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.

Cuba | The Good

San Clemente Family Photographer _ Cuba-78

Let’s be honest, traveling with children opens the door on lots of shit potentially hitting the fan. I mean sometimes simply making the mile trip to the grocery store and back can be a f’n nightmare. Throw in long flights, delayed flights, missed meals, changed time zones, water you can’t drink and puddles that ought not to be jumped in, not to mention entirely new surroundings and I think it’s fair to drop children from the equation all together because that shit ain’t easy for even us adults. If it weren’t for my whining children (and, at times, husband) I know I would have gladly worn the whining crown, but someone’s got to carry the team and dammit, more times than it, you better believe I throw on my big girl jeans. Albiet reluctantly. Because dammit, I wanna whine too sometimes.

In any event, this post isn’t about what went wrong – I’ll save that for a follow-up post. Instead, right here and now, you’re going to hear about what went right. Because with all that can go wrong and with the limited bag of tricks you seem to have when away from home, it’s pretty amazing – to me anyhow – that anything goes right. Or even close to it, for that matter.

San Clemente Family Photographer _ Cuba-8 San Clemente Family Photographer _ Cuba-16

We were sitting in a restaurant in Havana, nearing the end of our stay in Cuba, when I turned to Willy and said, “Taking everything into account, I’d give the boys an ‘A’ for this trip”. He scoffed, nearly spit out his food, and said “I’d give them a ‘C’, at best”.

It’s always interesting to me how two people can experience the same event so differently. His reasoning for his ‘C’ grade had to do with things like their (at times) constant bickering. Sure, they’re at each other constantly, but that’s pretty much the norm. I had no expectations of them sitting quietly anywhere. So, when they sat relatively quietly throughout the flight, you better believe I was throwing some proverbial gold stars next the mental image of their names I held as a pretty little chart in my head.

San Clemente Family Photographer _ Cuba-29 San Clemente Family Photographer _ Cuba-40 San Clemente Family Photographer _ Cuba-72

Shit, I was just grateful they never drank the water. Because who wants to deal with cholera ever, let alone in Cuba… where locals have a hard time purchasing tylenol. Tylenol. Minus a lingering cough that, sure, made a few nights of sleeping all in the same bed (errr, two twin beds pushed together) absolutely sleepless and miserable, no one required any real medical care. And for that, more gold stars. Especially when considering a wet soccer ball hit my leg and the next day I had a small itchy rash in that area. Point being, it wasn’t the cleanliest of places and our boys are definitely of the let’s-touch-and-step-in-everything variety.

San Clemente Family Photographer _ Cuba-106 San Clemente Family Photographer _ Cuba-116Speaking of cleanliness, let’s talk for a moment about stray dogs. Because here in America if you see a dog loose on the street the better human beings will pick that dog up, take it to some vet clinic or shelter, and hope that said wandering dog has a chip inserted somewhere under it’s skin to solve the mystery of who it belongs to. A chip, people. Strays in the States are unheard of. Perhaps we have Bob Barker to thank for that. And going back to the fact our kids are of the let’s-touch-and-step-in-everything variety, let’s just say they came away from the trip knowing what a street dog is, learning to both look for a collar and/or leash before reaching out an all-too-eager petting hand and learning to navigate the streets by making quick maneuvers that included fancy footwork and/or strategic skips and hops to avoid the plethora of stray dog excretions. They also learned that stray dogs are not necessarily best described as male or female, but more accurately characterized as mamas or papas; perhaps my favorite quote from the trip being, “Mama, dat doggie has a lot of peeps”. And by “peeps” he meant penis’ and by penis’ what he was actually observing were nipples. And to think Hooper’s teacher sent along a school packet of schoolwork for him to work on… the lessons are in the nipples lady, the lessons are in the nipples. I kid. Kinda. In any event, gold stars to us for always having hand sanitizer on us despite being the parents that don’t typically regulate the cleanliness of their kids’ hands as well as they should.

