Saturday, October 29, 2011

This is Not Forever

I was thinking today about coping mechanisms for all the things in life that are less than satisfactory. The way I tell myself that every little bit of clutter I clean up gets me closer to my goal of getting it all put away. The way I feel a little bit overwhelmed, but remind myself to just push through one more day. The way I daydream about storage furniture. All these things help me in some measure when I am not getting what I need.

Ideally, I need a week away all by myself, in some location that is too far to slip home because I feel guilty, but still familiar to me. In my dreams, I spend a week by myself in London, and see no one but museum staff and the people at Pret A Manger and Costa. But that's just dreamland, and in real life, I am the mother to a small girl who still needs me very much, almost every day. (That I could go away for a night or two and she would be fine is fairly clear, but a week would be ridiculous.) So I will make do with what I can get, which will be full day with the house to myself sometime soon. And it will be enough, because it has to be. In the meantime, I will accept that until that day comes, our house may look like it's heading to Martha Stewart's personal version of hell in a cat hair encrusted handbasket. Because that's another coping mechanism: turning a blind eye to my own Hoarders episode in the making.

One thing that is hardest for me about being an introvert is that there seem to be so few people that get it, that understand that it's not that I don't want to be efficient or organized or have a spic-and-span house, but that there comes a certain point when I've had too much interaction with others that I simply can't manage many other things. My energy goes first to my daughter, and much of the rest gets channeled to simply showing up where I'm supposed to be with the appropriate items in tow. When life is particularly busy, and I have not had a break for quite some time, I have very little left to give to the rest of my life. I am at that point now, and I am doing a fairly good job accepting it and waiting it out until I get relief.

As I sit here at my cluttered desk (non-essential mail items are still piled up from vacation), in my dirty-floored house, I consider what it will be like when I have two children to attend to instead of just one. I know, for one thing, that I will be even more tired than I am today. I know that I will have to work out once again what works for both my family and for me.

I do wonder if people will think I am nuts to take on a second child who will have needs as great as or even greater than Zinashi's. This past year has been intense, and I know that when our second child comes it will be even more so. We will walk through grief and loss with our next child, and will continue to do so with Zinashi, and this requires a lot of intentional closeness. It may seem to an outsider that this is quite unwise. But here's the key point: I not just an introvert. It is only one facet of who I am, and mothering draws on many aspects of my personality. I am doing what I am meant to do with my whole self at the point in time, and doing so means working with everything I've got, including my introverted nature.

My children will not be young forever, and this very busy phase of life will not be forever either. My purpose and direction will change as they grow. For now, though, this is the life I am meant to be living, and I believe with my whole heart that as long as I choose to fully inhabit the story that is being written with my life, I will find the grace to do what is necessary to nurture the little people who have been placed in it.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Powering Through Because That's What Moms Do

I'm going to tell you two things to give you insight into where I'm coming from when I tell you this next part.

1. I am a classic introvert, which means that being with people can be fun, but drains me of energy.

2. Every single personality test I've ever taken to determine my "career path" has indicated that I work best independently.

Two Fridays a month we go to a homeschool co-op. I keep going back and forth regarding whether it is a good fit for us. I love the other moms. I love the Waldorf approach in Zinashi's class and the music part where she just goes nuts playing instruments and dancing with the other kids. But it's exhausting for both of us, and not just because the class time is noon to 3pm, when we are usually having our rest time. It's a lot of people time (see #1), and a lot of collaboration time (see #2), and even two times per month, I feel like it's a little much for me. The question, I think, is whether it is a good enough thing for Zinashi that I can just power through. I suppose that, even though she looks like this when we get home:

IMG_1237

If she can muster up the enthusiasm to do this:

IMG_1242

Then it's probably not too much for her.

