Vacation with babies and toddlers

VacationWe made the 9 hour (turned 13 hour) drive to the OBX with our 3 y/o, 2y/o and 6 month old with only 2 Chick-Fil-a stops, only 3 Starbucks stops, and only 2 hours of crying. I’d call that a success. We are now currently enjoying a semi-relaxing week at the beach.

I had a rough transition to baby-inclusive vacations at first: I found myself desperately longing for the days when I could sit and do nothing or browse the beach knick-knack shops at my leisure. But with three kiddos in tow, vacation is different these days. Here are a few tricks to making vacation more enjoyable for everyone that I’ve picked up along the way:

1. Set your expectations: it’s going to be messy. Like day one of vacation, we woke up to this: Yes, that is EXACTLY what you think it is ūüí©. One of my offspring decided it would be a fun art project to paint his bed with his poop. When we went out to dinner, two children knocked over full glasses of ice water (the baby pulled one over on my white pants, a slightly different variation of the wet t-shirt competition). And then DS proceeded to over indulge in ice cream and vomited all over his bed (and the rental houses comforter)…TWO NIGHTS IN A ROW.

2. Bring the comforts of home. We literally brought the kids cribs (DH broke them down and put them back together when we got there).¬†Praise God for pick-up trucks! They sleep MUCH better in their own bed, and they can’t get up in the morning before we’re ready for them (read: quiet coffee time for mom and dad). We also brought black out curtains that we draped gently over the windows.

3.¬†Screen time is okay. Especially in the car on your 7 hour drive…its better to hear Daniel Tiger on repeat than it is to hear screaming tantrums for hours on end. This is EVERYONES vacation, so let the kids indulge in a show while you indulge in some quiet rest.

4. Be prepared for a non-stop party. Vacation with littles is not some relaxing beach stay where you doze in the sun all day drinking Mike’s Hard Lemonade and reading your favorite book. It’s a PARTY. Remember when you were a kid? How cool was it to go to the pool or beach?! Or go out for ice cream, doughnuts and pizza?! Or even stay up past your bed time?! Prepare yourself to let go of YOUR expectations of vacation; prepare yourself to go with the kid flow and every second can be a party (while still caging the wild party beasts in their cribs so you can build in a few hours of adult vacationing for yourself in the morning and evening).

Cultivate JOY in the little things, so that even in the chaos that is life with small children you can build a vacation to remember (and even enjoy in the moment).

Why do my sacrifices matter to God?

Something I have been pondering in my heart lately–and finally received an answer from the Holy Spirit about!–is: why do my sacrifices matter to God? As Catholics, we’re often told to “offer it up” with regard to our sufferings or even our good works for the day.¬† When I pray my morning offering prayer each morning, I tell Jesus “I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day”.¬† As this is a prayer given to us by the Church, I have faith it is something that Jesus wants us to do.

But why?

I have been struggling to understand why God would even want my sufferings and sacrifices. Work well done is easier to understand because I can often see the good fruits it produces, but sufferings and sacrifices? I feel like what I have to offer is so meager, so ugly and useless.  Why would God want any of this, what good could it possibly do?

Like right now, I’m giving up my morning snack (which is a big deal to a perpetually hungry breastfeeding mom!) as a sacrifice for the souls in purgatory. But why would God want such a small, seemingly insignificant sacrifice?

The Holy Spirit spoke an answer to this question in my heart yesterday; it came to me in the form of my 3 y/o daughter’s artwork.¬† She had painted a messy picture, a colorful series of squiggle and lines, and I thought to myself “we need to frame this!¬† This is worth more to me than any masterpiece painted by a famous artist!”

And it clicked.¬† To God, my little sacrifices are like my daughter’s artwork to me.¬† She’s painted the best picture she could, and she made it out of love for me.¬† Her small effort means the world to me, because in it she shows me how much she loves me.¬† I am touched by her thoughtfulness.

I think God feels the same way about us when we offer up what little we can with all the love we have in our hearts.

The Superpower every Mom needs (and already has)

When you picture God, how do you see Him?¬† What about our Blessed Mother Mary, how do you see her?¬† And the Saints, how do you see them in your mind’s eye? When I picture them in my head they are always smiling, and not just smiling, they are beaming at me.¬† They are radiating Christ’s love.

Even when I’m grumpy and complaining to Him, Jesus is always smiling at me.

I went on a spiritual retreat recently where one of my take away messages was the power of a smile.¬† For me as a mom of young children, a simple smile is a display of holiness–it radiates God’s love. It’s a¬†kind of superpower, a channel for God’s awesome power to flow through me and into the world…and into my children’s hearts.

I exercised the superpower of a smile yesterday. It was the first time I had intentionally done this during a difficult tantrum, and the results were nothing short of miraculous.

The scene: My 3 y/o daughter is screaming and crying (epic tantrum). I can’t quite remember the cause but I think it was something along the lines of not wanting whatever food was for lunch, etc.

I knelt down at her level, made eye contact and SMILED at her.  Like big, huge Mother Teresa-inspired smile. It was an instantaneous response: her tantrum literally melted away and she was calm.  She told me with her words what she was upset about, and we moved on.  The house was (for the moment) peaceful again.

I feel like I’ve been conditioned to think of tantrums as “bad”, undesirable behavior that needs to be corrected or even disciplined.¬† So to get down at my daughter’s level and smile went against every fiber of my being.

It was a forced, contrived smile.¬† I definitely did NOT feel like smiling.¬† But, as my husband said when we were talking about it later that evening, that smile was true agape love.¬† To show love, even when you don’t feel it, is to love like God loves.

“I give you a new commandment: love one anther.¬† As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (John 13:34).

Your smile, Mama, is your superpower…or rather, God’s awesome superpower-love working through you. And what could be a more perfect power than God’s love?