back, I still probably pack too many.  At this age everything is a toy.  Just give them a couple of plastic cups and some ice.
  • DOWNLOAD things on your iPad.  There are lots of great apps for toddlers, plus mine just love music.  They can listen to Uncle Kracker: Smile on a loop.  And Johnny Cash.  And banjo music (don’t ask).
  • Rent locally from here:  Baby’s Away  We rented everything from jogging strollers, to high chairs, to boxes of toys.  It’s worth every penny of not having to lug that stuff around. You can also have diapers shipped from Amazon if you are going somewhere for any length of time.  Keep your load light — even your checked load.  Since I am traveling for business with the boys most of the time, I am now obsessed with this blog:  Travel Fashion Girl  to help me get my own packing under control while attempting to maintain some sense of fashion besides “Harried Mom Look”
  • Germ-X wipes, Johnson & Johnson Hand and Face Wipes, Baby Wipes, Boogie Wipes, Clorox travel wipes — You cannot have too many packages with “wipe” in the name.  Trust. Me.
  • Bring food.  I am not here to preach what food to bring — just bring it.  Lots of it.  Food is a wonderful distraction.  Variety matters.
  • Bring a sense of humor.  I don’t always have one — but I do try.  It makes a huge difference in the day.

Despite the challenges of traveling with toddlers, I am so grateful for the opportunity to travel with my children.  I know this phase is short-lived.  I love watching them take it all in even when taking it in involves throwing the blueberries across the room and grunting for their sippy cups.  I am grateful I have a job that allows them to be with me when I need to be away.  I am grateful for my husband and our nanny, Melanie and all the other villagers that have helped us along the way.

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San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium 2014 Mama – James – Auntie Elyse – Jackson – Daddy

Oh, and the Usher ABC Song from Sesame Street — I am really grateful for that.

There was nothing more rewarding than arriving in Dallas after eight nights on the road working and introducing the Dumplings to their aunt and uncle and cousins.  They played and played and played for an entire afternoon as if they had been hanging out there all of their lives.  They ate Swiss steak with stewed tomatoes, mashed potatoes and peas, buttered rolls and peach cobbler.  In many ways, it was a little slice a heaven to top off a long week.  And even though it was a “home” I had never been in — it was a home filled with our people — bringing a great deal of truth to the cliche saying “Home Is Where the Heart Is.”  Well, it is.

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And a little part of my heart has always been and will forever be — in Texas.

On a side note — I wish they still made those high top shoes with the bells on the laces.  There is no velcro strong enough for the Dumplings.  (sigh)

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60 More Days On the Mat: Clarity

Record Player

When I was a kid I took ballet classes at CATS.  One of our favorite things to ask for (especially on a cold, rainy night) was a stretch class.  I remember begging the teachers for this class and always wishing there was a way to take stretch class instead of ballet?

I think my inherent desire to stretch is where my humble yoga beginnings originated.  But anyone who really does yoga will tell you — it is no stretch class.  I found out early on how letting go in all of your tight spots (which tend to be the same for many of us) could open me up not just in my body — but my mind and more importantly, my spirit.  I always felt the world came into better focus — more clarity — when I was all stretched out an unwound.  Hence my addictions to massages and yoga.  I suppose it is the same for all of us, though I do know people who hate massages.

I feel about those people the way I feel about people who do not like animals.  How could you possibly not like a massage?

My theory is I am a Type A mind trying to control a Type B soul.  My Type B soul is always having to send my Type A mind out for maintenance to calm her down.

Some people function at a higher level under stress.  They get energy from it.  I do not.

There was no time for a yoga class today, but I did go to the mat.  I did ten sun salutations this morning which are just great for building a quick flow when you cannot make it to class.  Tonight after we had tucked the boys in bed and had dinner, I treated myself to self-directed yin yoga for an entire album.  Sarah Jarosz — Song Up In Her Head.  It was her first album.  I found her because I read an interview with Steve Martin and he named her as a great up and coming bluegrass artist; one of his favorite.  He was right.  Plus she’s from Texas.    There is just something about Texas musicians.  Of course, I’m biased.

I started doing these self-directed “stretch” classes in college listening to Barbra Streisand’s The Broadway Album.  Night after night I would listen to that album trying to open up all of the tight spots.  I cannot imagine listening to the same album night after night today — I have more than 8000 songs in my music collection.  My musical tastes span multiple genres.  There is so much great music out there now — more than ever if you take the time to stop and listen.  You have to comb the right websites and read local magazines with up and coming musicians.  This is how I found the Avett Brothers and Sarah Jarosz.

Here are just a few of the places I go:

Garden and Gun — Back Porch Music Sessions

Oxford American

Texas Monthly

Paste Magazine

This is just a few of my hot spots.  Any local magazine or paper when you’re traveling is always great.  I used to collect CDs from everywhere I traveled.  It became difficult to find the right music, and I found myself coming home with bad music just so I could say I “collected” local music — so now I make a point of searching for it when I can.  Pandora introduces me to a lot as well.

