flying with a toddler

Over Thanksgiving, we spent a week in Utah with Matt's parents to visit Matt's brother and SIL and our nephew. It was such a great trip and so fun to see the boys playing together. During our last visit out there, Xavier wasn't even crawling yet! And when they came in June, he was crawling but still not super mobile. It was a whole different ball game this time!

Speaking of a whole different ball game, I knew flying across the country with a 14-month old was going to be way different than flying with an almost 8-month old, which is the last time we flew. Factor in me being 11 weeks pregnant (and also pretty petrified of flying) and you can imagine how stressed I was leading up the trip.

I tried to prepare as best as I could, and gave myself lots of pep talks about how we'd survive, regardless of how Xavier behaved. We were flying with Matt's parents, and Xavier adores them, so I knew we had extra hands and help if we needed.

All things considered, it went so well! I chalk that up to Xav's sweet temperament, ideal timing for flights (thanks, Karen!), and also our preparations ahead of time, which I want to share here.

The flight time was four hours, so I broke that down into shorter segments. I wanted to have enough activities to occupy him for the whole time, assuming he didn't sleep at all. When we've flown with him in the past (These flights were his 11th and 12th overall), he was a lot younger and a lot smaller, and slept a lot in our laps. Now that he's bigger and much busier, I knew I couldn't bank on him crashing in our arms. Although, he did end up sleeping on both flights, which was a huge surprise and major gift!

So, I broke the 4-hour flight into twelve 20-minute blocks, which felt like a safe amount of time for him to be entertained by one thing. I downloaded a handful of Daniel Tiger episodes to our iPad - with Amazon Prime, you can download episodes for free, and once you're in airplane mode, you have 48 hours to watch the downloaded video, so it worked out great for the flights. We bought this iPad holder to attach the iPad to the tray table, and these mini headphones for him to wear. Although we try to keep screen time to a minimum at home, all bets are off when we're traveling, for our sake and also everyone else on the plane. The holder worked great - it attached to the headrest in the car for the longer car rides, and also worked great on the tray table.

Even after factoring in screen time, I had 8 more 20-minute blocks to fill, so I decided to have a different, new activity for each block. I bought a variety of inexpensive toys and activities, things he's never seen before and that I hoped would entertain him. I got an old-school metal Slinky, a pack of pipe cleaners, a pack of feathers, a little ball, a mini Magnadoodle, a hand puppet, a pinwheel and a package of post-its to stick all over the tray table and window. We also packed a few of his favorite books and a handful of his favorite toys. And of course, snacks and his water bottle, too.

I figured between the screen time, all the new toys he's never seen, walking up and down the aisle, snack breaks and diaper changes, we'd have plenty to do to keep him occupied. And I was right! The flight passed without much of a hitch. We didn't end up using much of the stuff I bought (go figure) because he ended up falling asleep pretty quickly on both flights, but I'm not going to complain about that!

Also, I mentioned this in this post about flying with babies, but I want to mention it again. We considered checking our car seat at the check-in counter and not gate-checking it this time. Xavier is still in the infant bucket seat, which snaps onto our stroller, but he doesn't ride that way in the stroller anymore, he sits in it like a big kid. I didn't think he would like sitting in the bucket seat to be pushed all through the airport. But I read a bunch of articles recommending that you always gate-check a carseat, because of the way luggage (carseats included) get thrown around. I didn't want to take the chance that our very nice carseat would get damaged, so we decided to gate-check and just hope he sat in the seat attached to the stroller without too much protesting. As it turned out, I forgot the attachment pieces to attach the carseat to the stroller (because we haven't used them in months!) so we ended up just slipping the carseat over the handle of our rolling suitcase and carrying it that way. Anyway, my whole point is that I'm SO glad we decided to gate check the seat, because our flight home wasn't full, so we were able to bring the seat on board and Xavier got his own space and didn't have to be held! So always, always plan to gate check and always, always ask at the desk if the flight is completely full and if not, if you can bring your seat on board. 

Traveling with kids is not easy, but it's also not impossible. With lots of planning beforehand, it can be done, and you will survive! Xavier has been on 12 individual flights in his short life - the first when he was 3 months old - and we're still here to tell the tale. I'm so grateful that we're making the most of the "kids fly free" thing, and getting to explore the country (and world - we go to Mexico next month!) and make memories with our sweet boy!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving week! xo!

Holiday decor inspiration

Happy Monday morning, sweet friends! Although it's rainy, windy and downright dreary here today, I'm bursting with Christmas cheer. We just spent a week in Utah with Matt's parents, brother, sister-in-law and our nephew, and it was so fun to kick off the holiday season with family. On Friday night, we walked through this amazing light display, and it totally got me pumped for Christmas. Beautiful lights, Christmas music, cold toes, hot chocolate in hand, ahhhh!

On today's agenda is deep cleaning the house so we can put up the tree tonight, hooray! Over the past year, I've gotten rid of 75% of our Christmas decor. I'm noticing my tastes changing significantly, away from the bright reds and greens of typical Christmas decor and more towards minimal neutrals, much more Scandinavian inspired. I also get really sad having to take down the Christmas decorations after New Years, so this year I'm aiming for more winter decor, instead of strictly Christmas decor. Of course we'll have a Christmas tree, but I plan to use lots of natural elements like greenery which will last well past Christmas, and keep our home feeling festive and cozy through those dreary post-holiday days. Bonus: you can get greenery for free, and there are a million tutorials online for making your own garlands and wreaths!

Here's a bunch of images I've been pinning that are serving as my inspiration board. I feel happy just looking at it! I'll be back next week with photos of our decorated home - we'll see if I can pull this vibe off!

What's your decorating style for the holidays? Do you go full-on Christmas, or opt for more of a "wintry" vibe? I'd love to hear!! Looking at beautiful home decor is my love language :) XO!

