Powered by Blogger.
Showing posts with label family. Show all posts

Newborn Life: the First 3 Weeks

Newborn Life: the First 3 Weeks | CosmosMariners.com

Life with two kids.

That idea terrified me more than when I found out I was expecting our first kid. Perhaps it was because of the overwhelming guilt I've felt over taking time away from my beloved preschooler. Perhaps it was because I knew exactly what I was getting into this time.

The Tiniest Cosmos Mariner is Here!

The Tiniest Cosmos Mariner is Here! | CosmosMariners.com
After the stress that was my daughter's birth, I had very low expectations about how things were going to go with this second labor and delivery. I figured that if I went in with only the most basic idea of the experience (i.e. to have a healthy baby), I wouldn't be hideously disappointed as I was with Britton 3.5 years ago. 

Kicking off the Holiday Season with College Football + New Shoes



Kicking off the Holiday Season with College Football + New Shoes | CosmosMariners.com

Although I love traveling (which is no big surprise since I run a travel blog), I also adore my home state of South Carolina.

For many others, the holiday season kicks off with Thanksgiving and then leads into Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year's.

As a proud South Carolinian, I know that the holiday season really starts when the weather gets chillier and the words "college football playoffs" are beginning to be bandied about. This past weekend, my husband and I headed back up to our alma mater, Clemson University, to see a football game and get into that holiday mood right before Thanksgiving.

Paying Our Respects 70 Years Later: World War II, My Family, and the Luxembourg American Cemetery

 Paying Our Respects 70 Years Later: World War II, My Family, and the Luxembourg American Cemetery | CosmosMariners.com

I don't know when I first heard about my grandmother's brother.

I had to be very young because I remember always knowing that my great-uncle Ernest was killed in World War II. He'd been killed by friendly fire towards the end of the war, my grandmother had told me. On rare occasions, she'd take out his Purple Heart (which was normally kept in its box in the dining room sideboard) and let us see it.

Paying Our Respects 70 Years Later: World War II, My Family, and the Luxembourg American Cemetery | CosmosMariners.com
My great-uncle Ernest (on the right) in the only picture that my grandmother has of him
Even decades later, it was obvious to me that Ernest's death had greatly affected my grandma. After he'd been killed, he'd been buried in Luxembourg. We weren't sure why my great-grandfather had chosen to leave his son's body there: it would've been free to have it shipped home.

At some point, the idea of going to the Luxembourg American Cemetery began to be bandied about between my grandmother, my grandfather, and my mom. My grandfather was actually very close to my great-uncle Ernest--it was because of their friendship that my grandparents actually met. I imagine that my grandfather, who was a World War II Pacific theatre veteran, would have liked visiting his old friend one last time.

My grandparents were going to Germany and Luxembourg to see the grave back in 2001--but, just days before they left, 9/11 happened. They got spooked, canceled the trip, and never planned another. My grandfather passed away in late 2013 without ever going on that journey.

About a year ago, my grandmother began talking about finally going to see Ernest's grave. She wanted us to come with her, and our preliminary plans began to take shape.

As we firmed up our itinerary, it became obvious that my grandmother wouldn't be able to keep up. She's still in great health, but she has trouble walking long distances. About 8 months ago, she decided that she wasn't going, but she wanted the rest of us to keep planning the trip in her absence.

A month ago, my mom, dad, sister, daughter, and I climbed aboard a plane to begin our journey towards finally seeing my great-uncle Ernest's final resting place. After 10 days of working our way across southern and western Germany, we arrived in Luxembourg, and, on a foggy fall morning, we entered the golden gates of the American Cemetery.


Paying Our Respects 70 Years Later: World War II, My Family, and the Luxembourg American Cemetery | CosmosMariners.com

The superintendent of the site greeted us and took us around the cemetery, sharing details about the construction of the cemetery, the fighting in and around Luxembourg, and current operations.

