Life at the Beach

The picture below is how Sebastian experienced his first view of a pool and the ocean. Yah. Can you believe it? I almost can’t believe I’m here. What a blessing to experience such beauty! This iPhone photo doesn’t even quite express how amazing it is here in Ocean Isle Beach.20120528-105737.jpg

The beach house we are in is one of those houses that you always see in magazines. There are two fridges, two dishwashers, a separate $1300 ice-maker (we know this because the designer happened to be at a wedding next door), 6 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, decks galore and a pool overlooking the beach.

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Below is our bedroom. We have a king sized bed, which makes the family bed so comfortable and Sebastian can fully spread out, with his arms out, but yet, still touches both of us, which he always needs to do (what a cuddlebear!). The doors there lead to a deck with lounge chairs. In the morning, I grabbed a cup of tea and strawberries and sat on the deck, reading, while the baby napped in the room. When I write that, those same morning feelings come back to me. I loved just being able to hear the ocean, feel that strong breeze on me and read an interesting psychology book on the brain.

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The dining room table has room for a big family.

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We played a really fun board game in the living room area last night, called Headbanz. Everyone had head bands with cards on their foreheads and we had to ask questions to guess what was on on our heads. For example, my cousin, Kathy had the word, “Farm” on her head. She asked questions like, “Do I contain cats?” “Do cats breed in me?” and Ray answered, “There is animal husbandry performed on me.” She finally figured it out after a few rounds, when there were large buildings on her, sometimes businesses and there were fields on her. We were laughing hysterically when the questions were being asked and answered!

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Seagulls flew overhead all day. It was breathtaking to see them get so close.

Sebastian experienced his first touch of sand among the sand dunes. He showed such joy as his feet felt this new texture and he flapped his arms up and down with excitement when he saw the plants and could lean and grab them.

He was taking little steps in the sand, while holding on. I call this the dancing baby mode.

Sebastian was a bit worried about the waves, so I’ve been slowly introducing him to them over the last few days. He dipped his feet in a bit, but the water was colder than the pool, so I think it was a little bit of a shock.

All this attention from all the grandparents and all these new experiences keeps a smile plastered on Sebastian’s face.

Though he had already been in the pool that morning, it was only in the afternoon that we were able to get some shots of his reaction. He loved being in Daddy’s arms and splashing the water!

We even watched a beach wedding occur right in front of us (the bride gave me a smile when I took her photo, as she stepped out from the house) and then the party was set up next door.

Even Sebastian enjoyed peeking at the wedding party before he went to bed.

A Detour from the Scenic Route

We started our trip with the best intentions of taking the scenic route, but after laboring through only 150 miles in 7 hours (including 2 traversing the streets of Philadelphia), we retreated to I-95.

We had started on historic hwy 1 and then went to route 13. And, by the way, it wasn’t very scenic, but I’ll get to that later.

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Luckily, Pio (sometimes, we call Sebastian by one of his middle names) was all smile most of those 7 hours. He’s definitely more aware of everything at seven and a half months and no longer sleeps the whole time on road trips. If I just give him eye contact, I usually get this:

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As we were struggling to stay on Route 13 due to unmarked turns, we decided we should take a break when we saw green grass in Philly. I had made sure to bring our picnic blanket, so we laid it out and I fed Pio.

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As we waited, a Segway tour passed us by, we checked our map, stretched out and checked in with our families that are meeting us in NC. This was the first time we were using a map without GPS for a road trip. Navigon needs to make a scenic GPS route (their scenic route option only works on short trips). It would have saved us a lot of time if we stopped losing the route and if there were well marked roads, instead of stolen signs or partially missing signs. So, we did the old school method and had maps. Well, not that old school. We used paper maps that we printed out with some of the places we wanted to go and we also used navigon and the maps app to see in real time that we were on target.

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In addition to being slow and hard to follow, we went through countless shady neighborhoods. I think I saw more burned out and abandoned buildings and fire trucks than I had in my life. At one point, we even had to detour around a fire that was in the process of being put out. After telling my cousin where we had traveled and mentioning streets, she was shocked. It wasn’t a good idea to get gas in “The Badlands” of Philly. I even was googling other random towns we went through to get the crime statistics. When a tiny city has the word shooting several times on different street corners, you know it’s not a great place to be traveling through.

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At least we saw a neat retro looking electric trolley and had to carefully navigate streets to avoid getting clobbered!