Which means I need to just stop whining and keep going. And maybe take the night off on school days.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

One Year in the USA

I kind of forgot to mention that today marks one year at home as a family. I tried to explain to Zinashi what that meant, but the concept of a year is just not something she can grasp. This day is not the day we celebrate; it means far less to us than the day we met her. Coming into the United States did not make us a family, and I wouldn't even say that it marked the beginning of normal life. Still, one year of managing the craziness that is life in America is something to mark as an achievement of sorts. We made it through, and that feels good.

Vacation Wrap-Up

photo

As previously mentioned, we would absolutely take the very same vacation again, even knowing the small difficulties we endured. In hindsight, there are some things that worked great that we'd keep, and some things that didn't work so well that we'd ditch or swap out.

First, I want to stress the importance of adjusting expectations when traveling with your children. You are absolutely not going to have the same kind of trip you had when you traveled sans children. If you expect to do even half of what you did when you traveled on an adults only trip, you will be sorely disappointed. If I am honest, I'll say that we maybe (maybe) did 25% of what we could do on previous vacations. In order to gauge what you'll be capable of on vacation, think of your day to day life. How much of what you got done before children can you accomplish now? Now knock your percentage down at least 10% because you're on vacation, and you should be relaxing.

Also take into account that your child will want to have fun, too. It took me awhile to even consider that we should ask Zinashi what she wanted to do with her day. It's only fair that if the adults get to do things they prefer, the little people should get some say, too. This is a vacation for all of you. Particularly if you've traveled before and have a certain way of doing things, you'll have to be intentional about making the changes you need to make in order to make it relaxing and fun for all of you.

Once you've gotten accustomed to your new vacation pace, you'll need to think about details. As I noted in previous posts, there are a few things that we should have packed that we didn't. I recommend making lists to be sure you don't forget anything, and setting aside time to specifically think about the trip and what you might need. The main issue that arose for me was the during the time I'd set aside for making my packing list, I ended up braiding hair. Should you actually end up having the time you set aside to make your lists, some things to consider are:

1. What does your child use every single day as part of your routine? This is everything from clothing to bath items (including toys that can go in the tub if you'll have one) to a special blanket to a bib for meals.

2. What extra items might your child need to stay neat and clean (I know, I know, this is not a priority for everyone) and transition throughout the day? This includes everything from extra clothing items and wipes to melatonin to help beat jet lag if you're crossing time zones. Budget traveling tip: I brought detergent so I could do laundry in the bath tub. I packed less clothing and didn't stress about having to use an extra outfit.

3. If you are planning on lazy mornings or afternoons in, what kind of toys and books will your child need to stay occupied until you are ready to go out? Consider the variety of toys your child plays with and make sure you pack a few things from every category.

4. What kind of transportation will you be using, and what will you need to make that safe, enjoyable, and just plain manageable for you and your child? Will you need a car seat? Carrier? Stroller? The number one thing I wish we'd brought that we didn't was a stroller. If we had been honest about the limitations of the legs of a four-year-old and the patience level of two adults, we would have recognized that sometimes we would want it.

Next comes the question of travel methods. I'm going to specifically address the methods we used, which were airplane, public transportation, and car service. I've belly-ached about it enough that you probably know that we did not have a good experience with Air Canada. If nothing had gone wrong, or even if it had only been the issue of our luggage not arriving with us, I would probably give them high marks. Our main issue was that once we had a problem, it wasn't resolved in a satisfactory manner. We are not entitled travelers, and we are willing to overlook a lot of small things. Sometimes things happen! But one of our priorities for air travel was that we would all be seated together, and that did not happen on our first flight, even though we called ahead, attempted to check in online, and showed up for our first flight in plenty of time. Choose an airline with a good track record of accommodating families and making amends if necessary. Because this was Zinashi's first big trip post coming-to-America, it was important to us that we be able to keep her as comfortable as possible. If I had it to do over again, I would have paid up to $100 more per person to make sure that we would be taken care of.

