Semi-Nature with Maya

June 26, 2017

Last week, some teeny tiny thing in my blog broke so that I couldn’t write posts. It was really annoying and fixing it took the help of more people than I can count. But now, it’s back!

Friday night, we packed up and drove 40 minutes north to stay with friends in the deepest of Texas suburbs. We went out to dinner last night after Maya (finally) went down, and then Saturday morning, the dudes got up early and drove even further north (past the suburbs) to play basketball in prison as part of a ministry program. While they were sweating and hooping, Maya and I took advantage of the uncharacteristically cool morning to wander around the little lake in their development and check out a new playground. (We also had 8 million snacks, went to the mall with our friends, took an accidental car nap, and played with mugs in the pool. We got a workout of our own!)

I’ve barely picked up my camera lately, so it was fun to fiddle around with it while Maya explored the sandy path and ogled the little lake on the way to the playground. Every body of water is a “pool” to her, and every playground is a “slide”. And every new thing brings utter joy to her face.

She’s rocking a band-aid over a bug bite she just won’t quit scratching, and a romper that fit Baby J this time last summer – when she was only six months old. Ha!  Push me already! I hope you all had a nice weekend as well, with a sliver as much glee!

Meeting Our Birth Mom

June 16, 2017


I hesitate to share this story, because the older Maya gets the more I want to protect her story since she isn’t even old enough to hear it herself yet. Many of the most precious details of meeting Maya’s birth mom for the first time, we will save for her when she is older. But I think some of the details of her story are important to tell, especially in order to dispel some fears about adoption that we didn’t even realize we had.

Adoption has been an enormous learning curve for us, despite the fact that we went all in from the start. But we’ve learned that just because we love adoption and have no fear about loving a baby we didn’t grow or give birth to ourselves doesn’t mean that there aren’t ongoing fears and wonders and worries associated with the process. Maya became our daughter the moment we laid eyes on her, but I don’t think either of us realized half of the emotions or thoughts we’d have as time goes on, and that they would involve more people than just one baby. I have been so surprised that there are parts of the process that just come like waves out of nowhere, triggered by holidays or comments from strangers.

I was talking to my mom the other day about all the thoughts and wonders and worries I have about Maya’s hair, of all things, which is, as you may know if you follow me on Instagram, curly as all get out. I was attempting to explain that none of what I think about Maya’s hair is in any way bad. It’s just surprising. I’m surprised I think about her hair so much. When we decided to adopt I thought only about loving a baby with all my heart. I just didn’t think about the fact that I’d have no idea what to do with her hair – or that we might not even know what ethnicity our child was and where she even got all that curly hair.

That leads me to the latest adventure on this adoption journey that Michael and I embarked upon last weekend: we looked for and found Maya’s birth mom for the first time. When we met Maya in the hospital when she was three days old, her birth mom had already relinquished her rights and left the hospital. For 20 months, I have been wondering about her and praying for her – what she looks like, where she’s from, whether Maya has her nose or her eyes, praying for her safety and for her heart to heal from the enormous loss of not knowing our sweet Maya and from whatever wounds that made placing her daughter for adoption her best option at that time.

On Mother’s Day this year, I felt really strongly for the first time that we needed to look for her. Oddly, I spent more of Mother’s Day and the days leading up to it thinking not about myself as a mother but about Maya’s birth mother. Honestly, I struggled with the idea that anyone could ever reject my sweet girl, or that we couldn’t protect her from something that happened before we arrived on the scene. It broke my heart for both of them and I started to think about what it would mean to find her – both for Michael and I now, and for Maya ten or fiftteen years from now.

Michael and I realized a month or so ago that no matter how amazing we are and continue to be as her parents, and how wonderful we can make Maya’s life, she will still have questions about where she came from or what her birth parents were like. And those questions will be a natural result of the situation of adoption, and of her adoption in particular.
We do not have an open adoption where we have regular contact with her birth mother, nor do we have a closed adoption, with zero information at all or a request from her birth mom not to be found. We had minimal information – a name and an address – and the most minimal information about the night Maya was born.

