Saturday, May 20, 2017

Flying Alone with Two Under Two - Part 1

That title alone should scare off anyone but if it doesn't, continue reading. I recently had the opportunity to fly back home to Lancaster, PA (via the Baltimore Washington Airport). OK, it was actually almost a year ago but it has taken this long to write this blog post. The only catch for the free ride was that I would have to fly back home to Memphis by myself. With my 22 month old. And my 4 month old.

Since I've been back, dozens of people have asked how I did it. Just kidding. No one has but I'm going to share my experience and what I've learned and some tips and tricks regardless. My mom very graciously paid for a ticket for myself to fly up to see her and see my family and friends. Since I have two kids under two, she would have had to pay for two tickets so she suggested having someone fly up to PA with me so I could have help with my kids. So my husband flew up with me. He flew back home to Memphis within 48 hours since he had to go back to work. On the flight to BWI, I was in charge of our 4 month old and my husband was in charge of our 22 month old. Luckily on the flight up, my husband, Troy, was able to snag another seat for our toddler since we flew Southwest and he didn't have to hold him the entire time. The flight there went fabulously. We really couldn't have asked for any better scenario.

I was in PA for 15 days before flying back home to Memphis. Prior to the trip, I googled "flying alone with two kids." It was pretty much crickets on the Internet. The little that I did find was discouraging. In fact, one mom blog said to NEVER fly alone with two kids unless you had help. I quickly ignored her opinion and gave up on the mom bloggers. Where were the moms on the Internet that accomplished this feat? Were they scarred for life? Did they even exist? Did they not live to tell about it?

Nevertheless, I was up for the challenge. As you can already guess, this post will be lengthy but if you're flying soon or considering it, I invite you to take the trek through this post. The first post will be my experience and the second will be my advice.

First, I tried to plan the flights were we would be back on the ground before bedtime. Our 4 month old, Alexa, sleeps whenever and wherever so I wasn't worried about her. Our 22 month old, Judah's, naps are sporadic so I tried my best to schedule it around his nap since I was almost 100% certain he wouldn't sleep on the plane (too much excitement).

Next, I decided on whether or not to bring my double stroller or to bring an umbrella stroller (much more lightweight and easier to fold and deal with) and baby wrap my newborn with a Moby wrap. I thought for sure I was going to use the latter. But I had a test run around our neighborhood of me with my newborn in a baby carrier and my toddler in the umbrella stroller without the luggage. It was miserable. I spoke with a friend back home, Darla, who flew with her two kids and she highly recommended bringing the double stroller and that's what I decided on (plus, the stroller I have can fit infant car seats so that was nice too).

I tried to pack as little as possible. My mom had tons of outfits and diapers waiting for me at home along with a Pack 'n Play for Judah and we borrowed a Rock 'n Play bed for Alexa (from Darla again). Darla also offered up her extra convertable car seat that we could use for Judah while we were in town so I didn't have to lug ours around the airport (everyone needs a friend like Darla). I brought a backpack with as little as I could bring but I packed it full (contents will be in part 2).

My dad and sister drove to the airport with me and the bambinos. Both kids fell asleep almost right before we got to the airport so that was not the best. My dad dropped me and the kids off alongside the gate and my sister got out to help us get through security. We strapped the kids in the double stroller and got checked in to receive our tickets and check our bags (I wanted to walk on the airplane with as little as possible). My sister let me use the bathroom (all by myself) while she watched the kids then we got in the security line. My sister helped me until the last possible minute (which was right before going through security). It was so nice to have someone help me even if it was the smallest thing. Thanks sis!

Going through security was the most stressful part. I had to take my bag of liquids & iPad out, take off my shoes, take apart and breakdown my stroller while managing two kids. One of the TSA officers asked if my (double) stroller (it's 40+ pounds, sir) would fit through their little scanner. WHAT?! How would I know that?! And I had TWO kids. Did they not see my TWO children? Luckily, one nice TSA man helped me with my stroller and walked Judah through the scanner. They also were nicer on me and I could just walk through a scanner instead of raising my hands over my head like they do now in that super hi tech x-ray type machine. After I got through security, I sighed a big sigh of relief. I packed up my stuff and headed to my gate. I made sure I knew where my gate was before I went to Auntie Anne's to grab a quick lunch. I was not risking that me and my 1 year old would be hangry. We grabbed our lunch and I headed to find a family bathroom. I nursed my baby and changed both kids' diapers. Then I put my Moby wrap on and put my daughter in.