San Clemente Family Photographer _ Cuba-162 San Clemente Family Photographer _ Cuba-174Did I mention we slept in two twin beds pushed together? Oh, I did. Well, it’s worth mentioning again because, again, it worked out. The boys fell asleep each night just a bit before us and, to our never-engaged-in-co-sleeping surprise, actually stayed asleep while we watched something on the iPad or took a shower or cleaned up. And Hooper, who dropped his nap sometime ago, chose to nap most days in the same room – in the same bed – as his brother. Sure they share a room at home but never, ever, have I ever had the luck of getting them to nap in the same room. Not even when Hooper was still napping. If that’s not some sort of miracle, I don’t know what is. More gold stars. And lots of them. Because we all needed that afternoon break / rest / regrouping.
San Clemente Family Photographer _ Cuba-187 San Clemente Family Photographer _ Cuba-192

We flew to Cuba via Miami and flight times were never in our favor. It was impossible, for example, to get a flight into and out of Miami the same the day. So we spent one night in Miami on our way there and one night in Miami on the way back, which – sure -was far from ideal from the travelers perspective but worked out wonderfully in that we got to stay with my friend Carolyn. Carolyn has two boys as well and I’ll be honest when I admit there were times both boys were disappointed with the, um, lack of toys in Cuba and downright demanded to go back to Carolyn’s house to play with the ‘bad boy toys’. Just yesterday, in fact, Van mentioned it again and we’ve been home from Cuba now for months. Needless to say, it was the perfect place to leave from and to return to and I think that speaks volumes when all you want to do after traveling hard is walk in the door of your own home. It was nice for all of us and I really enjoyed the short time we got to hang.

When I mention to people that we’ve gone to Cuba the most common question (aside from how did you get there, which is asked by people more-or-less up-to-date on their political or global issues) is “was it safe?”.  And the answer to this remains a big huge YES (albeit my follow-up post will highlight some of the annoyances and depending on how you rate your annoyances, some may verge on the line of safety to some degree). Kids walk home from school independently, they play in the streets independently, and all-in-all there is a great sense of community. We made several friends on our block alone (and by “we” I mean Willy because truthfully he’s the social butterfly between the two of us) and were invited in homes; the boys loved playing with the boys next door, which I spoke to briefly on the post I wrote for Childhood Unplugged. The people, in general, were incredibly inviting; the boys’ blond hair drawing much attention and walker-by comb-throughs by hands that just couldn’t resist to determine if it felt as different as it looked. And the boys’ embraced it, all of it, and took to giving their “free hugs” (something they took to doing this past summer but has weaved it’s way into our lives so that oftentimes we are stuck at a restaurant because Van has not yet hugged every patron in the establishment). Even Hooper, who tends to be a little bit more on the reserved side volunteered to join in the free hug movement. They clearly felt the warmth and reciprocated it appropriately and watching them interact and trust made for more-than-enough proud mom moments (insert gold stars here — five of them, to be exact).

San Clemente Family Photographer _ Cuba-225The people made the streets come to life. In fact, the street life is the very thing that drew me back to Cuba and helped me rationalize staying in Havana for the full duration of our time there (last time we traveled around to numerous cities and towns). It’s one of my absolute favorite places to photograph (before having kids, travel photography had my heart) and minus the few that yelled at me or the little old lady that gave me the finger, all were keen to having their photos taken and excited to get a glimpse of themselves – stopped in motion – on the back of my LCD screen. I couldn’t always give it the attention I wanted as I usually had at least one kid’s hand wrapped in mine and one eye on oncoming vehicles, but I’m happy with the shots I did get and grateful for having a second chance at photographing such a dynamic country. 
San Clemente Family Photographer _ Cuba-232 San Clemente Family Photographer _ Cuba-236

Other things that went right:

-You could walk out for what felt like miles in the water at the beach we frequented. It’d have passerby’s think our boys were water babies and they are, well, not. It was the perfect reprieve from city life and a nice break from having to watch their every move and step.

