Midwest, most best.

Yes, I realize that title is corny and grammatically awkward. Don’t care – my blog, my rules.

Somehow this blog turned into “All the travels we are squeezing in,” and hopefully that will end soon for a riveting series of posts on sleep-training, meal-planning, and things-I-actually-used-from-my-registry (I know, GET EXCITED). But we are squeezing a lot into this last bit of summer, so for the moment, travels it is.

It had been several years since we had gotten to visit James’ family in the summer (since the summer where we drove the PA turnpike 6 times in 2 weeks), and after this visit, I’m pretty sure that summer in the midwest is on our MUST DO list. The weather is cooler, the corn taller, the people friendlier, the garden abundant. We came back relaxed, refreshed, and so so sad that we don’t live closer to the rest of our family. So as I pine for the day when we can somehow live close enough for me to eat my mother-in-law’s cooking regularly and have Henry play with his cousins all the time, here are some pics.

First stop- Cincinnati! Since Henry is our car-hating city baby (“He’ll grow out of it!” they said, “Babies love the car!” they said, “Oh they fall asleep so easily in the car,” they said- LIES LIES LIES), we are always looking for travel ways to avoid long periods of confinement. We used miles to fly to Cincinnati, planning on spending the day with James sister and her family before driving up post-bedtime to his parents. Everything went wrong the morning of our travel (baby diarrhea, early waking, lines that meant we almost missed our flight, lost stroller, rental car mixup..) but we finally rolled into their house about noon.Summer2017-205Summer2017-212Summer2017-214Summer2017-220Summer2017-222Cousins are the best. The kids can finally play a little bit, and I am now desperate for Henry to get more time with these two.

Our driving after bedtime plan went off (surprisingly!) without a hitch, and we arrived in northern Indiana late Friday night. The next two days were a succession of garden picking, baseball playing, baby chasing, and good food. Summer2017-228Summer2017-231Summer2017-232Summer2017-233Henry ate at least 100 green beans. And probably swallowed a total of 2. He just really loves chewing crisp beans. Summer2017-234Summer2017-241Summer2017-244Summer2017-248Summer2017-252Summer2017-256Summer2017-257Summer2017-258Summer2017-261Summer2017-275Now, what shamefully did not happen, was enough diversity in pictures to show that my mother-in-law and myself were actually present. We were! The photos basically make it look like a guys’ weekend, and Henry was in heaven with so much attention from his grandpa and uncle. But I promise, we were there too!

Midwest summer, we love you. Mostly because you hold some of our very favorite people!Summer2017-279Summer2017-280

 

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This & That.

Somehow I packed the second half of our summer with more travel and visitors than I realized. It’s been fun, but a little crazy. Last week my parents came to town all week, and my brother and his wife came up from Charlottesville for one last visit before the move to Sweden. Henry was in heaven all week, doted on by family members and escorted to Chick-Fil-A, the park, and the splash pad by his grandparents while his mom cranked out more dissertation pages. I was crushed when they left… but we promptly hopped a flight to the Midwest for a couple days with James’ family. You know I will inflict all those photos on you soon, but for the moment, here are some snaps from a week with my family, followed by some good reading and material fluff that you can probably live without, but maybe don’t want to. Summer2017-157Summer2017-158Summer2017-160Summer2017-163Summer2017-167Summer2017-169Summer2017-171Summer2017-172Summer2017-175Summer2017-177Summer2017-178Summer2017-179Summer2017-182Summer2017-185Summer2017-190Summer2017-194Summer2017-197Summer2017-199Summer2017-201

I basically share almost every post that these two ladies write, but I had to share posts from Ashley and Mary. Ashley said what I so often think when we talk about Christ’s thoughts on death. I’ve thought over her words so much over the past weeks, thinking about death of innocent and good people and feeling angry that God is “ok” with it. What a good reminder that he is not. 

Mary spoke about the pain and joy of raising sons (and other things) beautifully.

How to meal prep: “You are a Carrot Queen in a quinoa cloud.”

This pulled pork is impossibly easy, Whole30 approved, etc.

Apparently I am not the only person in DC to hate the idea of soulmates.

I’ve been rolling over these words lately, the weighty responsibility of narrating the world for our children.

And now for some pure materialism….

