Swaziland Updates

Traveling with Tots


I’m a mom. wife, ex-doula, ex-teacher, ex-yoga-teacher, and current Health and Wellness Advocate. The truth is I still love all my “ex” jobs, but made some choices to be home with our two kids. My daughter is almost 2.5 years old. My son is 5.5 months, and we’ve lived overseas since before they were both born. My husband and I were born in America, but lived in Swaziland for 5 years. We have always loved travel, so traveling with kids was just a given. Since children were born, we did a lot of road trips to see other parts of Southern Africa, or flew transatlantically to visit family, take vacations, etc.

Flying with kids is no joke, but it’s also not as difficult as some may assume. Yes, every kid is different, but there are some general hacks that may travel with young ones easier.

Because I’ve flown to and from the USA several times with our kids, I have experience traveling with children aged 2.5 months, 3.5 months, 13 months, 15 months, and 5 months. My husband has solo traveled with our daughter at 27 months, so I’ve consulted him on some ideas.

By far, the easiest age to travel has been before 4 months of age! At this age, Baby sleeps most of the time, is flexible with nights and days, is usually only drinking milk, and sleeping locations are more flexible. When flying internationally, you can also get a bassinet for baby, so big win there. BIG win.

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Headed out for our 40+ some hours of travel. Asa was 4.5 months old.

Flying with Baby/Toddler Tips Internationally 

Cost: Children under 2 years fly free domestically, but very discounted internationally. Their fare is usually 10% of an adult ticket on the day the ticket is purchased. If you’re booking a ticket before the infant is born, you’ll need to phone back with birthday, child’s name, and gender once baby is born. The child’s ticket price will be 10% of an adult fare on the day it’s purchased (not 10% of your fare). If you want the child to have his/her own seat, you will pay about 80% of an adult fare. 

Seating: 

Infants Under 6 months: When traveling with a child under 6 months, you can request the bassinet seat. Bassinet seats attach behind the bulk head (think by the bathrooms, or after first class) to the wall. Bulk head seating has extra leg room, so it’s considered Economy Plus seating and usually costs extra, but with a child, it’s free! Have baby, will travel in luxury! Because of bassinets, I actually think traveling with an infant is easier than on my own! Who doesn’t want extra room to stretch out?

Rules (may vary between airlines, but in general): Infants must be under 10 KG (22 lbs), be unable to sit on their own (the more strict airlines like Lufthansa will not allow a child who sits to be in the bassinet).

How to Book: Book a ticket for all adults, other children, and any Lap Infants. You’ll need the Lap Infant’s name, gender, and birthdate at booking. When booking online, there’s no way to request a bassinet seat. As soon as you book, call the Airline’s Reservations number. You can request a bassinet.

Some airlines allow you request the bassinet seat months and weeks in advance (United, South African Airways are ones). However, some airlines (Lufthansa for one) only allow seat assignments for any Economy passengers 24 hours before check-in. That means no one gets an assigned seat in Economy until just before the flight. It’s harder to secure bassinets in this way, so I always book with airlines when I can secure a bassinet beforehand.

You’ll call the airline, request the bassinet, they’ll assign one if it’s available. Your seat assignment should reflect the bulk head position.

When flying a multi-leg journey, you’ll need to secure bassinet seating for each leg of your trip. If you’re flying with different carriers, you’ll have to contact the carrier of each leg to book the bassinet.

Listen! This may sound like a little hassle, but that extra room with be amazing! You’ll especially want this if your child sleeps independently. Holding even a 10 lb baby in your arms for 10 hours is exhausting. 

Even when my daughter was too big for the bassinet, I still requested it, and we got seated by the bulk head. During a mostly-full flight, we swapped our bulk head seating, for a row at the rear of the plane where we had 4 seats together. My husband and I book-ended my daughter & she was allowed to sleep on the 2 middle seats. Game changer for us since airlines don’t allow anyone to sit or sleep on the floor. (boo!)

Sleep: If at all possible, consider your take-off times and landing times. If you can, book a flight that leaves around or slightly before your child’s bedtime. You’ll board early, can feed them, put on pajamas, then hopefully as they take off, they’ll be lulled to precious sleep. If your child does not sleep well in other places, booking a day-time travel may be your best bet.

For jet lag:  All of the rules that apply for adults work for babies and kids, too. Eat meals at the “new time zone’s” time, but eat snacks when hungry. While adults may resist napping, I’ve found that letting my kids sleep whenever is better. However, I may wake them from a jet-lag nap around the same time they’d wake from a normal nap (no more than 2.5 hrs of napping).