-We returned to our favorite pizza joint that was off-the-beaten track five years ago when we visited and is still off-the-beaten track today but just as yummy and with a newly adjacent makeshift zoo (insert question mark) that consists of a caged ferrets, iguanas, chickens, rats, and other sort of odd pairings. An old man that worked there took the boys to look at the animals while Willy and I enjoyed complete peace and quiet, so that was an additional highlight and I swear made the pizza taste even better.

-Considering traveling anywhere while pregnant can be a bit of a risk, nothing of concern occurred while in Cuba. And that counts for something when prior to leaving it felt as though my entire insides were going to fall out of my vagina. I invested in a female jock-strap of sorts and am only willing to admit it because I never ended up needing it as the pain and swelling seemed to go away after my OB suggested treating it as a yeast infection despite any of the typical symptoms. But, lo-and-behold, it worked. And if bringing a female jock-strap that you didn’t end up needing doesn’t count for something, then I’m done keeping track all together.

-The second Cuba more-or-less succeeds at beating you down, a perfect stranger will hand your kid a banana from his fruit stand and you’ll hate yourself for even thinking what he’s going to ask for in return when he instead says, in broken English, “On me, enjoy your holiday”.

San Clemente Family Photographer _ Cuba-243 San Clemente Family Photographer _ Cuba-256

More, from Cuba, to come…San Clemente Family Photographer _ Cuba-270

Life on the road, an interview with Renee

wanderly

Renee, @wandrlyrenee, and I have been friends via instagram for years now and she’s someone that has always inspired the go-see-do spirit that lives strong within me. She’s been living life on the road with her young boys for years and seeing snippets from her travels always has my wandering soul energized. Life on the road is always an interesting conversation because we all know how hard even stationary life with children can be. You may recall my interview with Kate, from @birchandpine, earlier in the year (you can read it here). In any event, I thought it’d be fun to continue the conversation with Renee. With no further adieu…

Tell us a little about yourself and your background. Where were you born and raised and how did it have an impact on how you raise your children?

I was born and raised in Michigan. My parents were boaters so that’s how we spent our summers. Maybe that’s where my love of living outside and close quarters came from. I’ve always thought it’s the same thing as camping you’re just on the water.
Tell us a bit about your husband and your boys.

My husband’s name is Nathan (@wandrly). He’s an incredible writer and artist. He’s a true dreamer and is able to make a reality of almost anything. He kicks ass. Tristan is our teenager. He came into my life with Nathan and was the most adorable eight year old I had ever laid eyes on. He’s truly the most compassionate and intelligent kid. I’m lucky to have him. Winter was my first babe. He’s five. Wild and crazy and full of life. He’s not an easy one, but he makes me a better person everyday and he changed my life when I first held him in my arms. My heart pretty much exploded when we met. Wylder is the baby. He’s three. He’s a hellion just like his bro, but he’s just too stinking cute. I had envisioned them to be best buddies, but it’s more like short bouts of love and mostly full on war. It’s crazy!!!

wanderly2
The road is your home. How long have you guys been living on the go?

We’ve been living on the road around 6 years. We stopped to have our first baby on the Oregon coast and jumped right back in the bus when he was 4 months. The second guy was born in Asheville and that’s when we decided to buy an airstream, because we had outgrown our beloved bus.
Why is living on the road important to you and your family?

We really like being around each other. I had no idea how helplessly in love Id be with these boys. Traveling with them and showing them as much of this world we can is a dream. I get to teach them and watch them learn and grow. It’s amazing.
What kinds of things (if any) do you think your children are missing out on that others, in a more structured environment, have not or will not? How do you think it will affect them in the long run?

I don’t think the little guys are missing out on anything. They’re at the age where living outside and exploring is the best thing for them. Learning from each experience and growing into these rad little dudes. Their older bother is at an age where he’s starting to want a crew of friends and to stay in one spot. We’re trying to find a balance for him somewhere down the road once he hits high school. wanderly5
How do your children handle life on the road? I suppose they’re young enough to not know life any other way, just as my boys are unfamiliar with life on the road. But do they ever express a desire to stay in one place or do they embrace the adventure?

