My Favorite Fall Tradition

Every year when autumn rolls around, I like to pretend that I actually get to experience fall. You know, the crunchy leaves, the crisp cool weather, sweaters, pumpkin carving, Halloween.

Alas, for the last five years I’ve lived in places that are warm (or depressingly hot) most of the year, meaning I get no autumn. 😩😩😩😩😩😩 Autumn is my favorite season! And it’s not here! I haven’t had an autumn in forever!!


Sooooo, I have to do my best to pretend it’s autumn. And let me tell you, I rock at pretend. It was my favorite game all growing up. And I’ve still got it. I pretend all the time. I pretend I’m not about to pull my hair out when Sander’s having a melt-down, I pretend I don’t feel awkward when my ayi babbles at me in Chinese I still don’t understand, and! – I pretend it’s fall.

Obviously a pumpkin candle is essential to this game of pretend. I brought it back with me from one of our trips to America, so clearly I’ve got my priorities straight. And I’ve already started making soups and just cranking up the AC if need be (Although, to be honest, I make soups year round. I know. Just kick me off the internet already.).

And then! I faithfully adhere to one of my favorite fall traditions. I make the deliciously yummy Miss Finney’s Apple Cake and sit down to watch The Sound Of Music while forcing my husband to do likewise 👫 (someday I’ll also force Sander and whatever siblings he might someday have to join as well 👪. I’m hoping the cake is a good enough bribe if the movie itself isn’t enough.). And I sing along. That part is not pretend at all.  This whole ritual carries a lot of nostalgia for me. There was a day when I was a teenager – a fall day – when I came home from a long day of school, and my mom had made this apple cake and we all sat down and watched The Sound Of Music. On a school night. All together. Did I mention the cake? It was a magical afternoon. Probably didn’t hurt that the apples had come from orchards behind the Versailles palace when we’d gone picking there. That’s the power of fall. 🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂

I try to recreate this every fall. Luckily, one of my favorite blogs has the perfect recipe for the apple cake and just as luckily, The Sound of Music never gets old. That’s the incomparable Julie Andrews for you.

Do you have any fall favorites? Traditions, food, a pair of boots perhaps??

7 Things That Are Really Working For Me Right Now

Transitioning to being a mom has been both harder and easier than I expected. Some days I’m surprised by how normal everything still feels and how well Sander just seems to fit in our family. Other days (or nights) I can’t understand why everything feels so hard and why I’m so relentlessly tired. It’s all a balancing act really and I do my best to tip the scales in the direction of fun and happy mom/wife, instead of stressed out and crazy mom/wife. Here are a few things that are helping me do that lately:


  1. Morning bike rides – I’ve started getting up early to go for a bike ride around the lake (or do some yoga at home some mornings). This felt like a big sacrifice to me because hello I’m up a lot in the night these days. And Terry gets home late enough from work that going to bed earlier doesn’t feel like a super great option these days. But I’ve gotten into a routine lately of waking up at about 6 am, feeding the baby, putting him back to bed, and heading out for a morning bike ride. They’re not long rides (which I think is part of what makes them do-able) but I love them. I feel so much better about everything in life if I’m finding ways to move my body. Bonus points if I can be outside somewhere pretty while doing so.
  2. Reading throughout the day – I let Sander play on his own a good chunk of the time he’s awake, both for him and for me. I feel like a lot of kids these days are overstimulated and really don’t need all the entertainment that gets shoved on them. Boredom is not the enemy here. I love watching what he does when I just leave him to himself. Plus, that gives me a bit of time to myself as well. A lot of that time I use to read (are you surprised?). I like to always have some kind of non-fiction book and a good novel or two. I’ll sit on the couch reading on my kindle while Sander chews on toys on the floor. Or sometimes just chews the floor. Good rejuvenation for both of us.
  3. Playtime with Sander – On the flip side, I love to play with my baby. I find I have the most energy for this if I give him my full attention for a set amount of time, instead of just giving him most of my attention most of the time while also trying to check my instagram and play on facebook and read a paragraph and talk on the phone etc etc. There’s really not tons to do with a 6 month old, but I try to find things he enjoys. For instance, he loves to be rolled around, held upside down, wiggled while he’s laying down, or generally anything that involves movement. We also growl at each other, read story books (or eat their pages, whatever), have singing time, and occasionally have a dance party. This last one should become more fun when Sander can join in on the dancing instead of just watching me do it, or being in my arms for it.
  4. Going easy on myself – Life is just hard sometimes. For everyone. And sometimes I just need a break. Or I screw up and feel down on myself. And that really just doesn’t do anyone any good. I try to remind myself to be gentle with myself. That I’m trying and sometimes trying doesn’t really look like trying. That sometimes it’s okay to turn on the TV to just zone out in the middle of the day (or, um, all the time). And it’s okay if dinner’s at 8:45 and it’s just sauce from a jar put over rice. And an occasional freakout is not the end of the world and does not make me a bad person. If anything, it just means I need more chocolate in my life, amiright?
  5. Early evening walks with Sander – Terry doesn’t usually get home till about 7 but by about 5:30 I’m just about done for the day. I’m tired and hungry and still have dinner to make (the horror!). And I’m bored of playing peek-a-boo but Sander’s at the point where he’s also tired and needs more attention. Walking to the rescue! Thankfully Sander really loves his stroller and is content to just sit and watch the world go by for quite some time. Generally at about 5:30 or 6 we head out for a walk for about an hour. I get to get out of the house and enjoy moving my body some more, Sander’s happy a clam, and we all return home feeling a little better than when we left.
  6. Less TV in the evenings – We are movie people in this home. The DVD store that sells movies for a dollar is one of our most-frequented places here in China. The owners know us by sight and enjoy playing with our baby while we browse the new releases. But what with getting up earlier now (see number 1!), being up in the night some of the time, and having more going on in life, it’s harder to stay up later now to watch movies. Which means if we watch a movie after Terry gets home, that’s pretty much all we get to do. And since that’s really the only time we get together, we have to be really intentional about it. We’ve really made an effort lately to do something other than zone out in front of the TV in the evenings and it’s been a lot of fun. We’ve started reading aloud to each other, we have silly conversations, we make dinner together and just let it be something nice instead of a chore. We go out to eat or out to our friend’s houses for games (normally just taking Sander with us, along with our travel crib for if he doesn’t fall asleep in his carseat). This all goes a long way in making me still feel like me, even post-baby.
  7. Blogging again – It’s been a while since I’ve blogged with any kind of consistency, but it’s fun to feel like I’ve done something through the day. I’m still writing novels, but those are slower and bigger, whereas with blogging I can hit post at the end of an hour and feel pretty good about it. It’s nice to connect with the world a bit and find things in my life that are worthy of sharing, or are (hopefully!) uplifting or beautiful or funny.


And with that, Sander is waking up from his nap now and it is just about time for our evening walk. ✌️

Caitlin Versus the Football Banquet

This is a repost from a few years back, but one of my favorite posts I’ve ever written. Someone recently emailed me about it and Terry went back to read the post and had tears of laughter streaming down his face. I figured it was about time to pull this one out of the dusty archives. Enjoy!

Yesterday afternoon, Terry called me, frantically asking if I could get out of the church youth group I lead on Tuesday nights so that we could go to the high school football banquet that evening, since he helped out with the team so much.

Banquet? As in, I don’t have to make dinner? As in, I could save time because I would not have to make dinner and I would not have said youth group? And you said it’s for football? Football brings in a lot of money for the school, right? Don’t they have boosters? Could the boosters, perhaps, have gotten Terry some sort of thank you for the free work he does for them? Like a gift card?! To the movies, or a restaurant, or something?!

Yes please!

Six o’clock rolls around and I put on a pretty little dress and iron Terry’s shirt so that we can leave as soon as he gets home. Off we go to the banquet, with happy thoughts of delicious foods in our heads, looking hot as Florida summer.

We sit down just as they’re welcoming everyone. Everyone’s dressed to the nine’s, even the woman who really could not pull off a backless dress, try as she might. I smile at Terry. He smiles at me.

Dinner is served.

Only, this does not look like dinner. This looks like blobby white stuff slobbed onto overcooked tubey pasta (it was so not worthy of the name penne) with some rubbery meat. And, wait, yes, that’s exactly what it tastes like too. And shouldn’t salad have just a wee bit more than dressing, lettuce and croutons? Would it really be asking too much to add a tomato? Maybe some cucumber?

And I could have been eating wild-caught Alaskan salmon with green bean medley. Salmon.

Football 6, Caitlin 0.

No matter. There’s still dessert and there’s still the gift card.

They play a highlights reel all through blobby white stuff with boring salad, the shaky camera job underscored by the same monotonous three-measure two-tone song. And my back is to the screen, so I’m straining my neck all night long to get a glimpse at what’s going on.

