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5.28.2015

the americans



Why aren't you watching this? (Why isn't anyone watching this?) I'm obsessed, and it's not just because Keri Russell's hair in it is great (it totally is). It's one of the more emotionally resonant spy/thriller/action type things on t.v. these days—and, if you're a history buff, it gives a nice little history of the early 80s.

P.S. I have not updated as consistently (and am trying to change that!) because I have spent most of my free time trying not to lose my mind over sleep regression, and the remainder of it studying, badly, for the Foreign Service exam.  Sometimes I just watch an episode and call it studying, because 80s history. I mean, not really. But yes. Wait, what?

5.27.2015

sakura bloom sling diaries: ambition

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This is the second entry of the Sakura Bloom Sling Diaries: Better Together. For the first entry, click here

I was a driven and resolved mother before I had Aaron. Motherhood was going to be hard, but it'd be less hard than it has to be, because I would follow a strict regimen and have the discipline to see it through. I was going to tackle this endeavor like I'd do anything else—and, as with most roads to success, I thought, this one would be paved with careful scheduling and no aberrations from the foreplanned path.

Basically, I was going to nail this parenthood thing.

To start with, I had a mental litany of things I would not do. For example: I would never lunge for the crib at the slightest whimper. I would not inundate my Facebook and Instagram feeds with photos of my child. Aaron would sleep in his own crib, in his own room, from the beginning. We would not rely on pacifiers, because that's a habit that would be hard to break and you shouldn't be relying on crutches to coax your child to sleep, anyway. I would never be one of those moms who had anxiety over leaving her baby: I would return to work eventually, and not think twice about sticking Aaron in daycare, where he'd be well-socialized, or hiring a sitter. I would make a good attempt to breastfeed, but if I didn't like it or if it was too difficult, then I would supplement with formula, and not have a meltdown about it. My husband and I would present a united front, never devolving into petty quibbles over whose turn it was to do what. Aaron would eat three meals a day with us, and would not snack. I would not be buying cheddar bunnies in bulk because, as a friend pointed out, yes, they're organic—but aren't they basically the kind of snack that comes in a ramekin when you order a beer at a bar? 

I would not desperately interrogate other mothers at the playground with similarly-aged children about their babies' sleep habits in a futile attempt to figure out how much sleep I could be planning to get for the next two weeks. Friends without kids would look at me and say, "Did you know she has a kid? It's amazing how much she hasn't changed!"

I would not stop reading. I would not stop traveling. My world would not become insular. 

Etc., etc.  

Unfortunately, Aaron did not get this memo.

His crib was never even placed in his intended nursery, which was all the way across the apartment. It started in the room directly outside our own, then made its way over to the foot of our bed. Within four days of his birth, it'd be pulled up flush alongside my half of the bed. When breastfeeding turned out to be an unmitigated and painful disaster, I wept uncontrollably and spent seven days in too much pain to even pull on a shirt because I couldn't stand the idea of giving him formula. Until relatively recently, the thought of leaving Aaron with a hired caregiver made my stomach twist itself into anxious knots. Right now, next to Aaron's crib is a small glass bowl with a reserve of four or five pacifiers, just so we never have to be in the situation of having to scramble for a spare one in the middle of the night.

Yesterday, I picked up a book—his, not one of mine—and two crushed cheddar bunnies fell out.

Here's the thing about having set ambitions regarding motherhood: I just didn't get it. I had no idea how difficult it can, and would, be—how exhaustingly, defeatingly, frustratingly difficult—and how out of control it would often feel. It's been a profoundly humbling experience—uncomfortably so, yes, but there's also this: motherhood is a universal equalizer. There are a few constants underlying this endeavor, and—despite their ultimate truth—they are oddly comforting in their near certainty. You will not know what you're doing. One of these days—many of these days—you will screw something up, possibly magnificently. You'll decry junk food and, in a fit of exhaustion and frustration over an eating strike, you'll find yourself laying out an aluminum tray of french fries on the floor, within easy reach of your toddler, like you're feeding a dog. (Only me?) You'll pass a mother with brushed hair, carrying a laughing infant, and do a double-take when you see your own reflection in a store window. While wrangling a howling baby who's bellowing angrily through hour three of an international redeye, you'll realize with rapidly increasing horror: you're that mom on the plane. 

It's a unifying sentiment, but it didn't make the transition easier. In many ways, in many moments, it felt like I'd failed—not only myself, but also my son. Surely, he should have more structure. He should have a role model that personified what women could achieve: he should have a working mother, one whose day-to-day didn't revolve around playground trips and cleaning mashed strawberries out of her toddler's hair. He should have a mother who was more laid back, who didn't lose her temper. He should be getting socialized in daycare. He shouldn't be eating those bar snack cheddar bunnies. 