But overall, we had a hole. And over time we realized that future Maya’s future questions mean nothing about how we will have raised her; they shouldn’t be insulting or scary. They are a natural reaction to being grown by one woman and being loved and raised by two different people. They mean that she is going to need to fill that hole, that identity gap, somehow. And because we love her millions and trillions, as I tell her every night before bed, we wanted to help her fill that hole while we had the best chance of doing so.

Michael and I also realized that most likely, when Maya is old enough to start asking real questions about her birth mom and to start wanting to look for her, we’ll be living in Ireland. And because Maya’s mom was and is homeless, I knew that the odds of finding her were exponentially higher now than they will be a decade from now. Honestly, I really did not think we would be able to find her now, simply because a lot can happen in 20 months when your life is unstable.

We started our search with the only information we had about her whereabouts, an address for an abandoned lot in a neighborhood only fifteen minutes from our sweet little Houston apartment. I couldn’t believe it was so close, when, in my head for the better part of two years, it had been a million miles away and wholly unattainable.

We knocked on a neighbor’s door and asked for her by name, and were totally shocked to learn that she still lived in the same place, ten yards from where we were standing. It took several laps around the neighborhood and asking just about everyone we met if they knew her or where she was, but we eventually found her.

I’m not sure I have words for the feeling of seeing Maya’s birth mother walk through the gate. I honestly hadn’t prepared myself to meet her; I thought perhaps we’d meet a neighbor whom we knew was kind to her throughout her pregnancy, and we hoped to learn just a few simple facts about her. I just didn’t expect to be learning those facts from her. I had no idea what to say, so I babbled and pulled my phone out to show her photos and videos. She asked what we had named her, and I just couldn’t believe she didn’t know her name. But of course she didn’t know her name.

Michael stood stoically and protectively behind me while I struggled to find the words to express my gratitude for making me a mother, to the person who made me a mother. She and I were both overcome with the emotion of the enormity of the meeting, at one point crying and hugging. She loved the name Maya, and she remarked how beautiful and tiny our girl is.

She is tiny herself, with brown hair and smooth skin. She was gracious and kind, thanking us for taking such good care of her baby girl. She explained that she was born in Houston but her people were from Mexico, she gave us a piece of cultural identity that we can now definitively encourage in Maya as she grows.

Over the last several months, as I’ve explained to first Michael then my family and friends my desire to find Maya’s birth mother, I’ve said that my goal has simply been to find a sliver of information about her that I could pass along to Maya one day. I simply wanted to try to fill the identity gap that will naturally form in the absence of any details at all about the woman who knew her for nine months before we did. “You know, like does Maya have her eyes, or something like that,” I’d say.

Well, wouldn’t you know, Maya has her eyes. And one day, we can’t wait to share that with our sweet girl. Along with all the other slivers we picked up on that gift of a day.

A Baby Skin Solution

June 13, 2017

Less than a month old Maya, with the most perfect skin, which we have thankfully returned to now.

A few months ago, right around Christmas, Maya developed eczema basically all over, for the first time ever. She had it in her crelbow (the crease in her elbow), behind her knee, behind her neck and then a different kind of eczema alllll over her entire back with tiny little bumps. She itched at the smaller spots but the entire back bothered us more. She went from having such smooth skin to neither of us really wanting to touch it. How sad is that? Here’s how we fixed it, in case anyone else has a baby or toddler with similar eczema symptoms and hasn’t tried these ideas yet.

Our pediatrician basically said all kids in Houston get eczema, which wasn’t terribly helpful. But, what was helpful was his recommendation for two products – Basis soap at the end of the bath and Vanicream lotion straight after, all over.

So we coupled that with a bunch of what I figured out from googling and the first one was super important and I think the key to actually curing her eczema so that it’s completely gone: we took her off almond milk. We’d put her on almond milk around Christmastime because I was testing the theory that she had a dairy allergy that was causing her to overproduce mucus every time she had a cough. She didn’t drink tons of the almond milk until she started going to daycare and they really push the whole “milk” thing so she was actually drinking two full cups or more just while she was there.

