Tuesday, November 5, 2013

An Agnostic's View on the Holidays

   One of the best things about being a parent is that we get to shamelessly re-live all of the magical things about childhood through our kids. There are so many fun things we forget about until we get to see through the eyes of a child again. And I got to thinking about this today after my son left for school, like any other day, and I didn't even realize until later that it was Halloween.
    When I was in elementary school we got to wear our costumes to school. We had parties in our classes where we got to wrap each other in toilet paper like a mummy, reach into a covered bowl of "guts" (ok, spaghetti), and march around the school in a costume parade. For one day kids got to go to school and be cowboys, princesses, super heroes, ninjas, or whatever else they dreamed of being. I was never asked to worship Satan or to practice witchcraft on these days. Not everybody dressed up and nobody faulted them for it.
My son's school doesn't celebrate Halloween. I think last year they called it "dress like a pirate day." Which for a family on a budget like us is not exactly easy when we've already shelled out $20 for a Captain America costume and shield. I was seriously tempted to send him to school in it anyway and was totally prepared to argue that it was not a Halloween costume but a "patriotic jumpsuit." But I decided against it because that is not (excuse the analogy) his cross to bear.
   We discovered last year when he was in kindergarten that Halloween was not the only holiday that got watered down in fact but that all of them were either ignored or approached in the least overt or confrontational way possible. The only exception being Thanksgiving which is probably the most offensive holiday considering it completely ignores the ugly truth of colonization. But I digress.
   I was really hesitant to write this piece because inevitably you can't talk about the holidays without talking about religion, and you can't talk about religion without people getting really fired up. Then I realized that that right there is the problem - everybody is too afraid to just come out and share their point of view because they don't want to be attacked, or judged, or *gasp* disagreed with. This is not the lesson I want to teach my kids. I want them to know that it is ok to have an opinion, that it is ok to respectfully express it, and that it is ok that not everybody is going to agree with it.
   So I have to tell you a little bit about my religious background because, after all, our backgrounds are a large part of what shapes the way we view the world. When people ask me what my religion is I usually joke that I am "half-lic" because I was sort of raised Catholic as a kid and I made communion, but I never got confirmed. I don't particularly have a lot of memories of going to church. One I remember was dressing up as an angel for the nativity play at Christmas time. The other was making communion which to me meant two things: 1. I get to taste wine. 2. I get to eat a cookie. My mom went to Catholic school her whole life so I was definitely exposed to religion.
   People who know me fairly well know that I am not really religious. I've had a few people assume I am an Atheist, but that doesn't really fit because I don't think that there is no God/Goddess/Gods/Higher Presence. I don't really like labels, but I think people have a hard time without one. If I have to choose, agnostic is probably the closest to describe me. Spiritual also, kind of. The bible doesn't really do it for me. But I don't think you have to believe in the good book to be a good person. I believe that there is good at the core of humanity. I believe that there are things that we can't see or touch but that doesn't mean they don't exist. If you ask me for prayers I'll send a little message out there to who may or may not be listening. I believe we have souls. I hope our souls don't just disappear into thin air after our bodies die but I don't hypothesize on what might happen to them. I try to be a good person and to help others because this may or may not be the only life I get so why not make the best of it. I believe in family.
   When I was in school I remember learning about all of the holidays. We did Christmas crafts, Hanukkah crafts, Kwanzaa crafts. We learned that some kids don't celebrate any holidays. I didn't spin a dreidel at school and go home asking to convert to Judaism. Lets give our kids a little bit more credit than that. I feel like the holidays are an opportunity to learn about each other. To celebrate our differences instead of hiding them from one another. But we live in this culture now where everybody is either waiting on the edge of their seat to get offended about something, or tiptoeing around so as not to offend someone. Apparently the solution in our schools is to just ignore them altogether.
   I am not a Christian but I celebrate Christmas. Why? Because I want my kids to believe in magic and it doesn't really get much more magical than Santa Claus. Because I have fond memories of hanging stockings, singing carols, and ripping into presents on Christmas morning. Because many of our traditions are rooted deeper into family and into being together than they are into a book. Maybe to some Christians I am not actually celebrating Christmas, and you know what? I respect that point of view. It's all good. Christmas to me doesn't have to be the same as what Christmas is to you, and it probably has a different meaning to a lot of people.
   Same goes for the other holidays. If your kid wants to bring their Menorah to school for show and tell, then I think that's fantastic. I want my kids to learn about other cultures. I want them to see that not everybody believes the same things they do. I want them to embrace that. Life would be boring if we all believed the same thing. So I say bring back the holidays - all of them. Not to push them on each other, but to celebrate that we each have our own unique set of beliefs and traditions.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Lessons From My Sons

When I got pregnant with Mason, I was so excited, but I was also scared.

