Public Bathrooms: Just Another Reason My Children Will Need Therapy

In February, the girls and I took our first long road trip since the previous October (note: the definition of a long road trip is a drive that requires a bathroom stop). I already knew bathrooms were a challenge for Babykins. She’s still small enough that she’s uncomfortable sitting on a regular-sized toilet and the echos of most public bathrooms make her nervous. On this particular trip, I had already given up on getting her to pee on an actual toilet–the little travel potty in the back of the van would suffice for her. However, I still needed a real bathroom.

Since it was lunchtime, I found a McDonald’s for us to stop at. I strapped Sweet Pea into the stroller, helped Babykins out of the van, and cheerfully announced, “Okay, Mommy has to go potty before we order food!” We traipsed inside and found the bathroom.

In typical traveling-solo-with-littles fashion, my best laid plans went to pot immediately. The handicap stall, the stall big enough for the stroller to squeeze into, was out of order. Since I had already unloaded the girls out of the van, we were committed to this stop and I really needed to use the restroom. Thankfully, it was a small bathroom that only had one other stall. I parked the stroller in front of the stall door, firmly told Babykins not to move away from the stroller, and locked myself into the stall.

Sweet Pea started crying as soon as I stepped out of her sight. “It’s okay, Sweet Pea,” I crooned, “Momma’s right here!” Sweet Pea just cried harder. “Babykins, can you play patty-cake with Sweet Pea?” I called out.

“Otay!” her little voice replied, “Pat cake, pat cake. . .” Then disaster struck.

As I mentioned earlier, it was a small bathroom. When Babykins moved to the front of the stroller, she stepped directly under the hand dryer. The AUTOMATIC hand dryer. The dryer roared to life directly above Babykins’s head.

I rushed to finish my business as both girls started screaming. “Babykins, move away from the dryer!” I shouted. Then the automatic toilet flushed and both girls screamed louder. I burst out of the stall and Babykins attempted to scale my leg like a terrified cat while Sweet Pea thrashed in the stroller.

I can only imagine what horrors people outside of the bathroom thought were occuring as I tried to calm my hysterical girls down. After a few minutes, I managed to convince Babykins that I needed to wash my hands but I would dry them on my pants. I wouldn’t make the hand dryer turn on. She continued to tremble by my leg as I changed an equally perturbed Sweet Pea on the changing table. A quick text message asking a friend to use the bathroom at her house as our next potty break ensured that we would not have to endure another torturous public bathroom experience on this particular trip.

Consequently, our road trips from now on will be limited to a) trips that my husband can come with us or b) places that have friends along the way so we can use their bathrooms.


2016 Family Vacation

Miles Driven: 1500

Nights Gone: 8

States Crossed: 4.5 (Half of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan)

Beds Slept In: 4


Babykins explores the CTS Fort Wayne Playscape during our brief visit to the seminary.

This year for our summer family vacation, we drove to Ohio to visit my grandmother, aunt, and uncle on my dad’s side for a few days. We then drove to Michigan to spend the weekend with some of my family members on my mom’s side. Babykins hadn’t meet many of these family members before, but overall she handled the unfamiliar surroundings and faces very well (except for the fact she still hates long car rides).

While it was nice to get out of town for a bit and the visit to my grandmother was long overdue, we’re still happy to be home.

Hotels and the Kindness of Strangers

Babykins and I had our first hotel stay sans my husband last week. Needless to say, it was a learning experience, but one of the more difficult aspects of the stay was checkout.

For checking in, I had managed to get our things inside by strapping Babykins in her stroller while loading a luggage cart. I then pulled the cart while carrying Babykins. It wasn’t easy, but I managed.

hotel stay

When it came time for me to pack the car so we could leave, the hotel’s two carts were gone.I went to the front desk and asked if they had more. The woman at the desk explained, “No, and if the carts are in someone’s room, there isn’t much we can do. But you can walk the halls to see if any were left out.” She offered no other help.