I'd done a little research before I'd left home and discovered that my great-uncle Ernest had been a member of the 166th Engineer Battalion. He'd enlisted in mid-1943, been a part of the Utah Beach invasion (one of five areas that were part of the D-Day offensive), and had helped construct bridges and roads with Patton's army between Normandy, France, and Luxembourg City.

Paying Our Respects 70 Years Later: World War II, My Family, and the Luxembourg American Cemetery | CosmosMariners.com
Display at the cemetery showing the Battle of the Bulge
When he was killed in March 1945, he was only 2 months shy of surviving the war: V-E Day was May 8, 1945. Ernest survived the Battle of the Bulge, only to be killed when he stepped on one of our own land mines.

Learning these details about him made me feel as if I knew him a little bit. He died before my mom was born, so my only way to know him is through my grandmother's stories and what I can find through my research.

Paying Our Respects 70 Years Later: World War II, My Family, and the Luxembourg American Cemetery | CosmosMariners.com


As the superintendent led us towards Ernest's grave, I was sobered by the thousands of white headstones stretching out on the green grass. All of these men (and 1 woman) died thousands of miles from home away from the people they loved.

When we arrived at Ernest's headstone, I couldn't believe that we'd actually made it. I'd heard about this moment my entire life, and we were there, fulfilling a goal that my grandparents had wanted for decades.

Paying Our Respects 70 Years Later: World War II, My Family, and the Luxembourg American Cemetery | CosmosMariners.com


We paid our respects and stood quietly at his grave for several moments. I was moved to be there in this place with my great-uncle, a place that is so far from his hometown of Florence, South Carolina.

I have no idea what happens to us after we die, but I hope that, wherever he is, my uncle knows that his family still loves him. When we got back to Charleston and showed these pictures to my grandmother, she cried. She was so glad to hear that her brother had finally had some company.

We also took the time to look at the rest of the cemetery, which is immaculate. A team of soldiers comes to clean all 5,076 headstones each week. The grass is kept trimmed and free of weeds. It's wonderful to know that, if these people couldn't be buried in their hometowns, they're still taken care of--even 70 years after the war ended.

If you visit, take time to visit the memorial, which has a beautiful mosaic ceiling that took an Italian craftsman 18 months to construct.

Paying Our Respects 70 Years Later: World War II, My Family, and the Luxembourg American Cemetery | CosmosMariners.com

Ultimately, this is what travel is all about to me: finding those moments where emotion, personal interest, and history intersect. I feel incredibly privileged to have been given the opportunity to travel to Luxembourg and experience that moment with my family.
_______________________________

Want even more travel goodness? Sign up for the newsletter and get the latest Cosmos Mariners updates, giveaways, and travel news right to your inbox!
Newsletter Signup Newsletter Signup

Traveling Overseas with a Toddler or Preschooler: What You Need to Know to Make Your Trip Fantastic

Traveling Overseas with a Toddler or Preschooler: What You Need to Know to Make Your Trip Fantastic | CosmosMariners.com

When we originally started to plan our trip to Germany and Luxembourg, taking my daughter wasn’t a part of the plan. We had some distinctly non-toddler activities planned, including a trip to the Dachau concentration camp outside of Munich, plus I was worried about how she’d deal with sightseeing and new places to sleep and irregular schedules. 

Then, a few things changed: we all decided we didn’t have time in our very packed schedule to go to the concentration camp, and Britton started talking about planes all of the time. One afternoon, I was talking with my mom and she asked (again) if Britton could go. 

Even though I’d been staunchly against her going up to this point, it was as if a lightbulb went off in my head at that moment. 

Why shouldn’t Britton go? What was the worst that could happen? 

Traveling Overseas with a Toddler or Preschooler: What You Need to Know to Make Your Trip Fantastic | CosmosMariners.com
Running around outside the Pilgrimage Church of Wies, Germany
In a flight of fancy, I applied for and got Britton’s first passport, we purchased her plane ticket, and ordered a car seat for our rental vehicle. She was going to Germany with us, a trip that would require her to fly on five different planes, deal with a six-hour time difference, and spend 11 days sightseeing in 6 areas of Germany and Luxembourg. 

