It’s that time again: time to link up with Miss Leigh for What I’m Into – read on, enjoy, dialogue, and join in the fun!
Humboldt’s Gift (Bellow) – BFF Mindy recommended this to me, and while I liked it, I think I would have loved it had I read it with book in hand and pen to the side, instead of via Audible. Instead, too many amazing nuggets were lost as the words streamed overhead.
Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith & Art (L’Engle) – I’ve officially declared 2013 as The Summer of Madeleine; for more, read this review of sorts.
The Silver Linings Playbook (Quick) – generally speaking, I usually read books before I see the movie, but this was not the case. A quick read, I couldn’t help but picture Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence jogging down the streets, each fighting their own inner demons. As such, while the movie followed the general theme and plot line of the book, it was so, so interesting to see what the screenwriters chose to emphasize next to the author’s original intent. If I were Matthew Quick, how would I reconcile these creative differences?
And then I read through four cookbooks, much to my own “I do what I want” reading pleasure: The Pioneer Woman Cooks (Drummond), Weelicious (McCord), Gas Grill Cookbook (Better Homes & Gardens), and SOUP (Williams & Sonoma). As previously stated on the blog, they can be collectively summed up as the following: If one were to summarize the three, the following subtitle might be produced: “Butter-dripping, bacon-induced, HMO-free, organically-produced, family-friendly bites, any cowboy can cook on the backyard grill, pureed to your heart’s content.”
Currently reading:Les Miserables (47% of the way through); And Baby Makes Three; America: The Vegetarian Table (Madison); A Circle of Quiet (L’Engle); Never Let Me Go (Ishiguro); Dinner: a Love Story (Rosenstrach); Looking for Alaska (Green); Missional Church (Guder).
TV: We finished watching SMASH and Arrested Development, both for the season. Of the latter, my inner-Broadway star wants to take her white girl dance moves to Manhattan as well; and the former, it’s drearier & darker, but still a cult classic. And you can also add to this list my Monday night love, Real Housewives of Orange County.
Movies: The Debt (intense, but LOVED it); Life After Porn (uh, what friend recommended this documentary to me, and …why?); Parental Guidance (eh, but I suppose these are the movies we’re entering into as parents).
In the blogosphere: Mandy Steward over at Messy Canvas inadvertently encouraged me to click “unfriend” on 1000+ people on Facebook yesterday – more on that next week. And not that I’m losing my own blogging mojo, but I loved Sarah Bessey’s thoughts on her own mojo, comma blogging.
Pondering: Mama’s first weekend away from baby, which starts in about 3 hours and 22 minutes (not that I’m counting or anything…).
Cooking: I just invented crab cake burgers last night for dinner. You’re welcome. Crab cake + thin “One” bun + lettuce, heirloom tomato, thin slice of cheddar cheese & tartar sauce.
Baby Cancan: How will you do without your mama this weekend? How will your mama do without you this weekend? How will your daddy do alone with you for 44 hours? Did I pump enough? …and happy 1st birthday in two weeks, Baby Boy.
That big, bright yellow ball in the sky has begun to show face here in San Francisco lately, which is a rarity in itself, given the normal June Gloom – so how else am I to respond than to quickly slam the laptop shut and embrace summer in all its glory?
As one should.
Road trips and visits to family and hotel overnights are on the calendar, and the fridge is stocked with ample fruits and veggies, more than the normal bounty; the TV is off (but for Real Housewives of Orange County, what can I say?), and the stack of books to my right seems to be growing, not depleting.
My old roommate Amanda thrived on the fullness of fall – she loved the oranges and yellows, the crisp bite in the air that beckoned for sweaters and scarves and a cup of hot chocolate in hand, and with giddy excitement she welcomed her favorite viewing pastime, football. She was one of those bonafide, I-truly-love-the-pigskin type of girls, which perhaps is why she married one of Frosty’s boys turned coach himself. (But maybe also because Jess is kind of the bee’s knees, and really, really loves her in return).
