Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category


I can’t help but notice that my posting frequency has decreased quite noticeably since the weather turned nice. Guess I’ll have to find something else to whine about, eh?

Anyway, Xander and I just got back from a week in Florida. Well, more like 10 days. JS joined us for the first weekend and we visited his mom in her retirement community, and then he came back to go to work (BORING) and Xander and I joined my parents for a week at the beach.

It was so great.

We didn’t do anything major. We went down to the beach in the morning and played in the gulf for a few hours. Then we’d stop at the pool to de-sand the toddler. Then back inside for lunch and naps (typically at least half of us went down at this point), and, if time allowed before dinner, outside again for some shell walking and throwing stuff into the surf. Rinse and repeat. Xander LOVED the water. I was nervous that it might scare him for some reason. But he just waded right in without any hesitation.  We got him one of those little floatie rings/seats that he could hang out in, thus saving our arms from having to hold him the entire time.

I also have to brag at how well he did when visiting Gamma Jean at the retirement home. It was a prime-time to showcase his impressive lung capacity, and he did have a few small-ish meltdowns, but overall he did so great! He was sweet and charming and smiled and held hands and gave hugs (to anyone, really, he was quite happy to share the love).

And now we’re home and I’m catching up on laundry and getting excited for our CSA boxes to start up and prepping for Paula’s visit in a few weeks.

This is going to be such a great summer!

Loving the “woodi”from Day 1.

PopPop was by far the favorite person.

Vacation means snacks on the patio! As much as I can eat!

Giving a kisskiss.


Lots of sand, lots of sky. Lots of dive bombing birds we couldn’t scare off because they were “protected.” Jerkfaces.


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What Xander Did

My first vacation post was negligent in regards to poor, abandoned Xander, who wept for us for approximately 4 minutes, apparently. But hey, he had things to do! Parks, church nursery, visiting PopPop at work, free cookies at Publix, dogs, uncles, trips to the nursery.

Anyway, pictures:










And, just because it was in beautiful full bloom the weekend we returned from Mexico, my parents’ Cherry Blossom tree.


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Home Again


We’re back. And it’s good to be back. And also sad because: where’s my mojito?

The trip went something like this: The three of us flew to AL (well, Nashville, actually, but whatever), spent a full day there with Gramma and Pop-pop (we were going for the dull and traditional monikers of Gramma and Grampa, but Xander had other ideas about that), and then JS and I left for Mexico. And, yeah, I totally wept into Xander’s hair when I gave him his bottle the night before we left (early, so at least he wasn’t awake and screaming for us as we departed), but it was so, so, so wonderful.

JS and I spent most of our time just lounging at the beach, alternating between shade and sun, reading, listening to music, whatever. When we wanted a break from that grueling life, we went up by the pools and got a snack of sushi at the bar. Maybe an afternoon mojito, then dinner. We realized how incredibly lame we are in that we never adjusted to the time zone. So, we went to bed around 9:00, and got up around 5 or 6 AM. But, hey, whatever. We’re not exactly the college-spring-break-let’s-go-clubbing set, and sleep was always high on my priority of Things To Do.  Also? It meant that we got prime beach spots before all of the hungover kids finally stumbled out of bed at 1PM.

I took a mini trip and went snorkeling over a black coral reef (JS wasn’t into the boat ride and the undulating platform, so he opted out of this one). I saw Dory and some other brightly colored fish and had so much fun. The two of us took a half day trip to Talum, and we enjoyed checking out the ruins and taking some pictures, but were glad that we didn’t plan too many outings, because they are somewhat of an ordeal. It was really hard to top beach lounging, too. I mean. Come on.

My mom sent us occasional reports on what Xander was up to, which was perfect. Just enough info to make us miss him a little less, but not so much that we’d obsess over it all. (For his part, it sounded like had nearly as much fun as we did) (but without the mojitos).

Then we flew back to AL, hung with my family for a weekend, grilled some kabobs with my friend Paula and her little girl, and then it was time to come home.

We booked our trip through Costco, one of the all-inclusive deals, which, I know – it seems sort of generic or something. And as much as we would have loved to find tiny boutique lodgings and hop around to different locations and eat with the locals, it wasn’t feasible for us. And I have to say, I loved doing it this way. We could eat and drink anything at any time without worrying about the cost adding up (resort food and drink is insanely expensive). There were no hidden room fees or anything else that would have put a damper on the trip come check-out. The hotel itself was very nice, and the fact that all gratuities were included did nothing to affect the level of service we got from everyone.