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It was all over the internetz that route 13 was incredibly beautiful. This was not the case, but perhaps we gave up too early. I would imagine that the Chesapeake Bay Bridge would have inspired some lovely photos. Maybe anything outside of the cities (beyond the oil refineries and paper mills) would be a bit more picturesque. But after taking so long with so little progress, we were ready to start putting miles on the odometer.

On the Road Again

It’s road trip time and since we’ve had success with the baby before on road trips, we’re hoping this trip will be just as wonderful. I think Sebastian approves! Or…maybe he’ll give me one of these looks:

Hello Historic Route 1! It’s a scenic route from New York to Florida. We are just doing the New York to North Carolina part, almost to South Carolina and then we’ll spend the rest of the time in an ocean beach rental. I found a neat website that lets you find places to sleep and eat. For example, the Starlight Diner in Edison, NJ sounds like a blast to try (though, I might save that for another NJ trip, since it’s close to the in-laws and something fun to try with them.)

I’ll let you know how it goes! First stop, hrmm….good question…we will see where the road takes us…!

“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”
― Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Travel with Baby

We were traveling during the Christmas and New Year’s week. I’ve always said that I would travel with a child and I am sticking to that promise. Just because you have a kid, doesn’t mean that life is over, as many people will have you believe. A child can open a lot of opportunities and have you travel in more and interesting ways. For instance, I’ve never done the drive from New York to Chicago, so we decided to do it to avoid mass transit until Sebastian is at least three months old. You can technically travel with a week old child; however, our pediatrician suggested that we wait until his immune system gets a lot stronger before taking him around large crowds of flu ridden people in airports and subways.

Gone are the days of carry-on bags, but on a car trip, that wasn’t something we would have to worry about anyway. If it weren’t for the fact that we were taking stuff for my parents, such as a comforter we are no longer using, an extra aerobed that we no longer need, dresses from my sister-in-law’s closet, we would only have our travel essentials.

So, here are some tips for road trip travel with a baby.

First, the most important tool is a good car seat. We have a Britax. This isn’t the type of car seat that converts from a stroller to the car because we don’t own a car. In New York, most people don’t have cars, let alone driver’s licenses. So, we got one that we can easily put into a rental and is very safe.

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A very important tool is the pacifier (I call it a “smoczek,” pronounced smoh-check because that’s how we say it in Polish). Ok, yes, we have all heard all sorts of theories on pacifiers, like how they make your teeth crooked or make you depend on an item to soothe a baby. Well, I really don’t believe that they will hurt a baby. In fact, there are studies that disprove the crooked teeth theory. And, most kids stick their own dirty thumbs in their mouths. A little baby doesn’t have coordination to use his thumb to self sooth, so the pacifier is ideal. The only advice I listened to in this area is to not use a pacifier for the first 30 days of a baby’s life because that could cause nipple confusion with breastfeeding. There have been problems with babies not latching on or chewing on a pacifier and getting frustrated with not getting milk, then not wanting breast milk. This may lead to lowering milk production because you are not feeding often enough or causing you to believe your child is not eating enough. Otherwise, on a road trip, with an 11 week old child, I highly recommend the pacifier. It was a calming device that helped Sebastian fall asleep or just calm him when he was stuck in a car seat and couldn’t be held.

Smoczek

I grew up listening to books on tape, lectures, praying rosaries, chatting with the family and playing games in the car. It made road trips go by very quickly. The modern version of this is the podcast. The road trip went by extremely fast because we listened to some really great podcast over the 27 hours of driving. We had a lot of laughs listening to Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin, who run a tech podcast  (if you haven’t heard them, they are HILARIOUS) and enjoyed paleo podcasts by Angelo Coppola. I also love listening to This American Life, Radio Lab, among a bunch of others.

As we all know, these days, you cannot just grab your baby and breastfeed while driving. Car seats and laws restrict that. I may complain about that, but it is better to be safe than have regrets for the rest of your life. So, how do you drive as much as possible over 13 hours? Enter, breast pump. Milk is safe for the baby to consume even if it sits out for 6-8 hours. So, I pump, fill up a bottle and have it ready for when the baby wakes up. Trust me, in many ways, it is worth the pretty penny to have this pump. I borrowed a lowered power model from my sister in law and it was definitely a huge improvement to use this model.

Pump

Thanks to this system of pumping, we only had to stop 3 times during our drive for changes and extra feedings.

Bottle Eating

Because I’m breastfeeding, I have to bring my vitamins and Sebastian’s supplemental vitamins.

