Traveling with Young Children – From Dallas to Denver

Sometimes, you just gotta laugh – they’ll be memories soon!

Last weekend David and I flew for the first time with three young children. Count ‘em: THREE totally dependent small children, and TWO adult caretakers.

That, my friends, is a ratio for a good story.


I thought we nailed trip preparation for our flight from Dallas to Denver: massive excel spreadsheet lists, our SWEET grey minivan packed efficiently, clothes laid out for each traveler the night before, down to coordinated hair bows, etc. But 5am hit and it just took WAY LONGER, this “new normal” of five airplane travelers, including a five-year-old, two-year-old and seven-week-old newborn. When we pulled out of our driveway, we were a full 15 minutes later than we intended to leave. Would we make our flight?

Second problem: The minivan was on empty. (Terse words between two caretaking adults. Defensive mom blames baby-that-doesn’t-take-a-bottle, so she OBVIOUSLY had to ignore gas gauge yesterday to get home to feed STARVING baby. Angry, heavily caffeinated Dad Driver wisely stares forward in silence and starts driving faster.)

We stopped for gas, then took off like a cat with it’s tail on fire for the airport. Baby Hannah started crying for milk-not-from-a-bottle, but we could not stop or we would miss our flight. Dave screamed into the parking garage like a good action movie, where they are about to corner the bad guy.

But now we faced one of the biggest problems of all. We unloaded everyone and everything and stood in shocked horror. HOW IN THE WORLD WERE WE GOING TO MOVE THIS MOUNTAIN FROM PARKED MINIVAN TO CHECK-ING? We had three small children, four gigantic suitcases, a double stroller, an infant car seat, a diaper bag, and two kids backpacks.

(I get a cold sweat just typing all that and remembering).

Lemme tail yew (as we say in Texas), we looked hilarious. I pushed the heavily-loaded stroller with Esther sitting in the back, and the big-eyed baby in the front. (I looked like a homeless woman with bags hanging off the stroller). Dave primitively rigged one of the suitcases to attach to another one and lugged a third in his other hand. (Thank goodness he works out). And then, the worst part or best part, our sweet little five-year-old white-haired Samson slowly pulled the fourth suitcase that was as big as him. Strangers gawked at our awkward train, and smiled at the child manual labor caboose.

Due to the eternal DFW airport construction, check-in was a mile from parking. Finally, my type-A, controlling nature kicked in under the stress and I told Dave I would go ahead to ensure we wouldn’t miss our flight. I started mom-jogging that double stroller so fast and furious it put baby wailing Hannah to sleep and terrified my normally fearless toddler. “TOO fast, Mama! TOO fast!”

At first I thought our American Airlines check-in agent, with the heavy Irish accent, was kind and easy to work with. But after two minutes, to my horror, I realized he WAS A COMPLETE NEWBIE. He typed slow as molasses, with a trainer by his side, walking him through each step. Dave read my mind and turned to me quietly, “Couldn’t they train on a different passenger?” I returned, NOT so quietly, “I mean, we have THREE LITTLE KIDS – this is taking forever.”

Sure enough, the baby started screaming and 5am-risers Samson and Esther started Tarzan-swinging from the line-dividers. Then, to my horror, a security agent was leading Dave and Samson away for further screening with one of our suitcases, just when Esther started holding herself and piping, “PEE-PEEs! PEE-PEES!”

I jammed the double stroller into a handicap bathroom stall, and kneeled down awkwardly. With one hand I cradled the back of the screaming baby’s head, three inches from my face. With the other hand, I started yanking down Esther’s leggings. She really had to go so I only got them down to her ankles and one-arm hoisted her up on the toilet. The baby was screaming, her aim was not good so her clothes got wet with youknowwhat, and strangers started calling out, “Ma’am, do you need help in there?”


When we turned the corner, there was a line the length of the equator to get through security. Dave physically stepped in front of me to block my view, chanting, “Don’t look at it. Don’t look at it.”