ANYWAY, unintentional sales pitch aside, here are some of my photos (from the phone, OF COURSE; we only packed one real camera to share so I’ll post those pictures later). You know I trust you because I’m posting one of me in a swimsuit. I’m trying not to notice the extra 15-20 pounds there, OK, maybe you can do the same.









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It’s hard to know what to write about an event like the storms in Alabama last week. It’s big, for one, bigger than I know how to describe. But along with that, when you’re in it, you don’t get how big it is. You deal with what’s in front of you, because that’s all there’s time for. Also because that’s all you hear about. I had no idea how bad the damage was in other areas for a while, a day at least, maybe longer. I heard towns listed on the radio, which was all we had access to, and that was it.

Anyway, I’ll try to go through the day, the best I can.

I woke up last Wednesday to a terrific thunderstorm outside. The lightening lit up my old bedroom and woke me up, the claps of thunder shaking the windows less than a second after each flash. I was glad that Xander was sleeping through it and didn’t think much else about it. A few hours later, the storm sirens woke me up. It’d been long enough since living in Alabama that I didn’t really know what it meant. Mom was already watching the news to see how bad the weather was, and where the tornado, if there was one, was in relationship to us.

It wasn’t too bad, so we all went about our morning. Dad went to work, I got ready for the baby to wake up. The sirens rang in the background the entire morning.

My cousin Casey came over, he’s doing some contract work on cell towers and stays with my parents when he’s nearby. He’d been an hour or so away that morning and had to take shelter in a Wall-Mart because the winds were so strong that they were blowing his car across the parking lot…while he was in it.

At some point, I don’t know exactly when, we lost power. The internet had been down since early morning. We found a radio and put on a local station, while I kept loose tabs on what was going on via my iPhone.  As the winds picked up, Mom went outside to trim some flowers so they wouldn’t break in the storm and Casey watched the clouds swirling above. I stayed inside with Xander, who was playing on the floor. I let the dogs inside and could barely open the door because of the massive pressure change.

I went to one of the big windows and watched as a house being built across a small lake behind my parents’ house blew over. Seconds later, Casey came back inside when a tree snapped in half. And then another. And another.

The sky had turned an unmistakable shade of green. I grabbed Xander, trying not to panic, and moved away from the windows. Branches and tree trunks flew across the sky.

The best place for us to be was in a small hallway off the garage, so that’s where we went. Xander I sat on the toilet in the powder room off the hallway. It was so dark. I remember looking down at the baby, just barely making out his wild hair and finger dimples clutching his bottle and thinking “oh my God.” For his part, Xander was having a ball, bouncing up and down on my lap while the wind rushed over us, sounding like a freight train.

It calmed down a bit eventually, and Xander and I ventured out of the bathroom into the living room. I didn’t let him get near any windows, though, because it was still pretty wild outside. Dad came home from work, Casey left to go to my brother’s house a few blocks away. The day gets a little muddled here, because it was one big mess of “take shelter” messages, brief periods of calm, and a looming sense of dread that I couldn’t get rid of.

At one point, when it was pretty calm and the sky was no longer green, Mom and I ventured out for a short walk to see what had happened. There were a lot of trees down, shingles and gutters littered the roads. We kept pointing to broken trees and laughing, “can you believe it?!”

We had no idea.

We went back in when it got too calm, and when, out of no where, branches and other debris starting falling from the sky, like someone was dropping them overhead. Inside, Mom and I watched as a funnel cloud formed over the second lake behind their house.

I grabbed the sleeping baby (who was royally pissed at having his nap interrupted) and went back into the hallway where we stayed for the rest of the night, texting JS practically every minute for weather updates and to let him know we were OK. We sent over 100 messages that day.

The radio announcers could barely keep up. At one point they said “if you live in Northern Alabama, take shelter.” It was so odd to hear our small town, Harvest, mentioned by name. “A tornado is confirmed, on the ground, in the Harvest area.” And then street names, at the entrance of our subdivision. Then more street names, where my dad’s office is.  More, and more, and more. Over and over. “Another tornado on the ground at X and Y street.” Half a mile. “At A and B Street.” Half a mile in the other direction. I got very scared when my best friend’s small town was listed by name, but had no way of knowing if she was OK, or if they had already left, or anything. But I couldn’t worry long, because another tornado was just listed down the street from us. Again.

