Category Archives: travel

the open road, two kids and a pregnant lady

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One thing I miss about pre-kids is the ability to travel easily and efficiently. A. and I would book a flight a few weeks ahead of time, pack a backpack each and off we’d go. I’d buy a guidebook and most likely read the works of a novelist from the country we’d visit. Our last international trip was to Iceland in 2012, when CM was 5 months old.

So instead, during this “we have small kids who wouldn’t appreciate a long, expensive trip to Europe or Asia” phase, I’m embracing traveling locally. And locally for us, right now, means New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado and Texas — where there is stunning scenery and lots of hikes (I put a premium on being outdoors with the kids).

So, this past weekend, we packed up the car, picked up CM at 3 p.m. from school on Friday and drove. Our only agenda was to go to Arches National Park, just north of Moab, Utah. We ended up driving more than 800 miles in three days (about 4-5 hours per day) — from New Mexico to Colorado Friday, Colorado to Utah and back to Colorado on Saturday, and home to New Mexico on Sunday.

And guess what? It wasn’t miserable. The boys were troopers (there were a few whiny “I’m tired of driving” and “Mama, can I hold you?” moments but overall it was a success.) We didn’t have reservations, so we stayed in small Colorado towns (Moab was booked up — I never knew how popular it is!) We told lots of “made up” stories in the car, the boys paged through books (CM read “Hop on Pop” out loud) and we listened to music.

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Highlights: Arches National Park, though now that it’s March, it’s starting to get busy — there was a half hour line to get into the park.

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Dinner and dessert in Telluride.

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And touring Native American history at Chaco National Park in New Mexico on Sunday. The village was built between 800 and 1200 A.D.

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The boys were giddy. I loved the feeling of adventure. A. was happy. My hope is these little trips will prime them for longer, more intense trips in the coming years.

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travels, another boy and the NYT cooking app

Our household has been a cesspool of germs for the last month — coughing, sneezing, runny noses. Once I gain my voice back, we should be (mostly) healthy (god, I hope). But despite the colds, I’ve been traveling, throwing pots and feeling like myself again after hibernating this winter during my first trimester.

I flew up to Seattle in February to see my best friend S., who is ready for a life change (and she already met an awesome man!). Before I left, I was the crazy mom who worried about getting in a plane crash. It was the first time I’d flown without my boys and I couldn’t help but think: How would my boys deal with that grief? A., who is awesome, would be a great single dad, but I think something like that would destroy my oldest. Needlessness to say, I’m OK. The flight was easy and relaxing. S. is staying in an airbnb in Capitol Hill. It was a beautiful space full of plants, personality and a view of the Cascades. (It inspired me to throw more potting pots for our house.) We cozied up in the rainy weather and talked for hours, and it refreshed my soul.

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And then A.’s parents arrived, and they gave A. and me a weekend away. We drove to Utah and camped in Canyonlands with our telescope. I had no idea Utah was so pretty? It was amazing to see the winter Milky Way and inhale the fresh air. In the middle of the night, I heard coyotes howling and we woke up to cows mooing.

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In the last month, we also found out that our third baby is healthy with big lips (ha). We’re having another boy. Three boys! I wasn’t surprised — there hasn’t been an girl born into A.’s dad’s side of the family since the ’40s. But in 10 years, I’ll need to plan a lot of girls’ weekends. A lot of them.

I’ve been throwing pots and writing more. My pottery skills are getting better and better — the progress is incredible. I’m considering trying to sell some pots once I can function again after the first 6 months or so of sleepless nights with my third. I’ve been spending a lot of time on Instagram lately looking at potters’ photos — what they make, the dimensions and how they developed a style.

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I’ve also been trying many new recipes I found on the NYT Cooking site — including my favorites (both easy to make), the Vaguely Vietnamese Slow Cooker Pork Tacos and the Red Lentil Soup with Lemon. And the Banana Oatmeal Almond Smoothie — yum.

And I harvested my first broccoli head and the beets and spinach are (finally) coming in. I’m excited to plant tomatoes and basil in May. Our backyard is blooming with tulips — it’s almost spring!

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a midwest vacation

C. and I have been on the road for more than two weeks — visiting my parents in the Detroit suburbs and my brother and sister-in-law and niece in Chicago. The last few days, C. was saying, “Go home, go home?” Yesterday, we arrived at the tiny Inyokern airport — which was virtually empty (United only offers two flights there daily), and A. was standing in the doorway, and C. ran toward his papa and giggled insanely.

