Solo Retreat for the Soul

I am alone.  I can literally hear the waves crashing from my little hacienda my husband so kindly rented and gifted me for my Christmas gift this year.  In this place of solitude, you would think I would be rejoicing. You would think I would not have a care in the world and would just be drinking wine and ordering take out and watching all the romantic comedies I could squeeze in.  But here’s the thing: I already miss my family. I feel homesick. And if I am honest, I feel really anxious about being in a new little city all by myself.  

Isn’t it funny how the thing we keep saying we need and want is not actually what we need and want?

 Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly thankful for this opportunity to be alone with the Lord.  I 100% understand the privilege in being able to have the resources and life situation that allows me to run away for a little on my own.  I am grateful and I do not take this time away lightly at all. In an effort to really use the time well, I even created an hour-by-hour itinerary.

I understand the sacredness in time to be alone with the Lord, and I don’t want to waste a second of it, but again, if I am honest, I let about 45-minutes slip away. I felt nervous, a little scared, and quite frankly, like a fish out of water who has become so accustomed to depending on her family and the safety of her routine and familiar city that she has lived almost 26 years in.

Yet, those 45-minutes have come and gone, and I can feel my heart beginning to settle.  And oh, did I mention I can hear the waves crashing from my window? 

Reminiscing of New York City Days

The funny thing in all this is that 7 years ago, I would have been in my element.  7 years ago, I did most things on my own. I would go to cafés and work for hours on end all by myself.  I would go to sushi and sit at the bar and just eat and watch the sushi chefs chop and roll with such precision. 

When I was 20-years old and was living in NYC for the summer, I spent a lot of time alone. I ran late at night (okay, like 8pm) in Central Park without a fear. Most meals, I ate alone. I rode the subway back and forth with a confidence I didn’t even know I had.

My mind goes back to New York because I can remember how I responded to the type of freedom I had back then. Now, as I have a small taste of that freedom, I can’t help but crave the limitations and the noise and the mess of my actual life.  When you’re in the chaos of early motherhood, it is easy to reminisce about those New York City days. Of late night runs, of solo meals, of endless quiet time.

My Life Right Here, Right Now Is Better

Trust me, it is easy to drift off to this place, but again, here’s the thing, I have been given this lovely day retreat where there is endless quiet time and I can actually have a peaceful restaurant experience and there is no one constantly tugging at my legs, saying “more, more, mommy”.  It is just me.  The crashing waves.  A beautiful little hacienda.  And these words. Yet, my heart is already missing my crazy little boy and my handsome husband that loves me so well.

Oh my life is so full and beautiful.  It is messy, loud, dusty, busy, chaotic, but it is beautiful.  

Part of the reason, I am on this retreat is because Lance knows my heart so well and I have a tendency to wear my heart on my sleeve.  Since the summer, my soul has been struggling. I have been weary and tired and drained. I have felt unimportant and small. My joy has been low.  I have snapped at Hudson, at Lance. I have not been my best self. This time away came out of a clear need and the kindness of my husband. Thanks, Lance!

5 Things My Time Away Taught Me

My soul needed this solo retreat. It reminded me of a few things I have forgotten. It also taught me some new lessons. Whether you yourself are planning a solo retreat or you are in the grind of ordinary life, these takeaways are things that I hope can help you wherever you are.

1. Time Away is Essential 

Whatever our job is, whether we are stay-at-home moms or working moms or work-at-home moms or married without kids, we need time away. This does not make you a bad mom or a selfish wife, it simply makes you human.

It is not always going to look like staying in a hacienda on the ocean by myself, but this time away reminded me that I need to intentionally schedule time away.  This time away could be for just an hour, but I need to do this on a regular basis. It can’t be an hour away of running errands or even of working out.  It needs to be time away intentionally with the Lord. In quiet, in peace.

I realized that I often deem my down time when I escape to Costco by myself or I attend that evening workout class.  Contrary to some, Costco and core class are not life-giving to me. They are good and necessary, but when I am talking about time away, I mean time to really hear the Lord. It is going to be different for every person, but for me I am finding it involves sitting down in a new setting, reading a good book and writing down prayers. 

