Discovering New York City at Christmastime with our Boys!

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I wanted to post this before it became absolutely irrelevant (you could argue that it's irrelevant now), but I wanted to share my NYC pictures from our family Christmas trip! So many of the things that we did are still on display until mid-January, so if you get the chance to visit NYC between now and then, DO IT! Our 8-day trip was 3 weeks ago, and since then a LOT has happened. I don't know how, but the holidays seem to absolutely devour the time. I am always astounded at how fast these few precious weeks pass by in December, but goodness gracious, they do. However, this trip was honestly magical. Maybe I just have rose-colored glasses when it comes to my favorite city (Stevie says I do), but being able to share my favorite place with my favorite people at the best time of year was just the most ecstatic thing for me.

Stevie's been working incessantly the past few months, and he's been in NYC almost every week. When he mentioned that he was going to work in NYC right before Christmas, my heart almost burst. Forget that, I decided to load up my billions of pounds of baby gear and take the boys up there with him! I made an insanely long list of Christmas-y things to do with the boys everyday, and I'm happy to say that we did most of those things! I wanted to share them in case you want to save this post for when you either visit with your kids, visit during the winter, or visit at Christmastime!

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1. Grand Central Station Holiday Train Show!
My pictures of this one are terrible because it was crazy crowded and there was bad lighting. But the Holiday Train Show at Grand Central Station was AMAZING, especially for little boys who adore trains. Basically they built a train track that goes through a miniature NYC and the train choo choos through the set up and it's just really really cool. Go to there.

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Okay, this isn't Christmas-specific, but I've got to talk a little bit about the pizza at Juliana's. I've  talked about this famous pizza joint many times before ( here  and  here  and a little bit  here ), but I can't get over how amazing it is. Even Daxton knew that what he was eating was extra special. And Juliana's  shared this photo on Instagram , which just made the proudest parent.

Okay, this isn't Christmas-specific, but I've got to talk a little bit about the pizza at Juliana's. I've  talked about this famous pizza joint many times before (here and here and a little bit here), but I can't get over how amazing it is. Even Daxton knew that what he was eating was extra special. And Juliana's shared this photo on Instagram, which just made the proudest parent.

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2. Christmas Tree Crawl.
Every big building, store and apartment complex goes all out and decorates an enormous Christmas tree in the lobby. It's so fun to walk through the different buildings and get inspiration for your own Christmas tree. Or just gawk. They're beautiful. My absolute favorite this season was at The American Museum of Natural History - it was a tree entirely made of origami animals!

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3. The Tree at Rockefeller Center.
The tree at the Rockefeller Center is an American icon, which is why it gets its own bullet point here. It's insanely busy and crowded and I'll admit that I was kind of on a vigilant mom watch for terrorists while we visited this tree, but it is so beautiful. I'm so impressed with how many lights they manage to get all the way to the top. (Is it just me, or do the lights on your own Christmas tree seem to taper off up at the top?) Also, if you have older kids, you can take them down to the plaza below and go ice skating! I've never done it because this area makes me kind of claustrophobic, but if crowds this dense don't make your neck hot, you should totally give it a try!

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4. See the Christmas Displays on 5th Avenue.
The window displays in the big department stores along 5th Avenue are always spectacular. This year, Saks 5th Avenue did a series display showcasing elaborate scenes from the movie Snow White! It was completely gorgeous and so creative. But all the big stores do extra special displays - Bergdorf Goodman and Tiffany & Co. were also some of my favorites this year :)

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5. Visit Santa everywhere!
I made free appointment to meet Santa downtown at Macy's in their Santaland! It was a great experience and the boys' pictures are hilarious. Although, they were supposed to email me some digital copies and I have yet to receive them soooo.... I need to follow up! But Santa is ubiquitous across the city and there is an opportunity in every major section of the city. We also met the Santa at the Plaza (informally - we were just there to grab pizza in the basement) and he was super charming. However I've heard the best Santa is at ABC Carpet downtown. So I still have something for next year's bucket list!

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I have a similar picture like this with Everett when he was a baby. And he was in my bathrobe with his little head peeking out just like this one!

I have a similar picture like this with Everett when he was a baby. And he was in my bathrobe with his little head peeking out just like this one!

The origami Christmas tree I was talking about! It's so impressive.

The origami Christmas tree I was talking about! It's so impressive.

The boys stayed so warm in their  JJ Cole Bundleme stroller blankets . I seriously wanted to climb in with them, they were so sunggly even when the weather was scary.