Give me sunshine and perfect, 80 degree weather that beckons me to don the sunblock every hour on the hour.
Give me squishy sand to crumble beneath my toes, and a book that forever smells like campfire because that’s where you read it last, and that’s where you’ll remember it, always.
Give me sweat and camping and long, long walks with blisters that take two weeks to heal; give me mosquito bites and backyard BBQ’s and heirloom tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, daily.
Give me floppy sun hats and tank tops and brightly painted toes; give me a cold glass of Chardonnay and another Madeleine L’Engle book (because it is, after all, The Summer of Madeleine).
So, here on the blog, we’re going to celebrate summer in the best way we know how: with stories and memories of past and present, soaking in the fullness of this perfect, favorite season.
List a memory or two in the comments, or better yet, answer this question: what’s your favorite childhood summer memory? E-mail your response (between 500-700 words, preferably) to email@example.com by Friday, July 12th, and I’ll publish my favorites on the blog through August.
And I’ll throw in a few of my favorite summertime memories as well …because I can.
I love Colbert’s unmasked emotion and unashamed love for his mama.
I love the memories he carries with him, from childhood up through the present day, and the profound, recognizable influence his mother had over his life.
And as often happens with death, whether it’s a death near or far away from our hearts, it too makes me wonder the legacy I too am leaving behind.
Mondays are normally my writing days, the one day a week in which we hire a sitter and I go hole up in the back room, and then make my way to a local coffee shop or lunch spot or to the library. With Cancan in the trusted hands of Miss Juvy, I’m free to write and think and process, uninterrupted from his constant demands.
Because it’s important for Mama to have a break.
So today I dreamed of driving across town to sunshine, for all the little San Francisco microclimates boast varying reports of sunshine and fog, of hot and cold. I’d rewrite my Prodigal piece, and finish working on my Real Simple essay, crossing my fingers to please-please-please win the $3000 grand prize, and actually get paid to publish something.
(Patience, Little One, patience).
But then Miss Juvy texted that she was sick, and instead of a merciful, Oh, bless her heart response, as came forth from the HBH (no, really…)*, my heart sank that I’d now be resigned to instead write while Baby slept, and have to spend the day entertaining my 11-month old son.
Ugh. That is certainly not the legacy I want to leave.
Instead, I want my children and my husband and my family and my friends to say something like this, like Colbert said of his mama:
“But her love for her family and her faith in God somehow gave her the strength not only to go on but to love life without bitterness and to instill within all of us a gratitude for every day we have together.”
So as soon as Cancan wakes up from his nap, I’m rewriting the day. I’ll shut my laptop, because there will be time to write later – for there’s always time to write later – and then we’ll head to the park. We’ll swing on the baby swing for about 4.5 minutes, because that’s about all he can handle right now, and then he’ll plop down in the middle of the sand box, shoving fistfuls of grainy sand into his mouth, while staring in awe-like wonder at the big kids.
And I’ll look over at the mama next to me, and simultaneously we’ll shrug our shoulders together:
Oh, children, she’ll shrug.
Protein, right? I’ll shrug in reply, crossing my fingers that, indeed, what doesn’t kill him only makes him stronger.
And then I’ll look at my son – my brilliant, beautiful, handsome Little Man – and I’ll smile. I’ll look to the sky above and nod a giant God-directed THANK YOU, grateful and without bitterness at the gift of today.
Have your own expectations gotten in the way of the gift that’s right in front of you? What did you think of Colbert’s tribute?
* = the HBH really is that kind and loving and merciful. Where my mercy at?!
Here’s the plain and simple truth: you will love the picture painted by today’s post. Not only is its writer one of my favorite people in the world, but she taught me how to be still and quiet and be. Her everyday world is so very different from my own, but that’s one of the things I love about her – so without further adieu, meet Lizzy!
