On Gentleness

Roughly five years ago, Chaz and I were sitting in a circle with several other couples and Dave, our Bible study leader. We'd just finished reading Philippians 4, and were spending a little extra time marinating in verses 4 through 7: 

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."

It was a familiar passage, one that I'd had memorized for years, thanks to many drop off and pick up trips to and from school with my dad. We'd used those for Bible verse memorization on the regular.

Gentleness. A word that had been used to describe me since those earlier years of memorization drives. Like love, I often felt it covered a multitude of personality "sins." Too soft spoken to be heard in the classroom? I was just gentle. Too timid to participate in the getting-to-know-you activities in first grade? Gentleness strikes again. Won the "Quietest" superlative award as a graduating senior in high school? No need to feel bad that the Best Musician award went to a popular girl in chorus. "Quietest" is another way to describe my more gentle traits. 

For a long time I'd assumed that gentleness (and its cousin, meekness) was one of the lesser virtues. It went hand in hand with being shy and "a follower" rather than "a leader," and since it seemed as though the church admired, revered, and praised the extroverted side of evangelism, gentleness didn't seem like something that I should truly seek after by itself. 

I wised up a bit later down the road. "What does "gentleness" mean here? What does that look like in our daily lives?" prompted Dave in our Bible study circle that evening five years ago. We all sat in silence for a minute or two, like we often did after a question was asked. Who really wants to answer first, after all? I finally piped up. 

"It's a rather fierce thing, isn't it?" 

It turned out that gentleness didn't have to do with quietness or shyness after all. Gentleness stems from a deep assurance that the Lord is near. That we don't need to be anxious about anything. That we can rejoice in all circumstances, and that from that abundance of assurance, we can approach living with a fierceness and fearlessness that calms an unquiet heart. 

I've been thinking a lot about gentleness and motherhood lately, given that motherhood is my primary job these days. Blog post after blog post, article after article, book after book has been written focusing on "mom guilt" and the responsibility and anxiety that comes along with mothering children. So much so that I often feel more guilt admitting that I don't usually struggle with those things than I feel about motherhood itself. It somehow seems selfish, haughty, or negligent to feel capable and confident, so please don't assume this means I think I'm a perfect mother. Far from it. I have made and will make mistakes, and I'm as covered in baby body fluids and food scraps as the next parent who didn't make it through her to-do list for the day. And I have an active, strong-willed daughter who isn't above throwing a nice tantrum in Target if she doesn't get her way. But for the most part, these aren't things that I spend a lot of time being concerned about. Mistakes are followed by apologies and forgiveness. Food scraps can be cleaned up. My to do list can (most of the time) wait. Tantrums are managed, or at least survived. As long as gentleness, rejoicing, thanksgiving, peace, and love are my focus in mothering, my child is going to be alright. I am capable, and where I am not, God is. Gentleness, it seems to me, is knowing that His grace is sufficient for me. His grace is sufficient for my children. His grace is sufficient to allay any anxiety, and I can rest. Take that, mom guilt.


 I don't know if Deborah - one of my favorite Old Testament characters - ever felt a guilty prickle in her conscience when she left her home (and presumably children) to accompany Barak and 10,000 Israelite men to fight the king of Canaan. But I do know that marching off to oversee a war while simultaneously judging Israel and prophesying isn't something that could be done while filled with doubt and insecurity. She, and later Jael as well, is a woman sure of herself and her actions because she is sure of God's faithfulness. If those aren't characteristics that should be emulated, I don't know what else there could be. That type of gentle self assurance is certainly something that I want my daughter to aspire to, and if I want that for her, I need to live that way myself. I think it's finally time for me to embrace it.


A Sleeping Update

So I finally sleep trained Elise. And it is MAGICAL. 

It all started when my friend Meghanne mentioned she was going to do it one day. At first I thought to myself, "I couldn't do it! She needs the extra comfort at night! She'll just outgrow it!" Meanwhile, all three of us were waking up multiple times each night, Elise and I both stayed awake until she nursed herself back to sleep, and then she was in our bed for the rest of the night. We were all tired, and things didn't seem to be improving fast enough for us to feel anything close to rested. 

The next night, after yet another day of feeling like I needed a nap from the moment I opened my eyes in the morning, I decided I'd give it just one more whirl. I'd tried on and off in the past, and usually after fifteen minutes and a couple of checks that just seemed to ramp up the hysteria, I'd called it quits. So that evening, I did our regular nighttime routine with Elise, but told her that I was going to go downstairs while she fell asleep and would check on her a little later. I have absolutely no idea if that helped or not, but she seemed to understand since she whimpered a bit when I put her in her crib. 

She started crying as I walked out the door and I told myself I'd give her until 8:00, which was nine minutes away. I sat on the stairs and watched the minutes tick by. One...two...three... and at the eight minute mark, there was silence. I tiptoed down the stairs and turned on the monitor, telling myself it was probably a fluke, but I'd try it again the next night. She woke up twice that night, but I also managed to get her to a) stay in her bed and b) not nurse herself back to sleep. When we all woke up in our respective beds in the morning, it felt a little too good to be true.

On night two, I gave her the same spiel before starting our routine. And when it was over, I put her in her bed and once again walked out the door. I sat myself down on the stairs, ready to either give up or sit for around eight minutes. By the time I had gone through that thought process, she'd stopped crying. 2.5 minutes. She proceeded to sleep from 8pm to 5:15am, then nursed, and then slept until 6:50 - an especially late hour for her.

On night three (last night), we were both feeling pretty good at bedtime. I walked out, and one minute later, she was putting herself to sleep. She woke up a few times during the night, but yet again I resettled her back into her bed without nursing. She woke up for the day at 7:10.

Tonight when I walked out of the room she didn't even fuss. I turned on the monitor when I got downstairs and I heard her babbling to herself a little bit, but all was quiet in less than five minutes. I'm crossing my fingers for no wake ups during the night.

I never thought I'd be able to do it, and I guess I previously thought that it might be too traumatic for Elise, but we're now on the flip side and I'm SO glad we did it. We wouldn't be here if she'd hit the 9 minute mark on the first night, so I take that as a sign that she was ready for it. She's very clearly NOT traumatized. And we're already all feeling the benefits from it. Elise seems happier in the mornings after having gotten a better night's sleep. Chaz and I are also feeling more sprightly as well, since even on the nights that Elise has woken up a couple of times, we aren't being jostled by a toddler elbow in our faces or backs or sides during the rest of the night. And while I admit that I sort of miss the middle of the night cuddles that co-sleeping gave me for a year, I think Elise's new ability to sleep independently will serve her (and us!) very well long term. 

Three cheers for sleep!


How to Travel by Plane with One Single Baby, One Year or Younger

I feel like I need to be EXTREMELY specific with the title of this blog post, because while we've successfully traveled a number of times with Elise, any recommendations I make are based strictly on our experience. Being that "our experience" only includes one child who has only just reached one year, you should probably take this with a grain of salt. Maybe a spoonful of grains, in fact. Nevertheless, I shall proceed, while acknowledging that whenever we have more than one child and we travel with said children, I'll probably need to blow this up and start over.


Here we go!


If at all possible - logistically, financially, or otherwise - aim for a flight that coincides with nap time or bed time. Unless your baby will not sleep except in his or her bed at very specific times, getting her to sleep is by far the easiest way to "enjoy" the flight yourself. It often means very little sleep for you as the parent, but it also means that you're not wrangling a crying baby for 5+ hours, or however long you're traveling for. Given those two options, I personally prefer the former. I can sleep when I'm dead, and if my kid isn't screaming, I won't die of embarrassment as a result of the trip. 

If you aren't able to choose a flight around a regular sleeping time, Godspeed. You will likely still make it to your destination in one piece, and you will hopefully never see anyone who was on your flight ever again. Dignity by obscurity!



For US domestic flights, many airlines do not require identification for your baby if you are traveling as a family. However, some do, so make sure to take a look at the airline's policy before you leave. To play it safe, bring a copy of your baby's birth certificate to ensure that you won't have any trouble.

If you're traveling internationally, your baby will need a passport. In addition, if you are traveling with your baby internationally and without your spouse, you might be questioned at the border since they're on the lookout for child abduction. Upon returning from France, the Icelandic border control guard let me through THAT TIME, but informed me that if I were to ever travel internationally with Elise and  without Chaz again, I should bring along a note from him saying that he had given his blessing. I assume that would have been true the other way around as well, if he had been traveling with Elise and without me. Otherwise, I SMELL THE PATRIARCHY.* Personally, I'm not sure forging a note would cause that much moral distress to someone who was already abducting a child, but evidently it makes all the difference. 


* Please note the sarcasm. 


Trying to decide what to do about a car seat is tricky, and depends on what you will be doing upon arrival to your destination. My preferred method is to not bring one and travel entirely by train, but that isn't usually doable in the US. If a car seat is necessary, there are a few different methods you can use:

  1. If you're renting a car, you can rent a car seat as well. Rental car companies usually have both infant and toddler car seats, and we've used this method successfully before. However, it's not the cheapest way, since you typically pay by day. 
  2. You can bring your own car seat. If you go this route, you can choose to either bring the seat on the plane (if your baby has his or her own seat, or if you're using it as one of your carry on items), check it when you check in, or gate check it. I know there is some concern about what happens to car seats in the cargo section of the plane and whether they get too abused to be safe, but I personally am not too worried about that after finding that my stroller did just fine in the belly of the beast.
  3. If you work out transportation from the airport to wherever you'll be staying, you can buy a cheap car seat on Amazon and ship it to your destination. This might work well if you plan on returning several times and have a place to store it when you're not using it. 