In the case of our shorter flights to Nice, EasyJet did not disappoint, so I recommend them highly. Even though they don't assign seats, we were able to get seats together because of their boarding policy that allows families with young children to board early in the process (after those who have paid for their Speedy Boarding service have boarded, but before everyone else). Their prices are excellent, and we got to Nice and back for under $100 per person, including the extra fees we paid to check luggage. If you can figure out how to use just hand luggage, you'll make your journey even more affordable.

For public transportation, we used the Underground in London as well as overground trains when we needed them. These were all easy to navigate. Gatwick Express was a bit pricey, but it was efficient and comfortable, with plenty of luggage racks and tables on which to eat the snacks we'd brought on board. In Nice, we used the airport shuttle bus, which is affordable though sometimes a bit crowded. If you prefer ease, you might choose a taxi, but we don't mind standing and swaying with the movement of the bus in order to save a few euros. We didn't have to pay for Zinashi on any of the public transportation, so that saved us some money as well.

On our way to the airport for our flight out of London to get home, we had to leave too early to take public transportation, so we booked a car service. Green Tomato Cars was excellent, and the fee ended up being equal to what we would have paid to take the Underground and then the Heathrow Express. The bonus here, of course, was that we were not hauling all our luggage on and off public transportation.

Once you know what you're packing and how you're getting to and from all your destinations, the remaining big piece of your travel puzzle is accommodations. If you are traveling with small children, it will behoove you to choose a place to stay that is central to where you'd like to go. We made a mistake in this regard when we booked a place in Barking for the first part of our London stay; we confused saving money with good value and paid for it in time and travel effort. (And grumpiness, if I'm being honest.) For our second stay, the W14 Hotel was just $12 more a night and not only more convenient to travel from, but also simply nicer, with a much lighter atmosphere and more usable common spaces. We had a room with twin bunk beds, which ended up working out just fine thanks to the smallish size of our daughter and the storage cabinets and drawers in the room. Read reviews and look at maps when you are booking your stay. Is it really worth it to walk a mile to the Underground station as opposed to four blocks just to save money? And are you really saving money if you have to pay a more for your Underground pass because you are further out? For us, those answers were NO and NO, NOT AT ALL.

In Nice, we really enjoyed staying in an apartment. There is nothing like having a little home away from home to keep routine more intact and have plenty of privacy. If we could have afforded to rent an apartment in London, we would have done so. It was just so much better for Zinashi, and Jarod and I both prefer it as well. We don't care about luxury linens or maid service. Staying in a place that could feel like home for the week was just right. We highly recommend Nice Pebbles should you travel to Nice. There are similar services in other cities, so check travel sites and Craigslist to see what is available. I considered this to be the big splurge of our budget international travel, and it was totally worth it (and really not that expensive). Knowing we'd have an apartment in Nice made it easy to stay in hotels with a shared bathroom situation in London.

Finally, there were some small things that made all the difference. Because of the climate difference from London to Nice, we had a suitcase of clothes for cooler weather that we didn't need in Nice, and we were able to leave that with a friend of Jarod's while we traveled to Nice. In both Nice and London, we knew which places offered food that was both affordable and delicious. (Hats off to you, Pret A Manger, for being both ubiquitous and delicious.) The availability of free WiFi at both the apartment in Nice and the W14 in London was also key.

We're tentatively planning our next vacation of this sort for Autumn 2013. I think that in and of itself is the measure of our success--that we are not only willing to do it all over again (potentially with a second child in the mix), but that we are planning on it. We even know where we'd like to stay in Nice. Vacation wins a prize for sure.

two

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

This Tuesday with Old Lady Mary: Adorably Foxy Ladies

I decided to do our official Halloween visit to Old Lady Mary's today, so that meant that I stayed up late finishing masks and sewing a fox tail. But Mary loved our outfits, and, perhaps more importantly, Zinashi was thrilled about dressing up like a fox, so it was worth it.

tuesday, october 25, 2011
Click on the photo for more details of our outfits and Old Lady Mary's reactions.