So, on my family’s farm, we sell fruits and vegetables. We plant stuff, people pick it, they pay us, and everyone’s one big happy family.
There’s this old Russian lady who has been coming every year for as long as I remember, and she’s pretty bad ass. She can pick potatoes like nobody’s business, isn’t afraid to get dirty, and has, I swear, about fifty grandkids. And even though the only English she knows is God bless you and potatoes, she may just be my friend. Actually, I think she really is.
One of her grandkids told me that she loves the farm because it reminds her of her home country, which she hasn’t seen in decades. I love that I get to bring a little smile to my Russian friend’s heart.
Just up the hill from the farm is where I live, in a cute little white house that I share with my sweet pup, Bruce. Out my window, in front of me, I have this great view of the valley and the farm, and my parents’ house next to that. Then, directly behind my cute little white house are my cute old grandparents. Every morning, gramps walks the newspaper down and sets it on my porch. He never misses a day. To my right is my uncle, who is like Mr. Handyman galore. To my left; the cows. They count as friends, right? And a little farther in front of me is an amazing community of Young Life kids and leaders who love me and know me.
It’s as if I’m…..surrounded. By friends. By people who care. By cows.
I think that’s how God works, though. He likes to build unexpected, beautiful circles of people around us. For me, it wasn’t until I stopped trying to build my circle that I realized God was already building it for me. Once I learned that he really does take care of the details if I simply listen and trust, life became pretty sweet.
Community. It’s found in Russian ladies, and family near by. It’s found in friends far away. It’s in the all-grown-up former Young Life girl turned friend, who buys me coffee just because and asks how my day is. It’s found in the loud, crazy group of senior girls who’ve poured out their hearts to me, and who share in my life (and who are always on a husband-hunt for me). It’s on mountaintops and in the every day things; in teenagers and grandparents.
I don’t think there’s a limit to God’s creativity. Once he plops us down where he wants us, he pretty much takes care of the rest. When we allow the best artist there is to create and sculpt and shape our life, that’s when things become beautiful.
Ugh. Don’tcha just love her? (And want to plant your own urban farm?) Leave a comment for Lizzy below, and in the meantime, if you haven’t already, continue to cheer on Cara’s writing by subscribing to receive emails directly, or by following be, mama. be on Facebook. Thanks!
Sometimes there are books that grab the core of your mind and heart, holding on to you for dear life, its pages a living, breathing organism. You read the weighty, thought-through words and the perfectly crafted phrases and the well-placed sentences, and you think, I wanna write like that.
You wonder if every reader feels the kinship you do with this particular author, and like your favorite underground Indie band, it’s a love-hate relationship: you hope that the world discovers the goodness that is Madeleine, but in a weird, Hoarders sort of way, you also fear the same deep connection. Because you just kind of want her for yourself, you want to call this kindred spirit your own.
But today I choose to share.
It’s the summer of Madeleine L’Engle – all the books I listed last week as potential summer reads? Emphasis: potential. I just finished Walking on Watera few nights ago,and am diving into A Circle of Quietnow. To be honest, I’m not sure if I ever actually read A Wrinkle in Time as a child – although I’m sure I did, since playing Library* was one of my favorite games. I’d take all the books off the shelves, adorning the family room couch, the coffee table, Dad’s recliner and the kitchen table with my finds. And then I’d welcome my siblings and Angie the teddy bear and any other imaginary well-wishers into the Cara Public Library, helping them find their perfect literary find.
I mean, you did the same at eight, right?
So let’s play Library: let me help you, for just a few more minutes, fall in love with this book.
Since I’m entering into the world of writing, more than a few friends recommended Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. L’Engle is, perhaps, best known as a children’s author – but she’s a sage storyteller, and as a Christian, her writing magically weaves together a beautiful fabric of life and love and faith and humor and wisdom. And although she sometimes cringes when “Christian” and “writer” are paired together for what it does – and doesn’t – represent in or about her writing, she also recognizes the unique, holy intersection present in the act of creating. Because, “…creativity is a way of living life, no matter what our vocation or how we earn our living,” and because “All of life is story, story unravelling and revealing meaning.” Yes and yes.