As I was stretching tonight, holding each pose for the entire length of a song, I decided this had to continue.  Soaking up the music.  Listening to complete albums.  It was incredibly relaxing to be able to just open up and take in the music completely.  We so rarely have time to listen to entire albums anymore.  We often buy songs one at a time never being forced to listen to Side B.  Sometime the greatest stuff is on Side B.  Of course, we don’t really have sides anymore.

I am dating myself by the second here.  But that’s okay.  I would not want to be any other age because it’s not a number, it’s a statement of your life experience.  The higher it gets, the more I have.  We should all wear it as a badge of honor.

Taking the time to soak up a good songwriter is a pretty spectacular way to spend an evening.  Tonight I remembered how much I used to love to do this.  Sarah Jarosz is an old soul living in a 22-year old body.  You can feel this with each track.  I have listened to this album many times, but when your headphones are one and you’re stretching out the stresses of the day — your soul really has nothing to focus on but the music, and mine drinks it in like a fine glass of wine.

I did not have a fine glass of wine — I had a fine cup of tea.

Cup of Tea

This next week is going to be crazy.  Friday all of us head to San Francisco and then San Antonio for work — then the boys and I take a quick overnight in Dallas to see family.

I might be insane by the end of it — but I’ll try to stop and soak up the music when I can — and get Type B to keep Type A in check.

Namaste Day 3.

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60 More Days On the Mat: Dear J & J

Dear Jackson and James:

Today you woke up at 5:45 a.m.  Why?  I know I shouldn’t complain.  I have two 14.5 month old toddlers that generally sleep on the same schedule.  You both sleep through the night.  You both smile more than you cry.  You both eat almost anything I put in front of you.  You are both truly amazing little creatures.

You even dance to Marvin Gaye at 7:45 a.m. while wearing a plastic plate rim as a crown  (James) and holding a broom (Jackson).  Jackson, Fred Astaire had nothing on you.

Honestly, if I left this world tomorrow you could put in me in the ground knowing the whole thing was worth it.  The good, the bad, the amazing.  Even as I sit here, eyes drooping — I have it all.

You’re probably not at all wondering why Mama had to leave you tonight.  Why I had to go to yoga.  Both of you are such natural little yogini’s.  It’s amazing to watch you go into down dog and stretch your legs over your head while sucking your own little toes (a practice I find somewhat disturbing).  The stresses of life have yet to tie you into knots.  I hope you can keep it that way for a very long time.

When I came home you beamed at me from the bathtub as if I had never left.

Dumplings in the Bath

… Well, James beamed.

You’re both way more resilient than I give you credit for.  It’s your Mama with the issues.

I’m sure there will be a day when you tell me to go to yoga for your own sanity.  Your father does.

Before I was pregnant with you I did this yoga thing every day for 60+ Days.  I woke up, I did yoga somewhere.  I wrote blog posts.

I had a lot more time to do it then.  A lot more.  I was going through so much more.  What I wanted when I went to the mat two years ago was the largest calling I had ever had.  I had to literally let go of everything across all the decades of my life to find you waiting for me.  Until you were here, life was somehow missing some important ingredients.  At least for my recipe.

Now I have no time.  But I think there is an art for making time.  Remember there are ways to look at the day and reallocate the wasted moments for something even better.  Try to remember this when you start something really hard like Biochemistry.

I am getting better at reallocating moments.

When I went to the mat today there was no urgency.  I’m wandering, I’m searching … but certainly not lost.

I could feel myself letting go with each down dog.  Each stretch.  Parts of my body opened up immediately.  It’s like riding a bike.  Parts of me are stuck.  It’s going to take more than one yoga class.

As your Mama, there is so much I want to give you, but one of the greatest things I can give you — besides love and shelter and really cute outfits — is example.  I want you to see me jumping in.  See me doing it.  See me trying it.  See me going for it.

I want to see you do the same.

I have no idea what your callings will be, but whatever they are — I want you to remember to just jump.  Go for it.  Fail.  Stand back up.  Keep going.

If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.  

Everything always seems impossible until it’s done.

Remember this when you want to give up.

And when it IS done — stand up and begin again.

Just jump, my little Dumplings, and when Marvin Gaye is singing … stand up and dance. Close your eyes and dance.

I love you to the moon and back.

Mama

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60 More Days On the Mat: What!?!

It was just over two years ago the weekend before Thanksgiving when I went on a yoga retreat and wrote this and then on Thanksgiving Day I wrote this — and then the Monday night after Thanksgiving I wrote my first entry for 60 Days On the Mat.

What a fantastically crazy ride.  Honestly, I would not change a thing.  Not one thing.

The Dumplings

The Dumplings Playing House

Okay.  Maybe one thing.

Wouldn’t we all change one thing?

Probably two things.

