This post is day 22. New to the series? Start here. Thanks to all of you who have shared these posts and commented, I so appreciate it. Do say hello if you’ve been reading or are new. It would be lovely to meet you. We are somewhere in the air between Europe and Australia today, so do keep us in your prayers if that is your thing. The posts are scheduled for the next few days, but if there are some computer glitches it may interfere with posting. Moderating comments will also take a bit longer than normal. Please keep checking in to see. And if you want hundreds of other great 31 Days topics, you can find them here.
air travel
We have been flying with our boys since Big Boy was three months old. They have flown on numerous one and two-hour flights within Europe, and we have traveled as a family to and from Europe to Sri Lanka and Australia three times. The last trip to Australia, I flew with them on my own first to Sri Lanka and then to Australia.

Still I do not consider myself an expert on this subject. I have many opinions, yes, but I think our boys are fairly low maintenance when it comes to flying. It could be that they are obsessed with airplanes and all modes of transportation in general (most of which, except for boats, can be found at an airport), or it could be that I have an irrational amount of enthusiasm when it comes to family flights.

I grew up traveling, and the moving part was always stressful, but the flying part was fun. It started at the airport when we all breathed a collective sigh of relief that the packing was done, the bags were through, and now we get to explore. My dad would show us the airplanes, we counted take offs and landings and watched airport TV (we didn’t have one in our home).

On the plane there were movies to watch, and this was before personal TV screens, and airplane food to eat. It all seemed so glamorous. But more than that, my parents were always cheerful on flights, I have no memories of any family fighting or annoyances when we were on an airplane, and on the contrary, they are some of my happiest, adventure-filled memories.

So after that long preamble, here are some tips, and as always, please chime in in the comments with tips of your own.

Watch Your Attitude

Our kids pick up on our attitude. If you are anxious, they will be anxious. If you are worried, they will react to this stress. There’s nothing wrong with experiencing anxiety or worry or fear when flying, this is totally normal, but find a way to deal with it. Talk to someone before the flight. Pray. Have a list of truths you meditate on. Choose to engage with your kids. Watch airplanes take off and land. Skip trying to read your magazine in peace, and wander around with them. My guess is you have absolutely nothing to do in the airport except be there. Be all there. Enjoy yourself. Make the trip something fun and exciting for them, you don’t need any toys or gadgets to get them through this. The airport, however boring and un-kid-friendly it may be, provides enough distractions on its own. Look an escalator! Look a moving pavement! Let’s go up and down it! Look lots of airplanes! Let’s sit and watch! I may or may not have uttered all of those statements at some point or another when I was flying alone with the boys to Australia.

Pack the Right Supplies for You

You know you and you know your kids, so pack accordingly. Messes don’t really bother me, so I don’t take lots of changes of clothes. And for some reason, my kids are not incredibly messy. Little Bear managed to get his pack of water open and spill half of it on himself while I was getting his brother’s food ready, but it was water, and he was wearing fleece pants. Fleece dries very quickly, I discovered, and now fleece is his flying uniform.

I pack one change of clothes for them, so an extra t-shirt and pants, an extra set of underwear for my oldest, and lots of diapers and wipes. I pack usually an extra shirt for me, but I wear dark jeans or black pants and just let that be. I pack a notebook each for the boys, a box of crayons or colouring pens, and a lot of stickers. The stickers I found got me through some of the toughest times in the airport (waiting in line to board the plane when there is no priority boarding for families for example). But the one thing you don’t want is to be overloaded with stuff on the plane. If you are traveling alone, it is a monumental hassle to schlep the stuff around plus the kids, and regardless, it is simply too much to sort through even when you are on the plane. I did take an iPad, but only Little Bear used it for a few minutes because…

Screen Time

On airplanes my answer is basically yes, yes, yes ofcourse and yes WOULDYOULIKEACRACKERWITHTHAT? We gave our kids no screen time in the airport, that was for running around, eating and whining, but on the plane they could watch as many movies as they wanted. Big Boy fell asleep for the night watching a movie. We didn’t even have to “put him to sleep.” On our 14-hour flight from Melbourne to Dubai, he woke up halfway through his sleep, and we put another movie on and he fell asleep again within 30 minutes. My boys are so different though, and their ages make their attitudes to screens very different. Little Bear will watch something for 10 minutes, and oh how I desperately tried to get him into Nemo! And Baloo the bear! And all kinds of cheery animals! But he spent most of his time bouncing on the seat. Big Boy though, it was like having a zoned out teenager next to me who held out his hand mindlessly every now and then to ask for a snack.