How then are you creating?
What’s story is being told in you and through you?
I’ll leave you with this: for myself, as a Christian and as a writer, I want to reach a varied audience. But I don’t want my niche necessarily defined as Christian writer, because I want to reach a varied audience, and because sometimes Jesus is most clearly, powerfully proclaimed when he’s not. Of that idea, L’Engle says this to a young, aspiring Christian novelist:
“…if she is truly and deeply a Christian, what she writes is going to be Christian, whether she mentions Jesus or not. And if she is not, in the most profound sense, Christian, then what she writes is not going to be Christian, no matter how many times she invokes the name of the Lord.”
Cat’s out of the bag – but oh, oh, I am grateful to L’Engle for putting to words that which I haven’t quite arrived at yet.
You may now head to your local Place of Books.
* = See also School and House.
What’s your favorite Madeleine L’Engle book? What book is changing you now?
True confession: I wasn’t planning on walking in Saturday’s graduation ceremony. Yes, I’d completed a Master’s degree, but it’d taken me eight years to get there – so, unlike the traditional two or three year approach, I didn’t have an affiliation to a specific group of people, let alone to a particular place. 24 classes had been spread out between three main campuses, at a number of secondary sites for intensive, week-long courses, and at the far end of our dining room table for various online and IDL courses.
I was just glad to be done, and really, by this point all I wanted was the official piece of paper for our make-shift office wall.
But a lack of allegiance doesn’t mean that I didn’t read (uh, most of…) the coursework, write the papers, take the tests, and interact and think and question and dialogue with the subject matter at hand, against my own core beliefs.
So when my friend Becki told me that her husband, Scott, who’d been on the 10 year plan, was also graduating in June, she encouraged me to to jump on the Rite of Passage ship and just walk.
What if I don’t know anyone? (otherwise known as what if no one cheers for me? in more regular, not-so-covert circles of thinking).
Somehow Becki picked up on my question’s secret meaning, and promised that she’d scream her head off for me.
And I’m so glad I did.
Because even though I only knew a handful of graduates, there emerged a single moment that sealed the journey and all its significance for me: I was hooded.
At a high school or college (…or pre-school, or 6th grade, or 8th grade, or…) graduation, your name is called, and you walk across the stage. Perhaps you shake a hand or two, or you give the celebratory “I can’t believe they’re passing me – Suckas!” fist pump or, in one last, merciful teacher’s pet sort of move, with tears in your eyes, you give your principal a final farewell hug.
To each his or her own.
But when you become a Master, it’s like the whole world stops for you, just for one five-second blip. Your name is called, and with hood draped upon your left arm, you walk up to a set of tenured professors and hand them the sacred fabric.
Turn around! they hiss, smiles mechanically plastered on all three of our faces.
Each taking a side, while the room sits in silence, they drape the hood over your neck. They fluff it and pat it and shape it, until there’s this perfectly molded symbol of achievement draped over your shoulders, slinking down your back.
And it was there, in that split-second, before the pair pats your back, signaling that it’s your time to walk across the stage, that I had my moment.
A journey confirmed.
A celebration made real.
An achievement acknowledged.
I’d crossed the threshold – and this, this was worth taking the time to pause and reflect and recognize.
A rite of passage is a ritual event that marks a person’s transition from one status to another. And in my opinion, life is full of little and big, everyday and occasional rite of passage moments – adolescence, as one writer put it, is one large rite of passage, in which through the newfound freedom of puberty, all those first-time experiences are christened, one after another after another. Marriage itself is a rite of passage, but then again, so is that first time you set off the smoke alarm while cooking dinner, or that moment when you realize you throw a damn good party together.
