I am so blessed to come from a long line of moms. This Mother’s Day this basic reality overwhelmed me on Sunday. As I sat on the glider in Henry’s nursery snuggling my baby, I thought about the many mommies in my family who similarly caressed, loved, and cherished their little ones. I am so grateful to these women for having the courage and compassion to raise their daughters and sons. Surely there were difficult moments and harder circumstances but because of their capacity to be selfless and loving, I have this amazing opportunity to be a mommy myself. My mom, my grandmas, their moms, and on and on and on were all here in this moment, rocking their babies, loving their babies, and thinking about what the future held for their babies. It is a true blessing to be Henry’s mother and to continue this cherished existence. On Mother’s Day, I hope we think about those mothers who came before us, those mothers around the world who are doing their very best to care for their families, and those women who may not be mothers yet but who are mothers nonetheless.
How do I get back to SoCal? Seriously, though if I could pack up the family, blink my eyes, and find myself permanently resettled in Southern California my dreams might have come true. First, the people draw us in. My brother, sister-in-law, niece, and nephew spend their sunny, warm days in a truly beautiful setting. These people are the salt of the earth type. If they weren’t already family, I would probably stalk them into a friendship! From the minute our airplane’s wheels touched down, they took great care of us. Being with them, exploring with them, lounging with them, playing with them, and enjoying them made the weekend. Henry had the time of his life with his little cousins and cuddling with his Auntie and Uncle. The goal of the weekend was to share some quality family time and keep those moments out-of-doors. After our brutal New England winter, David and I feel like apocalypse survivors: Are there other humans out there? Is it safe? What is that bright yellow globe in the sky? From backyard cookouts to long strolls along the water, to watching beachy sunsets, to visiting petting zoos and all things kid friendly, we truly soaked up the best of being with our family and the SoCal weather.
The flights to Cali were long. While we may feel like “seasoned” family travelers this trip still proved we are bit of a novice team not quite ready to win the Amazing Race. Inbound we were focused, playful, and in control of the situation. Henry played, laughed, and overall did well getting over to the West Coast. Interestingly the most well-behaved, adorable little boy sat behind us and let Henry read some of his books and play with some of his toys. It was kind of this weird idyllic co-parenting experience between rows 30 and 31 on that airbus. The way back…not so much. A weather delay followed by a mechanical delay made our flight two and a half hours longer than expected. H was not a happy camper. Before the wheels lifted on our connection back to Boston, he was DONE. A constant nagging sound emanated from his throat and filled the cabin around us. He could not be distracted nor was he interested in sleeping. Ironically in front of us, a family of 3 also struggled to keep the peace and quiet. Our kids had decided to make a pact of discontent! Rows 30 and 31 were the epicenter of every other passenger’s worst nightmare. But, hey we all made it safely home and isn’t that really all the matters in the end?
Enough about the crazy travel. That was a mere blip on the screen of this epic weekend. How all of this happened in one weekend is shocking! Isn’t it crazy how three full and warm days can trick your body and soul into thinking it was on a two week hiatus? After we landed, we were immediately greeted by the many embraces of our family. We settled right in with one another and adventured throughout the afternoon catching good food and glimpses of the beach through the early afternoon. We ended the evening at home in the yard while the kids played and we sipped wine and chatted about all sorts of things. Henry slept like a champion despite the time change and this allowed for all of us to be at our best. We were rested and refreshed for our second day. It started with some great playtime. The California littles were SO good a playing with their baby cousin. They included him in everything, shared with him, and taught him along the way. Watching my child play with my brother’s children was a gift. I could not help but project into future playdates and visits.
On top of all this fun, we also drove down to San Diego to be a part of my dear friend, Sarah’s wedding. Gosh what a beautiful ceremony, cocktail party, and dinner scene! I was not surprised in the least that these nuptials were the most fun and romantic ever! Sarah and Jesse are some of the coolest, most genuine people I know and their wedding was a true testament to their awesomeness. They married in their botanical Garden of Eden backyard and shared their home, good food, and happy chickens with all of their guests. No exaggeration, their vows were some of the most beautiful promises I have ever heard exchanged at a wedding and it was SO fun to be witness to their love. They deserve simply the best!
So what did we learn while on our California dreaming weekend? A lot.