The boys stayed so warm in their JJ Cole Bundleme stroller blankets. I seriously wanted to climb in with them, they were so sunggly even when the weather was scary.

6. Central Park in the SNOW!
This parkkkkkkk. You guys it's perfect in every season of the year - it's absolutely magic. MAGIC! Even in the freezing temperatures, this park is glorious, and when it's snow-covered, it makes me cry. It's so beautiful and dreamy to waltz, I mean walk through.

I had to throw this photo in the mix because we did a lot of  Seamless  meal delivery to our hotel room and this little guy ate in this  foldable travel high chair  like a champ! I was so proud of how easily my little men adapted on this trip ;)

I had to throw this photo in the mix because we did a lot of Seamless meal delivery to our hotel room and this little guy ate in this foldable travel high chair like a champ! I was so proud of how easily my little men adapted on this trip ;)

We spent a lot of time at the park. He's a man after my own park heart.

We spent a lot of time at the park. He's a man after my own park heart.

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These two. Couldn't love them any more. Anthony and Jess, I miss living on the same block as you guys!!! And sitting on the floor of your living room week in and week out, eating your snacks and talking about Jesus. And getting escorted around the city by you, receiving an education in NYC foodie culture. You're just the very best.

These two. Couldn't love them any more. Anthony and Jess, I miss living on the same block as you guys!!! And sitting on the floor of your living room week in and week out, eating your snacks and talking about Jesus. And getting escorted around the city by you, receiving an education in NYC foodie culture. You're just the very best.

We ate at Old Rose, located in the Jane Hotel downtown. Made us feel like trendy folk, for the bit of time we were there and child-free.

We ate at Old Rose, located in the Jane Hotel downtown. Made us feel like trendy folk, for the bit of time we were there and child-free.

Note  The Plaza Hotel  in the background (the white building with the green roof) - it's such a beauty!

Note The Plaza Hotel in the background (the white building with the green roof) - it's such a beauty!

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7. Visit the Holiday Markets!
There are these splendid holiday markets that set up all over the city around Christmastime. The big ones are at Columbus Circle and Bryant Park and they have hundreds of vendors selling everything you've ever heard of (plus a lot of things you've never heard of). It's the perfect place to shop for gifts that no one else will have!

We stopped by the Columbus Circle market a lot because it's at the corner of the park. Plus there was a spot where I could charge my phone and eat lots of snacks. This was the day when we discovered the Nutella churros - EPIC.

We stopped by the Columbus Circle market a lot because it's at the corner of the park. Plus there was a spot where I could charge my phone and eat lots of snacks. This was the day when we discovered the Nutella churros - EPIC.

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Can't tell you how many people asked if they were twins.

Can't tell you how many people asked if they were twins.

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Our old block!! I miss the Upper West Side. So much.

Our old block!! I miss the Upper West Side. So much.

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9. See a Christmas show at The Swedish Marionette Theater!
I walked the boys up through the park one day and we saw the Christmas puppet show at the Marionette Theater. It was the sweetest, most fun thing and I will always treasure that memory with my two sweethearts. Truly. If you have littles, make sure to check the schedule and catch a show! It's so special!

Things that are still on my NYC Christmas Bucket List:
- See the Rockettes Radio City Spectacular! I saw so many people in line for the show while we were in town because Radio City was right around the corner from our hotel, so I was having major jealousy. But I don't think my two wiggle worms would have been able to sit through that show. Next time!
- Ice Skate! There are so many outdoor rinks that look magical! Bryant Park, Rockefeller Center, and Central Park have ice skating and I would love to do this sometime in the future!
- Seeing The Nutcracker performed by The American Ballet Company at The Lincoln Center. It's my dream dream dream to see this show - I wish Stevie would just get on board! He's not a fan of ballet.
- Seeing Peter and the Wolf at the Guggenheim Museum - it's supposed to be an awesome show for kids but still a bit too mature for my boys' ages. But just gives me another reason to bring them back!


There you have it! Let me know if you have bucket list must-haves that I should add to this list! Christmas in NYC is so remarkable and MUST be experienced., if you like city sparkle. I hope this is helpful! xx

The fastest weekend in Mobile, Alabama!