I wanted to keep things fairly simple this year and go for something sweet and timeless, so it was lucky that Zinashi was really into the idea of being a fox. Making these masks and Zinashi's tail wasn't super complicated, even though in the middle I started to think I might have bitten off more than I could chew. It was a gluey mess there for awhile, and I'm certain we'll be finding fake fur everywhere for years, but I can't argue with the joy of a child who suddenly has a tail.

fox tail

I would do it all over again, for certain.



Confused about who this Old Lady Mary person is and why we show up every Tuesday? Click here and proceed to the paragraph beneath the photo.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Vacation Part 3: London (Again)

Our return to London found us all a little tired, but our new hotel was conveniently located, so at least we didn't have to wander endlessly with lots of luggage. We did, however, underestimate the number of eating establishments that fit both our nutritional needs (otherwise known as "not Kentucky Fried Chicken") and took a credit card. We were out of cash and didn't care to track down an ATM in addition to a place to eat, so we followed the path Jarod's iPhone set out for us and had the longest walk of our lives. West Kensington, we apologize for the volume, pitch, and frequency of the shrieking, and we assure you that we were not kidnapping anyone, nor was our child harmed in any way, despite her indications to the contrary. She just needed a sandwich and a snuggle, and she got both once she stopped trying to dart into traffic as an act of revenge.

Note to future travelers: if your gut says, "Insist to your spouse that you must get food at the airport," then please give your gut some credit and insist that you get food at the airport. If you feel that it may inconvenience your spouse, who is purposefully navigating your luggage towards the Gatwick Express, remember our tale of woe, and consider it a gift to your entire family instead. The family that gets hungry and tired together gets angry and inconsolable together.

For some reason I thought that we'd have time to do something fun that evening, but after the shrieking debacle, the only thing that made sense was retrieving our extra suitcase from the friend who had kindly kept it for us (more on that when I wrap this up) and getting to bed. Because the next morning was an important morning. It was the morning we were going to feed some squirrels.

At this point I feel I must reveal to you what it is like to vacation with me. There are always plenty of sites to see and things to do, but most often you'll find me like this:

what it's like to vacation with me

I have a feeling this will be quite satisfactory to Zinashi while she is young, and utterly embarrassing to her when she reaches her teen years. I'm sorry, sweetie. I just really like to talk to animals.

We had a very long walk to feed the squirrels, mostly because they are rebuilding a number of bathrooms in Hyde Park. Do you know when your four-year-old will need to use the bathroom the most? When the two nearest ones (which aren't actually that near) are closed due to construction. I don't know how long it took us to locate the Starbucks with a bathroom, and I don't want to think about it. I want to think about the part where we finally fed some squirrels.



From there the day only got better and better. Of particular note was our picnic beneath Nelson's Column. Don't ask me how I hoisted myself up there in a dress; sometimes a lady's secrets need to remain a lady's secrets.

picnic at nelson's column

lunch at nelson's column, photo by zinashi

We also were thrilled to locate the bathroom with a tub at our hotel. It's the little things that make a big difference, and Zinashi was far more comfortable taking a bath than a shower. We all went to bed satisfied.

The next day was our last day in London and holds some of my favorite memories of the trip. We decided to grab breakfast at the Costa outside the Embankment tube station and have a little breakfast picnic. I had forgotten about the little park there with the striped chairs and ping pong tables; it proved to be a perfect spot to snarf down muffins and engage in all sorts of silliness.

vacation big bite:  giant muffin

this is my zinashi

From there we wandered along the Thames, with the Tate Modern as our chosen destination. Because we were not in a hurry, and knew that the next day we very well might be, we allowed Zinashi to set our pace. Before long, we were joined by an imaginary puppy who needed tender care all day. We named him Figment and took turns keeping him in our pockets while we attended to other very serious matters.

who let these people out of the hotel?