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Another essential is a carrier. Husband loves to carry the baby on a Baby Bjorn and after using it, I see the benefits. Sebastian calms down because he’s moving and it’s easier to carry him, since he weighs so much. Babies love to keep moving, maybe because they were constantly moving in the belly! He also falls asleep in there, which any of us parents love.

Then, there’s the travel crib. It’s small and it’s super easy to set up, it literally takes 30 seconds. I was pretty against it for a while because I didn’t want to travel with another thing, but then I thought about using cribs in hotels and it skeeved me out. I’d rather have my own thing. So, we got a Baby Bjorn travel crib. Now, that I think about it, a lot of our stuff is either Swedish or Norwegian. Those Scandinavians really know how to make stuff for babies, so why the heck don’t they have children?

Without a doubt, you need your diaper bag with diapers, wipes, an extra outfit, socks, spit up rags and sterilized pacifiers. Because I was traveling by car, I brought my flex tub (in another post, I’ll write about when I use a flex tub vs. a bath pillow) and boppy. These are certainly not essential, but on a road trip, it’s not a problem to throw those things in the trunk.

Boppy and Tub

Along with the tub, I had to pack a little bag with his nail clippers, file, hair brush, shampoo and towel. I give Sebastian a daily bath because he is the king of the blowout and I want him clean and smelling fresh!

Bath Kit

Even though my baby doesn’t play with toys himself yet, I keep trying to keep him interested in colors, rattles and books, so I brought a couple of things for him.

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The last non essential I brought, but knew it would be good to have and was small enough to throw into the trunk was our baby bouncer. Again, it was a Baby Bjorn bouncer, which is portable, light and creates some fun bouncing in a relatively compact package. Additionally, I brought a few outfits, (we were going to see family, so it was easy to wash clothes), hats and sweaters. We brought a box of diapers, though we considered sending it in advance. I think if we would have flown, we would have just shipped it, since shipping is free.

It may seems like we have a lot of travel gadgets, but they all came in handy and the trip was nice and easy because of them!

Like Time has Never Passed


It is incredible to have friends that make you feel like no time has passed between seeing them last. This week that has happened several times. I’m going to post a few more photos from friends I saw.

I was able to take a family photo of Janet, Brian and little Meara. Janet is a talented artist. One of the things I love about her is that she doesn’t feel the need to dress in some sort of hipster outfit, wear outlandish glasses or go out of her way to prove she’s artistic.

Meara is a sweet little girl, so I had to take a few more photos of her!

She was giggling a lot when Brian was playing with her.

Jen, I met in France in a cute little hostel near Normandy. I think she has the best smile of all time and a traveler’s spirit that just draws you in. I was so happy that she let me torture her by taking a few photos.

Later, in the evening, Tony came by my parents’ home. Tony lives in California and I live in New York and this is the first time in years that we were an hour apart, so we had to finally see each other. Normally we scheme on the phone or on Skype and come up with social media projects, but we were finally able to talk about stuff in person. We drank tea, ate herring and played a new strategy board game.

The board game is called Power Grid Factory Manager. Hubby and I like to play the original Power Grid game, but this one was a blast as well. It involved bidding in the market for production and cargo space. True to form, Tony, who is keen on solar power and has done a lot of work in that area, won the game because he had the most energy efficient factory. That helped him beat the rest of us who were using a lot of energy to run our factories.

I wish I had been able to see all of my friends from Chicago on this trip. Since the road trip worked out this week, maybe we will do more of those!

Diaper Duty

I have now done it both ways: in a car and in a bathroom. Stop your dirty mind and change it to dirty diaper.

At rest stops, I finally realized there are family bathrooms. I never paid any attention before having my own baby, but these are great. Yes, there are changing tables in the regular bathrooms, but a family bathroom is private, so you don’t have to take two trips to be able to use the bathroom yourself. And, no sane mother leaves her baby on a changing table in a regular bathroom to step into a stall for many, many reasons.

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On the way out, when it was slightly snowing, I just changed Sebastian in the car. But, this time, I popped into a family room. It was easy.

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My diaper bag  stayed on my shoulder and I worked out of it. I put down a blanket underneath my tiny stokke changing pad so Sebastian’s head wouldn’t touch a changing table that was probably used by way too many germy children. Plus, I just found out that 92 out of a 100 changing tables tested in the UK had trace amounts of cocaine. Pretty gross on all accounts. Between baby poop and coke, I need to keep him protected.

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When I was done changing him, I was able to strap him in with a handy belt and use the bathroom, while in the same room. He giggled while he watched his potty trained mama.

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Result: Happy, dry baby. We know that a happy baby makes a happy mama, which makes a happy papa.

