3 Thoughts on Traveling Child-Free

I've often heard my mom give the advice that every year you need to go on a Family trip, and Friend trip, and a Couple trip. The family trip makes memories, the friend trip reminds you that you are You, and your Couple trip strengthens your marriage.

Wise advice!

I've had the luxury of having more than one of each types of these trips so far this year and I want to write some things about the third.

1. I am so grateful to have people who can watch Jamie without me

This includes Porter. He watched Jamie while I was in Cuba and I realize that one, not every mom has a partner at all and two, not every mom has a partner who has the flexibility to take over.

Beyond Porter, I have a group of friends and family who have been so wonderful at watching Jamie while I'm away, no more than porter's mom trish. She had him the entire time we were in Italy and I am so so so lucky that she is willing, capable and that Jamie is getting to bond with his Nana. She is so fun and loving and honestly, probably more safe and healthy than I am. This trip, her best friend Pat came out to help out and I'm so glad for her too! We got semi-regular updates and cute photos of Jamie being happy and that he isn't waking up every two hours feeling abandoned.

I recognize just how lucky I am to have her.

2. Traveling without Jamie makes me feel very complicated.

It's hard to not feel like I'm being an awful person and awful mother just up and leaving my baby. I read all these advice forums for moms and we're fed a pretty steep diet of 'Your child needs you' and how attachment in the first 3 years sets the tone for a child's ability to love later in life and blah blah blah. It's hard to not feel bad for not being there for every smile and cry and, in the case of Jamie, every heavy thing he lifts.

It's also hard to not feel indebted to Nana, because I know he's probably more clingy than usual, and I know how many diapers he's going through, and that he's wiggly and a handful and maybe not sleeping great while I'm away.

But it's also preeeetty fantastic to be away, to sleep in, to read uninterrupted, to have few responsibilities and to get to hang out with Porter, undivided in attention.

But I also miss him so much! Porter and I fought over who got to watch videos first and how long we got to ogle snapshots Nana sent. I saw kids and playgrounds and strollers and kid's stores and just wished he was with me. Every good thing I experience I want him to experience and it would be made sweeter with him around. Except it wouldn't because traveling with a baby fundamentally changes the experience. But it sure would be great if it didn't.

3. Child free time is so great and important

Man, I love my husband.

3 Reasons We Moved to Anacortes

It's been four months since we decided, not entirely on a whim, to move to Anacortes. It's funny how right a decision can feel when the gut response to the many times I've been asked 'Why Anacortes?' has been to note just how obvious it is. And how everyone should want to move here. Here are some of my reasons:

1. Seattle is crowded and expensive. The city is going through some serious growing pains, caused in great part by a healthy job market. The area has everything it has always had (access to water, mountains, city, and country, all relatively close; a strong academic, cultural, and entrepreneurial landscape), and the preponderance of desirable employers has snowballed: good companies attract talent, which attracts more good companies, and then all the business and services that come with all those companies and people (for example, know a guy who worked for a company whose sole function was to manage storage units for people being moved to and from Microsoft positions, how's that for a random job).

All this to say that there's a housing crisis and a traffic crisis and the whole situation means most people are cramming into small spaces and paying a larger portion of their pay to live closer or more comfortably. Also, spending bucket loads of time on the freeway either commuting or just getting about. I hate that I had to plan when to visit family in Kirkland or friends in Seattle around when I-405 would be a nightmare or the bridge wouldn't be at a standstill only to find out that it's a nightmare most of the time, and without a lot of rhyme or reason.

So, to start we were interested in getting away. But to where?...

2. Small town with a self-identity, walkable downtown, slow pace, strong community, good schools

I have reached the stage in life where my community matters to me. I want to matter in my community and plant my little family in a place where we connect with others around us. That's hard to do in any metro area, where neighborhoods and suburbs run into one another. Some neighborhoods do it better than others-Mercer Island gave us a little taste of what it felt like to have distinct borders (people there really care about those on the island!).

It's part of what I love about small towns. And that they are usually a lot more peaceful and less rushed, which works well for my frazzled self.