For starters, bring your spouse. It makes hauling all your stuff significantly easier. It also means that you can go to the bathroom at the airport (or on the plane) without strapping your baby to your back while simultaneously dragging your luggage and/or trying to get through security while everyone behind you in line wonders what the heck is taking you so long.

Glad we've got that covered. 

Spouse or no spouse, bring a stroller and a baby carrier. The stroller is great in the airport (after security), and the carrier is the BEST thing to have on the plane, especially if you've gotten your baby to sleep. Gate check the stroller so that you have it right away when you land, unless you don't. In the event that you don't, you still have your carrier, so it's not the end of the world.

Other things that I've found useful include toy/pacifier wipes for when toys (that your baby loves to stick in her mouth) inevitably fall on the ground, Purell wipes to somewhat mitigate the ingestion of germs that live on every single surface in the plane, snacks upon snacks upon snacks (since the airline will only give you pretzels if you're lucky), and an empty sippy cup. I like to fill up Elise's cup in the airport water fountain after security so that I don't have to depend on the flight attendant coming around with what must be the smallest imaginable bottle of water.


I also like to bring a few toys and board books, since they don't take up too much space and will entertain Elise for at least a few minutes. For the toys, I'll often bring a pacifier clip so that I can attach them to Elise and reduce the number of times I have to think about how many germs they picked up from the surfaces around us. Her O-ball was a particular hit when we went to France.

Lastly, diapers and wipes are obviously necessary. However, I usually adjust my changing supplies containment method while flying so that everything I need is all in a gallon ziplock bag. I bring between five to seven diapers (depending on the length of the flight), which is more than generous, but keeps me well within my comfort zone. I also include my package of wipes, hand sanitizer, and several sandwich-size ziplock bags so that I can dispose of any particularly smelly diapers without offending the next bathroom visitor. Having it all stored inside a gallon bag means that I can just grab it from my carry-on backpack and hoist both it and my baby down the plane center aisle without whacking people in the face with a giant diaper bag. I also don't need to wrestle with it in the closet that doubles as the airplane loo.

Oh, and make sure you bring your own survival tools. Dark chocolate is an absolute MUST.



I mean...do whatever is necessary. You know your baby the best. For me, that looks  like strapping Elise into the baby carrier and going to stand in the back of the plane to rock until she conks out. If she's tired - and so far we've mostly worked out flights so that she is tired by the time we're on board - she'll go to sleep fairly quickly. The only downside of this method is that you may or may not be in the travel path of the flight attendants getting minuscule bottles of water for other passengers. Eventually they will get tired of you having to move every time they come back and will tell you stand in the corner, which is actually preferable to standing in front of the bathrooms, which is where they had originally told you to stand. This process will also likely be smoother on international flights with more space in the back and often times more merciful flight attendants.  



This section could more accurately be "how to avoid having your baby cry during takeoff and landing." The trick can be found on probably every single traveling-with-babies blog post on the internet. Feed that tiny human both on the ascent and descent, and the ears will not cause you issues. Nursing, pouches, water, juice boxes, and even pacifiers in case of snack-less dire straits will do the trick. 


Crying at other times is most likely due to feeling uncomfortable, being overtired, needing food, or any of the other hosts of reasons babies cry when they are not on planes. If discomfort is the culprit, try changing the diaper. While it is possible to change a diaper in your lap or, if your child is big enough, while she stands between your knees, use your best judgement when it comes to the content of the diaper. In other words, if it's going to be rather pungent, proceed to the nearest plane bathroom and bring along your ziplock bags. I definitely dreaded changing in the bathroom the first time, and then I realized it wasn't that bad. It gets a bad rap, but as long as there is a changing table (and by golly, there SHOULD BE), it's not really that much different from changing your baby on a changing table at home without a changing pad. Speaking of which, make sure you bring a travel changing pad. If you don't, paper towels make an effective, albeit non-squishy alternative.


Congratulations! You made it through the hardest part! Now you just have to collect your stuff and get off the plane. If you're in another country, you will have to go through customs and get your passport stamped, but since you're not a criminal and the reason for your visit is obviously vacation, that's no big deal. My only note of import: make sure to take a good look around you before you get off the plane to verify that you haven't left behind anything of value. Or anything at all, for that matter. This last step used to be something I barely considered, because I'd usually put away anything that I took out when I finished using it. With a baby, many more things ended up outside of my luggage and didn't get replaced immediately, so the risk of losing something increased significantly. 


Jet Lag: it's a beast, unless you've done the red-eye thing. If you did an overnight flight, three cheers for you! You should be just fine. If you didn't, well...just make it past the first two days or so, and you will survive. Just prepare yourself to be very tired and try to keep as "normal" a schedule as possible so that you adjust naturally.


Useful Items: if you've gone somewhere international, don't bank on having high chairs in restaurants. Get yourself one of these before you go and you will be so so so so glad you did. If your baby is eating solid food, these will also turn you into the restaurant's favorite patron, since you're clearly not expecting the restaurant to clean up after your kid.

Ideal Age Range: this is probably a personal preference, but I really liked traveling around 9 months. It was nice to have an interested, yet non-walking baby who was eating enough food to sample things while abroad, but didn't want to do all the things herself. 12 months was much harder due to the walking/independence, but was still totally doable. Traveling at 5 months was also a little nerve-wracking, but only because we hadn't done it before. So my recommendation is around 9 months, but opinions are not fact. There you have it.


Sleeping Arrangements: I have yet to travel with a pack and play, but I have transported a Dockatot and am happy to report that you CAN squish that into a large suitcase. However, there's no way I'm bringing something that large on a long haul trip, so at least while we were in France, I just co-slept. It was much easier than any other option. But! If you don't want to do that, hotels often have cribs or pack and plays, and if you're lucky, the family you're visiting on the other side of the country will have one available thanks to other, now-older grandchildren. Finally, if that hadn't been possible for us, this thing (or any of the similar ones) would have arrived on my doorstep faster than I could use the "Buy With One Click" button on Amazon. That button is dangerous.

Diapers/Wipes: While I do bring as many wipes as I can comfortably fit, I like to bring just as many diapers as I need for the first day or two and then buy more when I get there. This philosophy worked out particularly well in France, where it turns out that grocery store diapers were superior and significantly less expensive than Pampers. I wish I could get them here.

So there's all my advice! Go forth and explore the globe, fellow parents! Then come back and tell me what else I should have included. May your children be less wiggly for souvenir photos than ours.








Blueberries for (Everyone But) Sal

I heard a rumor recently - or really, I read a bunch of reviews, blog posts, and other various online recommendations - that declared that Cider Hill Farm had the best cider donuts in the realm. While it isn't even close to apple season yet, cider donuts don't require fresh apples, and coupled with the idea of picking our own blueberries (which ARE in season), we decided we needed to check it out for ourselves. 

It's 20 minutes from us, and so once we'd gotten ourselves ready for the day, we hopped in the car this morning and headed over. I would never have guessed there were several farms up there, since the exit ramp specifically says "Beaches," but turns out there were several, many of which had their own farm stands, complete with the requisite wickedly expensive farm to table eggs, fruit, veggies, etc. We passed them all, naturally. Farm-Mecca was still beckoning. 

We arrived! It was...warm, but not so toasty that we feared melting. Upon picking up two empty picking buckets, we were directed to the blueberry bushes on the right. And so we started over, but not before saying hello to the resident chickens and goats. Elise made a new friend. 


As a side note: I'm quite in love with her little curls on the back of her head. I hope they stay forever.

Once Elise had had enough of the animals, we continued on to the blueberry section. Fortunately for our sweat glands, the blueberries were close to the entrance. However, the farm also has strawberries and raspberries available for picking at the moment. Later in the summer, we'll also be able to find peaches, apples, and pumpkins, and I'm already really looking forward to going back. Maybe for each of those things, in fact...

Anyway! I'm distracting myself. We were there today for blueberries!


We picked and picked until we filled our two small containers to bring home. The berries were plentiful and the company was the best I could have asked for. Elise had a ball, and got the hang of picking the berries off the bushes and dropping them into the containers pretty fast. Fortunately, she's not all that into eating fresh fruit, so we didn't have to worry about her eating more than we took home. In regular life, this fact is rather more unfortunate than fortunate, but I prefer to look on the bright side whenever possible.


By the end, we were very satisfied with our haul and had more than enough for at least one batch of blueberry muffins (come on over tomorrow afternoon if you want one hot out of the oven!), and Elise looked like she had been ready for a nap half an hour ago. This is the most enthusiastic picture I got with her. 


I promise that she actually did have fun. Evidently she just had more fun when she was with Chaz than with me. 


We ended our trip with a family selfie (because #millenials) and a quick jaunt through their farm stand/store, because we could not leave without a donut. That was half the point of going, remember? And OH MAN. They lived up to their reputation. RUN THERE NOW. You need these donuts in your life. 


The farm shop had a ton of cute wares that I wish we'd had more time to investigate, but with the napping hour having approached, knocked, waved, and played Ding Dong Ditch an hour prior, we kept the perusing to a skim rather than a dive. But we'll be back! They won't be able to keep us away! If I weren't already pumped about fall, this trip would have tipped the scale in that direction all by itself.

Too soon? 