This is the only life they’ve ever known. Its a giant adventure. Moving around is part of it. That doesn’t mean they don’t have a daily routine like other kids. They do the same things everyday, but in new places.
How do you and your husband make life on the road work in a financial sense? Every time I dream of such a life, I get stuck on the financial aspect of things. 

We’re very fortunate that Nathan is able to work on the road. He’s a web designer so he works for himself. He works a regular work week. I take care of the kids and all the other things that need to get done and when he’s done we set off and explore the area we’re in. Things work out the best when we stay in national parks and state parks so we don’t even have to drive to get to the good stuff.
Describe a typical day… from how you wake up, to what you eat, all the way to bedtime.

A typical day would be wake up feed the boys and get them outside. Tristan does school and Nathan works. The boys play around the campground exploring the area, riding bikes, getting dirty with whatever they see. After lunch the guys are usually done so we’ll find some kind of activity to do as a family. Hike, climb on rocks, walk the town, check out the visiter center, find the ice cream shop. If we’re not in the woods we usually find ourselves in small towns which I love.
After dinner I give the boys showers and they’ll watch a show while I clean up. Nathan and Tristan will make a fire and go over school for the day and hang out. I’ll read the boys a couple of stories and they’re usually passed out by 7:30 or 8:00. Then Nathan and I have the rest of the night to hang out. wanderly3
Where have you been and where would you like to go?

We’ve been all through the U.S.  Right now we’re traveling through Baja with our friends and still deciding what’s next. It’s been an amazing trip down here so far. Our friends have three kids and we’re a  traveling tribe of ten. We’re meeting new people everyday and hearing their stories about how they are making life on the road work. It’s awesome how many families are out here doing this.

 

What was your favorite place yet and why? Gosh that sounds like a question my Grandma would ask. I’m sorry.

I’d say Baja has been my favorite so far. Everything is completely different. It’s refreshing and exciting to set off and have no idea where we’ll end up. The people are so nice. The food is killer and everything is super cheap. Driving down dirt roads to camp on secluded beaches. Hanging in little towns meeting and connecting with so many lovely people. It’s honestly been unreal.

 

Do you ever get time alone with your husband? What’s it like living in such close quarters? Perhaps the most memorable part of watching the documentary Surfwise was the part where the children recounted walking in on their parents having sex on a regular basis and that being something that was more or less the norm. Not that I want the details of your sex life, but I am curious about privacy and time alone with one another… If you’re willing to share… wink wink. 

We get plenty of alone time. Tristan pops in his tent and plays games with buddies online, and I put the boys to bed crazy early so we have the whole night to hang by the fire, drink some beer, and talk about life. wanderly4

We’ve been friends for a long time via social media. Have you met a lot of likeminded people on the road through things like instagram and Facebook? 

We’ve meet some really great people through Instagram. Most importantly the family we’re with now. We met years ago and always made an effort to hook up whenever we were in the same parts of the country. Now we’re traveling all through Mexico together and it’s so great. Sometimes you meet people and you’re instantly friends. This crew is like our family now.
How do you view your future? How long do you think you’ll keep on’ truckin’? Do you ever have the desire to settle in one place? And if so, where would it be (I imagine it being a difficult choice after having experienced so many rad places). 

We talk about buying land at some point. A place Tristan can hang and find himself a bunch of friends. After that I’m sure we’ll be off. Nathan and I want to see as much of this world as possible. We both get really antsy standing still. Our life isn’t always perfect but we both want the same things and that’s something that we thrive on. Living life this way is harder in many ways but it feels good to actually be living.