At the Tate Modern I intended to show Zinashi some art, but instead we got caught up in reading the books in the gift shop. It was just as satisfying, and I'm sure that no one at the Tate Modern minded that we purchased a few good items without ever venturing into the museum at large. In my fantasies, I am afforded a whole day to spend there, but this was a family vacation, not Mary's private vacation, so the gift shop was it. From there, we had a lunch that wasn't noteworthy, and Jarod headed off for a job inquiry (which I would call an interview, but it wasn't for a specific position, so...I'm sticking with inquiry), and Zinashi and I were left to do as we pleased. It was raining very lightly, and we set out to make the best of it. We had two and a half hours to get from the Tate Modern, across the Tower Bridge, and to the steps of the Tower of London gift shop. We took our time, and it was glorious.

about to feed me something imaginary

zinashi and the bridge

Mostly we stuck to the banks of the Thames, wandering into Borough Market briefly and meandering through parks when they were nearby. Zinashi pretended to be a horse and, after a coffee break at the Starbucks on the opposite side of the bridge, convinced me to join her in pretending to be various animals. We were lions, elephants, tigers, and housecats. As we ambled over to a bench to finish our hot drinks before heading to the gift shop, she grabbed my hand and said, "I love my Mami." That, my fine internet friends, is the mark of a well-spent afternoon.

And then it was all over, or mostly. Jarod caught up with us at the gift shop entrance, just as Zinashi was grabbing the crotch of the suit of armor inside and asking, "What's this?" We grabbed dinner to go, rode the train back to the hotel, and packed up so that we'd be ready to go at the crack of dawn the next morning. That was that. Vacation, past tense.

Overall, I give vacation high marks. I'm fairly certain that Jarod and I enjoyed ourselves more than Zinashi did, but I didn't expect that a girl who loves familiar things and routine would be bowled over by the uncertainty of her first vacation. She liked riding the trains in London. She thoroughly enjoyed ice cream every night in Nice. But she also loved getting home and reuniting with what we now understand are her beloved pets.

that right there is a sofa on top of a sofa

If we had it to do all over again, we most definitely would. On Wednesday I'll follow up with a little wrap up of what worked well and what didn't on the trip as a whole so that should you plan a similar trip with your family, you'll know both the pleasures and the pitfalls. Vacation with a young child is doable. If travel is your thing, you need not abandon it once you're a parent. It's not only manageable, but sometimes just plain fun.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Let Us Regale You with Song



We've been working on "Killing Me Softly" all year, mostly because I think it's funny. We usually have hand motions, and I've taught her to "feel the music" a la About a Boy. Someday we'll get video of the whole shebang. For now you just get a little bonus Over the Rhine tacked on there at the end.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Vacation Part 2: Nice

Tuesday morning we woke bright and early to catch a train and then another train to Gatwick for our flight to Nice. We got there in plenty of time, checked in without incident, and got through security with only a small amount of trauma on Zinashi's part. In Kansas City, she'd had no issue with going through the metal detector and waiting on the other side for me, but in London, she freaked out after she ran through and ran right back through to cling to me, shrieking the whole way. Luckily, it wasn't busy, and the airport staff said it was fine if I just carried her through with me. They also didn't rush us getting our stuff off the conveyor while we calmed down our little shrieker. Thank you, Gatwick security staff.

Once through security, we got drinks and an impulse-purchase book for Jarod (okay, just kidding, it was for me) and settled in to wait for our gate assignment. As you can see, we were all so excited there was no way we'd accidentally doze off.

reading in gatwick
Yeah, right.

No one fell asleep right away, but saved it for the airplane, where I'm pretty sure we all slept a little bit. We woke up on the ground in Nice, rode the bus to our apartment*, and wandered through the city to get dinner. This may seem silly in a city with so much good seafood and other French fare, but we really love eating kebabs in Nice and have made a tradition of eating at our favorite little kebab place on our first night in town. Of course we wanted Zinashi to be part of this tradition, and she'd never had a kebab before, so it was doubly fun.

first night in nice, photo by zinashi
Photo by Zinashi.

first night in nice, photo by zinashi
Photo by Zinashi. I get a little puffy when I fly.

vacation big bite:  kebab
Baby's first kebab. She liked it!