A Morning at the Beach

Our "local" splash pad, it seems, has it out for me. I put local in quotes thanks to the fact that it's actually a 15 minute drive from our house, but when you choose to live in a slightly more rural location, a 15 minute drive is about as local as it gets when it comes to amenities like that. 

I've now tried to bring Elise there twice, and both times I have been supremely thwarted. The first time, I got Elise all ready to go, and we hopped in the car with my mom. Elise fell asleep on the way there - no big deal, since it was a short drive - and when we arrived we found a line of cars in front of a closed gate. It turned out that everyone in each of the surrounding towns had the same idea, and the splash pad was "full." The gates wouldn't open for another 45 minutes, and there was no way I was going to sit in a car with a napping baby on hot asphalt for that long. We turned around and went home.

The second time was this morning. Elise woke up early, and so I figured we'd go straight there after getting ready for the day. That part worked! We got in the car before 9:00, and drove merrily along until we were nearly there. At the very last turn, we came across a police man in a nice yellow vest directing traffic in front of a sign: "ROAD CLOSED." 

"Well," I thought to myself, "a road has two ends; I bet the other end is open!" We took a detour to the other end. Can you guess what we found? If you guessed another road closure sign, you'd be right. Thwarted again! Who closes an entire road for what I can only assume was a small patch of construction? And what about the people that live on said road? 

I'm not over it, apparently.

Nevertheless, I was determined to get Elise to some fun water, and we were closer to the nicest beach in the area than we would have been at home, so we did a quick about face and headed that way instead.

While the entry fee to the beach was a little steeper than I anticipated, it was a glorious day, and since we had gotten an earlier start, not many people had arrived yet. We set down our bag, slapped on the sunscreen, and I let Elise roam...while staying approximately 2 inches behind her every time she ran in the direction of the water. She absolutely loved it, and if you asked her, she might even say that it was more fun than the splash pad. That said, she's never been to the splash pad. Maybe the third time will be the charm.


On Putting a Baby to Sleep

Elise does not like to sleep. Actually, better said, Elise does not like to fall asleep alone. I probably could have avoided this little dilemma if I'd sleep trained her months ago, but I didn't, and here we are. 

For the first few months, going to bed looked like nursing her to sleep and then putting her in the Dockatot in our bed.


It worked until it didn't - she got too big and we had to come up with a new plan. It then morphed into nursing her to sleep and putting her in the pack and play next to our bed. Progress! She wasn't IN our bed anymore! 


Eventually, I grew out of my new mom is-my-baby-going-to-die-if-I'm-not-hovering-over-her phase and realized that she'd be just fine sleeping in her own room (though at that point we did get the AngelCare monitor, so maybe I'm still outgrowing that particular irrational fear). She also started going to bed at 7:00, so then bedtime changed again to nursing her to sleep, putting her in her crib, and learning to avoid all the squeaky spots in her floor as I tiptoed out of her room since we now had the evening free.


Fast forward another couple of months and Elise no longer nursed to sleep. Instead, she'd finish up, start smiling, patting my face, and then screaming the moment I put her in her crib. However, she'd fall asleep rather quickly if she just snuggled for awhile, and so we did that. 


And then one day, she decided it was more exciting to stay awake and climb on top of me than fall asleep, and the jig was up. She had to fall asleep in her bed. However, she also has extreme separation anxiety when it comes to bedtime, which leaves me stuck in her room beside her crib until she falls asleep. She deemed this method acceptable, in that she no longer screamed when she was put down.

Most nights she settles quickly and I'm in and out of there in 20 minutes start to finish, but some nights, let's say...TONIGHT FOR EXAMPLE, she fights sleep like it's out to get her. On nights like that, my internal dialogue starts to sound a bit desperate by the end, while externally I remain silent and completely still so as to avoid creating a distraction:

"Maybe tonight will be a good night! Maybe she'll just put her head down, shut her eyes, and be immediately asleep."

"Exactly how close do I need to be to the crib in order for her proximity meter to register an acceptable reading? Can I at least lie on the bed instead of the floor?"


"Just put your head down, child."

"Good job! Suck that thumb until the cows come home!"

"Why is your head back up?"


"Yessssss. Lying back down."

"Why are you repeatedly smacking your mattress? How does that help you fall asleep??"




"I may need to invest in that notorious 'children's book' for adults." 

"Why are you still awake?"

"What if I just sneak out while she's facing the other direction...?"

"Wait, I've tried that before. It only prolongs the process."

"I've been lying on a FLOOR for 30 minutes. Is this really the best use of time?"

"Why didn't I suck it up and sleep train months ago...?"

"When I finally get downstairs I should google if it's possible to spoil a child by catering to her need to have me nearby to sleep."

"Wait! Is this it? Is she sleeping?? Can I escape???"


-- 10 minutes later --

"I give up."




Monday Meandering

Monday, man. What a day of the week. Our Monday has thus far included both a nap and a doctor visit involving a baby (ahem: mine) who managed to pee on the mat at the door in the exam room, so I'll give it a solid C. Could be worse, could be better. Upon arriving at home, the vaccine aftermath wasn't so bad either:


Thanks for the quasi-emo high quality photo, light-blocking shades. 

We'll follow that up with an epsom salt bath later and I suspect all with be right with the world.

In other news, the Bachelorette is on tonight and I'm more than a little ashamed to admit I will probably be watching. Chaz has meetings on Monday nights, and so I need SOMETHING to do. It would undoubtedly be much more productive and/or enriching to pursue a creative enterprise during that time, but sometimes a good brainless show is just the ticket to think about nothing for awhile. Please tell me that I'm not alone so that I can assuage my guilt.

I'm going to end this rather pointless, rambly post while we're ahead behind and finish up with a picture of Elise wearing my glasses. I needed an extra dose of it in my life, so perhaps you did too.


One Year of Elise in Photos (x2)

I suppose this is a bit of a continuation of the birthday post, but this is basically all photos. Throughout the course of the year, I took two series of photos each month. One was the "real" set with a legitimate camera, and the other was in our Moses basket and with my phone. I was much more consistent on the date of the photos with the camera, but the basket ones are fun to see exactly how much she grew! And so here you go: the basket photos first, then the others. 

And then the camera photos!

I'm just milking all the birthday stuff over here. Don't mind me. You can expect at least one more...because she only turns one once, after all!

One Year of Elise

Elise turned one on Memorial Day, and we spent the first half of the day up in Vermont and the second half driving home. But while it wasn't the most celebratory day of all time, we still had a good time, and her real birthday party is next weekend! No doubt I will recap that as well. In the meantime, I did still take my normal volume of month stat pictures, and then I tripled that amount for good measure.  


Within the last month, she learned things in leaps and bounds! The most exciting one is that she is walking all over the place, and she seems delighted with her newfound ability to walk without holding on to someone's hand. I suspect she will move on to running in the next week with how fast she still likes to push her little cart. 


She's added some more words to her vocabulary, and uses them with great frequency. If you visit our house, you'll likely hear her say, "Uh oh," "Duck," and "Wowwwww!" The last one is most often employed when hearing, seeing, or thinking about the construction vehicles that are currently working on replacing our formerly rotten wooden retaining wall along our driveway. That's another story for another time. If you were hoping for a visual of her saying her favorite word, look no further!


In addition to the spoken word, she has also created her own version of the sign for All Done. She makes this sign when she has finished eating a meal, wants to get out of her car seat, or has woken up for the day and would like to get out of her crib. 


Since the weather has gotten warmer at long last, we've spent more time outside. She loves being out there, and this month she's discovered the singular joy of feeling the grass on her bare feet. She loves it, and we've already had several baths on non-bath days thanks to having dirt on her knees. I consider that a sign of a day well spent.


Her favorite food lately is cardboard. Yes, you read that right. While she often refuses tasty things like fruit, she will chow down on tags, board books, boxes, and church bulletins, and within seconds will tear tiny pieces off and swallow them if I don't catch her in time. Fortunately for the board books, she also likes reading, so I don't have to be quite as vigilant around those as I do around other pieces of paper. Nevertheless, most of her books have bite marks, evidently indicating to the world that they belong to her and her alone.


Her animal sound repertoire has increased, and in addition to lions and monkeys, she'll reliably tell you what owls and birds say when asked. Occasionally she'll remember what a cow says, so we'll be working on that one next. 


Her sleep has also improved lately, which has been wonderful. It had been rather terrible between 10 and 12 months, with a typical night including two or three wake ups and getting up for the day around 5:30. In the last couple of days she's only been waking once and sleeping in a little later, so I'm hoping that will continue. 


It's quite odd to think that this is the last of her month by month posts, since it seems a bit unusual to continue reporting beyond a year. Cue a barrage of thoughts about the speed of time. However, in lieu of actually writing those out, I present to you a stream of photos of Elise with a party hat or five. What could be better than that?


Happy very first birthday, sweet girl! We love you forever and can't wait to watch as you continue to grow.

Eleven Months of Elise

Elise is 11 months now! That came up quickly thanks to the fact that I didn't write her 10 month report until two weeks into the month. But a lot of things happened between 10 and 11 months! Time for an update.


In recent days, Elise has become slightly pickier in her eating habits. She's a big fan of spitting things out, but I read somewhere on some moms' message board - the best source of quality information, right? - that this particularly delightful habit is sometimes related to teething. That doesn't seem too far fetched because between 10 and 11 months she cut three teeth all at once! She's up to eight total, and it's changed her little smile quite a bit. 


She must have hit a growth spurt as well, because we used 12 month onesies for about two weeks before she needed the 18 month size. 