I was scared that my boys wouldn't bond. I was scared that the age difference (5 and a half years) was too big. I was scared that Daniel would be jealous of Mason. I was scared that after being an only child and grandchild for so long Daniel would be bitter and resentful of Mason. I was scared that I would love Mason more because Daniel is not my biological child.

But that's the thing about kids - they so often show us where adulthood has jaded us. Bitterness and resentment are not emotions of childhood (at least they shouldn't be). They teach us that we should live in the moment, as they do so joyously.

When Daniel came to the hospital to meet his little brother for the first time, he was so excited. I will never forget the look of amazement on his face when he held him. It brings tears to my eyes still thinking of the sheer amount of love and pride he had for this little baby that was his brother.

And again when I spoke to him on the phone and told him that we were bringing Mason home that day. He was so excited! His baby brother was coming home to live with him. How cool! I don't think the thought ever crossed his mind that he would now have to share everyone's time and attention with this little creature.

He was so curious about Mason in those early weeks. He watched me breastfeed, and I couldn't help but laugh when he so earnestly asked, "How does milk come out when there's no holes?" He was tickled when Mason's little fists would open and wrap around his finger. He was so proud to bring a picture of his new brother to school and have his teacher hang it on the wall in the classroom.

The first few months were a struggle to find balance. I spent many weeks feeling like Daniel was getting neglected because Mason needed so much. Mason had reflux, a dairy and soy intolerance, and a tendency to get ear infections. All of these things contributed to some very sleep deprived and cranky parents. And since Mason was not terribly interactive yet, there wasn't much Daniel could do with him either. To say it wasn't rough for a little while would be a lie. But we weathered the storm.

Then Mason started to smile, and to laugh. He started to play. And one day I laid Mason on his play mat and put Sponge Bob on for Daniel while I went to the kitchen to get something for breakfast. I walked back into the room to find Daniel kneeling next to him their little hands wrapped in one another's. These little moments happened more and more. I look in my rear view mirror and see the boys grinning at each other. I catch Daniel telling Mason about when the dirty dishes go into the dishwasher.

When Mason was big enough to use his walker, Daniel cheered him on. Now Mason has started crawling and there is Daniel, kneeling on the ground, "Come on Mason, you can do it! You can do it! Come on silly boy!" And Mason looks up at his big brother with his open-mouth gummy grin. And I am at peace because I know that Daniel will be there for Mason as he grows up, showing him the ropes and cheering him on.

I saw a poster that said "Sometimes being a brother is better than being a super hero." But you know? I think they got it wrong. I think being a brother is being a super hero. These two boys are my heroes.

Daniel has taught me about the beautiful capacity for love and trust that children have. He teaches me also that we are born with compassion and the desire to care for those that are more fragile then ourselves. He has taught me to adapt, as he has done so graciously to his role as a big brother. He has taught me that love is not limited and that it can grow and adapt as well.

 Mason has taught me to be patient and not to rush childhood for him or for Daniel. He taught me to remember that Daniel is just a little boy too and that even though he can run and jump and tie his shoes, that he still has needs that he cannot express and that it is my job to figure them out and to help him the best I can.

They have both taught me to smile more often, sing more often, laugh more often, be silly more often, and to cry tears of frustration, sadness, joy, and wonder. And also that when I am done crying that I don't have to hold onto the pain because we are on to the next moment and there are so many glorious things to see and do and explore in this world and really it's a waste of time not to just let things go.

They will continue to teach, I am sure, and I will do my best to keep learning from them, to appreciate the smiles and the giggles, and to be patient when they test my temper because they are my little spiritual guides in this life. I love you boys.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Basic Biscotti Recipe - The Possibilities are Endless


The first time I made biscotti for my in-laws, they thought I'd bought it at a bakery. They were highly impressed when they found out that I'd made it myself. Just between you and me, biscotti is actually really easy to make (and it is a good recipe to impress your friends and guests!).