At one point I clicked on something online about eczema being caused by food allergies, namely dairy, nuts and eggs. Whoops. So then we took her off almond milk (now she drinks coconut milk instead and doesn’t mind at all), she was already off cow’s milk and tried to limit the rest of her dairy and eggs. We lathered on the lotion and I replaced our laundry detergent with a fragrance free version.

That was probably in March, and within a month her eczema was 75% gone. Now it’s 100% gone.

This is definitely a totally boring post for most of you, but when I was trying to figure out how to get rid of the eczema at the height of it, I was terrified she was stuck with it forever. I’d heard a lot of horror stories (the son of a woman in my moms’ group scratches his eczema until it bleeds which sounds horrific) and I’d heard a lot of people say their kids also had regular bouts of eczema and it was something to be more managed rather than cured. Well, let this be one story of a cure. Check those allergy categories in case that could help, and try that soap and lotion. I’m sure that’s not the reason for all eczema in all kids but I know many people who have their kids on almond milk for dairy intolerances and maybe that’s playing a role.

Back to less boring stories tomorrow, I hope!

Weekend Links

June 10, 2017

Saturday mornings are the only morning in the week when we don’t really have to go anywhere, so sometimes that means I get to spend a little time reading the proverbial morning paper. Here’s what I caught up on this morning (and during the last week).

Somewhat related, how many tabs do you have open on your computer at any given time? My average is about 12.

I have thought of Rev. William Barber many times since I was stirred by his speech at the Democratic convention last year (before everything went so very, very badly and hasn’t stopped since). This account in Esquire of his progressive Christianity and activism for justice and against poverty was heartwarming.

This thorough and thoughtful account of what infertility is like from the inside. If you know someone who struggles with infertility, this might help you understand some of the emotions involved. And can I just say, you probably know someone who struggles with infertility even if you don’t know, if you know what I mean. For many, it’s a very silent and isolating struggle.

After too many hours of internet searching, I finally ordered this dress to hopefully wear to my sister-in-law’s wedding in Ireland this summer. Crossing all the fingers it fits and stays up better than I think it might for wrangling flower girl(!) Maya on the day. And crossing fingers these shoes go on sale because they might go perfectly. Do you know how hard it is to find dresses to wear to weddings? It’s impossible unless you’re not looking.

These are very sweet giftable swaddles. I’m partial to the oranges and the elephants.

We still have Maya in a sleep sack at night and for naps at home and we need a summer weight one, I think. This one, maybe?

This video made me cry. So much of life is wrangling expectations versus reality. Cute Maya blurry interlude…we are all excited that Crayola makes markers that only work on special paper!

You guys, I write 9 articles a week, every week, for Romper (so many words, tbh). In the last few weeks, I’ve really enjoyed writing about why I’m glad I joined a moms’ group after wimping out for a full year, why I sometimes feel guilty for having a family after struggling with infertility (although we are still in the struggle), and a few things that surprised me about parenting a girl.

I took Facebook and Twitter off my phone after Christmas (best decision ever) but couldn’t bring myself to take Instagram off. Every night when Maya goes down I let myself zone out (really, for the first time all day) with Instagram stories and @mrorlandosoria cracks me up.

Also you guys, this week at school one of my sweet kiddos who is going to be a senior next year finally learned what an exclamation point meant. Let that sink in for a minute. Broke my darn heart, but he had such a gracious sense of humor about it and was just thrilled to finally be in the know – and to finally understand what his girlfriend had been texting him for months. Ha! Another heartbreaker kiddo decided he’d like to write to his dad in prison for the first time, and his words brought me to tears. I thought he was going to write about basketball and when he was finished, he had poured out an open longing for his father. In the few months I’ve been working with these students I can already see them turning into men, but then we have moments where they’re still so young and raw.