 

You can read more tales from different families regarding life on the road by checking out Wand’rly Magazine. I especially liked this piece on How to Travel Full-time

Childhood Unplugged | Cuba

Childhood Unplugged-36

Childhood Unplugged-1 Childhood Unplugged-13 Childhood Unplugged-2 Childhood Unplugged-21 Childhood Unplugged-3 Childhood Unplugged-5 Childhood Unplugged-8 Childhood Unplugged-34 Childhood Unplugged-17 Childhood Unplugged-6
Childhood Unplugged-19 Childhood Unplugged-18Childhood Unplugged-30 Childhood Unplugged-24 Childhood Unplugged-25 Childhood Unplugged-26 Childhood Unplugged-39

Delving into my images from Cuba feels like a daunting task given how many images I snapped while there. But starting here, with some childhood unplugged (the abroad edition) feels like a good start. In fact, this is the very reason taking the boys – despite the possibility they may never remember such a trip – was important to me.

An excerpt from Lonely Planet (my go-to guide book for all international travel — not sure how anyone functions without it): “Welcome to a culture where children still play freely in the street and wait staff unconsciously ruffle your toddler’s hair as they glide past your table on their way back to the kitchen. There’s something wonderfully old-fashioned about kids’ entertainment here, which is less about sophisticated computer games and more about messing around in the plaza with an improvised baseball bat and a rolled-up ball of plastic”.

Five years ago when Willy and I went to Cuba sans kids (well, Hooper was growing in my belly), we brought an assortment of baseball cards, balls, and t-shirts. We had less room to bring such niceties this time around, but we did manage to bring some coloring books and matchbox cars. Both kids were rather disgusted about giving away brand new cars, but Hooper quickly came around when he witnessed the joy it brought other little boys. Van… not so much. And that’s okay (he is 3, after all).

There is so much life and energy on the streets of Havana; women sitting in simple lounge chairs on the sidewalk, men playing dominos on the street corner, and kids – tons of kids – kicking soccer balls around or playing a game of stickball. It’s so different from the sterility that fills the majority of neighborhoods here in America and perhaps the number one thing that will always draw me to Cuba.

All groups of children were inviting and allowed the boys, despite the inability to speak the same language, to partake; the older boys actually bringing balls over to the boys to give them more of a fair chance at play.

I’m always amazed by the stray dogs and their ability to navigate the streets; their know-with-all and ability to survive the same streets that has me holding my boys’ hands a little tighter despite the fact I most always trust them to walk independently. The kids of Cuba are the same way — street smart; they’re little hearts don’t even seem to miss a beat as they hop barefoot over a pile of who-knows-what, collect their balls and their makeshift wooden goal posts, and move to the side to let some exhaust blowing classic car zoom by. No parents rushing to their rescue, no parents even overseeing the fairness of the game nor the safeness of the field.

The boys also had a blast with the kids that lived next door to the house we rented a room in… crazy, again, how not a word spoken is understood and yet they all run and slam their cars into one another the same. Those boys that lived next door were so warm and inviting and it was Hooper’s favorite pastime during the few hours when Van would nap. And, perhaps the part that warms my mama heart most, he was always invited. Always (as was I – and my camera, for that matter). And each time, the group of kids seemed to change… cousins or other neighborhood kids added in or taken away from the core few.

I’ve always more-or-less advocated for the free-range childhood movement and Cuba seems like the epitome of such; only without the stupid gimmicky title. Over there, it’s not some sort of renegade parenting cliche, it’s just the way.

I’m not sure what the boys will remember of Cuba years from now, but I hope images like these joggle memories and remind them that their parents put up with a lot of the hardships that come with traveling (do I even need to add “with children” because shit, traveling alone is hard) because we believe in it’s importance.

More from Cuba to come… no promises on how soon because, well, the house is an absolute disaster… we have construction that seems to start and stop whenever our super great (please read my sarcasm) contractor decides to start, stop, and restart again (I won’t even mention the fact that we had an upstairs bathtub leaking into our downstairs kitchen), piles and piles of laundry, a growing list of things that need to be sold / donated / thrown away, and the ever-present upkeep with The Bee & The Fox, which following the weekend holiday has me wondering if I can stay afloat.

In any event, please join me in supporting the other photographers participating in the Childhood Unplugged movement by clicking here to see all our submissions. You can also follow us on instagram (@childhoodunplugged) and be sure to use #childhoodunplugged for a chance to be featured on our Instagram feed.