The last two weeks, we mostly relaxed and visited family and friends. We swam, played in the sprinkler, saw penguins at the Detroit Zoo, visited family in Port Huron — and I watched A LOT of Tigers baseball, which I enjoyed, but I’m happy to be back in our quiet house without a TV. (Well, our TV is under the bed in our guest room for special occasions.)

My favorite moments were seeing C. snuggle up to his grandparents and ask for them every morning when he woke up, long conversations with girlfriends (that’s what I miss most since moving to the desert), catching up with two friends I literally haven’t seen in more than five years, watching 19-month-old C. and his 13-month-old cousin bond (babies can really get each other, can’t they?), and delicious meals, including carry-out pad Thai in Chicago (ohhh how i miss good Thai food).

Now I’m ready to be back in the quiet so I can launch into some creative projects, cook more, read more and write more. Happy Friday to you.

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what i learned on vacation (and on my return)

Do you ever come back from a vacation more tired than when you left? That’s how I feel today after 10 days in D.C. and New Jersey (with swings through Vegas, New York City and Atlantic City). I definitely overbooked myself — and though I had a blast, I’m glad to relax in the quiet, listen to the birds, make myself smoothies and decompress before heading to the Midwest next month.

Here’s what I learned on my vacation:

1. I don’t hate Vegas as much as I thought I did. We swam in the outdoor pool at New York, New York, and ate pizza and beet salad and drank good wine. Also, C. wasn’t ready to be dunked and he freaked out after I dipped him under (note his wary expression).

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2. C. is still a good traveler, and although long flights make me convulse with anxiety, he never ceases to amaze me. (Granted, with A. it’s 200 times easier.) Here, A. and I rigged him up to the suitcase, which elicited many laughs.

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3. It feels like nothing has changed in D.C. It’s been six months, but it felt like I was there yesterday. I loved connecting with dear friends, even if I ran myself ragged to do so. If only I could move one of them to the desert. Just one.

4. I also still feel connected to former NPR colleagues, although it’s been longer since I left there and they’ve since moved into a swanky new headquarters. They all made me (and C.!) feel loved. Despite the love — and I hate to admit it because I’m happy and I know this is a special time — I still harbor some insecurities about my status as a stay-at-home mom.

5. I’d much rather live in the oppressive desert heat than in chaotic, trash-strewn NYC. Though, we did have fun on our date (rooftop wedding in Soho).

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6. I miss running in cool, humid weather — and sweating. This was a little slice of heaven in New Jersey — I felt like I could run forever.

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7. It was really, really hot in the desert while we were gone and it’s not the dog days yet. Here is evidence.

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7. Our apricot tree has a two-week picking period, and then it’s done. We returned to a whole lot of this.

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I’m glad we told friends to help themselves and I’m even more glad our 82-year-old neighbor — who knew we were away — called A. to tell him there was a black SUV parked in our driveway. Thanks for watching out for us, sir.

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in search of wildflowers

On Sunday, we drove to the Panamint Valley in search of large yellow daisies that you can only find on that small section of the earth. We drove through the mountain pass, stopped to take in the vast, open view, and on into Death Valley to see charcoal kilns built by Chinese laborers in the late 1800s.

While there, C. took A. on a mini hike — this little 16-month-old is getting more adventurous. “Hand,” he says, wanting to hold hands while he navigates his unsteady feet over rocks.

There were no daisies — it was a dry winter and the wildflowers will be hard to spot this year. But it was the type of drive that makes you suck in your breath with wonder.

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abandoned mine: a film set?

“If I were a college film student,” A. said. “This is where I’d shoot a horror film.”

We were at an abandoned mine deep in the Indian Wells Valley, and A. was downstairs in a cabin in the woods looking at debris and rusted springs from a bed from nearly a century ago.

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On a tip from two dirt-bikers at the brewery the day prior, we went in search of the Nadeau-Magnolia gold mine, driving narrow dirt roads past hundreds of Joshua trees — some charred from a recent fire. When we arrived, there was a sign lying on the ground, so faded it’s hard to read: “Caution: Mining Area” and “1937.”

On one of the walls in the cabin hangs photos of Siebert family — but A. and I didn’t get a close look because we didn’t trust the wooden boards to hold our weight.

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Wandering around, seeing mining equipment from the early 1900s, I felt like a kid who had walked straight into a storybook. I imagined miners calling to each other, faces covered in dirt, and the Siebert family sitting around the stove in the cabin, looking out the same window I peered out.

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A. and I had stepped into history, and it was all ours to explore. We decided it’s our best discovery yet since moving to Ridgecrest, Calif. The next weekend, we tried to take A.’s parents, but there were about six people huddled near the camping area — including a tall, lanky guy holding a shotgun — and a pitbull that came charging toward our car. We turned around so fast, it’s a wonder we didn’t skid off the dirt road.