If you follow on Instagram, you know I berated the terrible trends in the Nordstrom anniversary sale in my stories. The unspoken tagline for the sale must be “so many ruffles, not enough shoulders,” because my goodness were they forcing the peplums, bell-sleeves, and cold shoulder options on us. But even if I disliked a lot of the stuff on there, I am pretty excited to finally have a pair of these leggings, that everyone swears by. OK fine: maybe I also snagged a pair of Spankx jeggins. Don’t judge. Childbirth has made me hardcore team spandex blends. I also grabbed a couple tops with ruffles… and they went right back in the mail as returns because they were every but as unflattering  as I imagined. In the list of Clothing That Is Not A Good Idea, I’m placing excessive ruffles up there with cropped flairs and tightly knotted neck scarves, a look that, should be reserved for flight attendants and French women over the age of 50 (in which case the scarves would be Hermès).

Of course, I could have just asked Alexa, since she can now compare outfits and tell you what is more flattering.

I’ve been filling out my one-piece momsuit wardrobe this summer, as we hit the splash pad or pool almost every day. I snagged this one for 18$ and was pleasantly surprised by the quality.

This face cream is my favorite these days (and it is cheap!).

And this leave-in conditioner has totally changed my hair game.

Happy mid-week friends!

 

 

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Days like this.

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You are so right.

There will be days when nothing goes right. There will be days, many of them, where everything you do ends, not when it is over, but when meltdowns happen and you are done, even if whatever you were doing is unfinished. There will be days when you look at the kids you love and think of how things would be easier, better, more fun, more relaxing, more doable, if they weren’t there. There will be so many things you will think about doing, only to decide that it just isn’t worth the hassle it will be to do them with tiny people in tow. There will be days where you are angry at the tiny person you loved and waited for and you text your spouse and beg them to leave work because you need a break. There will be social gatherings that you, you with your beloved kid who “never acts like this,” you who planned on being the Cool Parent Unchanged By Children, you, will ruin. There will be days where you will strap screaming kids into carseats and drive home only to find goldfish in your bra and blueberries smashed into the carseat. There will be friendships that end after you have kids, because there just isn’t time, or you somehow lose a part of a relationship and just can’t find it again. There will be exhaustion like you have never felt before, and so many disgusting bodily functions that you never want to see again.

There will be days like that.

But Dear Person, Dear Parent, Dear Hesitant Parent-to-be, I want you to know that there will be other days too.

There will be days where your kids laugh more than they cry. This laughter will wash over you, and it is stronger than the tears, and it erases the memory of them. It makes you laugh too, and there will be days where you laugh all day long, and then again at night when you think back on it. There will be days where you drive an hour just to see a field of sunflowers, and the baby doesn’t scream in the car. There will be days where all the kids get along, and they make you acutely aware of how big the sunflowers are, how delicious snacks taste when you eat them outside, how special summer is. There will be days where that baby who clung to your hip for months toddles off and picks his own blackberries, shoving fistfulls in his mouth and ruining his clothes, but you don’t even care. You will look at your filthy kids and feel in awe of their ability to love an experience so much that they don’t care about the mess. You will feel pride over piles of dirty laundry that testify to hard play and good days. There will be new people in this life with kids, and you will navigate a whole new set of friendships that are deep and good and forged over smashed goldfish and playground turf and synching nap schedules. There will be days where you climb in bed at the end of the day and you will be so tired, but also think to yourself, we really lived today well.

There will be days that your kids manage to not mess up. There will be days, adventures, moments that are fun in spite of having kids.

But that’s not really what I want to tell you, because it is so far from being the best part.

There will be so many more days that are fun because you are doing it alongside children, hand in hand with people who are still in awe of the world.

I know you don’t totally believe me, but you will. And I’ll save us both some goldfish to eat under the sunflowers.

-Me

(PS: when you’re ready for one of those days, check out the McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area and Homestead Farm.)

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Summer check-in (and the Hive!)

Summer2017-65Somehow I blinked and August is here tomorrow. Usually I am fine with this, as August means August Recess, and more time with James, and I pretty much want it to last forever. Instead of feeling like just the end of summer, it feels like a prolonged finale that is summer at its best. But with all the things happening in politics, there might not be an August recess, and we have some travel over the next couple weeks, which means that we looked at the calendar the other day and realized that we have four totally free days between now and when my semester starts. Four. FOUR. HOW.