(I luff my husband.)

The barking TSA ordered us to disassemble our entire caravan – even ripping the finally-sleeping baby out of her car seat. We were the lucky ones that got called for every “random” screening TSA has ever invented. I was hand-swiped for gun powder. Samson’s innocent-looking dinosaur backpack was picked for a hand check. C’mon, guys. Seriously. Do my blonde, German babies look like terrorists? Of all the passengers to choose for extra rigorous screening, you choose the overwhelmed family with three tiny children?


They put Dave and Esther on the row in front of me, Samson and the baby. When we got in the air, the kids popped open their DVD players to watch movies – the only thing I brought for them to do during the flight. To my horror, I had accidentally grabbed the wrong CD storage case when packing. Instead of all their favorite DVDs, it held only music CDs. *faceplant*

Two-year-old Esther has a bladder the size of a pea. So poor Dave took her to the bathroom one million times in the first hour. Then Hannah had a blow-out diaper and I couldn’t get out of my row. (A foul-smelling Sleeping Giant man was on the aisle seat.) I handed Poop Baby over the seat to Dave that left to change her in the bathroom. That left Esther BY HERSELF on the row in front of me with a complete strange man. She kept trying to jump off the row to follow Dave while I whisper-hissed every bribe and threat I could think of to keep her seated, since I was trapped in my row and couldn’t physically reach her.

Then Hannah had a second “number two” blow out. Dave’s angry eyes bulged as I once again handed Poop Baby awkwardly over the seat. “What are you FEEDING HER?” By this time, I couldn’t’ stop laughing – everything is so funny when you are overtired.


On the way home, the drive down the mountain made Esther carsick and she repeatedly vomited into my Starbucks cup while Samson howled in laughter. Then she spilled milk all over her last clean outfit and her car seat. (Dave and I weren’t talking by this point.)

The return flight was much better because David’s family was on it. But when we landed, we realized our parked car was at an entirely different terminal. Dave left to go fetch the car, while I waited for the luggage with his family. Dave was taking a very long time, so I told them to go on. But they took pity on my adult/child ration of 1:3, and took Samson with them. Which I thought was brilliant, until Dave arrived and we realized we had lost our CHILD MANUAL LABOR.

“Don’t worry, Spina.” I valiantly AND STUPIDLY announced. “I can drag one of the suitcases while pushing the stroller.” Dave once again jimmy-rigged two suitcases in his right hand, and pulled the third suitcase with his left hand. I grabbed the fourth suitcase with one hand, and the stroller handle with my other hand. But when I tried to push the double stroller, I couldn’t move it an inch. It was too heavy, loaded down with two children and carry-ons. So I leaned down, placing my entire forearm level horizontally across the stroller handle and shoved that blessed stroller forward like a mom bull. With my other hand, I dragged the suitcase behind.

(Please take a moment to visualize that.)

When we reached the parking lot, a man took pity on me and grabbed the suitcase. “Thank you,” I huffed. “We’re just right over there. The minivan, OBVIOUSLY.”

STOP AND SMELL: On the drive home, I turned to Dave and told him I felt like crying I was so overwhelmed. “I mean, I KNEW that was going to be hard, and even so, I still lost it!” We parents face a lot of curveballs in our career. How do you handle the sometimes dicey new normals? Do you complain (like me, at first – ha!) or do you laugh and move on with a good attitude? To encourage you, I think the best memories and stories are made at the most trying times! Let’s make some stories to laugh about when we are too old to travel anymore! Woo-hoo!

(See another funny story about our shock of three kids here)


Want more stories like this? Order Leah’s new Amazon Best-Seller book Stop and Smell Your Children: Laugh and Enjoy the Little Years now on Amazon here or on her site here.


