Wednesday, September 23, 2009


By Kelly

I was quickly changing the baby from pajamas to clothes this morning – which could describe any morning during the school year, really – when my five-year-old walked into the room, shot me a big grin and said, “I brushed my teeth before I put my clothes on today, Mommy.”

The following thoughts shot through my mind like lightning:

“That’s strange. He hates brushing his teeth. And he’s never done it first thing. But he’s telling me this voluntarily. Why?”

And then the direct hit: “Could he be lying?”

I helped a chubby arm through an sleeve and glanced at my son, still beaming with an angelic smile. “Are you sure, buddy?” I said. “Because that’s not like you.”

“I did!” he insisted, although I saw his grin falter.

I set the baby on the ground and walked into the bathroom. I felt his toothbrush. It was dry.

I came out and looked him in the eye. “Buddy, don’t lie to me. Your toothbrush isn’t even wet. The sink isn’t wet.”

He looked away.

“It’s far more serious to lie to me than to not brush your teeth,” I gently warned. “Because then I can’t trust you. And that changes everything.”

He still didn’t look at me, but I could see from the embarrassed flush that my message was getting through. He took the toothbrush out of my hand and walked directly to the sink.

Two minutes later, he emerged from the bathroom with a bigger smile, fresher breath and a clean conscience.

“I did it, Mom, I really did it this time.”

“Good buddy. I’m glad. But I think you owe me an apology for lying.”

He threw himself into a vice grip around my waist.

“I’m sorry, Mommy.”

“I’m glad, buddy,” I said.

And I am glad. I’m glad I was able to catch him so simply, I’m glad he responded to my correction without retort.

Because I’m older and wiser, and I know what a life of duplicity bears. It’s a seed I don’t want planted.
The thorns which I have reap'd are of the tree
I planted,---they have torn me---and I bleed:
I should have known what fruit would spring from such a seed.
- Lord Byron, "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage"

Kelly also blogs at Love Well.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A SAHM Moment

By Kelly

I pulled into the garage this afternoon a little after 1:00, with the following list of urgent concerns.

1. Corey needed me to e-mail him some directions immediately; he was going to be leaving the office in 5 minutes.
2. I had two Trader Joe's bags in the back of the mini-van.
3. One was packed with frozen vegetables, which had already been in the car for two hours.
4. The other was packed with fresh flowers, which had been out of water for two hours; I could see the tulips wilting.
5. Teyla had a stinky diaper.
6. She was also throwing a fit because I wouldn't give her the churro she could see in the front seat.
7. Connor was halfway through his quesadilla lunch and needed something to drink ASAP lest he choke and die.
8. I really, really needed to go to the bathroom.
9. I was really, really hungry. My footlong tuna Subway I had just picked up was calling my name.
10. The phone was ringing.

Which task do you do first?

Leave a comment here first. Then you can click over to Kelly's personal blog, Love Well, to see what she prioritized.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


By Kelly

Corey and I went for a walk after dinner tonight. The older kids were playing with friends in the neighborhood, laughing and riding bikes in the golden, evening twilight. So it was just me, my husband, our 20-month-old Teyla and the dog.

Corey and I chatted about Natalie’s first day of third grade and the possibility of the weather turning cooler later in the week. Teyla, puppy-like, shrieked with joy to be out of the house and ran circles between our legs. The dog pranced at the end of her leash, nose up, ears alert. You never know when a squirrel is going to pop out of a bush.

We walked to the end of our development to a place where the forest meets the city. The tree tops were gilded with sunshine. We let the dog off her leash for a few minutes, and let Teyla explore the wildflowers growing next to the road and the few yellow and orange leaves on the ground that have already fled their summer home.

It was all so ordinary. The smell of stir-fried garlic and onions lingered on my fingers, and Teyla stopped to study a bug crawling on the ground.

Yet, for just a moment, it wasn’t ordinary at all. I forgot all about Teyla’s short nap and the spilled milk before dinner and the hassle of putting away a weekend’s worth of toys in one morning.

Instead, I just was.

I was a wife. A mother. A woman who overflowed with gratitude for the beauty of everyday life.

I picked up my curly-headed daughter and tucked my hand into my husband’s arm and headed toward one of the best gifts I know – home.

Kelly can also be found blogging at Love Well.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Air Travel, Not Scare Travel: Navigating the Not-So-Friendly Skies with your Kids

By Kelly

I knew we’d get the looks. Anyone traveling by plane with three kids, as we did last week, is bound to be on the receiving end of a few “please don’t sit by me” glances. And when we walked up to security, it’s amazing to watch the gait of our fellow travelers quicken, as they try to get ahead of us in line.

But they need not worry. Our family travels a lot, and at this stage, the kids are experts at navigating the complex world of air travel.

My husband and I have gotten more savvy too. When we first started flying with our children, we carefully read all the travel tips for parents on the web. (Some good lists here, here and here.) And we gleaned a lot of ideas from those tip-sheets.