Let’s do this again.
I love thinking about the fact that Jesus, entrenched in his own culture, participated in various rites of passages: circumcision and Bar Mitzvah as a child, along with yearly observances of various Jewish holidays.
With our own son, each day seems to bring about a new moment in the journey that’s worth celebrating. He sat up on his own, he stood up for the first time, he didn’t spit up his peas – toot, toot! Toot toot! He’s a week old (and we didn’t kill him); he’s 11 months old, and how’d this happen already? – regardless, huzzah, huzzah!
When their son, Quinn, was born, my friends Ryan and Rachell celebrated his birthday every single month. I mean, we’re talking a best of the best, triple-layer cake from the local bakery that they’d adorn with candles and an accompanying “Happy monthbirthday to you…” – at first I thought it was a little extreme, but then I realized: this matters. Quinn making it another month in this crazy, messed up world? It matters. Celebrating in the everyday the reality of his blessed Quinn-ness? That matters too.
This is how I want to live life. I want to celebrate life with the community around me, be it with the HBH and Cancan, or a room full of party-people, or an audience that I hold little affiliation to. Because this celebration matters, and it builds solidarity, and it’s important to lift a glass to the journey.
And when the parentals are in town, do as the parents would do.
Well, mostly. Kind of. Sorta.
So far we’ve been cheering on the graduate (uh, that’s me):
And celebrating fathers, via rib eye on the grill and Auntie’s famous lemon meringue and kind words to boot…
And we’ve done those things you’re supposed to do when Papa and Grammie are in town, like pay an exorbitant amount of money to see caged animals in their semi-natural environment: we’ve gone to the zoo.
So as we get ready to celebrate one last night of life together, with gorgonzola burgers and roasted beets and cold, clinking glasses of Chardonnay to boot, I’m going to go practice being.
Jen and I met early on our freshman year of college, each fanning the flame to the other’s craziness – time passed, and eventually, after she’d landed in Seattle, I too found myself moving northward, in need of a new home. She and Shannon and Amy took me in to their Green Lake home, where I lived in the hobit hole of a basement for two months – but I tell ya, that time sealed the deal for me on friendship with this woman. So sit yourself down in your comfy chair, and relax into this beautiful read...
I never really glommed onto the whole “WWJD” catch phrase that seemed all-too-consuming, and yet way superficial at one point during my existence. I guess I just live knowing that Jesus would LOVE, and beyond that, I probably couldn’t answer like him, so if the answer can’t be LOVE, then I will have to figure it out a harder way. I’m OK with that. And until recently, I didn’t even really think about it.
I also never thought it odd that death is normal to me. It isn’t scary. While it is sad, it is also so redeeming that the sad is only temporary, even when it lingers. In third grade, I lost my first close loved one – I am sure I didn’t even really know what a “loved-one” was at that point. He was 3. A pseudo-brother that I spent most of my waking moments with between one of three houses, as our three families essentially co-existed while our parents figured out life raising children.
Quickly after that came a string of loss in the neighborhood – given that we were the only young family, we lost one neighbor after another, all to regular old-age circumstances (again, which I really knew nothing about at the ripe ol’ age of 9). My great-grandparents, followed by my grandma and her sisters came next. College had its own handful of strange and unnerving deaths.
Then, in my early twenties, I lost a teaching partner… my mentee, a first-year, joy-filled, amazing young woman in her first year of teaching. Shortly thereafter, her sister passed in another unexpected, tragic circumstance, leaving their parents childless. Next, the husband of another co-worker. Another death here or there, and then 2013 came in like a lion… 8 deaths in 6 weeks, one being the most tragic I have ever experienced.