Cuba

cubaSurely I may come back from this trip screaming at each of you to never partake on such an adventure with children of this age. But I do have a game plan. And I’m reminding myself often that there are several way more daring than me. I mean there are people that travel in recreational vehicles across state lines, with children, permanently.

So my game plan is this:

-Return to a place you have been before. This way, even if we miss out we don’t really miss out. No patience left to hit up that museum you visited 4 years ago? No problem, you saw it 4 years ago.

-Pick a place worthy to return. I’ve always traveled under the guise that I would never go anywhere twice and this is nothing more than a testament to the fact that I love to travel and see new places and returning to somewhere I’ve been before feels a bit lacking in purpose. But Cuba? There is no where in the world like Cuba. And when Castro is officially six feet under, things will change. It’s already in the process of change. But man, so much has stayed the same. A lot of people feel like they should have been born in another generation; sometimes I feel the same way. Well guess what? Taking a trip to Cuba is like taking a time capsule to decades past.

-Convince your friends to go with you. Thankfully this wasn’t a hard sell. Janet and I have traveled all over the world together and she, too, has been to Cuba before. Convincing her to come along with one of her babes (she’s leaving the little ones with family) and hubs in tow was as simple as sending a few screen shots of Havana to stir up old memories and borrowing a few quotes from the trusty ol’ guidebook, “Cuba is like a prince in a poor man’s coat: behind the sometimes shabby facades, gold dust lingers. It’s these rich dichotomies that make travel here the exciting, exhilarating roller-coaster ride it is. Trapped in a time warp and reeling from an economic embargo that has grated for more than half a century, this is a country where you can wave goodbye to Western certainties and expect the unexpected. If Cuba were a book, it would be James Joyce’s Ulysses: layered, hard to grasp, serially misunderstood, but – above all – a classic”.

I’m envisioning a date night with Willy, when we can leave the boys with Janet’s gang (and vice versa), best friend time while the guys either sleep or smoke cigars along the malecon (boardwalk), and plenty of group hangs where despite tantrums from hungry and sleep deprived kids we feel that camaraderie that only seems to come along with being in the company of others who are suffering right alongside you. I know it won’t be easy… I don’t like travel to be easy, but I do know it will be memorable.

Added bonus: Spanish is Janet’s first language (she’s part Cuban, part Guatemalan and despite looking ‘white’, her mom doesn’t even speak English).

-Limit your itinerary. We took this to the extreme in that we have no plans. In fact, at the time of writing this post I’m not even sure where we’re staying. But I also know Havana has loads of warm and friendly families that are happy to invite you into their home and I’m kinda looking forward to showing up and figuring it out. We’re limiting our traveling around to no more than two different places and we’re not even sure, aside from Havana, where else we’ll go. And even while we’re in Havana, we have nothing on the itinerary other than ‘hang out’.

-Shorten your stay. Typically I won’t go through the hassle of flying somewhere far away and spending money on a hefty plane ticket unless I can stay at least two weeks. We’re staying shorter this go-around and I think we’ll be glad we did.

-Prep your husband. Attitude is everything when you’re traveling with kids. This will be our first time traveling international with kids and international travels brings a whole new set of annoyances: time changes, language barriers, pillows literally stuffed with cotton balls, the list goes on and on. And so, we’ve talked a lot about being patient with each other and with the kids. I also think having friends there as a buffer will help. Struggles are always lessened when shared.