Talk with your doctor, but we’ve used melatonin drops for our kids at different ages. Melatonin helps their bodies relax into sleep, but won’t necessarily keep them asleep. We gave this to our kids (with PA approval) both on the airplane, and each night at bedtime for several days. Also, some homeopathics may approve Relax-a-Tone for you to give preceding travel.

When the sun is out, let them get sunshine and exercise! Hold them up to a window. Go for a walk. Play outside if the weather permits.

Get Organized: I’m quite the organizing freak who likes to maximize efficiency, so I’ll brag and say I’ve got traveling with a baby on lock-down! I’ve traveled with a 2.5, 3.5 and 5 month old solo on transatlantic flights longer than 30 hours, so I know how to survive.

First. Luggage. You’ll want a baby carrier (I used an Ergo), diaper bag, and carry-on rolling suitcase. Strollers are cumbersome in airports and when traveling alone, it’s tricky having a stroller with other luggage.

In the diaper bag, I pack: diapers for about 8 hrs, wipes, a few toys, an outfit change, snacks & water for me, any carryon items for me (ditch the book, you probably won’t have time!), a blanket/warm layer for the chilly plane, pacifiers, etc.

A neck pillow acts as a great arm rest when you’re holding baby or putting him to sleep/feeding. Those seat arms are uncomfortable!

In the rolling suitcase, I very strategically packed:

  • diapers enough for beyond the 30 hour flights. You never know when a stomach bug will be caught, or your stash might go faster than you think!
  • several wet bags or plastic bags (for blow outs, wet clothes, etc).
  • an outfit change for YOU (we’ve all been peed on before, right?)
  • more snacks (you may be up a lot more than you’d like and need a snack)
  • any food for baby – bottles, nursing covers,
  • If you’re traveling with a child who eats, pack way more than you think. Squeezy-packs are great; freeze-dried meals (found at outdoors and backpacker stores or websites) if kids have dietary restrictions (flight attendants will give you boiling water); dried fruit; nuts, and their own re-usable cups.
  • extra of everything your child uses during a 24-hr period.

Whenever I need to get into my rolling suitcase overhead, I restock the whole diaper bag. So dirty clothes go into plastic bags and into the luggage. New diapers, a change go clothes, snacks, and anything else Ill need in the next 4+ hours goes into the diaper bag.

Once You’ve Arrived: Generally, if you have only traveled a few time zones, you may keep your child on the same schedule, especially if your travel is less than a week.

I prefer flights that have us arrive close to the evening. That way baby and parents are tired, and your child will likely pass out!

Expect some rough nights the first few days. I’ve found that fighting a un-tired baby back to sleep is fruitless and frustrating, so don’t do it! Instead, keep the lights low, but let baby play. When she is ready for bed, quickly whisk her back off to sleep. If baby usually wakes up at 5 am, but jet-lagged sleeps till 8, by all means – LET HIM! If you have an agenda when you arrive to your destination, try to keep it light the first few days. You’ll likely be tired.

After 4 days, gently push Baby back onto his normal schedule. You may wake him from naps after his normal duration has passed, but don’t stress yourself too much.

Traveling with kids, especially babies can have its challenges, but remember why you are traveling in the first place – because you love it, you love doing it with your family, and it’s worth it. Travel at a pace that honors all of your family members. Take time to slow down and take naps with your kids. We’ve found that by keeping SOME of our routines, our kids can handle the break of other parts of our daily rhythm. For example, my toddler daughter does best when we eat meals at the same time, have regular snacks, and can maintain bedtime. If she misses a few naps while traveling, she survives, but we can’t forsake all of the routine without having ourselves lots of meltdowns.

And a note on meltdowns – if you notice your baby or child is having more “meltdowns” aka tantrums or behavioral outbreaks, LISTEN. Your child is trying to tell you that they’re tired, stressed, or just cranky from traveling. So LISTEN. Slow down your pace. Re-root yourselves in the aspects of life your child thrives in (naps, playing, nursing sessions, etc). The Eiffel Tower can wait because aint nobody enjoying it with a screaming toddler!

I’m happy to hear some of your tips when flying with your littles! You can contact me with further questions.

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Lufthansa gets me. Stroopwaffles and a bassinet!

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One way to keep track of your toddler.