Until, suddenly, it was over. The sirens went off.  We were given the all clear. We had some candles and flashlights and went about trying to go to bed, moving Xander’s pack and play back in to the bedroom. That night, any time a car drove down the street, whenever the neighbor’s started their generator, anything, any sound or light, had me bolt up out of bed in a blind panic. “Is it back? Is Xander OK? Should I move him again?” Eventually I gave up on sleep and stared into the darkness around me, waiting for daylight.

I knew we’d been lucky, but I still had no idea how bad it had been.

At some point the next day, we started to learn more. We were told we’d have no power for at least 5 days (today, a week later, my parents JUST got their power back). We heard that Tuscaloosa was hit bad. The President was coming. Hundreds dead. More missing. F-4 tornadoes. My brother was worried about his friend, who’d been in Phil Campbell – a town completely wiped out – no one could reach her. We had to drive to a different town to get gas, and I couldn’t stop gaping at the amount of destruction around me.  Mostly, though, the news we heard was VERY local. What gas stations were open. Where to get ice. Which stores had generators. We were very isolated, and as soon as the storms had past, none of us had access to anything, even on our cell phones.

So…yes. It was terrifying. And this may qualify as the worst vacation I’ve never taken. But oh my. Oh, my. We were so lucky. So incredibly lucky. One of the tornadoes that went through Harvest was an F-5. F-5. And my parents didn’t loose a solitary shingle. Not one of their trees so much as bent over. My brother’s house sustained some minor roof damage. That’s it.

It’s hard to reconcile the two things – the fear (even more so retrospectively, now that I know how dangerous the situation was) and the worry and the helplessness with the relief and gratitude of good luck. And, of course, with the grief and sadness over the cities and towns and families who were NOT as luck as we were. Those who lost their houses. Their possessions. Their children.

I’m so raw right now. My emotions are so close to the surface. I only barely fought off panic attacks when there were thunderstorms in Dallas on our return flight. And I was only able to do so for Xander’s sake. I keep imagining how much worse it could have been. I can just picture his tiny little body flying away from me, into the unnaturally colored sky, and my stomach clenches violently.  I barely let him out of my site. I check on him while he naps, I pause outside his door at night to listen to him breathing. And the same with JS. I’m glad, for his sake, he wasn’t stuck with us during the storms, but selfishly I’d wanted him there to give me courage and comfort. I want to hold them both close to me and never let them go, never let us be apart, never let anything bad happen, ever.

But I can’t.

I can only love them fiercely and know how lucky I am to have them in my life, and try to never forget this feeling, never forget how damn lucky I was, we were…never take it for granted.

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I know I’m a total homebody and so this statement loses some of its impact, but nonetheless: I am so glad to be home.

I don’t know where to start with the stories or what happened in Alabama. I’m not quite ready for that blog post(s) yet and I have quite a few photos to sort through.

Xander was a total wonderbaby, smiling and cooing and playing the entire time, and I’m pretty sure he’s the only reason we didn’t all lose our minds.

Of course, he made up for that by having a COMPLETE MELTDOWN on the flights home. Not that I can blame him. But still. It wasn’t the best timing. (At one point he was crying so hard from exhausting and overstimulation and getting a cold and God knows what else that he threw up. Threw up! From crying! My heart broke a little at that point.)

Today I have some shopping and house chores to do, and  maybe a nap to take and TiVo to catch up on. In other words: normal life. And I can’t wait to get back into it.

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I don’t know what’s up with my lingering case of Blogger’s-Block. I think about posts to write, and then I go and do something else, and by the time I’m back at the computer, the idea has vanished. (More often than not it’s been replaced with Futile Rage at the awfulness of the final season of Gilmore Girls – WHO BUYS OUT THE KNIT-A-THON, CHRISTOPHER? C’MON!) (Though, admittedly, the Wolf Girl Pencil Etching was quite fabulous.)

Part of it, I think, is that life as a mom to a baby is pretty “routine.” Bottles, naps, meals, baths, stories, play, bed, repeat. Sometimes I do dishes and laundry. Rarely I’ll clean something. And I like it, it’s a great life, but it doesn’t make for great stories, ya know?