There are a lot of different variations on the recipe, some using butter, others using oil. I prefer the oil method because for one, it's more authentic, but also because I can't have anything made with cow's milk because Little Bird is sensitive to it. Traditional Italian recipes use olive oil (of course) but if you are not a big olive oil fan you can use canola or vegetable oil or substitute half of the olive oil for something else.

I always start out with a basic recipe, and then add whatever nuts, dried fruit, or chocolate chips I happen to have on hand at the time. Experiment! The varieties are endless.

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
2 tsp. extract of your choosing (vanilla, almond, lemon, anise, combo)
1/4 cup of olive oil
1-2 cups of the mix-in of your choice (You can play around with how much you want in your biscotti, just keep in mind that the more you add the harder it is to slice!)

Mix-in Ideas
Almonds, Pistachios, Walnuts, Pecans, Pumpkin seeds, Dried cherries, Dried cranberries, Dried apricots, Chocolate chips


First, pre-heat your oven to 325°. Or, do like I do and forget this step until your dough is finished and then spend ten minutes shooing the cats away while the oven pre-heats. Your choice.

In a large bowl, mix the sugar, oil and extract until they are blended. No need to get fancy with a mixer here folks, I just use a fork for the whole recipe. Then beat in your eggs.

In another bowl, combine the rest of your (dry) ingredients and give them a good stir. Get out a clean fork to do this. That is common sense to me, but I just imagined Jeep using the wet fork to stir up the dry ingredients so I decided I'd better be specific.

Pour your dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients and stir until you've got a well combined (and fairly sticky) dough. If you're doing some mix-ins, stir them in now. I just made a basic batch with vanilla and walnut extracts. Divide the dough in half and turn each portion out onto a parchment lined baking sheet. I like the sprinkle some flour on the parchment first, but that step is optional. I do recommend dusting your hands with flower before forming the dough.

You're going to form your dough into two rectangular logs, about 2" wide. The width of your logs will become the length of your biscotti. Don't panic if it looks really small and sad. Stay with me.

Bake your logs in the oven for 25-30 minutes until they are lightly browned. The pull them out and reduce the oven to 275°. Let the logs cool for at least 10 minutes, then slice them diagonally into 3/4 inch strips. Eat the ugly corner pieces. You know you want to.

Lay the slices on their sides back on your parchment lined sheets and bake for another 5-10 minutes. The longer you bake them the crispier biscotti you will get. I tend to cook them a shorter amount of time because I like them a bit soft still. This is a personal choice. You could also adorn your biscotti with some melted chocolate and coconut flakes.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Birth of Mason

On January 17th, 2013 I had my 40 week prenatal office visit. I was due the next day (a friday). I was at that point in the pregnancy when you can't get comfortable no matter what you do, you spend more time than you'd like to admit googling natural ways to induce labor, and you're dying with the anticipation of finally meeting this little person inside of you. It's like being a kid on Christmas eve except that you don't know when Christmas day is going to come.

So I go to the doctor hoping for some progress and she tells me that I am barely a centimeter dilated. I get a prescription for a non-stress test (you have to get these after you've gone overdue), and I will get a call the following week about scheduling an induction. I leave the doctor totally disappointed and resigned to the fact that this little guy is not coming for a while.

So we are at home that evening; Daniel is already in bed. I decide to play Bioshock 2, because hell if I'm going to get any sleep anyway. Chris plays on the computer for a while but eventually goes to bed. I stay up. I'd had a few mild cramps since dinner but nothing I gave much thought to. Around 10pm the cramps start to come more regularly. After about an hour I decide maybe I ought to start timing these. And since we live in the digital age, I download a contraction timer app on my phone (ha) and start recording them. I try to remember the rule my doctor gave in their childbirth class. "5-1-1" I think? Five minutes apart, one minute long, continuing for an hour. So I finally wake up Chris at midnight, "Uh honey, I think I might be going into labor. Maybe?"

I was so utterly convinced that this baby was not coming for days that I had a hard time believing I was actually in labor. I reluctantly called the doctor, "I'm in labor, I think?" and she tells me to come to the hospital and they will check me out.