It has me looking back at that lofty list of all my summer goals and plans and figuring out how much we can squeeze in over the next couple weeks (or over four days I guess). And you know, going through that list actually made me feel a lot better about where this summer has gone.  So here it is, the mid-to-late summer check in:

Make albums. Check! And I shared details on printing pictures here.

Sort and purge. Check… and then it seems like there is so much more junk within days. How is this possible? But even if it feels like a Sisyphean task, it is happening.

Dissertate. Check, though not as much as I would like. A couple times I fell down tempting wormholes of research that, while useful for dinner party conversation and bizarrely niche trivia nights, do  not actually contribute to my dissertation.

Run. Check… if in word if not in spirit. I have been devoted to running 2-3 times a week. They have been slow, there have been breaks, and they haven’t been pretty. But they have happened.

Reclaim mornings. Yes! Enthusiastically! And then we went to France and it has been rough getting back on track. But we are getting there. Not only has this reslution facilitated running, but it has me anticipating mornings instead of dreading them and really starting my days strong… which means less guilt if they culminate in me eating fudge pops and watching The Bachelorette.

Read something. Um, half check. I have listened to one whole audiobook (Me Before You, VERY mixed feelings), half of Hillbilly Elegy, half of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, and read about 100 pages of Freddy and Frederika. Does that count?

Do DC things. We hit the XYZT exhibit at Artechouse (not impressed, and not free), have gone to Navy Yard splash pad weekly (or more), frequented lots of great  coffee shops (Philz is my current favorite!), and have not consumed nearly enough ice cream. And though it wasn’t on my original list, we have had so much quality park time this summer. So, some checks, and some work to do in these coming weeks.

Last week we made sure to hit the Hive when it opened early in the morning for its free ward days, and there are tons of pictures below of this cool structure. We didn’t stay long, just enough time for Henry to explore and us to have some morning laughs as a family before James went to work. I was excited to check something else off my summer to-do list, and not just because I am insanely type A and love making lists and then accomplishing them. Having Henry in our lives makes me acutely aware of how fast time passes, and how many distractions we let clutter our days. Having goals, be they events or exhibitions or sites to visit or even just ice cream, helps me prioritize time as a family. It helps me strategize how to carve out more time to be together instead of just grasping at leftover hours. It helps me accomplish what needs to happen, all while embracing the fun and joy of what I want to happen.

What are you still trying to get in this summer?

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Traveling [to France] with your [13.5 month old] baby.

Because let’s be honest: every location and age has its pitfalls and joys, its tricks and tips and my experience amounts to a whopping one baby, in a select number of places. I do not at all claim to be a specialist in baby travel, nor am I going to bore you with the things that everyone shares, like having your baby eat while taking off in a plane, etc. Nope. In keeping with my desire for easy fixes, here are some things that you can buy/bring/plan to make your life easier, should you find yourself traveling to France with your very mobile and active 13 month old, too old to just sit contentedly everywhere, yet to young to actually be entertained or contained by the traditional gamut of TV/coloring/new toys etc. It should be noted that I am about to recommend bring more stuff when you travel, and the hip prevailing wisdom is you should always travel light. Well, traveling light with babies sometimes means being less prepared, and this extra stuff made our travels way easier than minimalism would. We had two carry on sized suitcases, a backpack, my diaper bag/purse (which could be worn as a backpack), an umbrella stroller, and a travel crib (see below). It was more than I originally wanted, but still enough that we could carry it and walk without too much trouble.

Here’s what helped make our trip better:France2017-60France2017-59Fly Air France. I am not someone prone to waxing poetic about non-budget airlines, though we are BIG Southwest fans for domestic travel. But Air France now has my heart. Henry was too big for the lap-infant bassinet they provide, and a friend mentioned that Air France will usually just move the person next to you to give your baby a free seat. I was skeptical, as you have to pay to pick your seat, and so who would give it up? But I timidly asked, and both flights they immediately moved the person next to us, giving us a row to ourselves and a free seat for Henry. A flight attendant I ran into on our train confirmed that they will always make every effort to do this if you ask, because less crying from your squished baby makes everyone on the flight happier. The moved parties were happy too, as they were either given a comparable seat or bumped to business class, and let me tell you: the 16 year-old girl who got to fly business instead of next to our squirmy baby could just not move her carry-on bag any faster.