At this point in my trip, I was extremely sleep deprived. I was awake from a combination of desperation and copious cups of coffee. My ability to intelligently problem solve was greatly reduced. Consequently, I saw only two solutions to my luggage dilemma: find a cart or carry everything myself with Babykins in tow.

After checking the 2nd and 3rd floors for a wayward cart (I forgot to check 1st floor–I told you I was tired), the only cart I could find was parked in front of a door. I didn’t want to take a cart that someone was using and couldn’t ask because the door was shut. Figuring it wasn’t polite to knock on a stranger’s hotel door at 8:30 a.m. on New Year’s Day, I left the cart (of course, it’s also not polite to leave the luggage carts in the hall after using it or to hoard them, you jerk on the 3rd floor!).

I resigned myself to carrying out our luggage. On the first trip to the car, I carried Babykins while lugging the Pack ‘n Play. I then pulled the stroller from the car so I could push Babykins while carrying the rest of our things.

On my third trip to the car, two woman in the lobby took pity on me. They offered to watch Babykins in the lobby while I finished loading the car. I initially hesitated at their offer. After all, who leaves their child with strangers in a hotel?! But they looked respectable and I had chatted briefly with one of the women earlier. I knew she was a mom of a 10-year-old (who was sitting next to her). I needed help and they were offering. It would take much less time and energy to load the car without pushing Babykins in the stroller. I finally accepted their assistance.

I quickly finished loading the car and profusely thanked the 2 women for watching Babykins. They told me that they completely understood my difficulty and that they were happy to help.

We live in a sinful world filled with murder, torture, and kidnappings. We’re taught from a young age not to trust strangers, even if they look nice. Parenthood encourages us to be even more suspicious of those around us as news stories and social media fill our minds with fear of worst-case scenarios.

However, young motherhood has taught me that sometimes I have to trust strangers to help me. My pride wants me to believe that I can do everything myself, but my child makes me realize that complete independence isn’t possible. Family and friends can usually step in to help, but every once in a while it has to be kind strangers.

In hindsight, I should have pressed the front desk to help me more. They are in the hospitality business, hospitality should be expected. I could have asked them to send someone to look for a cart (a person who could knock on room doors). If a cart couldn’t be found, I could have asked for help carrying my luggage. Apparently I can’t assume that a hotel will try to make my stay easier.

Still, I’m thankful for the two mothers who had compassion on me and showed kindness to my daughter. I won’t forget them.

Road Trip!

Babykins and I leave for our Advent vacation in a few hours. We’re spending a week with one of my good friends from the seminary as she prepares for her second child’s arrival. The baby may or may not come while we’re there, but I figure I’ll either get to meet the new baby or we’ll just have a giant playdate all week if the baby stays put. It’s a win/win situation!

Additionally, the timing works well. When my friend first asked about us coming to visit in December, I was a bit hesitant. A week in December is a quarter of my Christmas preparation time. However, it turns out that my husband is swamped with sermon writing and a presentation next week, so I probably wouldn’t have gotten much work done beyond keeping our household at a functioning level. This trip allows my husband not to worry about the work/family balance.

The only downside of this trip (aside from the fact that Babykins and I will miss her daddy) is the 4.5 hour drive. I realize it’s not that far, but it’s the farthest I’ve driven without my husband since Babykins was born. Babykins isn’t the greatest car traveler and it’s difficult to drive with her without another adult. However, we had a bit of practice with our Thanksgiving travel and I learned some tips for keeping my 14-month-old somewhat calm in the car.

1. Have a stash of blankies and pacifiers in the front. Babykins loves her blankie and pacifier. Thankfully, we have multiples of both items. That means I can pass back a different blankie or pacifier when she inevitably drops one.

2. Be flexible with snacks. For our trip, I bought Babykins one of those fancy snack holders that helps keep the food from spilling (sort of). I also bought her some fancy baby puffs that quickly dissolve in your mouth. This way she can eat in the car without me worrying about her choking. Usually I would prefer her to eat something like fruit for snack, so the puffs will be her road trip treat (and I’m getting chocolate. Yay!).