Southern California is a utopia of beautiful people, beautiful weather, beautiful food.
Neighborhoods are manicured resort towns that beg visitors to pitch their tent permanently.
I miss my brother, sister-in-law, and littles SOOOOOOOOOOO much. Seriously, it KILLED my heart to say to goodbye.
Henry is crazy for animals particularly of the petting zoo variety. Let’s just say he tried to lick one too many chickens out there.
Henry & the littles are going to be fast friends while growing up and I cannot wait to watch it!
My bro and sis-in-law are really cool people, whom I love as family and friend.
Cheeseburgers, fries, and special sauce are all you need to eat every day.
There is nothing wrong with 3 or 4 cups of coffee in one day when shared among good company.
Projecting movies and watching them 4-across in bed is a hilarious way to spend time together #bestideaever
I am obsessed with Costco fig bars…must get Costco membership stat!
Henry is a wild man at weddings, tearing off clothes & dancing, waving, and shouting at guests. He will inevitability be a wedding crasher we presume.
You can never have enough Disney princesses or clip-on earrings or dresses.
Savor every second because these visits are short and truly are the very best of times.
Amsterdam at night is known for its seedier side. Americans immediately conjure up images of ladies of the night hawking their bodies in the windows of the red light district as tourists gape open mouthed at their gestures and nakedness. The smell of pot smoke fills the air as drunken stag parties stumble about from pub to pub. While some of this might be true, much of it is the stuff of imagination as this “darker” side of Amsterdam wasn’t really visible to us during our sojourn to the city. Yes, we toured the red light district and came upon coffeeshops from time to time, but none of it seemed illicit. All of it seemed totally normal and even “respectable” (also we attempted to get to bed by 9:30PM so we probably missed all the fun anyway). On the other hand, our nights in Amsterdam were consumed by another nefarious agent.
Did you hear that sound? Oh no? You are lucky then because each night if we attempted to put Henry to bed in his travel crib an exorcism of the most horrific order unfolded! That first night was the stuff of parenting nightmares and I was convinced that Henry’s screams could be heard back in beantown. For hours, he was completely inconsolable and wanted nothing to do with David. I was left pacing the floor of our tiny Amsterdam apartment with Henry strapped to me in the Ergobaby. If my paced changed, he shrieked. In those early morning hours, I broke down and begged David to get us back home to the States. I had had enough 24 hours in to our week long vacation. I threw in the towel. David however filled my cup with coffee and assured me that despite my zombie state and utter fear of a nightly repeat that it would get better. And it did. Well it did because we just gave in to the little tyrant. Instead of trying to get him to sleep in his crib (which he does beautifully every night at home), we let him sleep in bed with us. We also just went with his flow. Instead of bedtime at 7PM, he went to bed at 9:30PM. Instead of sleeping through the night, he woke up from 1-3AM for a play time session everyday. It was a crazy schedule, but we made it work. In the end, we all got enough sleep to make it through each day feeling rested and excited to explore. But, I will not lie, I am really happy to be back home if only for the return of our sleep schedule!
On top of our random and at times horrifying nights, we jotted down some funny or random items from our trip that either made us smile, laugh, or scratch our heads:
- Selfie sticks: everywhere we turned photos were taken using selfie sticks. From teens to geriatrics, the selfie stick was by far the device of choice among the tourist circle. We saw them so often that we even thought to ourselves, “hmm maybe we should get one?”
- Grandparents: when you take a bus tour you will inevitably be among the grandparent tourist circle. And there is nothing wrong with this. It is just a fact. The convenience of these types of tours make it incredibly welcoming to this demographic and it was also ideal for our little family. As such, we learned so much about all of the grandchildren of these delightful tourists. Each Oma and Opa would pet Henry’s hand or head and tell us how sweet he was and how cute he was and how much they missed their own little grand-babies.
- Dutch Girlfriend: Everywhere Henry went, he was a flirt. He would cast his “come hither” eyes to the crowd hoping to catch a young lady. Henry melted many a hearts in Amsterdam but no one fell harder than this little girl we met while eating dinner at the Golden Temple. She could not stop coming over to our table, holding Henry’s hand, and staring at him. It was an instant connection and I cannot wait for their paths to cross again.