3. Maritime identity, town festivities, strong local businesses

We're a boat family (that's what happens when you're married to WPBIII) and Anacortes is a boat town (The town vision statement says so). There are ship builders and ferry riders and kayaker, yachtees, and day sailors. And a lot more marinas per capita than probably makes sense. It was actually at the Waterfront Festival last year that it clicked that this was the perfect town for us and we went from regularly visiting Anacortes for fun to compulsively looking at neighborhoods, real estate listings, and asking strangers what they loved and hated about living here (for the record, most could only hate on "old people who think they run the town" oh boo hoo).

Four months in and it's everything I could have ever dreamed of.

3 Reasons I Love Flying Southwest Airlines

There was a minute there where I was flying a bunch (yay summer!) and I remembered how much I love flying Southwest. They don't have as many nonstop flights out of Seattle as they used to (thanks to Delta and Alaska having a million each), but I still choose them, because:

1. Open Seating and Family Boarding

Especially now that I am flying with a walking time bomb/puppy/small child, I appreciate more than ever unassigned seats. Throw in Family Boarding (where families with children get to board after first class and before two-thirds of the rest of passengers), and I get to choose how important a window or aisle is for me at the current moment (window when he's feeling curious, aisle when I know a diaper change is coming) AND people who board after me can self-select if they are into sitting by a kid or not.

In July, I flew 7 legs and I twice chose to sit by a 13 year old who ended up being awesome with babies (one girl I actually ended up giving $10 at the end of the flight because I was flying without Porter and she was so incredibly helpful, plus her mom kind of seemed like a wreck), I had two grandmotherly women choose to sit by us (and ooh and ah and play peekabo and use voices and all that good grandmotherly stuff), once had someone in front of me move when I sat down (no offense taken, lady, I get it!) and once got the row to myself even on a very full flight (thank you Southwest flight attendants for making my dream come true!).

There's all sorts of commotion about parents giving goodie bags to passengers around them and I don't buy it. I truly think children are usually more well behaved and bring more joy to strangers traveling than headache, but I get that lots of people don't like babies and don't want to deal. In fact, much of the stress of flying is not just handling the moods and whims of the small child, but reading the people around you to make sure you aren't making them grumpy. Southwest makes this much much easier.

2. Companion Pass and Points points points
I am a airline loyalty miles junkie (haven't paid cash for a flight in 5 years, knock on wood) and Southwest happens to have a really great program.

First, the Companion Pass, which you get if you accrue 110,000 points in a calendar year (by flying on SW, purchases made with the SW credit card, or my personal favorite, sign-up bonuses). Once you get to 110,000 points, for the rest of that year and the following calendar year, you can have someone fly with you ANYWHERE SOUTHWEST FLIES, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, only paying fees (for a domestic flights, fees are $5.60). So when I fly, I buy a ticket with SW points and Porter (my designated Companion) flies for free, add in a free lap child and that's three of us flying roundtrip for $12 out of pocket. It feels like stealing.

We've been through three years of the companion pass and our is expiring this year (sobbing emoji) so we'll see if we decide to get creative and get it again for next year.

In addition to the Companion Pass, between Porter and I, we use several Chase credit cards tied to the Chase Ultimate Rewards program which, conveniently, transfers to both Southwest and my other preferred airline United. It is helpful that Porter has to buy mountains of shirts, medals, and cones that accumulate points, but really everyone in their day to day makes enough purchases to get points and should be using a credit card that works to their advantage. (To be clear, we don't ever carry a balance and any credit card is paid off in full each month.)

3. Generousity and flexibility

There is no cancellation fee, no fee for checked bags, no fee to change your ticket. It's wonderful. They also give out a lot of snacks (no meals though).


3 Cute Coats. 3 Adorable Looks.

1. Rain man

2. Punk rocker

3. Husky (in the laundry)

3 Areas I Need Regular Validation

I like to think I'm a confident person, somehow spared from the weight of caring about what other people think about most aspects of my life. There are a few exceptions.

1. Your bangs look great.

I do this thing every couple years where I pine after bangs, ask everyone I know who has them all about them (how they style, how often they trim, etc), consult with a stylist (who usually says that my hair isn't well-suited for bangs), then one day impulsively get bangs cut. Then regret it for 4 months until they reach this magical place where I love them for 3 weeks. Then I hate them all over again. It's really a pitiful dance I do. Not unlike the woman who goes back to her abusive lover for the rare spark of magic. But I can't stop. The three weeks of bang heaven (that's what 'she' calls it too) somehow seem to make it all worth it.