Then a friend pointed out this: 

This is a phase, a bewildering season, a strange several years of diapers, and howls, and resisting unreasonable demands, and getting through the day. One day, while cleaning, you'll find a dusty pacifier behind the bureau and your throat will close up. One day, with your twelve-year-old quietly reading on the plane seat next to you, you'll see a dad walking up and down the aisle with a baby in his arms—up and down, up and down, up and down—and you'll either shudder or smile, or maybe do both. One day you'll go back to work. One day you'll sit down on your living room sofa and pick up a magazine and read a news story from beginning to end. And one day, you'll pass a harried looking mother with a screaming, red-faced infant. You'll pause and, without even meaning to do it, those six words dreaded by every new parent will come out of your mouth. 

It passes so quickly. Enjoy it. 

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skyline mural ship1 ship sling8 skylinecollage slingcollage1 sling5 pleasetouchtheart

I am wearing Aaron in the classic baby sling in Maize, which Sakura Bloom has provided for use in this project. These photos were taken around our neighborhood in Brooklyn, and along Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is home to a fantastic (and fun!) art installation called Please Touch the Art

5.13.2015

barcelona, black and white

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Barcelona is such a colorful city, but here are several in black and white . . . 

About the city in general (since I haven't said anything, beyond my entire bag getting stolen!), I was kind of taken aback by how absolutely crowded it was. That shouldn't have come as a shock—it's such a popular tourist and study abroad destination, and is also relatively cheap for the rest of Europe to get to—but I was expecting a little bit of a different vibe. In my head, I thought Barcelona was going to be like Lisbon. And, well, Lisbon is like Lisbon (we've had a ton of fun in Europe this past year, but Lisbon probably ranks as my favorite European city I've ever traveled to). 

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(morning cuddles)


bubbles

(helping aaron make bubbles or, as aaron bizarrely pronounces them, "butts!")


angel

(the old gothic quarter)


aaron

(more "butts!")


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(a quaint sign in the spanish village)


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(purposeful strides)


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(and . . . my favorite) 

5.07.2015

the one thing to ask your airbnb host

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We've been really lucky in getting to stay in some fantastic AirBNBs, particularly this past year or so in Istanbul. We've stayed in some beautiful ones, and some not-so-great ones. But after about nearly a dozen experiences, there's one question I wish I'd asked the host every time and it's this:

Is this place your primary residence? 

Because: neutralized space. 

To elaborate: when you use AirBNB to book a place, you basically get the gamut of available spaces: from sparsely furnished apartments that the owner uses only as a pseudo-hotel to the host's primary residence while they're away on vacation. Depending on what exactly you're looking for—do you literally want to feel like you've walked into a stranger's home and set up shop, or are you looking more for a bed & breakfast type situation?—you're going to want to ask this of the host. 

Roughly half of the places we've stayed at has served as the host's primary residence. The upside to this is that you tend to get a really nice place and a fantastic guide—I mean, they live there, so they're true locals, and you can be sure that everything in the apartment is in working order. The AirBNB that we rented in Vienna was a beautiful example of this: it was in a really lovely neighborhood, the apartment was charming, our hosts were fantastic, and one of the walls was lined with old portraits of their family—a fascinating glimpse into an Austria of years and years ago. 

The downside is that some hosts don't really neutralize the space at all—and they're certainly not required to—so it can feel a bit awkward, like you've stumbled into the apartment of some random stranger you met on the Internet. (Yes, I understand this is basically what you did...) So, there's their shampoo and soap in the shower, and random papers and things lying on surfaces, and whatnot. That doesn't bother some people, but it might bother others. Yet another downside is that some hosts tend to be super finicky about everything in the apartment. To some degree, that's understandable: it's their home, and you should leave it in the same state—or a better one—than you found it in. But we've met some hosts who are so fussy about every teeny tiny thing in their home that we were left wondering why they rented it out at all, and particularly why they opened the place to toddlers (even if the place lists itself as kid-friendly, we always confirm that they're okay with a very active toddler in their home). In the end, it's made for much more stressful stays, where we're tiptoeing around and trying to remember exactly where everything goes.

Anyway, I also wanted to use this post to share the beautiful old apartment we rented in Barcelona; it's one of the best AirBNB experiences we've had to date, and our host was welcoming and wonderful. We loved, loved, loved the neighborhood: it was a nice walk to nearly all points of interest, and one of Barcelona's oldest cocktail bars, Tandem, was just around the corner.

books

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