- Day of Details: One morning David declared it the “day of details.” While I sort of laughed at this idea, it was actually really fun. David went about the city with a keen eye hoping to capture the smaller points of Amsterdam. He ended up taking some great shots!
- Love Boat: When we got aboard the ferry to Marken the theme to the Love Boat played on repeat for the 30 minute trip. Ha, it was amazing!
- Bjorns & Bikes: Did you know that you can just strap your newborn to you in a Bjorn and bike around the city? Every country is different and we should not jump to immediate judgements but this was one practice that surprised me every time I saw it. Dads glided by with their little fresh babies in Bjorns as they biked here and there. Amsterdam bike culture is VERY different from Boston. In Boston, a cyclist runs the risk of losing life or limb to a disgruntled driver which is not at all what it is like biking in the very, very cyclist friendly city of Amsterdam. Nonetheless, this practice was super curious, but I am sure those little babies napped really well while their parents biked them about strapped to their chests!
- Robin & Heather: It is sometimes hard to realize how much you miss someone until you see them again and are directly reminded of how awesome they are! I miss Robin and Heather terribly. They are truly good friends, good people, and good souls. Their visit to Amsterdam for the weekend of our stay was by far my trip highlight.
We did it! We survived our first family international vacation. Over the last seven days, we toured around Amsterdam and the surrounding cities and just had a blast soaking up the sites and especially the foods of the Netherlands. To recap our little adventure, I am going to write about our trip in two parts. This first part will look over the wonderful sights and foods we enjoyed along with our daily routine abroad. Post two will cover the wild and crazy nights and other oddities that come with traveling with a jet-lagged baby! During the daylight hours, our trip could not have been better. We traveled direct from Boston to Amsterdam and Henry did not really sleep during the flight. It was clearly too exciting to sit in the bulkhead which meant tons of noises and sights from the flight attendant galley. Once we landed the excitement continued as we made our way via taxi to our apartment which we rented through airbnb on Frederiksplein. It was a great location. We were about a 10 minute walk to the major Museums and a 15 minute walk to the city center. And did we walk! We decided to not take the trams even though they were super easy to navigate because we really wanted to see everything. From 8AM through 8PM each day, we packed up the baby and our gear and walked all about the city. During these days out, Henry would nap in his stroller around 10AM-12PM and then again from 3PM-4:30PM. This schedule worked perfectly. We were able to enjoy meal times together and when Henry napped, it felt like David and I were traveling just the two of us. It was quite the perfect balance of family time and couple time.
We definitely ate our way through the vacation. And since we were walking so much we did not really heed any caution when ordering the second or third helping of frites with garlic mayo. When it comes to food, I am the sweet eater and David the savory. Thankfully Amsterdam has enough of each to make our marriage a happy one. A few mornings prior to visiting museums, we ate at Cafe Cobra. Here we indulged in dutch apple pie, hot cocoa, pancakes, and egg sandwiches. The pancakes were as fluffy as marshmallows and the apples in the apple pie were perfectly crisp and cool. I ate my weight in stroopwaffle and am SO sad to have eaten all the waffles I brought home as “souvenirs” within the first 8 hours of my return state side. Continuing with our sweet treats, we enjoyed Metropolitan a few times as well for waffles and ice cream. This place was always packed and the chocolate delicacies including “sniffing cacao” made it very clear why people flocked here in droves to satisfy the sweet tooth. One morning we stopped in at Starbucks prior to taking a tour of Volendam and windmills and were surprised to find a chocolate hazelnut donut that was so yummy that I am left saddened that the U.S. stores don’t carry this. I should have bought some to bring home! haha. Then there was this little bakery on one of the 9 streets. We didn’t catch the name of it, but would pass it on a various walks about the city. Here along with our friends, Robin and Heather, we devoured a dark chocolate cookie filled with gooey white chocolate. Yes, this was a little taste of heaven. On the savory side of things, we dined on more frites than is healthy! Seriously, we may have eaten frites two times a day. I know, I know what were we thinking? Well we were thinking that these fried potatoes were so delicious and that the mayo and convenience of the hand carry packaging was to easy not to pass up! We also stumbled upon Mazzo and enjoyed a delicious pizza with butternut squash, bechamel sauce, haricot verts, and prosciutto along with a spicy bruschetta. It was creative and our taste buds loved this combination. When in the Netherlands, it is important to try “traditional dutch cuisine” and for this we walked all the way to Moedars. And, it was totally worth the hike. We dined on delicious meats, beer, and cheese. Henry ate with gusto here as well. All along the trip, he regained his appetite following his awful sickness prior to our departure and ate everything we put in front of him. The waitresses were impressed with him at Moedars and even gave him little gifts of baby socks and booties. They were so sweet with Henry as was everyone we met. We were SO surprised by how accommodating everyone was in regards to Henry and how truly baby friendly every aspect of the city was from dining out to visiting sites to crossing the streets. Everyone was so friendly and made visiting the country truly pleasurable for everyone, especially for Henry who was smitten by the people he met and enjoyed smiling, babbling, and being cheeky with everyone!
