Flying Solo with a Baby


I found a few great travel tips for flying in an airplane alone with a lap child when Precious and I went to Florida last month. (With a few added notes about lessons I learned on my first solo flight with Ladybug last summer.) I thought I’d share what I learned:

• Get a direct flight if possible. When I flew with Ladybug back in August—my first time flying alone with a small child—the second flight is the one that almost drove us both insane. (Side note: if your child is old enough to move around and has trouble sitting still—pay for her own seat. Or travel with a buddy so she can move between your seats, from lap to lap.)

• Plan the flight time according to your kid’s schedule. For Precious that just meant not too early so I wasn’t waking her up at 5:00 am to leave for the airport, (lesson learned from Ladybug…) and not too late so we got home just a little later than her normal bedtime.

• Pack some new, time-consuming toys for the flight but avoid noisy games for the sake of the other passengers. Also soft toys if your toddler likes to throw things at people. (Ladybug…) Precious had a lot of fun with a rattle but she can’t hold anything for long. I used a pacifier clip to hook the rattle onto her bib. Worked like a charm.

• Drinking helps a little one’s ears pop. Descending is the worst time for ear pressure. Plan a bottle feeding for a younger one or reserve some tasty drink for a toddler until the last 20 minutes of the flight. As soon as my ears started to pop, I started making her bottle.

• Bring a big ol’ bottle of water from the outside world. If you insist that it’s for making bottles for the baby, security will test it and allow you to take it through. Much cheaper than buying a bottle of water in the airport. If you put all of your liquids in a separate bin (outside of your carry on) it makes it faster.

• Bring a small, cheap, sturdy, umbrella stroller. I love the Jeep one we got for $5 at a yard sale. It’s compact and lightweight but has big rugged wheels and steers easily. Most importantly, because we didn’t pay much for it, I wouldn’t be upset if it was broken or lost after being gate-checked. The people at Southwest were sweet enough to set it up for me before we got off the plane both times.

• Pack as light as you can. This required a lot of planning for me. Knowing I would need my hands free to get Precious through security and onto the plane, I opted for a backpack as a diaper bag/purse and I checked 1 large suitcase for both of us. I think every airline allows you to check a car seat at no charge. (See below about car seat drama.)  Between the backpack and the stroller, I was able to do everything I needed to do—check bags, get through security, buy dinner. Once I had my checked bag back, I could push the stroller with one hand and pull our big suitcase with the other. It wasn’t easy but it worked.

• Keep a change of clothes in your carry on—for both of you. If I had needed to change, I would have looked pretty silly in my tank top and knit shorts, but they were small and compact and would have been better than being covering in baby poop through a flight. I also packed 1 extra outfit, 1 set of sleeper PJs, and a few extra bibs and burp cloths for Precious. Four or five diapers and a small pack of wipes don’t take up too much space. I also tuck a few ziplock bags into the diaper bag (all the time) for stinky, soiled clothing. Our flights were less than 2 hours so we didn’t need to use the on plane diaper changing station in the bathroom but a friend who is experienced in international travel with her kids gave me this tip: Once you pull the changing table down, there is no room to move so just bring the diaper and wipes into the bathroom with you—not the whole diaper bag.

• Bring your own car seat, if possible. I decided I’d rent one from the rental car agency since they told me it would be free with my AAA membership. Upon arriving to pick up the car and car seat, I was informed that it would be $85 to rent a car seat for 5 days because my rental was not reserved through AAA. More than we paid for both our car seats combined! That’s a pretty freakin’ expensive miscommunication. Thankfully, after getting past the rude and persistent clerk, the manager waived the fee. However, it was a brand new, unfamiliar car seat and it took me over 20 minutes to figure out how to install it properly in the rental car and how to adjust it to Precious’ size. Lesson learned: I should have just brought our car seat. It would have been free, already the right size, I know how to install it quickly and it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal to strap it to my big rolling suitcase.

Have fun! Be flexible and relax. Not everything is going to go according to plan. It will all work out. Remember, you’re on vacation.

There are some more extensive, detailed tips for airplane travel with small kids here.

