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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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)