We spent the quickest, most refreshing weekend in Mobile, Alabama! My bff Natalie and her husband Darin operate a Chick-fil-A there (if you live in Mobile, go see them! 3244 Dauphin Street!), and I really wanted to visit and see her life there. We have grown up together and remained close since we were 12 years old. She's one of my oldest friends and the dearest kind of soul - she listens so well and keeps an incredibly open mind about things, which is something that is a rare treasure in a friend. She always gives a balanced opinion and sound advice, and has been a steadfast friend through the ups and downs that the years have brought. Over the past year, I think I had more surprise Amazon deliveries from her than I ordered for my own family - because she knows that gifts are my love language. What a thoughtful, generous, loyal gem of friend she is. And I'm not an idiot; if you have a friend this good, you hold onto her for dear life! I am grateful grateful grateful for her sweet self.

Everett fell head over heels for Miss Natalie when he was a baby. He always looked at her with these big puppy eyes and would actually stop crying when she was near him (which is more than I can say about myself - oh, the years of crying Everett...) So he was super amped to visit her. He loved her cats.

We had grand plans to explore Mobile over the course of the weekend, perhaps even trekking over to the blessed town of Fairhope (a southern treasure, and most certainly worth the drive if you ever get the chance!), but it ended up pouring rain the whole weekend. Which you know what? Was kind of wonderful. Her home is on the water and is the kind of place that has that dreamy, lived-in, warm southern charm. A brick archway, woven rugs, distressed furniture and carefully chosen antiques - her home should be photographed! It's truly a wonder. I loved curling up on her soft couch and clutching my coffee cup and listening to the rain fall while catching up on everything going on in her heart. Our husbands wrangled my children (and a few cats) while they played ping pong and talked dude things.

I am usually a hard-core traveler, eager to see (and eat) as much as possible that is local and charming. But this was a different trip, a time to revel in the goodness of a well-worn friendship and feel at home with the heart of my dear girl.

I will say that when the sun came out for a few hours, we had the chance to wander through the famed Charles Phillips Antiques, a local dealer that imports his goods from all over Europe. It was mesmerizing, being taken back in time and surrounded by thousands of flourished french doors and heavy steamer trunks, cases of glass bottles and stacks of letters from World War II. Every item is steeped in history, emanating stories from a past age. It was rather intimate, rifling through someone else's jewelry boxes, torn recipes, tool bins and office supplies. I was overwhelmed by the experience, and found myself tearing up as we walked to our car to leave. I couldn't even buy anything, I didn't know how to choose. It's definitely the kind of place that you want to visit if you're furnishing a house. But bring a trailer on the back of your car, this stuff is amazing.

I'm feeling more and more like myself everyday. My postpartum experience this time around has really challenged me, and I am grateful that people like Natalie have been patient with me as I've come back to myself. Spending such a rich time with this girl who is truly family to me made my heart happy. It's a rare thing, to have a friend this good. If you're reading this and one of your dear girlfriends comes to mind today, send her a text or a quick letter in the mail! Who doesn't love hearing from their dear old friend, just for the heck of it? Lots of love to all of you today, friends! xox

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Unfortunately my romper is sold out and my kimono is past season, but I linked to a few similar styles :)


8 Tips for Traveling Abroad with Your Baby.

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Traveling Abroad with Your Baby.

So much planning. So much research. SO MUCH PREP. I worked hard to get the three of us to Europe (Madrid and Rome, Parts 1, 2, & 3) in one piece, with the necessary gear, and no more! I did some things really well. I did some things terribly. Some things just worked themselves out easily and some things were completely unexpected. In other words, it was a typical trip with a baby. I learned along the way and I wanted to share a few things we did that proved to be super helpful!

He loved this crib! It was almost weird how much he liked being in it...

He loved this crib! It was almost weird how much he liked being in it...

1. Purchased and packed our own Travel Crib.

I purchased this BABYBJORN Travel Crib for Everett to sleep in while we were abroad. Traveling with our Pack'n'play seemed kind of like a nightmare (too heavy/bulky, especially with all the other luggage and stroller), and this travel crib had the best reviews for the price. I like that it only weighs 13 lbs, can fit in a large suitcase, and was something that he was comfortable in no matter where he was sleeping. Since we opted for staying in Airbnb's instead of hotels (more on that below), there wasn't a guarantee that a decent crib would be provided in each location. I bought this a few weeks prior to our trip and started napping him during the day time in this crib, in his bedroom. I really think this helped him feel more comfortable in it once we were in the unfamiliar locations. And it's proved to be an awesome purchase! Ridiculously easy to set up and use, and I just used one of my regular crib sheets instead of purchasing the one they recommend for the crib. I know that we will use this for years to come! In fact, at the time of writing this, my son is napping in this crib in a condo in Florida. Soundly sleeping, I shall add. :)

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2. Chose to stay in an Airbnb flat instead of a hotel.

