BABR on Vacation

I used to travel often for work. I learned how best to pack light and travel lean to reduce costs and crap for which to be responsible. The less you have, the less you lose.

With a toddler, my packing skills are pretty much moot.

One suitcase, one overstuffed diaper bag full of snacks, one laptop bag, one collapsable storage cube full of toys, a booster seat, a sleeve of diapers and a doodle board that didn’t fit in the toy cube filled my in-laws car to nearly full alongside their luggage.

Kids need so much crap.

I did successfully pack all of my clothes and the toddler’s clothes into the smallest suitcase we own. A minor victory.

Loaded into my in-laws car, we left at 9 a.m. Saturday, July 26, and set off on a two-day road trip to South Haven, Michigan, for family vacation.

We, as in the toddler and me. Not we, as in the toddler, my husband and me.

Daddy stayed home for work during this family vacation. Poor man. It’s a sacrifice I appreciate him making.

The first leg of the trip was only a seven-hour drive. We turned it into a longer leg thanks to the need to stop for diaper changes, food and general toddler tantrums.

what to pack for long drives with a toddler
My next blog will feature what to pack for long drives with toddlers. Now that I have experience.
picky eater at panera
I have the pickiest eater who refused to eat Panera Mac ‘n Cheese, which is like the best Mac ‘n Cheese.

Our first stop was in Emporia, Kansas. My son already needed a diaper change, and I had had several cups of coffee before leaving the house.

There’s a historical marker at the rest stop. My husband’s parents used to stop at every historical marker on road trips with him and his sister. Largely because it drove them crazy. I fully intend on continuing this tradition.

emporia historical marker
My father-in-law said the toddler seemed more interested in it that his dad ever was.

Throughout the drive, my son refused to take a car nap. (I know, right?!) When he finally did fall asleep, we enjoyed a blessed 47 minutes of silence.

car nap on a long drive
Poor thing.

The second leg of the trip was much shorter. Only five hours, which of course took much longer due to driving with a toddler monster — and Chicago.

We arrived in South Haven just a half an hour too early to check in, so we went to Meijer (Super Target on steroids, according to my sister-in-law, and she’s not wrong), and my son promptly threw a huge fit. When we finally got to the house, the toddler was salty, I was salty — and we were both done.

Feeling salty in my Salty Gnome shirt.

I put him to bed at 4:30 p.m. He didn’t wake until the next morning at 8 a.m. I might have a toddler monster, but I have a good sleeper. (Knock on wood.)

We stayed in an adorable converted school house, which — what luck! — has a historical marker.

indiana school michigan historical site
He was much less interested in this particular historical marker.

The rooms were themed! We slept in the Music Room. Grandma and grandpa were in the Principal’s Office, and the four cousins and their parents enjoyed bunk beds and a spare bedroom in Detention.

Friggin’ adorable.



The bathroom was very cute, too. My child wanted to spend an unnecessary amount of time in its shower. And I had to go with him, for some unknown reason.

I made Zuppa Toscana for dinner Sunday night — without the appropriate ingredients or cookware. You see, I forgot to pack several things, including the Instant Pot in which I usually cook Zuppa Toscana.

It was still pretty good.

Our first morning in South Haven was a bit of a blur. My son ate like a starving man — famished from refusing to eat anything but applesauce and cheese crackers for two days in the car. He had toddler tantrums, and we had to go “relax” in bed until he calmed down. Often. We climbed and played on the most epic playground equipment ever (just down the street from the house) for the better part of an hour.

south haven playground
Take this angle and multiply by 10. That’s how many towers and slides and stairs and bridges there are. I climbed all of them.

There’s nothing between the playground and Lake Michigan, which made for beautiful views. My son said, “Wow,” in his precious toddler way when we walked to hill overlooking the lake. He’s never seen a body of water bigger than a friend’s pool.

lake michigan view in south haven
Wow, indeed.

My father-in-law’s brother and his wife joined us for dinner — Honey Garlic Shrimp and Roast Vegetables from my sister-in-law.

I will be getting that recipe.

My son immediately fell in love with his great uncle. I think most of the littles have.

Lake Michigan, 2019. (My kid.)
Washington-Vacation 2017_190
Washington State, 2013. (One of my sister-in-law’s kids. I think #1?)