I hope you have a restful weekend. And honestly, I hope that if you can read, you read. That’s where you’ll find me when I’m not following Maya around with her fistfuls of crayons. One more for the road…x

Buffalo Bayou Sunset

June 9, 2017

I’ve been walking with a friend every Wednesday night along Buffalo Bayou near our house and last night, the light was just so incredible over the city that I caught a few photos. Houston doesn’t offer nearly as many beautiful landscapes as Dublin did, and I don’t often have an extra hand free with Maya wrangling to take photos of anything but her (approximately 4,000 on my phone at the moment, and also saved to Google Photo).

Just to check on my acclimating-to-heat status, I always check the temperature and humidity before we head out walking – the last two Wednesdays it’s been a real-feel of over 90. I think it’s safe to say that if I’m willingly going out walking for an hour and a half in 90+, I’ve fully acclimated. The city has been completing and updating miles upon miles of bike and walking trails along the bayous and although they’re a really nice amenity, picturesque isn’t exactly the word I’d use to describe the views. Except when there’s a killer sunset and you happen to be walking in just the right spots at just the right moments.  In the photo above, what you can’t see is that there is a man sitting under the bayou reading a book, propped up on a little seat he brought with him on his bike and propped up on the slant with another stack of books. Just taking in the lovely evening.  I actually really enjoy the Houston skyline, it’s one of the more picturesque views we get in what Michael likes to refer to as the “concrete jungle.” We’re ten minutes from the city and walking distance to this view. Not bad in a city of 4 million people.

A Day in This Life

June 7, 2017

Both my people are making sort of funny faces in this photo, but it’s the only photo I have from the school I’m about to talk about for a full 1500 words 😉 

Earlier this year, after 15 months at home with Maya (and several years working for myself as a freelancer) I took a job at Michael’s school (where he’s the guidance counselor) as their English tutor. I spent most of second semester working one-on-one with a handful of kids who have failed the Texas standardized tests in English. I took the job because we really needed a second income to get some breathing room and afford to travel a little more, and because I needed an emotional break from the rollercoaster we’d been on over the last year.

We had another failed infant adoption at Christmastime, a jail mom who had chosen us to parent her baby when it arrived in March. But when she was transferred to another prison for a longer sentence, she changed her mind. That was definitely the straw that broke my year-long, adrenaline-fueled positivity. In case you haven’t been keeping track, we had a failed infant adoption in April, Baby J who left very unexpectedly in July, second baby J (who was actually our failed infant adoption) who left very unexpectedly also in November, and then our second failed infant adoption in December, right between Christmas and the New Year. And those are only the situations that really came to pass – or almost did, at least. There were countless other phone calls from our agency that made my heart stop and shaved months, if not years, off my life.

I’d describe it as one of the best and hardest years of my life. I was finally a mom, and Maya was and is utterly perfect. We fell into foster care and I will never, ever regret that. It was one of the biggest gifts I’ve ever been given. And neither Michael nor I regret having had either Baby J’s (or the two other very temporary babes) in our home. In fact, I think we feel the most positive about those situations. Those were difficult, but we feel strongly about our role in them. God needed us to stand in the gap for both of those perfect souls in order to set them on a better path when they left our home.

But failed adoptions without ever meeting the baby? Pffft. No, thanks. Those just plain old stunk. I know that our role was likely to give a mom in crisis the feeling of a safety net for her child. And maybe having us as her safety net allowed her to regain strength to decide to parent. So I can’t say that those situations were fruitless either, it was just much more difficult to tangibly feel our impact. Honestly, those two situations felt a little mean. I know this is what many people go through before they are able to bring a single baby home by adoption, and I am ever so grateful we had the reverse version.

Needless to say, after that year I needed a change of scenery and a change of focus. Our family needed to heal and grow together, just the three of us. We needed time to breathe and just be. And I had been feeling like Maya needed to see more than just me every day for a few months. She is a social toddler and it was becoming clear that she needed to be around other kids and other adults. Daycare has been an easy transition for her, for the most part.

So when Michael called me at Christmastime and said his principal was asking if I would be interested in the English tutor job, it was perfectly timed. I started in late January and I’ve been powering through every since. And I love it. Like fully, unexpectedly love it. We have two more weeks of summer school left and all I can think about is how I can somehow replicate this sort of job when we return to Dublin. I’m not entirely sure that’s possible, considering I don’t have any sort of teaching degree and Ireland hasn’t embraced the charter school mentality like the United States has (for better or for worse – that’s a conversation for another day). So for now, I’m trying to soak it all in.