2. Embrace the  Uncomfortable 

This part was most surprising to me.  I was caught off guard when the initial hours of my retreat felt uncomfortable and fearful.  Like with anything that is outside of your norm, it is likely that initially it will feel weird.  The new job, the new marriage, the new baby, the new home, the new city. Maybe it is just me, but it takes me a while to warm-up to things I am not used to. 

This time away was no different. It felt weird and uncomfortable and I immediately called Lance the moment I entered the doors of the hacienda. I was very, very close to calling off the whole thing and having him and Hudson crash the retreat.  That felt right and familiar and comfortable. And here’s the thing, if I did give in to those feelings, I would have missed out on a really lovely time alone. It would have been great to have them with me, but it would not have been the same.  

Instead of giving in to the uncomfortable, I chose to embrace it.  And I am so glad I did. I heard God clearly for the first time in a while.  I read more than I have in months. For the first time in a long time, I was not worried about someone else.  I had no time constraints: I went on an evening run and I literally just stopped in the middle, went down to a little cove, sat on a rock and watched the sun go down. 

I must admit it felt good to just be. To not worry about getting back at a certain time and starting dinner right at 4pm. This time alone was needed. It allowed me to process and write things down that have been stirring in my heart.  For all those reasons, I am glad I sat in the uncomfortable; I am glad I did not give in to my longings to call off the whole solo aspect and make it just a family thing. 

3. Life with Your People is Always Better 

With all that said about how lovely it was to be alone, my biggest takeaway from my solo retreat was how life is so much better with my people.  It is messier and way louder, and quite frankly, all my sins are much more apparent, but it is my life, my family, and I love it with my whole heart. 

When you are in it, it is easy to daydream to retreats like the one I just had. It is easy to long for hours spent in a café, sipping a latte and reading.  It is easy to wish for just one quiet meal that does not result in food flying everywhere. And it is easy to desire freedom to run and write and watch P.S. I Love You whenever you would like.  It sure is easy, but I am here to tell you that right when I got this freedom, it was not quite as amazing as I pictured. Within the first couple hours I was already missing my family. 

Sure, I got a lot of reading in, wrote down some interesting thoughts, enjoyed a glass of wine as I voraciously flipped the pages, fell asleep to those lovely crashing waves; yet it still does not come close to my actual life.  Life with your people is always better!

4. Some Things are Better Left Unplanned

It should be no surprise that I created an hour-by-hour schedule for my retreat.  This is just how my mind operates. I want to know the plan, even if it is just me and the intention is to relax and get some writing in.  In a lot of ways I am glad I created a schedule, it allowed me to find a really great lunch spot that I likely would not have gone to if I did not plan ahead.  It also allowed me to really use the time wisely.

With my schedule, I got a lot out of my 24 hours away. I made it to a hatha yoga class at 7:30 am, got my eyebrows threaded (which always seems so hard to find the time to do in my ordinary days), listened to so many good podcasts (my favorite one I listened to was about reading the Bible chronologically), had an amazing lunch at Ellie’s Table (if you’re in San Juan Capistrano area, you should go), wrote about my feelings, ran at sunset, ate dinner with my book as company at Pierside, wrote a letter to my husband, talked a whole lot to God, started P.S. I Love You on Netflix and fell asleep to those crashing waves. 

The schedule helped me really use the time wisely, but all those things I listed, only some of them were on the schedule.  Pierside I just wandered into after my run without taking a shower. Weirdly, I scheduled a shower after my run and before dinner, which is so not me, so I just went to dinner with running shoes on and book in hand. The prayer walk on the beach I had scheduled for 1 pm, never happened because I lingered at Ellie’s Table much longer than expected.  But, prayer was scattered all throughout my time it just did not look as neat as a “prayer walk on beach.” Point in all this, is that spending time away intentionally is super important, but be okay with having some gaps and unknowns in your schedule. 
 