Tuesday was beach day, and not a moment of it was blurry. I waded the toddler into the chilly water of Lake Michigan and let the waves crash on his feet.

He. Loved. It.



My fearless son dragged me through the water, trying to go farther and farther in, and pitched a hot fit when I carried him back up the shore to start all over again. He clung to me. He tried to escape from me. He jumped into the waves with eyes closed tight, teeth showing in a wide smile and arms open to welcome the force of the water. He giggled and squealed and just loved it.


That night, he slept early and well. Too tired for dinner of burgers, brats, corn on the cob and salad under the pergola.

Seating for 1 million.

I woke up late Wednesday to the sounds of my toddler jabbering at nothing about everything. Neither of us were really ready to get up, so I pulled him into bed with me to cuddle. We get so few moments of happy cuddles that I couldn’t waste the opportunity.

We went to lunch and shop along South Haven’s main drag.

golden brown cafe south haven michigan
My son wouldn’t even eat my bread bones and fussed his way through lunch.

South Haven has a Farm Market to rival any I’ve seen. Blocks and stalls of berries. Blueberries, blackberries, cherries and raspberries. Wichita’s has garlic, greens, onions and root vegetables more than anything else. Not bad, but I’ve never seen so many fresh, plump blueberries in my life. I wish I had brought a shopping bag with me and cash to buy pounds of what were probably the best blueberries ever.

south haven michigan farm market
Oh, and a Pronto Pup.

Missing his normal nap time again, the toddler lost energy and patience quickly. He rode grandpa’s shoulders nearly the entire time and fell asleep just as soon as we got to the house.

south haven michigan shopping
He also stole my hat.

We celebrated grandpa’s birthday that evening with chorizo black bean quesadillas (I will be getting this recipe, too) whipped up by the littles’ great aunt and uncle, pineapple salad (and this one) and chocolate cake.

Cooking on this stove was a bit of a pain for everyone.

I got my father-in-law coffee for his birthday — our go-to gift for him. Bought it right in front of him at the Farm Market because I don’t prepare well. We both love coffee and were the only drinkers in the house. Lucky us, we had a 12-cup drip coffee brewer to share.

And we drank all of every cup.

We did a taste test Thursday morning. I’m not sure if the coffee was super smooth or I made it too weak, but it wasn’t bad!

After the toddler went to sleep Wednesday night, I walked back downtown in search for a brewery where I could get some cans to take home to my hubby and Gnomies at my favorite Wichita brewery, Hopping Gnome. (Have you noticed my #AGnomeADay attire? I entered the #TaketheLongWayGnome social media competition by accident.)

I missed my first choice, Harbor Light Brewery, by 27 minutes. Walking downtown, it looked like the entire city shut down at 9 p.m. Luckily, South Haven Brew Pub was still open and serving up mix-and-match six-packs to go.


I greeted another late morning with my son on Thursday. He spent the majority of the night in bed with me, snorting and coughing himself awake. We Gnome-a-stayed in that day — this is my Gnomaste shirt — so he could rest and recover enough energy to make the drive home Friday with as little discomfort as possible.

He’s equally cute and pathetic when he doesn’t feel good — and the snuggles are just epic.

While he napped, I did what any red-blooded vacationing woman would do. (I’m sure.)

Chips? Check. Salsa? Check. Little library book? Check. Relaxation in three… two…

Thursday night was a rough night. My son was up and asleep and up over and over again feeling terrible. Toddlers are contagious little boogers. (Of course, I’m a terrible parent and just wiped his binky off every time it fell out of his mouth… and then I gave it back to him.) Fingers crossed none of my sister-in-law’s kiddos caught his cold RIGHT before school starts for them.

Because Thursday night was horrible, Friday morning was difficult. I had to drag myself out of bed late to help load the car for the drive home.

And what a drive it was.

First, he tried to recreate his bedroom in his carseat. See owl-shaped noise machine/night light and the thing he’s holding is the camera of his baby monitor. Both normally stare at him all night.
Huddled up in his car seat like the day is never going to end. We had several hours to go at this point.
Outfit change. Nearly home, he lost all sense. His leg was in a Teddy Grahams box. He chewed on his toes. He flailed absent of thought. It was just torment.

And then we got home. He happily jumped up and down in our driveway. Daddy was a sight for sore eyes — for me, for sure — but it lasted about 20 minutes before the toddler hated everything and everyone.