Point for Football Banquet. 7-0.

But then! Dinner (or the travesty of it) ends and they say they have a few thank you’s they’d like to give out. This is it! That gift card is ours! Watch us hit up the town with it!

We wait with bated breath. They call Terry’s name. They ask him to come up to the stage! They say he’s the best they’ve ever had and they love him and wanted to give him something special! They reach for it! They have it in their hands! And they give him! – a plaque.

A plaque. Isn’t plaque that stuff they scrape off your teeth? That stuff that really does no one any good? Especially when it’s too small to even write my grocery list on? (Granted, it was a nice, thoughtful plaque, but still – where’s that gift card?)

Another touchdown for Football Banquet. 13-zip.

Ok. I gotta get some points here. I look towards the cake. Cake! They’re so close to serving it to our table! And look, I even get a piece that clearly used to be a part of the football they decorated on to cake back when it was whole. Unfortunately, the fondant they used to make the football tasted like it was actually made from real football. Going for authenticity, I suppose. Still, the frosting under the fondant and the cake under the frosting were going to be my first points, I just knew it!

But – let me see if I can describe to you what this cake was like. I think Terry said it best when he said it was like the cake had been soaked in dish-washing liquid for three days. Spongy and dense, dense, dense. Like I probably could have taken someone out with that piece of cake. In fact, I found myself wishing I hadn’t given my piece to Terry after a single bite of it, because I really could have used something to throw at someone the rest of the night. So, nada on the cake.

14-0. Losing hope here.

And little did I know it, but it wasn’t even half time.

The head coach stood up to do some more thank you’s. He pulled up 3 kids and started talking about how special they were, what good players they’d be, how he was so proud of them. And I thought, aw, how sweet, that he’s complimenting these kids who have obviously gone above and beyond what the rest of the team did.

But then. Oh, then. Then, he proceeds to pull up every. single. player, on the freaking. team. The whole team. Do you even know how many players are on one football team?! And we’re not just talking varsity here, but JV too. One by one, at least one of the coaches says something about each player. And not just ‘something’. Most of them started off with something along the lines of “Now let me tell you about this boy here. I’ve known this one since he was in diapers. In fact, let me tell you about the first time I met him, and every moment since then, and then I’ll go over it all again just in case you missed it the first time.”

Football Banquet is killing me. They go up 21, nothing. 28 nothing. They are trampling me.

7,000 years pass.

Still, we are sitting and listening to this coach. By now, it’s clear to me that he was a traveling minstrel in another life. He was all over that stage, and then jumping off of it to be closer to his audience, to get right in their faces with penetrating questions and genuine “I’m proud of you’s”. He knew just when to yell and stomp, and when to let his voice fall into a whisper, soft as a lover’s kiss. He moonlights as a preacher now, and practices his old inspirational minstrel ways on his congregation, his team, and on unsuspecting parents and athletic trainer’s wives. I found myself wishing that I, too, could be a bobcat. That I could wear that badge of honor. That I could care, the way he said I should care! Can I get an amen?!

Things were winding down now. It was clear I was getting creamed. But, as Coach Preacherman told me, I’d learned some life lessons along the way. I’d become a better person because of it. I came to finish, and I came to care, and by the gods of the first down, I would do it!

He had his audience so wrapped around his finger, that the team-voted MVP stood up, no doubt on fire with the football spirit, and announced that he wanted to give his MVP award away to the quarterback that kept them going! And he did!

They lined up all the players, yet again, to give them all a certificate of participation. Terry went down the line and whispered in my ear all the injuries each kid had had during the season. Sprained ankle, torn MCL, decapitation, another sprained ankle.

Coach Preacherman was really at it now. Had everyone been thanked yet? How about the cheerleaders, why don’t you all stand up with your Taylor Swift Red lipstick and your shiny dresses, stand and be thanked! And the parents, we can’t forget them! Tyrell’s grandparents, could you please stand up, you deserve extra thanks. And Kwa’dron’s uncle’s dog’s owner’s sister-in-law, I think she didn’t get thanked yet.

Um, I think you missed the athletic trainer’s wife, sir. She would like to be thanked. Preferably with a gift card, to make up for all the dates she couldn’t go on because her husband was busy being your athletic trainer and taking care of decapitations and whatnot.