The next day was Jarod's birthday, and he had no particular requests for activities, so we did what we do best, which is to eat pastries for breakfast.

vacation big bite:  apple pastry

A stroll through Old Town seemed like a good idea, too.

racing through old town

Zinashi seemed a little bored, so we asked if she wanted to walk up to the park. She said yes.

on the way to the chateau

checking out the chateau playground

If you ask Zinashi about her favorite thing to do in Nice, she'll tell you it was the park. But she also seemed pretty keen on throwing rocks into the Mediterranean.

throwing rocks into the water

The rest of our days were much like the first, with a few fun things thrown in as we went along. We put on our swimsuits and got wet in the sea.

zinashi and ababi in the sea

i bribed her to smile like a normal child on vacation

We walked up to the park at Cimiez, and Zinashi rode the carousel.

on the cimiez carousel

We made meals in the apartment and ate on the balcony.

brunch on the balcony

We went out for one special dinner at our favorite restaurant.

ababi and the shrimp

me and my girl at our fancy dinner

we all like to pull faces; it's a family activity

We spent afternoons strolling on the Promenade des Anglais.

hello

We rented bicycles so we could enjoy the view along the coast.

ready to bicycle on the promenade

bicycling on the promenade

I'm pretty sure you already know about the ice cream we ate every night, but here's a reminder.

this ice cream is RIDICULOUS

I know this isn't rocket science, but if you're on vacation, it really needs to feel like a vacation for everyone. If you're traveling with small children, this is going to mean that you'll have to slow down. There were a ton of things I thought we'd do that we didn't, simply because Zinashi's pace couldn't accommodate them. But our goal in Nice had simply been to relax and make good memories, so it worked out well regardless of what our initial expectations were.

It was a few days into our Nice stay before I felt we'd really hit our vacation stride. By that point, we were accustomed to the time difference, and we'd finally realized that we were on vacation, and thus did not have to get anywhere quickly. It had become too much of a habit to ask Zinashi to just keep up with us, and with nowhere to be at any certain time, we had to admit that we were only asking her to hurry up because of our own impatience. Slowing down (to a crawl sometimes) helped her to enjoy herself, as did asking her partway through each day if there was something she'd like to do. Most of the time, she simply wanted to go back to the park.

surveying the playground options

i really hope you're kidding

One thing that I am ashamed to admit is that we ended up buying a few toys in Nice. We simply didn't bring quite enough variety. I thought Zinashi would be good to go with a bunch of Littlest Pet Shop animals, a few finger puppets, books, and plenty of coloring supplies (stickers included!), but I was wrong. We allowed her to choose her Nice souvenir early, and she selected a die cast airplane. Because of course! Machinas! Why didn't I think to pack some? (I don't know.) I added a jump rope that was cute and cheap to the mix, and later found a cute little memory game at H&M to round things out. With those few extra things, she was able to amuse herself for as long as necessary, which was super handy on the days we simply wanted to have a lazy morning in the apartment. We took turns playing the memory game with her and encouraged her to play independently the rest of the time.

One thing I highly recommend if you are traveling as a family is renting an apartment. We have rented through Nice Pebbles for all our trips in the past, and this time we reserved the same place we'd stayed on our honeymoon. Despite the fact that it is on the French fifth floor (which is an American sixth floor) without an elevator, it turned out to be a great decision to book that space since it was already familiar to us. For the cost of a good hotel, we got a whole apartment to ourselves, plus a familiar neighborhood. It's relaxing to have plenty of space that's all our own, and the option to cook in definitely saves money. Additionally, it made it possible to institute Zinashi's usual bedtime routine, including lengthy time in the bath with favorite toys.

kitchen and loft, photo by zinashi
Kitchen and loft. Photo by Zinashi.

ababi in the living room, photo by zinashi
Living room, with messy coffee table compliments of our relaxed lifestyle. Photo by Zinashi.

