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Of course all of this happened as far away from home as we planned to go this summer – more than halfway up Vancouver Island and a 20+ hour drive back to Utah (which is more like 40 hours if you consider all of the stops we have to make for the baby).
Our journey home started from Whistler, BC. It took us a full day of traveling to get to the border. Our poor baby Herbie had his first tooth pop through that day and was clearly in a lot of pain.
By the time we reached Washington, he was in full-blown panic mode. Luckily my close friend from college lives in Bellingham, so we booked it to her house where we planned to park for the night.
While we were there, I got a message from a BFT Community Member who asked “why don’t you just fly home and Ryan can drive the van?”
Fly? By myself with the baby? No way. That sounded way too scary. What would I do if I had to pee (or worse poop…haha) in flight? Or what if he screamed the entire time? What would my seat neighbors think of me breastfeeding? That last question I wasn’t really worried about, but still, it all felt pretty intimidating.
When I brought it up to Ryan, he thought it was a great idea. No matter what happened, two hours on a plane with the baby was going to be better for everyone (including the baby), than making him suffer the long drive home while teething.
My first flight with the baby
Luckily I didn’t have to bring a lot of luggage since I was flying straight home. So I checked the carseat and then brought our stroller, baby carrier and our diaper bag on the plane. I boarded early and got situated and crossed my fingers for everything to go smoothly.
I heard that feeding during take-off and landing can help babies clear their ears, so that’s exactly what I did. The rest of the time he either slept or stared at my neighbors who all thought he was adorable.
Before I knew it, we landed in Salt Lake City, and everyone was complimenting him on how well he did on the plane.
Phew. That was a huge relief to check that mom-adventure off my (bucket)list.
Slowing Down and Establishing routines
I’ve never been very good at maintaining routines. Even before becoming a blogger when I lived in Washington DC, the only routines I ever really established were drinking my morning coffee, showing up for work on time, and regularly attending after work happy hours.
In the nine years I’ve been self-employed, my ability to keep a routine has only gotten worse. Being on the go all the time and constantly changing environments makes it pretty difficult.
These days, I’ve accepted that I’m not really a creature of habit. I try to move my body, eat a healthy plant-based diet, get some work done, drink water, and go to bed at a reasonable hour…but if those things don’t happen, I don’t beat myself up over it.
When we are in the van, every single day is different depending on where we wake up, what chores we have to do, what fun things we have planned, and how far we have to drive. Some mornings are slow with time to cook a hot breakfast, read a book and send some work emails. Other days, we wake up, crush a bowl of cereal and hit the road. Of course all of this was pre-baby.
Now, with Herbie in tow, any small semblance of a routine in the van that we did have went out the window. And in that process, I started to realize that routines are not only good for a baby, they are absolutely necessary.
Up until now, Herbie’s naps have taken place on the fly. While we were in the van, that could have been in the baby carrier, in a parking lot, in his car seat, or in the stroller. We never put him on a schedule, because for one, we didn’t really know how. And also, we wanted him to adapt to our lifestyle, not the other way around.
After a month of him waking up every single hour in the middle of the night, we were paying the price for having him to operate on our terms.
I’ve come to the conclusion that his horrible night sleep in the van was due to him being 1) overtired and 2) overstimulated. His lack of napping routine meant that he was never napping long enough or deep enough.
On top of that, he was constantly being thrown into new situations and environments – because that’s what van life is all about. Of course he can’t talk to tell me yet, but my new-found motherly instinct tells me that this was overwhelming for the little guy.
I’ve started to realize that traveling with our baby was for us, not for the baby. I was eager to get back on the road. Back to my “old life” where travel and adventure was my top priority. So I tried to juggle that with my new priority of caring for a baby, and it was a hell of a lot harder on the baby than I expected.
Calling it selfish is maybe a little too extreme. Much of our time on the road he was his happy, smiling self. I’m sure one day he’ll look at the photos and think, “wow that was cool my parents did van life with me when I was 4 months old.” Yet, in this current moment, he seems that he’d rather be home in his familiar environment.
The good news is that since we’ve been home in Salt Lake, his night time sleep has vastly improved. We’re doing our best to stick to a nap schedule, and it really does see to be working.
I almost feel like we’re in the newborn stage again, sticking mostly around the house to work around his napping routine. He’s still not the best napper, and only seems to want to nap in a dark room while being held by me after breastfeeding.
Setting him up for napping success means that we’ve had to dial back what we hope to accomplish in a day. Even though I’ve missed getting outside this month and I worry how not being on the road affects my ability to create the content needed for my blog and business, I know that slowing down is what’s best for our family right now.
I know pretty soon we will be out hiking and camping again, and I’ll be missing this super special baby phase where we are literally his whole world.
As we’ve established some new routines for the baby, I’ve also tried to get back on track with routines of my own. For the last 6 months, I’ve been letting my body heal from my pregnancy and c-section and haven’t really done anything too strenuous. So in August, I finally jumped back on my Peloton. I’ve been doing some of Jess King’s house rides and Dennis Morton jam band rides. Dennis always plays Phish songs which gets me super pumped.
I also started a mediation challenge set up by friend Courtney to meditate for 40 days straight in celebration of her 40th birthday. Like her, I’m also turning 40 in September, and this is the perfect way for me to ring in a new decade.
In Other News
Here’s a few other fun things I got up to in August.
My mom and bonus-dad came from Idaho to visit us for a few days. We took them up to Alta to see the vibrant wildflower bloom, followed by lunch our favorite vegan restaurant called Sweet Hazel. We spent the rest of the weekend relaxing at home, so they could spend some quality time with Herbie.
Next, our little guy started solids this month. We’ve been making his baby food at home using the baby food maker we got as a gift. The biggest hit so far has been beets with sweet potato, apple, chia seeds, and pumpkin seeds. Since we follow a plant-based diet and are raising Herbie this way too, we are using the tips in the Plant-Based Juniors cookbook to make sure he is getting everything he needs.
I’ve also been having fun in the kitchen making treats for Ryan and I. A new favorite snack I whipped up are these no-bake energy bites made with peanut butter, flax seed, oats, chia, coconut, chocolate chips and honey. These would make a great snack to take on the trail.
Finally, we are so lucky here in Salt Lake to have a bunch of friends who are incredible musicians. They play regularly around town and at the ski areas, making it easy for us to get out and enjoy some live music.
Ok that’s it for August! Thanks for keeping up with me and these updates. I really enjoy writing them and sharing a more personal side of my life. I’ll have some exciting things to share in September, so stay tuned!