My 16 month old’s guide to a delightful in-flight experience

Or, the mile-high menace

Or, mastering a gentle inner-thigh caress

Or, the complete guide to tasting strangers’ shoes… and getting away with it

Listen, toddlers, mastering the art of a fun flight is a careful balancing act. You must find that level of fun that teeters just on the edge of tipping your mom’s (and the flight crew’s) tolerance into the no-fly zone. You must ensure that your escapades are, for all their daringness, still a better option than listening to you scream.

Needless to say, the meltdown option in always available to you.

This guide is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully it will help inspire you for your next flight. These strategies are designed for long-haul flights; we recommend being a perfect, quiet angel on shorter legs. It’s the most certain way to lull your parents into thinking they can handle a cross-country or even trans-continental jaunt.

Ready? Dive right in …

Pre-flight considerations.

Be ever alert. Threats to your plan abound: unless she still cowers under the watchful eye of screen-time-shamers, your mom will try to bribe you with Daniel Tiger. DO NOT FALL VICTIM. Resist the screen, no matter how intriguing the plot line about how to communicate your food allergies at school. If you play this right, you’ll get that screen time later, at your destination, when her energy and fear of judgment have been obliterated.

She might also have a new toy or snack as a “surprise” for you. Please, mom, that “surprise” is so overdone. Also, spoiler alert, there are way more fun toys to be discovered on a plane.

Moving sidewalks: just one of many exhilarating warmup activities.

Boarding the plane.

When your mom finds your seat, the time is ripe: spill that coffee she purchased knowing the chances of that sweet, sweet caffeine making it into her bloodstream were nearly zero, but which she precariously juggled through the airport and onto the plane along with the diaper bag and the roller bag and your wiggly body and her secret stash of toys and snacks. Make sure to splash that coffee all over neighboring seats, her clothes, and everything she’s carrying, including yourself. She’ll get distracted using up the rest of her baby wipes mopping up coffee and her caffeine-withdrawal tears, and you’ll have time to unload the seat back pockets and distribute the literature, perfectly beaded with stray drops of coffee, to surrounding rows. You’ll probably also have time to finger paint the window with the spilled coffee she hasn’t mopped up yet.

Establish dominance

As the plane is taking off, make as much noise as possible and move as much as possible. You’re setting a precedent here: if you sit quietly now, she’ll have less incentive to tolerate your next move. Unless, of course, you want to nurse, in which case you should make sure to bob back and forth between sides every few seconds so that she is as exposed as possible. Just think, she will be so absorbed in trying to alternately cover each breast, she’ll have reduced capacity to restrain you.

This is an ideal time to let your neighbor know who’s boss: give them a few well-timed kicks and jabs so your mom feels guilty and the neighbor gives her a stink eye.

Get the lay of the land

Focus! Now is not the time to be admiring the view.

Once you’re off the ground, or done nursing, squirm away from your mom and, even if you have literally never crawled in your life because crawling is for babies, army crawl up the aisle, occasionally stopping to turn back and smirk at her. Your coffee-soaked t-shirt will handily collect stray crumbs and hair and other detritus along the aisle. When she tries to pick you up, immediately execute FULL LIMP BODY and scream at the top of your lungs.

Trust me, she’ll let you keep army crawling.

Being on your belly gives you the best access to a few key in-flight amenities: wayward peanuts and other people’s purses. It’s best to casually remove an item or two from each purse you pass, just to deflect your mom from trying to pick you up again. She’ll be so busy handing people their lost pens and phones and slobbery wallets that you’ll be able to make significant progress down the aisle. If you get distracted, remember, follow the trail of peanuts. Especially the honey roasted ones. The “lightly salted” ones are so not worth the effort.

When you get bored with ground-level pursuits, stand up and start walking down the aisle. This step is all about speed and noise. Happy shrieks are less likely to cause interventions but still garner maximum attention from the entire plane.

Make new friends

If the mom hot on your tail looks away for even the tiniest second, to apologize to a stranger or to re-assemble the last purse you unloaded, seize the opportunity: casually lay your hand on the nearest stranger’s thigh, as high up on their inner thigh as you can reach, and gaze intently into their face. Bonus points if the thigh’s owner is asleep.