(Stock photo above purchased from

I love love but I hate Valentine’s Day


This is the first year that I completely, whole-heartedly am relieved that we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. And not just because Jason is out on tour. A few years ago he mentioned that he felt like the holiday was forced, putting unhealthy expectations on couples, becoming a competition, and setting a lot of people up for disappointment. We never really did much to celebrate the day—usually dinner at home to avoid the restaurants—and maybe a few candles, some chocolates, flowers, the usual. But we’ve moved away from that to not doing anything at all. I’m sure that sounds really cold and unromantic to some people. The truth is, we go on date nights several times a month, we show and tell how much we love each other everyday, we surprise each other with random gifts—we’re both very affirmed in our love and we have a healthy marriage. So take that, St. Valentine. Or Hallmark. Or whoever… And if I feel I’d enjoy some chocolates or fresh flowers in the house—GASP–I buy them! The random delivery of fresh flowers at work just because he knows I’m having a crappy day or the specialty chocolate from some exotic location just because he was thinking of me—those things mean way more to me than anything Jason has ever given to me on February 14.

Valentine’s Day IS a really important day for another reason, though. It’s my dear friend, Laren’s birthday! Precious says Happy Birthday, Aunt Laren! Fun fact: Laren and Precious both have heart shaped birthmarks.

Thank You!


Last week a box arrived from a very thoughtful and generous blog reader, Jessica. She had contacted me a little bit ago (long enough for me to almost forget) asking if I’d be interested in receiving some hand-me-downs from her daughter who is a few years older than Precious. I gladly accepted. Many things were never worn since Jessica’s daughter has been in a purple-only phase for a while. I was surprised and so very blessed to see this box on Friday morning at my office.

I couldn’t wait to go through everything. It’s mostly still too big for Precious right now (except for the cute kitty hat pictured below), which kind of makes me want her to hurry up and grow. But, really she is growing fast as it is and I know it’s not going to seem like very long from now when she’ll be wearing 2T and 3T.

The least I could do is to give Jessica a big ole blog public, THANK YOU! She is also a very talented fine artist. Check out her website: I particularly love the seascapes.

Phone Photo Friday


Blessing vs. Cursing


This is a spiritual, philosophical, theological kind of blog post. Feel free to move along if that’s not your thing. Back in August of 2008 our pastor did a series on Blessing. (If you want to find the podcasts, look up Grace Church Nashville on iTunes.) The gist of it was this:

Blessing is speaking what you want to happen.

Cursing is speaking what you don’t want to happen.

People tend to think blessing=prayer but they’re not the same. If you look in a Bible, you’ll see that blessings are statements, proclamations and sound much like prophesy. It’s not asking God to do something. It’s saying what you expect to happen. Examples: “Have a great day today.” “May your house sell quickly.” “You are going to be successful!” “I am going to stay healthy this winter.” “She is a good sleeper and she will sleep well tonight.”

It’s similarly misunderstood that cursing is not the same thing as swearing or cussing. Speaking a curse is speaking what you do not want to happen. This is a tricky concept and it took me a while to grasp it. Examples: “Today is a headed for a train wreck.” “My house took a year to sell so prepare yourself for the worst.” “If you keep that up, you’re going to end up in jail just like your Uncle Bill.” “I hope I don’t catch his cold.” “We’re in for a rough night.”

You can see how each of these statements in the curses list counter the blessing examples. The difference is what is acknowledged, what is spoken into the atmosphere.

Jason and I hear parents curse their kids all the time, and we cringe. Sleep is a biggie. You won’t ever catch Jason or I saying, “Oh, that late, long nap might mess up her sleep.” Or, “She can’t nap in a noisy restaurant!” Or “She missed her morning nap—she’s going to be grumpy.” We don’t bother articulating those worries. Instead we just say and expect what we hope will happen.

Now is a good time to interject and say, I know that all kids are different. I know that Precious is super easy going and surely part of that is her nature. However, I firmly believe that blessing and cursing play a huge role. Here’s what we would say instead in those situations, blessings over our daughter: “She’s catching up on her sleep today.” Or, “I love that we can take her anywhere and she goes with the flow.” Or “Oh well, she’ll make up for that nap later.”

I’m sharing this because these fundamental truths have tremendously changed our lives. You don’t have to believe me but if you look around, I think you’ll see the evidence. It applies everywhere in my life: my relationship with Jason, my attitude towards myself, the words we speak over our home, our daughter, our future, our vehicles, our dog, our friends, our careers.