Let me take a moment to explain that the school we’re in is approximately 6 blocks from our apartment. It’s also super small, around 240 kids in an old bank that doesn’t even have a gym. They do all their PE classes out on the parking lot next to the school. The breakdown of kids is about 70% Hispanic, mostly ESL (English as a second language – as in most of them don’t speak English outside of school and a lot of their parents don’t speak any English). About 15% is African American, and 5% is white. Many of the teachers and staff speak Spanish as a native language. The kids have almost all arrived at our school from other, bigger or tougher high schools. Many of them failed out or were forced out because of discipline reasons. Our school is the end of the road for a lot of them – the last option to get a degree after spending many years in an education system that doesn’t fit their needs. For a reference point, it’s not unlike the movies Dangerous Minds or Freedom Writers. Teen pregnancy, teen jail time, parent jail time, foster situations, extreme poverty, extreme neglect, and many families split or struggling because of immigration.

I spent the second semester working one-on-one or one-on-two with kids who needed extra help trying to pass the state standardized English test. The funding for our charter school is dependent on a certain number of those children passing the standardized tests, so I was working with the kids who had the most likelihood of passing. They were just on the cusp – and I found out last week that many of them did pass. (Phew!)

Toward the very end of the semester, I happened to be sitting in the special ed room when a student needed help with a worksheet. The other two aides were occupied, so I offered to help even though he wasn’t one of my kids. Well, he is now. He straight up broke my heart, not unlike both Baby J’s did last year. The idea that he would graduate next year without being able to reasonably read a menu at a restaurant or read a letter from a utility company or read his kids a book a decade (hopefully) from now broke my heart.

I’ve been working with him ever since. Every day, we work on reading. Very basic reading. We work on digraphs and blends and flash cards and sight words. We chat, I encourage eye contact, I tell him he is improving, I tell him he’s smart.

Within a few weeks, the principal could see that I was ready to break down walls to get this kid to be able to read and she found a handful more with similar needs. They are now my babes, my daytime foster kids I don’t have to take home (although sometimes, truthfully, I wish I could). It’s about two parts reading and one part counseling. I’m one part tutor and one part cheerleader. I am happiest when they smile with pride that they’ve just cracked a word they couldn’t yesterday. Some days I must utter “Well done!” and “Amazing!” hundreds of times. My job is their reading and writing improvement, but my job is also their value and their dignity and their worth, things I believe have been slowly ground down over their school years.

I think, in the last year, my focus has honed. I think about my time in Dublin fondly, but almost like I was a different person. God brought our family to Houston to adopt Maya, but God also brought me to Houston to break my heart for what breaks His. I’ve always wondered if I would like volunteering with adult literacy, and as it turns out, it’s pretty darn satisfying to me.

Of course, meanwhile, I’m writing part time for Romper about motherhood (and infertility and relationships), and newly writing a weekly interiors column for the Irish Mail on Sunday. I get several hours in the morning with Maya, and then another several most afternoons before she goes down to bed. One night a week I might zip to the coffee shop down the road for a few hours to file my interiors column or get ahead on my articles for Romper while Michael hangs with Maya. But the nice surprise is that I don’t feel like I’m missing her whole childhood like I thought I would. Those hours every day are concentrated time with her, and I try to be as present as possible and fully soak her in before I have to get down to business. I miss her until I pick her up, but I don’t feel like I’m missing out, if that makes sense.

Blogging has been the casualty, obviously, of the more-than-full-time-working-mom situation. I miss it, but I’m giving myself space to get to it when I have the energy to fully commit, rather than feeling obligated. I haven’t had my camera out much lately, but I’m hoping that will change this summer when school is out in a few weeks.