In the meantime, I complain, I fidget, I style and re-style, and bemoan how greasy my hair gets and stringy the strands get and LOVE more than anything an unsolicited "Your bangs look great!"

2. Take your time/I'm in no hurry.

I'm aware that I'm a slow mover when I'm on my own, so when I'm with someone doing something (like shopping for example, or site-seeing, or enjoying any number of activities with a friend or loved one), I get weirdly preoccupied with accommodating to their speed. So it's so wonderful when I am reassured at the lack of hurry so I can revert to my own pace guilt-free.

3. You are a good mom.

I actually do think I'm a good mom, It's just the mommy industry and all the mommy chatter are a near constant attack on the idea that anyone could or should think they are a good mom. Even if there's not a right way or wrong way, there's a better way, and usually you don't find out about the better way until you've already been doing it the just OK way for so long that changing to the better way is no small feat. If I've learned anything from the many kick-ass moms in my inner circle it's that there's a million ways to mom. But still... it's nice to hear I'm doing OK.


3 things I wish were cordless

I just spent freaking five minutes untangling my laptop cord and I'm about to murder something. And I realized just in this moment writing this why my laptop is more mangled than it ought to be: Cords make me crazy, I knew, but they also turn me into a cursing old lady who hates newfangled gizmos and electricity.

The three things that turn me into an electricity curmudgeon are:

1. Laptop Cords.

Not even cell phone chargers in all their tendency to disappear and stop functioning make me more annoyed than the bulkiness of my laptop cord. Why am I always trying to figure out which side the port is on? Why is there a giant box in the middle of the cord that detaches when I inevitably yank the cord? Why is it too long, too short, or too three pronged to be used in every place I want to use it?

Because it's obnoxious and I want a laptop that never dies.

2. The blowdryer

I already am handicapped at doing my hair, the blow dryer cord just gets in the way and makes me feel bad about myself and compels me blame the cord for being cumbersome and limiting movement. If only it were cordless, surely I would have the freedom of movement to make loose, beachy curls.

3. The blender

Not so much for usage but for storage. I've got a Vitamix, which packs a lot of power and a cord to match and unlike the vacuum, the blender people haven't provided an easy notch to guide the cord wrapping so mine usually ends up in a pile, with the outlet tail hanging out of the cabinet door.



3 Shows I watched MOST of on maternity leave

No shame (okay, a little shame), I watched a ton of TV while on maternity leave. THANK HEAVEN FOR STREAMING TV. There's a lot of time in those first few months I literally couldn't move. Or when I could move, I didn't want to. And as cute as my little cloud of sunshine is, there are more interesting this to watch. Like:

1. Revenge
Total soap opera drama. Halfway through I took to recounting episodes to a friend as I watched them just because it sounded so ridiculous. "Emily secretly has feelings for Daniel and is engaged to him but she has all this history with this mysterious guy Aiden, who is jealous of Nolan. And Nolan is apparently straight again for a minute. All the while, Victoria, Daniel's mom is in a full panic about her daughter who should be in rehab but she's more mad that she's with Jack's brother who is a good guy but totally poor. And she's playing nice with Emily but is planning to fake her own death in order to break she and Daniel up and to save her husband, who is actually the total evil of the show and I actually feel really bad for Victoria because she was totally messed with as a kid..."

I watched until (spoiler alert!) dreamy Aiden is out of the picture at the end of season 2, read the summaries of season 3 episodes, and got re-hooked on season 4.

VERDICT: I totally recommend it. Totally over the top and ridiculous and amazingly fun to get into.
FAVORITE CHARACTER: Aiden. Seriously, I haven't had a TV crush so bad in a long time. DREAM-BOAT CENTRAL.

2. Friends

From season 4 til the end (10 seasons!!). There is something really wonderful about 22 minute episodes that you don't really have to pay attention in order to enjoy it. There were a surprising number of episodes I had never seen even with a million years of re-runs.

VERDICT: They are all a lot more annoying as individuals than I remember
FAVORITE CHARACTER: Monica. Totally nuts, but owns it.