If you are still with me, you may think, “Are you KIDDING me?” No. I am not. And, I am not being dramatic about them, and I can only assume there is someone else who understands my existence. As I said previously, I didn’t even know this wasn’t normal. Earlier this year, someone asked me, “Why do you think you lose so many people?” I had never thought about it. And my first reaction was, “I guess it’s because I know a lot of people.” But my mind spun, and twirled, and twisted and stretched and ached after that question came. On many occasions, I have asked, “Why??” I have screamed it. I have sobbed it. I have wondered it. I have whispered it. I have talked to dear friends about it.
In my small group, the most gracious community I have been a part of in a long time, we segued into this conversation one night while we were studying the Beatitudes. We were discussing the traits we see in one other that lend themselves to our roles in God’s community. As I listened to my dearest, most loving friends explain how they see God working through the tragedies that I have experienced, their words were like flood-gates opening, and an answer to a prayer that I had never spoken. While I had exhausted the mantra, “WHY?” in hopes that I would understand why each person I knew died, I had never asked, “Why ME? Why, God, do you want ME to experience this sadness, this turmoil, this frustration, over and over and over again?”
“You are a strong individual, and I am quite sure you could get through anything.”
“You would do anything for anyone.”
“You just know what people need.”
“You feel other peoples’ feelings.”
“You put others first, even if it is too a fault sometimes.”
Wow. ME?! Are you SURE you are talking about ME?
And as I drove home that night, I realized, “Yes”. Yes, I was created to be strong, and determined, and with a heart that understands people, and with a strong emotional side, and a will to care for others. I had never felt like this was any kind of special gift, but more a learning; that as I lived and re-lived one death after another, I started responding in ways that people had for me. In times of sadness, I would think about “What Has Been Helpful For Me?” instead of “WWJD”, and I would try to provide that – a hug, a tear, a meal, an ear, a tissue – all based on what I may or may not have needed in my own near-and-dear experiences. And as I drove home that night, I realized that I wasn’t doing the best work I could be doing to share the way I was created, to create community; to exist in a community that would show LOVE to ALL.
You see, I was using these gifts to LOVE those I knew. To LOVE the heck out of family and friends who were sad or grieving. I was using these gifts within my existing community of friends, but not within my existing community of physicality. And I felt convicted. I have more to offer and I am saving it up, just in case someone I know needs it more, as if God will let me run out of LOVE. Seriously?!?! Highly unlikely, I suppose.
Quickly, everything fell into place with the next tragic event. A missing 24-year-old. A case somewhat familiar, with similarities to the most recent death I had personally experienced. Mandy Matula, presumed to have been killed by her boyfriend, missing. The searches were huge, immediately, and they were local; just a few miles from the first house I lived in when I moved to Minneapolis.
I kept hearing phrases like,
“That poor family!”
“I hope they find her!”
“I feel so bad for them!”
“They have to be nervous, scared, exhausted… after searching all day.”
And that weekend, I was determined to become part of “we” rather than talking about “they”. I got up bright and early on Saturday morning, praying for grace and mercy and LOVE. I dressed in layers, covered from head to toe to ward off ticks, snakes, mosquitoes, sun, wind, and rain. I drove to the local church where the search would begin. I hugged. I introduced. I laughed. I cried. I searched. I joined them. They became we.
I have experienced grace in more ways than I can count, list, share, or document. I heard a pastor say once that the mission of people who experience the grace of God should be to extend grace to others. I believe the same is true of LOVE. I have experienced both, and in the last 6 weeks, I have been reminded of extending grace and LOVE into the community beyond my normal every day, to turn they in we. The extensions have not been turned down. Rather, they have been met with grace and LOVE that were unnecessary and unexpected, but more genuine than I could have begged for.
And when my colleagues, friends and family thought I was nuts, and asked, “Why would you go and search? Weren’t you scared?”
I simply said, “Why wouldn’t I? And yes.” Scared doesn’t matter. Grace matters. LOVE matters. COMMUNITY matters.
How have you turned “They” into “We” this week? I dare ya to try it. Really, it is much less scary than we probably believe it to be.