5. Things Might Feel the Same

When you do intentional things like this, it is easy to have this hope and even expectation that when you return, things will feel different.  That upon returning, you suddenly will be that patient mom, extra loving wife, and all-together better human being that is much more holy than before she took a solo retreat.  And here’s the thing, I felt the same. I quickly became anxious again as all my responsibilities quickly hit me with one step back into our home. I lost my patience soon after as I said “no” a million times and had to clean throw up off the floor.  But this all goes back to #3. Life is easier when you are away, you are likely going to be appear to be a much more loving and patient person than you actually are, but life is always better with your people.

This retreat did not instantly change me, but God absolutely used the time.  Through the podcasts I listened to, the words I read, the words I wrote, the miles I ran, the prayers, the yoga teacher, the lady that threaded my eyebrows, and those crashing waves, God reminded me of his nearness, he reminded me of how loved I really am, and he reminded me of the great gift and privilege it is to have the beautiful life the Lord has entrusted me with. So while I still struggle with a lot of the same things I did pre-retreat, my vision does feel clearer, my heart feels lighter, and I feel so much gratitude.  

Managing Christmas Expectations: Broken, Fallen, and Redeemed

How is your Christmas season going?  If you haven’t guessed from my title, so far, it has been less than perfect.  This seems to happen every single year and I think I am just now beginning to learn how to better respond when our holiday season simply does not match the high expectations we have in our heads.  

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Don’t be fooled by his cuteness, he is an ornament breaking machine.

Broken Things

It is just the middle of December (as I am typing this) and so far Hudson has broken about 5 ornaments, 2 salt and pepper reindeer shakers, and one snow globe (yes, there was water and those little, fake flecks of snow everywhere).  This is to be expected. Last Christmas we still had a baby that mostly was in our arms. I don’t think he was even really crawling last year. This year, he is literally running. And oh man, it is so much fun, but it also means that things break more easily.  Next year, there will definitely be less glass and ceramic ornaments on our tree.  

Fallen Things

Along with a long list of things that have broken, our Christmas tree has fallen over TWICE. As I have already mentioned here on the blog, every year Lance and I fight about the straightness of our tree.  Every year I complain that it is crooked and every year he tells me it is not. Well, this year, it fell in the middle of the night.  This resulted in even more broken ornaments that Hudson, in fact, had no part in. The point here, is obvious: the tree will shed a million needles, the tree will falter and not stand perfectly straight, the tree will fail us every single time.  Do you see what I am saying? It is amazing how in this time of year, how easily our eyes are taken away from Jesus and moved toward imperfect and unimportant objects like the tree.  

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Unsure about this whole Santa thing.

Imperfect Things

And finally there was the Santa photos.  Last year, we opted for the EXPENSIVE package at the Grove with the Santa that looks like he just fell out of the pages of The Night Before Christmas.  We were excited and eager first time parents willing to spend whatever on the perfect Santa photos.  And they were pretty good, Hudson was still so little, that he had no reason to even cry. He just looked directly at the camera with a sweet smile.  

This year, we went to the Santa at Bloomingdales.  There was even a Mrs. Claus and the photo was absolutely free, which is our very favorite price.  However, Hudson did not like Santa very much and the photo is less than perfect to say the least. Somehow, I ended up sitting on the Santa chair and Santa didn’t even make the picture! 

toddler crying in igloo in Minnesota
The reality of traveling with a toddler.

Painful Things

Since last typing this up, we took a little trip to Minnesota with Grammy & Auntie Kay. And in similar fashion to the theme above, Hudson and I both were not feeling 100% and I was hit with some especially bad body aches (so bad it brought me to tears!).  Traveling with an over-active and curious toddler is hard, but it becomes especially difficult when both of you are not feeling well. Thankfully my mom and sister were incredibly helpful!

toddler happy in igloo in Minnesota
The way I picture things in my head.

While my ideal for this trip would have been to feel a bit better, it still ended up being a great trip! We got to see a lot of family we don’t get to see often. Hudson got to touch snow for the first time. We visited the Mall of America. We slept in, ate lots of good food, and even sipped cider in plastic igloos. So overall, it was a special and memorable trip, minus my body being difficult.

toddler hugging santa claus
We changed our minds. We do like him.