If their thigh isn’t accessible, try untying their shoe, or putting it in your mouth. Again, sleeping targets are worth the most, both in points and in potential reactions. If you get kicked in the face by a startled-awake shoe-wearer, scream bloody murder, tweet an angry missive to the airline, and make sure it gets captured on video so you can sue later.

And repeat. You got this. 

Then, when you land…

Just be your unbelievably cute self.

Works like a charm.

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Defense against the darkness

“Welcome, everyone,” the instructor said, her legs folded into a neat lotus position, her face beaming a peaceful, earth-mother glow. “Let’s start by going around the room and sharing what brings you joy.”

It was my second day at postpartum yoga, one of countless mommy & me activities I’d joined shortly after Mac was born, and I was the first of 15 or so new moms, sitting in a semi-circle of yoga mats, to take up the question.

Mac takes yoga class very seriously.

I’ve never been comfortable with public speaking, even in an environment as safe as this one, where half the audience didn’t speak English yet, and the other half was consumed with the newborn beetling on a blanket in front of them. So I was relieved that this, at least, was an easy question, one that I’d developed a stock answer to years ago.

So much easier than last week’s “What has motherhood brought into your life?” (My answer: uh, a baby?)

“I love to swim in the ocean,” I said confidently, keeping one hand on four-week old Mac as though she might suddenly decide to get up and run away, “especially when the water is warm and there are beautiful fish to look at.”

Nailed it, I thought, relieved that I’d redeemed last week’s poor performance.

Mom #2: “My daughter’s laugh just lights up my world.”

Mom #3: “Getting to share in my son’s learning experience.”

As the sharing rippled around the room, my anxiety ratcheted up. Every other mom in that room shared something about her child as her source of joy. I was the only one who said anything even remotely unrelated to family.

Dammit. Another F in the grade book of motherhood.

The first time I saw Mac in the NICU—really, the first time I saw her, save a few blurry seconds on my chest right after her birth—I remember a feeling of utter detachment. Foreignness, not familiarity.

When we brought her home, I knew I was supposed to talk to her, to find joy in this new life in my charge. I knew I was supposed to sing and cuddle and nest, but my nonsense songs sounded phoned in, my narration of our daily activities forced. I wasn’t quite sure to make of this creature whose arrival had shattered the sense of self I’d spent over 30 years cultivating. I felt reduced to cracked nipples, a deflated belly, and various traumatized body parts to be poked, measured, stitched, consumed.

All around me, I heard my peers singing the joys of motherhood.

Parenting a newborn bored me out of my mind.

They reveled in the gifts of maternity leave.

I itched to sneak back into my inbox.

They spoke in rapture of the unmatched love they felt for these squishy new lives.

The strongest feeling I could muster was ambivalence.

As soon as I was able to leave the house, I found myself taking long walks with Mac in the stroller. I didn’t know what else to do with her, or with myself. We walked against the darkness and against my raw emotional state and through the long still hours of the day.

I had nothing left that was mine, and, I believed, nothing to give. All around me, the darkness closed in, and it left me ragged and brittle. I couldn’t summon the reserves to return calls from loved ones and perform the happy new mom dance. The red badge tallying up new voicemails from friends inched upward, unchecked. At least once a day I’d dissolve into tears for no apparent reason. Over and over, I counted down the minutes of each monotonous cycle of nurse-nap-now what?

I was sure I could muscle my way through it, through sheer force of will. I signed up for every mommy & me group I could find. I went to postpartum depression support groups. Postpartum anxiety groups. Homebirth* and babywearing and stroller fitness classes. I set a record for answering icebreaker questions wrong. I kept adding more and more activities to my calendar, all the while hoping I’d uncover a diagnosis for my disinterest.

If I could name it, maybe I could find a way to cross that threshold into feeling like a mom.

They say the first three months—the fourth trimester—are the uphill battle. I’d say eight months is closer to when I began feeling like I might come out the other side of this reasonably intact.

There has been no watershed moment, just a series of small cracks in the darkness. The moment when I hear Mac and Nathan playing in the next room, and I find myself thinking, spontaneously, “That sounds like fun,” and wish I were in there. The moment when her happy shrieks make me laugh harder than I have in months.

I wish I could say that I wasn’t still emotionally raw. There are still jagged, brittle days, when my resilience is whisper-thin and the darkness closes in over my head. There are still mornings when the prospect of leaving the house or checking even one item off my to-do list leaves me feeling defeated.