Finally, finally,  the night ended. I check the time. 9:30. 9 freaking 30. So much for saving time.

Football Banquet 3,294, Caitlin 0.

Although, I did get a blog post out of it. Maybe we can count that as a field goal.

Football Banquet 3,294, Caitlin 3.

And to quote Coach Preacherman, “Babe! I give you my heart-felt!”

Garlic Basil Chicken With Tomato Butter Sauce

I’ve been in an anti-pasta mood lately. Usually I’m big into pastas, but lately every pasta recipe I looked at as I searched for dinner ideas were met with a “meh.”

Until I saw this one. I wanted it immediately. I had to have it. I needed it. And obviously it needed me too, right?!

You guys, I did not regret this return to pasta. Far from it, actually. This was pasta heaven. It was the pasta promised land. It was the end of summer and the beginning of glorious comfort-food fall, all wrapped up around the tines of a fork. The basil! The butter! The beauty!


Make this one tonight. You won’t be sorry.

Garlic Basil Chicken with Tomato Butter Sauce, original recipe from Pinch of Yum

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 5-6 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • one handful fresh basil, cut into ribbons
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 8 oz linguine or similar pasta
  1. Put chicken in a ziplock bag and pound it until it is less than about 1 inch in thickness all around. The thinner the better – we’re going for a “cooked through and charred on the outside” thing here. Remove from ziplock bag and salt and pepper that baby.
  2. Prep the vegetables and set aside. Cook the pasta according to package directions.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a thick-bottomed skillet until a drop of water sizzles in it. Add the chicken and pan-fry on both sides until cooked through on the inside ,and nice and charred on the outside. Set aside.
  4. Let the oil cool, then add the tomatoes. Simmer tomatoes until they cook down into a nice chunky sauce. Add the garlic and butter and stir to combine until butter is melted. Add the chicken back in to let it soak up the flavors.
  5. Add the basil. Serve on top of hot pasta. Add salt to taste.

The People Code: It’s All About Your Innate Motive by Dr. Taylor Hartman

The People Code (formerly called the Color Code) theorizes that everyone comes hardwired with their own innate motive and that once you understand what your motive is and those around you, you’re better able to interact with others, improve on your own weaknesses, and draw on your strengths. The part that’s interesting to me is that Dr. Hartman claims there are only four possible innate motives and that every person fits into one of these four categories, which he tags with a color.

The People Code

People who are Red are motivated by Power. They’re the chairman of the board that’s only interested in the bottom line, or the guy that woos his love interest with flowers and chocolates until he’s got her but doesn’t see a need for such things once he’s got her, or the girl that runs a super successful business because she wouldn’t let any obstacle stop her. Blues are motivated by intimacy. These are the ones that will bare their soul to you, that ride a roller coaster of emotion all the time. This is the kid that watches the parade floats go by and thinks of all the hours of work that went into making it and the people who put in all that effort, or the man that doesn’t tell someone about how they inconvenienced him because he doesn’t want them to feel bad. Whites are motivated by peace. They’re happy to go along for the ride if it keeps you happy. It’s the woman that won’t leave a toxic relationship because she just can’t bring herself to upset the status quo, or the guy that is satisfied and agreeable and content to just keep living his life as he is. Yellows are motivated by fun. They’re the life of the party, the irresponsible friend who can’t show up on time but that you can’t stay mad at because you have such a good time with her.

I took the test at the beginning of the book to determine what color I am. I’m a Blue, but only barely. I’ve got a pretty strong Yellow influence in there too. But according to Dr. Hartman, what really matters is your dominant color, even though you can be heavily influenced by your secondary color(s). On reading the chapter that talked all about Blues, I found myself nodding along to a lot of the descriptions. It felt like a pretty good fit.

His idea is that once you learn your Color and those of the people around you, you’ll be able to interact with yourself and others in a more healthy, productive way. For instance, Terry’s a White and is generally happy to go along with whatever I want. When we’ve been picking out where we want to spend our next vacation, I sometimes feel bad because we usually just go to the place I suggest. I’ve asked him several times where he’d like to go, and suggested that he pick our next destination. For me, that feels important because I, as a Blue, like to be understood and to have my opinion taken into account. Naturally, I assume everyone else in the world operates like I do and would also like their opinion to be heard. But people aren’t all the same, and Terry genuinely doesn’t usually care where we go and is perfectly happy to let me choose. I’ve had fun the last couple weeks as I’ve been reading trying to determine the Colors of everyone I know. . . and all the characters I see on movies and read about in books . . . (nerd alert!). Then I can spend hours analyzing in my head why that person acted a certain way in a given situation.

