Last month, we took a family vacation down to Florida to visit my parents. We hadn’t been in over a year (which is a long time for us,) so it was a much needed warm break in the middle of a nasty winter.

Our trip included visits to some of our favorite places in and around Tampa. It was strawberry season during our trip, which meant Parksdale Farm had their famous strawberry shortcake and milkshakes. It’s a little bit of heaven right there in Tampa.

It’s safe to say we spent nearly all of our time outdoors. We took advantage of the warm weather. the kids were in my parents pool nearly every single morning and stayed there the entire day. Made me realize these kids don’t need much to keep them occupied other than a place to go swimming.

We always try to make it to Disney while we visit my parents. The kids have been many many times, so rather than doing our usual of Magic Kingdom, we opted for Epcot. It was so much more fun than I remember and the kids had a blast too.

Harlan is a huge Harry Potter fan and has been begging us to go to Universal Studios to see Harry Potter World. We took a day and spent it there and really had a blast. We had so much fun I forgot to take many photos! That’s always indicative of a good time.

We haven’t flown with the kids in a while and this was the first trip we’ve taken that all three kids were capable of handling their own things (which was a very nice chapter of our lives to enter). It was also our first trip on an airplane since Macks has been diagnosed with several severe food allergies. I’ve shared many tips about traveling with babies, and since the kids are getting older, I figured it was a great time to share some of our tips for traveling as they are in toddler-hood and beyond. I also wanted to share with you some things I learned on this trip about traveling with a child with severe food allergies.

 

 

  1. Kid-Sized Backpack: As any parent who has traveled with kids knows, they require a lot of stuff. While it tends to dwindle as they get older, you still need stuff to keep them occupied. My kids are finally at the age they can carry all of the stuff they need while on the airplane. I made sure to get them a backpack that didn’t take over their entire body. These 7AM Enfant Mini Backpacks were the perfect size for all three kids. They were easy to open, had plenty of pockets and were roomy enough to fit everything they needed. And best of all, they carried it all themselves.
  2. Kid-Sized Carry-On Suitcase: Finally, gone are the days when I have to pack all three kids clothes and shoes in my own suitcase. Because each kid needs an airplane seat, they are allowed two carry-on items. One of them was their backpack, the other was their suitcase with their clothes and shoes. We tried three different brands of suitcases (with three different price-points) for the kids and the Away Kids’ Carry-On and it was by far the best suitcase for the price. It was durable, had so much space, and even came with a portable charger that came in handy while we were at Disney World! We used the suitcase as Macks’ suitcase and it was a bit hard for him to manage, but with a little bit of practice he was able to get the hang of it and push it through the airport.
  3. Cup with a Lid: good2growWe have so many of these cups in our house and the kids often use them as water bottles because they don’t spill. I brought three empty ones and put them in the kids’ backpacks so that we would not only have something easy for them to use once we got to Florida, but also so we could put their drinks on the airplane in them. There is nothing worse than getting water or apple juice spilled all over you or the kids on an airplane, so I just had them put the drink directly into the bottle and we were good to go! We also used these while at the parks in Orlando.
  4. Shoes that are Easy to Slide On and Off: I made this mistake on the way to Florida, but quickly learned on the way back. My kids love to take their shoes off on the airplane. It’s difficult to do with sneakers you have to tie. On the way home, the wore sandals (we love these Freshly Picked sandals) and the kids were able to take them off and put them back on all by themselves. Made it so much easier while we were hurrying to get off of the airplane.
  5. Wipes: It doesn’t matter how old your kids are, you always need baby wipes for something. These wipes not only came in handy when the kids made a mess, but I also used them to wipe off Macks’ seat and tray as soon as we boarded the plane. For all allergy parents, I called the airline right after I booked our tickets to let them know of Macks’ food allergies. They told me to tell the gate agent and they’d put a note on his ticket about his allergies. As we arrived to the airport, I told the gate agent who let us board the plane early to wipe everything down. I also notified the flight attendants of his food allergies who told me they wouldn’t serve any food that Macks was allergic to and they would also let the rows in front of and behind us of Macks’ allergies. I couldn’t be more pleased with the service we received and how seriously the airline (Delta) took his food allergies. They were super accommodating.
  6. Travel Blanket: Our flight to Florida was later in the evening, so I knew the kids would most likely fall asleep. To keep them warm and comfortable on the flight, I bought them a travel blanket to carry with them. I prefer the travel blankets because they are easy to fold up and carry rather than drag everywhere we go.
  7. Headphones: I bought these headphones for the kids years ago and they have been the best purchase for the kids. They have two headphone jacks on either side and allow for audio sharing. I originally bought them so both girls could listen and watch the iPad during a flight, but they worked out really well while watching in-flight entertainment. The fold up and come with a bag so they are easy to pack up and carry.
  8. Coloring Books: While the in-flight entertainment kept them busy on the way to Florida, there was no in-flight entertainment on the way back which was devastating (especially for Macks.) Thankfully I bought these coloring books  ahead of time to keep them busy. I bought them one that matched their interests which helped keep them occupied just a little bit longer. Macks’ Power Rangers coloring book also had stickers, which is always a win-win with a four year-old.