So that, long story very long, is what this life, right this minute, is about. If you managed to get to the bottom, thank you for sticking with me. This post, for me, was therapeutic to say the least. xx

One Year Ago We Made It Official

June 3, 2017

Two years ago, we moved out of our apartment and started this wild journey, and one year ago we were prayerfully looking forward to Maya’s adoption day. With the flooding and stormy weather, we weren’t at all sure we’d have an adoption court date to go to. But for the second time, God split the sea so we could walk right in.

The day before Maya’s adoption day, the courthouse was closed because of the flooding. We were checking their website every twenty minutes for updates, but on the morning of adoption day we just headed that way and hoped for the best. We’d been seeing the flooding from the Brazos River on the Weather Channel because it was the worst in the country, so we couldn’t believe it when the sun shone through on our drive down there.

We may not always celebrate Maya’s adoption anniversary (I’ve been calling it her adopt-aversary); at some point she may shrug it off and not want to make a fuss. And in fact, she was our daughter from the first moment we laid eyes on the first photo of her, so it won’t be the biggest day we celebrate every year. But tomorrow we’re going to head to our same local spot for lunch, where we celebrated after the court business was over last year with our friends and family, and we’ll head to the same local park to play, the same park where we had a bigger celebration late in the day last year with even more friends. We’ll relive the emotions of the day – both joyful and sorrowful, our enormous gain and someone else’s enormous loss – and squeeze our little chica tight.

And we’ll rejoice in the line Judge Walter said at the end of Maya’s adoption. “No take backs, no do-overs.” Forever and ever, sweet girl, you are ours and we are yours.  We’ve also been thinking so much about how many people made Maya’s adoption possible. What a village it took to get us into that courtroom. We will always be so grateful and will so enjoy thinking about our wide-ranging crew this time each year. 

Two Years Ago We Took a Leap

June 2, 2017

I’m not usually so moved by those Facebook memories that pop up at the start of your feed every time you log in. Nearly every one of those memories is a photo I posted on Instagram, and it turns out I posted a whole lot of photos of beautiful (but not terribly memory-evoking) skies over Dublin back before photos of Maya took up all the memory on my phone. But when I saw this photo come up earlier this week, I couldn’t believe it was two years ago already. Two years ago we packed up the last of our belongings from our beloved tiny apartment in Dublin(into his parents’ trusty minivan) to take the biggest leap of faith either of us had ever imagined. It still feels like yesterday that we moved, but it also feels like a million years ago.

I remember the terrified excitement we had when we moved out of our apartment, stored all our belongings away (thanks, in-laws for still dealing with that mess!), and packed two suitcases for a journey to Houston to build our family.

It’s obviously weird to think generally about our life before we became a family of three, but it’s also incredible to think about how blindly we leapt from our stable life in Dublin into the complete unknown – all with the wild goal of adopting a baby. And it’s incredible to think that we didn’t know that Maya was waiting for us at the end of a summer, or really at the end of a very long road to wondering when our family would grow. It’s unbelievable to think that we had no idea how soon she was coming, or that our crazy plan would work at all.

We’ve come a long way since we packed up that van. I’m so glad we did this crazy thing.

Flying With a Toddler

May 26, 2017

(This was one of Maya’s first flights when she was only about 3 months old!) 

I’ve had a few friends ask me lately how we keep Maya occupied on airplanes. And do we ever have experience in that category! I figured someone else might benefit from me sharing what’s worked for us on 20+ flights in her 19 months of life.

First, a disclaimer. Maya is pretty small for her age, so keeping her contained isn’t as difficult as, say, my nephew, who was much (MUCH) bigger and stronger at her age. She is pretty wiry, though, and strong willed, so keep that in mind as you’re reading through this.

(First flight home to Maine with Maya girl, happy mama much?) 

We haven’t yet had to buy a seat just for Maya. We’ll have to starting in October, but for now she’s a lap child and FYI – we always call and add her as a lap child prior to the flight.

Now, let’s start with gear. Here’s what we always bring.