8 Little Ways to Show Little People God

Easy ideas to introduce God to your young children

Yesterday, Esther came wailing to me because she bonked her head on the edge of our wooden kitchen table. I rubbed the red spot with my hand and asked her if she wanted me to pray for it. “Yes!” she sobbed, with big tears sliding off her full toddler cheeks. I laid my hand on her forehead and prayed, “Dear Jesus, we pray you would heal Esther’s head and make it feel better. In Jesus’ Name, amen.”

The most important thing to me as a parent is to show my children the Lord.
I truly believe our everyday life and everyday conversation is our biggest discipleship to our little ones, vs. formal devotions. Here’s some little ways to show your little people God each day as you go about your daily routine. You don’t have to do all of them. These are just ideas that I try to incorporate in our day when we have time and I have the energy!

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1. Start the day by singing a God-focused song when you your child for the first time. Many times this song will be more for you than for them, ha! What a great way to start the day with a spiritual focus!
2. Pray at mealtimes. This is an easy, three-times-a-day moment to turn our attention back to God. I often pray first, as an example, then let the kids pray. Small children thrive on routine – if I forget, they remind me! I love it! And I don’t know about you, but mealtimes with young children for us are often hectic. Everyone needs something non-stop and there are a lot of messes. It’s so nice to have a quiet moment of prayer to redirect our hearts to the Lord in the middle of mealtime chaos.
3. Bible story and prayer at naptime. I start our naptime routine early, so I can have a few minutes to lay beside each child and read them a short Bible story and pray with them. It’s a special moment to STOP in my busy day and be still with my little one and focus on the Lord. (I keep their Bible story book on the nightstand by each of their beds to keep it easy.) I love this naptime routine: I get a little rest, we focus on God, and if I have the energy, I ask them a few questions about the story we read.
4. Pray anytime they get hurt. I am grateful to my mother-in-law, Esther Spina, for modeling this for me with her grandchildren. Anytime a child gets hurt (happens, oh, 143,485 times a day at our house), we pray to God to heal them and make it better. If I ever forget, the crying child reminds me to pray for them – I love that!
5. Let them see you pray. I don’t know about you, but many times, especially with the more children I have, I get overwhelmed parenting. Sometimes, right smack dab in the middle of a parenting conflict, I pray out loud for God’s wisdom in the moment. I.e. Samson has been trying my patience, I will stop right in the middle of the conflict, close my eyes with all the kids watching, and pray out loud, “Lord, please give me wisdom and patience in this moment.” Wow! I think that is so powerful to knock out Satan in the stressful moment, and bring in God’s help. Don’t be afraid to pray out loud in front of your children. It’s good for you and good for them!
6. Talk about God’s weather. Each day, I try to talk about the weather with my little ones and comment about the day God made for us. For example, “Oh, wow! Look at the rain God created today! That’s my favorite!” or “Look at this beautiful sunshiny day the Lord made! Isn’t it wonderful?” This is very simple, but anytime we can weave God into our everyday life, I believe our children will start to see Him as a Constant Companion instead of a character at church.
7. Talk about the Bible lesson from church. Use the Sunday school take-home craft or coloring sheet as a springboard for discussion at your next mealtime. If they don’t bring anything home, ask their teacher what Bible story they studied. Or if they stay in church with you, discuss the sermon over lunch. Ask questions about the story and help them apply it to their little life.
8. Bible story and prayer at bedtime. Dave and I are usually exhausted at the end of the day after caring for little ones, so this is a short routine (ha!) but one we try to do together. The whole family gathers in Samson’s blue bedroom, and Dave reads a short toddler Bible story on Samson’s car bed, with kids flanking him on either side to see the pictures. Then we pray for each child individually in their bed, with a hug and kiss good-night.
Stop and Smell: Think of your child right now. Have you stopped to think that God looked throughout the whole earth and chose YOU were to be the parent of your child? No one else. What a blessing your child received when God choose YOU as their parent! Isn’t it exciting to be the first to introduce our Father to our little ones?

Want more stories like this? Order Leah’s new Amazon Best-Seller book Stop and Smell Your Children: Laugh and Enjoy the Little Years now on Amazon here or on her site here.