Last summer, my sister and my brother-in-law came to visit us for the weekend, as they have done hundreds of times before. We were eating lunch outside, having a casual conversation about Avery’s birthday (which was several months away) when Danielle asked the kids if they wanted a cousin for Avery’s birthday. And that’s where our journey started.

For nearly nine years, I’ve been the only one in my family who has had children. The kids have been spoiled rotten by my “Danni and Chips” as they are affectionately known. If they could spend time with anyone other than myself and MacKay, it would be, without a doubt, Danni and Chips. I witnessed their love for my children and how they treated them as their own. If this is the love they show for their nieces and nephew, I could only imagine the love and affection they would give their own.

My sister’s pregnancy wasn’t the easiest. While I struggled with Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) throughout my pregnancies, Danielle suffered with other ailments that put her on modified bed rest  throughout most of her pregnancy. It was so incredible to watch her as she dealt with most of it with ease. While I was the one worried sick about her, it was often Danielle who had to calm me down and tell me everything was going to be okay. While I’ve been through this many times, it’s easy to forget how strong we, as women, are and how capable we can be while growing another human.

A few weeks before Danni’s due date, she called me. I’d been on high alert (we all had an inkling that she’d go into labor early,) so I was expecting her to tell me she was in labor every time she called.

“My water broke,” she said calmly without a hint of fear in her voice.

“Wait, what,” I responded in a panic.

“I’m at the doctor. My water broke. I’m fine. I’m going home to let my labor progress more,” she said in such a calm voice.

“I’m on my way!” I said shaking.

It was early in the evening when she called and I was out running errands with the kids. I took them home, grabbed everyone dinner, got them ready for bed, packed my bags, and got on a train into the city.

I made it to her apartment around 10:00pm and her and Chris were laying on the couch watch television. If you wouldn’t have known, you would have never guessed she was in labor. We chatted for a bit, she assured me she was fine, and I ended up falling asleep on the couch.

Around midnight I woke up to find Danielle in a bit more pain than before. Her contractions were getting closer together and her pain was a bit more intense. I suggested we get an Uber and head to the hospital, but she wanted to wait for her doctor to call her back. About 20 minutes later the contractions were VERY close together and both Chris and I insisted we get her to the hospital.

Our Uber failed to show up, so we ended up having to hail a cab. The first thing we said as we got into the car was, “we have a woman in labor,” in hopes that he would sense our urgency to get to the hospital.

He didn’t.

Not only did we hit every single red light. But he drove as slow as possible and made no attempt to get to the hospital quickly.

I watched as my sister clinched the side of the car every time a contraction came on (which was every 3 minutes at this point,) I was tempted to ask the cab driver how many babies he’d delivered in his car, just to give him a little bit of a hint that we didn’t have much longer, but I kept it in as to not stress my sister out even more.

Nearly 30 minutes later we made it to the hospital. Danielle was in so much pain at this point, I felt so bad. I let her and Chris check in and get into a room while I waited outside in the lobby. As she was admitted to the hospital, she was already 5cm dilated.