He slept until 9 a.m. Saturday. (Again, knock on wood, y’all.)

Going places with a toddler is a pain. They’re nearly never satisfied, and you — as a parent — NEVER have the solution to whatever problem has popped up in the last five minutes.

But my 2-year-old gleefully jumped into the waves of Lake Michigan. He wildly explored a strange place, excited about every cranny, nook and turn. He challenged me, and he tested his limits. Pushed boundaries. Found obstacles. Needed me to help. Didn’t need me to help.

Going places with toddlers might be a pain, but I can’t wait to take him on every adventure we have. No matter his age. I loved watching him experience more than I wanted to experience. Such a strange feeling.

We’ll be hunting down historical markers and taking the long way home from now on.

And I will likely be in a Gnome shirt.

BABR: December Update

December wasn’t quite as busy as November.


Our days were still full. Coffee. Work. Toddler nonsense. Family time. And a very merry Christmas.

Let’s start with coffee.

easy to shop for coffee mugs

I’m wicked easy to shop for. I will never not need coffee.

Of course, one cup of hot tea cracked the beautiful blue mug at the end, which is what I get for cheating on coffee with tea. Anyone know if this milk trick actually works? Well, I’ll try it and let you know.

The office was filled with holiday cheer this month with nearly two weeks of merry activities and a nice Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day holiday break.

First, we filled ourselves with sweets.

christmas donuts from the donut whole in wichita kansas

“First” like we didn’t do this the entire two weeks. I certainly did.

Took fun holiday photos.

shae is santa

Shhh! I’m Santa.

And we played elves by giving the office a good cleaning.

shae dusts and drinks coffee

The toddler developed a couple less desirable talents. The pterodactyl scream is making a comeback, and fit-throwing is our go-to to get our way. He also can now get himself into these…


“Time to eat, people.”

He had another pretty cute “Time to eat, people” situation before Christmas lunch.

toddler climbs himself into a chair

toddler climbs himself into stroller

“Don’t talk to me. Don’t read to me. Don’t touch me. Don’t even look at me. Just let me sit in my stroller and watch Peppa. …Mom. Stop taking pictures of me.”

He was pretty pooped (read: cranky) after two play days in a row with his cousins and surviving on a car nap alone.


Never again.

My husband was able to spend Christmas Eve, Christmas and the two days after the holiday with us before returning to work, so we had plenty of family time this month.

We wrapped presents and watched A Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve. Christmas morning, we headed over to my in-laws’ to celebrate the season.

My toddler had a good haul. Cleaning supplies (so he stays out of mine). A hammer-ball-bonk toy that he’s real into. A boatload of lego duplos for mommy to build and him to destroy. And a car.

His Shocker hat stays on his head for hours at a time — thank you, Grandma — and his Spiderman helmet was only annoying to him for a little bit — thank you, Aunt and Uncle.

Santa brought us a handmade busy book (sewn by the busy little elves at and, by the time he opened it, he was too pooped to play with it.

twobusylittlebees busy books

My husband and I gifted each other kitchen things, as we do nearly every holiday. This year, we replaced our nine-year-old blender and found a better way to store knives. The blender is awesome, but we haven’t installed our under-the-cabinet knife storage unit yet.

Mostly because the house was a disaster.

We didn’t even host. Just normal, day-to-day destruction on top of special, holiday destruction.

Our family gifted us experiences this year, too. A renewed membership to the Sedgwick County Zoo and a new membership to Botanica Wichita.

Speaking of Botanica…

We went to see the lights. Alongside the entire state of Kansas. Illuminations was a crowded Christmas Eve Eve holiday adventure — and we’re definitely going on a Tuesday next year — but it was beautiful.

And I got my Santa picture in the knick of time! (Before he went back to the North Pole to prepare for Christmas Eve, of course.)


Hope your holidays were merry and bright. Except today, of course. I hope today the lights are dimmed.

Happy New Year.

Baby’s first Christmas

Happy New Year! But, first, Happy Christmas!

Christmas 2017_4

Christmas is my favorite holiday.

Spending time with family, eating delicious food, an expanded variety of candies, giving presents. Oh, man, ya’ll. I love it all.

I love the tree.

I love wreaths.

I love things that smell like pine.

I love the lights and the tinsel and the ornaments.