Now, this may not sound like it would take up a lot of time but it did. By this time, I headed to the gate and it was time to board. I got to board early since I had small kids. At the end of the runway, I had to check my double stroller and infant car seat. This was difficult since I was wearing one child and trying to control another. Luckily, a nice flight attendant helped me.

We boarded the plane and I got an aisle seat while my son had the middle seat and a very nice woman had the window seat. I buckled my son in and had to ask a flight attendant to buckle me in since I couldn't see because I had my bambino strapped to me.

The flight for the most part went well. It was about 2 1/2 hours long. My baby slept and was super comfy in the wrap. The nice lady by the window was very kind and helped me and was totally cool with Judah touching her from time to time and she opened up the window for him to look out from time to time. Towards the end of the flight, my baby was getting fussy and my toddler was getting anxious. I tried to give him lots of snacks and he started throwing them on the floor and by that time, I really didn't care. He also did NOT want to sit down. By this time, my baby was hungry so I bottle-fed her while trying to distract my toddler. It was tough and I had to take a few deep breaths and tell myself that it was all going to be over soon. He was really content to play with the on flight magazines and tray table for most of the flight. I got my iPad out for him to watch something but he was not interested.

The landing couldn't come soon enough. We packed up our things (sorry for all the goldfish on the floor, Southwest) and headed out. I stayed at the end of the runway to get my stroller but they told me I was going to have to wait back at the gate! I was stressed by this time. They finally rolled my double stroller out to me and they said they couldn't find my infant car seat. I was trying not to freak out. I had to put the kids in the stroller without the car seat and head to baggage claim to try to find it.

My husband met me inside and helped me collect our bags at baggage claim and luckily our car seat showed up too! Then, I practically ran out of there.

Overall, the experience was very positive. Towards the end of the flight, my toddler got very anxious especially when he was told to sit and put his beloved tray table up but nevertheless, we got through it.

I would do it again... I think. Maybe. If you are thinking about it, you can do it! Having both kids in diapers was a plus since I didn't have to run to the bathroom every time my toddler had to pee. And my daughter was very young and she was very content to sleep and just be cuddled up by my side. She didn't need to be entertained. Neither had any blow outs, major tantrums or super hyper moments.

Check in tomorrow for my tips and advice on flying alone with two under two.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Daniel Fast Four Bean Chili

If you're looking for a quick and easy Daniel Fast meal, look no further! This recipe is a Troy and Melody original but feel free to change it up and add your own twist to it. Sometimes we add different beans or throw in different spices but this is our template. It's super easy to make; chopping the vegetables is just time consuming. If you're making this for the Daniel Fast, make sure all the beans do not have any added sugar or corn syrup in. Sometimes you have to search for them but they are out there!

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large red pepper, chopped
1 large orange pepper, chopped
1 large yellow pepper, chopped
1 large jalapeno pepper (seeded, de-veined and chopped)
6 cloves garlic, minced (or store bought minced)
1 cup vegetable stock
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (16 oz) can black beans
1 (16 oz) can dark red kidney beans
1 (16 oz) can hot chili beans
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1 Tablespoon hot sauce
1 can refried beans

In a large pot, add olive oil and warm over medium heat. Add peppers and garlic.  Saute for 5 minutes or until softened.  Add vegetable stock and stir well. Drain tomatoes, black beans, chili beans and kidney beans then add, stirring well to combine.  Add cumin, chili powder, and hot sauce.  Stir in refried beans to thicken chili.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes before serving.

Enjoy by itself or on a baked potato.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Practical Tips for Thriving in the Daniel Fast

My church, CityChurch of Olive Branch, is starting 2017 with 21 days of prayer and fasting. We are doing the Daniel Fast together this year starting Sunday, January 8th. Here are eight practical tips for thriving during the fast. I am not ignoring the spiritual side, just giving some practical tips.