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Second Day of Christmas

Polish Christmas continues onto the 26th of December. Most parts of the world celebrate three days of Christmas. I’m not sure why in the US we don’t, but there are some companies that do give the 26th of December off from work.

Because I’m going to take a break from writing on the second day of Christmas, I’ll tell you a little bit about my Christmas Day.

The baby gave me five consecutive hours of sleep last night, so I was completely refreshed. I’ve been hoping for four in a row, but five was more than I could have imagined! I felt like it was a wonderful Christmas present. Sebastian and my husband were the greatest gifts I’ve ever received, so I was in a wonderful mood.

I came down to have breakfast with my parents, while Husband slept in a bit, and I wished my parents a happy anniversary. Christmas Day marked their 44th year of marriage. My brother called from the Dominican Republic and wished us a Merry Christmas and told us that Santa flew in on a helicopter to deliver remote controlled cars and Barbies to the kids at their resort.

We had planned on having a few people over at 3pm and received a wonderful surprise–a priest friend of ours was going to come over and have a Mass for us. What a wonderful thing to have a private Mass on Christmas Day and on my parents’ anniversary. We were thrilled, especially because if he hadn’t come, my father would not have been able to go to Mass at all, since he had just recovered from an operation. He was moved to tears in thanksgiving for this gift.

After the Mass, we ate, looked at art, discussed forgiveness, shared stories, broke opłatek (like I mentioned in my post entitled Polish Christmas Eve) and ended the evening by singing Christmas carols.

It was a perfect Christmas Day.

Whimsical Winter Getaway

After constant craziness, we needed a weekend getaway with phones and internet turned off. Well, we didn’t totally do that, since I had some stuff arriving in from Syria and had to be on the phone to see if US Customs finally cleared the package. But, either way, it was a perfect weekend, one I certainly will not forget.

Little Cabin

We rented a cozy cabin in Port Jervis, New York. It was a tiny studio cabin, just perfect for two of us.

Bed and Fireplace

The cabin had cute little country decorations, heated stone floors, a huge fire place and a place for us to play our board games.

Quilted Bathroom

Notice the quilted theme in the cabin.

Slippers

Of course, we brought our slippers.

Snowshoe Equipment

Our snowshoe equipment had a place in the entrance way.

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Our cottage was called “The Bluebird Cottage”, which was totally cute, since we have a running inside joke about birds. Here is the sign for the cottage, under a lot of snow. Perfect to have a lot of snow, when our goal was to spend a lot of time out in the snow during the day!

Gorgeous Day

It was a gorgeous day outside and we had 500 acres that we could explore around the property. We just exited our cabin and started walking, until we decided on a path to start snowshoeing. It was so nice to not have to drive anywhere and be able to spend the day walking around and spending time with each other. We were excited to tumble in the snow a bit.

My Snowshoes

It was my first time snowshoeing and I was super excited to finally live out this dream I’ve had to try this since I found out about snowshoeing about 15 years ago! First goal, tying the snowshoes. Husband was uber sweet and tied mine on my feet, so that I wouldn’t have any unexpected slips and falls in the snow!

Dominika on Snowshoes

It was so much fun to snow shoe all over the place. I saw foot prints that were about a foot and a half deep and yet, Husband and I were able to stay on top of the snow with my big shoes!

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Ray wore his warm sweater we got in Norway, when we traveled there 5 years ago. He didn’t even need a coat with his windproof sweater. Those Scandinavians understand the winter better than anyone!

Water Tower

We came across this water tower. I did a handheld HDR shot. Thought it was too beautiful to pass up.

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Aweeeeee….Ray Hearts Misia (that’s my nickname in Polish, pronounced, “Mee-sha”)

Ray and Dominika in the Snow

We found a place to set the timer up on the camera and have a photo taken together.

Negotiating the Woods

We spent time negotiating the woods, climbing on logs, hills and even rock walls (it’s easy to do anything in snowshoes!)

Tobago Boardgame

In the evening, we played boardgames. This one is a new favorite of mine, called Tobago. It is really clever and I love the pieces and the way the game is laid out.

Immaculate Conception of St. Mary's Church

Later in the weekend, we went to a Mass in Port Jervis at the Immaculate Conception of St. Mary’s Church.

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Surprisingly, Archbishop Timothy Dolan was invited to the Mass. What a perfect end to a perfect weekend by attending this phenomenal Mass! I was blown away that in this random town, on this particular weekend celebrating Ray’s birthday and Valentine’s Day, we had our wonderful Archbishop with us!