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Categories: aDventures in Doula-ing, Family Life, just for fun, Swaziland Updates, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Life with Two Kids


Asa turned 2 weeks old yesterday, and I wanted to record some of my thoughts on my recent “upgrade” to mom of two.

I love what a friend said, “These last 2 weeks flew by compared to the previous two!” How true that is. Living with Asa on the outside is much more exciting than the agonizing wait for him. I could pretend it wasn’t that bad – and probably will – as the years roll by, but let me remind  you, Self, being overdue by a long shot is hard and you didn’t exactly like it.

Asa still sleeps rather long stretches at a whack. I’m talking 4-6 hours. Now his rhythm is he’ll wake up in the morning, be up for 1-2 hours. Then go back to sleep (easily or sometimes that’s a little trickier!). Once asleep, he sleeps about 4 hrs. This gives me time to prep dinner (yes at 9 am!) when we don’t have a meal brought or thawing, play with Cedar, do chores and do our lunch time.

Lunch time with C may be my favorite. Around 11 she’s inside and we sit ourselves down to leftovers from the night before. I’ll grab several books, too! We pray. I pray, then I ask if C wants to pray. As we hold hands, she’ll smile and sing a prayer and say, “Am” (amen). Then I read books out loud while we eat lunch. It takes a while for her to eat, so we take our time. I resist the urge to get up and “do something,” instead being with her and soaking up our special time. Some days I’ll make us tea as well. We’ll sit across from eat other at the coffee table. Loving one another with our eyes, sipping tea and trying to teach her the usage of “me.” Of course she says, “Me” as she points to her mother and wants to make sure that I am fixing tea for myself. Or that I take a drink of my tea too. Or to check that my drink is all gone. “Me” mostly means “you” and “person over there,” but I don’t mind. I love figuring out our secret language to communicate in that even dad can’t decipher sometimes!

After lunch, she heads down for a nap. These days, I will change her diaper, read a book or say a prayer in her room. She sleeps in a twin bed with a rail, so I usually lean over the rail or lie next to her in bed. I kiss her and tell her I love her. She has (finally!) learned to stay in her bed during nap time, so that’s no longer a boundary we have to enforce. She takes between 30-45 minutes to fall asleep on her own. We leave the door to her room open because she’s used to incorporating her life into ours and gets upset when the door is closed. She lays or sits in bed without interacting with me much. Even the other day I had a friend over for a little bit, and Cedar merrily went about putting herself to bed while she watched us chat in the next room. Friends, this is a FAR cry from the toddler who refused naps for almost 2 months while she was cutting her 2-year molars. Far cry! All my fears of having a toddler who doesn’t nap while juggling a newborn have not been realized. Praise. The. Lord.

Almost everyday (read: 10 days) the kids overlap in their nap time. Because I feel amazing, yet know I can easily overdo it, I do try to take even a 20 minute nap or just sit down with  my feet up to relax for part of the time. Any other moms out there just need that bit of rest time in order to keep your mental and emotional energy up until bedtime?!

Asa enjoys being swaddled as a sleeping cue. Without a swaddle or being held in the ring sling, he will usually only sleep about 45 minutes. Once he’s swaddled, he can easily sleep 4 hours even during an active, noisy day at home! He also likes the wubb-a-nub we introduced around 1 week. Similar to Cedar, he wants to suck to sleep, but would get frustrated when nursing and milk keeps coming out. When I see he’s to that point, I switch to the soother, turn on the pink noise of rain from my phone’s app and if I’ve timed it well, he’s asleep within a few minutes!

Can I just say that having a second child takes about 25% of the energy it took to have the first. With your first everything is new and unknown. You don’t have a rhythm. You’re learning how to care for a baby and how to balance your own needs in the midst. This go-round I know the things that are hard for me – going into a long night without enough rest, or letting a baby get overtired and battling for hours, etc. I know some tricks to soothe a baby. I know some signs of when baby is tired. Breastfeeding is a no-brainer for me. Hah! It should be! I spent 18 months working on that relationship with Cedar, and that only ended 5 months ago!