air travel 2

A long leash

Not the real kind. I give my kids a lot of freedom in airports and airplanes as long as they are in my sight and not trying to open an airplane door. A lot of freedom. Bounce on a chair? Yes. Stand on the tray table? No problem. Walk up and down the aisles as much as you want? BEMYGUEST. Up to the point that they are becoming a nuisance to someone else or breaking something, I let them do whatever they want. This was more appropriate for my two-year-old because as previously mentioned, the four-year-old was glued to his screen. It helped him maintain a cheerful attitude to just be able to do what he wanted on the flight. So far we have only had wonderful experiences with fellow passengers, many of them have even engaged our kids in play and talked to them. I would do differently if there was someone who clearly was unhappy about Little Bear trying to play peekaboo over the edge of the seat (or something else).

Pack food

I packed about 20 fruit pouches or fruit and yoghurt pouches (that were 100ml or under), rice crackers and something else that I cannot remember. For our trip to Australia this week, I have apple rings, dried mango, nuts, a variety of crackers and salami sticks. Because I discovered on our last trip that my oldest doesn’t really eat plane food. We will be traveling for about 24 hours straight, including one 14 hour flight, so we know we need enough food on hand for our kids if they end up refusing to eat their food. While it is definitely worth it to stand my ground at our dinner table when I have fussy kids, I choose my battles when I am thousands of feet off the ground. And in a closed space. My kid and I do not need a control battle over food in an airplane.

Try to sleep

As tempting as it is to want to watch a movie myself when my kids start sleeping, I still think choosing sleep is the best idea. The toughest part about flying, for me, isn’t the flight, it’s the part on the other side. When my kids don’t sleep enough. Or are stressed out about the new environment. Or are still too tired. And there are no more fun and exciting diversions. I need to be as well rested as possible to be able to handle them if they fall apart.

Have a set up on the other side

We learned this our first trip to Australia simply because we didn’t realize our baby would want to go to sleep in a real crib when we landed. Always have something set up in the place where you are headed. Communicate clearly with the people you are going to see to make sure that at least your kids have a crib or a bed somewhere in case they need to go straight to sleep. Try to have one or two toys that someone has borrowed for you on hand. It has been wonderful for us to have our families at the end of our trips, they have helped us and carried the load of child care from the beginning. And cooked us good food.

Now it’s your turn: What are your best air travel tips? Let’s hear them. 

transition

This post is day 21. New to the series? Start here. The last few weeks I’ve written about the emotions involved with moving and transition, there have been tips about what to do to prepare to leave and ideas about how to end your time in a place. This week we are looking at the actual move, how to get where we need to go and the tools we need along the way. Thanks to all of you who have shared these posts and commented, I so appreciate it. Do say hello if you’ve been reading or are new. It would be lovely to meet you. We are flying today to Australia, so do keep us in your prayers if that is your thing. I’ve got posts scheduled for the next few days, but if there are some computer glitches it may interfere with posting. Please keep checking in to see. And if you want hundreds of other great 31 Days topics, you can find them here.
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There are approximately a 2,334,432 blog posts out there on car travel with kids, so why write another one? I’ve learned since having kids that all parents have tricks, and the tricks are different. It helps me immensely to hear what others are doing because it gives me ideas.

So today’s post are some of the things that have worked for us on longer road trips with kids. The boys were four and two on these trips and in rear facing car seats, meaning we couldn’t see their faces. I would love it if you could join in the conversation in the comments section with your tips on how to manage car travel with kids.

Set Expectations

This is basically the only piece of advice necessary to navigate all marriage and children-related dilemmas. Expectations determine your experiences, and for something that involves small children locked into a seat for indefinite amounts of time, I’ve found that keeping my expectations next to nothing goes along way. My goals are lofty, like, Get there. With no car accidents. Amen.