We do our best to stick to a loose budget while on vacation. With a kitchen at our disposal, we tend to eat about half of our meals in the apartment. Breakfast is super easy this way, and though our apartment did not have an oven, pasta dinners and brunch were a cinch to cook on the two burners we had. In Nice, our habit is to eat one nice meal out, but the rest are usually grab-and-go meals of some sort or kebab dinners on Jean Medicin. Our favorite boulangerie has delicious sandwiches, pizza, calzones, and plenty of dessert options to take away for a picnic by the water, and this is always my favorite option.

In Nice, we walk absolutely everywhere we need to go, and this is where a stroller would have come in handy. Some distances were easy for Jarod and me to cover, but not Zinashi. We ended up carrying her a ton, and even though the Beco carrier was good to use in some situations, it's far more complicated than just having Zinashi sit down in a stroller. Additionally, she's grown so much that she's a lot heavier than before, and it's harder to go longer distances with her on one of our backs. A friend offered to loan us an umbrella stroller for the trip, and we declined, thinking it would be more trouble keeping track of an extra piece of luggage than it was worth. We were wrong about that.

Zinashi really started missing home while we were in Nice. She enjoys familiar surroundings, and she missed our cats terribly. I was afraid that she was going to hate vacation, but on the very last day, as we were ready to haul our suitcases out of the apartment, she told us that she really wanted to stay. "But bring Phae here," she said. Apparently, if we had just brought our geriatric cat, this would have been the perfect trip. As it is, I think she enjoyed herself enough to agree to another trip someday in the future.

goofy face


*I use the term "our" rather loosely, of course. While it is our dream to own a place in Nice, we don't just yet. We didn't mind making this place ours for a week, though.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Vacation Part 1: London

At the airport, we were so excited to be getting on our way. Observe the joy!

before we knew that air canada was going to give us a horrible experience

There were a few snags* along the way, including our luggage not making it onto our flight with us, but we were still determined to enjoy London.

Picnic dinner by the Thames? Okay.

vacation big bite:  pret sandwich

Walk across the Tower Bridge? Sure.

two weirdos on a bridge

Crawl around and get all dirty, because who cares, we're dirty already anyway? No problem.

at the end of a day of grimy, luggage-less wandering

Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the hotel. The shower gel provided in the shared showers worked just fine for Zinashi, and she was asleep in the pajamas we'd brought on the airplane in no time. Jarod played a little game of "Will this make our luggage come?" by going to the Tesco next door for shampoo and laundry detergent and found out that the answer was yes. If you go to Tesco at 10:45pm for supplies to get you through your luggage-less existence for at least ten more hours, your luggage will arrive at 10:55pm and be waiting for you when you walk back into the hotel with your bag of goods at 11pm. Feel free to use this method in your future travels, and no need to thank us.

Our intention was to get up the next morning and get a solid start to the day, but we didn't have a visible clock in the room, and by the time I finally dug up my watch, I found that it was 1pm. Good thing Spitalfields Market runs all day. Otherwise Zinashi wouldn't have gotten this way cute bunny rabbit bag.

somebody got a new bunny rabbit bag

A late wakeup means you can stay out later, so we ambled over to Covent Garden to peer through the windows at the new Apple store. (If you are married to an Apple enthusiast who also happens to work in an Apple store, this will be the story of most trips you take. Is there an Apple store we haven't seen yet? Or has one we've seen before been remodeled? We should go look at it!) Jarod discovered that there was, as usual, a good WiFi signal right there, so we took full advantage of it, while Zinashi took full advantage of being herself. There was singing, there was dancing, there were funny faces.