We didn’t make it up to the actual mine, about a 1/2 mile hike, but we plan to go back. (And I’d like to find out more about its history — but a quick Google search doesn’t bring anything up.) Maybe we’ll take video cameras and shoot our own horror film like the Blair Witch Project. I’m certain that with little effort — especially after dark — we can scare the bejeesus out of each other.

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how not to fly with an infant

At Detroit Metro airport, waiting for our return flight to D.C. (a much better, leisurely trip).

I stood in the ticket counter line, panicked and on the verge of tears. The lady helping the man before me seemed to be in slow motion. Smiling, slowly leaning down to put a tag on his bag, slowly reaching over to grab his passport.

“C’mon, C’mon!!” I muttered to myself, bouncing up and down.

My flight from D.C. to Detroit was leaving in 25 minutes. I had checked in online, but when I got to the Delta kiosk to print my boarding pass, the machine said I was too late. And then an incompetent lady walked me back to the kiosk to do what I had just done, only to get the same message. I was furious that she wasted three precious minutes.

“Sorry,” she said, not sorry. “You can take the flight leaving in 3 hours.”

“No, no,” I said. “I think I can make it.”

“It’s against regulation,” she huffed. “You can talk to one of our service representatives, but you have to wait in line.”

So I did. And when I got up to the nice lady at the counter, I started to cry.

“This is my first time traveling with my baby alone,” I blubbered, tears running down my face. “I really need to make this flight. Delta sent me an email saying the flight was delayed 30 minutes.”

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iceland with an infant

He came back to the table, sat down, looked at my plate and looked at me with a teasing glint in his eyes.

“You like that?” he said as I chewed a bite of what I thought was beef stew.

I stopped chewing.

“It’s pony,” A. said, laughing.

Pony is a delicacy in Iceland. A. and I were in Hveragerdi, a town in southwest known for its geothermal springs. There’s an agricultural university, several hot springs and greenhouse after greenhouse. And we were eating from a traditional Icelandic buffet. Pork, lamb, carrots, cod with cheese — and pony. A. had eaten horse sausage from a buffet earlier in the week — not knowing what it was — and when we both found out from our waiter (“I’m afraid to tell you what you are eating,” he said), I had turned down the corners of my mouth in disgust. So A. thought it was hilarious that I was eating pony.

It was one of our adventures on our first international trip with C.

I wanted to push the limits, to see what it was like to travel with a 5 1/2 month old. Turns out, C. is a little trooper. Iceland was a good choice because it’s a 5 1/2 hour flight direct from D.C., inexpensive (to fly there, not to eat there) and baby-friendly. There are little high chairs in the restaurants (we put C. in three of them, including one that doubled as a rocking boat) and beautiful changing stations in the bathrooms.

I was nervous about the overnight flight — that it would mess up C.’s sleeping or he would freak out while others were sleeping.
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west coast road trip

A. and I returned a week ago from a two-week road trip from San Francisco to Seattle. We drove miles and miles on winding roads, my bare feet on the dashboard, listening to Bruce Springsteen and soaking in the scenery.

We visited with dear friends in San Francisco, southern Oregon and Seattle. We gawked at red woods and sequoias, hiked up mountains (my max was about 4 miles), walked on the beach, drank chais and ate granola and fresh berries.

And we laughed. A lot — sometimes like schoolchildren. We paid $5 to drive through a sequoia. A. wrote me a note in the Holiday Inn in Redding, Calif.: “I like you. Do you like me? Check a box: Yes or No.” I was laughing so hard that night, I had tears running down my face.

We stayed in funky hotel in Boonville, Calif., a beautiful log cabin in Sisters, Ore., and in a motel on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.

And we talked and talked — about our finances and baby names. And maybe someday moving to the mountains.

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the birds of east africa

One thing I didn’t expect to see in Tanzania was so many beautiful — and big — birds. Maybe that’s because I was so excited to see giraffes and zebras and cheetahs in the wild, birds didn’t cross my mind. But in the Serengeti, I felt a bit like a bird gazer — I kept noticing them fluttering by — especially a bright green one with a yellow belly (A. and I didn’t get a photo of it). When we saw it, we pointed and said, “Ohhhh! Look at that! Did you see that?” I know very little about birds, including the birds below (and I’m having trouble finding some of their names). One of the Australians we met was carefully going through a bird book and marking it up: I should have snuck up behind him and stolen that book and run as fast I could.

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red-and-yellow barbet

African village weaver

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crested cranes

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African ground hornbill

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blacksmith plover

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