It was important to me that we stay in an Airbnb apartment, especially after traveling with Everett a good bit, and realizing that his naps are what makes the world go round on vacation! When the three of us are all sharing one hotel room, sleeping can be difficult. And since the baby goes down at night around 7pm, usually Stevie and I have to whisper the rest of the night and, you know, not watch TV. I wanted to have a bit more space and the ability to put the baby down for the evening, and then at least share a glass of wine and talk about our day together. We chose to stay in apartments during our trek throughout Madrid and Rome (and during our mega Eurotrip a few years ago!) and it proved to be the best choice for our family. Bonus if you stay in a place with a balcony! We have previously used Airbnb in Spain, Italy, Germany and France, and almost all our experiences have been extremely positive. The site has an accountability system built into it, so we have an incentive to be good tenants while the landlords have incentives to be fair, honest, and quick to respond to any request. I would recommend it to anyone!

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3. Went with a Travel Highchair situation.

I went back and forth on this one, especially after doing a good bit of research and learning that Madrid and Rome, in particular, aren't very child-friendly in restaurants. Meaning, they probably wouldn't ever have high chairs available. Since I knew we would be eating out for most meals (hello! You don't go to Italy to cook!), so I knew we would need something we could take with us from place to place. I purchased a few different travel solutions on Amazon, test drove them prior to the trip, and finally landed on BRICA Fold N' Go Travel Booster Seat. It worked out beautifully! It hooks on to almost any kind of chair, and it was a sturdy option where there wasn't a high chair available. It also folds up so it's super easy and light to travel with. We threw it in the bottom of our stroller and used it when we needed to, though we ended up using it mostly in the Airbnb. When we ate out and about, we purposely chose outdoor restaurants whenever possible, that way we could just scoot the stroller up to the table and he could join us for the meal that way.

Obviously, we park the stroller next to the vespas.

Obviously, we park the stroller next to the vespas.

4. Brought our Stroller and Baby Carrier.

We decided to bring both our UPPAbaby Vista Stroller and ERGObaby Carrier for the trip, and boy, I am glad we did. Being able to wear the baby in the carrier (on the plane and out and about) was so SO helpful, especially when he was fussy and just wanted to be close to us. But if we had worn him the entire trip, that would have been a challenge. He weighs 20 lbs! So taking our stroller out with us was a GODSEND - he napped in it everyday while we were on the go and we could load it down with our gear for the day. Snacks, sunscreen, light jacket, water bottles, the works! So yes, we were like a traveling bus, but let's be real - that's just life with a baby. We travel heavier these days, but we still travel!

5. Packed in Cubes.

I won't claim to be a packing expert. I've gotten pretty good at packing for myself and Stevie, because I use these eBags Packing Cubes. They make a world of difference by limiting the amount that you need to bring but also making it possible to bring a lot in a compact way. I can seriously pack for a week-long vacation in a book bag by using these. And I previously traveled all over Europe for a month using just these cubes. They are a lifesaver. BUT. I am still an over-packer when it comes to baby gear. I don't want to find myself without something that could buy my son twenty minutes of happiness, so I tend to include everything and the kitchen sink just to ensure his comfort (and therefore, our comfort). However, this leads to lots and lots of stuff. I mean, just look at what I've listed above! And add in clothes, extra clothes, baby food, toys, books, TEETHING GEAR, and goodness, that's not even the half of it. I think I need to invest in another set of packing cubes just for this little guy...

His and Hers last beverages of choice before we plane-hopped. // Everett's first passport stamp! // Ergo, all day everyday.

His and Hers last beverages of choice before we plane-hopped. // Everett's first passport stamp! // Ergo, all day everyday.

6. Added in a Timing Buffer.

It was really helpful to budget extra travel time for everything under the sun. We gave ourselves an unscheduled day in each location just to adjust to the new time zone and nap off the jetlag. It might seems strange to do that on your first day in a new country, but it actually helped the rest of the trip to be completely enjoyable. Naps! We took them too! And it was absolutely wonderful.

7. Knew the Airlines' Policies.

This is one that still makes my blood boil. We called our airline (who shall remain nameless because I don't like to badmouth) multiple times in advance of our flights, to ensure that we reserved the baby bassinet for such a long trip. We were reassured each time that yes, of course, you have the baby bassinet. When we arrived at the airport gate, we were told that they had given the bassinet seats away to another family. The gate agent verified that we had put in the first request, but none of that mattered, despite what the customer service assistant had assured us on the phone. Whoever gets to the gate first and asks to be placed in the seats compatible with a bassinet will get them. So we did a lot of pre-planning for nothing. I think it's a crappy policy, but now I know better. RACE THROUGH THE AIRPORT. BUMP ALL THE OTHER MOTHERS OUT OF LINE. GET TO THE GATE FIRST AND YOU GET YOURS. Or, you know, whatever the classier version of that scenario might be. Do that.