Cut all the lines. This trend of people being impossibly nice continued in France. We were instantly ushered pass every line, be it taxis, museums, customs, etc. I had head this was the case, but I couldn’t have even imagined how awesome it was. I don’t think France loves babies as much as they HATE screaming babies, and they realize that less waiting equals less possibility of a meltdown. So my advice? Take your baby to France and you will be treated like ROYALTY.

Travel a time of year when you can eat outside. Messes are less daunting, crying less irritating, and babies more distracted when you can eat outside. We always requested outdoor tables, and I usually asked for a table to seat four so we had room to stretch out. Some restaurants balked, as the French don’t love you taking up excess space. But I dug in and insisted, which led to positive dining experiences everywhere we went. It is possible that the success in insisting would be harder if you didn’t speak French… but it is worth a try!

Take a high chair. Though you may be royalty, don’t expect your tiny king to have a throne at the table. Several friends had mentioned an absence of high chairs, which isn’t a problem with bigger toddlers who can sit in a chair, or tinier babies who can stay in strollers. But my wild 13-month old will throw all my food on the floor if he’s on my lap, and yet wants to be at a table. So we borrowed this folding travel high chair from a friend and just kept it in the bottom of our stroller. We ate out a lot, and only ever encountered one high chair, in spite of always asking. And almost every single restaurant thanked us for ours, saying it made things easier for everyone. I really debated if it was worth it to take it, but we just slipped it in the pack n’ play carry case and it was worth it a million times over.

Minimize your mess with these. I hated the idea of Henry leaving a messy table and causing the French waiters to judge me. As he is still in the swiping plates off tables stage, and none of those silicon sticky plates have been able to stand up to him, I bought a pack of disposable placemats that stick to the table. They were CLUTCH. I think 50% of our feeling that the trip was a success was because we got to leisurely eat in restaurants, and that is 100% because of the high chair and these. I would dole out little chunks of banana or my food and he would eat as we did. I kept a bib in the stroller too and just rinsed it off after eating. Yes, James usually had to take him out to play while we waited for the bill and paid the check, as there are limits to his tolerance.  Yes, we often skipped dessert and chugged cocktails slightly faster than normal. But being prepared for the logistics of French dining was a HUGE stress eliminator. It also meant that we were praised and coddled in every single restaurant. We are talking French waiters kissing my baby, playing with him, bringing him treats and stopping to chat about their own families, etc. This is NOT NORMAL for French service, and I really credit it to our efforts to facilitate calm and clean meals… as much as possible with a squirmy little. France2017-105France2017-190France2017-103Don’t expect a changing table. We only ever encountered one bathroom with a changing table, and many French restrooms are tiny. Having a sanitary space to change Henry and then wash my hands was not an option. Having one of those pouches that folded out into a mat was so helpful to turn any space into a changing surface.

Bring a tiny stroller, but make it a sturdy one. If possible, leave your minivan stroller at home and bring a tiny one. French walkways and cafés are so much narrower than American ones and it was nice to not leave [even more] destruction in our wake. I grabbed this one for $40 in a flash sale on Amazon and it was so great. Light, reclines all the way, good basket, and easy to fold and carry.

Yes, it is worth it to schlep your entire sleep system. The other 50% of our trip feeling successful was that Henry slept GREAT and thus we all felt rested. I talked a little about that here, and so much of it is due to the intense sleep training we did when he was young. But part of that training is the fact that he knows to go to sleep any time he is put down in his normal routine, no matter where, and no matter when. He was not phased by jetlag (coming home was a slightly different story!) and as I mentioned here, jetlag actually made our European evenings so much more enjoyable than American ones. We used batteries in our normal soundmachine, borrowed this hyper light travel crib from a friend that he is used to napping in, and brought his blankies and sleep sack. Thus, we had no issues of him ever going to or staying asleep. I was really dreading hauling a pack n’ play along with our stuff, but I’m so glad we did. The hassle of taking it (and yes, it was a hassle doing the train, metro, walking, etc. carrying it) was completely negated by the good sleep it gave us all. France loves shutters, so I knew that light wouldn’t be a huge issue, but if I was traveling somewhere else, I would even consider tossing one of these in. I cannot emphasize enough how much us all being well rested contributed to the success of this trip.

