things I learned traveling abroad with a toddler

Travel is full of adventure and the unexpected. It's pushing outside your comfort zone and learning how to problem solve in creative ways. It's eye-opening and mind-opening. It can be stressful. It can be exhausting. It can also be unforgettable.

Traveling is not for the faint-of-heart.

Traveling with a one-year-old is definitely not for the faint of heart.

The internet is full of tips and tricks to make traveling with a toddler easier. Go ahead and do a Google search. You'll find scores of information on the subject.

But there are some things you don't figure out until you experience them for yourself.

Here is what I learned from traveling for 10 days in London and Paris with our own spirited and spunky 14-month-old.

1. You will change diapers in strange and sometimes unsanitary places. Bring a light-weight changing pad to lay down on unclean surfaces. Bring a metric ton of hand sanitizer.

2. Moms who live in big cities with little ones are rock stars. Carrying the stroller up and down the stairs of the Metro was a 2 man job. It was stressful enough with 9 other adults to help us out. I can't imagine trying to do that by myself on a daily basis!

3. Strollers make great purse/sweater/water bottle carriers. Consider bringing a stroller even if you don't have a toddler. Just to carry your stuff. You do a lot of walking on a Europe trip - why lug your own stuff around?

4. Adjusting to time change as quickly as possible is the best idea. Our flight was overnight, so when we arrived in London it was just after noon. After buying our Oyster card for the underground, heaving our suitcases through said underground and up and down countless flights of stairs, and walking a mile to our rented house, all any of us wanted to do was chug a gallon of water and collapse into bed. Instead, we planned a low-key outing for that evening (the London Eye!) to keep us awake until at least 8:00 p.m. London time. We all went to bed early that night, but adjusted very quickly to the time change - Pippa included! Besides one half hour crying fit that first night, she slept soundly through the night the rest of the trip!

5. Stay close to the action or rely on naps in strollers. So something you should know about how my family vacations is that there is no relaxing on vacation. We started our days at 9 a.m., and usually stayed out until around 5 p.m. That's a full day of touring, walking, sight seeing, riding the underground or metro, posing for pictures, shopping, and fighting crowds. With the expensive (so expensive!) transportation in London, we tried to avoid taking the underground whenever possible. That meant there was no chance Pippa was getting back to our rented house for a nap. That turned out fine for us, since Pippa will actually nap in the stroller. If we had a toddler that wouldn't, we would have been better off staying in a more central part of the city, or suffer the wrath of an overtired toddler.

6. Plan ahead for snacks (and maybe bring a cooler). Pippa still needs whole milk, so we brought our mini cooler along with with a sippy cup full of milk each day. Since we had no idea if we would be near a grocery story when lunch time would roll around, it seemed the safest way to avoid a meltdown. Also, those little fruit puree pouches are amazing as an on-the-go snacks.

7. Museum tours and 14-month-olds don't mix. We tried. No one can say we didn't try. I'll always have vivid if not nightmarish memories of Pippa squirming out of my arms in Westminster Abbey and running to touch as many strangers as she could in the back of the knee, while shouting, "Hi! Hi! Hi! HI!" Which leads me to lesson #8:
sprinting through the British Museum

8. A lot of people are really nice. Ah, the kindness of strangers. Their benevolent smiles at our high-energy girl, the kindly folks on the underground and metro who played along when Pippa wouldn't stop saying hi, the looks of solidarity from other parents of small children, and all those who help open doors or helped with the stroller on the stairs were so, so sweet. Most of all, the thoughtful workers at the Ampersand Hotel blew me away. We chose this elegant destination for high tea, and while the boys went off the tour the cricket grounds (and probably grab a pint), we brought the toddler along to sip tea. She definitely generated more crumbs, noise, and activity than their average customer, but not once did I feel unwelcome or judged. One woman even gave Pippa an Ampersand Hotel rubber ducky to keep her occupied! Pippa loved her new toy, and I was one thankful mama.

