.... In with the new

One of my favorite 'eves' is upon us. It's almost the New Year! Yes, it is a night for merry-making and debauchery, but also an opportunity for reflection. I used to get giddy making resolutions, however the disappointment when I failed to make good on promises to myself was acute. Now I skip the resolutions and set a few gentle intentions instead. "To resolve" implies failure should you not achieve whatever it is you have set out to accomplish. Setting an intention, however, leaves room to adjust to whatever variables may be thrown your way.

This year, I had a tough time narrowing down what intentions to set for the coming months. I found inspiration in four amazing women in my life who have been my greatest friends and teachers.

My mother was and is the consummate homemaker. It always makes me laugh to hear people negate the importance of a stay-at-home mom. My mom worked tirelessly as a teacher to support our family while my dad finished school and built his dental practice. She then 'retired' to an even more challenging job: raising three spirited children! She volunteered for all of our after-school activities, kept a pristine house, checked our homework every day (woe to the child who didn't do their best job; he or she had to redo that assignment!),  and supported with gusto our individual passions and hobbies. She was a theatre mom, a soccer mom, a swimming mom, a rugby mom, a ballet mom, and whatever mom we needed her to be in the moment. Of all the wonderful qualities my Marmee has, the one I most want to emulate is her pride. She takes pride in her home, her family and herself. If cleanliness is next to godliness, my mother's a damn saint! This is no small thing: a clean and peaceful environment makes for happier, healthier children. She crafted a beautiful, cozy home for us, and I seek to do the same for my own little family this year.

Lauren and I met freshman year of college. We were friends, then roommates, then soulmates as we pounded the pavement, sometimes successfully, often not so, as actors in New York. While jobs and life decisions took us to opposite sides of the country, we held on to our friendship that began over 12 years ago. Lauren quit 'the biz' to move back to Colorado and become a teacher. She worked very hard to attain her degree and get credentialed, and landed an amazing job teaching drama at a high school. It was stable, steady work, with benefits. This summer, after much reflection, Lauren made the brave decision to return to acting. She quit her practical job, and has staged quite a comeback as an actress in Denver. I'm so proud of her, and inspired by her willingness to embrace the unknown. This year, I will take more risks and respect my intuition.

Two years ago, I began a 300-hour training program to bolster my yoga studies. It was in this program that I met Lindsay, a beautiful and sweet Canadian (aren't they all?!). We bonded over our mutual love of yoga, theatre and family, which we cemented taking walks on the beach in Santa Monica and long drives to our evening study sessions. Lindsay broke my heart when she and her partner Noah moved back to Canada last year. She was one of the first calls I made when I found out I was pregnant, as I knew how happy she would be for me. She cried tears of joy and I felt her love and excitement through the phone. Lindsay lives a heart-centered life, and approaches everything from this perspective. She makes deliberate decisions based on the yogic principle of ahimsa (non-violence), and treats everyone with respect and love. I miss her terribly, so in honor of her, I am going to set an intention this year to let my heart, and not my head, be my guide.

My Grama and I have always been close, and it was she who taught me how to smile (open mouth, with teeth!). As her "little butterfly", she encouraged me to fly east for college, even though I was scared and unsure. We took a long trip to Ireland together with my grandfather, where we were both challenged by the passing of my Grampa. I saw her strength first-hand as she dealt with the loss of her husband, with whom she had loved for over fifty years. My Grama has always been a dedicated church-goer, and not just on Sundays. Faith is incredibly important to her, but she has never used those convictions to exclude or demonize others. She parlays her faith in her God to her faith in people, and she has always lifted me up and made me believe in myself. This year, I am going to let go of my skepticism and embrace faith.

Yes, these are lofty aspirations I have, but not impossible, as I am bolstered every day by the presence of my little angel Juna. She makes me want to emulate all the beautiful, talented, hard-working, brilliant women I know. Beyond their individual achievements, these gals have shown me unconditional love when I needed it most, and that is the root of it all.

Pema Chodron says it best...

"Breathing in, breathing out, feeling resentful, feeling happy, being able to drop it, not being able to drop it, eating our food, brushing our teeth, walking, sitting - whatever we're doing could be done with one intention. That intention is that we want to wake up, we want to ripen our compassion, and we want to ripen our ability to let go, we want to realize our connection with all beings. Everything in our lives has the potential to wake us up or to put us to sleep. Allowing it to awaken us is up to us."

I wish you a safe, happy and healthy New Year!

My Juna, 5 months old.


On Dasher, On Dancer, On Southwest, On Highway....

.... If only Santa did round trips.

At the tender age of five months, Juna is already a seasoned traveler. We have made three trips by plane and one long drive so far, and through trial and error, I have learned a thing or two! I thought I might share what worked (and didn't...) for us in hopes of saving other mamas out there from the stress of the unknown.