Don’t you just love her? Do leave a comment for Jen below, and in the meantime, cheer on Cara’s writing today by becoming a fan of be, mama. be on Facebook, or by subscribing to receive emails in your inbox directly (click “follow” in the left-hand column).
Once a month we – er …me, myself and I – take a break from the regular writing scene, and highlight the Little Man’s life with The Canon Chronicles. Enjoy!
Now Baby, here’s the deal: you have got to stop growing! According to the wide, wide world of the internet, you’re apparently going to be a TODDLER in just one month – and toddlers …well they toddle, and write on bedroom walls with Sharpie and string toilet paper from one end of the house to the other – and weren’t you just lying prostrate on the ground, practically motionless, like yesterday? (Actually, being motionless was never really your strong suit, you squirmy little motion-activated human sensor, you).
But as per that absolute awe that is you, you’re still – and always – our little campfire. I’d tickle you forever just to hear that delightful giggle of yours. I love that you and Daddy have begun to have wee little mini wrestling matches on the couch – and speaking of Daddy, you just can’t get enough of him. As of late, you’ve been reaching for your dad like nobody’s business, and as one wise friend told me, don’t take it personally. It’ll happen. Both ways. So instead I cheer internally and inhale my Girl Scout Thin Mint creamer-infused coffee* for just a second longer …because I can. And because Daddy’s the one chasing your crawling bum around the living room and dining room and kitchen respectively.
You could spend all day pushing your little crocodile walker up and down the hallways, and it always makes me giggle, because you’re just pure business. Don’t mind me! Just heading to the office, Mom! You love the swing at the park, and being outdoors almost seems to put a trance on you. All. That. Green. You have this fantastic pelvic-thrusting dance move that you love to pull out anytime, anywhere – from Whole Foods to church to our own kitchen table, you’re dancing, dancing, dancing. You keep it real and you bring on the holy laughter, that’s for sure!
You pull yourself up on each piece of furniture and you survey the scene by walking around it, over and over again – and our hopes of an adult-friendly living room are slowly being replaced by the realization that cast iron coffee tables are not so forgiving on malleable heads. We even succumbed to christening the living room with a pack-n-play, and thus providing a half hour of containment mostly for Mama’s sanity’s sake.
But what can I say? You are light, pure light. We love you, Little Man, and we can’t wait to let you eat cake in just a month’s time!
What do you love about your kid, your dog, your goldfish? What in life is providing you with ultimate light and joy?
*Coffee-Mate really didn’t pay me to advertise their product – it’s just that dreamy.
When Cancan was five months old, I wrote this piece on traveling with babies – he’s now doubled his digits, and traveling with the little bugger is a whole new deal. And with it comes a whole new set of traveling thoughts…
1. Practice flexibility. When I was living in Washington, a group of us went to see Cirque de Soleil – and loved it. But mostly, I, who flunked the flexibility test every year in P.E., loved the bendy people. How ever are they so bendy? we’d all wonder, eyes wide, heads cocked to the side. I realize that the same is true today: the time to be bendy is now, with baby in tote. Gone is the stringent necessity to make it back to the hotel room for nap time. Gone is the foodie San Franciscan desire to only feed my baby homemade, organic baby food. Gone is the ________ (fill-in-the-many-blanks).
2. Get yourself an Aunt Tina and an Uncle John. Now really, there’s only a small handful of us lucky enough to stake familial relation to Aunt Tina and Uncle John, so your own relatives will have to suffice. So sorry! But here’s what I do know worked so well traveling with them: they love our kid. They love us. They, too, are bendy. We’d all been to NYC before, so no one felt the need to stand in line for the Empire State Building or ferry on over to Staten Island. Been there, done that. Instead, their low-key, go with the flow attitude modeled to us the very same response to each other and to Cancan – and that was magnificent. Oh, and did I mention that they made us leave our child with them so that we could have the afternoon off and laugh giddily at Book of Mormon? Like I said, do yourself a favor and find yourself an Aunt Tina and an Uncle John.