3 tips for maternity dressing

I'm 11 weeks pregnant as off this week (11.5, really) and it's starting to show. They weren't joking about showing early the second time around! Although, I did show early with Xavier too, so maybe it's just how my body carries a babe, who knows. At any rate, I've figured out some quick tips that make getting dressed and, more importantly, feeling good, a lot easier. Pregnancy is a wild ride, especially if you've honed in on your style and live within a capsule wardrobe, because all of that sort of goes out the window when your size literally changes with each week. But there are some tricks to getting through it with a bit more ease, and I'm sharing those today!

MY BEST TIPS FOR GETTING DRESSED WHILE PREGNANT

1. Take everything out of your closet that doesn't fit. I learned this the hard way about halfway through my pregnancy with Xavier. I would put something on, realize it didn't fit or didn't fit the way I wanted, then hang it right back up or put it back in the drawer, only to repeat the process again a week later. It's hard to have your favorite clothes staring you in the face every day when they no longer fit. For me, it was just a reminder of how much my body had changed. Yes, I was growing a human and yes, I was so grateful for that, but it was just hard to feel so unlike myself in every way and having clothes I loved but could no longer wear in full view made it harder. I started to put things out of sight when I realized they no longer fit. In an under-bed box or a tote in your closet, wherever works for you, just get it out of sight and out of mind. Nowadays, I store my maternity clothes in one of the drawers built into our bed, but just swapped out some non-maternity stuff in my regular dresser that no longer fits. So the stuff that doesn't fit is out of sight, and I only have things that DO fit accessible.

2. Create a solid outfit formula. Coming up with a solid formula that you know you love will make it so much easier to get dressed and, more importantly, feel good. So far, my formula this time around is leggings, breezy top + drapey cardigan or outer layer. I like to wear drapey, oversize things in my first trimester - mostly all of my normal clothes - while my belly gets bigger but doesn't really look like a baby bump yet, more like I just ate too much Chipotle. When it's clear that there's a babe in there, I like to switch to tighter fitting silhouettes, otherwise I feel like I'm wearing a tent. When I reach my late second and third trimesters, I feel like the loose-fitting stuff just makes me look large, not cute-pregnant. Does that make any sense? So later this winter and into spring, I'll switch to leggings, a fitted tshirt and a drapey cardigan or shawl. Also, don't underestimate accessories! A statement necklace and a favorite pair of earrings will go a long way in making you feel put together and more like yourself.

3. Play dress up and plan specific outfits. This is a game-changer. There will be days when you wake up and just feel large and like you have nothing to wear. Those were the days in my last pregnancy when I would impulse shop and end up buying something I really didn't love just because I was sad and thought something new would fill the void. This time, I'm coming into it more prepared. Set aside an hour one day when you're feeling good, and play dress-up. Come up with a handful of outfits you love (5-8, to start), and snap photos of each on your phone. Save the photos to an album, or even print them on and hang them in your closet to be inspiration on those I'm-so-pregnant-and-nothing-fits days. 

Any other tried-and-true tips or tricks? I'd love to hear. I'm trying to give myself grace this time around and not get so hung up on body image, which was a major struggle with my last pregnancy. We'll see how it goes! Happy Friday, sweet friends!

a trick for bad days

I shared this tip last week in a Facebook group, but with tomorrow being the national holiday for giving thanks, I figured I would share it here, too.

Maybe it's growing up, or my deepening faith, or my battle with depression, but I'm learning that best and truest strategy for battling all that life throws my way is through gratitude. Plain, simple, and free. Giving thanks shifts my perspective, quiets my heart, resets my racing thoughts and puts me in a positive place where I can move forward. That's why I turn to this exercise whenever I'm having a rough day. I call it my sad/glad list.

You might say it's tedious, or a lot of work, but hear me out. This exercise has pulled me out of many a funk, so it's tried-and-true. I bet if you try it, it would work for you too.

When I'm having a bad day, a sad day, an anxious day or a stressful day, I sit myself down and I make a list. Those who know me are chuckling, I'm sure, because making a list is so very Valerie. But it works! I make a list - be sure to number it - of every single thing stressing or bumming me out. Everything from major financial worries to annoyance over a bad hair day. I put it all down on the paper. Then, right next to my list of "sad", I make a list of "glad." For every single stressful thing, I write down something I'm grateful for. If I wrote down 37 bad things, I write down 37 gratitudes. Seeing them in black and white, on paper, side by side, is such a powerful testimony. Sure, it doesn't necessarily do anything about the problems or stressors, but it tempers them all with gratitude, which makes them seem not so bad, and maybe not so all-consuming.

Bad days happen, and they're hard. I find myself experiencing them even more in the winter, when it's cold and dark and dreary and you don't get out or see friends as much. But doing this exercise, and training my mind to reach for gratitude no matter what, has been a powerful force in my life. I pray it helps you, too. Happy Thanksgiving, and may we all quiet our minds and focus on gratitude not only tomorrow, but each and every day. XO.

made in the USA at modcloth

I've aways been a fan of ModCloth's cute clothes and affordable price points, and did a little experiment last week to see what kinds of ethical options they offer. Turns out, a ton! I was happily surprised to see 20+ pages of items when I searched "Made in the USA" on their site, including lots of their adorable basics, like this top that comes in lots of colors! I rounded up my top sixteen picks for you, below.

It's so encouraging to see major stores like ModCloth, Nordstrom and even A Pea in the Pod offering more and more options made responsibly, right here in our own US of A. Gives me all the good feels.

I ordered this top and can't wait for it to arrive, and I'm eying this dress for the winter. I think it would be great for a baby bump over leggings or tights, and could be easily dressed up or down, don't you think? Happy shopping!

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