Traveling by plane? Here's what to expect.... lap infants under 2 need proof of age in the form of a birth certificate or shot record (yep, even my little peanut needed this). Antibacterial wipes are essential for sanitizing the yucky plane so I don't worry when Juna inevitably decides she needs to touch everything within arms' reach. I love this Latch On Nursing Cover Strap that transforms any blanket into a nursing cover, so baby can be cozy while she eats. Our family likes to travel light, so we leave the heavy car seat and stroller at home. I put Juna in the Moby, which allows me to be hands free. The wrap also came in handy when I accidentally left my blanket in the car and needed a nursing cover. When going through security, baby can stay in the wrap/carrier but TSA will pull you aside to swipe your hands. They will also test your breastmilk or formula (over 3 ounces) so be prepared. We either rent a car with a car seat or use a car service and request a (rear-facing) infant car seat to get us to our hotel. We purchased a convertible car seat for my parents so we are covered any time we go to visit Marmee, JarJar and Nana. This seat is safe, inexpensive and will last through toddler-hood: Evenflow Car Seat. Dress baby in an all-in-one footie to avoid losing those teeny, tiny socks, and scope out the family restrooms so you can change baby (do so about ten minutes before boarding).

Timing is everything with infants, so if you can, book a flight that coincides with a nap time. Reserve seats in the back of the plane (louder, and closer to the bathrooms). If you're traveling with another adult, book an aisle and window seat in hopes that no one will take the middle (if they do, you can always ask to switch). I like to sit near the window so I can nurse more discreetly. If you're on Southwest or similar airline, take a whole row and put the baby on the aisle as people are choosing seats. Trust me, no one will want to sit next to what they assume will be a crying baby... When the plane takes off, either encourage baby to nurse, take a paci or bottle to help their little ears adjust. Juna usually will fall asleep in my arms at this point under her cozy blankie and will sleep for at least a couple hours. Yes, your back and arms will be sore the rest of the day from holding the little one, but trust me, you will not regret letting baby sleep for at least part of your flight. When baby is up, be sure to have her favorite toys or books handy. Save the big guns (for us, it's her Sophie) for when your baby gets really fussy. Offer a paci, bottle or nursing session when you start your descent to your destination. Our first flight, Juna cried pretty hard on the way down, so I learned to latch her on before her ears start to bother her. Since that first plane ride, we have had zero crying or fussing on the plane, and Juna loves to fly!

Traveling by car? TRAVEL AT NIGHT WHEN BABY USUALLY SLEEPS. My mom and I learned this the hard way when we left in the afternoon. Juna was only five weeks old and cried for four of our six hour drive to Sacramento (seriously). Now, we leave around bedtime so Juna slumbers for the full six hours. We have a white noise machine to attach to the car seat to assist Juna in falling asleep . Bring the car to the mechanic's before your drive so you know your vehicle is in good condition and not sans headlights (true story). Leave with a full tank of gas to avoid unnecessary stops. Be prepared: Baby may freak out. Don't take him or her out of the car seat while driving, as was recommended to me by an ill-informed driver. It isn't the end of the world if Baby cries; trust me, we survived 3.5 months of colic! Also, stock up on caffeinated beverages for your driver, or if you are behind the wheel and are a nursing mom, bring gum to help stay alert on your drive. A word to the wise.... don't drink too much to avoid unnecessary bathroom breaks.

Once you have reached your destination, do your best to stick with your baby's routine/schedule. If we miss a nap, Juna goes into full meltdown-mode, leading to some up-till-four-a.m debacles (yes, this happened. Twice.). I have an excellent app on my iPod to keep track of Juna's naps and feedings. We keep Pacific time when going back east as best we can. For a couple weeks before we left, I also put a soft blanket underneath Juna while she napped (tucking it into the crib of course) and brought that to Chicago with us. I put it under her for all her naps so it smelled like home and also swaddled Juna so she would feel safe in this new place. I only left the hotel once in order to protect Juna's naps. It was worth it. We were able to go easily back to her naptime schedule upon our return to LA. We co-sleep on the road, but also request a porta-crib for our room so she can play or relax in a safe place. If you can afford it, consider getting a two-room suite so baby can nap without both parents needing to sit silently in the dark for an hour or two. Remember to bring your baby monitor if you use one!

Cloth diapering presents an interesting conundrum while traveling. When in Sacramento, I bring our gDiapers with the compostable, flushable inserts. My mom doesn't mind if we use her washer/dryer for our dipes. When in Chicago, we went the disposable route. Juna got a diaper rash and I was seriously disturbed at the amount of garbage we left, so next time we're at a hotel, I'm going to try hand-washing and see how that goes. Pumping is also a challenge (who wants to travel with those heavy electric pumps??) so I got a manual pump for our trip as we had to leave Juna with a sitter for a few hours to attend a wedding. Practice with your manual pump before you leave; it took awhile for me to get the hang of it!

Traveling with a baby can be tricky, but being prepared can prevent many an issue. Juna can definitely sense when I am nervous, so I try to stay calm and remember that most of our fellow passengers are sympathetic to the travails of infant travel. My first flight with Juna was a solo trip, and I had two lovely people offer to help with the baby on the plane. One was a mommy of a two-year-old, who very generously reminded the people around me how challenging it is to travel alone with a baby during Juna's huge landing meltdown. Babies are so cute, even the fussiest ones are easily forgiven!

I wish you safe travels this holiday season. If you have any travel trips, feel free to comment and share! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a Joyous New Year to all!

Goodnight Moon, Virgin America Style.