9. Let the kid stretch her legs. Pippa did so well in the stroller, but she could only take so much before wiggling and squirming to walk. It helped to take short breaks when we found parks or places she could safely run around.
Kensington Palace gardens

10. Don't analyze, over prepare, or schedule too tightly. Be flexible... and just do it! There are lots of aspects of travel that are super uncomfortable and exhausting with a small child. If I thought too much about the logistics of diaper changes, milk, naps, etc, I don't know if I would have the energy to face it all. But just taking each day, each moment as it came, and following Pippa's signals, we were able to have a (mostly) meltdown-free trip!

Ok...now to plan where her next passport stamp is coming from...


spanish songs for toddlers

About a year ago, around when Pippa was nearing 3 months of age, I made the decision to start taking her bilingual education seriously. I always knew I wanted to speak Spanish to her, but I don't think I truly realized what a commitment it would be for me.

I assumed the Spanish I speak with other adults would work just fine for speaking to a baby. Rookie mistake. Apparently I had a huge blind spot in my Spanish knowledge for words like burp cloth, high chair, and car seat. I found the easiest way for me to put those words into practice so that I would remember them was to tell Pippa whatever I was doing for her. "Let's put you in your car seat so we can go visit Daddy at school!"

But the very BEST way for me to learn new words to speak on her level was through books and songs. Children's songs are actually pretty catchy and easy to pick up, as they tend to repeat a lot. Of course, I also love to dissect the grammar, just for my own edification.

I found Spanglish Baby to be a wonderful resource for finding songs in the first place, but I also browse Spotify, YouTube, and the iTunes store to find even more!

So far our favorites are:

Pin Pon

Hola Don Pepito

Disney Presenta Cantar y Jugar

Huitzi Huitzi Araña - Latin Kids Hits

Soy Una Taza

I am currently on the hunt for a good version of the alphabet en español. Any other suggestions for authentic children's songs?


mr and mrs goods

 Wedding planning was not my thing. Too many decisions, too many details, too many dollars. I was 22 when I got married, and didn't have a very strong sense of personal style when it came to decor. Still don't. I always seem to have a better idea of what I don't like than what I do.

My sister Molly, though, has a great eye for design and style - which is why her personal style blog is so successful! She handpicked every detail and vendor for her wedding with discretion and care. The result was so unique and beautiful -and after planning a wedding myself, I have learned to appreciate these little elements that take months to curate.

All of the physical details aside, nothing is more beautiful than two people entering into the institution of marriage based first on their love for God, and second on their love for one another. It has been an incredible year, welcoming 2 of my sisters into the married club.

Enjoy these snapshots of Molly and Tim's gorgeous wedding day.

Everything was simple, yet elegant - a balance I strive for, but can't seem to master. To fit that theme, Molly and Tim served breakfast for dinner, with donuts for dessert. I want to go back in time to eat that meal again and again.

the bride enjoying a moment of peace before the whirlwind of crazy

makeup and hair products were everywhere - and I was in heaven! I think my parents' kitchen is still coated in a layer of hairspray and loose powder.

the finished product - vintage glam

the bridesmaids enjoying our gifts from Molly - these adorable robes! Plus, also, MIMOSA - TREAT YOSELF
trying to keep a certain flower girl occupied before her shining moment down the red carpet

our little family
As a side note, I would just like to point out that I did my own hair and makeup for the wedding. After getting my hair done for 2 other weddings, and just not being satisfied with the results, I decided that all those years reading hair care manuals from the 90s when I was a tween qualified me to do a fancy updo for a formal event. Obviously it's nothing fancy...just a lot of teasing and a lot of bobby pins.

most fun bridal party ever. I mean, 5/8ths of us are sisters, but still. The other three girls kind of made any wedding events hilarious and unforgettable. And they brought up the class average in looks.