We start gathering some last minute things together to put in our hospital bag. It goes something like this:

Me shoving things into bag, "I hope this isn't false labor. I feel so dumb calling! I don't want to drive all the way to the hospital just to come back home!"

Then a pause, "Ow... ow... OWWW!"

Contraction passes. I turn to JChris, "Do you think I'm in labor? Is this it?? IS IT?!?" Like he has any idea what I am or am supposed to be feeling, "I'm going to be so pissed if we have to come back home!"

My poor husband looks at me with a mixture of cluelessness and fear in his eyes, "I don't know honey, probably?"

So he loads all of our stuff into the car and we are just about to leave when I feel a "pop." I don't know how else to describe it, because it is probably the weirdest thing I've ever felt. Then a small gush.

"Honey... I don't think we're coming back home."

My water broke at 1:45 in the morning. We get to the hospital around 2:30. I hold out until 6 in the morning trying to do the natural labor thing and I look at my poor, exhausted husband who I can tell is terrified to leave my side even though I'm probably close to breaking his hand. At this point I'm like screw it, give me the epidural.

Forget the wheel. Forget electricity, the printing press, the automobile. The epidural, my friends, is the greatest invention ever. Now, believe me, I hate taking medicine. I hate anything invasive. I am two Birkenstocks shy of being a tree-hugging, granola eating hippie. But after being awake all night, in all sorts of crazy horror film pain, getting the epidural was like finding the promised land. I swear I heard angels singing. I took a nap. A nap! In the middle of labor!

I started pushing around 11am on Friday, January 18th. What a relief when my son's head comes out (which my husband later lovingly referred to as "a gopher popping out of a hole." Thanks honey), then his shoulders, then a strange question from the doctor and nurses.

"Do you want to pull him out?"

I am so disoriented, and I remember pausing and blinking for a minute like, "What? I can do that?"

"Ok." I say. And at 11:45am I reach down and grab him under his arms, and I lift up my little boy for the first time. This was probably the most surreal moment I've ever had in my life. It is so strange having a baby. Even after carrying him for nine months, feeling him move inside me, and pulling him out myself, I still look at him and wonder, "I really did that? Me? I grew him and he came out of me?" Yet through all the disbelief, I was so elated and in love with this pink, slimy, crying baby.

And, yet again, my world is forever changed.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Product Review: Chicco Liteway Stroller

     Today Mason had his 4 month checkup and he is a big boy. He is off the charts for height and weight at over 27 inches and 16 lbs 7 oz. He is one ounce shy of doubling his birth weight, which babies are expected to do by 6 months, not four. I guess he's an overachiever like his mommy! Alas, I digress. What I am trying to explain here is why I needed to find a nice lightweight stroller. I was done lugging my heavyweight in an infant car seat!

What I was looking for in a stroller:

  • Accommodate an infant that is not able to sit up on his own.
  • Lightweight and not take up the entire hatch of my Prius.
  • Easy for me to fold and unfold while holding the baby.
  • Durable and versatile enough to grow with the baby.
  • Nice looking, low profile. 

After I came to terms with the fact that I will never be able to afford or justify spending $850 on this masterpiece, I began comparing a few different strollers. I really didn't want to spend a fortune, and I needed something right away because I had an upcoming trip with Mason. After comparing several different brands and models online with the help of some YouTube demonstrations, I ended up purchasing the Chicco Liteway at my local Buy Buy Baby. I was also able to use one of the store's 20% off coupons on this purchase which made it a great value.

The stroller came pretty much assembled, except for attaching two of the wheels, the canopy, and the cup holder. None of these elements were rocket science. I actually had the most trouble snapping the cup holder on, but managed to muscle it. I probably had the stroller assembled in less than 10 minutes.

Figuring out how to fold and unfold the stroller was a bit tricky at first, but once I got the hang of it, it became pretty quick and easy. The Liteway smartly makes use of foot pedals to lock and unlock the stroller into position, which is very handy when you are juggling a baby. Another handy feature is the hook that locks into place to hold both ends of the folded stroller together. The pieces are lined up perfectly so that when you fold the stroller down it grabs on without you having to use your hands and attach them. I did find this to be a bit cumbersome though when trying to unfold the stroller because it would get re-hooked while I was opening the stroller. The seat reclining mechanism was also very easy to operate.