I love Hallmark Christmas — and I am not ashamed.

I love Santa.

I especially love the cookies and milk bit, and I can’t wait to lie to my son about it. SO excited.

New favorite thing?

Christmas jams. (He might have had three different pairs because I can’t control myself.)

baby christmas pajamas hm

And. This. Baby.

christmas baby

Shut up!

Not pictured are Matt’s and my Christmas pants. Mine — red with white snowflakes, a woman’s size large. His — gray with red snowflakes, a woman’s size large… But that’s another story about how H&M doesn’t size their clothing well and how my husband can wear pants made for women because OF COURSE.


We visited family in Indiana for Christmas, which is a 12-hour drive from Home Sweet Home, if you were curious.

Truthfully, we didn’t make the entire drive in one shot on the way out. We left the Thursday evening before Christmas, pit-stopped in Missouri overnight, and then drove the nine remaining hours Friday to arrive just in time for dinner.

The shortened drive didn’t seem to matter to my son. Near the final hour, he simply gave up.

All he was.

All he knew.

Was carseat.


The long drive coupled with the excitement of seeing cousins — not that he understands ‘cousins,’ but boy was it exciting! — tuckered him out for a nice long sleep Friday night. He woke in a good mood for family pictures Saturday morning.

Unlike Kansas, which is currently dry and cracking (or is that my skin), Indiana is wet. Wet and cold. Just cold enough for snow.


Big, fluffy, Narnia level snowflakes, folks.

family christmas photos in the snow

During pictures.

family christmas photos in the snow

Absolutely magical.

family christmas photos in the snow

There’s nothing more storybook than waking up to a blanket of snow in the dim morning light just days before Christmas. For our son’s first, we had a white Christmas.

It’s Hallmark — and I love it.

I hope you, too, had a very Merry Christmas.

Baby’s first Thanksgiving

We rarely celebrate Thanksgiving. Not because we’re not #thankful or fans of the season’s food, but because we’re tired, busy and Thanksgiving is another commitment on a long list of commitments.

Plus, my husband nearly always has to work.

We didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving this year, not really. But we spent time with family, went on fall walks, breakfasted and brunched, ate leftovers and (I) shopped small.

Oh, yeah, and WE SAW SANTA. omg, you guys, I love Santa.

We’ll start with Santa.

(Special thanks to Public at the Brickyard for bringing Santa in and Jenny Myers Photography for the pictures.)

Look at this jolly old man putting on a show for what is obviously the obsessive mother standing on the sidelines beaming joyously for her son to take his first picture with Santa.

Baby's First Santa 2017 (7)

OMG, YOU GUYS. Look. At. How. Cute.

Baby's First Santa 2017 (9)

We also went to see my grandparents and my mother and brother for Thanksgiving cookies — I bought Snicker Doodles. Then, we went to Matt’s parents’ house for a cranky baby nap and leftovers — and the best chocolate pie ever from the Bread Basket in Newton, Kansas.

Thanksgiving Cookies at Great Grandparents 2017 (11)

We also went on four fall walks, one for every day I had off. Our neighborhood’s trees lost all their leaves at once.

Thanksgiving Weekend Walks 2017

We breakfasted at Copper Oven — the single best breakfast place in Wichita — on Saturday, and then we brunched at our favorite restaurant in Wichita — Public at the Brickyard — on Sunday.

I got a runny egg croissant and a #scifri KMUW mug of Reveries Coffee Roasters’ coffee.

We ate local, and I shopped small, grabbing stocking-stuffers (and a new pair of resold shoes for me!) at The Workroom and Spice Merchant.

#SmallBusinessSaturday 2017

Our excessively busy weekend ended with a tiny bucket of baby fuss so I’ll be happy to get back on a more leisurely schedule.

You know, until Christmas.

Thanksgiving 2017 Tweet1

Writing with an infant was difficult. Writing with an almost-toddler is near impossible.

The baby that slept every three hours for at least an hour is no more. Now, I have a busy little 10-month-old crawling around the house, climbing over my blockades and getting into everything I haven’t nailed shut.

So I barely have time to think, let alone write down what I’m thinking. How other moms do it, I’ll never know. I will try to blog more. I’m full of wisdom now that I’m a mother ::face with rolling eyes::

Thanksgiving 2017 Tweet2