Last month I mentioned we were working on some animal sounds, but the lion was the only one that was consistent. Well, shortly after that, she mastered a monkey's sound as well! She's learned a lot lately - she's clapping, raises her hands when she hears us cheer, and if you ask her where your nose is, she'll point to it without fail. 


Her hair continues to grow as well, which is good - she doesn't get random strangers referring to her as "Baldie" anymore. But the best part about it is that as long as her hair dries right after a bath, she ends up with a single curl right on the top of her head. I'm just hoping it doesn't eventually descend down to the middle of her forehead, because there's a rhyme about that. 


Within the last week or two she's gotten especially good at standing independently, and now it's much more often on purpose than it was before. It's hard to capture in a picture since she's always on the move, but every once in awhile, I get lucky:


Her favorite activities include opening and emptying drawers, pulling all of her books off of her little bookshelf, pointing at anything she finds interesting, cruising around with her push cart, and, more than anything else, holding on to our hands and walking around the house. She'd do it for hours if she could, and she gets rather sad when we have to let go and do something else. In that case, she'll go back to her push cart, which she recently learned how to steer!


But her biggest accomplishment this month is that a couple days shy of her "month day," she took a step! It was only one, and at first she wasn't too happy about it, but she did it and she has done it several times since. 


We keep cheering her on with each new development. It really is amazing to see how a baby can go from being completely and entirely dependent on you in the first days of life to a little independent person all within the space of a year. I mean, let's be honest...she's still very dependent in most ways. But it's so much fun watching her personality reveal itself every single day. What a blessing.


And next month, she'll be one! Prepare yourself for an onslaught of pictures of Elise in a white onesie...with a birthday hat. 

Scattered Things

Hello there! I guess I haven't had much noteworthy material to discuss in great detail lately, since I often get to the end of the day and think, "You know, I should blog. But I can't think of anything, so I guess I'll just watch a documentary on the British royal family instead." The documentary might also have been another show (Jessica Jones season 2, anyone?), or perhaps a baking project, or maybe some sewing, but I often end up only doing one leisure activity per night, and blogging, I suppose, hasn't come in first place on the leisure activity hierarchy within the past couple of weeks.

So here we are. And this isn't even a real post, since it's more of a series of hot takes. Feel free to take it or leave it.

Item 1: I think Elise needs at least one more pair of pajamas. She has four pairs at the moment, and because they somehow need washing after a single wear every single night, I need to get some more. Or maybe I just need to get off Lazy Island and do laundry more than once every four days. Actually, that's probably the real answer, because when I do have to do laundry, it's the size of Mount Doom and it takes an age and a half to fold. Or perhaps the REAL real answer is that I should get in the habit of actually putting her in her bib before she eats yogurt for breakfast...


Item 2: I'm finding that I'm missing my job a little more this summer than last summer, mostly because of all the travel it entailed over those months. I didn't think about it too much last summer since I was in the throes of postpartum recovery and taking care of a newborn, but now that we've gotten into a good groove and Elise is a little more independent, I wish it was easier to hop on a plane once (or more) times per month and check out a new spot. Of course, I say that while I'm happily playing with an almost-toddler, idealistically forgetting how exhausted I was at the end of a corporately-focused summer when I never wanted to hear the word "economy seat" ever again. This is probably a great time for me to recall that great parenting refrain: everything is a phase. There will be more high frequency traveling seasons in the future, I'm sure. In the meantime, I'll also remind myself that we literally just traveled and should be grateful for that.


Item 3: Now that the weather is FINALLY warmer, we've been enjoying more time outside lately! Since Elise learned to sit during the winter months, she had never been in a swing outside until now. Turns out she loves it, and I expect we'll be doing a lot of it this summer. 


Item 4: My hot chocolate obsession began just before Paris and it has continued since our arrival back home, and I actually have a shocking number of pictures of mugs of it on my phone. Evidently I only break from my constant stream of photos of Elise when I'm presented with a steaming cup of cocoa topped with a mountain of whipped cream:

 The pinnacle of all hot chocolate I've tried, from the Musée D'Orsay.

The pinnacle of all hot chocolate I've tried, from the Musée D'Orsay.

 The first tasty mug of hot chocolate in Basel, Switzerland.

The first tasty mug of hot chocolate in Basel, Switzerland.

 The second tasty mug from Basel. Hard to say which was better.

The second tasty mug from Basel. Hard to say which was better.

 Decent hot chocolate with an attractive backdrop in Portsmouth, NH.

Decent hot chocolate with an attractive backdrop in Portsmouth, NH.

 Another decent one in Beverly, MA. I seem to use the same angle for almost all of these shots...

Another decent one in Beverly, MA. I seem to use the same angle for almost all of these shots...

 Homemade, with a dash of peppermint extract.

Homemade, with a dash of peppermint extract.

In case anyone is curious, almost every mug of chocolate I've encountered in the US is sub par, including the ones I've made with a host of mixes. However, just this week I discovered the most European-style hot chocolate since returning from the motherland itself. If you too are a MA-based hot chocolate connoisseur, look no further than Tartine in Beverly. It will not disappoint! While not quite as thick as the hot chocolate in France, the flavor was about the same. Not too sweet, no sugar sludge at the bottom. Of course I took a picture. That's a question that didn't even need asking. 

 I didn't even miss the whipped cream.  Item 5: My parents are in the process of moving (closer to us! yay!), and in doing so they've given us some of the things that I had when I was small. The most recent of those things was my rocking horse, and Elise was p.u.m.p.e.d.

I didn't even miss the whipped cream.

Item 5: My parents are in the process of moving (closer to us! yay!), and in doing so they've given us some of the things that I had when I was small. The most recent of those things was my rocking horse, and Elise was p.u.m.p.e.d.

 Item 6: This is perhaps the most random of all the things in this post. My hands are always dry in the winter, and we're talking the cracked and bleeding variety. This year, it was much worse than usual, and it continued until this past week, which is far later than usual. I attribute that to more frequent hand washing thanks to changing diapers. It had gotten so bad that I would dread washing my hands every time, because it felt like getting a thousand small paper cuts as soon as my hands hit the water. Not a good thing! I crowd sourced some recommendations on a Facebook group, and lo and behold, I have a new miracle product.  This stuff  has completely changed the game, and it's like my hands were never dry at all! And it only took one use! 

Item 6: This is perhaps the most random of all the things in this post. My hands are always dry in the winter, and we're talking the cracked and bleeding variety. This year, it was much worse than usual, and it continued until this past week, which is far later than usual. I attribute that to more frequent hand washing thanks to changing diapers. It had gotten so bad that I would dread washing my hands every time, because it felt like getting a thousand small paper cuts as soon as my hands hit the water. Not a good thing! I crowd sourced some recommendations on a Facebook group, and lo and behold, I have a new miracle product. This stuff has completely changed the game, and it's like my hands were never dry at all! And it only took one use! 


It also rates really well in the Skin Deep database, so I feel pretty good about using it. Just thought I should pass on the discovery, because a magical hand cream is worth its weight in gold. 

I could add more, but we're heading to a party with cupcakes and we definitely don't want to miss out on that. 

Ten Months of Elise

We've made it to another month day! Happy 10 months, Elise!

Also, a note: a took her pictures on the actual day, but I have been remiss in my chronicling duties and am posting about it a week late. Alas! 

The most notable thing to occur this month was the big trip, of course. That included several milestones for Elise: first international trip, first passport stamp, first croissant, etc. But she's glad to be home now, exploring her familiar things and places, and she's growing like a weed. Her 9-month clothes are getting too short, and I'm packing up some of my favorite outfits in favor of ones that fit. While I normally start with the standard white onesie shots, I decided to first pay homage to her hedgehog pajamas with the matching hat, since they're going to end up in the storage box after their next washing.


She's been practicing standing all on her own more and more lately, usually when she's absorbed in something (like removing all of the books from her bookshelf). She has also expanded her vocabulary a bit, using more consonants and speaking in what sound like full sentences of gibberish. 


We also discovered that she has sprouted yet another tooth, bringing the total up to five. I suspect that the same tooth on the other side is on its way in as well, but she hasn't been complaining about it. As a result, it may be a little while before her mouth gets into a symmetrical state again. She's totally pulling off the look though. 


She has also been sampling a ton of foods! She'll eat whatever is on my plate, and so I've tried to become more intentional about making her a little miniature meals at mealtime so that she gets a substantial amount of solids each day. That works some days and other days she subsists entirely on milk, but since food is more for exploration than nutrition at this point, I think she's doing just fine. 


As of eight or nine months, she began playing games with people, usually with Chaz, where she leans all the way over to one side when she's sitting or standing and expects you to reciprocate. Once you've leaned over to match her, she'll lean the other way and wait for you to follow. She thinks it's hilarious and the game is typically accompanied with lots of smiles, babbling, and giggles. 


And whenever she's in the presence of a light blanket, you can be sure she'll play peekaboo with you. She pulls the blanket up so it's covering her face, and when you ask where she is, she'll pull it down with gusto and grin. 


She has also developed a strong affinity for climbing anything and everything that she can, so stairs hold a particular fascination for her. However, when stairs are not available, the nearest chair suits her just fine. 


Fear not; I rescued her immediately once things started heading that direction. 