And you can actually scratch the imperfect Santa photos. We ended up trying again and visited Santa at the Mall of America. Tip: if your toddler is anything like mine, try allowing them to walk up to Santa on their own, instead of placing them on Santa’s lap. This was my sister’s idea and it was really effective. Hudson was so much more confident and interested in Santa as he walked up to him on his own.  We got some really sweet photos. My personal favorite is Hudson hugging Santa and looking straight at the camera.  

Redeemed Things

Okay, so what is the point in all this? It is not to bring you down. Or get you to start complaining about all the little things that have not gone according to plan. No, it is to remind you to manage your Christmas expectations. If the gifts, the parties, the perfectly decorated home, the homemade cookies, the Christmas lights, and that perfect family Christmas card are the things at the forefront of your mind right now, you will likely be disappointed. You will likely feel like Christmas was just not quite right. However, if everything in you is focused on the baby, the baby in the manger: Jesus; then disappointment will not follow you. Because here is the thing: your cookies might burn, your cards might be late, the dog might eat the gingerbread house (true story); but he is already born. We know how that story goes. So no matter how many of your Christmas expectations seems to be falling around you, you can still rejoice, for there is good news!

“But the angel said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger'” -Luke 2:10-12

toddler smiling with gingerbread house
Before the big, bad Nala ate the whole thing!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas! I hope this perspective can help you really embrace all the imperfect elements of your holiday that really don’t matter that much and can allow you to focus and rejoice on the baby that changes everything!

San Diego with Auntie

Since our New York trip at the end of May, life has felt especially hectic. It has mostly been filled with a lot of good things, but it has felt like we have been bouncing from one thing to the next. From New York to San Francisco to Hawaii in the matter of a few months, it has felt like we have been all over. Along with travel, we have been dealing with big changes related to Hudson. He has been going through a rough teething patch. Along with intense teething, baby boy is walking all over the place. It has been a slow process of small attempts at walking and lots of falling. While it felt like a process, it really seemed to all come together over night. One day he was crawling and stumbling, and the next, he was confidently waking all over our living room, like he owned the place. Time is just going a bit too quickly for this mama.


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Beach time at Coronado. How cute are his little curls? 


Our final big thing of the summer is Lance’s work trip to Banff. While this one doesn’t involve me, it has meant a few days with just Hudson Boy. And if I’m being 100% honest, I was not jumping up and down about Lance leaving. I wish I could type here that I was the most supportive wife and that I secretly packed a love note in his bag for him to find and that I lovingly encouraged him to enjoy his time away. I so wish to one day be this type of wife, but currently, I am not quite there. Instead, I was passive and reserved. I made little digging comments like, oh, it must be nice to get away, with all the intentions to make him feel bad. How awful? This trip is for work. He has to go. Yet, in my jealous nature, I made him feel bad about obligations and travel that are out of his control. I hate admitting all this, but it’s the truth and I’m committed to only honesty when it comes to the words I publish on this little blog of mine. While this is where I’m at, I can sense the Lord working on my heart these past few days since Lance has gone away. While two days ago, I was dealing with a heart bent on jealousy and selfishness, now I sense my heart is mostly just grateful. Time away from your spouse can actually be a very good thing. For Lance and I, we do most things together outside of the time he is working. I love this about our relationship. I love how he is so committed to spending much of his outside working time with us. With this; however, comes dependence on him. Lance is such a hands-on and present father that when he leaves, it feels especially hard. All this to say, it can be a good thing to be apart for a few days and be reminded of how much I cherish the time we do spend together. It can also be a very important time to reset and become more dependent on the Lord than my husband. In just the two days Lance has been gone, I have cried out to the Lord for help way more than I typically do. It is easy to become dependent on the people in our lives, but the Lord longs for us to solely depend on Him. While I desperately miss my sweet husband, what a special gift to be reminded of the closeness of the Lord.

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Always worth the toy trade-in for the ice cream cone.