The Liteway is well constructed and pretty durable. The seat material is a heavy weight canvas that I am sure will hold up over time. The front wheels spin as well as swivel to make turning easy. You can also lock the front wheels if you're strolling over rougher terrain where you need a little more traction. The ride is very smooth. The stroller survived being sandwiched between two other strollers, slung over the shoulder of an airline baggage handler, and dropped into the floor at the airport gate, so it can definitely take a beating. It's not the lightest stroller out there, but I have no trouble lifting it into and out of my car.

For Baby: This is the one area where I am not completely satisfied. The one problem I have with the stroller is the headrest area. There is a nice round padded spot for the baby or child's head, but they decided to sew the logo patch right at the top of this part. This makes a bit of a scratchy edge for my poor baby's bald head. The canvas material, while durable, is also not very soft or inviting. I would have liked to see a soft insert for infants, since the stroller is marketed for newborns to 40 lbs. I really couldn't see a newborn being totally comfortable in this stroller without doing what I did and putting a cozy blanket behind them. The backrest does recline into 5 different positions, including laying almost flat, which is excellent for an infant that cannot sit up yet (or even for a snooze at any age). Another feature I really liked was the adjustable leg support. You can lift it up to help prevent an infant from sliding down, or you can fold it down for an older child. The canopy is a good size and I like that is locks into place. The peek-a-boo window is a nice touch as well. There is also a boot that you can pull over baby's feet which will be great for cold and windy days.
For Mom or Dad: The stroller is a height that neither myself nor my 6 ft 4 husband had any discomfort in pushing. The handles are nicely padded and the cup holder is a bonus to have on a lightweight stroller.

The Chicco Liteway has a nice look to it. It isn't terribly flashy but I would say the look of it is better than average. It does come in some pretty snazzy colors, but my store only carried the red or gray option and I went with the gray. I should mention that the storage basket underneath the seat does detach and convert into a tote bag. Although I did not take advantage of this feature I can see it being useful. 

Overall I am happy with my choice of the Chicco Liteway. Though it could use a few minor improvements, it has some standout features that outweigh it's shortcomings. Little Bird seemed happy enough to be in it and it was definitely easy to travel through the airport with. We will surely continue to use this stroller as Mason gets bigger. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

5 Tips for Flying Alone with a Baby

     Guess what?! Mason and I survived our cross country trip. And although I am jet-lagged and just plain run down, I did manage to keep my sanity intact. I am making a list of my tips for flying with a baby (specifically if you are flying alone with a baby). I looked up a lot of different tips about flying with infants, and while many offered some good pointers I think most of them were redundant and missed some key items to remember. These are the 5 things I found most helpful.