  • Stroller with car seat – our infant car seat attached to our stroller, so for as long as Maya fit in the infant car seat (until 18 months!) we brought both of those things. We gate check stroller and car seat. Now that Maya has a convertible car seat, we’ll be getting one of these roller thingies that the car seat sits on. We’re hoping we don’t have to upgrade our car seat bag (see below) to accommodate the larger seat but we haven’t tested that out yet.
  • Car seat bag – this was a great suggestion a friend made before our first flight. It’s kept our car seat in great condition but it’s also great for stashing a package of diapers or even giant ziploc bags of formula when we were traveling with two babies last summer. Definitely invest in a carseat bag. It’s incredible how quickly the thing has gotten dinged up from bopping around under the plane – it takes a beating so the car seat doesn’t have to!
  • Baby carrier – I was hand me downed an Ergo 360 and it has been amazing on every flight. Maya is very agreeable when it comes to the Ergo, which does help. When we (or I – I’ve flown on my own with her successfully several times!) get ready to board, we take her out of the stroller and load her into the Ergo. That way when we walk down to the plane, we have both hands to carry the diaper bag or
  • Diaper bag – I have a bag with a bunch of pockets, and I fill them all. More on that below!

(On the floor of the plane back from Maine after Christmas – and the last time with her paci!) 

For the entertainment of the toddler:

  • All the snacks. Many, many more snacks than you think you’ll need, and lots of new-to-Maya snacks along with some must-haves. While Maya’s never run out of toys, we have run out of snacks. When Maya was younger, I made sure to pack several of those squeezy baby food pouches that I refuse to buy otherwise because they’re terrible for the environment but are perfect for the plane. Most flights I’d pack blueberries, frozen peas (they thaw, obviously), animal crackers, fig bars, anything that doesn’t make a monstrous mess and might hold her attention for a little while. Blueberries were saved for the most disastrous moment because they are Maya’s all-time favorite. She would choose blueberries over her parents any day. Obviously, if they pass out snacks I try to get an extra few just for the novelty of opening them and taking out each and every pretzel.
  • Small toys in bags. For instance:
  • Animal finger puppets – we’ve gotten so much mileage out of these puppets my mom sent at Christmastime. Maya loves taking them out of the little drawstring bag and putting them on her own fingers or mine, then putting them back in the bag.
  • My mom also sent little zipper pouches – they’re about 2 inches across and sparkly (these would work). I put tiny plastic animals in them and again, we unzip, explore, re-zip, repeat.
  • Cups and ice – this one sometimes makes an annoying mess, but Maya’s obsessed with ice and moving it from cup to cup. So if the flight attendants are nice, I ask for an extra few cups and we play with ice or pretzels in cups for a while.
  • I stock up on a few tiny new toys from the dollar section in Target or from the dollar store, things that she hasn’t seen before and that will capture her attention for just a little while. For our last road trip, I found one of those Water Wow books that has a little water-filled brush and reusable pages that dry off after just a little while. I think that might come on our next long flight since it’s fairly compact.
  • I always bring a few small board books, a baby doll and its little bottle, and maybe a new stuffed animal. I used to bring cotton balls and feathers as well – Maya is one tactile kiddo!
  • If she wants to pull out the safety manual from the back of the seat and look at it 17 times, so be it. We also “read” the in flight magazine and mostly look for puppies or babies in all of the pictures.

The basics: We obviously bring diapers (about 6 per flight, which is what she’ll go through in about 2 days, so it’s like packing for a major emergency), a sippy cup we can fill with water, a whole package of wipes and one change of clothes for her. If we’re going through security, I take out the pouches of baby food and any water I have along for her and they check it separately but that doesn’t usually take much time.

 (This was our red-eye flight to Ireland last fall, all she wanted to do was play with my hair! But she eventually fell asleep.)

Some rules we try to enforce:

  • She’s not allowed to slam that darn tray in front of us up and down, up and down. I can’t think of a more annoying thing if you’re sitting right in front of her. Ha! She’s allowed to play with toys on it, but she’s not allowed to move it, no matter how tempting that little latch is.
  • No getting down and walking around. I always thought that once Maya started to walk we’d inevitably have to be walking her up and down the aisles. But then we didn’t and now I’m trying not to let her ever know that walking around is an option. We’ll see how long it lasts! So far, 22 flights and only on one flight when we had a seat between us did we let her get down on the floor.
  • She has to be in the carrier when we get on and off the plane. Thank goodness she still fits into it, because that thing is a lifesaver.
  • No screens. That’s just our preference, so we try not to rely on ipads or our phones to keep her occupied or calm on the plane. We may get to that point, but I’d really prefer not to until she’s at least 2. She almost never watches screens at home unless we’re FaceTiming with grandparents, so that’s her normal for now.