1. Plan, plan, plan. Know specifically what you can and cannot have. After you have researched, plan out breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for each day for a week at a time. If you're feeling advantageous, plan for the entire three weeks in one sitting.
Here is a sample meal plan for us:
Breakfast: fruit smoothie (frozen berries, 100% apple juice and frozen banana)
Lunch: taco salad with guacamole and apple slices with peanut butter
Dinner: 4 bean chili with a side of green beans
Snacks: mixed fruit, clementines, mixed nuts

2. Tell yourself you won't quit. Tell yourself that you will complete the 21 days. If you say you're going to "try" then you are giving yourself room to fail. It's tough but it's supposed to be tough. If you slip up and eat a handful of M&Ms, repent, forgive yourself and keep going. Don't give yourself an out to quit.

3. Have readily available snacks when you get hangry. For me, I like easy fruits (bananas, clementines, apples) and mixed nuts. I also keep sugar free applesauce on deck.

4. Realize temptation is going to come and that you can overcome it. Whenever my husband or I have done fasts, it seems like we get invited to lots of parties with all you can eat pizza buffets with a 5 tiered chocolate cake. Either don't go to those food filled outings or eat before you go and bring approved snacks along so you're not tempted.

5. Check your labels carefully. While you're mostly eating whole, fresh foods, you will use some prepared foods like canned beans. Now, if you're like me, you would assume there would be no added sugar in a can of pinto beans you're using for a chili but most have corn syrup in. There are some jarred salsas without added sugar and pasta sauces without added sugar.

6. Invite friends or family over to have dinner with you. During our first Daniel Fast in 2012, we had another couple over for dinner that was also doing the fast with us. We had mixed fruit as an appetizer and a 4 bean chili for the main course. They brought the most delicious guacamole with baked corn chips. We had a great time sharing recipes, encouraging each other and praying with and for each other.

7. Caffeine withdrawal is tough. Realize the first few days will be very tough if you're used to drinking soda or coffee on a regular basis. You will have headaches and most of the time, they will die down after day 3. Drink lots of water.

8. Experiment with new foods so you don't get bored or stale. Sometimes, we just have a baked potato for dinner because of our lack of creativity and because we're just hungry. We love to go to Whole Foods to get inspired with new foods. They also have a buffet with many DF approved foods. It's a nice treat not to prepare a meal.

Remember to drink lots water, eat as much as you want with DF approved foods, and get enough protein. Remind yourself that it's only 21 days and that you're stronger than you think.

Each year, many people tell us they aren't doing the Daniel Fast because they "already eat like that." Chances are, that's probably not true and more of an excuse than anything. If you find yourself pushing back hard, you may need it the most. But if you legitimately eat similar to the Daniel Fast on a regular basis then I encourage you to do another fast like a 3 day juice fast.

Click here for some Daniel Fast approved restaurants.
And click here for some Daniel Fast recipes.
And click here for more info on what exactly the Daniel Fast is.

You can do this.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Welcome (back).

You know those people that start a blog and promote it heavily then post once or twice then never post again? This will be that blog. I will post randomly and sporadically.

All my posts from my old "wifey life" blog are still here. A lot of it makes me cringe because of the photos or wording, but it's fun to see how I've grown and evolved so I decided to keep it.

This new blog is called "MS in MS." It stands for Melody Sowden in Mississippi. MS are my (semi) new initials from getting married nearly seven years ago. And MS is the state I have lived in (also for seven years). Growing up, I desired to be married more than anything but wasn't sure if it was ever going to happen. And let's face it, Mississippi was probably the last place on earth I ever thought I'd live especially being a proud Northern girl from Lancaster, PA. But Isaiah 55:8 says, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord." I may not know what I am doing tomorrow or even later today but I am sure glad I serve a God who does.

So the initials "MS" represent me and the new person I've become and living in the new state I moved to seven years ago. My old "wifey life" blog just encompassed my title of just "wife." While I am still a wife, I am more than that. I embraced a new role two years ago when we welcomed our first son, Judah, into the world. Then six months ago, we welcomed our first daughter, Alexa, into our family. I am a Pennsylvanian, married to a Seattleite and we are raising two Mississippians.

I don't think this is a mom blog or cooking blog or hair blog or couponing blog or whatever blog. It is just a blog. It's a constant work in progress - just like me. I may post 10 times in one week or I may not see you again for three years. But I still want you to check back daily anxiously awaiting a new post. ;)