I also have sensed this feeling of gratefulness in the time I have gotten to spend with my sister. Hudson and I made the drive to visit her in new apartment in San Diego yesterday and we got back this evening. While it was extra exhausting chasing Hudson everywhere and dealing with him being out of his normal routine, it was a good couple days. It was days filled with Chick-Fil-A ice cream cones, meltdowns in HomeGoods, Mexican food on the beach in Coronado, morning walks to coffee, marching bands and cheerleaders, overfed turtles in the coy pond, and a day at the zoo. By no means was it perfect. I am finding out daily, how things don’t become any easier when you have a toddler. In ways my life feels more crazy now than it did a year ago. I feel more exhausted now, even though I get way more sleep. It is a whole new level of tiredness. Hudson no longer just lays there. He has a mind of his own. He wants to test things and ultimately, he wants to do things his own way. I know this will just increase and things will just get crazier. But here’s the thing, I’m loving it. Not all the time, but mostly I am. I love the crazy. And he does drive me crazy, but he also makes me laugh and he fills my heart with just so much joy. Minus the HomeGoods meltdown and him literally screaming at the top of his lungs for 30 minutes of our 3-hour drive home, Hudson’s craziness filled me with joy. From the way he fell in love with his ice cream cone to the way he became so attached to the animals in the exhibit, that he cried each time we had to say “buh bye.” This boy has his quirks for sure, but don’t we all? It is easy to get frustrated with the crazy, but this little time away with him in San Diego reminded me the beauty in the crazy. With fresh eyes, I was able to see this little boy before me that is incredibly affectionate and sensitive. He longs to make connections whether that be with the little girl a couple years older than him in the line at Starbucks to the meerkats at the zoo. He loved these little meerkats way more than the big, cool animals, like the elephants and lions. And I love this about him. He notices the small things. He loves the exhibits most people rush past. I think we could all learn a thing or two from the way Hudson views the world.


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My attempts at trying to get him to love elephants when what he really wanted was the meerkats!



If you’re still with me, this is what I want you to get out of all of this. 1. Time outside of your normal routine can be a very good thing. It can give you fresh eyes. It can remind you the beautiful life you do have even in the days that feel rather ordinary. It can allow you to make connections with those you don’t typically get the chance to. And even better, it can grow a greater closeness with the Lord. 2. Sisters are the best and I am so proud of mine. I know the above was mostly about Hudson’s craziness, but I loved seeing my sister’s new space. I feel so proud of her and love watching her grow into this amazingly kind, generous & independent lady. I am going to miss her a lot, but the couple days I spent with her showed me that she will be just fine. More than fine, she will thrive. 3. Toddler life is messy and loud and crazy. We are entering a totally different stage with Hudson. And like I have repeatedly mentioned, it’s a bit crazy. Just look at my diaper bag and stained jeans. I don’t have much together. My bag is overflowing with diapers and random half-finished snacks and I can never seem to find my keys. My jeans are covered in the rice and beans Hudson was eating with his hands as he was sitting on my lap. Despite all of the mess and the screaming, there is no place I would rather be.


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We love you, auntie! Thanks for a fun couple days. 

 