Molly's adorable and talented photographer capturing the bride and maids-of-honor - check out some of her gorgeous photographs on Molly's blog today!

You can't tell, but Pippa had just awoken from a nap, and wasn't thrilled about this situation

fun on the party trolley!

what happens when you try to get your 1 year old to party all night long


pippa at 14 months

I'm not one for monthly updates. I enjoy reading them when others do them, but can't seem to get organized enough to do them for Pippa. I don't really have her on a schedule, I have long since lost track of what foods she's tried, and I feel like her likes and dislikes change by the day.

However, I do find there are times in her development that I want to just pause and stuff it all into a time capsule so I can remember every single thing about what she was like.

We are currently in one of those phases.

Everything she does is surprising and usually delightful. I genuinely enjoy hanging out with her, as there's a bit of a give and take at this age that you don't get with an infant. (That's not to say I didn't enjoy her first year of life - it's just a different dynamic now!)

Here are some of the things I want to remember:

- the way she says "Hi. Hi. Hi. HI. HI!" until someone acknowledges her. In London, we would go on museum or church tours, and she would walk up to complete strangers, tap them on the leg, and aggressively greet them until they responded.

- for the very first time this past Monday, she saw I was getting ready to leave the house, toddled up to me, and said, "Bye!" then made kissy sounds.

- her favorite stuffed animal, Pete. She can't quite say her p's yet, so she calls him "Deet."

- the way she urgently does the baby sign for "más" (more) when she wants food. She gets a look of panic on her face, and pounds her hands together until I ask her if she's hungry. The relief in her eyes that I've understood her request is adorable.

- how she chased Pablo around the house for 10 minutes after not seeing him for 2 weeks. "Doggy! Doggy! Doggy!" she said over and over, as he tried to escape the aggressive petting. Mind you, this was at 2:30 a.m.

- that she can now say:
hi and hola
bye and adios
night-night (lays her head down and goes "shhhh.")
doggy and daddy (often we can't tell the difference in these two)
mama (finally!)
baby (sounds like day-dee)
hot! (whenever it's something she knows she's not supposed to have)
all done!
apple (sounds like ah-poh)
arbol (Spanish for tree...same pronunciation as apple. We have to use context clues)
auntie (this is a word used for the collective aunties, Abby or Annie, 2 specific aunties. Often shouted when the aunties were walking ahead of her stroller in London. "Auntie! Auntie! Hi. Hi! HI!")
amen (said with MUCH flourish and with folded hands "aaaaaaaaa - men")
gentle (sounds like on-toe...said while stroking my face after hitting me and laughing)
Pete (Deet)
granddad/grandma/grandpa (pronunciation is SUPER sketchy on these 3)
Pablo (sounds like Ba-boh...really close to apple and arbol)

- the way she tries to sing itzy-bitzy spider- only intelligible by doing the actions that go along with it

- that she LOVES learning letters and the alphabet. Whenever someone wears a shirt with words on it she goes "a, o, i, e" - apparently she prefers vowels. I think (overeager mom alert) that she recognizes the letter o. 

- that when we were getting our manicures at Gloss in Milwaukee for Molly's wedding, she saw the letters for "Gloss" on the window and ran around the entire salon shouting at the top of her voice, "O! O! O! O!"

- how hard she tries to entertain anyone and everyone. She MUST be the center of attention, and she goes through her highlight reel of tricks to make people laugh.

- how she fake laughs when she hears other people laughing

- her toothy grin, her square fat feet, her wild curly hair

- and finally, just her general joy for life. I've never met a happier kid, and I love rediscovering life's simple pleasures through her eyes.

I've heard all the complaints, struggles, and exhaustion of motherhood. I was prepared for the tough stuff, the cost, and the sleepless nights. And those things are very real. Parenthood is not for the faint of heart. (#thestruggleisreal)

But I'm not sure I was prepared for how fun this was going to be. No one prepared me for that.

What a pleasant surprise that has turned out to be!

