30 May 2016

San Diego Children's Discovery Museum

From our base-camp (extended stay hotel) in Carlsbad, CA, we went forth today to explore the Children's Discovery Museum in Escondido.  I have been to ..... several Children's Museums in my time.  This one is small but delightful.  I was solo on this adventure (Benjamin - consider this alone time in a wifi-filled hotel room your birthday present) so I was glad it was a smaller place.  In fact, it was closer to a really elaborate preschool classroom than to the big Children Museums like Indianapolis or Baltimore.  And that was perfect.  I could sit back and let Bear run free but still see him at all times and intervene in case he did anything like try to bite someone or hold forth about Santa not being real.  

He turned out to be quite well-behaved, and I was proud of myself for knowing to quit when we were ahead and not keep him out well past nap time.  

Being a weekend, basically no progress could be made on the paperwork gathering for the visa situation, so I just tried to distract myself and enjoy the kids.  Mostly I was successful - it was a lovely low-key day.  

Pax loves snuggles.

"I'm working!"

Pax loved the baby and toddler area.

Bear also loved the baby and toddler area.

Pirate ship!
When in California...drink the kombucha they sell from vending machines.  

Ergo napping - check.

28 May 2016

San Diego Safari Park

Four and a half years ago, Benjamin and I went to the San Diego Safari Park as part of our honeymoon/residency interview trip.  We had a great time on the trip, despite the residency interview part being somewhat disappointing.  The Safari Park part was a highlight. And the next day I took a pregnancy test in the bathroom at LAX and learned that Bear would be joining our family.

Now that our little zygote is running, jumping, and climbing trees we decided a return zoo trip was in order.  It is a lovely zoo, and there were definitely some exhibits that are either new or Benjamin and I just don't remember.  (I wish I had been blogging back then!)

And we saw gorillas - and Bear did not end up inside the exhibit!  I know as a "mommy blogger" I am like contractually required to weigh in on Gorilla-gate but I just can't.  My only reaction is relief that it was not my kid.  Because it totally could have been.

Our visit was cut a little short by an email from immigration about Benjamin's visa application.  Furious email typing and frantic phone calls from the stroller parking area ensued.  I'll talk more about the specifics later, but essentially the situation went from being out of our hands to being an insurmountable-feeling to-do list of documentation to assemble and send off ASAP.

At least there is now something we can do about it.

This is as close as we got to a gorilla.


Look closely - there are like 25 Desert Bighorn Sheep in here.

The play structures at this zoo were on-point.

Animal encounter!

Bear has averaged a carousel ride every 3 days so far on this trip.  


27 May 2016

The Flaw is Exposed

We have reached the end of our scheduled US trip.

The plan was to continue the adventure by flying from here to New Zealand where I have a job lined up for the next year.  Said job is in the process of finding us housing and a car, we have packed everything we need for the next year, we all have passports (even Pax).  And I have my work visa, I'm all set.  But Benjamin and the kids do not have their visas.

Today we learned that Benjamin's visa has been flagged for medical review.  We are told this process can add 30-60 days to the application process.  My job orientation starts in 18 days.  The kids visas are tied to Benjamin's.  Did I mention that Pax is exclusively breast-fed?  It's very possible that we will need to split up.

It's like the gods heard my prayers for alone time and decided to call my bluff.

There are a million unknown variables that make it impossible to make a reasonable plan.  It could very well be the case that it would be more fiscally responsible to fly back to Maryland to await visas, but we can't know that unless we know exactly how long this may take, which no one can tell us.

We're looking into getting Pax's visa linked to mine rather than Benjamin's so that at least she and I can stay together (and so Benjamin doesn't have to fly 19 hours alone with both children). The bottom line is that it is out of our hands.

So for the time being we are staying in the general vicinity of LAX and waiting for good news.  Money continues to flow through our fingers like water the same way it did when we were officially on vacation since we continue to require housing, food, and a rental car.  This is slightly more stressful when there is no definitive end in sight of this level of spending.  Extending our US stay into June also means another full month of health insurance premiums.

But really, we are doing ok.  And as we keep reminding ourselves - money exists to finance experiences.  You can't take it with you, etc.  Plus, once I return to a US job I will never have this much time off again in my life.

So for now, we are going to keep this party train rolling.  It will just be rolling a bit more spontaneously.  Stay tuned.