covent garden beauty

the funny faces just never stop

We returned to the hotel to pretend to sleep so that we could pretend to be awakened by our alarm the next morning. We had plans to visit Claudia the next morning, and we were not going to miss out on that, jet lag or no. Of all the days at the front end of our trip (and all the days of our trip, actually), this was one of our best. Who wouldn't love seeing these three together and chatting in real life with a blog friend?

pink and blue and zinashi, too

After all the travel and waking at funny times, this was just the kind of day that all three of us needed. It was laid back and relaxed, and Claudia was a perfect hostess, giving our poor daughter space to take a nap and giving us a grown-up lunch. Zinashi likes to talk about that day as the day we visited her friends. I will say, "when we visited our friends," and she corrects me. "MY friends, Mami. Those are MY friends," she insists. What this means is that she had a very good time.

The next day, it was already time to fly out to Nice. I think we lost a lot of time to both jet lag and hotel location; those days are a blur of riding the Tube and feeling a little bit dirty and strangely tired and hungry. In my travel dreams, we have smoother flights and a little bit more time to adjust to the time difference, perhaps arriving on Friday instead of Saturday. It broke my heart a little bit that we missed the best vendors at Borough Market on Saturday and wasted so much of our Sunday by accidentally sleeping in.

For this part of the trip, we stayed at Hotel Formule 1 in Barking, and while I wouldn't say that it was horrible, I would like to note that it is a little bit too far from the Tube stop for a family traveling with a young child, and a little bit too far out of Central London to make it easy to get to places of interest. Those two factors put together definitely had an impact on our trip, and we didn't find the hotel to be very refreshing, which one definitely needs when luggage is missing and there is a long journey to get back at the end of the day. The vibe was a little bit too 1983 Fluorescent Lighting for my taste, and the shared bathrooms left a lot to be desired. I tried to like it and to be fair--it is a no-frills, budget hotel, and we knew that going in--but there are just better options, as we found out on our return trip to London.

Zinashi did surprisingly well through all of this. She loved riding the trains--both Tube and overground--so that helped a lot. Her sleep was off, and I had forgotten to pack the melatonin, so we ended up with a very tired girl on our hands by the time we got to Gatwick, and that affected her ability to behave herself. One thing that I recommend keeping in mind when you are traveling with a small child is that lack of sleep will make it very hard for your child to have self control of any sort. In our case, we also found that exhaustion heightened Zinashi's security issues, and putting her in the Beco or cradling her close was the best remedy for poor behavior and general angst. This held true throughout the trip, and I am very glad that we had the Beco with us. I do wish that we had brought a stroller as well, but more on that when we talk about the Nice portion of the trip tomorrow.


*Our issues with Air Canada on our outbound flight have still not been resolved, and thus I don't trust myself to try to write about them without going on and on about it. We're going to try to contact a couple more people to try to clear things up, but at this point we would caution anyone against flying with Air Canada. The staff was very kind for the most part, but the issue is that when there is a problem, they give their staff little power to correct it or make amends. I want to know that if I fly with them in the future and experience difficulties, there is a way I can have it taken care of as opposed to being blamed for the problem (which I assure you I did not cause).

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Discussion or Argument?

When you discuss something, you act with respect toward the other participants in the discussion. Discussion makes me feel like this:

we are very serious about picnicking
This is Zinashi thoughtfully considering a sandwich, but you can easily imagine she is considering your point of view.

When you remove respect from your discussion, it becomes an argument, or worse, an attack. This is how I feel about that:

disappointment
Terribly sad.

OH NO
Completely bewildered.

I like to read a variety of things to keep myself informed, and it really troubles me that so many people feel comfortable being disrespectful to others on message boards and in comment spaces elsewhere. If you'd like to inform someone of something they do not know, or ask a question seeking clarification, you don't need to do it with an air of superiority in your post or the ring of judgment in your assessment. Approach one another with gentleness. It is possible to be firm and kind at the same time. Let's work on that, internet.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...