I’ve found no salve, no drug, no practice, no magic cure. It’s just time. Time that I’m still taking. It’s finding my mom tribe, whose company helps me feel less broken. It’s getting creative with making space for myself. It’s letting Mac’s smiles and babbles start to knit together a defense against the darkness.

I’m 16 months postpartum and I’m still finding my way through.  

*Luckily for me, just intending to have a home birth means you’re welcome at these groups. So I got my cake epidural and ate it too. 😉

 

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Show your mama some love

Hey hey, it’s mother’s day!

What are you getting for that special lady in your life? I know, it’s a dumb hallmark holiday, but you bet I’m taking advantage. I’m writing this post to help you find mother’s day gifts that don’t suck. NO BATH BOMBS, husbands. NO BATH BOMBS. And also to assist my own husband in finding me the perfect gift. I don’t want him to stress out too much.

What can I say, I’m a giver.

Time alone

Take the baby and give her some time to herself. To do … whatever.

Yoga. Binge on Netflix. Stare blankly into space.

My dream life.

Sleep. Sit at a coffee shop and slowly sip a latte and leisurely read a book. Pee alone. Cook or do laundry without ‘help’. Literally, whatever.

Note: This is the gift I want most pretty much all the time, but this won’t work for all mamas. We all have different comfort levels around how soon and how long we can be away from the baby. You probably know where the mama in your life falls on the spectrum; if not, ask her partner.

Time with you

If your mother is not a NEW mother, meaning if you’re not a baby, give her the gift of your presence. Take her to lunch, take her for a massage, most importantly, BE NICE TO HER.

Or, if she recently became a grandma, give her the baby and GET OUT OF THE WAY.

 

Instant MILF Milk Bath!

Ahah I know, I just said don’t give her bath stuff. But, there’s an exception to every rule. Becky sent me these (delicious, hilarious) milk baths and the sheer joy I experienced reading the names and descriptions was as good as that soak.

Donate to a political candidate that won’t punish her for being a mother.

I’m a little enraged by all this healthcare business. All I can say is, take care of mothers by literally helping to make sure mothers get taken care of. If you don’t have the cash money to give, then use your voice to speak up for women and mothers.

Shit Tote

Because we’re just up to our elbows all the time. Might as well throw some rainbows behind it.

There you have it, my no bullshit guide to mother’s day gifts. Sorry for all the shouting. I don’t know what came over me.. oh, no wait, I do, I wrote this on the same day this tweet came true:

Once I simmer down, I’ll be back to share the story of my first mother’s day, which involves public nudity and urination committed by an adult.

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Oops I did it again

Not many people know this about me, but I have technically finished a half marathon before.

This was four or five years ago. A good friend of mine, who has a suspicious talent for convincing people to do things they ordinarily wouldn’t do, asked me to sign up with her. Her sister—an actual runner—was coming into town for the San Francisco Marathon, and my friend was signing up in solidarity.

“But,” she promised, “We’ll just walk the first mile or so, then we’ll duck out for brunch.”

This was exactly my kind of half marathon. I registered, and instead of training for the race or even opening the information emails, I spent the weeks leading up to the race carefully inspecting Google maps and Yelp for brunch places along the route. I wanted to have options, because getting a brunch table in SF can be a total shitshow. Especially on big event weekends.

Race day rolled around and I dutifully found my friend at the start line after almost not getting my bib. Because no, I hadn’t gone to packet pickup; I had to track down some frazzled event organizer just moments before the event started.

We started running along the Embarcadero and through the gray fog and among the thousands of people who had turned out for the event. Those first few miles were exhilarating. I loved the energy, the feeling of being part of something, the flatness of that part of the course, and, of course, imagining just how many pastries I’d be able to eat thanks to a supercharged appetite.

“Shall we duck out now?” I remember asking as we ran through the Marina. Plenty of good brunch options there!

“Let’s just go a little farther,” my friend said.

We repeated that conversation several more times before it hit home that we weren’t really ducking out for brunch.

I’d been had.

We kept going. Up and over the Golden Gate, and back again. Through the Presidio. By the ocean. At some point, my pace devolved into a limping walk. All my training had taken place in front of a computer and in search of pancakes, and it showed.