We did more than just eat though! We saw so much of the city and it is a BEAUTIFUL city. Gosh, the apartments are so unique and beautiful. Wandering the streets for hours you are left constantly in awe of the unique fronts, patterns, details, and canals. David and I kept saying, “wouldn’t it be fun to just live here for a year.” In many ways the city reminded us of Boston. The brownstones of Boston have a similar “feel” to the streets of Amsterdam which made exploring the nooks and crannies even more fun. We tried to soak it all up from museums, to shopping, to long walks, to finding hidden courtyards, to taking canal tours, to getting out of the city and exploring the surrounding cities and towns: Rotterdam, Delft, The Hague, Volendam, Marken, Zaanse Schans.
- The windmills of Zaanse Schans were idyllic. Coupled with a light fog, the town looked like pastoral perfection.
- Volendam cheese factory was great. We ate our weight in cheese samples and Henry was adamant about eating every single piece of cheese he could get his hands on including cheese with Italian spices, truffle oil, and peppercorns.
- Marken was picturesque and seeing a local clog artisan at work was really neat. It was fun trying on clogs and eating freshly made Stroopwaffle.
- Delft though was definitely my favorite excursion. It was a smaller, quieter version on Amsterdam and the food and town square were just beautiful. I wish we had spent even more time there!
- Visiting the Begijnof in Amsterdam was one of my favorite sights. It was so peaceful and quiet and calm. A beautiful oasis from the hustle and bustle of the city center.
- Our favorite museum exhibit was the Late Rembrandt at the Riksmuseum. Henry slept through the whole thing, but it was just great being able to see that many Rembrandts’ in one area.
- The Van Gogh museum was colorful and the perfect counterpoint to Rembrandt’s darker palette.
- The Anne Frank house was a somber but important visit and it was crazy that when we entered the little secret annex we bumped into one of my students. Small world!
I would go back in a heartbeat. It was an excellent visit, we felt like we saw and experienced so much, and it was really a fantastic country to tour as a new little family.
We did it! We got from our house to Florida and back through the use of air transport. Woot Woot! It was just as hard as I imagined but also smoother than I could have anticipated. Does that make sense? The visit was really great. We were able to spend a long weekend with family and cherish the moment when Henry met his cousins. It was not only special but well worth any headache that comes with upsetting a baby’s usual routine in order to travel by plane.
Of course, traveling with a baby changes right alongside that changing baby. While we felt confident with our recent journey, Henry won’t be like this the next time. He isn’t crawling yet so that is a game changer I am sure. But, for now, we nailed it and got everyone home safe and sound. Did we learn anything this time about getting a family through the airport? Sure, pack efficiently, do your best to squeeze in a nap, and relax it will all be fine!
(1) Pack efficiently: We thought about this part of the trip a lot! We wanted to make sure that we had on our person everything we would need to keep little man happy, clean, and fed and have a checked bag that contained everything else we would need. We flew with JetBlue which made checking a bag perfect since they don’t charge for the first bag. We divided our checked bag into thirds. David packed his third, I packed my third, and we packed Henry’s third. What did we pack for Henry?