It’s an interesting idea and there was a lot I liked about it, but…I don’t know, I just had some unanswered questions by the end of the book. Like, why are there only four motives? How did he arrive at that number? He explains (a couple of times) how these four motives can be mixed with circumstances and birth order and personality and how you’re raised, etc, for an endless combination that leads to our own unique differences. And I get that, but…why four? I mean, why not five? Or six? Who’s to say we’re not missing a motive? He just never really clearly explains how he arrived at this conclusion and that bugged me.

That said, I’ve still been thinking a lot about it, which says something about a book, right? His next book supposedly talks about how to become what he calls “charactered,” which is when you adopt all the strengths of all the Colors, not just your own. We’ll see if I feel compelled to read it.

Now go google the test and take it and tell me what Color you are. :)

Lantau Island – Hong Kong’s Hidden Getaway

Terry came home last week and announced he had the next two days off. That wasn’t quite enough time to hop a flight somewhere, but turned out to be plenty of time to check out Lantau Island in Hong Kong. Our friends (who have been living just down the road from us since we moved to China) just moved to there and were able to show us all the good spots.


The island was a quick and cheap 40 minute ferry ride from Central (although they’ve got fast ferries that cut that time in half if you get there at the right time). The minute we berthed (great word, right?!) it felt like we were in a totally different place. The Hong Kong we know is all hustle and bustle, with crowds pressing up on you all the time, and buildings towering over you. Awesome if you’re wanting a city, not so much if you’re wanting some peace and quiet. But Lantau? Lantau was perfect.


The first thing we did upon arrival was walk across the street and rent bikes. The villages are all back off the main roads, where cars can’t reach, and it seems like everyone bikes everywhere there. Now that is my kind of town. A place where bikes outnumber cars? Count me in. We followed our friend Jamie up the 1000s-of-years-old path to her house. They live in this old village with abandoned traditional-style Chinese houses growing forests inside them. And they have the roof of their building all to themselves, where we could look out at the mountains we were nestled into and out at the ocean.


We sat around catching up for a bit while the babies napped, then headed into town for a Thai dinner (#yellowcurryforlife!! )and a trip to the grocery store for some Dryers ice cream. I swear that’s my favorite thing about Hong Kong. 😋👊 The next morning, we hit the beach.


I have rarely had such a perfect beach day. The water was warm warm warm, which is just the way I like my oceans! The waves were calm enough that Sander fell asleep in Terry’s arms with his legs dangling into the water. There were trees on the beach for shade and the scene from the water was seriously stunning – lush green mountains and beautiful sand. I mean, I could have done without the trash floating in the water, but you can’t have everything I guess, right? 😜


We rented a couple paddle boards for a while and that was basically the most terrifying experience of my life. I never remember until I’m heading out into the ocean that I’m actually kind of afraid of open water. You’re just so . . . alone out there. Although I guess I’d rather be alone than making friends with sharks, amiright??? We split the rental time with our friends while we swapped babysitting, so Terry and I were only on them for about a half an hour, but I think that was plenty of time on a paddle board for this lifetime. It was half terrifying and half kind of boring. And my legs were burning something fierce by the end. A fun experience but one I don’t feel the need to ever repeat.


It started to pour rain just as we were getting the babies all rinsed off (and by the way, is there anything cuter than a naked baby being rinsed off at the beach? Probably not. Sander wasn’t a huge fan of the cold shower but everyone around him thought he was just adorable, cries and all). The towels had all gotten pretty sandy but since it was raining anyway it didn’t end up mattering too much. We ducked inside a restaurant to get out of the rain, took one look at the prices, and decided to brave the rain. It had calmed into a drizzle by that point anyway, so we hopped a bus back into town.


We ended up at this Turkish restaurant for dinner. I hadn’t ever tried Turkish food before, but oh my goodness, I’ll try it again. I had lamb stew that was seriously good. And the staff were so excited about the babies. They brought Sander out a little stuffed animal toy to play with while he sat in his highchair. One of the waiters was playing with him for minute, making faces and laughing, then asked “can I take a selfie with him?” 😂😂😂 The best part is that Sander played along for the selfie, grinning like a fool at the camera and posing perfectly. We were all cracking up.