3. Think about where you’ll be traveling. We realized that we’d only be renting a car for six hours total the entire week we were there, and otherwise would be solely taking public transportation, including the occasional taxi – the latter of which do not require carseats. So, we only rented a carseat for an additional $10 on the day we drove north to Andover and Salem. [I also didn’t realize that you technically don’t need a carseat base, so whenever we travel now, we just check in the car seat – for free – with the airline, and then buckle the seat directly into the rental car.]
4. BOB-it. I originally planned on taking the following with us: a travel stroller, the Ergo, the carseat base and the carseat. Here’s what we ended up taking with us on the trip: the Ergo and the BOB (stroller). I feared wheeling the BOB in and out of crowded east coast sidewalks, but my friend Re reminded me that actual families live in NYC, who navigate the streets daily. She suggested taking the stroller of which I was most familiar, that also had the option of reclining and therefore possible sleep. Winner winner, chicken dinner. Baby took almost all of his naps while we walked the streets of Boston and New York, and the extra space was a welcome addition. Also, given the miles (literally) we walked each day, over sewer grates and cobblestone alike, I was grateful for the more durable stroller. I think we would have used the Ergo a bit more had it not been so hot, but having a sticky baby sweat-suctioned to my shirt was not my idea of a good time.
5. Find a friendly tourist destination. Ya’ll, I’m just telling you: San Francisco is not a baby-friendly city. Yes, I live here. Yes, my head knew that, but it wasn’t until every other passerby stopped to chat with the Little Man that my heart realized this truth. So, I look forward to seeing you …not here.
6. Yelp it! One thing is true when it comes to traveling, and I suppose to much of our regular life as well: we love finding and seeing and eating local culture. (Okay, minus Dunkin Donuts in Boston – a must). So, pull out your iPhone and YELP a lunch or dinner destination right here, right now – and chances are you’ll find a fabulous hole-in-the-wall, non-touristy destination. This also helps quickly figure out whether the locale is attractive to the under-1 population.
7. Time change: this was probably the thing I was most worried about: how would we deal with a three-hour time change? It’d been suggested that we try to have Baby meet halfway, but we also knew that if he was tired, there was no stopping the eye-rubbing and Cranky McCrankerson. So we let him set his own pace – so instead of going to bed at 7 pm (ET), he made it to 9 pm, which was actually rather, well, nice. We ended eating dinners out and getting to go to a 7:15 Red Sox game instead of being confined to our hotel room for the majority of the night.
8. I asked Mama’s Group tips on traveling with babies, and I loved Anne’s answer: “On the plane, all rules go out the window – so bring twice as many snacks as you think you need and half as many clothes.“Bam. Whip out the boob. Let it rain Cheerios. And as soon as Bubs starts to squawk, swiftly insert a packet of baby food in his mouth.
9. Don’t BOB-it through airport security. Since using the BOB had been going so well, I thought to myself, Self, you really should just keep Cancan in the BOB throughout your time in the airport, and just check it at the gate. And then this happened: THE BOB IS HUGE. It does not fit through the conveyor belt. Your stroller will then have to go through its own line and the not-so-friendly TSA agents will think that you’re hiding drugs in the side pockets, so it’ll have to go through its own 10-minute magic-wand screening. I’m just sayin’.
10. K, my last tip doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with babies, but if you’re visiting the Big Apple, do yourself a favor and stay on the Newark side. Our hotel was across the street from Penn Station (Newark), so we took the 11-minute train over in the morning and evening, and subsequently saved a bundle.
…and finally, 10.5: have fun. You’re amazing – so believe it and own it. You got this.*
What would you add? What would you change?
* = I hereby own the right to retract this statement and completely change my mind on all of the above matters as soon as another “on traveling with babies” update arrives or another child comes along.