Once she got her epidural, I went into her room to check on her. Just five minutes later, her doctor came into check on her. She was fully dilated and ready for baby. Because she had just gotten the epidural and didn’t feel the urgency to push, the doctor let her rest for an hour before it was go time. By this time, it was 5am and none of us had slept. With all of the excitement, we knew we had to get some rest, but found it hard to fall asleep. Just as we’d fallen asleep, the doctor comes back in and tells us it’s time for a baby!

Knowing how special this time was for my sister and Chris, I wanted them to experience this moment with just the two of them. After all, these were the last moments they would have together as a family of two.

I stepped behind the curtain in the room, ready to come back as soon as I heard those cries, so I could capture her first moments of meeting baby on camera. My sister didn’t find out whether it was a boy or a girl and didn’t share her name choices with anyone, so this was an exciting moment for all of us for so many reasons.

For the next hour, my sister pushed like a champ. The only births I’ve ever experienced are my own, so seeing this from the other side was truly breathtaking. Our bodies are the most incredible things. The strength that we are able to get to go through the entire birth process is unlike anything else. Listening to her push made me feel so empowered, not only for her, but for all of the women that give birth. It’s miraculous.

On her last push, I hear as the doctor tells her the baby is here.

“It’s a…..” and it fell silent.

“Are you going to tell your sister what you just welcomed?”  she asked Danielle.

“It’s a BOY!” my sister said happily.

I ran into the room with tears streaming down my face. The emotions were overwhelming.

I’d just witnessed my little sister, my best friend, become a mom to the most precious baby boy.

I watched as her and Chris felt, for the very first time, what it was like to have their heart live outside of themselves. The room was filled with so much love and joy.

“Will you share his name?” I asked.

“Renz,” her and Chris responded in unison.

“Are you serious?” I said as I wept overcome with emotion.

“Yep.”

Renz is my dad’s name. It’s been in our family for many many years. While I knew she’d wanted a family name, I honestly didn’t know Renz was one of her choices.

“It’s perfect.” I whispered.

Renz Hain turned one month old yesterday. My sister is conquering this newborn thing and I continue to be amazed with her strength as she gets through these sleepless and exhausting moments.

Our entire family has quickly fallen in love with Renz. Macks is smitten and asks to call “Renzy baby” as soon as he wakes up, as soon as he gets picked up from school, and right before he goes to bed. He’ll kiss and hug him through the screen and sing him songs he’s made up exclusively for Renz.

Welcome to the world baby Renz. You’ve lucked out with some pretty amazing parents (and a pretty cool aunt if I do say so myself.)

 

 

 

I know what you’re thinking. And no, it’s not that 50 shades. We were so fortunate to shower my sister and her upcoming arrival over the weekend. Because my sister and brother-in-law want to be surprised when the baby arrives, she’s asked that everything bought for baby be gender-neutral, which means we’ve bought a lot of grey.

When Danielle first found out she was pregnant, she mentioned to me that she wanted a “50 Shades of Grey” baby shower. I thought she was insane until she explained that she wanted many different shades of grey incorporated into her baby shower. Thankfully that was a lot easier than what I originally thought she intended.

At a cute little spot nestled in the West Village of Manhattan, we set up in the gorgeous covered back patio. True to her theme, each guest was given a different shade of grey napkin, along with neutral flowers in a grey galvanized metal vase. We dined on a delicious brunch with an Italian twist.

Prior to the shower, I’d asked my sister what kind of cake she wanted and Danielle, who doesn’t like cake, requested a lemon-poppyseed cake. While all of my usual bakeries didn’t make such cake, I had to attempt to make my own. It didn’t come out as sophisticated as I would have liked, it tasted delicious.

Guests left with paperwhite flower bulbs that are gorgeous when they bloom and require very little tlc.

We were so thankful to have guests travel near and far to celebrate the arrival of Baby Henderson. Harlan and Avery attended and loved being able to attend a “grown up” event. They are super excited to have a new baby cousin, who Macks has most affectionately named “truck.”


As you can see from the photos, Danielle loved being showered with gifts for her little one. I have to admit, seeing all of that little baby gear made me have a tad bit of baby fever. (just a tad.)

We love you so much, Danni! We can’t wait to love on our newest member of the family.

 

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