Trust me, it was a lot of work to get us to this "fun and fancy freeeeeeee"-moment. BUT. We really did have a lot of these kinds of moments!

Trust me, it was a lot of work to get us to this "fun and fancy freeeeeeee"-moment. BUT. We really did have a lot of these kinds of moments!

8. Adjusted Our Expectations.

After several domestic trips to family's homes and weekend getaway spots, we realized that this Eurotrip was going to look nothing like our last one. Gone were the days of getting up early and staying out late, drinking in every tour, museum, and site (along with the wine!) We purposely went at a very slow pace. But you know what? We still did everything we wanted to do. This trip was SO MUCH FUN. Exploring these cities with Everett along for the ride gave us more insight into the richness of life with a baby. Having the the "attitude is everything!"-approach really made the difference. We had such an awesome trip and I am already planning our next overseas extravaganza! I'm feeling a UK/Scotland/Ireland excursion. However, my husband shushes me whenever I mention it. Too soon? I guess it's too soon.

I think I covered everything! Hope these help! Leave me a message in the comments section if you have any questions or travel tips to add to this list!

Our Do-Over Trip to Madrid, Spain!

Our Do-Over Trip to Madrid.

We made it! The first time I visited Madrid, things went horribly wrong. But Since Stevie had previously lived in Spain and LOVED Madrid, we decided to attempt a do-over. I am so glad we did! Madrid is an incredible city, ripe with sangria and paella and flamenco and oranges, thriving with edgy modernism in spite of it's anciently old history. I am so glad that we decided to take our son and explore this festive city together as a family of three. This was our first trip abroad with a baby, and whoa, we learned a few things along the way. But more on that later. First! Madrid!

We chose to stay in an airbnb in the Recoletos neighborhood, which is mostly a residential (non-touristy) area of town. This spot is close to the city's enormous Retiro Park (much like New York's Central Park), and we knew that would be a nice feature for Everett. We spent a lot of time walking around the park, truly mesmerized by its well-groomed, fanciful beauty. It reminded me of the Queen of Hearts' lawn in Alice in Wonderland, where they are all playing croquet and the hedges are all perfectly manicured. So pristine was this park. Though I had a hard time not staring at all the couples, um, coupling in the grass. I am always rudely reminded of what a modest American I am when I blush at Europeans' very public (let's be real graphic) displays of affection. But I got past it, and we had a lot of fun, lazily picnic-ing and wandering about, and also, SWINGING. Everett loved it, although the other little kiddos on the playground could definitely tell he wasn't Spanish like them. All that blonde hair, you know.

The park! And THOSE HEDGES.

Lunch! We watched a family play soccer while we tore into some baby food pouches.

I don't know how I am going to teach my son not to play with his food. Because I play with his food.

The park itself is huuuuuge. There is a darling little lake with people boating around, and there is a spot called the Crystal Palace - hello! That was clearly a must-see. Because when you go to Europe, you see as many castles as possible. Even if they're like, fake ones. This one was kind of a fake one. But it was still really really pretty, bending the sunlight that was streaming through all the crystallized panes. Pretty pretty.

Speaking of palaces, we spent Stevie's birthday touring the Royal Palace of Madrid! Oh what a delight. He liked the armory, while I preferred the King's residential wing of the castle. Although I must say, the Spanish are sorely under-jeweled. Their crown jewels were pathetic. AND. They don't even use them ceremonially. When someone is "crowned", they don't wear the crown at all. It just sits next to them while they take the photo. WHAT?! I mean. C'mon guys. Wear those baubles. Work that updo.

It made me realize that the queen of England is seriously, seriously endowed. I will never forget the rooms and rooms of crown jewels that she is in possession of. For real. KATE MIDDLETON IS SO LUCKY. Inheritance and whatnot.

The Royal Palace. Not too shabby. I mean, I'd take it.

Palace views of the city. And the country. And the mountains. I suddenly feel like such a peasant.

Birthday boy picking our his birthday baked good. I was like, GET ALL OF THEM.

 There are some strange statues in this city.