When not climbing, her preferred activity of late has been reading, which I love. She sits on our laps to read, and when we get to the end of the page, she'll reach with her left hand (only - never the right) and turn it. She really loves lift-the-flap books, and her absolute favorite is Dear Zoo. She gets very excited when we begin, and her excitement culminates on the page with the lion. So much so, in fact, that when you ask, "Elise, what does a lion say?" at any point, she'll roar. It's the best. We're still working on monkey and elephant noises, since those are some of the other animals in the book, but having the lion noise down pat is pretty great. 

I think that's all I have to report for the moment. See you next month for another report!

Euro Trip with a Baby, Part 3

Congratulations! You've made it to the last chapter of our seemingly everlasting narrative!

To conclude our time in Basel, we attempted to board an earlier train to Paris than the one for which we had a ticket. I repacked all of our many things, including the items we'd picked up as souvenirs along the way, and they somehow still managed to fit in our bags. I'm still not sure how that worked, because I'm pretty sure I left the US with no room to spare. 

Once packed, I fed Elise, changed her diaper, got her into all her outdoor gear, strapped her in the stroller, attached everything else to various parts of my body, and we left the hotel. Since Chaz was going to be checking out the next day, we left our key in the room so that he could return it (along with his own key) at that point. We arrived at the train station with plenty of time to spare, so we picked up a pretzel and some water to keep us well fed and hydrated on the train. 

When we got to the track, I figured it'd be best to confirm that getting on an earlier train was fine. Would it have been fine? Yes. Would it have been free? NO. The conductor informed me it would be an extra $131 (USD), and we suddenly had an extra four hours to kill with all of our luggage...over nap time. What a development. Back to the hotel we went. Suddenly leaving the key in the room seemed like a terrible idea, but when you're laden with a tiny human and bags hanging off of most of your appendages, the front desk people don't ask too many questions when you say you left your key in the room.

I had intended to go to the (utterly wonderful) Swiss grocery store once more in those four hours, but instead it turned into a nap fest. Elise decided sleeping with her feet on me was the most comfortable position.


She got a good rest and then we washed, rinsed, and repeated the same process again for the second time. The silver lining here was that Rachael was now on the same train! Hip hip hooray!


Three hours and sixteen minutes later we found ourselves back in Paris, ready to catch our flight home the next day. But since we WERE in Paris, we immediately knew we needed to make the most of our remaining couple of hours. 

To do:

  1. Eat crêpes. 
  2. Buy more Ladurée macarons.
  3. Take in the final sights.

Our train had arrived at 7:45 pm, so by the time we were setting out from the hotel it was 8:45. First stop: crêpes. Oh my goodness. We found the BEST crêpe place in le Marais, which is, in my humble opinion, the loveliest historic district in the city. It's also a safe place for two women and a baby to be walking around at night, so win-win. But the CRÉPES. If you're in Paris, you must go to La Droguerie. You must! Rachael and I each got two crêpes - one savory (for dinner, of course) and one sweet. 


And look at the jolly Frenchman in the back! He was the crêpe master, and he gave us free cups of tasty mint tea and told me my French was good. I was flattered. However, he did first ask if I was American...

I shared my apple-filled crêpe with Elise, and she LOVED it. 


Each time I offered it to her, she'd try to take a bigger bite, and once it was in her mouth she wouldn't let go. If the baby approves, you know you've got a good thing going. 

With filled bellies, we made our way back to the metro and raced toward Ladurée on the Champs-Élysées. They closed at 11 and we walked in at 10:59. The ladies at the counter begrudgingly filled our macaron order and rather smugly turned away the man that walked in at 11:00, but no amount of near-closing-time attitude could stifle our anticipation over the imminent macaron consumption. I'm happy to report that they exceeded our expectations. 


With our final stop of the night complete, we felt like we'd hit everything we needed to and went back to the hotel feeling content and ready to head home in the morning. Our flight was at 11:30 am, so we decided we'd leave at 9:00 to give ourselves plenty of time to get to the airport. Please note: we each received an email informing us that there was a Nor'easter scheduled to hit Boston at the same time as our flight, and that we should be prepared for a delay. This email also mentioned that we could make one free change to our flight plans, but we figured we'd use that in case we got stuck in Reykjavik due to our Boston flight being canceled.

What we did not anticipate was leaving half an hour late and that it took roughly 1.5 hours to get from our hotel to the airport, thanks to rush hour traffic. If you're wondering how we still made our flight...great question. WE DIDN'T. 

Up until that point, I had never missed a flight in my life. I think if it had been any other flight, I would have been out the full airfare for rebooking my ticket, but guess what came in handy? The email! We cashed in on that one free flight change and voila! Rachael, Elise, and I now had a whole extra day in Paris. Considering chances were extremely high that our Reykjavik to Boston flight was going to be canceled anyway (and we later found out that it was), the missed flight was rather fortuitous. 

You've certainly heard the "when life hands you lemons" saying. I'm going to raise you one and say that when life hands you lemons, you occasionally get the chance to practice alchemy and not only make lemonade, but convert your yellow lemons to yellow gold and live it up to the hilt. We chose this opportunity to take that route and I'm pretty sure our spontaneous extra day was the very best. 

First, we found a hotel for the night. We picked the location carefully - le Marais! More crêpes for us! Our room had the most perfect window, and with the slightly warmer temperature and sunny day, we left it open to provide us with some fresh air. 


We dropped off all of our stuff (another award to Rachael for seriously saving me when it came to hoisting Elise, the stroller, and my suitcase up several flights of stairs between the airport and the hotel), regrouped a bit, and then went in search of lunch. Elise made sure to practice some conducting before we set off. 


We hit the road and discovered that the Rue de Rivoli is basically the affordable version of the Champs-Élysées. The result? A shopping excursion! We made a bee line for H&M thanks to the fact that while I was perfectly fine wearing the same pants and shirt again for an extra travel day, there are other articles of clothing that I was definitely NOT ok rewearing. Hence the need for a dependable, cheap store with all the...basics.

Along the way we stopped for lunch at a patisserie simply called "Paul." In spite of the simple name, our three-cheese flatbread pizza and chocolate cake were anything but simple, and we walked out feeling rather sprightly and well-fed. We also stumbled across a grand cathedral and used it both as an opportunity for prayers and photos. One of those things felt significantly more holy than the other.


In retrospect, we should have stayed inside the cathedral and said more prayers, because shortly after departing we got caught in a heavy downpour. Perhaps that was God's casual smiting for taking a few too many photos. We ran the last couple of blocks toward H&M and shook off the few raindrops that hadn't already soaked into our clothes, which led to the discovery that Elise had made great use of the rain as a distraction for removing and disposing of her hat. It was gone forever, sadly, but H&M thwarted her dreams of remaining hatless as we left with a new one in hand. Or rather...on her head. 

After a couple more stops, I realized that if we had any hope of being able to sit down for dinner that night Elise would need a nap, so we made our way back to the hotel. Baby naps have their perks - time to search for the perfect dinner place! A quick Google inquiry for best (affordable) restaurants in le Marais led us to Le Colimaçon, and this is where our extra day went from simply lovely to totally awesome. It turned out to literally be the BEST MEAL. As in best meal I've ever eaten in my entire life, and possibly the best meal I hope to consume for the rest of my life. I knew Paris had good food, but this was above and beyond.

Because we were looking for restaurants in the neighborhood we were staying, we were able to walk. It had warmed up a bit over the course of the trip, so it might be more accurate to say we strolled. I mean, we did have a stroller, so we definitely strolled. The sights were perfectly Parisian, and for a brief moment I wondered if I'd accidentally walked onto the set of Roman Holiday. I then mentally reprimanded myself for that thought seeing as Roman Holiday is set in Rome. 


It was far too late in the trip to blame jet lag. Baby sleep, perhaps? 

We arrived at the restaurant and were almost turned away because we hadn't made a reservation. At the last moment - the very last, since we had already walked out the door - the waitress ran after us and informed us that someone had reserved a table for six, but only four attended, so a table was available! 

It was a tiny dining room that felt friendly and intimate in a way that only the French can pull off. Elise must have inhaled the classiness of the place and translated it into feeling compliant, because she sat in my lap and chattered quietly while gnawing on a piece of bread as opposed to her normal decibel level for talking in quiet places. That level is off the charts and is typically reserved for church. In case you need proof, here's a shot of both of stuffing our faces with a shared piece of bread prior to the arrival of the main course.


We didn't take any pictures of the actual food because it was too glorious to behold and might have broken our cameras. Also because we dug into it so fast that we didn't think to whip out any sort of photo-taking device, and once we'd started in there was no stopping us. My steak was perfectly cooked with a divine brown sauce of some sort, and I don't use the word divine lightly! Alongside the steak were vegetables and a small salad, paired with a delicious Merlot that the waitress had recommended. Elise particularly enjoyed the carrots dipped in the brown sauce, and would open her mouth for another bite each time she swallowed.

It was so good that we couldn't say no to dessert, so we followed it up with a chocolate mousse that was probably sent straight from the heavens on to our plates. Elise may or may not have sampled a tiny taste of that as well...the c'est la vie! mentality struck again. I didn't want her to miss out on the meal of a lifetime! 

We left the restaurant and walked back to the hotel vowing to return with our respective spouses in the future. If I say it out loud, it has to happen, right? In the words of the Terminator, I'LL BE BACK. 

So we never actually had more crêpes, but it didn't matter because we'd found something even better. We peaked at the very end, which is the ideal way to (un)plan a trip!