3. Plan stops. I’ve looked at my maps and have plotted out several stopping points, including a McDonald’s for lunch (another road trip treat for Babykins). I’ve also planned for these stops to be 30-60 minutes so Babykins can properly stretch her legs. I’m hoping to only need 2 breaks–one for lunch and one before we go through a big city–but I’m also mentally prepared for more if Babykins is having a freak out.

4. Stock up on toys and music. I have a bag of toys and books in the front seat so I can something back if Babykins starts to get bored. I also grabbed all of our kid-friendly music that I can turn up if Babykins starts crying.

Hopefully my preparations make the driving portion of our trip go smoothly. Well, at least as smoothly as a trip can go when you have a toddler in tow.


Dear Babykins: Let’s Learn to Travel!

Dear Babykins,

This past weekend we took our first overnight trip sans your dad. It went surprisingly well. You were a real trooper during your grandpa’s retirement party and you slept decently enough at night that I’m willing to overlook the 5:45 a.m. wake up.

However, we’re going to have to work our car travel. I know that you would prefer if I sat in the back with you but that just isn’t possible when your dad isn’t with us. We will most likely be taking many weekend trips without your dad because he has to work on Sundays and parties are typically on Saturdays or Sundays. So here are some ideas that we can work on to make the car ride less. . . loud and screamy:

1. Stop chucking your toys out of your carseat. I know it’s fun to watch them fall off the side, but I can’t pick them up off the floor when we’re driving 70 m.p.h. and you decide you want them back.

2. Keep your pacifier in your mouth. You prefer to nurse to sleep and you think the pacifier doesn’t cut it (Admittedly, when I put you in your crib after you’ve fallen asleep, I stick the pacifier in. Most of the time you don’t notice). However, I also can’t nurse you while we’re driving 70 m.p.h.  Your choice is either the pacifier or nothing at all. Spitting it out and screaming won’t solve anything.

3. Eat when I offer. Gas stations and rest stops are very exciting places with strange sounds and different things to see. However, I promise you won’t miss anything important if you just nurse for 10 minutes. Plus, you won’t get hungry 20 miles later.

4. Just go to sleep.  When we are driving during your naptime, it’s okay to fall asleep. I know the car sounds different and the carseat isn’t like your crib, but you eventually fall asleep anyway. If we could forgo the prior 2 hours of yelling, that would be swell.

5. The driver should have caffeine prepared before hitting the road.  This one is for me. It’s not a good idea to go through the world’s slowest McDonald’s drive-thru while you are sleeping so I can get some coffee to stay awake (see aforementioned 5:45 a.m. wake up). Since I have to TALK RIDICULOUSLY LOUD when ordering into the microphone, you will wake up and yelling will commence.

I believe if we both follow through on these tips, our road trips will become increasingly happier.

Road trip

A Pastor’s Vacation

It seems to happen to every pastor’s family at some point.  As a vacation approaches, death comes.

My husband has a conference at the seminary in Indiana next week.  Babykins and I were going to tag along and visit some of our seminary friends.  Technically, this is continuing education for my husband, but it was also going to be a vacation for our family.  My husband would get a chance to focus on studying and take a break from the daily grind of parish life.  I would have the opportunity to have rejuvenating socialization with people I’m comfortable with.  Perfect.

But a member has been fighting terminal cancer.  Last week my husband no longer referred to him as “terminally ill” but as “dying”.  By Tuesday, my husband had made his decision–he couldn’t leave for the conference.  We cancelled our trip.

The man died yesterday.  The funeral is on Monday.

Our family can’t complain about the cancelled vacation.  It’s a disappointment, but there are people in our congregation mourning the death of their husband, father, grandfather.

We’ll just count this as one of those “Quintessential Pastor’s Family Experiences”.

My Thanksgiving Poem

Over some rivers and down the interstate,
To Grandmother and Grandfather’s house we go.
My husband knows the way as the car radio plays
And as we pass the white and drifted snow.

Over some rivers and down the interstate,
Please don’t cry, sweet Babykins.
We’ll soon be there with family that cares,
And we’ll even meet with some friends.