I was nervous about taking her once everything was in place, but I was excited to share this time with her. 

So, how did she do? 

For the most part, she was a champion traveler! If you’re thinking about traveling long distance with your toddler or preschooler, here’s what you need to know. 

Lay a groundwork before you leave. 

Even if your child has traveled on a plane or overseas before, it’s always a good idea to prepare them for what they’re about to go through each time. This was Britton’s first plane experience and her first time abroad, so we talked a lot about what she’d see and do on the airplane before we even stepped foot in the airport. 

I also made sure to show her pictures of the castles, the Alps, and Munich before we left, so she’d have something tangible to focus on. 

Be prepared to work on the plane

And by “work,” I mean get yourself in a frenzy as you try to keep a toddler quiet-ish and still-ish for the duration of the flight. Of all of the components of toddler travel, I found the plane rides the most stressful. The space each passenger is given is tiny and not truly suited for someone who’s main goal in life is to move as much as possible as often as possible. 

We walked up and down the aisles as much as possible. When we were confined to our seats during turbulence, Britton was allowed to watch some of her favorite movies, including "Frozen" and "Paddington Bear" (both of which were in the Delta Sky Kids movie lineup). 

Traveling Overseas with a Toddler or Preschooler: What You Need to Know to Make Your Trip Fantastic | CosmosMariners.com
Britton in the Charleston airport testing out her new Frozen headphones
A few other tips for the plane:
  • Order the kid's meal before you board. My kid is pretty adventurous when it comes to eating, but she still loves the kid standards (apple slices, bananas, chicken fingers, PB&J, etc). The kid's meals that she got had fresh fruit, a biscuit, cheese, ravioli, juice, and chocolate pudding. 
  • Bring noise-reducing headphones. Britton loves messing with knobs and buttons, and I didn't want to run the risk of her turning up the movie audio too much. We bought a pair of kids' Frozen headphones and didn't have to worry about her harming her hearing while watching movies. 
  • Pack some cheap toys. If you get a handful of small toys at the Dollar Store, your child can play with them without worrying about losing them. If one does get left behind or broken, it's no big deal. 



Consider doing self-guided or privately guide tours


Those little legs and little attention spans aren’t often made for a traditional 2+ hour walking tour. We ended up doing some self-guided tours of Munich, Luxembourg City, and Trier, which was fantastic, since we could stop and start as necessary. 

If you’re not as cheap as we are, you could consider hiring a private guide who would be willing to go at a slower pace. Many cities also have shorter tours specifically for kids, so look into booking one of those when traveling with little ones. 

Leave free time in your schedule. 

Traveling Overseas with a Toddler or Preschooler: What You Need to Know to Make Your Trip Fantastic | CosmosMariners.com

At several points in our trip, we’d head back to the hotel in late afternoon to rest, take baths, watch a movie, or play. Having some extra time at the end of the day allowed Britton to wind down and get used to her new schedule. We even had a playground at our hotel in Trier (Berghotel Kockelsberg), which delighted Britton. 

Bring a toddler backpack. 

First off, I know these look ridiculous. You look as if you’re walking your kid on a leash! If you can get over the weird factor, this can be a lifesaver when you’re traveling with little kids. Carrying a 30 pound kid can quickly wear anyone out!

Traveling Overseas with a Toddler or Preschooler: What You Need to Know to Make Your Trip Fantastic | CosmosMariners.com
My dad and my daughter in the Residenz in Munich
We’d brought a stroller, but, after a while, Britton would get tired of sitting. We’d put on the backpack and leash (or “lush,” as Britton called it), and she’d get to stretch her legs. It was particularly great when we were in museums (so we could keep her from touching everything in sight) or in crowds. 

The backpack also served another purpose: it carried a small case of wipes, a few pull-ups, and some snacks. I got to leave my heavy diaper bag back in Charleston, and Britton liked being in charge of her snack stash. 