The next day we left 1.5 hours earlier than we'd left the previous day, picked an alternative way to get to the airport, and got to our flight with plenty of time to buy ourselves a final croissant and hot chocolate at the gate. The plane rides were uneventful, and Elise figured out a great way to both entertain herself and give me a workout: 


We arrived home to a foot of snow, no power, a buried car, and several trees down in our driveway, but we were able to stay with my parents that night and power was restored the following morning. All was well, and best of all, we were reunited once again! We took a blurry selfie to commemorate the occasion. 


And with that, our international adventures were ended. À bientôt, Paris! 

Euro Trip with a Baby, Part 2

Welcome back to the second installment of the Euro Baby Chronicles. I can promise a continuation of our lengthy recap that may or may not stretch into a THIRD post. I guess we'll find out after I type for awhile longer.

Where did we leave off? Oh yes. The passport was recovered, dinner was delicious, and we had turned in for the night. We had a nice comfy bed and a lovely view overlooking the street in a charming hotel, although it turned out that the other half of our traveling party had issues with their shower. Sad times! I think the hotel made up for it with their delicious breakfast offerings though. Elise sampled a croissant and I ate another two myself, coupled with yet another hot chocolate. When in Rome, you know? Or better said...when in Paris, you know?


After enjoying her croissant, Elise spent a couple of extra minutes hanging out with Rachael while I went on a quick mission to buy some diapers from the nearby market. Turned out they were quasi-closed - they informed me I needed to leave after I walked through the very much unlocked door - but Elise clearly loved her quality time. 


Upon my return, we squashed all of us and our various suitcases, bags, and the recently-delivered stroller (!) into an Uber and sped across town to the Gare de l'Est train station to ride toward Colmar. Colmar is a tiny town in the Alsace region on the eastern border of France (wine country!), and if you want a visual, picture a village straight out of Beauty and the Beast and you'll be right on the money.

It was COLD. 

We also had all of our bags since we were going to end up in Basel, but Google had informed us that the bike shop next door would stow luggage for the day for a mere two Euro per item. Great news! The downside? The bike shop was closed for lunch, and would not reopen for two hours. The upside? The train station had a little restaurant. We camped out, drank some hot drinks, and waited until the bike shop employees had finished their afternoon lunch + siesta. After walking so many miles in the previous two days, I don't think any of us were sad about the forced break. 


When the appointed hour came, we dropped off the luggage and made our way into town on foot. It was as charming as ever and as lovely as I had remembered from my first time there, albeit much chillier. We found a sandwich shop for lunch and then proceeded to walk around town, stopping in shops where we wanted to investigate items we'd seen in the window and taking all sorts of pictures of our surroundings along the way. 


There were two places to note in particular: first, we found French Target. Monoprix has everything from diapers and wipes (thank goodness - I had just used up my very last one from home) to food to housewares to clothing, and all of it was adorable. Elise got a souvenir from here, because it's an unspoken yet widely acknowledged rule that you can't pass through Target/Monoprix and leave empty-handed.


I should add that I found the French generic-brand diapers to be significantly superior to Pampers. I'm still working on trying to get a subscription service sent to my house directly from Monoprix.


Second, we found an ice cream shop called Edelw'ice. 

Let's pause for a moment to really appreciate the greatness of that pun. 

I stood in the street and laughed out loud because hello, I'm a nerd. Had it not been so cold, I would have bought as much as I could from them just because I loved the name of the business so much. Here's a blurry photo taken so that I could revel in the punny glory for ages to come:


After laughing so hard, we needed a snack, so we hit up a nearby chocolate and pastry shop for our pick me up. Elise was beyond delighted to be released from the constraints of her stroller, and she didn't hesitate to let the entire dining area know about her glee. 


Fortunately, the window distracted her enough that we were able to make it through our tea and (yet more) croissants without shattering any porcelain dishware, and we left with full bellies and slightly damaged eardrums. Back to the bike shop we trudged to pick up our luggage and hop on the train to Basel!


Oh, and we gave up on the stroller for that last leg. Elise got the Ergo treatment instead.


The half hour train ride was quite uneventful as Elise fell asleep the moment we got on board. After a very active day, I think I may have appreciated her nap even more than she did. She was a total traveling champ on this trip and I was so very proud of her. Look at how happy she was, even when she was pooped!


She did have mittens...but she would just take them off approximately five seconds after I put them on. Every. Single. Time. 

The vibe of the trip changed a little bit once we got to Basel due to the change of purpose. I mean...my purpose was still the same, but Julie was heading back home, and Rachael was there on a business trip. Do you know who else was there for business? CHAZ! We overlapped with him for a grand total of two nights (he worked during the day, of course), and in that span of time we took zero pictures of us all together. Evidently our priorities were elsewhere - his with work and mine with eating carbs and sugar.


Basel is definitely a city, but it's a much smaller, quieter city than a giant one like Paris. The effect of that change was that every single thing is closed on Sunday, and we had arrived on a Saturday night. Nevertheless, Elise and I rallied on Sunday morning, got ready for the day, and eventually went exploring after her morning nap. 

As a quick aside - it is logistically difficult to shower while being single-handedly responsible for tending to a baby in a hotel room. We tried several methods over the course of the week, but this one was the most successful. I figure she already knows how to appreciate a good spa treatment.

Believe it or not, our 2.5 days of Basel exploits can be condensed into a few pictures and even fewer words: we came, we saw, and we ate. Success!


We're actively working on raising the next generation of cathedral lovers. 

Chocolate was obviously an important factor for me, and being in the Land of Chocolate, I was determined to find the best hot chocolate place in the city and drink it. I'm happy to report that I did find it, and it was delectable. Really, you can't go wrong when you're at a place that's dedicated to hot chocolate drinks. 


It came with a small piece of the actual chocolate used in the drink, a heaping pile of whipped cream ON THE SIDE, and a small glass of water to wash down the decadence. 

While it was amazing and absolutely worth the effort of seeking it out and drinking it while holding a squirmy child, I'm about to make a bold, entirely subjective claim: I liked the Musée d'Orsay's hot chocolate better. 


Overall, the slower pace we took in Basel was a nice reprieve from the hustle and bustle of touristing, and when we weren't roaming the old town streets, we spent several hours in the hotel like this:


There aren't very many things in life sweeter than a baby who cuddles in her sleep.

Well, I have once again used up more than enough blog post real estate for only a portion of our trip, so I'll continue to drag this out with a part three...


Euro Trip with a Baby, Part 1

As you may have surmised from the fact that I posted something here recently, we went to Europe and returned unscathed! The short version of it is that Elise was a champ at traveling, baby jet lag turned out to not even be a thing, really, and it was cold but not unbearable. Three cheers for that. But a single sentence does not a blog post make, so I shall recap IN FULL to appease the masses. Or myself. 

On February 28th, Elise turned 9 months old and I realized I had to get off my procrastinatastic butt and get packing before we left the house at 3pm for our flight. All I can say is praise the Lord for naps, or else we would have needed to buy all our things in another country. Every last thing. Naps happened, the suitcase and the backpack were stuffed, and a couple of spare items were tucked away into the front pocket of the Ergo since they wouldn't fit anywhere else. We hightailed it to the bus that transported us to the airport, and Elise, clad in her very best fleece pajamas, decided that the ride was the perfect time to practice her backwards swan dive. 


We made it to the airport in plenty of time, lugged our luggage + Ergo + stroller through security, gate checked the stroller, and boarded the plane. We were in the aisle seat, and while the middle seat was empty, the lady in the window seat made it no secret that she was not thrilled to be sitting near a baby. Specifically, she texted someone and then placed her phone in very plain view on the seat between us to make sure I saw it: "On plane. Seated next to an infant." 

Off to a great start!

Fortunately, she need not have worried, and I not-so-secretly hope that she feels a tiny speck of remorse for the snarky text, because Elise barely made a peep and then fell asleep for the majority of that first leg. SO THERE.


Other than that, there isn't much to report about flying, apart from the fact that Elise got a fair amount of sleep (for a plane ride) and I got none, but we both survived and were ready to go adventuring by the time we got to our hotel and washed ourselves up. Oh, except that our stroller was sent to Copenhagen instead of Paris. That was not fun, but we still had the Ergo. I resembled a pack horse with Elise on the front, my backpack on my back, and my suitcase in hand, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and while a vacation doesn't really count as a "desperate time," it was...laughable. As an added bonus, I probably burned more calories because of the extra portaging. 

I feel like I should add a quick note right here to inform you that the one thing I did NOT end up doing was using my real camera at any point during the trip, despite the fact that I toted both it and my extra lens around with us the whole time. As a result, the photo quality is entirely sub par. You've been warned.

Our first day in Paris was a short one, thanks to the time change. We arrived at 11:00, got settled and cleaned up by 2:00, and were out the door by 2:30 to meet our friends! The plan was to meet at Ladurée on the Champs-Élysées for a late lunch and some macarons, and then walk around the city until dinner. It turns out that Ladurée does everything confectionary well, and so instead of macarons, I opted for their French toast with rose chantilly cream and a raspberry coulis. 


What does rose chantilly cream taste like, you ask? It tastes like you melted a rose, poured the melted liquid into some heavy cream, added a dash of confectioner's sugar, and whipped it until it gets into its proper form. Basically, it tastes exactly like how a rose smells. By itself, I don't know if I'd eat it off a spoon for a snack. (Am I the only one that does that with regular whipped cream? Don't answer that.) But with the French toast and the raspberry? HEAVENLY. If you go there, you must try it! I insist!


Elise enjoyed the raspberries, and considering I can't handle the texture of raspberries myself, it was a win for both of us.