My job—that’s another big one for me. At one point, not long before I learned about blessing, my company went through a really tough time, laid off a bunch of people, had pay cuts, etc. I called our corporation a sinking ship. I spoke that curse over my employer. Once I realized it, I took it back. I decided that if I wanted to see my company succeed and my job continue to exist, I needed to speak blessings over it. So I started walking through the halls every morning and speaking blessings over my co-workers and my company. Things like, “We will do well this year. The Lord has provided for us and He will continue to do so. May so-and-so work hard today and stay focused. I bless my co-workers that they will have great ideas, creativity, efficiency and motivation. I say as company we will have integrity, we will have influence in our community…”

It may sound like wishful thinking, denial or some new-agey universalist idea. The truth is that it’s a Biblical principle and it works, whether or not you give God the credit. Even if you don’t believe me, just try it for a few days or weeks. I bet you’ll notice a difference. What do yo have to lose?



er… catch up. It’s amazing how a couple of days without blogging gets me out of the groove and I don’t know where to start again. So how about a little bit or this and that.

Last week was miserably busy at work for me—the worst deadline week I’ve had in as long as I can remember. Long, tiring days in my cubicle, away from my husband and sweet baby girl. Jason was home for the week but we hardly crossed paths. It feels silly to even articulate those complaints because all I have to do is shift my perspective a little bit and I realize how much I have to be thankful for. I have a job. I have an awesome husband. We have a sweet baby girl.

The week was topped off with a weekend full of packing and moving. Mostly packing. We even skipped Super Bowl parties to work. Looking at the calendar with Jason’s tour schedule between now and the closing on March 1st and we realized we better get going on this moving out of our house business. Five years is long enough to forget how much work it is to move. And goodness, how did we end up with so much stuff?! It’s amazing how it multiplies when it starts getting put into boxes.

We have officially moved into my parents’ house and are getting settled in comfortably there. Our belongings will rest in storage until the new house is completed. As I mentioned before, leaving our mid-century ranch has been extremely bittersweet. We really love that place and planned to never move. Funny how dreams and goals can change so drastically in a short period of time. If we hadn’t felt called to become foster parents last spring, and to continue fostering after we complete our adoption of Precious, I really don’t think we’d be moving right now.

But again, a simple shift of perspective and I realize how much we have to be thankful for. We’re building a house—a dream we’ve always had but figured was a long way off. We have a great relationship with my parents and a place to stay right down the street from our new house. And the new house is going to be great—and most importantly have room for our family to grow.

As we were packing on Saturday Jason’s mom, Grandma K, spotted Precious’ first tooth finally poking through. She’s been working on that for a long time. Three days later my mom, Grandma L, spotted her second tooth coming through. I finally got a picture of them yesterday. Speaking of pictures, here are a bunch of random ones from the past few days:

I’m doing the February Photo A Day challenge on Instragram (#febphotoaday … I’m @mahlbrandt if you want to follow me). The one above was “your view today,” my cubicle…ugh! And below was day 2, “words.”

On Thursday night Jason played an industry showcase with Michael Dean Church at The Rutledge. It ended up being a fun double date night out with our friends Jeremy (who played drums) and Leila—without our babies for a change! We had dinner afterwards at a new burger place in East Nashville called The Pharmacy.

My first (unsuccessful) attempt at baby tooth photography.

Kitchen configuration… whatever spare creative juice I have has been going here lately…

Teeth! Caught them on camera with the help of Grandma L who got her smiling.

Gone Packin’


We spent all day Saturday and Sunday packing up our house and moving into my parents’ house. Phew! That was a LOT of work! Even with an awesome team of helpers. (Thanks Mom(s), Dad(s), Dan, Ginger and Leila!) So, while things are settling down here, I might be MIA for a few days…

Phone Photo Friday


I work with a fun bunch of people. But you wouldn’t necessarily know it since we’re generally over-worked and grumpy. Every now and then, though, our boss pushes us into some forced fun. He returned from the annual general managers meeting at corporate glowing with pride and stack of awards for our office. Following our year in review meeting, we all carpooled over to the bowling alley to celebrate a fabulous 2011. The only catch—it was right smack in the middle of my deadline time at work, when I have the perfect storm of three magazines due within 2 weeks. I debated whether or not to go but ultimately decided that free food was worth an extra long lunch break. Besides I would be coming in early and working late either way. Turns out knocking things down with a big heavy ball is great for stress relief. Plus it’s nice to get off the ole rolling chair and get a little exercise. I can’t say my day was healthy over all—I had pizza for lunch and dinner, two dr. peppers, a cup of tea and a cappuccino that day. My only redemption was a bowl of multi-grain Cheerios for breakfast. (Thanks Mom!) All in all, though, hitting the bowling alley with my co-workers made a crappy day into a good day. Bonus: check out this vintage bowling alley sign. Isn’t it gorgeous?