We wandered around and grabbed a very Spanish birthday dinner in the Plaza de San Miguel. Cheese plate! Wine! Crazy amounts of jamon and baguettes and olives! Everett was such a little champ, staying out much too late with us, sitting in the plaza and laughing and watching the sun go down and the stars come out. It was such a sweet time, the three of us, just being family, exploring the world together. It was exciting and very normal, all at once. Exciting, because everyone around us spoke emphatically in their native tongue, and normal, because we were just eating dinner, like we do everyday. It was such a strange and oddly humbling experience.

Mercado de San Miguel! Where one buys hip wine and overpriced cherries.

Fancy cheese. Of the Spanish varietals.

Oh, and in case you were worried that we weren't experiencing enough Spanish culture, we toasted to Stevie's birthday with hot chocolate churros. So yeah, the trip pretty much felt complete all in one moment. THE TASTE IN MY MOUTH WAS SINFUL AND HEAVENLY ALL AT ONCE. And if you want to be a drillionaire, you should open a hot chocolate churros food truck in the States. I will be the first in line. THE VERY FIRST.

Something that I've had on my bucket list for years is to see the infamous Velazquez Las Meninas painting in The Prado Museum. And we finally got to it! It's such a magnificent painting,some say one of the most important in the world. The meaning of the painting is disputed; there are dozens and dozens of theories about what the different subjects are doing and why - but I personally wanted to see this painting after learning about how it impacted Pablo Picasso. A few years ago, when we were in Barcelona, I saw his series of "Las Meninas"-inspired paintings, which he was compelled to create after being so taken with Velazquez's masterpiece. He created 58 paintings, in his own spectacular style, reinterpreting the original and skewing the sense of light, color, composition, angle and subject. It was fascinating, I remember thinking, "I have to see this crazy Las Meninas picture!" And now, I can say that I have. Picasso was no fool. The original painting was outstanding, so complex and intelligent and full of mystery. It was exhilarating to finally see the real picture, the one that inspired all the others. I felt like I was on a treasure hunt around the world, and a piece of the map came together for me on that day, in the Prado. I wish I could have lingered. But Everett discovered how his voice echoes in the museum and he reeeeeeally liked that... so we had to jet out of there as fast as lightning. I mean, he was loud.

Having a baby along for this particular adventure made me feel connected to people in a way that I never had. Even though I couldn't understand their words, I knew what their smiles, their gestures, and their warm words implied as they leaned down and spoke so sweetly to my son. Wherever we went, Everett somehow wormed his way into the hearts of everyone we met. I thought he was the apple of my own eye, but oh my! He left those little old Spanish women in a wake.

It made me realize that no matter what the vast differences might be between people, not only the language, but the culture, religion, politics, heck, the OCEAN that lies between the United States and Spain, the practice of adoring babies is truly universal. Young men, old women, children, couples, people of all heritages and walks of life - they approached us with warm eyes and excitable hearts. They wanted to speak to the baby, touch his hands (which made me cringe), and engage with his little presence and personality. They wanted to connect, and my little baby boy was the bridge. The olive branch. The conductor of electricity between us and them. It made me feel very human. Very human and very much a citizen of this vibrant world.

I feel insanely grateful that I had opportunity to experience this rich city just like this - as a wife and a mother, and a student of the world, exploring the Earth with my treasured ones.

Traveling With a Baby.

Traveling With a Baby.

Two weeks ago we took our almost 4-month-old baby to New York City for 5 days. We are new parents, so we weren't sure all the best ways to travel with him. I asked a lot of questions to those who had done it before, and I've compiled all the info that worked best for us. This entire post is about how to avoid excessive hassle (and germs!) while traveling with a baby.

For the Airport:

Check, check, check. 

It's a new era in your life, if you're traveling with children. The old habit of carrying everything on in order to avoid baggage fees just isn't feasible anymore. Make your life easier and just check everything you won't need for the plane ride. Seriously, this will save you so much hassle. I carried on my diaper bag, stocked specifically for the plane ride, and nothing else. And I mean, my baby, but then nothing else.

Check your stroller with your other luggage. 

I know some people recommend gate-checking the stroller (if you choose to travel with one), but I don't really see the reason to bring it all the way through the airport. It's just more stuff to lug. We purchased a travel bag for our stroller (which provides insurance in case the airline damages it during our travels), so we went ahead and packed it and checked it along with everything else. It was wonderful. And thankfully, the bag completely protected the stroller and there was zero damage to it during the entire trip. Money well-spent, in my opinion.

Wear your baby through the airport.