Yes, it is also worth it to rent an Airbnb with actual rooms. When I was looking for a place to stay, there are soooooooo many cheap options that are lovely, but only studios. We only wanted a place with an actual room so that we could stay up when Henry is sleeping, and I’m really glad we did that, even if it meant paying slightly more and having fewer options. It let James and I take some time after he went to bed not only to hang out, but to regroup and plan for the next day. France2017-204France2017-205France2017-206Those new books and toys everyone suggested will do absolutely nothing to entertain your baby. But that one mom at church who suggested slowly doling out colorful cotton balls for your kid to slowly insert into an empty water bottle and then dump out is PURE GENIUS.

Also take a ball. It is the toy that entertains my kid more than any other. We just kept a baseball sized ball in the stroller and whipped it out whenever he needed to get out some wiggles.

You need more clothes than you think you do. Our Airbnb that supposedly had a washer didn’t, and we were stretching our clothing pretty thin towards the end. I am used to being able to travel on a crazy small capsule (remember this?), but I should have packed a couple more outfits for Henry, because babies are a wildcard of mess. Minimalism works better for people who don’t poop through their clothes from time to time.

And some other products that made life easier: this sunstick for easy application / Turkish towels for everything from beach swims to picnics because they dry fast and are soooo  much less bulky than regular towels / Lara bars for quick protein snacks / a change purse instead of wallet to keep track of Euros / packing cubes to at maintain sanity as we lived out of suitcases.

France2017-202We were not perfect travelers with a baby. I really struggled with healthy snacks on the go, as he is too young for things like nuts or carrots. As a result, we had some hunger meltdowns and he ate a lottttttttt of croissants, crackers, and apple sauce pouches, things that I try to minimize at home. We went out without the correct amount of wipes and diapers on several occasions, leading to serious prayers for the multiplication of our wipes before impressive blow outs. We didn’t plan perfectly and had to reassess or activities a couple times. But on the whole, it went so much better than I ever could have imagined and I hope these tips and tricks encourage you to confidently put France on your “Go Here With Tiny People” list.

What are some of your favorite tricks for lengthy travel with kids this age?

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The best part of our trip…

…wasn’t the perfect waters of Lake Annecy, or the views from the top of the mountain. It wasn’t the evening strolls along the canals or the endless dishes of tartiflette. It wasn’t revisiting places I love in Paris, or spending an afternoon in the Musée D’Orsay. It wasn’t the beautiful doors, or the delicious pastries. It wasn’t the adventure or the excitement or the grandness of international travel.France2017-159It was James and Henry and the ocean that separated us from life and work. It was the 6-hour time difference that meant that James actually went on vacation, something that never happens, and the lack of of cell service that meant I didn’t waste time on Instagram or texting. It was the total separation we had with anything other than our family. I realize that in theory this could be accomplished with domestic travel. But in reality, it doesn’t happen. Work calls creep in, incidents happen that need attention. Daily distractions are packed along with the rest of our baggage.France2017-162But in France, it was just us three, investing in memories and time together. I know that Henry won’t remember any of it, that this trip didn’t enrich his life, broaden his worldview, expose him meaningfully to the language, or otherwise form him into a more world-conscience individual. But I will remember the look on his face when he watched TV for the first time in the plane. I will remember how his hands looked clutching a croissant and how he had flaky crumbs in is stroller the entire trip. I will remember how his face lit up when he was thrown over the Luxembourg gardens, over the teal waters of Lake Annecy, over the vista stretching out from Mount Semnoz. I will remember how groggy and inclined to snuggle he was when he woke up and climbed in bed with us in our little Parisian Airbnb, and how he loved standing out on the balcony. I will remember all the memories we made when we were focused only on each other, not on our to-do lists or the tantalizing world of social media. I will remember his first steps, his exploding vocabulary, his eager waving at every closed-off Parisian. I will remember how we had James to ourselves for over a week with no work, and the unheard of joy that brings to our family.