Not sure what kind of cell service we’ll get, if any, but if I have service I’ll be sure to post a few images via instagram along the way. I have a few posts scheduled during the time we’ll be gone and loads of photo sessions I hope to get caught up in sharing once we get back… along with laundry and shop stuff and now I’m getting stressed about coming back. Wish us luck. And for those who have done a lot of traveling with little ones, got any tips?

images found on Pinterest

Utah | At home

338A9502-206338A9519-208338A8862-1 338A8896-13 leoisla 338A9016-65 338A9361-173 338A9113-93 338A9039-73 leo 338A9473-195338A8897-14 338A9066-81 338A9373-178 338A9013-64 338A9370-176 338A9357-172 338A8891-12 338A9475-196 338A9449-190 338A9210-124 islaleo 338A9111-92 338A9103-89 338A9097-88 338A9054-79 338A9050-78

I flew to Utah with both boys on my own which isn’t as gutsy as it sounds. For the most part, they’re good travelers. Sure, the guy sitting in front of Hooper may have stories about a particular tray table that kept going up and down and the flight attendant may have had to talk to Van about keeping his seat belt fastened, but all in all it was trouble free. Perspective is everything, right? Van’s insistence with pushing the suitcase actually paid off because when you add up the number of car seats, suit cases, and carry-on bags and compare that number to the number of willing and able hands, I’m clearly outnumbered. Janet (pronounced Jeanette) met us at the airport and helped out from there.
The weather was cold, much colder than it had been in the weeks prior. I would have whined more, but Hooper and Van did enough whining for all of us. Determined, we refused to let any whining or cold weather or hungry babies or nap times slow us down. We had a list of things we wanted to do and we damn near did them all. As for our time spent in the home though? Well, in looking at these pictures now, it’s painfully clear that the majority of our time at home was spent feeding people. Namely babies. But the bigger kids, too.
More from Utah to come in the days to follow… lots of adventures were had.

Click To Vote For Us @ Top Baby Blogs Directory!

The Desert

Leave it to open dirt roads, two sleeping toddlers, and a bag full of snacks to bring out life’s big questions. Willy and I love dreaming and scheming and creating together. We spent a couple of days out in the desert and came back feeling inspired and energized. It’s easy, as a mother, to get caught up in mothering the kiddos but every now and again I find myself wanting and needing to take a step back and appreciate the man that’s helped build this little family of ours. He’s really something special and I’m so grateful.  
The boys have gotten easier and easier to travel with and any troubles they caused on the trip are already forgotten; memories shaped instead by the photos of a few special moments along the way. Pit stops, mostly. And a few of that spectacular little ranch we stayed at.  
Tonight, when I go to sleep, I’ll be dreaming about open roads, sleeping toddlers, and snacks. And maybe cacti too.

Click To Vote For Us @ Top Baby Blogs Directory!

Maui

To anyone who looks at these photos with any amount of jealousy, allow me to be frank: traveling with young children sucks. That’s not to say the water wasn’t warm, the sunsets beautiful, or the pineapples ripe because the water was glorious, the sunsets long and lingering, and the pineapple so ripe and sweet you’d wake up with mouth sores the next morning. Damn those mouth sores.  
But getting there required two long hours on a six hour plane ride with both kids screaming. And when the flight attendant offered Willy two bottles of Jack Daniels for free (because, hey, any parent dealing with two screaming toddlers damn well deserves a drink on the house), I swear the joke was on us when Van proceeded to spill it all over Willy’s lap. It was one of those plane rides. You know, the one where your child insists on bringing his beloved tennis ball on the plane only to have it rolling out of reach from one end of the plane to the other so then you turn to your grab bag of tricks and pull out a bag full of trail mix that you’re certain will entertain them for at least five minutes only the next thing you know the ground below you is sprinkled with trail mix like the steps outside a church are sprinkled with rice after a wedding. Needless to say, we got off the plane with our clothes smelling like liquor only to learn that Willy’s luggage was somehow lost. It was “found” hours later, because – you know – everyone there is on “Maui – aka lets all get stoned – time”.  
In any event, we spent the windy days exploring, the hot days on the beach, and every evening on the patio – drinks in hand – watching the sun go down with a mix of locals and vacationers alike doing the same.
Motherhood will always be a beautiful disaster. I’ll refrain from using the word vacation until the kids are grown and instead refer to trips like this as an adventure.  
What has your experience with traveling with kids been like? Do you consider it worth it?

Click To Vote For Us @ Top Baby Blogs Directory!