Friday, December 13, 2019

Parenthood 2

I really must work on my titles. I feel like Hugh Grant in Love Actually when he is prime minister and tells his publicist "I really must work on my wave" after he double hand flutters at a crowd as he walks into the residence. For some reason, the one liners escape me. To carry on I would like to build on the last post which likened becoming a parent to learning a new language, everything new is often more exciting when you get to experience it with someone else. It also makes the hard bits easier because, if nothing else, you have someone to share the blame if your kid grows up to be a real A-hole. Just like those moments of doubt one has when conjugating the tricky verbs, there are plenty of moments of doubt when trying to keep an infant alive and at the same time help them thrive. Most of my moments of doubt and anxiety currently revolve around the sleep schedule. Should we wake her up to eat? If she sleeps now will she sleep later? Please, oh please, whatever the decision do not let it lead to confusion of days and nights. This is my worst nightmare. And, unlike learning a new language, Google is the opposite of help in these doubting moments. Why is our trusted source for all knowledge so powerless when it comes to baby issues? Google is useless because, there are a million different opinions and approaches which all purport to lead to ideal results. The reason why you can find someone who swears by a certain method is and someone else who swears against it is because no matter what the approach the results vary from parent to parent and from baby to baby. You just have to learn your kid. And once you've learned your kid, no one else will be able to care for them appropriately. No one will conjugate your baby the way you do.

My husband often defers to my "mom instinct" during extreme moments of indecision. I love that he thinks that I have a mom instinct. In fact, his confidence in my mom instinct has started to grow my confidence, which was pretty non-existent,  in my parenting skills. The problem is, I have a hard time separating my instinct from what I think I "should do." I am so worried about making the wrong decision that I am often paralyzed and my mom instincts get lost in the desire to do the right thing. I lose myself in translation mostly because of all of the other voices out there shouting their own truths. If nothing else, in Parenthood the myriad of ways to approach a situation are all perfectly fine and have the same percentage chance of messing up your kid. Maybe as parents develop, we start to find our own dialects of this new language. For instance, a southern drawl might have baby in her own crib in her own room on day one home from the hospital. But the pacific coaster will co-sleep until the kid is ready to move to college. Perhaps, I have stretched the learning language analogy too thin. The point in the above example is that everyone is still speaking the same language (English, of course (not suggesting English is a better language than any other language)). We're all still parents and we all make our decisions out of the desire to do what is best for our child and to make sure they aren't serial killers when they grow up.

Next week, I will have to leave my daughter at daycare for the longest stretch of time yet (we had a test day last week when she stayed for about 5 hours). This will be a bit of a challenge for me. I am wrestling with guilt about not being at home when I'm at work and at the same time guilt about not contributing to the household income when I'm at home. Yay for being a mom!


December 13, 2019: I wrote the following shortly after giving birth to my eldest little gem. Looking back, I can definitely relate to my new-mother self. After the birth of my second, there is a whole new set of struggles and "road blocks" (to keep with the city planning metaphor) but there is also less anxiety about issues I used to worry about. It gets easier and it gets harder but it is still unique and beautiful.

I imagine parenthood to be like an actual neighborhood. This 'hood has several different manifestations in different cities, suburbs, towns and villages. It evolves through time. The rules change as the HOA develops new policies to protect the safety and sanity of its citizens. The HOA? The AAP (American Association of Pediatrics), individual pediatricians, scientists and Jenny McCarthy. The citizens? Parents and offspring. The liaison between the two? Google. Although you don't have to significantly alter your latitude and longitude to visit the 'hood of parent, you do still physically go there. However, more significant than the physical journey, perhaps, is the inner journey of the self, psyche and soul.