- 24 diapers, 6 night diapers
- 12 pouches of baby food
- 3 bibs
- 2 spoons
- 1 hat
- 1 coat
- 1 zip up hoodie
- 5 pairs of socks
- 5 pants
- 5 onesies
- 2 pjs
- baby shampoo
- Tranquil Sleep Turtle
The rest of Henry’s gear was carried aboard with us. David wore a travel crib as a backpack so Henry would have a place to rest his head at our destination. We were really happy with this purchase. While it was a bit of an investment, with all the travel we have coming, we felt like it would be worth it in the end. Henry was very comfortable and the crib could not have been easier to assemble, carry, and disassemble. I carried the diaper bag packed with:
- 3 diapers, wipes, butt paste
- Nursing cover
- 2 pouches of food, 1 spoon
- 1 empty bottle, 1 sleeve of formula, 1 nipple (just in case)
- 2 binkys
- 1 bib
- 4 books (Giraffe’s Can’t Dance, Everywhere Babies, The Going to Bed Book, Baby Loves Summer)
- ErgoBaby 360
I also carried my pump aboard. Note to all mommy travelers: Make sure that if you plan to bring an ice pack with you to keep the milk cool that it is frozen through and through. The TSA almost confiscated mine, but thankfully it was mostly frozen and the supervisor permitted me to take it through (ignore that government if you reading this). And, we cruised through the airport using an umbrella stroller for lightweight, easy travel. I know, I know it sounds like we packed a ton but seriously it all came together and there was absolutely nothing we were lacking. This helped make the transition to the new space easy and we were able to truly focus on spending time with our family.
(2) Do your best to squeeze in a nap: It was not easy to get Henry to nap on the flight. There was just so much to look at and experience, how could one sleep? Henry had fun looking out the window, babbling to the flight attendants, and peaking and smiling at the other passengers around him. Everyone near us was super friendly toward him as well. And, when he did get a bit fussy, David held him close and rocked him as best he could to sleep. He only slept for about 30-40minutes which isn’t nearly what he is used to doing, but it was enough to take the edge off and he remained pleasant for the duration of the flight.
(3) Relax it will all be fine: Traveling with a baby is a bit unpredictable. But, it is also really fun. Everything is so new for them and you get to experience the wonder of flight through their eyes. And, each time he flies over the next few years this wonder will only increase. Yes, he may fuss and yes we will probably forget something next time, but what can you do? You just have to throw up your hands and enjoy the ride as best as you can. If the people around you freak out because your baby is upset, do your best to relax, breathe, and know that you are doing the best that you can. It will be fine, they will be fine, and most importantly the baby will be fine. As long as the flight is safe, you’re perfect!
I used to love making new year resolutions. It always seems like a fresh slate on my bad habits and sluggish ways. Somehow January first promises to bring everything anew. Typically my resolutions or fresh starts are unimaginative: eat better, exercise more, save money. This year, while I will probably still hold those as important, I also just want to take this year more slowly. Each year feels like a race to the next step. So this year, I am going to adopt a new mindset around time and family. Instead of racing between events and scurrying between appointments and packing our weekends full, full, full, I am going to ease up on all of this. My priority, love, and attention will be focused on my new family unit. Henry is this little for such a fleeting moment that it is important for us to savor, enjoy, and prioritize our time with him and as a family. I want to enjoy this year of first for us and this year of being a new family. It feels right to turn a bit inward this year and ensure the tranquility, love, and happiness of the home front. This doesn’t mean that we will forgo all relationships with friends but it does mean that we will be more discerning of our time in a way that perhaps forgoes our more flippant scheduling of the past.
A week went by too quickly! Auntie Kaelin came to town this past week and we had quite the visit. From shopping, to sharing cocktails, to playing with H, to eating way to much food, to lounging together on the couch and catching up, it was a lovely visit. I wish Madison and Boston were closer so that Kaelin and I could hang out throughout the year. Thank goodness FaceTime is so easy, but it is still not the same as a face-to-face.
Auntie K was an excellent auntie. H loved singing his repertoire of baby tunes with her, rolling around on the floor with her (showing off his new move of sitting independently), and snuggling and laughing with her. After a week of us, I am sure K is excited to be back to life without baby chaos but she definitely enjoyed the chaos while here! I am really looking forward to our next visit and restarting the series: ‘Drinking with Baby.’ No one mixes into our life here in Boston as seamlessly as Auntie K, but every time she goes, it breaks our hearts!