3. Big Love
Not nearly as sexy or exploitative as I'd once that it would be. As a Mormon who has lived in Utah there were probably things I appreciated more than the average viewer. Plus, I was always fascinated by the idea that were really polygamists in the suburbs. And curious how it worked, like, in real life. I knew there were women out there who weren't the oppressed prairie wives depicted in the raids and Big Love gives an idea of what that might look like in real life. The first season was a fascinating look of how the logistics of a plural marriage would actually work. The second season got all sorts of weird with some shenanigans at the polygamist compound. The third season got a little more into the dynamic of the kids. And the fourth season it lost me. There was a casino... a campaign.. preeettty unrealistic, and by then the family dynamic came second do whatever Bill was doing (ain't that the story!)

VERDICT: Addictive, well-made, more appropriate than not.
FAVORITE CHARACTER: Margie. The only one who chose polygamy. Because it's fascinating to see why someone would do it and enjoy it (belonging, family, people to care about). Plus she is so nice and would be a great neighbor.


3 Problems with Permission

We live in a world where we love permission and sometimes it just drives me batty. I get that we're all sharing this space on earth and we want to be cognizant of the impact we have on others in an individual and collective basis. The politeness of permission doesn't bother me so much. Rather, the kind where we feel like we need an O.K. to DO ANYTHING. This week I've been trying to make a few things happen, both at work and in my calling and I've come across three responses that are, to me, just the worst.

1. "I don't have the Authority" 
This is a direct quote. I'm trying to arrange this dinner for a church thing but it is taking place outside my area, so I've been trying to track down someone in that area to help (because heaven forbid phone numbers be easy to find). Blah blah blah, I ended up asking my aunt for the contact information of my cousin's wife's mom, who lives in the area. After asking for her help and finding out she was going to be out of town, I asked her if she could help me find someone else who might be willing and able. In my head, this meant thinking of helpful people and asking them if they were available and interested to help in this instance. In her head, she didn't have the Authority to ask someone to help out for a church-ish thing without a church calling titles, so she went to the Stake President, who talked to the Stake Relief Society President who will be helping me.

I'm getting the help I need, but this idea that someone doesn't have authority to ask someone to help out is something I see often in the church. People want to do good but don't think they are allowed to. At work, it's a good idea gone to waste in the slow churn of bureaucracy. I swear, most of the time no one actually cares if the answer is yes or no, they only care that permission was asked.

2. "I'm not Obligated"
Another direct quote. Same dinner request, but back before I found the cousin's wife's mom to help connect me, I asked the Stake President's wife in another Stake for advice on who she thought might be able to help me out with this same favor (I was looking for him because I have his phone number and it turns out it's his home phone and she answered, so I asked her in the meantime). She first said she didn't really know anyone, then kind of paused and said that she's not obligated to tell me anyone.

OF COURSE YOU AREN'T OBLIGATED. You happened to answer the phone when I was looking for someone 'in charge' and I am asking you, as an innocent bystander, for advice. As if NOT having a calling was a free pass to withhold information. In fact, being alive is a free pass to withhold information.  If you're at the grocery store buying cookies and someone asks you if you like that particular brand of cookies you are not obligated to tell them. If someone in the airport asks you to help them lift their bags, you are not obligated to help.

At work this is a fairly common 'not my job'. It's self-preservation, I get it. But you can simply say no, and not blame it on your job title.

3. "First let's check with [Perceived Authority Figure]"
Not so different from Number One, but more timid. At work today there was an idea for this event we're throwing, a pretty innocuous idea, and instead of just planning it and executing it, the suggestion was to wait until our boss and our boss's boss OK'd it. Makes sense for big things. HUGE waste of time on small things.

Can't we just all make good decisions?


3 Thing I Love about Traveling with an Infant

Nearly 11 months old, Jamie has been on lots of trips (Utah twice, Alabama twice, LA once, and to Puerto Rico/Southern Caribbean), most with layovers (that's 22 flights altogether, 8 of which were without Porter), half of them flying standby (including several we almost didn't make!). (This is where I say That's my boy with pride and love, as if he chose to be a traveler and isn't just being dragged along by Porter and I because we can't seem to stay put.)

There's a ton of negativity around traveling with babies. And fear. And since I'm an expert now I can say I totally get it. There's way more unknowns to handle when out of the comforts of home and it seems I start bracing for them days before we actually leave. Stuff, a time-crunch, and the ticking time-bomb that is any baby's mood are each on their own formidable opponents, and put together can make a cocktail of preemptive fatigue that makes traveling seem not worth it.