The physical transition is the one most often related in social media, in real society and in family advice circles. "Oh, you'll never sleep again!" wails Aunt Martha, "I hope you don't like sleep!" laments cousin Sue. Yeah, you get less sleep. You also get less sleep when you stay up all night drinking sangria and watching Sex and the City reruns. The latter you have a little more control over, that is true, but being a DINK (Dual Income No Kids) couple and being a parent couple are both lifestyle choices. You trade in a little physical independence for some physical interdependence (I know there is more to deciding whether or not to have children than the physical demands. I am in no way trying to simplify a decision like that to something so basic.). The physical demands for a mom are especially intense, even more so if she is breastfeeding. Growing a human is no joke. I mean, it is actually kind of comical. Humans grow inside of women. Our bodies make bones, hearts, blood vessels. OK, maybe when I said comical I meant amazing. During a recent conversation with a friend whose baby turned one a few months ago, I asked when/if she was planning to try for a second child. She responded by saying something along the lines of "I'd like to have some time when my body isn't doing anything for a baby." I hadn't really thought of that but after carrying around a tiny human for basically 10 months and then breast feeding for about a year her body had been helping grow another body for almost 2 years. Seriously. That is intense. The physical stuff is intense. And although partners (if you're in a committed relationship) often try to ease the physical burden placed upon the mother, it is one trail in parenthood that the mother has to largely travel alone.

Not to get too analytic or "hippie dippie" but the inner journey or changes that occur along the path to parenthood are also irreversibly significant. I was very worried about losing my "self" when I had a child. During my pregnancy, I frequently fretted about this idea of "loss of self" that I would read in other mother's testimonials. Their lives became all about their children and they correlated this with a loss of self. I was terrified of that. I now realize that I was actually bemoaning the loss of my lifestyle, not my self. Before Ruby, I had a hard time separating the two, I think. I didn't want to lose spontaneous nights out or staying up late in deep conversation with my friends. I still don't want to lose those things but I have a different perspective now. My lifestyle might change some but I still 'have a life.' The part I was not expecting is this type of opening. Opening is the best word I can think of to describe it because it really is a whole new realm of emotions that were previously closed off to me. Emotionally, becoming a parent is like learning a new language. When you learn vocabulary in a different language which is embedded in a different culture, you learn words and expressions that are unique to that language and cultural combination. You learn a new way of thinking and describing something for which you had, perhaps, previously prescribed a word and thought you fully understood. You realize your word or words were insufficient. You didn't really understand until this new language showed you a different perspective. That is what it feels like to be a parent. I've learned a new language. I have experienced sensations and emotions that had never before been revealed to me. This is something new. This is a path I have never travelled. And it has only been 11 weeks. I am what they would call an early learner of the language. Donde esta el bano? Donde esta, indeed.


We didn't spend almost 11 months of 2015 living in poverty or lacking all modern comforts. We lived on a budget, yes, but we also didn't sacrifice safety, cleanliness or deny ourselves seeing a site or taking a tour that we wanted to see, but we weren't at home. The fortune of the United States is well known and does not need repeating but the excesses of our country are put in sharp contrast when one spends the majority of a year without those comforts. To emphasize the differences between our home culture and others, we went to two of the most excessively American places possible, Disneyworld and Universal Studios. 

Drinking some butter beer (butterscotch milkshake) in front of Gringott's


Magical Castle

I should clarify that we did not visit these places with the intention of over-indulging in excess. We went because these places are magical. Hogwart's? Yes, please. We were able to see several of the sites in the UK which inspired JK Rowling so to see her imagination made real was truly something else. As I am only now publishing this post, four years later, much has been added to the theme park of Wizadry and I am excited to visit it again when the kiddos are of an age that they can appreciate the extreme excess and the extreme price tag! 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

New York City and Charleston

I had every intention of writing these blogs and possibly more while on maternity leave. I now have two weeks left off work and have written nothing. I make no apologies because my time spent not writing was mostly spent cuddling my adorable Ruby. Becoming a parent with Jared is a whole different type of trip and the experience is definitely postworthy, so much so that it deserves a (or multiple) post(s) dedicated solely to that topic. For now, I would like to recount and record our two most recent vacations to New York City and Charleston.