France2017-166This week James and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. FIVE years of doing life together, that followed over four years of dating. This trip was in part a way to celebrate that anniversary, and the fact that both of us turn 30 at the end of this summer. Going into a new decade together and getting closer to having already done a decade together feels momentous. I’ve learned so much about love, about myself, about life through this marriage. I’ll spare you a lengthy post about it (this year- since I forced one on you in years one, two, three, and four), but sometimes I think back to my biggest doubts before getting married. I didn’t doubt his character, my love for him, or our ability to make marriage work. But I doubted the long-term satisfaction possible with one person. What if we got tired of each other in twenty years, or we ran out of things to talk about, or we just got bored? These are the doubts that should plague you if you believe that marriage is forever. They are good and healthy emotions that come from the realization of commitment.

And sometimes we do run out of things to talk about. Sometimes days are long and tired and we find each other again at the end of the day and just want to zone out in front of the TV and go to bed. Sometimes we get annoyed at each other or bored. But time away from daily life, time together devoted to exploration and play, time spent without the stress and distractions of work reminds me that there is no one I would ever choose over James. It reminds me how fun it is to be together, how well our family works, and how excited I am for the years that stretch out in front of us. We talked about these years while in France, the ones that are past and the ones that stretch before us. We came home more than ever excited to be a family, because we really got to focus on being one while there.

And that, that was the best part.Processed with VSCO with x1 preset

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Paris with my people.

France2017-94I always find my way back to Paris, and it was almost a given that any trip to Europe had to include it. I had originally planned that we would get a leisurely morning after our overnight flight to have some quality café time before catching our train to Annecy, but the combination of a delayed flight, a momentarily lost stroller, and the reality of how un-leisurely it was getting all our stuff into the city and to Gare de Lyon meant that no, no that did not happen. We settled instead for sitting bleary eyed around coffee in the train station and questioning our sanity, before saying goodbye to Paris for a few days.

When we came back after a couple blissful days in Annecy, we were rested, refreshed, and ready to take on one of my very favorite cities. We didn’t have much of an agenda while there, beyond a list of the must-eat places I always hit when in town and some people that I wanted to see. We mostly wandered around, stopping for a park or pastry every time a certain someone needed a break. We only hit one museum, and in spite of my eternal love for les soldes, I didn’t even step foot in a store beyond the super market. And yet, it was still a perfect time in that perfect city.