New York City with a 1-Year Old

It was around when Hudson was just a little over a month old that Lance and I booked tickets for New York. At this point we were still relatively idealistic when it came to the demands of life with a baby (and maybe we still are), but we felt this longing to take Hudson to see a city that means so much to the both of us. While I would not say we named Hudson after the river, the connection the name has with New York made the name for our first son feel even more right. New York is an important part of our story, I don’t want to go into the details, but New York changed things for us. God moved in that city for us, he brought renewal and forgiveness and hope. The summer going into our junior year, I made the decision with my friend Lyndsey to live on the campus at NYU. You are probably assuming I had a job or an internship in New York. You would think, but it wasn’t the case. No job, no internship, no true reason, but a feeling. I write this with a thankfulness that I was able to make this type of decision without logic or reason, I fully understand the privilege in this. I am grateful for loving parents that allowed for this to happen. So, I booked a ticket, arranged my living situation in a dorm at NYU and trusted God that there was a reason this city was placed on my heart. While I never ended up landing a dream internship or a job that made my resume look extra impressive, I did spend quite a lot of time on the Upper Westside with a little girl named Shira. For some reason or another, this is where the Lord wanted me. He didn’t want me in an important office. He wanted me in an apartment playing with all the dolls that Shira lovingly called her “sisters.” He wanted me in the Barnes & Noble on Broadway where we spent hours reading books. He wanted me in Riverside Park to help show Shira what kindness and sharing looks like. Looking back, I am so thankful for this time, but I would be absolutely lying if I were to say at the time I wasn’t insecure or embarrassed about it. Where are you working? What impressive internship do you have? Those questions were the common ones asked to someone who is living at NYU for the summer. It is hard to not feel disappointed when my answer to that question was being a babysitter. It just didn’t seem to stack up to everyone around me. But here’s the thing. When I think back to that summer, I was exactly where God wanted me. While what He handed me did not look nearly as fancy or impressive as those around me, it was what I needed in that season. With the flexible schedule of my role as nanny, I got to have much more adventure. That summer created a heart within me that is so fond to this bustling city. New York is much more than pizza, the Empire State Building, and the Statue of Liberty. To me, New York is getting out of comfort zones. It is the steps at the MET. It is Yankee games. It is black dresses and rainstorms. It is being truthful at Washington Square Park. It is lobster rolls and soda. It is 10 mile runs at 9 pm. It is baguettes in Central Park. It is new friends and the Brooklyn Bridge on the 4th of July. And it also is a lot of soft-serve ice cream.

All this to say, I love this city. And now I love it even more because it is filled with all the memories listed above plus all the new ones we made with Hudson. On the surface, a trip to New York might not seem extremely baby friendly, but we had a great time in the city with a baby. To be fully honest, it was absolutely exhausting, but if you are strategic with the things you choose to do, see, and eat, New York City with a baby can be a blast. Like with a lot of what I write, babies change things, but that doesn’t mean a trip to New York cannot still be busy and fun. Here are 5 tips for a New York City Trip with a 1-Year Old:

1. The Baby Carrier is Your Friend

While you can definitely use a stroller throughout the city, we found the baby carrier was the better option. We only took out the stroller for our runs, every other outing we used our Ergo baby carrier. The carrier makes navigating around all the people so much easier and it also makes traveling by subway smoother. We also found the carrier a great way to get Hudson to nap on the go. We were always out in the afternoons during his typical nap time.

2. Parks, Parks, Parks

While New York is more known for their main parks, the city is filled with tiny parks that are perfect for little ones. We literally went to a new park every single day. We had specific plans to go to Central Park and Washington Square Park, but all the other parks we visited were ones we organically stumbled upon. We found that Brooklyn Bridge Park was extremely kid-friendly. This should definitely be on your list if you are traveling to the city with little ones. Not only does this park offer beautiful waterfront views of Manhattan, there is a nice boardwalk to walk along, plus great little playgrounds. There is also Jane’s Carousel, which is a fun attraction for kids that only cost $2. Riverside Park was another favorite of ours. This park is in the Upper Westside. If you are in this area, this is another great park for walking or running, and there are a variety of playgrounds scattered throughout. We went to Dinosaur Park. This is a fun one to visit especially if you have a dinosaur lover in the family. There is a triceratops and hadrosaur sculpture. We got some pictures with Hudson on top of the dinosaurs, which was fun. Along with a playground and swing set, there is also a splash pad that a fair amount of kids were playing on. A lot of parks have splash pads, which is one thing I wish I planned for. If you plan on visiting New York in the summer, definitely pack swimsuits for the kids. Central Park, Washington Square Park, Hudson River Park are also great options that are filled with playgrounds. While we didn’t visit any of the play areas in Hudson River Park, we ran through it nearly everyday and there were always tons of kids and babies out. This is another very kid-friendly location. We found that when Hudson was beginning to get antsy from being in Ergo or stroller for extended amount of time, stopping by at a park was a great break for all of us. The amazing part of this city is how wherever you are in the city, it is likely a park is very close to you. Take advantage of all the amazing park options New York City has to offer.