Now excuse me while I go read Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb 24 more times.


au revoir

Well, folks, I truly had grand intentions to have all my posts scheduled before our European vacation. 
Needless to say, that didn't happen.
Probably for the best. An internet break is good for the soul.

Anyway, I hope to be replicating the photograph above's "café au lait + pastries at a sidewalk café" situation many times in the next 10 days. Which means I probably won't be spending much time here on this space. 

So until my return, 

ta ta for now and au revoir

(follow our European adventures on Instagram!)


3 target language games

Whether you are raising your child bilingual, tutoring students in a second language, or teaching a foreign language in a school setting, one of the most effective ways to keep your students in the target language is to make it fun.

Music, videos, and books in the target language are great ways to use authentic resources while keeping language learning fun. But sometimes, kids just need a good old fashioned game to distract them from the fact that they're acquiring vocabulary and using new grammatical structures.

In some situations, you just want to inspire your students to engage in target language conversation while lowering their affective filters.

These games are easy to adapt to whatever type of vocabulary or structure you're targeting. They don't require a ton of preparation, and can be done with just a few, or many students. Happy playing!

great minds think alike
(found at The Creative Language Class)

Working in groups of three or four, each person takes a turn selecting a question in the target language. If your students are novices, include pictures with the questions, or make the structure of the question repetitive. Use lots of cognates. This students (secretly) writes their answer on a white board, note card, or piece of paper. Everyone else in the group writes on their white board or note card what they think that student wrote. Whoever matches their answer with that student gets a point!


This is a twist on that classic childhood favorite. Create your "cards" as slides on PowerPoint, then print them out as multiple slides to a page. Either print them on card stock, or cut them out and glue them to sturdier paper. Each new vocabulary word should match a picture. Avoid translating the word into the students' first language as the matching card.

2 truths and a lie

This is a wonderful game for novices working on structures such as "I am," "I like," and "I have." Each student writes three things about themselves in the target language - 2 are facts, and 1 is a lie. The rest of the group must guess which item is a lie.


a little bit loco

We all like to appear as though we've got our lives together. (Thanks, Instagram).

But by this point in my life, I'm fully convinced that none of us really knows what we're doing. We're all just on this weird journey together, and we're all a little bit crazy. Some of us are just better than others at hiding the crazy.

I am all for sharing my positive moments and highlight reels on social media. It's fun to look back at all the good memories. 

But every once and awhile it's nice to see that others are human, they're not as pulled together as they might look, and they have some straight up weird behaviors.

Let me just pull back the curtain for a moment and give you a peek into my crazy. Maybe it will make you feel a little better about your life.

1. I put WAY too much creamer in my coffee. It's like our whole culture is making this gigantic shift where we're all like, "Whole foods, natural is better, less ingredients, NATURE!" And I'm totally on board with it. I even try to make my own bread sometimes. But my one weakness when it comes to chemicals and processed food, the last frontier, is flavored coffee creamer. I. Just. Love it.

2. I just don't care about cars. At all. Like what even is a "hip" car? Are we still using cars to show status? I don't get it.

3. I only dust when company is coming over. Sorry, Mom.

4. I have to trick myself into eating vegetables. They just taste like nature, ok?
green smoothies are my main strategy for sneaking in some veggies
5. I need to go into the library with a game plan. I need a list, and I sometimes worry that I'm reading too much non-fiction, and not enough fiction. Why? Who can say?

6. Monthly budgets are my Everest. I have tried for 4 years to "balance my checkbook" and record every purchase. I'm convinced it can't be done. And why should I? We don't really even spend money besides groceries and toiletries, for which we use the cash system.

7. Ice cream every night in summer.

8. I don't really believe in germs that much. I mean, I know they exist, it's just that I don't care.

9. There is never not dog hair in my home or on my outfit.

Well, now that it sounds like my life is a mess, I hope you feel a bit better about yours ;)