France2017-96France2017-97//HIS BELLY. We made sure to put our feet on this spot in front of Notre Dame, because they say that it means you will return. I’ve been doing it every visit, and there’s always another one… so I will keep on jostling tourists out of the way to do it.//France2017-98//I get emails every week from people who are going to Paris, or have their mother’s sister’s friend’s hairdresser going to Paris, and they want to know what to do. I have a set email I send with lists of my favorite places, but I mostly just tell people to walk everywhere and give them a list of places to sit. One of the best places is the area around Notre Dame at sunset. You get views like this, lots of street performers, and just a perfect space to people watch.//France2017-101//We did Airbnb’s for both Annecy and Paris and it worked out great. It meant that we could have an actual room for sleeping, so that when Henry went to bed we didn’t just have to sit in the dark. We also made sure to get apartments in both places with tiny balconies. Silly, I know, but it meant that James and I could sit out there and sip wine after Henry was sleeping, continuing our enjoyment of the city all while getting some rest. Our apartment in Paris was perfect, and by that I mean very sparsely furnished (less for a certain ginger gremlin to destroy!), conveniently located (even if not in my favorite area), easy to access, and comfortable.//Francecollage2France2017-114//I have just used an old purse that my SIL was getting rid of for a diaper bag for the past year, but it was a) falling apart and b) can only be worn over the shoulder. I didn’t find any good replacements, so a friend loaned me her Lily Jade bag for the trip and it did not disappoint. So big! So cute! So versatile! I alternated between wearing it as a backpack and as a purse.//France2017-126France2017-127//This cutie. He puts up with soooooooo many pictures, and has learned that it is just easier to let them happen and get it over with quickly.//France2017-134France2017-139France2017-141//Henry started really walking in the Tuileries Gardens. He has taken a step or two for awhile, but can crawl so fast that he just seemed uninterested in walking. But there, in the gardens that both James and I love, he started doing that T-rex walk that is the cutest thing ever. It was mostly in response to chasing down his ball, because this boy of ours loves balls. We spent two entire afternoons in these gardens, letting him run around, fall in the dirt, chase his ball, and climb on everything. He was, without a doubt, the dirtiest child in Paris. Also the happiest.//France2017-148France2017-151France2017-154//Another favorite spot to stay awhile is the Cour Carré around the Louvre. There are almost always amazing musicians in this passage, and experiencing that with Henry was one of the things I was most anticipating. Nothing is more magic than the music of a cello echoing through this space. //France2017-157//This kid put up with SO much eating in cafés, but he was definitely thrilled when we skipped tables and had picnics in the park. He carried that apple over to every group around us, disrupting their picnics to giggle and try to clink his sippy cup against their uplifted glasses of wine. He hammed it up, reveling in the attention, and almost went home with several other families before we dragged him away. I used to pass through the Luxembourg Gardens every day when I studied abroad in 2007, and I came regularly when I lived beside them in 2009 and 2010. Never would I have imagined that I would get to picnic in them with my extroverted ginger baby.//France2017-161France2017-165//Again, THAT BELLY. Also that mean-mug…. someone was not impressed with family portrait attempts.//France2017-167France2017-168France2017-172France2017-174France2017-177//Ok, let’s talk about this Saint-Honoré Rose Framboise. It’s one of the treats I crave in France (along with butter with full chunks of sea salt crystals slathered over warm baguette, the cheap generic brand museli from Dia, pain au raisin, duck breast, croque madame, and the hot chocolate served with big bowls of whipped cream), but Ladurée had sold out of the individual sized ones. I shrugged and just informed them that I would have to buy the full sized one and it took the woman a second to realize that I was not joking…France2017-178… because I Do. Not. Joke. about the Saint-Honoré Rose Framboise. James and Henry only ate a couple bites, but my friend Emma and I nobly ate almost the entire thing in one sitting. I have no regrets. //France2017-179FrancecollageFrance2017-180France2017-183France2017-184//We stopped by the much-hyped Merci, and honestly, I was not overly impressed. It was so pretty, but not really baby friendly. I don’t hold it against them, but it meant we didn’t stay too long, heading instead to…France2017-188Carette. If I only had one afternoon in Paris to spend at one café, it would be this one. Place des Vosges is one of my favorite places in the whole city, and I love the inside-outside vibe of eating in the colonnade. Plus, their croque-madame is delicious, their hot chocolate accompanied by a mountain of whipped cream, and their pastries divine. They were also the ONLY place of anywhere we ever went in France to have a high chair, so, bonus points. (More Parisian tea rooms I love here, and wayyyyy old school here,  if that’s your thing. If not, we probably aren’t actually friends.)//France2017-191France2017-192France2017-196France2017-197France2017-198France2017-199France2017-201//It was hot the entire time in Annecy and the first half of our time in Paris. But close to the end, we had some crazy summer storms in the middle of the day. One such storm blew up when we were near the Eiffel Tower. As there is nothing near there to offer shelter, we waited it out in a children’s play structure, which Henry LOVED. We also let him play in the wet sand… which led to a screaming baby as we stripped him down and tried to clean wet sand off him with wipes. Not our finest moment. But maybe one of the funniest family memories from the trip.//France2017-203France2017-209

Paris will always be impossibly precious to me for so many reasons. It’s the place where I learned so much about myself, where I had my first post college job, where I navigated friendships and logistics and faith in another language. It’s where I told James I loved him for the first time, and where so many other memories are inscribed in every detail of the city. It’s been my constant in so many ways for so long. I will never stop wanting to go to Paris, even if visiting it with a baby in tow showed me that it is not as easy a destination as many places, and that many things I love doing their are solitary pursuits. But now, now I have a whole new catalogue of memories of my favorite people, in one of my favorite places. It gets to be the site of Henry’s first steps and of important discussions between James and me. It was so good to our family and that just makes me love it all the more, even as it revealed new difficulties.

Till next time Paris. France2017-210b

PS: Should you want more Paris posts other than the ones linked throughout the captions above, are some more:  Parisian realism / Impressions / Sunsets from where I used to live / How to spend 2 days in Paris / Why I never look French / All the blue doors / Fancy city, simple food / More random pictures / Parisian Maps / I wish I could give you Paris / Still more random pics / Good Parisian Memoirs / Paris by the colors / And still more random pictures

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