We biked back to their house, sharing the path for a bit with some water buffalo and enjoying the last of the pretty building-free scenery before we left. Another bowl of ice cream and a quick packing job, and then it was back to the ferry for us. Sadly, we missed the ferry we were aiming for by three minutes. We waited another twenty minutes for the next one, but missing that meant we also missed the last bus back to our city once we crossed the China border. We had to wait an hour for a driver to come pick us up. We killed time at the KFC right over the border, eating chicken and ice cream. It’s not the first time we’ve been stranded at that KFC while we wait for a driver, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.


Our 4 1/2 hour journey ended up being 6 hours instead, and we arrived home at midnight, exhausted, but happy. It was a great weekend and we’re already looking forward to our next trip to Lantau – we hear there are pink dolphins to be seen, so… ya know… gotta go back for that. 😃


Six Months

If there are six things to know about Sander at six months:

  1. He loves to chew on his burp cloth. Doesn’t matter if there’s already puke on it, he’s desperate to chew on any burp cloth he can grab.
  2. He smiles at everyone and everything. People are consistently saying what a happy baby he is. He’s got his daddy’s dimple in both cheeks but when he smiles all big and open-mouthed there’s definitely a chunk of me in there too.
  3. His thighs are enormous. I can’t help but feel a little proud of them. I squish them all the time.
  4. He’s just learned to roll over and will roll across the carpet to get to the toy he wants. If the toy’s in front of him instead of to the side, he just yells at it. He wants so badly to know how to move forward, I can tell. Soon, little guy, soon. Work on sitting up first.
  5. His hair is coming back in blonder. Except for the long swirl on the back of his head that’s never left. It’s still pretty dark and always makes me giggle. Especially when daddy’s throwing him through the air and that little wisp is trailing behind the rest of him.
  6. The kid loves to be on the move. Jiggle him around, stick him in the stroller, fly him like an airplane, just keep this kid moving!

six months

Chicken Avocado White Bean Soup

You know what’s hard to find in China? Avocados. You know what I’ve been scared to buy for years? Chicken. You know what happens when you conquer your fear and have a stroke of luck all in one day?! This soup. That’s what happens. And friends, it was totally worth using my avocado on this tasty dinner.
Chicken Avocado White Bean Soup

Chicken Avocado White Bean Soup
inspired from a mix of this recipe and this recipe
  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1/2 of a white onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can chopped green chilies
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 cans (15 oz each) white beans, drained and rinsed
  • juice of about 1 lime
  • handful of cilantro, chopped
  • 1-2 avocados, chopped
  • tortilla chips for serving
Heat oil over medium high heat. Add onions and sauté until soft and golden. Add garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chicken broth, chicken, green chilies, seasonings, and beans. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes. Add the lime juice and avocados. Serve in bowls and top with cilantro and crushed tortilla chips.

Everything I’ve Learned About Infant Jet Lag

We’ve taken two trips to the US since Sander was born (once when he was two months and once when he was four and a half months) and both times were dealing with 14+ hour time differences. I was anxious about how this would mess up the sleeping patterns I’d so painstakingly tried to set in place. I scoured the internet trying to find tips on dealing with jet lag in infants, but found almost nothing. Plenty of stuff on how to deal with jet lag in general, and a bunch on jet lag in children. But for infants? Nada.

The problem is, the basic idea with jet lag is that you need to keep yourself awake during the day so that you’re tired enough that you’ll sleep at night, despite the fact that your body thinks it’s daytime and is sending messages to keep you awake. Of course, with infants, they’re already sleeping half the day anyway. So keeping them up all day isn’t really an option and would totally backfire.

I can’t say I’m an expert in this or anything, but we’ve dealt with infant jet lag now four times – twice for each trip. And in case any of you out there are ever dragging your infant across the world, I’ve got your back. Knowledge is power, my friend. Keep in mind, my experiences have been with really extreme jet lag. If you’re just adjusting one or two timezones it won’t be nearly this bad, and you can possibly handle it differently, like just keeping them on their time zone back home, for instance. Here’s a little bit about what you might expect.