The best part about feeling like this whole ‘having a newborn is old hat’ gig is that we just get to ENJOY him more. I’m not so anxious or worried if his needs are being met. I’m not too freaked out dropping him when I walk (lol ever plan out how you’d fall with a baby in your arms and not harm the baby? Yup. I’ve got that scenario down pat. Thankfully, my clumsiness has held off when I’m carrying my children!). So we get more joy. I just sit and sniff his head. I smell him so much that I connected he smells reminiscent of his father. There is an essence to both of their smells that echoes one another. I get to notice that. I get to just sit with my two kids and watch them interact. Watch how Cedar kisses and smothers him. Watch how she climbs into his crib and lies down with him while he’s sleeping. I get to cover them with a blanket and smile thinking of all the nights they’ll spend snuggled under blankets together – watching movies, reading books, comforting each other when they’re scared, and plain old bed-sharing. I can’t wait until Asa is old enough to share a bed with his sister.

I’m noticing that Asa’s hair is getting lighter. We may have another blondie after all. I’m noticing how Cedar’s speech has seemed to increase once her brother was born. I notice how heavy, yet familiar she feels in my arms compared to her brother. I miss the bump she used to sit on during these last months of pregnancy. I notice that I see my family more because I’m more intentional at needing to spread my time and hugs, listening and love between 3 people now instead of just 2. I notice how full my heart is. How it bubbles up at any given moment. How I just can’t get used to saying, “the kids” without smiling. How I kiss both of their faces one more time before I crawl into bed. I’ve kissed them a lot today, but I just want them to know they’re safe and secure. They’re loved and wanted. They’re accepted and dear to my heart regardless of what happened that day. I need them to know our home will always be a place to be themselves, to show emotion, to confess fears and wrongs, to receive forgiveness and offer it. To laugh. Oh how we laugh.

Our days won’t always be like today. Things will change. Our rhythms will shift. Teeth will come and fall out. Foods will be favored and then rejected. Nursing will be the fix-all and then gone one day. But for now, our todays are good enough. They’re rich enough with love and peace, rest and excitement. Our todays are not perfect, but yes, yes, they’re good enough. And I am grateful.

 

Categories: Family Life, Swaziland Updates | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

We’ve Got Land!!! – a wild update


Many of you who’ve been on this journey with us from the early days, may recall that our vision in coming here was to acquire our own piece of land. Through many, many, many ups and downs, disappointments, failed attempts, and new opportunities, owning land never became part of our story. We instead found an amazing landlord eMasini, where we currently live in #theboehrighut. Our land thrives and has connected us to many people and opportunities.

On Tuesday, we made our final decision with peace in our hearts that we would leave Swaziland. Let’s be honest, we’ve lived here for more than 4 years. This was/is our dream. Our decision came with a lot of effort, prayer, struggle, heartache, so just because I don’t share the intimate details doesn’t mean we decided flippantly. 😉 And although we felt a burden lifted in deciding we’d return to America, and began announcing our proposed return date of June 2017, there was still those questions .. .

Will the seeds we planted blossom?

Will the church grow? Has our time been in vain? Is the Lord in this? 

We know this decision is the healthiest for our family; healthy for our work; and well-timed. But the questions lingered.

Tuesday night, the very evening after we felt this peace, Sean, Cedar & I were sitting outside enjoying the evening as it cooled off. Sibosiso (a KEY co-worker with Sean) phoned to see if he could come for a visit.

Sibosiso arrived with his usual smile, speeding in on his bicycle, as Cedar hopped in greeting. After exchanging greetings, Sean asked, “So how did the meeting go?” He’d had a meeting earlier that day about acquiring a new piece of land. Sibosiso’s current land is rocky, uneven, and far from the river. It’s distance from water makes caring for his  chickens (and therefore his livelihood) difficult at best. He has developed quite a skill for growing food for his family in our garden space, but without easy access to water, he’s paralyzed .. . and hungrier.

Because of this land challenge, Sean started pushing him more than a year ago.

Do you know someone who has land by the river? Can’t you use that?

You have GOT to get land. It’s possible. This is your family’ s livelihood at stake. You’re a smart, hard-working man, with land, you are invincible. 

On and on Sean’s affirmations went. On and on his encouragements for him to get land. On and on went Sibosiso’s search. He biked to further communities, found land by the river, inquired about the chief giving it to him (here land is either privately owned & expensive, or owned by the King, who gives chief the authority to “gift” land in exchange for a cow. Most Swazis acquire land this route, but like anything, it’s a who-you-know-determines-your-slice-of-the-pie). He and Sean visited private pieces of land with exorbitant price tags. On and on he biked and prayed and told his family he would find land.