Know Your Kids

I have one son who is extremely sensory, as in his favourite thing ever is to jump into a ball pit or something textured and just roll his body all over it. My other son is off the charts auditory, wants to talk all the time and loves listening to music and stories. My sensory child needs something to hold and touch when he is traveling. He has shorts with zippered cargo pockets, I put some rocks or other things in those pockets, he opened the zippers, took the rocks out, put them back in, it was a sensory dream that cost nothing. My other son needs good music and audio books (more on that further down), he needs reassuring words from me, my tone of voice is so important when I communicate with him.

Nap Time

Both our kids will still sleep in the car, and because their sleep was so off with the moving around, often they slept even more in the car than they normally would. We tried to plan our driving to maximize nap time. It was also the only time we could listen to something other than Psalty the Singing Songbook. Praise ye the Lord, Hallelujah. More on that later.

car travel

Remove Time Pressure

I’m not against wanting to arrive at a certain place by a certain time, but if I want to have a relaxed drive where I am not going to resent my kids or drive for hours with unrelenting screaming in my ears, I will have to relax my attitude on time. If something is supposed to take four hours, with our kids, it will probably take six or seven hours. This way we know that when we arrive at our destination, our kids feel loved, they’ve had a good trip, and we have had a tour of the truck stops of Germany. For our drive from Sweden to Germany (via Denmark), we had two ferry crossings on two separate days, we booked the crossings in advance with flexible timing, but we still had a vague idea of needing to be at a certain place at a certain time. We over-budgeted by about two hours, and that way when we did arrive at the ferries, we were not stressed, and the boys were overjoyed to see a boat.

No Sensory Overload

Travel is a sensory overload on its own, there is no need for me to stress my kids out further by expensive toys for the road, lights and unnecessary loud noises. They are entertained and interested in the most mundane of things, often the travel itself. The ferries were a huge hit and came at the end of long drives, so it was the entertainment for the duration of the boat trip. We like to keep the trip as calm and normal as possible.

No Screens (sort of)

I am not into parent shaming, and I have nothing against the use of screens at all. I happily hand our one iPad mini to the boys to give me time to get dinner together or to stave off temper tantrum hour or to let me catch my breath for 30 minutes. Or an hour. Or. Nevermind. My kids watch untold hours of movies on airplanes, but we have found that on car trips keeping the screens off is better for them. They are more easily worn out by car travel, their patience is thinner, and their attitudes are more grumpy than gracious. Screen time makes fatigue and attitudes that much worse. I prefer to use screen time when my kids are well rested and in a good mood. It has worked much better for us to have a big supply of books on hand and to keep passing books to them. We also had an etch-a-sketch that worked for Little Bear.

Music and Audio Books

We hit the jackpot with a friend’s gift to us of a Finding Nemo audio CD, it was our first foray into the world of audio books, and it was such a hit with both our sons. We will definitely invest in more radio plays and audio books for future car trips. I also pulled out a kids CD we hadn’t listened to in a long time, and it became their favourite CD, so much so that it is all they wanted to listen to for about five hours on end. Husband says Psalty’s Little Praisers CD is now his favourite CD, and while I think that is definitely stretching it, I have never been more thankful for the blue Singing Songbook or for the chance to hear my kids singing, Jesus loves me this I know, softly from the backseat.

Healthy Snacks

Again, I am not into parent shaming, so please feed your kids whatever you think is best. Apple chips, dried mango and other fruits, nuts, lots of water, rice crackers, and other crackers have all gone down very, very well with the boys. And I do think that the food they eat helps to keep their mood a bit more even. This may seem obvious to you – I am not always the most prepared parent out there – but packing many snacks was a necessity. We can always use the snacks we didn’t use, so nothing went to waste. We tried to stop for meals, which ended up being French fries, French friends, and also some French fries, so as I mentioned before, I am really not into parent shaming. Do what you have to do.

Rest Stops and Running Breaks

Every time we stopped, we made sure to get the kids to run around a bit. Even if it was just in a simple patch of grass or concrete. I even ran up and down with them once to get them into it. If your rest stops have playgrounds, even better. Most of ours did, but one or two did not, but kids can still get movement in without a playground.