Or three … I really want to live in a house where it might be appropriate to paint a door turquoise.  I want a porch you can live on — and more importantly sleep on.    I want my skinny legs back and I need more green in my life.

What would we do without Pinterest?

I’ve always been a person who thinks we should aspire for change.  If we’re not changing, we’re not growing and if we’re not growing … well, I’ve never liked the alternative.

I sat at my desk the other night literally paralyzed with work.  I was so overwhelmed I spent 15-minutes on Pinterest pinning playroom pictures for a playroom I do not have.  I call it the iPad rabbit hole.  You just start pinning and liking and listening and pretty soon it’s 2:00 a.m.

Your children are getting up in four hours.  What have you done?  This.  Better yet … This.

Have you ever been paralyzed with work?  Trust me.  It’s no way to live.  It makes you check out in the strangest ways.

There was a time I aspired for the 4-Hour Work Week.  I am so far from the 4-Hour Work Week.  My life is more like the 40-Hour a Day Work Week … sometimes I work double while sleeping.

It blows my mind when I think about the exorbitant amount of time I whittled away doing nothing before I had children.  I want to go back and tell that girl to enjoy it.  She has the time to rule the world, she should go for it.

Don’t get me wrong — I am the luckiest woman in the world.  Have you seen how cute my children are?  They melt me.  Every morning when I wake up I swear my heart has grown overnight.  Even on the mornings I am exhausted and begging them to sleep one more hour.

How does that happen?  I have no idea, but it just does.

It’s the kind of love that cracks your armor and reveals so much about you.  Your true grit.  Your true bliss.  What you’ll sacrifice.  What you’ll forget you wanted.  We all know women who have sacrificed too much …

If you’re not careful it sends you into a spiral of self-neglect.

I am guilty as charged.  There are still days I ask myself, did you brush your teeth?  What!?! It’s wrong on so many levels.

I just took a test on Facebook that says I am going to live for another 52.5 years.  That my friends, is old — but not as old as the age of a yogini which is 108.  That is my true aspiration.  I am not sure if I should drink more water or wine to get there.

In the words of my friend, Katherine, “Does everyone WANT to live that long? I’d only do it if I can walk, talk, think clearly and laugh… at the appropriate times, and drive, and I’d want to be funny. Or else you’re no fun to be around at that age.”

Whether is it 108 or 97.5 year — I refuse to be a frump.  I refuse to stop transcending my last incarnation.

But the other day as I sat drowning in work — covered from head to toe in who knows what —  eating a piece of Domino’s pizza (I know!) I saw it all flash before my eyes.  I saw exactly how you can go from fabulous to frenetic in the blink of an eye. I saw how you can wake up every day for 18 years, pack lunches and be 4 (or more!) sizes bigger than when you started.  You’re no longer in any pictures … afraid of getting in front of a camera.

I’m not wearing Mom jeans yet, but there is a pair that is questionable.

Tonight when I was playing  “I’m gonna get you!” with James and Jackson I got winded.  Literally, winded.  I’m letting little things — that are really BIG things — fall to the back burner of my life.  Yoga. Writing. Music. Walking. Massages. Reading.

I thought about my 60+ Days on the Mat.  I was balanced.

I am so out of balance right now.  So overwhelmed.

I thought about how alive I felt going to yoga and writing every day for that focused period of time and when I got to the end of it I was a completely transformed (and very pregnant).

And even though this is completely crazy because I am so busy — today I begin again.  I have no idea where it is going, but all I know is I must go there.  There is more of me to find on the mat.  I cannot possibly go to yoga every day, but I can do sun salutations and write.  Sometimes we need to do-do-do so we can be-be-be and somehow find the perfect balance of do-be-do-be-do-be.  I had a yoga teacher that told me something like that once.  She was right.

I’m feeling a little lost inside, not because I am unhappy — but because I never want to get lost in a maze of Montessori playrooms and wake up to find it’s all over.  My kids are not going to care if I made them a perfect playroom, but rather, will she throw on her bathing suit and jump in.

The answer is she will.  I will.  Always.

Mama and The Dumplings in Hot Tub

A friend of mine just lost his Mom about a month ago.  She was one of our childhood “Moms” at CATS, the theater school I attended.  Jane, was always so full of life and was always such a joy to be around.  I still have a set of juggling balls she made for me — green and gold for Young Jr. High.  When I was reading her obituary, I saw all of the things she did to keep herself active and engaged.  I want my obituary to look like that.

My own Mom is the same way and I know many, many women who are.  I worked with an amazing woman this summer on our TCU Frogs for the Cure video – Ann Louden.  Wow.  I wish I could bottle that and pop it every morning with some fresh juice.  If you have not seen the 2014 Frogs For the Cure video featuring the Josh Groban song, Brave — watch it now.  What an experience.  So proud to have been a small part of it.  GO FROGS!!

So here I go on a whole new kind of journey.  60 More Days … and as I was pulling in the driveway today, this song was playing.

Perfect on so many levels.  Until tomorrow …

 

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