Once we finished up, we headed out into the cold to sightsee, but after a couple of metro rides, a long-ish time without milk, and a chilly wind, Elise decided she'd had enough. Our friends Rachael and Julie headed to a delicious dinner at a restaurant Chaz and I ate at on our honeymoon, while Elise and I went back to the hotel to warm up, consume Cheerios and veggie straws for supper, and hit the hay at 8:30. 


Based on how long this is taking me, I'll probably need to split this thrilling account up into multiple posts. I can just hear you shouting for joy. 

On to day 2! Feeling entirely refreshed, we got ready in the morning and, after nearly flooding the bathroom thanks to an open shower and a parent focused on the baby rather than the water volume, set out to explore. On the itinerary for the day: Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapelle, and the Musée d'Orsay, followed by dinner with another friend who lives in the city. All in all, it was ambitious, but we managed to do it! 

Notre Dame is always an experience. It's gorgeous, and this time we were lucky enough to be there during a service, so we listened to the chanted prayers and readings (in French, of course!) while walking around the perimeter with all the other tourists. It always amazes me that they're able to carry on with the service with so many people roaming around, but they do, and we were grateful for it. Elise must have been in awe, because she merely looked around and didn't take the opportunity to test the (presumably magnificent) acoustics. I was grateful.  


After taking it all in, we headed to a nearby cafe and got some lunch before making our way to Sainte-Chapelle. The waiter was charmed with Elise, and by the end of the meal we'd made a new friend. Or at least, she had. 

Sainte-Chapelle had never been on my must-visit list in Paris, but it really should have been. Stained glass is always a sight to behold, but this was beyond comprehension. The closest thing by comparison would be what I imagine it would be like to stand inside a life-size kaleidoscope. Filtered light poured in from every direction, and it seemed like a fitting site for the relics of Christ, for which it was originally constructed. 


Elise WAS a little more enthusiastic about fussing here, but she quickly gave into slumber and all was quiet shortly thereafter. 

Since the Musée d'Orsay was less than a mile away, we continued our trek on foot. Rachael, a dear friend and also Elise's godmother, should have won an award for the day, because she did some baby-wearing! Elise should probably be counting her lucky stars/many blessings to have someone so invested in both her spiritual formation and also her Paris-touring comfort. 


And while I'm thinking of it, I'll offer a piece of unsolicited advice. Everyone *always* loves unsolicited advice. Here goes: when hunting for friends, always choose someone who loves your babies as much as they love you. You can't go wrong. And your children will know they're loved by a village, which seems like a pretty important thing to me. More love = happier kids, right?

That's enough advice for one post.

We ended the sightseeing portion of our day with a pass through the Musée d'Orsay. I actually prefer the Musée d'Orsay to the Louvre, and yes, I realize how pretentious that sounds when said out loud. Or even read in your head. But I've said it, and it remains true. The Musée d'Orsay is smaller than the Louvre, so it's much more manageable in a single visit.


While the Louvre has a plethora of famous older paintings (among other things), the Musée d'Orsay holds the largest collection of artwork from the impressionist and post-impressionist era, including paintings by Monet and Van Gogh. I particularly enjoyed/was amused by Monet's "Les Dindons," which is quite literally a portrait of turkeys on his patron's lawn. What's not to love? Elise also seemed to enjoy her jaunt around the museum.


Oh, see that stroller? It is not ours. It belongs to the museum, and in order to use it, I had to leave them with my passport until we returned it. PLEASE TAKE NOTE OF THAT IMPORTANT DETAIL.


While the art at the museum was gorgeous and probably worth discussing at length, what I really want to discuss is the hot chocolate I had at the museum cafe. It was hands down the best hot chocolate I have had to date, not only on this trip, but ever in my life. And that's saying a lot, because just on the trip I think I drank hot chocolate nearly every day. I mean, if you can't tell by my inability to put it down for a photo, just look at Elise's longing expression:


Did I allow to her to have just a little bit of the whipped cream? Yes. Yes I did. Question my parenting choices all you want. We were in France. C'est la vie.


We finished up our time at the museum with taking photos by one of the two large clocks on the fifth floor. These couple of minutes resulted in some of my favorite photos from the trip, so it was well worth taking our turn in the informal line of tourists who also wanted to take the same photo. 


We returned the borrowed stroller in exchange for my passport and made the 40-minute trek back to our hotel for the night. Upon arrival at the hotel, the man at the front desk asked for my passport to check in, which is standard practice, and as I reached for it in its spot in the Ergo pocket, I realized it wasn't there. Not only was it not there, but I knew I had last seen it at the counter when I returned the stroller and had no memory of actually taking it. In addition, the museum was now closed, and our train to our next destination was scheduled to leave before the museum would open the following morning. Cue a solid 15 minutes of me trying to get ahold of anyone who might know someone able to enter a closed museum after hours to retrieve a passport within another locked area of the building in garbled French...chances were SLIM.

At the last moment, which was one of despair placated in the form of an exquisite chocolate-enshrouded more-chocolate mousse purchased at the patisserie next door, I reached into my coat pocket and unexpectedly withdrew the "missing" passport. I think it was actually miraculous.

I ended the night with a very tasty dinner with a friend I hadn't seen in a couple of years (hi, Sarah!), snapped a picture of the Louvre's pyramids under the moonlight on the way back, and went to bed feeling fat and happy. Although not too fat, because I'd walked over 19,000 steps that day. I'm sure that balanced out all the chocolate.


I think that's quite enough for a single blog post. Tales of Colmar, Basel, and a return to Paris still need to be recounted, so if you haven't already keeled over in boredom, STAY TUNED.

Nine Months of Elise

So we're really late to the party here. Two weeks after the fact is a new record, I think, but it'll be documented nonetheless. This delay has been brought to you by a heaping dose of traveling with a baby, to be recapped in the near future. Hold on to your glutes.


9-month-old Elise is lots of fun. One day she woke up and started pushing her walking cart, stood for a moment by herself without holding on to anything, and figured out how to climb the stairs all within the span of a couple of hours. We bought a gate for the stairs that weekend, because if she's left to her own devices, she'll find her way there within minutes and make her way up. 


She is infinitely curious, and loves exploring details, often on things I'm wearing. Buttons, necklaces, and (rather unfortunately for me) glasses are items of particular interest, and she'll spend many a minute poking at them with her pointer finger. 


She continues try new foods in the form of whatever is on my plate, and seems to be particularly fond of eggs of and oatmeal. She also continues to be the most talkative member of the family, and has expanded her consonant sounds beyond mamamama, dadadada, and babababa to include nananana (we're still working on BATMAN). She also enjoys clicking her tongue and opening her mouth over and over, which almost makes a whispery papapapa sound.  


When she's especially excited, she inhales with a raspy sort of gasp that sounds like a mix between hyperventilation and wheezing, which seems somewhat alarming, but really she's just so thrilled with whatever she's come across that she can't help herself. 


She's started to think that toots are funny and giggles whenever they occur, and she also cut her top two teeth. We're up to four! All her developments this month have come with a side of separation anxiety, most often evident when she needs to sleep in her bed, so we're working on that. She very much has opinions about how things should be, and isn't afraid to show some displeasure when they don't go the way she expects. I think that will be a good quality later in life, but right now it's going to keep us on our toes. 


I really can't believe that we're already approaching her first birthday. This year has gone by in the blink of an eye, and even though everyone tells you that ahead of time, there's no way to know what it feels like until it's happening. But I guess we still have a couple of months before we get to that point, so I suppose I'll savor these last couple of months before her first birthday as much as I can. 


And that's all there is for this month! 

The Gathering

They all start to arrive and with each person stepping through the door, I feel the house filling up with warmth and life. It's a beautiful thing, really. Hugs and laughter set the scene for an evening filled with beloved friends, good food, and discussions ranging from reminiscing over shared memories to hopes and dreams for the future. 

Our group - our tribe - started out much smaller, now over a decade ago. Brought together by nothing more average than college, we formed a small band and stuck by each other through the ups and downs of music theory homework, final exams, new relationships, breakups, and the day to day events of sharing an apartment.


Slowly, as the years went by, the group started expanding. First with boyfriends that were more permanent than the college flings, then fiancés, then husbands. In more recent years, we've added babies to the mix, and at this point we've run out of chairs around the dinner table and have started supplementing with folding chairs, high chairs, and Bumbo seats. And while we fill up the seats, we continue to fill up our memory tanks, drop by drop.


And tonight, we're celebrating. I sit at the overfilled table and am filled with both gratitude and nostalgia. I have dear memories from my own childhood of our living room filled with a host of our parents, the rest of the house spilling over with children playing house, or post office, or my personal favorite - moving truck. I'm not sure our parents appreciated that one as much as we did, since it involved wrapping almost every toy in the house in packing paper, but our imaginations ran wild, set to a musical backdrop of folk tunes.


I remember feeling a sense of fullness as a child. We knew these were friends, of course, but they felt more like family, and we experienced the deep richness of being surrounded by so many of those who loved and cared for us.


We're on the flip side now. We are the adults/parents, sitting and delighting in sharing life together through the more significant ups and downs that naturally occur as we mature, and we're watching our children create their own memories as a group. While the background music might be different - our musical skills lie more along the classical lines than folk - these beloved children now have their own cloud of witnesses celebrating their existence, rejoicing in their accomplishments, and tending to their growth.

The sense of fullness is still there for me, but has a different flavor. Perhaps a richer one, now that we all have a different perspective. More responsibility, more joy. 