I wore my almost-4-month old in the Ergo Baby Carrier through the airport, and it was the best. It kept him calm and warm, and most of all, away from strangers. I am a bit wary of germs (I hate when people you don't know come up and touch your baby's hands and face. Like, what are they THINKING?! I don't know where their grimy hands have been! And then of course my child immediately puts his hands in his mouth... ugh so gross.)

Note:

You don't have to take the baby out of the carrier when you go through security, but sometimes they will still make you take your shoes off. I would recommend wearing something you can easily slip in and out of, like Keds.

We scored three seats on the plane. Everett didn't complain once.

For the Plane:

Ask for a Better Seat Rearrangement.

You never know until you ask, that's what I've learned from my husband. In our case, on both flights, the gate agents moved us so that we could have a row of three seats for the three of us, even though we only paid for two seats! I sat by the window, Stevie sat on the aisle, and we had more room to spread out a blanket on the seat between us with some toys and stuffed animals. We found that our little man loved stretching out on the middle seat & kicking up a storm (obviously, our hands were on him the whole time, making sure he didn't roll - incidentally, this is where I also decided to discreetly make some diaper changes, as well. More room!) Once you reach your gate, you can ask the gate agent if there is anything they can do to upgrade or rearrange your seat assignments so that you can be more comfy.  We found that Delta was extremely accommodating to our family - thank you!

Wait to Board.

Most airlines allow people flying with infants to board the plane first, so that you can settle in and avoid the crowds. However, why would you want to sit on that plane for 45 minutes while everyone else boards? It's just extra time in a tiny, cramped space. No thank you! My baby is a mover, and loathes sitting still, so I knew that wouldn't be a good option for us. Since we didn't carry anything on, we didn't need to board first to make sure our luggage would fit. So we waited until the final boarding call to make our way on the plane, and then 5 minutes later we were taking off.

Note:

If you are traveling with a partner who has some carry-on luggage, have them go ahead and board at the regular time so they can get their bag on board. But hold out and wait to board with that baby until the very last minute! You will be reeeeeeeally glad about this choice.

Feed during Takeoff/Landing.

Nurse the baby or give them a bottle during the takeoff/landing portions of the flight. Their little ears are really sensitive to all the altitude changes, so the constant swallowing helps ease that discomfort. A pacifier also works beautifully, if your child will take one.

Dressing the Part.

Dress your baby in a long-sleeved onesie, if you can. It makes for easy diaper changes, keeps them warm on the flight, and allows for a simple wardrobe swap in the case that things get messy. Make sure you have all kinds of back up onesies - I think I brought on three changes of clothes! Of course, when you're actually that prepared, you never need all of those. I also made sure to keep him in a hat, socks and shoes, and a coat, just because it was November and we were heading to NYC. Didn't want him to get too cold en route!

Stock that Bag:

Along with the many extra changes of clothes, I made sure to have my diaper bag wondrously stocked. I packed my nursing cover, a few muslin blankets, a burp cloth, a zillion diapers and wipes, pacifiers, diaper rash cream, hand sanitizer and a few comforting teethers/toys (Everett is really loving the Jellycat collection :)

My baby and his baby, Oscar.

For the Hotel:

Find A Killer Location.

It was really important to us to stay in a centrally located hotel while we were in NYC. I didn't want to stay in Times Square, because I was concerned about trying to get the baby to go to sleep amidst the lights and noise (also, who wants to stay in Times Square?) However, staying in midtown, just south of Central Park, was pretty perfect.

The Warwick New York Hotel was extremely accommodating to all our baby needs, and made our first trip as a family of three extremely comfortable. It was also a super-cool boutique-y vintage-y spot with a glamorous history, so it made us feel hip (even though we're really not.) Yes, it was a super busy area, but the location made it really easy to go back to the hotel throughout the day if we needed to do a major clothing change or an impromptu nap. In years past, Stevie and I would have stayed somewhere far less posh and further away to save a few bucks, but in this new age of babies, it's worth paying a little bit more to stay centrally. That way, when you do have to head back to the hotel for the baby's 2-hour nap, at least you can still look out your window and enjoy the city a bit.

Sleeping Situation.

You can opt for a suite if you're concerned about the baby waking you up at all hours of the night. We didn't want to shell out the extra cash for a suite, but in hindsight, it probably would have made a big difference in terms of (at least Stevie!) getting better sleep, especially since this was a work trip for him. But if you are going to sleep in the same room as your baby, make sure you pack their sleep essentials. We made sure to bring Everett's white noise machine, his sleep sack and a few extra blankets to drape around the crib, just so that he didn't get distracted by the TV, etc.