3. Picnic, Picnic, Picnic

While you might be tempted by all the amazing restaurants the city has to offer, the reality is that they are not always the most kid-friendly. We literally only went to one sit-down restaurant on our entire trip. There are so many great markets, food hauls, and take-out places. Our favorite spot was Chelsea Market. Not only is it in a pretty central location (and right off the high line), it offers a large variety of food options. This is great, especially if you have a family with different taste preferences. One of the nights, we got Korean noodles from Mokbar and took them to eat on the high line. We ate yummy noodles, while having a clear view of the Statue of Liberty. Grabbing food to go and eating at all the various parks I mentioned above is really the perfect option for little ones. You will be so much less stressed because you don’t need to contain their noise level. We also found that Hudson was in the carrier a lot during the day, so picnics gave him some much needed time to crawl and explore. If you are visiting during the summer, I would highly recommend Smorgasburg in Williamsburg. This happens every Saturday in the summer. There are so many amazing food options. Again, great variety for the whole family. It is also in a beautiful waterfront location with grassy picnic spots. It is a really pretty place to get some family photos in. If you are in the mood for lobster rolls, I highly recommend Luke’s Lobster. This is definitely one of my very favorite meals in the whole city. There are various locations. We went to the Union Square location and had a nice picnic in the beautiful Washington Square Park. On our last full day, we visited Columbia University. After walking around campus, we stumbled upon Milano Market. This was an amazing spot. The food was so fresh and the overall feel of market felt very New York to me, from the strong accents of the men behind the deli counter to the beautiful display of cheesecakes. This is a great spot to grab picnic things and take to either Central or Riverside Park.

4. Take Hotel Breaks

New York is not the most restful city to visit. Part of what makes the trip fun is squeezing in lots of things; however, if you are traveling with a baby, it is important to schedule in rest for both the parents and the little ones. While we were not in our hotel much, we made sure to have at least an hour at the hotel before dinner to recharge and give Hudson some time to roam free and play with toys in the Pack ‘N Play. Not only was this needed for Hudson, it was very much needed for us as well.

5. Skip the MET

The MET is one of my very favorite places in the whole city. I love it. We bought our tickets ahead of time and planned to go before we went to the Yankee game. We barely had any time before the game and visited the museum for literally 10 minutes. Thankfully, the tickets lasted for three days, so we were able to return on Sunday. While it was still nice to get to visit one of my favorite places, it did feel a bit forced with a baby. Hudson had zero interest in the Degas paintings I usually admire when visiting. The one amazing part of the MET is the rooftop garden, which I highly recommend for amazing views and photos. If you do have kids, this can be a nice place for them to roam around and for the parents to sip something bubbly. However, if you do have babies, it might be better to just skip the MET. Instead, I would visit somewhere a bit more kid and baby-friendly. There are children’s museums and zoos throughout the city, which I think might make a better family outing. Here is a list of more kid-friendly things to do in New York.

Hopefully you found this helpful! I would love to hear if you have any good suggestions or tips when it comes to New York and little ones!

5 Tips to Survive a Road Trip with a Baby

We just got back from our first major road trip with Hudson. We had a wedding in Arizona, so we made the decision to drive and turn it into a little family trip. We both were a bit concerned with how Hudson would handle the 6-hour drive. Overall Hudson is a pretty easy-going, mellow baby, but 6 hours in a car seat at 11-months is not an easy ask. He did so great on both drives and we had a really enjoyable couple days. Really random, but I would say it was one of our best trips as a family. They say everything changes when you have a baby, which is totally true, but I feel like an underlying implication when people say that is that things become less fun. Ironically, we are finding that we seem to be doing more and having even more fun with Hudson. We are finding that you can really incorporate baby into the same things you would do prior to baby, you just need to make small adjustments, bring a few more things and plan ahead. While we are definitely not experts when it comes to traveling with a baby, I do feel like we intentionally did a few things that really helped make our trip a success. Also, side note here, I get that not all babies are the same, and some might respond a bit differently to such a long car ride, so be sure to adjust and change these tips based on your own baby’s needs. Here are my top five tips to not only help you survive a road trip with baby, but truly enjoy it and make memorable times as a family.