First, New York City. Despite my strong dislike for cold weather, visiting this iconic city during Christmas has been a part of my bucket list for awhile. Jared wanted to go to Patagonia for our 2016 vacay but I was newly pregnant and Zika was still a strong enough threat that I decided it was not worth the risk. So, NYC it was! We stayed in an Airbnb, per our typical preferences, in the East Harlem neighborhood. The apartment was within walking distance of central park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. There was also a bomb breakfast place right around the corner although we did cook several breakfast meals to save some cash. To add even more NYC charm, the walk between the nearest subway station and the apartment building had a vendor selling Christmas trees. It was cinematic.

We did several of the typical touristy things: went to the top of the empire state building, got cheap tickets for a Broadway play, and of course, saw the tree at Rockefeller Center. We didn't go ice skating because the line was tremendous and, we actually don't care that much for it as an entertainment option. I have an intense fear that I will fall and someone will skate over my fingers and chop them off.
It was definitely a big tree

Times Square

View from Empire State Building

There was no one in the cheap ticket line for "straight" plays- everyone wants a musical!

 In front of Central Library (where Carrie and Big (almost) got married!)

We went to Charleston in March of 2017. It was an early anniversary/baby moon trip. Since our anniversary was a week before Ruby's due date, I would not have been able to fly so we went earlier to still be able to take advantage of our free flights with Jared's American Airlines job. Several people had recommended a visit to Charleston prior to our decision to make that our next domestic getaway. We had only heard good things about the locale and it did not disappoint! We actually booked hotels for this trip (I wanted to be able to walk comfortably in my 7 month pregnant state to the downtown attractions) and stayed 2 nights outside of Charleston when we visited the beach and an old plantation and then 3 nights in downtown Charleston.

First we visited Sullivan's Island beach. The beach set up was definitely what I had pictured as an East Coast beach. There was a small section of bramble (I don't know what the vegetation was actually called) between the road/houses and the sandy beach area. There were no shops, concessions or restrooms (!) on the beach and we had to walk back into the little town area to use the facilities after about an hour of sitting in the sand. We ate at a delicious little restaurant before heading back to our hotel. The next day we visited the Middleton plantation. It was a very interesting and educational experience. We were there around Easter and there was an egg hunt the day we were there. We watched parents wrangle children in the heat while trying to keep their Easter finery in a photogenic state and contemplated our future as we ate at the plantation restaurant.

Spanish Moss is protected in the South

Beautiful plantation views

We spent our time in Charleston proper by walking and perusing the shops of downtown, taking a historical tour and eating, of course. The city is so old and has so many of the buildings from its early days well preserved. It is an incredibly charming place.

Ice cream cookie sandwiches (we went here twice)

On Campus

The charm just oozes

Our fancy hotel lobby

We still have plenty of ground to cover on our domestic agenda. But these two memorable spots were great places to knock off the list!

Sunday, May 15, 2016


Egypt was our last international stop on our adventure. It took us a long time to decide that we were going, for some reason we were hesitant to make the commitment to this iconic and historically significant country. It was also the first and only place that we booked our entire trip through a company. It proved to be a wise decision as navigating independently through Egypt would have required more time than we had and we wanted to be able to see as much as possible. We flew into Cairo late in the evening and had an early morning flight the next day to Luxor where we would transition to a boat and then cruise up the Nile. Unfortunately, our bags did not make it to Cairo from Casablanca and therefore did not make it on our next flight to Luxor. As a result, we ended up buying some new threads on the road and decided to go all out cheesy tourist. So, that explains why we are dressed the way we are in some of the pictures. As a result of recent events in Egypt tourism is very depressed. On one of our day tours off the Nile, our tour guide explained that before the revolution, he wouldn't waste his time coming in to work for tour groups of less than ten people. We were the only two on his tour that day. Also, our boat was equipped to carry around 150 passengers and there were, at most, 30 on board. It was sad to see the highly tourism dependent country in such a state, especially since we never felt unsafe while we were there. Yes, there are more armed guards and safety check points than some of the other places we visited but we never once felt in danger. While that state was awful to see for Egypt, it actually made for some really great experiences for the tourists that were there. At some of the major sites we were among maybe 20 other people where pre-revolution there could have been hundreds. Jared also got sick for the first time at the very end of our trip. He missed our last Nile day tour so I was solo for that day.