“Have fun!”


I come from a long line of worriers through my mom’s side. When my mom was growing up, every time she’d leave the house her parents would call out one last warning, “Be careful!” The world is a scary, dangerous place. Because of the fear it instilled, my parents made a point to be different. When we’d leave for school in the morning, go out on a date, or take off with friends for a sleepover, instead of saying, “Be careful!” they’d smile and say, “Have fun!”

I’ve always made a point of doing the same. People often tell me, “Be careful!” when I’m leaving… my boss, friends, Jason’s boss as Precious and I were leaving for the Tampa airport last week. And I answer back, “Ok… Have fun!” Because, really, we’re always careful, smart, calculated, paying attention, right? But what really helps to counter the anxiety that starts creeping up before a big adventure is a reminder to have fun.

So, wherever you’re going: Have fun!

Mother-Daughter Adventure #1


Precious and I went on a big adventure last week. Jason was in Florida for 12 days on tour so we decided we’d join him for a few days in the Tampa area. I’ve flown alone with a toddler once (Ladybug) so that probably took the edge off my fears, but it was still a little scary flying into an unfamiliar airport, renting a car and driving to meet Jason all on my own. Thankfully, Precious is an AHHHMAZING traveler! I didn’t really expect anything different since she’s super easy-going and happy in general, but wow. Not bothered by the pressure in the airplane. (She was sleepy and yawning through both flights and had a bottle as we started descending.) Not bothered by sitting in the Florida heat watching me wrestle with the rental car seat for 20 minutes. Not bothered by sleeping on hotel beds, cribs at random churches, or on the floor of the green room. Not bothered by all the strangers ooohing and ahhhing at her. Not bothered by getting shown off from stage in front of hundreds of people. (I was nervous as heck, though!) Not bothered by missing a nap here and there. Ok, maybe that did bother her a little bit… She had a few, “Hey, I’m freakin’ tired over here!” melt-downs but considering all we did, she did awesome. Best tiny travel companion ever.

Oh, and it’s wasn’t JUST a mother-daughter adventure, of course. We had a great time hanging out with Jason and the guys. Precious and I arrived in Tampa on Saturday and flew back to Nashville on Wednesday. The first three days were show days for the guys so us girls just went along with whatever they were doing and tried to stay out of the way. Tuesday and Wednesday were off days, though, so we all headed south to Sarasota and booked a night at Lido Beach Resort. It was gorgeous! The weather was perfect. Highs in the upper 70s to low 80s, sunny, breezy with lower humidity the whole time we were there. Precious had a nasty first experience at the beach. Right after we sat her down and took a picture, she face-planted into the sand. Sand was in her eyes, nose, mouth, ears. Poor baby girl! I took her into the pool to rinse off and she was happy again. It was her first time at the beach and her first time in the pool. I’m determined to get her swimming unassisted by floatation devices next summer (when she’ll be 2). We’ll be in the pool A LOT this summer since we’ll be living at my parents’ house. Knowing how to swim is a life skill and “waterproofing” is not an option in our family—all kids must learn to swim as soon as possible. Anyway, enough about all that. On with the pictures.

Right after we arrived, watching Daddy set up for sound check:

Representin’ Guy Penrod with the onesie my co-worker made for her:

Packed house at this one…lots of Q-tips

Pretty Spanish moss everywhere. It’s so romantic.

And palm trees everywhere too.

We’re happier than we look…the sun was just so bright!

Bare feet!!! I love Precious’ chubby little toes.

Outside the door of our room at Lido Beach Resort:

Lunch poolside:

First time in the sand at the beach…right before “the incident”…

The pool makes it all better

We ate dinner at the nationally reknown Columbia restaurant. It was as fabulous as everyone said it would be. I found it hilarious that all the guys pulled out their cameras to take a picture of our stone crab appetizer before we started eating it.

We stayed out of the sand the second day and everyone was happy

It was a short trip during a very busy season of our lives…but oh so worth it! Thank you, Lord!