26 May 2016

The Benefits of Deep Breathing and Magic Mountain

Bear enjoying our hotel

Yesterday was hell.  After a seven hour bus ride, Benjamin and I were both out of spoons, and yet Bear was totally energized and ready to probe our weaknesses.  I reacted by being royally pissed at Benjamin - how dare he be equally as tired and frustrated as me?

Anyway, it's really hard to storm out of a hotel room and take two kids with you.
     Me: I am so mad at you!
     *Door slam*
     *Door open.*
     Me: I need the diaper bag, epi pen, and Bear to put his shoes on.

So during my slow-motion temper tantrum, I took Bear down to the mezzanine level of our gargantuan hotel and bought him a smoothie and myself a frozen mocha.  While I was completing the transaction, Bear bolted.  It turns out he ran out to the garden deck and joined a business school graduation reception.  He was returned to me by hotel security.

One time at a Quaker youth conference we had a workshop on different types of breathing while meditating.  (Come to think of it, it may have been my now mother-in-law who led this workshop - my memory of it is quite hazy.)  I don't remember the name of this breath, but you breathe in for a count of seven through your nose, pause for a count of four, exhale for a count of seven through your mouth, and then pause for another count of four.  Well folks, I am here to tell you this stuff works, because I did not throw my child into the hotel's giant fountain and then burn down the whole building.


Today was much, much better.  We got up early, packed up all our stuff, and picked up our rental car.  Getting everything to fit into a sedan was a bit interesting but we made it happen.  It helps that Benjamin is a Rubik's cube whiz.  Once loaded up, we got on the road to Six Flags Magic Mountain.

Benjamin is a roller coaster connoisseur, so this was his agenda item.  I was mostly along for the ride (see what I did there?).  I figured I would hang out with Bear in the kiddie area while Benjamin rode coasters.

To make a long story short, my three year old is an adrenaline junkie. He loves roller coasters.  He also happens to be 41 and 3/4 inches tall, which is close enough to 42 if he wriggles while being measured (and let's be honest, this child has never held still in his life).  And 42 inches is the cut off for riding most kiddie rides without an adult (which was good because I was holding Pax).  And 42 inches is also the minimum height for an adult coaster called the Ninja.   We waited in line together and then I rode with Bear while Benjamin held Pax.  Bear was scared at first, but then started screaming in a happy way halfway down the first hill.  By the end of the ride his only words were, "I wanna do that AGAIN!"  So I held Pax while Bear rode with Benjamin this time.  When he got off, the ride attendant gave him a high five.

I was so impressed with Bear's bravery and his willingness to try new things.  I was also really impressed with his behavior - he was doing super well all day until the very end when he melted down because Dippin Dots is not the right shape for ice cream.  We'll chalk that one up to exhaustion.

It was a really fun day.  Benjamin got to ride some big coasters, I got to ride an amazing wooden coaster, Bear discovered his love of thrills, and Pax got to hang out in the Ergo and nurse.  It was a break that we all needed, and a reminder that we do actually have fun as a family.

Bear driving his truck full of Dope.

After this ride Bear told me, "My friend is seven and she was scared to be up front so I held her hand."

Blogger won't let me import cropped photos so this one is silly, but there is Bear's tiny head in this otherwise empty ride.

Bear and Benjamin at the top of the Pirate Ship!


25 May 2016

Incoherent Ramblings from the Greyhound

Today we traveled from San Francisco to Los Angeles via Greyhound bus.  Because we know how to have fun!  My brain won't let me create a coherent narrative out of this, so here are just some random snippets and thoughts.


Me: (hauling 50lbs suitcases one at a time to the side of the bus while wearing Pax in the Ergo) *grunt*
Greyhound Employee 1: Weren't you with somebody? That big guy with the beard? Why isn't he helping you with this?
Me: He's with the other kid (sweat drips off of forehead onto suitcase)
Greyhound Employee 2: Was that the kid who tried to board the bus to San Pedro and then started to take off his pants?
Me: Probably.
GE 2: (To GE 1) Oh yeah, dog, she's got the easy job. Don't feel sorry for her.  


'Travel Plaza' is one of the more anxiety-provoking places where Bear has run away.


Related note: Should not have left the leash at home.


Normal Parent vs Nomad Parent

Screen time:
   Normal Parent: 1 show/day max
   Nomad Parent: Try to wait until kid has been non-obnoxious for four consecutive minutes before busting out the iPad so he doesn't realize he's being rewarded for acting like a demon.