I won’t go into too many details about the meltdown that was the last half of that race. Let’s just say, we made it across the finish line long after the last of the promised Irish coffees had been doled out. Womp.

I learned a few key things that foggy morning in San Francisco, and they had plenty of time to soak into my soul while we waited, shivering, in the long line for the bus back to our cars. (Clearly, this story is pre-Lyft).

Lessons:

  • Don’t fall for the brunch bait
  • Don’t start a race you have neither intention nor ability to finish

I’m sharing this story because once again I’ve been strong armed into signing up for a half marathon. This time, it wasn’t bacon; it was beer that got me to enter my credit card information.

A (different) friend has convinced me to sign up for the Shiner half marathon in, you guessed it, Shiner, Texas. I hear there is abundant beer at the finish line. And to make sure I make it there before they run out, I’ve also signed up for a training program with Rogue Runners (who the fuck am I, right now?).

All that said, here’s why I’m really doing it: not for the bacon, not for the booze: for my baby. Err, one of my babies. The not-human one. The business baby.

That sounds weird.

Moving on.

You see, ever since we started Fit Approach, I’ve been an enthusiastic crew member, cheerleader, and sympathetic beer drinker at races and other run-focused events.

I’ll even get up really, really early for ultra marathon start lines.

I’ve been to enough of them—and have enough spent time with runners—that, in critical moments, I can reasonably pretend to be a person who runs.

The beer mile is my best event.

Like, in business meetings, while working expo booths, etc.

Eating Doritos in a van counts as training, right?

I’m kind of tired of pretending. And also, we’re hosting our first-ever race & yoga weekend this summer, and I want to be a part of it. I felt such amazing energy surrounded by complete strangers in those first few miles of my doomed half, I can’t imagine the high that would come from spending time with my community, for a race I was actually prepared for.

So, yes, I’m training for a half marathon in November. But the real reason I’m hitting the pavement is because come August, I plan to walk the walk. (Run the run?). Maybe not a half – we’ll see how the training goes – but definitely for the 10k. It’ll be the farthest I’ve ever run.

Join me? 

And, since you’ve made it this far (a marathon unto itself!), you definitely deserve a discount. FLEXANDFLOW for 20% off, y’all.

See you at the finish line, and ALL WEEKEND LONG. <3

 

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Sleep and weird juju past life shit

After coming clean about just how not-picture-perfect our sleep is, I found myself buttressed on all sides by solidarity from my community. It feels good. Almost even better than the first cup of coffee in the morning: just knowing I’m not alone, this is normal, that Mac will find her way to longer periods of sleep in her own precious time.

I then ran across this article, which only solidified that feeling of being at peace with this current reality:

Ignore the chorus telling you you’re doing it all wrong and you need to wean or leave them to cry or sleep train or give them solids or get a sleep consultant or perform some weird juju past life shit on them because if you don’t you’re not “respecting their need to sleep”.

(Yes, I’ve been told that too – and it’s bullshit).

Ignore it. You’re doing great. This will pass I promise. It’s long and hard and awful (so, so awful) but you’re not alone.

You’re not a martyr – that favourite word to attack sleep deprived mothers with – you’re just trying your best.

I see you trying.

You’ll sleep soon.

So will they.

via The Spinoff

I highly recommend the whole thing. It literally brought me to tears, and I don’t think I can entirely blame the sleep deprivation or my (still elevated?) hormones for the weepiness. Sometimes it just feels so good to be seen and validated.

Speaking of which, here’s another post about baby sleep that might make you feel better if you’re in the thick of it right now. I read this one originally before I became a parent and before I had any awareness of high-stakes arena of the Sleep Training Games, and this paragraph stuck with me:

The thing is: babies aren’t convenient. They don’t fit our adult schedules. They shit and throw food all over. They need a great deal of time and attention and sacrifice and love. But they’re not supposed to be convenient. They’re babies. They’re growing like crazy and their bellies are tiny and they may need to eat more often than every 12 hours. They need to be cuddled and touched and loved. They need to be responded to, cared for, met with tenderness. And I feel certain that one day we will look back at “sleep training” (even that phrase makes me crazy, like you’re training a cat to pee in a litter box or something) as a terrible, psychologically-damaging socio-cultural error.

via Rachel Meyer Yoga

No matter where you or your little ones fall on the sleep question, here’s to finding our way through the long dark nights and the too-bright days.

 

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