Now it’s your turn: What are your parenting tricks for car survival with little ones? And car survival for yourself?

transition

This post is day 20. New to the series? Start here. Thanks to all of you who have shared these posts and commented, I so appreciate it. Do say hello if you’ve been reading or are new. It would be lovely to meet you. If you want hundreds of other great 31 Days topics, you can find them here.

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Fehman

Fehman is a German island a ferry ride away from the southern shores of Denmark. It sits in the Baltic Sea a few kilometers away from northern Germany. The little town is full of quaint shops and German restaurants on red brick streets and large cobblestones. It is the first week of September, the tourist rush is gone, but cheerful visitors remain.

We were there as a means to an end. We were driving from Stockholm to Frankfurt, supposedly a 15-hour drive, and we knew we wanted to make it as slow and easy as possible for our kids. So we stopped in Copenhagen and spent the night there, looked around in the city for a few hours before driving again three hours to Fehman. The next morning, I wanted to get an early start to work on the six hours it would take to get to Frankfurt. I knew we would have to stop a few times, I didn’t want to get there late at night, but Husband had a different idea. Let’s take the kids to the sea, and they can run around a bit.

He drove us around, we were looking for a lighthouse. What we found instead was a German military outpost that looked like a lighthouse, but beyond it was an isolated beach.

It took our breath away.

The water sparkled, the sand powder soft between my toes, the boys threw rocks into the sea. It is our thing after all. There was something magical about this unexpected stop. It was like this beach had been set aside for us. We arrived and noticed.

I am all about a schedule, and they are necessary to stay sane in the world of small kids and travel. But there is a time when putting the schedule aside is the best thing I can do for my soul and for my family. We were only there for an hour, but each one of us needed it.

We needed the beauty of the sea to rub healing salve into our goodbye wounds, we needed to be surprised, to see that there was a table prepared for us on this little island we knew nothing about, we needed to know that we could taste and see the goodness of God anywhere.

Because it’s not only about letting go and saying goodbye. It is also about receiving the gifts, the little and big ways that He pours his love out on his children. Skipping the schedule makes room in my heart to start to believe the truth: Good things are coming, good things come from his hand. Open your eyes, heart of mine, and see again, He gives us the desires of our hearts.

fehman 2

Now it’s your turn: How can you skip your schedule today? Can you take some time to write down the little surprises from God in your day?

I’m linking up with Jennifer and Holley today. 

transition

This post is day 19. New to the series? Start here. Thanks to all of you who have shared these posts and commented, I so appreciate it. Do say hello if you’ve been reading or are new. It would be lovely to meet you. This week I’ll be writing about moving day, the in between time, making memories on the road and some tips about car and air travel with kids. We will also be flying from Germany to Australia in the middle of all of this, but hopefully this won’t impact posting. If you want hundreds of other great 31 Days topics, you can find them here.

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moving day

Our family had the unique situation of being able to anticipate our move for a long, long time (for me). Husband and I knew for five months that we would be leaving the Yellow House at the end of August. I’ve grown up on the move, you know this by now, and one thing I lacked were concrete markers, I am leaving now, these are the things then that I have tried to provide for myself first, and also for my family. So today I am sharing thoughts and tips on saying goodbye and wrapping up with people. As always, I would love to hear your ideas in the comments.

A word of warning here: you cannot force anyone into transition rituals. This is why many of the things I do are done first for myself, and whatever my kids take to, we do, but they need to have the freedom to grieve and leave in their own way. The last thing they need is for Mom to force them into her own need for closure.

Here are a few tips that have been useful for me in the past few moves.

Take time to say goodbye this looks different in each place. I had never done this before we left Geneva, and honestly it left an open door in each place I have left behind. Geneva was the first place where I intentionally took a day to close the door on this place. I also took my time with the handful of people who were special to me there, to tell them what they meant to me and to thank them one last time. In Geneva, closure was taking a full day to go around the city and farewell the places that held meaning to me. When I got to the end of the day, I was ready to move on. In Sweden it looked very different. I made a bucket list, and working my way through the list was the process of closure that I needed. I needed to spend time with the special people, thank them, and pray with them. I needed to get photos of people who meant something to us. We had a going away party. But all of these things took time, and I needed to make space in our plans for these times. Do this for your kids as well. They also need time to say goodbye in their own way to their friends. Our son had his own bucket list, and we made sure to spend one last play date with each of their special friends, so they also got a chance to say goodbye.