Note the blankets draped around the sides. He slept like a baby.

Reserve a Crib.

Make sure to contact your hotel ahead of time and vibe them out about the baby gear. Most hotels have cribs that you can reserve in advanced, but not all hotel cribs are created equal. Some are old and rickety and not up to code. Make sure you really check out the crib when you get to the hotel, check for cracks in the wood and loose screws. I brought our own crib sheet from home, so that Everett would at least smell the comfy "home smell" in a foreign crib.

Snacks & Drinks.

Buy a big pack of bottled waters and leave them in the room. Then you can grab one to go each time you head out. This way you can stay hydrated and cut down on out and about costs. The same goes for healthy snacks. Eating out while traveling can really deplete your energy and make you feel sluggish, especially when you know you aren't making the best healthy choices. I stopped by the Fresh Market before our trip and stocked up on Kind Bars, energizing trail mix and whole grain crackers. When we arrived in NYC I found a deli and stopped by each day to purchase a fresh-cut container of organic fruit. That way I was snacking really healthy and eating lighter, cleaner meals. It made those Magnolia Bakery treats just that - a treat. Not a necessity for fuel.

We are in a honeymoon stage with our stroller. WE LOVE IT.

For Getting Out & About:

Carrier.

I really love babywearing. Not only was this completely essential for the airport, this was definitely the most seamless way to go places with the baby when I was by myself. I just strapped him in the Ergobaby Carrier and away we went! But keep in mind, with all that walking, you will probably get tired easily. Wear supportive shoes, especially if you will be walking the entire time.

Stroller.

We brought our big mamma-jamma stroller, in addition to the baby carrier, and I am so glad we did. Walking around for hours and hours can get a little bit tolling on your back, even though the Ergo is incredibly supportive. For a city like New York, where walking is my favorite mode of transport, it was really helpful to have my stroller and load it down with the essentials. I could strap Everett in (all bundled up in his JJ Cole Bundleme), hang my diaper bag on the hooks and have plenty of room in the basket underneath for whatever else I wanted to bring along. At one point, I was carrying shopping bags, a few gifts to bring to friends, his Ergobaby carrier (just in case), my coat, a picnic lunch, my SLR camera and a book (ha, as if I was going to read on this trip) all in the stroller basket. It made going to the park really fun, because we had enough gear to get out and stay out for hours and hours. And like I said, we purchased our stroller's travel bag, which provides insurance in case anything is damaged while we travel. Which made it a no-brainer to have along with us.

Pace Yourself.

Plan less activities for your day. And make flexible plans. I wish I could say that having this baby hasn't slowed us down in the least. I wish I could say that we are still livin' la vida loca, that this baby can easily go along with our schedule, that nothing can alter the vigorous way we like to travel and explore. But I would be lying. Having this baby has slowed me down more than anyone else I know that has a baby. We do everything slower. We do fewer things. And those slow, few activities really wear us out, so then we have to nap a lot (when I say "we", I am mostly referring to me and Stevie. I have already established that my child would prefer to never sleep and always play.) Don't plan on leaving your hotel at 8 in the morning to sightsee, meet friends for lunch, shop in the afternoon and then meet more friends for dinner. Because you will spend the majority of your trip (like I did) apologizing by text to everyone you have to cancel on. I'm working on not being too hard on myself about it, this is just part of traveling with a baby. Be flexible. Pace your schedule.

Lessons Learned + What I Wish I had Known.

I wish I would have known about the post-travel crash. I realized that Everett & I could run on adrenaline throughout the trip, but coming home and getting back into a routine was kind of a nightmare. He experienced what some people call the 4-month sleep regression, but it was even more than that. He stopped taking a bottle for a few days. He was mega fussy. He had some whack diapers. He was literally up every hour of ever night for 7 days straight. And it was super un-fun. It's taken a full 10 days to get back into a normal sleep routine, which has helped with his eating and the fussiness. I wish I had better answers for why this happens and what to do about it, but nothing really helped us get through it, other than time. It just took time, attempting to get back to normal. Best thing you can do? Pray. Pray and sleep the very best and most you can. Especially during the daytime, when your baby goes down for a nap. There is tons of info out there about how to cope with baby jet lag, but nothing worked for us. Nothing but prayer and sleep.

Seems like a lot of stuff, huh? It is. But we had such a blast on this trip. I feel much better prepared for the next time we travel. The bottom line is that having this baby is the greatest gift I've ever received, so if he slows me down for a few years, so be it. Traveling with him was an absolute wonder and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Happy holiday travels to all of you this week!