1. Leave Early

Especially when traveling with a little one, leaving early in the morning is a huge benefit. We left around 4:30 and it worked out very well. For one, there was zero traffic and we made excellent time. Leaving early also allowed for Hudson to sleep the first couple hours. This made it so his awake time during the drive was only a couple hours, since he also took his first nap on the drive out. He was sleeping for over half the drive, which was amazing. Maybe leaving at 4:30 am, is not you thing, I get it, but I do think you should try to be strategic when you leave in terms of your baby’s sleeping schedule. The more they can sleep during the drive, the happier everyone will be. The other great thing about leaving early is that we got to our destination at noon, so still had a full day. We were able to go to Target and get a few essentials and even go to the pool to give Hudson some time to burn off the extra energy he had built up from being tied to his car seat. Waking up at 4 am also is a lot easier when you are excited for your trip! Those first couple hours of driving were so nice for Lance and I as we sipped our coffee, chatted, and watched the sunrise.

2. Make Activity Bags

This is a tip that I have heard from a lot of other moms when it comes to traveling with a little one. The more distracted baby can be, the better. The same old toys can get pretty boring after a few hours, so I found it helpful to pack three separate ziplock baggies with a variety of different toys. We were gone for three days, so I made each bag dedicated to a different day in the car. I created these bags by intentionally putting in toys I know he really likes, while also including toys he hasn’t seen in a while. I also tried to make each bag as varied as possible. I put at least one electronic toy, a book, teether, and a ball (his very favorite thing right now) in each bag. This system proved to be helpful. It not only mixed up the toys he was exposed to throughout the trip, it allowed for me to stay organized with the toys as I had three separate storage containers. I would bring one bag with us in the diaper bag, and the others I would just leave in the car for the next day.

3. Sit Next to Baby

While I didn’t sit next to Hudson the entire trip, it is a good idea to make sure there is room for you to move to the back if needed. Our car is pretty small, so we needed to do some shuffling, but after moving a few things around, I was able to squeeze in the back to act as entertainment for Hudson. This seemed to also just calm his overall presence. He seemed to enjoy my company. If you have more than one kid, you obviously don’t need to do this, they can entertain each other, but if you just have one baby, you should definitely have a plan to make it easy for you to sit in the back row for a bit of the drive.

4. Keep Snacks Accessible

Just like toys can be a good distraction mechanism, so can food. I would recommend packing a separate bag full of snacks for the little ones. Keep this bag in a place that is easy for you to reach throughout the drive. I also would pack a separate baggie within the snack bag to put any trash in. This is one thing I didn’t do, but I wish I did. It would have kept the car a bit more tidy.

5. Stop Often

As tempting as it is to just plow through the drive and get there as fast as possible, the more stops you make, the easier it will be on your little ones. Be sure to use this time to change diapers, feed baby and allow baby to see new things and burn a bit of energy before returning to the car seat. We did not need to do this since we just have one baby, but if you are also traveling with kids a bit older, try to front load them and be very specific when and where stops are being made. Try to get them excited for the stops you are making so the trip as a whole can feel more broken up.

Road tripping with a baby can actually be a ton of fun. But like with most things in life, it is much more enjoyable the more planned and prepared you are. So, plan ahead, make a list with all the essentials baby will need, and mentally be prepped to listen to lots of Mickey songs on CD. Creating a checklist and having all our bags packed and by the door the night before made the morning leaving super smooth. Also, making sure we had something that seems to automatically soothe him and put him in a good mood, saved us a few times. For Hudson, this is his personalized Mickey CD. I know there is tons of controversy with screen time, but we did allow Hudson to watch a couple shows on the IPad when we needed to help occupy him for a few minutes. Don’t judge. Sometimes you just need to do what you need to do. If that’s not your thing, that’s great but I would think about the things that work well to entertain and occupy baby and implement those. Overall, if you are debating between road tripping and flying, I think road tripping was a fun and less stressful environment to introduce Hudson to travel. In a couple weeks, we will be taking him on his first flight to New York, so a flying with baby post will be coming soon. Hope these tips are helpful and if you have any baby road trip tips that worked well for you, I would love to hear them. Leave a comment below!