(We had the Brica Safety Harness Backpack in green; it also comes in pink.)


Booking.com


Pack snacks. Lots of snacks.  

Even though you’ll get peanuts and pretzels and meals on the plane, your toddler will still want more. Having a box of cereal bars and some special treats saved me when my daughter started getting super grumpy on the plane. 

When we were on the road trip, those snacks (as well as the ones that we picked up at grocery stores along the way) were crucial to keeping Britton happy in between the stops. 

Know that that toddler jet lag is even worse than adult jet lag. 

When I get jet lag, I force myself to stay awake as long as possible in order to try and get into some sort of new routine. If I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t sleep, I force myself to lay there in bed and just relax. 

Toddlers have no concept of either of these coping mechanisms. When they’re tired, they want to sleep. When they’re ready to get up, they climb out of bed. 

Despite our best efforts to readjust Britton’s schedule, we still ended up having a very tired, very grumpy toddler on our hands the first day we were in Munich. The first three nights of our trip included a wonderful little break around 3 AM, where Britton decided that she needed a snack and playtime. Next to the plane rides, the readjustment period was the toughest part of traveling with a little one. 

Take a travel cot

When we were booking our rooms, we decided to get family rooms or apartments; these were cheaper, and I’d have more help watching Britton. However, even the family rooms only slept four adults, which meant we’d have to rent another room just for Britton. 

Since she’s so little and she can sleep just about anywhere, we decided to purchase a toddler travel cot (we used the Regalo My Cot Deluxe, which I can't say enough good things about). At only $27, this was an awesome investment, and she loved her special bed. Since it had such a small profile, we could put it next to my bed, so Britton felt safe and secure in an otherwise unfamiliar room.

I liked that it was soft and comfortable, it only weighed a few pounds, it collapsed easily, and it came with an attached pillow and sleeping bag. 

Work some teaching moments into your trip

At 2-4, your child isn’t going to remember everything about the trip—and that’s okay. This age is all about living in the moment and appreciating what’s directly in front of you.

However, this age group is amazing in that they are constantly soaking up what they’re seeing, hearing, and doing. Britton was in love with the castles that we visited, probably because they reminded her of Walt Disney World. Even after she realized that Mickey Mouse wasn’t popping out of the castle door, she still liked learning about King Ludwig (who lived at three of the castles we visited: Neuschwanstein, Hohenschwangau, and Linderhof).

Traveling Overseas with a Toddler or Preschooler: What You Need to Know to Make Your Trip Fantastic | CosmosMariners.com
Braving the rain and fog at Neuschwanstein Castle on one of Britton's favorite days of sightseeing
We found her a free pamphlet at Linderhof with his picture on it and told her a little bit about King Ludwig. By the time we’d visited all three places, she was able to tell us that King Ludwig lived in three castles. We heard, “I love King Ludwig!” more than once on the trip! 

She was also amazed at the Glockenspiel (which she still calls the “Clock-and-spell”), and tell us regularly that it goes “ding dong!” 

These types of experiences excited our toddler so much that, even three weeks after we’ve returned home, she asks to go back to Germany at least once a day!
__________________________

Have you traveled with young kids before? What’s your best tip?


Booking.com


This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase through one of the above links, I will receive a small commission at no additional charge to you.

Traveling Overseas with a Toddler or Preschooler: What You Need to Know to Make Your Trip Fantastic | CosmosMariners.com
_______________________________

Want even more travel goodness? Sign up for the newsletter and get the latest Cosmos Mariners updates, giveaways, and travel news right to your inbox!
Newsletter Signup Newsletter Signup

Our Bags (and Our Suitcases and a Million Boxes) are Packed, and We're (Sort of) Ready to Go

The day is here. The day that I thought might never happen.

We're moving!

Six weeks after we ratified a contract on our new place, and a month since we ratified a contract on our current townhouse, we're saying farewell to the little house we've called home for almost four years. 