How to Take a Baby Passport Photo

A few years ago - three years and a couple of months, to be exact - I needed a new passport thanks to my last name changing from Griffin to Woodstock. Aside: changing your name is wretched. And we're back.

I assumed that the way to get a passport photo was the normal way: you go to CVS, they take your photo, they print it, and you go on your merry way. So I did that, and I kid you not, it was quite literally the absolute worst photo of me I had ever (and still have ever) seen of myself in my entire life. Perhaps I should have just swallowed my pride and dealt with having a photo that reminded me more of a cow than myself on my ID for the next ten years of my traveling escapades, but I refused and decided then and there that I would take my own photos from thenceforth. I did, and I'm rather happy with how it eventually turned out.

However, taking a photo of oneself looking straight at the camera with enough of a smize to not look like a serial killer getting a mug shot done is one thing. Taking a similar photo of a baby is another one entirely. But in the interest of preserving Elise's self esteem for the next five years, I decided it was worth the sacrifice. 

The US photo requirements are many:

  • Your head must face the camera directly with your full face in view.
  • You must have a neutral facial expression or a natural smile, with both eyes open.
  • You must take a photo in clothing normally worn on a daily basis.
  • It must have a plain white or off-white background.
  • It must be a 2x2 inch square photo, with the head centered and between 25 and 35 mm from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head.
  • You may not wear glasses, a hat, or any other head covering.
  • There may be no shadows.
  • You must be able to see both ears.

No big deal, right? It's not like kids move or look away from a camera or open their mouths all the time or anything. We got this.

First, I selected Elise's outfit with great care, despite the "normal clothing" requirement. She's somewhat hairless, after all, so I decided her shirt needed to be pink. I also decided that while she does/will wear it every day until her ear infection is gone, the Amoxicillin stain from the morning's dose should probably not be present. 

Next, I needed a plain white background with natural/bright light. Enter our cheap Ikea flat sheet and a rocking chair pulled next to the window.


Though the room started to look like a pauper's version of Netherfield after the Bingleys returned to London, it did the job. 

I then needed a way to restrain Elise in the proper position in the chair without making her upset. I ask you...what are Bumbo seats for if not for that purpose?


The only remaining necessary element was the baby, of course. I got her situated and gave her a ball to keep her hands occupied (and therefore out of the frame).


After that, it was just a simple matter of getting the right photo. We started off strong.


Maybe a little too much zoom. And movement. 


Aha. I realized I needed to add a song and dance to keep her looking my direction.


Gah, the thumb! She just thinks it's so delicious. Who needs a passport photo anyway?


Ok, cute. But she moved again and made it blurry, and remember how you can't have an open mouth? Come on. And I'm not even going to address the snotty nose.


Acceptable. And yet...the mug shot just wasn't doing it for me. Shouldn't the US border officials be able to surmise that she's not a baby criminal mastermind? I need them to be able to judge her character in five seconds or less, because obviously her passport photo is a reflection of my parenting abilities.


AND THERE IT IS. Crop a little on either side, bump up the brightness, and we are in business. It only took me 53 shots, but we got it.


Now, all I have to do is assemble her birth certificate, social security card, our marriage license, a printout of our airline tickets, and her baptism certificate, and both Chaz and I need to show up in person at the National Passport Center at our appointed time (which must be conveniently between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm Monday through Friday). The government, man. They like to make this so easy on us. 

But hey! Europe, we're coming your way, one official document checklist item at a time!

It's Happening

So my trip to London was a dream that I was hoping would come true maybe one day down the line. It's still a dream! I hope to do it! But just a few weeks after that idea came to mind, another opportunity fell at my feet. Chaz is going to Basel, Switzerland for work in March, and at the very same time airfares dropped to crazy low prices and suddenly...I'm going too. 

However. The way it worked out means that I'm traveling two days before him by myself. With a 9-month old. Overnight.


The cheapest way to get to Basel (I've found) is actually to fly through Paris and then take a train. That route also makes the tail end of the voyage somewhat leisurely, since trains don't have to be pressurized and it's quite simple to get up and walk around. It's a lovely train ride and I'm quite looking forward to it. But in this case, I'm also arriving two days early AND I have a couple of reward hotel nights that I'm ready to burn, so now I'm going to hang out in Paris for two days with a baby. This baby enjoys bread. Paris is the bread capital of the world. Ergo...baby's first croissant is going to be in Paris. I like to think that this is a wonderful opportunity to create some fun facts for her later in life. She's going to kill at at Two Truths and a Lie when she's all grown up.

 Here's an unrelated blurry picture of her eating a crocheted carrot, because it's cute.

Here's an unrelated blurry picture of her eating a crocheted carrot, because it's cute.

The best part about this trip is that two of my favorite coworkers are ALSO arriving in Paris early, so we're all ready to live it up and eat as much bread, cheese, and chocolate as we can handle while running around the streets of Paris. 

I may be just a little bit insane to attempt this type of trip, but when life hands you that kind of opportunity, you don't turn it down. And this time, I won't have to take a million bad selfies.


My Favorite (Plane) Travel Hacks

Have you ever read such a clickbait title? You must be so roped in! That's what clickbait titles do, right?

But for real, I've been spending a good amount of time each night planning a trip that may or may not end up happening because I'm a travel nerd and it makes me happy. As a result, I've been thinking quite a bit about the various tricks I've used over the years, and it's time to consolidate them all into one place. I also may be suffering from mom brain because I can't remember if I've already written this exact same post before. Oh well! 

Will this be useful to anyone else? WHO KNOWS. At least I'll have it for my own reference, I guess. You know...in case I forget how to get from point A to point B without a guide.

Here we go.


1) Don't check bags.

Unless you absolutely have to, checking bags is a waste of time and money. Most airlines have a pretty reasonable suitcase size allowance for the carry on bags, and if you use a backpack as your "personal item," you've got yourself a lot of space to work with. If you pack smart and compact, you can totally make that work. Exceptions to this rule are allowed if you're traveling for a long time or you need to bring something crazy like an evening gown, but otherwise...no. Honestly, this is probably not a "travel hack." It's just common sense.


2) Traveling alone? Play the plane seat lottery.

If the only good seats that are available are the ones that come with an extra charge, just don't pick a seat at the time of fare purchase. This is a bit of a gamble, but oftentimes if you get a seat assignment when you arrive at the airport, all the other passengers will have gone through the seat selection process already and filled up the bad seats. Since you have a fully paid ticket and the bad seats are full, they'll stick you in an open seat, INCLUDING the extra space, extra legroom, bulkhead, etc. options. It doesn't always work, but when it does, it's awesome. And having done this a number of times, I'd say it is successful more frequently than getting stuck in the middle.


3) Or pick a seat in the back row.

Most people avoid the back row because of some assumptions: people keep walking past you, seats don't recline, and the bathrooms are in the back. I am here to tell you that all of these assumptions are pretty much false on bigger planes. For almost all transatlantic flights I've taken, the bathrooms have been in the middle, the seats DO recline, and the only people walking past are the flight attendants. That's not a bad thing - it's much easier to ask for extra water when you're right next to the spot where it's stored. The other advantage? Everyone else doesn't want to sit there, so most of the time, I end up with at least one (if not two) empty seats to myself. It's like a pauper's version of first class. Practically luxurious! And especially grand when sporting a 5-month pregnant belly. I can tell you that from personal experience.

4) Bring water.

While you can ask for a million tiny bottles of water, it's MUCH easier to a) not get up to ask for it and b) have a large bottle. Either bring an empty water bottle with you and fill it up at the water fountain once past security (so it doesn't get confiscated), or buy yourself a nice big one at the overpriced Hudson News stand in the terminal.


5) Hunt for the best airfares.

This probably also goes without saying, but unless it's absolutely required or you're traveling last minute, don't purchase a plane ticket immediately. Fares fluctuate often, so use the tools available to help yourself get a better deal. Sites like Airfarewatchdog and Scott's Cheap Flights are especially good if you want to get email alerts for low deals. If you have flexible dates, use a fare calendar (JetBlue has a really awesome one, and Google Flights is not far behind). However, my personal favorite trick is to buy departing and returning tickets separately, rather than round trip. I'll usually compare the round trip to the separate options, and sometimes they're the same. But often, unless I'm going super budget (hey there, Wow Airlines), separate legs = better prices.

 Living my best life...in Economy.

Living my best life...in Economy.

6) Window seats are your friend.

This one is 100% personal preference. But if I'm going to sleep on a plane - and almost all international flights from Boston are overnight - a window seat is where it's at. Just give me a neck pillow (worn sideways so my head doesn't fall forward), a probably-gross plane blanket, and maybe a stuffed up jacket, and I'm as happy as an overtired clam squished into a slightly-too-small shell for the next six hours. Which, for being on a plane, is to say I'm a pretty contented clam.

7) BYOP(harmecy)

After experiencing a variety of ailments while flying over the years, I've collected a small assemblage of over the counter drugs that are always with me on a trip. Headache? Would you prefer Advil or Tylenol? Stomach upset? I've got both ginger pills for nausea and Gas-X for...other discomforts. Runny nose? Here's the Sudafed. Heartburn thanks to pregnancy? Let me give you some Tums. Oh, and after traveling with a baby, you'd better believe that I now include Purell, regular wipes, pacifier wipes, and baby Tylenol to round out the stockpile. Travel with me and you will be fit as a fiddle from take off to landing.


I think that's it! If this is all redundant information, I apologize. At least I don't claim to be a travel writer. Happy travels!