But it's also pretty amazing. Here's why:

1. People are so nice and helpful
I have had so many people, so many strangers go out of their way to help me. Collapse a stroller, lift bags, play faces on the plane, cut in line, give me privacy, give me encouragement, give Jamie snacks. People come out of the woodwork and it's actually a really empowering feeling of humanity and the thinness of our nonconnection. What is that quote... We are strangers here together? Either they've done the rigamarole before, or they know someone who has or, I don't know, they are just nice people. That's not to say there aren't selfish pieces of garbage out there, but most people not only get it and are understanding with delays/noises/gross spit-up or smelly child moments, but many go out of their way to make it better.

Humanity remains!

2. The magic of well-timed meals/naps
For me, the day to day of child handling is like a riddle that changes daily. No, hourly. It's a guessing game of reading cues and remembering advice and going with your gut and sometimes it all comes together just perfectly. Put another way, travel adds a bit of a game to the challenge of timing meals and naps. I keep points for myself every time I get it right and celebrate, out loud to anyone near me when it all comes together ("How great he fell asleep right before take-off!" "This change in schedule made for a perfect opportunity to diaper change and have a few quiet moments to eat" "HE SLEPT!!!!!"). I don't keep tally of the points against me because what is the point, really. It's not like Jamie is the opponent, it's just Mommy Shame Gremlins in my head and the selfish pieces of garbage who tsk tsk and know better than to have kids or take them anywhere.

3. Hanging out with new people in new place with a new baby!
Translation: travel is still travel. Going places is my favorite. BONUS: You have this tiny little human who gets to experience wherever you are going, meet your friends, and enjoy a little change in scenery. Watching Jamie with cousins makes it worth it. Holding Jamie while watching a sunset makes it worth it. Having Jamie in photos we can look back on later and remember going as a family makes it worth it.

Proceed: Photo Dump, in no particular order

Layover in Newark
Helping unpack

Cruise towel animal photo bomb
Park in Puerto Rico
Helping pack
Alabama cousin fun
Waiting to get picked up from Birmingham Airport

Magic Nap
Camping with Fugeres
Santa Monica
Beaching it
Zion Nat'l Park with Dad
John's wedding in St. George
Mission friends picnic in Utah
Napa and Dipu and our babies
Sprinklers somewhere warm
Trying out the FlyeBaby (attaches to seatback tray)
Pool lounging
Unimpressed by the Gulf Coast
Didn't pack enough clothes!
United Mascot
The whole terminal to ourselves!
Striking a pose
Actually Jamie's passport photo
SAD. It's not all smiles. This is proof.

Airplane view
Little pirate
Thanksgiving in Leavenworth
Swimming with dad
Airplane food is gross?
Waiting in SFO


3 Favorite Yoga Reminders

I go in and out of yoga kicks and I'm on one now, thanks to a Two Weeks for Twenty Dollars promotion I'm trying to wring every penny of value out of. I went five times last week, which is a personal record for any type of physical activity besides walking and breathing. Every teacher does it a different way and I'm fairly unappreciative of the 'yoga voice' - that breathy, steady voice talking about the third eye and namaste-ing with a lilt. But a few tidbits of advice stick with me and I have tried to keep in mind:

1. Your feet are part of this pose
It's really easy to half-ass it in yoga. You can flow through poses without really doing the poses (or being the poses, as one hippie teacher loves to point out). In order to get the most out of it, every part of your body is part of the pose. Sometimes its job is to relax, or help provide alignment. Pointed toes or flexed feet or heels twisted in or out a certain way change the experience with a pose entirely. 

2. When you find your mind wandering, gently bring it back
No need to berate yourself, just remind yourself that the constant review of what that annoying coworker said, the nagging list of to-dos, or sense of pathetic self that you're not actually so good at yoga aren't doing much good. Part of moving forward with anything is emptying the brain and going with the Flow (the yoga flow, not the river flow, or wherever that saying came from).

3. Follow your breath
Much like feet and thoughts, breathing intentionally can make an enormous difference to the experience on the mat. I had a boyfriend in college who would always what sounded like sigh all the time and every time I asked him what was up he'd say 'I think we just don't breathe enough.'

So true!