Through months and time, he began contacting our own chief and visiting the mphakatsi. A few weeks ago, Sibosiso acquired favor with the chief’s advisor. I’m not sure the details, or what the indvuna was spurred by (maybe the ole Holy Spirit), but he told Sibosiso, “I’m going to help you find land.”

__________

“So how did the meeting go?” Sean asked as Sibosiso pulled up a chair. Through excited siSwati, he told us. It’s mine. I have it. 

My gapping mouth must have surprised Sean because he turned and started to “translate” for me into English. I laughed and said, “I heard him. You will get the land?” 

We all laughed and clapped and looked up and let questions fly.

So what do you have to do? When will you khonta (a ceremony that seals the deal and “purchases” the land)?

He pulled out a list and showed us what he needed by tomorrow at 1pm. His wife would cook chickens and rice and veggies for all the guests that would come to witness the giving of his land. Of course beer and juice made the list as well. Additionally,  he needed about $500 to pay the price of the cow . . . by tomorrow.

Our deal from long ago was the if Sibosiso found a piece, Sean would help front the money of the cow and he would pay us back over time. So here we stood. With a bank account reading $124. About $150 in my pocket (to last us for some time). My mind jumped to that savings account I’d be slowly pinching pennies into over the last few months. To give us cushion. . . to cover new baby delivery costs  . . . to be our “nest egg” in case our car broke down. I guess we’ll just have to pull it out of there.

Pushing those worrying thoughts of  money aside, I continued celebrating. Land. LAND!! All these years we’d prayed for our own piece of land. We’ve studied how to khonta. Learned what NOT to do. And wondered why we never did get that piece we felt so certain could become ours. And now I saw it. The land prayers were never for us. Well, never for the Boehrigs. The Lord had a much greater purpose in fulfilling those prayers. Because Sibosiso and his family of 4 need the land much more than we do, will be infinitely blessed by it, will further the Kingdom from their space, and will be rooted in this community until the days they die. How much more they will do than we ever have, or could.

How perfect that the Lord gave us this gift, of watching Sibosiso’s heart lift as he shared how every night he prayed. Everyday he told his family of his dreams. Everyday he hoped. And here he was. Praying God alongside us for this incredible provision.

Because his piece of land isn’t just any piece. It’s on the river. His water source is immediately there!! It’s fertile. It’s free from rocks. And it’s in the community he knows. It’s also uncontested land that was a secret nugget no living person has lived on, which is so rare. I imagine the Lord closed off this land, not too unlike the Garden of Eden. Land guarded and protected from any human eye, and thieving neighbors, or conniving uncles. And I imagine the Lord was saving the land for such a time as this.

______

And when Sibosiso left, I turned to Sean with that worrying question on my mind, “So we’ll just take the extra money we need out of savings, right? I can transfer that tonight, so it’s ready in the morning.”

Placing his hand on my shoulder, Sean said, “Nicole. The Doula project money.” He was right. Just 2 weeks prior, we (I) had decided that the Doula Project would not be moving forward (a whole other blog to come). Because the money had been half-raised for the project, some of our donors to this point had allocated their funds to be re-distributed to whatever project we saw a need for.

“Oh my goodness. You’re right. Sean! Do you realize how much money has been reallocated from our donors?”

“I don’t know, $500?”

“Yes. that’s just a little more than R6,500. More than enough of what he needs!”

Can we even fathom the greatness of this? Can you marvel at the intricate dance of preparation of our Lord?

Wow. Wow. Praise.

The very next day, the chickens were cooked, the drinks were poured, over 40 witnesses gathered on Sibosiso’s new land. The witnesses saw him give money in exchange for the land. Siboniso took photos of everything for evidence later (we’ve learned, people. We’ve learned). And now the land is his. Just like that.

To firmly establish his boundaries, the Gwebu family needs to erect a fence. Because they can’t leave their chickens all day, they’ve been employing Sizwe to come and sit. Yes, Sizwe would take 2 days to walk the distance from his house to theirs, so he needs transport. But here is the neighbor whom people had easily forgotten about. Who had forgotten about his own worth, until others began reminding him in recent years. He may not be able to do much, but what he can do, he does with gusto, a hearty laugh, and follow-through. And so while the Gwebus work on their new land, their new-found-friend Sizwe cares for their chickens. He knows about the business, because after all, he was the first to insist that Sean start a chicken business for him.

And it comes full circle. Our hearts are full.

 

Categories: Kingdom Coming Related, Social Justice, Swaziland Updates | 6 Comments

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