It was our first married home. It was the house we bought our daughter home to after she was born. It has welcomed us home after our travels. It taught us how to DIY a renovation. It has seen arguments and happiness and sorrow and joy. 

We've grown out of it but it has been a wonderful place to call home for the last three years, eight months, and 15 days. 


I hope that our new house holds more of the same for us. There's a big yard for our daughter and our dog to play in. There's a craft room to hold all of my books and sewing stuff and blogging materials. There's a huge workshop for my husband to rebuild his new project: a 1983 Trooper. There are just so many possibilities for this house and for our futures there that I am overwhelmed with choices.

The house that we're moving from is a little over 1100 square feet, while the one that we're moving into is over 3100. I'm going to have a blast decorating even if it will go slowly since I'm going to take my time, approach the house room by room, and find things that I love. I'm probably going to start with the Living Room - Home and Patio Décor Center Furniture since that's what all of our visitors will immediately see upon their arrival to our new house!

Whatever you're doing today, I hope you'll send a little wish our way. We'll begin moving all of our belongings onto our moving truck this afternoon, we'll complete both of our closings early tomorrow morning, and we'll then unpack everything starting tomorrow night. Since we're moving in the middle of the week, we're doing pretty much everything ourselves. 

What can I say? We're DIY-ers through and through! 

Here's to new adventures, new renovations, and new memories. 

Good-bye old house. Hello, new one!

What's your best moving day advice? 

Traveling with a Toddler

Traveling with a Toddler | CosmosMariners.com

Hi, I'm Natalie! I have a wild and crazy (but still seriously awesome) toddler named Britton. Here we are:

I'll bet you can guess which one is me. (Hint: I'm the taller one.)

Kayaking with Dolphins

Edisto Island dolphins
Landon and I got a pair of kayaks about three years ago as a way to explore the waters around Charleston. We had to hang them up (literally and figuratively) when I got pregnant because I could barely walk, much less paddle then.

And it goes without saying that kayaking isn't exactly conducive to having a young baby. 

Those poor kayaks haven't gotten out of the garage much in the last year and a half, so Landon and I were excited to take them to Edisto last week.

Edisto Island 2014

What a week. It was filled with sand, sun, family, and bike rides.

It was basically the quintessential family beach vacation, and it was awesome!

Even with a house filled with nine adults and three kids under the age of three, there weren't any spats. The kids loved playing with one another, and I loved hanging out with Landon's parents, siblings, and their spouses.

Landon's parents have rented a beach house most of the summers since Landon and I started dating (for the second time) back in 2009, and we always had a blast. (See my posts from 2012 here and here. I didn't do any posts from last year, as I was 6 week postpartum and basically out of it.) 

But having the babies (well, two toddlers and a baby) there this year made everything that much more fun. 


So, how do you have a great summer beach vacation?

Roadtrippin' Like a Vagabond Family

I know I just got back from Orlando, but we're getting ready to leave again.

It's a tough life I lead. 



A Fourth-tastic Weekend

Happy birthday, America!

We had a fun-filled weekend with way, way too much food, gallons of sweet tea, and a wonderful ending to our latest home improvement project. Who knew we could pack so much into a three day weekend?!

On the Fourth, we ended up eating two massive dinners. The first was at Landon's uncle's house.

Thanks to Landon's Uncle Jack for letting me steal this pic!

Easter 2014


As with any good holiday, this Easter was jam packed with family and food. (Seriously, that's the basis for any successful social gathering in my option. Throw in some glitter and you're getting close to the party of the century.)

It's Been Nice, 2013

(Counterclock-wise from top left) Britton in her Cinderella outfit at 4 months, our first baby shower, the nursery, pregnant Natalie at 28 weeks, 2 month old Britton, the new family at Britton's baptism, Landon in his onesie, opening presents at our second shower

This year has been crazy--some crazy good and some crazy bad.

Over the weekend, Landon and I were talking about how we were excited to start 2014 because of all of the fun things we've got lined up in the coming months.