But we’ve also compiled a few less-obvious tactics of our own. Which I’m sharing with you today, for free. I know. My generosity is astounding.

If possible, fly at naptime.
The best time of day for families to fly is a debated topic among experts. Some recommend that families fly as early as possible, to avoid the inevitable delays that snowball throughout the day. Some recommend traveling late at night, the better to score empty seats on the plane.

But we’ve found the early and late flights are almost always occupied by business people, who are the least friendly when it comes to children. So if possible, we try to fly around lunchtime, which gives us the best chance that one of the kids will fall asleep for part of the flight. Plus, the mid-day flights tend to be filled with fellow families and traveling grandparents, which makes for a friendlier group.

Pack healthy snacks and empty sippy cups.
I think everyone knows the airlines no longer serve meals mid-flight. A few still pass out complimentary bags of pretzels and peanuts. (Warning: If your child has a peanut allergy, be sure to call ahead and ask.) A few others sell small snack boxes for $5 or so, which are filled with processed, high-fat, high-sodium junk food. Naturally, my kids love the snack boxes, and to be honest, we’ve bought them on many a trip. The kids will spend 30-45 minutes investigating the contents of that tiny box.

But most of the time, I want my family to eat healthier than processed cheese spread and sausage sticks. So I pack a bag of baby carrots, sliced apples, sugar snap peas and raisins to snack on during the flight.

Best tip: I also pack disposable sippy cups – even for the older kids – and I ask the flight attendants to pour the complimentary beverages right in. That way, I don’t have to worry about a lapful of icy cold apple juice. And yes, I learned this one the hard way.

Don’t bring a stroller unless you have to.
Obviously, if you have a newborn, bring a stroller. Not only is it impossible to carry those newborn carseats without making your knees look like you sustained a Mafia attack, the stroller comes in handy for carrying the extra gear you need for a newborn.

But once your baby is a toddler, and loathe to ride in a seat when he or she could walk, ditch the stroller. You have to fold it down to take it through security, go on elevators instead of escalators at key junctures through the airport, and it makes it harder to maneuver in a crowd.

We went stroller-less on our trip to Colorado last week and we pleasantly surprised at how freeing it was. There were times when we needed to carry our toddler, just to keep up the pace. But overall, it made the trip much easier.

Do look for airport playgrounds.
Airport playgrounds are a fairly new idea, but what an idea, especially since it’s wise for families to arrive at the airport extra early for their flight. Almost half the major U.S. airports have playgrounds these days. It might not be near your gate, but if you have time, letting the kids get their wiggles out by running around a miniature air control tower is the perfect pre-boarding activity.

Don’t overpack toys.
I used to pack a huge bag of toys for each of my children. After all, we had four hours of time to fill between Minneapolis and California. What if they weren’t properly occupied?

Then I found that they were more interested in investigating the contents of the seatback pocket than the coloring books that I brought from home. And each time they wanted something new, I had to bend down and pull out the bag from under the seat in front of me and hold my breath while I scrounged around for the requested plaything.

These days, I let the older kids back a small bag of toys themselves. (My son uses his school lunchbox. That’s the perfect size.) And for the baby, I pack some books, a Color Wonder coloring book and that’s all. It works just fine.

Look for creative play opportunities on the plane.
The seatbelts alone have occupied my kids for 15 minutes. Push in. Click. Pull up. Click. What if I turn it around? What if I try the one on the seat next to me? What if I swing it around my head and hit my sibling in the mouth?

They are also amused by the flight safety pamphlets (all those colors and comic book pictures) and the Sky Mall catalog (we use it to play I Spy). They love to look out the window and talk about what they see on the ground. Even the teeny, tiny bathrooms offer tons of diversions.

Never underestimate a child’s smile to light the way.
A couple of years ago, I flew by myself with my two oldest kids (at the time, 5 and 3) to visit my family in San Jose. I was nervous about flying solo, and the fact that I was flying in the busy post-Christmas rush didn’t help.

As we waited in the long security line, one of the most dour TSA officers I’ve ever seen sat near the front and shouted out instructions. “Have your boarding passes and picture IDs out and accessible! Do not try to bring on liquid of more than 3 ounces! This includes water, coffee, hair spray shampoo and the jam your Grandma gave you as a gift!”

She didn’t sound friendly. My kids were in awe of her fierce manner. I figured she would be the type to look sternly at my ID and then frown at the children before barking at us to move ahead.

But lo and behold, when she saw the kids, her whole demeanor changed.  Her voice softened and her face broke into something like a smile and she leaned over and said, “And where are you two traveling today?” My five-year-old, emboldened by the new tone, immediately started sharing our plans of time with Grammie and Papa and the new baby cousin that was soon to be born and a possible trip to Disneyland to see Mickey and Minnie.

The TSA agent listened attentively, even as she was stamping our boarding passes. Then she smiled at me, winked at the kids and waved us through.

Sometimes, traveling with kids is a blessing in disguise.

When she's not traveling or defeating the piles of post-vacation laundry, Kelly blogs at her personal blog, Love Well.