Diaper changes:
    Normal Parent: Assemble changing pad, wipes, clean diaper, plastic bag. Change diaper.  Strap baby securely in her stroller while you wash your hands.  
 Nomad Parent: Change diaper on lap, in a moving bus, place on floor while reminding yourself not to step on it later.  Immediately eat a burrito.  


24 May 2016

San Francisco and Thoughts About Life's Choices

We are staying for several days in San Francisco with our friends Megan and Brodie.  In Loomis, CA we visited Katie and Randy, and in Seattle we saw Teri and Shelby.  All couple friends without kids of their own in the house who graciously provided our kids with some of the constant adult attention they so crave.

I love watching Bear interact with new adults.  I love that everyone has something new to teach him - what he may be currently missing in socialization with his peers he is making up in piano lessons with Megan and ukulele lessons with Randy.  He is being exposed to (and hopefully absorbing) Katie's kind attentiveness, Brodie's creative storytelling, and Shelby's dry wit.  He's soaking up love and cuddles and Fruit Ninja skills from Teri.

And while I watch Bear learn so much from these other adults, I know we are also being watched.  Every couple's situation is different, but there is a sense (sometimes implied, sometimes explicitly stated) that we are acting as ambassadors from the World of Breeders.  I did not, needless to say, ask for this position.  I do not feel like I have this gig down.

But I also don't know what to hope for - do I really want to make parenting look so good that everyone I know runs out to procreate? That sees awfully self-satisfied. I don't know if parenting is the best choice for everyone.  On bad days I'm not even sure it was the best choice for Benjamin and I.  I may not be parenthood's most enthusiastic salesperson.

I'm especially struck by Brodie, who does interesting volunteer work and has many hobbies that are little worlds unto themselves that it is clear I will never visit.  At least not in the next 20 years.  He's teaching himself Japanese and doing Taiko drumming - these are things that are so not going to happen for me.

I have work and I have kids and I am told that this is Having It All.  But it isn't.  Because no matter how full my life is, I cannot choose everything.  There are experiences that I will not have, paths I simply did not take.  Some things are there waiting for me if I decide to go back to them.  Like exploring Portland, I can do that later.  But some things have passed me by for good - and if I had picked these things I would not have the life and experiences I have now.

And this, dear readers, is why we've uprooted our family to have this crazy adventure.  Because we get a limited set of years in which to experience what the world has to offer - no sense spending all those years doing the same thing.

San Francisco is gorgeous.  We dropped off the RV at the Cruise America dealership (we got a sweet deal on RV rental because we were delivering it from the outfitter in Chicago to the rental center in San Francisco) and spent some time sorting and washing and packing for the next phase of our journey.  But we also got to spend some quality time with Megan and Brodie and take in a bit of what the city has to offer.

On Saturday we went for a walk on the beach, which is two blocks from Megan and Brodie's house.  Bear wore his Princess Elsa dress and ran far out ahead of us adults.  We changed directions when he dictated we should.  He got to be in charge and I got to speak to adults - it was magical.

On Sunday we explored Golden Gate Park, starting with people-watching at the playground (many schools of parenting and many thousands of dollars of strollers were on display) and finishing with bird watching at the lake (baby geese and baby storks!) with some phenomenal ice cream in between.
On Monday Megan had to work and Brodie had to supervise the construction project going on at their house, so the four of us set out to be un-apologetically touristy.  We rode a cable car and went to Fisherman's Wharf.  Sea lions were viewed, more ice cream consumed.  We were all in good spirits until the end of the outing.

Getting back to Megan and Brodie's was a low point in the trip - an unfortunate confluence of no-nap preschooler, crowded public transportation, low blood sugar all around, and a flat tire made for a difficult evening.  And when I say 'difficult' I mean 'closing my eyes, counting to ten while fantasizing about flying back to Baltimore alone.'  But we made it back (shout out to Jon from Uber!), and got packed down to six suitcases and four carry-ons for the next leg in our journey.

Benjamin gives Brodie baby-wrangling pointers: "Don't drop her."

In retrospect, they may have been trying to tell me something.

Harvey the cockatoo! 

Pax is such a happy baby!

Bear got up early and got into the lollipop stash.

Walking 3 blocks for delicious breakfast sandwiches sure is exhausting.

And I thought MY cosleeping arrangement was cramped!