jetlagged sander words

  • Just know it’s going to be bad for a few days. Like, really really bad. Plan on getting pretty much no sleep for about 4-5 days (and nights).
  • It will likely be worse when flying one direction. Both times we’ve flown east (to go back to the US) Sander’s handled it like a champ. He was a little groggy for a couple of days, but adjusted to the time difference much better than we thought he would. On the way back though (from the US to China) was when we’d hit a really rocky stretch. That’s those 4-5 days of no sleeping.
  • Having a partner is super helpful. Terry and I took turns being up with the baby. He’d stay up with Sander for a few hours while I slept, and then we’d switch. It was the only way either of us were able to get any sleep. If you can possibly have both of you home from work for a couple days on both ends of traveling, you’ll be better off for it.
  • You’re not going to get over your jet lag any faster than your baby gets over theirs. For the last couple years I’ve been honing my jet lag game, and I’ve gotten pretty good at adjusting fairly quickly to a new time zone. But with a baby? Just not gonna happen. Especially if you’re nursing said baby. You’ll still have to be up whenever he’s up, so just realize you’ll be in it for the long haul. Don’t expect to be mostly adjusted by day 2.
  • Don’t try to keep them in your home time zone. This could be do-able for small time adjustments, but if you’re switching your days and nights this just isn’t feasible. I was tempted to try it because we were only going to be in the US for 10 days the first time and I figured he wouldn’t have time to get over the jet lag from the trip there before we hauled him back. But the sun is a powerful thing. It tells your body when it’s supposed to be up and baby’s body listens. He’ll start adjusting to the new time zone whether you want him to or not, so just accept it and move the process along as best you can.
  • If you’re nursing, your milk supply experiences jet lag too. I know, weird. But if you’re going 10 hours in the night without nursing, and nursing every 3 hours during the day, it takes a few days for your body to figure out that you’re trying to switch that. Suddenly you find yourself engorged in the middle of the night because your breasts think it’s daytime and that they’re on duty. Also, night breastmilk and day breastmilk are different. Did you know night breastmilk actually helps make baby sleepy?! (I mean, seriously?! That stuff is like the magical nectar.) And again, it takes your body time to switch that. So for a few days when you first arrive, the milk you make while the sun’s up is meant to make baby sleepy. Oops. Nothing you can really do about it, just know it’s happening.
  • It can take up to 3 weeks for babies to finish adjusting from jet lag. It shouldn’t be horribly awful for too long, but there are residual effects for a lot longer than you’d see in an adult.
  • The worst of it is when they can’t go back to sleep in the middle of the night. They think it’s daytime and they’re ready to play! My best tip for being up in the middle of the night? Camp out in front of the TV. I know, I know, babies shouldn’t watch TV. But when you haven’t slept in three days and you’re desperate for some z’s, you’ll do pretty much anything. And remember this won’t last forever. A night or two of this won’t kill your child. Plop the kid in front of the TV where he’s safe and won’t be in danger of rolling away or falling off the couch, and let him be quietly entertained while you shut your eyes for a few minutes.
  • Once you get over the worst of it, it can get good. I mean, really good. Sander started sleeping through night at 10 weeks, and you know why? We took him to the US at 8 weeks and back to China again at 10 weeks. Those first four or so days were toooorture but after days of screaming and feeding him round the clock we were finally able to keep him awake for several hours in the late afternoon. He went to sleep that night utterly exhausted. And didn’t wake up till the morning. 😃 It’s been that way ever since (except for when we took another trip to the US and did the whole process over again).
  • Daytime may not be as bad as you think. I was prepared for the worst and, while the nights were undeniably bad, the daytime was not. He was mostly his happy little self, ready with a smile and a giggle for anyone who paid him attention.
  • Naptimes can get way better too. Mostly because their little bodies think it’s nighttime, so they sleep pretty soundly. Take advantage of that time and sleep while you can! Just make sure to set an alarm (or five) so you can for sure get up and get baby up!
  • They may want to eat constantly. Prepare yourself.
  • Don’t worry about when you should be sleeping or staying awake on the airplane. I’m convinced that the best time to start adjusting to your new timezone is the moment you set foot on the airplane, but with a baby, just let them sleep as much as they will. You and all the other passengers will be super grateful.
  • During the day, let them take as many naps as is appropriate for their age. But I’d recommend waking them up after about 2 1/2 hours – they need to get a good nap so they’ll be rested enough that they can sleep well the next time you put them down, but if you let them sleep as much as they want you’ll be dealing with jet lag forever. Do your best to keep them awake for a while after their naps but don’t be surprised if they’re pretty sleepy.

It’s no walk in the park to deal with a jet lagged infant, but it’s not the worst thing in the world either. Just adjust your expectations for your trip and you’ll be fine. Now, go forth, and travel with babies!