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On the road trip home, we had one more heart thrown into the weekend…a heart shaped donut filled with boston creme. Perfection.

4 Airports in 24 Hours

In 24 hours, I visited 4 airports. I started in LaGuardia,

went to O’hare,

then Amman

and my final destination, Beirut.

It’s a tiring task to fly this way, but when your ticket only costs $40, the cost of taxes on a miles ticket, you are willing to fly this way. Besides, I love exploring airports and finding ways to make my flight more entertaining.

Ray gave me some finger puppets (so I could show him what I’m up to as I travel without him), so I’ve taken photos on my iPhone at 4 different airports.

I loved my Royal Jordanian flight, despite the fact that their planes don’t have outlets to charge my iPad. The service was incredible and I kept meeting really interesting people on the flight. I went away with invitations to be shown around the city and invitations to meet their families. I might take someone up on that offer when im back to Jordan in a few days. Jordanians have to be then friendliest culture of people I’ve encountered. I’m so excited to be here, but first a night of well deserved sleep!

Horror Housing in Jersey City

I had planned on going to a class with Green Smoothie Girl, but it was canceled due to inclement weather, so I went apartment hunting with a friend instead. I should have listened to my gut many times throughout the night, but I was also trying to be considerate of my friend.

To start, a worker from a management company was supposed to meet us at 4PM. When we called him, he told us that he would be two hours late. I was weary at this point, but still went along on this adventure. We decided to go eat and take our time getting to Journal Square in Jersey City. When we got there at 6PM, we contacted him and he said he would pick us up in an hour. At this point, I was very annoyed, but still was going along with this. Another girl, who lived in this area and recommended him, decided to take us to her apartment while we waited. Her apartment was really great, it was about a two block walk from the PATH train and we were hoping that the cost and apartment type would be similar. She was renting it for $700 a month–though it was a studio apartment, it had a hallway entrance into the apartment and a hallway to the bathroom, so it felt much larger than a studio.

After three hours of waiting, we called the manager again and he said that he would be there in 20 minutes. I couldn’t believe it. At this point, we had waited for 3 hours and we were going to have to wait another 20 minutes. Needless to say, I finally had had enough and called him myself. He hung up on me several times, told me he couldn’t pick us up because his car was stolen and he was in a cab, but finally arrived after four hours of waiting for him.

I am not sure why I got in the van, but I guess at this point, it was more the culmination of waiting for so long and the hope that my friend would get a similar apartment for a similar price. What ensued was nothing like I imagined. He pulled up in a large red construction van filled with about 6 guys and tons of construction equipment. After the girl who dealt with him assured us that he was fine, we squeezed into the front seat of the van and were on our way.

After seeing that we were driving further and further away from the train station, I spoke up and said, “Where are you taking us? You’re going far from the train station.” I also said a few other things that are not appropriate to write. He told me that he was just taking us to see a great apartment. I should mention that while he drove, he dropped off the various workers at different points along the road to take care of their errands.

After I spoke, he turned the wheel and I saw that we were in a completely different neighborhood. It was not a place that I could imagine my friend walking home to after she got off the train at 11PM. He parked and outside the van was a prostitute. I just laughed. I mean, what was this? I knew that this story would just make a good blog post now, so I just wanted to see the apartment because it was obvious that it would be bad. If only I had the gall to photograph all I saw in those few moments, but all I can give you are these few photos I have.

We entered through a broken down door through a hallway filled with garbage, beer and large hard liquor bottles. To the right was the door where my friend, Monika, could possibly live. An eviction notice was posted on the door and that was just one of the 1000 red flags that occurred to me in a matter of seconds. After he unlocked 2 deadbolts and a padlock, we walked into the 250 square foot studio. The smell was like a punch to the face. The filth was not surprising, but the bugs made me suddenly itchy and want to get the heck out. The best part was that a man, clearly high on something followed us into this very small space and mumbled something, then walked out.

I asked him if he would allow his sister to live here and he laughed and then said that he would, but he understood that I was “too educated” to live in a place like this. Nonetheless, the price was $725 and it included everything. What I wanted to know was if his price included the bugs!

Breakfast: Oatmeal with Cinnamon and a Banana. I apologize, there is no photo of oatmeal this morning! I was rushing this morning and I had the choice of eating a full breakfast or only half and having a photograph of it. I chose the former.

Lunch: Panang Curry with Brown Rice.

Dinner: Chicken Terriyaki Salad. Remember when I said we took our time and ate? This is what I had. Delicious!

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