Over some rivers and down the interstate,
Now Grandmother and Grandfather’s house I spy.
Hurrah for the fun! Have the Lions won?
Hurrah for some apple pie!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Why I Will Never Drink Red Wine Again

Last winter, my husband and I took a mini-vacation at a B&B.  This was an exciting get away for us because it was the first trip since our honeymoon that only involved the two of us.

Our B&B was a renovated Victorian house in a small tourist town.  Breakfast would be delivered to our door every morning and we would spend the rest of the day exploring the downtown area.  Plus, part of our room package came with a bottle of red wine.  Now, I don’t like the taste of any kind of alcohol unless it is cut by serious amounts of sugar.  Consequently, I almost never drink any sort of alcoholic beverage.  Why spend $10 on a milkshake with liquor when I can spend $4 on a plain milkshake?  However, I was determined to make our vacation a classy experience.  That meant I had to have a glass of wine.

My first sip immediately proved immediately that I found the wine disgusting.  But since I was going to have a classy vacation, I kept sipping the wine.  My husband finally noticed after half a glass that I was making weird faces and commented on it.

classy vacation

I finally finished my classy glass of wine and went to bed.

About an hour later, I suddenly woke up because my esophagus felt like it was on fire.  I took a drink of my water hoping that I was simply thirsty.  It didn’t help.  After a few minutes, I realized that the burning in my esophagus was actually heartburn (I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had heartburn–that’s why it took me so long to figure it out).  I poked my husband awake and asked if he had any antacids.  Unfortunately, he had forgotten to pack them.

I tried to ease the heartburn by sipping some milk.  It didn’t help.  In fact, the burning increased and I started gagging over the toilet.  So not classy.

I finally stopped gagging but the heartburn continued.  Exhausted and in pain, I started crying.  My husband finally asked:


So that’s why my husband wound up going to a gas station at 11:30 at night.  So not classy.  It’s also how I learned that you can get heartburn bad enough to make it difficult to swallow the next several days.

eating out

Finally, it’s why I promised myself to never, ever drink red wine again, no matter how classy I want to feel.


5-Day Weekend Acomin’

One of my bosses told me yesterday that she is officially taking Monday and Tuesday next week off (she mentioned the possibility a few weeks ago).  Naturally, this means I have Monday and Tuesday off as well.  This also means that because I have weekends and Wednesdays off, I get a 5-day weekend.  It will be a much needed break for my boss, the kids, and me since our work schedules have been long and busy since I started work at the end of July (although both my bosses’ work schedules have been longer and busier than mine, so  I can’t complain. . .too much).

When I told my husband that I officially have Monday and Tuesday off, he just sighed and said, “Well, we just can’t win when it comes to vacation time.”  That’s true–it always seems like when one of us has too much free time, the other doesn’t have enough.  However, I merrily told him that I have big plans for my 5-day weekend.

Despite my awesome schedule of working two days and then having a day or two off, I’m always exhausted by the time I get to that day off (something I always forget about when making plans).  I’ll have a long list of things to accomplish during my free time, but all I really seem to do is this:

tiredConsequently, this 5-day weekend is going to be filled with all the little things that have piled up/never got accomplished when I started work.  Activities include:

  • Writing articles for upcoming newsletter
  • Reading for upcoming book club meeting
  • Updating car registration/driver’s license
  • Finding a new doctor
  • Going to the dentist
  • Patching clothes
  • Finishing unpacking/repacking boxes from our move
  • Cleaning off my desk
  • Tidying up the junk I have strewn around the house
  • Writing all the blog posts I have floating around my head
  • Writing/sending out update letters to our support congregations

Okay, so that list is technically what I wish I would find the motivation to do this weekend.  This is probably what I’ll actually do:


The Irony of Coming Home This Time

Today I head back to the North after visiting my family for a week.  Since my husband has been in San Antonio while I’ve been vacationing in Iowa, I’m ready to go home and see him.  However, I feel a sense of irony as I make my way home.  Our move is rapidly approaching and I can no longer put off packing.  Consequently, I’m going home to take our home apart.

ironic homecoming