Traveling with her has gotten a little more exhausting as she’s gotten older, but it isn’t yet as hard as I thought it would be at this stage, thankfully! Once she turns 2 in October I think it might get a little more difficult to keep her sitting in her seat, but we’ll just try to stock up on little age-appropriate toys to bring with us and hope that keeps her attention until she falls asleep! (With our Baby J on the flight we took with 2 babies, 8 and 6 months old. We dominated!) (Before our first international flight with Maya! Will never fly United again, but we survived!) (Heading to Maine, I think, for Christmas? Getting a head start on the packing 😉 And that suitcase has been with me since I moved to Ireland. It was one of the two I brought when I moved there, and one of the two we brought when we moved to Houston. Samsonite for the WIN!)

 

Around Here

May 5, 2017

This week… illustrated with some (mostly unedited) photos from my phone at the bottom. That’s always my favorite part of this type of post, so for those as nosy as I…

Maya woke up at 4:30am one morning (2 year molars, we think) and only wanted to be held in your lap sitting up. No cuddles, but she insisted on falling asleep sitting up.

The AHCA and Jordan Edwards broke my heart this week. When will it end?

Daycare called to say they thought Maya had a spider bite and “she needs to go to the doctor to make sure it isn’t going to eat the flesh from the inside, lay eggs, and hatch.” Cue me freaking out for six hours before I could take her to the pediatrician, who decided it looked more like one of her enormous swollen mosquito bites and prescribed some steroid cream. Ugh.

I’ve been proctoring make-up state standardized tests all week, and I’m still so torn as to standardized tests. These kids need to pass English I, English II, History, Biology and Algebra before graduating. And I can report that much time has gone in to training them to pass. Wasted time drilling facts? It’s a tough one.

I’ve been tutoring an 11th grader who is really struggling to read, which has broken my heart for how isolated he must and likely will feel for the rest of his life. What a gift – a gift I often take for granted – that I can read and enjoy it with all my heart. Also, how do you make it to 11th grade unable to read more than single syllables? Ugh.

I went walking with a friend one evening this week and along the bayou there’s a field of wildflowers – black-eyed Susans and Queen Anne’s lace, the latter was my Grandma Catharine’s favorite flower. I’ve been missing her quite a lot lately.

We’ve been watching (I use we loosely here) the NBA playoffs. Michael’s Celtics and our collective Rockets are both in the playoffs still, meaning my television has been monopolized every evening lately. When I can squeeze in an hour, I’ve been watching the newest two seasons of Call the MidwifeDid you know it had new seasons? That was such a fun treat that resulted from this post! We also watched the latest season of Catastrophewhich we loved before but didn’t love so much this round. It was a tad depressing and six episodes is not very many!

I’ve written some passionate articles for Romper lately – like this one about helping foster kids, about things you don’t think about until you’re an adoptive parent, and tricks I actually use to get my kid to sit nicely at a restaurant.

I think I’ve developed either carpal tunnel or really bad tennis elbow that stretches down to my wrist? Lifting all 20 pounds of Maya isn’t the easiest at the moment. Thank goodness she’s so tiny! Any carpal tunnel fixing tricks?

We’re heading to Dallas this weekend for a two-year-old birthday party. Fingers crossed Maya stays chill for the whole ride!

Maya requisitioned my popsicle when I got one out for both of us. A cute little video on my Instagram as well… Sometimes we need the big guns to leave the park. Maya using an old pan to make soup? She took baby out and said, “Hot, hot!” Apparently a modern take on this house. Love our neighborhood architecture. Love when I catch magnolias at nose-level. It’s rare!