Get Help this is a no brainer, and I’ve already written about it here, but I want to say it again: Say YES to help. Moving day itself and the days before and after require work you don’t even know about yet, please say yes to anyone and everyone who offers to help you.

Plan for food I had a bag of frozen chocolate muffins in the freezer for moving day, so I knew I wouldn’t need to cook. Friends brought us food for lunch, and we went to our local Thai place for dinner. When your kitchen is getting packed up, you don’t want to be using utensils or plates. Having paper plates and disposable cutlery on hand was also practical.

Leave margin don’t plan a three-day move if you can, it will likely take more time. Give yourself a day or two to clean up and throw things way, more days if you also need to sell and give things away. Whatever your time frame is, add a day or two as extra buffer. If you don’t need it, you can use it to do something fun instead.

Special moments these are the grace times in the swirl of chaos that surrounds moving. For us it was boxes of popsicles in the freezer for the kids, it was a relaxed last dinner at our Thai place (their favourite), and letting them have as many prawn crackers as they wanted. It was a trip to the beach before we left the Yellow House.

Feel your feelings instead of putting them away, let them out. I cried a lot. I cried when I walked out of the house, I cried when I drove, I cried when I thanked our landlord for our two years in his house (Husband said our relocation agent recoiled in fear when I started crying). Embarrassing? Maybe, but I would rather let my feelings out than bottle them up. When I let them out, they go away and make room for other emotions.

Rite of Passage I wrote last week about what we left behind and our Ebenezer, but I want to mention it again here. Writing down what we did not want to take with us and burying it in the ground was a significant symbol. It told me that I am moving forward, and it allowed me to be thankful for the beauty of the past two years. When I left our home, I knew that it was final. I knew the door was closed.

moving day 2

Wrapping Up with People

Most of the transitions in my life were negative ones. I didn’t give myself enough time to say goodbye, I didn’t realize the weight of leaving. I was eager to get out. One of the main changes I made in how I transition is in how I finish with people.

Make a list of the people who truly mean something to you, they’ve made an impact on your life, they brought you joy, these are the ones whom you will always remember with thankfulness in your heart. These are not the people who you should be spending time with, or the ones you need to see or say goodbye to. These are the people who mean something to you, the ones with whom you shared your life.

Take the time before you leave to meet with each of them. Tell them what they meant to you, tell them everything, and don’t hold back. These moments are precious, there is no reason to wait to tell someone that you love them or to share with them what they have meant to you.

Share meaningful words think about the specific ways they’ve impacted you and share those words either verbally or write them down.

Share a meaningful experience if there is something that would mean something to the friendship. It may be going to a favourite café or restaurant together or walking to the place where you met or something else that is unique to your friendship. But take the time to do it.

A special gift this is probably going to sound a bit strange, and as you know I am all for decluttering and I do not like accumulating things at all. But I love getting things from special people that they owned, so not a bought gift, but more like something from their kitchen or something they’ve worn or made. More often than not, the friend doesn’t know that I would want something, so I’ve had to ask. I took two wooden butter knives from a friend’s kitchen in Stockholm. I love these knives and love to have a reminder of her in my kitchen. Another friend in Geneva gave me one of her paintings, always a special reminder of our friendship. If there is something you would love of a friend whom you are leaving, go ahead and ask. Chances are they will be happy to part with it.

Set expectations I’ve learned this one the hard way after a lifetime of moving. It was easy before I had kids to maintain many friendships around the world via email and skype. I can’t do that anymore. The bulk of my time and energy goes toward my family, and the little I have left has to be spent cultivating a community where I am. This often means that friends from other places and seasons of life have felt neglected and excluded. I have started telling my friends when I leave, I will probably not be in touch often, but please know that you occupy a place in my life that no one else will occupy. There are a few friends with whom I will always stay in touch, and with those friends, there is a sense of ongoing, longer term friendship. But with the vast majority of other relationships, I know that if our lives move in the same direction, even with little correspondence, when we do see each other, we pick up where we left off.

Now it’s your turn: How do you say goodbye? What are your tips on wrapping up with people? With whom do you need to take some special time before you leave? 

transition