My precious cargo.
  1. Pack for the Poopocalypse. Of all my greatest fears about flying with the baby, only one of them actually happened and it was the poop. Mason happened to get a case of the runs on the day of our first flight. We went through three diapers at the airport, and then he had an epic blowout on the plane. Poop went up his back, it was all over his outfit, and somehow in the process of changing him some even ended up on his hand. Yuck. Luckily I was well prepared with 2 changes of clothes for him, one for myself (luckily, it wasn't that bad), and plenty of diapers and wipes to sustain us. I have to give major props to Virgin America for having a decent sized bathroom (for an airplane) and a surprisingly large changing table in said bathroom. Though Mason is only 4 months, he is off the charts for his length and in the 90th percentile for weight and he still fit quite nicely on the table. 
  2. Snag a late upgrade OR purchase a seat for baby. I know this is not a financially viable option for
    a lot of people and it probably wouldn't have been for me either if my parents hadn't bought my coach ticket (grandbabies are very persuasive). Many airlines offer late upgrades for a much cheaper price than you would ever get a first class or main cabin select ticket. I upgraded to first class for our first flight which definitely eased my anxiety. This was the first time I had ever flown first class and I thought it would be kind of cool for Mason to have his first plane ride in luxury. Not that he'll remember it or anything. But I have the ticket to put in his baby book! The big benefit for either scenario, especially for nursing moms, is extra arm room. I flew in coach for the return flight and I had to do some Cirque Du Soleil contortions to feed Mason.
  3. Make friends. Not just any friends. Find someone else on the flight flying with children, or even better with a baby. I happened to run into a couple on the same first flight with a baby. If anything I had someone to commiserate with. It made me feel less anxious. And had I been back in coach with them I absolutely would have traded seats with their seatmate. Also make friends with the flight attendants. They can hold your baby while you pee. This is important. This was easier in first class where the attendant only has 8 people to look after, but no matter what section you're in the attendants are always standing by the bathrooms. It would probably not be a bad idea to make friends with whoever you are sitting next to but some people would rather not be bothered even by conversation. On my first flight I was lucky enough to have an empty seat next to me (yes, in first class). So I had two first class seats to myself (Jackpot right?). The second flight was very full and I had a young woman next to me that immediately put on headphones, which was fine by me. 
    I wish I could sleep this well on a plane.
  4. Know the rules. My husband and I had no idea that he could go through security with me and take me all the way to the gate because I needed assistance with the baby. A very nice lady working the check in counter told us since I was travelling alone with a baby she could print a pass for him to assist me in getting to the gate. We met another woman travelling with an infant and she had no idea you could do this. She also didn't know you could gate check a stroller. So this poor petite lady was lugging her baby through the airport in an infant carseat, when she could have had someone go with her or at least had a stroller to push him in.
  5. Don't stress it. I certainly wouldn't say that travelling alone with an infant was easy. But it was not the nightmare that I built it up to be in my head. Even with the blowout, an hour and a half delay on my return flight, and testing my flexibility in coach, I would say that I had a pretty good travel experience.Mason was outstanding, but I really tried my best to make sure all of his needs were met and that he was as comfortable as possible. Yes, this meant that I didn't really get to take advantage of the free entertainment (or the free drinks for that matter) in first class. But the best feeling was standing up at the end of both flights and having everyone around me remark at what a great baby I had and that he didn't cry and slept most of the flight. A guy even stopped me walking out of the gate to tell me that I had "the best baby ever. Ever." You can't walk away from that and say your experience was a bad one!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

In Anticipation of Flying with a Baby

   In two days I will be flying cross-country with Mason, who is just shy of four months old. Chris and Daniel are staying home to go to work and school while I take the little one out to visit grandparents. Yes, you heard right. I am travelling alone with a 4-month old.
   This is the first time I will be flying with a baby and to be doing it alone makes me more than a little nervous. My biggest fears are as follows:

  1. Poop. Specifically a blow out. Specifically on the airplane. It's hard enough getting myself in and out of a tiny airplane bathroom. Add to this equation my big guy (who is close to outgrowing his 6-month sized clothes) and a diaper full of leaking breastfed baby poop. Not pretty.
  2. That awkward moment when. I hope I get lucky enough to be sitting next to a woman (even better, another mom) because it's going to be pretty awkward to have to whip out a boob next to Mr. Suit and Tie or Mr. Dirty Old Man. Yes, I have a nursing cover, but let's just say I am not the most graceful at using it. Mason also not a fan.
  3. The shoes-stroller-backpack-ID-baby-metal detector-ticket juggle. I have enough trouble getting through security by myself. In my head I imagined not even taking a stroller and just wearing baby in
    Is this for real?
    my Ergo carrier. Then I saw the Bathroom Babykeeper and realized "Shit. How am I going to pee?" I hope a fellow traveler takes pity on me and helps me manage all of my extra accessories. 
  4. Angry glares and heavy sighs. You know there will be that guy that sees a baby coming onto an airplane and internally flips his shit. Then he passive-aggressively gives you dirty looks and mumbles things under his breath the entire flight no matter how well behaved the baby is being, which brings me to number five...
  5. Total meltdown. Mason goes totally out of character and decides that he is pissed off and there is nothing anybody can do about it. Now, Mason is a pretty chill baby as long as he is with Mommy, so I have that going in my favor. But when he gets upset he lets you know in a not-so-subtle fashion. I'm talking full on red-faced screaming that even a pair of the most expensive noise-cancelling headphones will not tune out. So in the unlikely event that number five happens, I may have to train myself in the art of ninja so that we might escape a plane full of angry travelers with number four rallying them with a speech out of Braveheart.
   In the meantime I will frantically try to make sure I have packed everything I will need and that I have backups for my backups. How do babies so small require so much stuff? Next week I will either be working through the PTSD or I will be sharing how we managed to survive the trip with my mental health intact. Stay tuned!