I'm not even going to try and explain the history of Egypt and of all the places we saw. My blog post doesn't even have the chance to do the facts justice so I'll post the pictures and some descriptions. One of the places we got to visit but were not allowed to photograph is the Valley of Kings. This is the place where Tutankhamen's tomb was discovered which led to the discover of the rest of the King's tombs interred there. The tombs (we were allowed to see) were impressive and we were able to see King Tut's mummy before getting to see his sarcophagi in the National Museum. We did miss out on seeing the famous King Tut's mask and I was a bit disappointed about that but now we have another reason to return to Egypt.

Karnak Temple




Ram headed sphinxes

Luxor Temple at night

Queen Hatshepsut's Tomb

Queen Hatshepsut's Tomb

Colossi of Memnon

Edfu Temple

The lush Nile valley

More hieroglyphs


On the cruise boat

The greatest of the Great Pyramids

It's all about perspective

The three great pyramids


Sphinx and pyramid

Giving the sphinx a smooch
From Cairo we flew to Orlando! We finished up our almost year away with Disney World and Universal Studios, of course!


We fared the wild sea and left European comforts to explore Africa for the first time. Or, as Bill Murray described it, we went to ‘Africa Lite.’ This is how he described Morocco while on the Late Night show and his explanation for the term, I suppose, makes sense. He said that since Morocco is so close to Spain and is connected enough with Europe that it still has some of the comforts that other parts of Africa might lack. Since we did not go anywhere else in Africa (Egypt doesn’t count) then I can’t really agree or disagree with him but we definitely enjoyed our 12 days in this North African gem. We spent only one night in the coastal city of Tangier. We arrived after dark and walked almost a mile to our hostel. The walk served as a reintroduction to hustlers as we had several people ‘offer’ to show us to our lodgings. The hostel was nice and we had some interesting conversation with the night manager before we hit the hay. We had some breakfast and then took a taxi to take a bus to go to Chefchauen.
At the bus station
Chefchauen is the “blue” city and blue it was. Almost all of the buildings around the city center were painted blue from at least half way up the façade to the ground. Then you add the twisting, maze-like streets common to a Moroccan medina and it is easy to become lost. Unless you have a Jared GPS. Then, he keeps you on track. The first afternoon we were there, it was raining so we hid in a café and drank some mint tea and had some food while we waited for it to clear. The next day we wandered around the city, explored some more shops and really did get a little lost in the blue maze.

Jared's in blue in the blue city!

It really is a lot of blue...

The city from the top of a nearby hill

After Chefchaouen, we went to the bustling city of Fes. When we walked to our hostel, through the medina, I thought “this is Morocco.” There are shops selling all sorts of wares and merchandise and the streets are narrow and full of people. We got to see several examples of Moorish architecture as well as visit a leather tannery. This was super stinky, interesting, but stinky.
Idyllic landscape from the bus

A street in the Fez Medina

I am obsessed

Stinky tannery

We walked into this man's restaurant and he grabbed us by the hands and took us into the kitchen to sample all the dishes before we ordered which one we wanted.

Following Fez, we went to Rabat and then on to Casablanca. These two cities are the main commercial cities in Morocco. Rabat is the capital and, Casablanca is the movie. Neither city yielded too much excitement, although our hotel room in Casablanca overlooked one of the only bars we saw while we were in the country and we witnessed some interesting nights.

In front of Hassan Mosque

Street art in Rabat

King Hassan II Mosque (third largest in the world)
Our last city in Morocco was Marrakech. This is the place that people think of when they think of Morocco. There were street performers charming snakes, training monkeys, doing random chants, a huge variety of activities could be witnessed in the main square. The streets are perfectly narrow and maze like and the shop owners haggle like you would hope. We did not make any major purchases from any of the street shops (neither of us has the knack to haggle), but we did find a beautiful rug at one of the fixed price stores and we had a leather maker create a collar for Sammie and Sinatra (aren’t we good pet parents?).
Beautiful inlaid doors

Somehow this little fella got dyed pink
Merrakech at night 
Morocco was truly stunning and I wish we had had more time there to explore even more of the country. From Morocco we flew to our last international destination, Egypt!