Anyway, here’s what’s been up since my last update:

  • I ran 7 miles this weekend! 7! That’s the most I’ve ever gone, and my pace was pretty decent (for me, which is still very very slow). I was only one mile behind what my group did, so I’m very nearly caught up and it feels great. I’m actually beginning to think I can run this race. Nuts, eh?
  • I’m still stuck as far as fundraising goes. I’m thinking of approaching some local businesses to see about corporate sponsors? I don’t know. I’m not good at this.
  • Mere MOMENTS after lamenting that Xander will never get a tooth, and will have to start school all gummy, I spotted his very first tooth just beginning to pop up. It’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.  It’s not so cute at 2AM when he wakes up screaming, but, you know, whatever. I really wish Hylands would restock their teething tablets, because the gel pretty much does nothing.
  • I finished the 24-hour speed round for the writing contest. I had to write a horror story about a prodigy. It…was not my favorite genre, but I think I did decently. I’ve read some of the other stories, and I’m not being self deprecating when I say I don’t think I’ll win, but whatever happens, it was super fun and I will definitely do it again.
  • JS, Xander and I are going to visit JS’s mom in Florida and then my parents in Alabama later this month. It’s a lot of flying. Including a red eye to Florida. I’m terrified. I HOPE that Xander sleeps for much of the flight, but I just don’t know. We’re only in FL for about a day before we leave for Alabama, and I’m worried about him being a total wreck and cranky for his first visit to JS’s mom. (Plus, he’s just started to get some Stranger (but really more like Your Not Mama) Anxiety, which doesn’t bode well for meeting new people.)

And that’s about it! It’s a thrilling life I lead, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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Oh! The Places You’ll Go

Wahkeena Trail, originally uploaded by EABanks.

JS asked me this week to pick ten places I want to visit – anywhere in the world. Not that we can actually afford to do so, not at this particular moment, anyway, but just as an exercise in creativity and dreaming and whatever. I have not traveled much. At all. I’ve been to Tiajuanna. On mission trips. In junior high. I’ve been to Hawaii twice (I’d never leave if I didn’t have to). I’ve been up to the Columbia River Gorge in Washington (that’s where the picture above is from)  (amazingly gorgeous, can’t wait to go back). I’ve been to Yellowstone (backpacked one night out in the middle of NO WHERE and it was so rad there are no words). Other than that? Most of my travel has been to visit family or friends or stops along the way to other places, you know? A night in Sequoia. A night someplace in Kansas during a Tornado on my way to moving to CA.

So, not much travel.

This is the first take of my (incomplete) list:

  1. Italy: for the romance of it…not the lovey dovey romance, but the beauty and sentiment and the wine. Just keepin it real.
  2. Africa: a jungle safari, if I didn’t have to worry about political turmoil and war (or snakes) (or bugs), this would be an amazing trip. Just imagine the pictures I could take!
  3. The Greek Isles: because every picture I’ve seen of them is breathtaking.
  4. NYC: I have never been, and this is a horrible thing.
  5. Japan: the misty and green rolling mountains call to me.
  6. Switzerland: chocolate? and lush, green beauty? Sure.
  7. England: The history, the architecture, the Dickens-ness of it all. Also I must see Pemberly.
  8. Bali: Tropical island = my idea of paradise.

I’m having a hard time picking my final 2 places. Not because I can’t think of any, but because I don’t know how to select them! There’s so much to see in this world and I have no idea how to just have a top 1o list (unless I can do things like say “Europe” or “Asia” and have that count as a single place.

Where would YOU go, if you could go anywhere?

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Sweet Home…

Hey, look! It’s been less than a month since I got home from Alabama and I already have pictures to share! I so rock at this mothering thing. (Stop it. I can see your eyes rolling from here.)

Xander and I hanging out with PDiddy and her sweet girl, Bailey. Much fun was had by all.


Uncle Grant, trying to figure out what’s so great about being a baby.


Laughing at Mama and her extra chins.


A rolling over action shot; something he has flat-out refused to do since coming home.

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Up In The Air

Yeah, so I may feel house-bound, but I’m obviously NOT, since tomorrow I’m leaving with Xander to spend two weeks with my parents in Alabama. Alone. On a plane. And in airports. With a baby. And no Xanax. And I’m pretty sure people get all frowny at me if I decided to deal with my fear of flying by ordering as much in flight wine as they’d serve me. Cause, you know, baby.

The trip came about because JS and I had been planning to bring Xander to AL for Christmas, all “first grandbaby family togethernerness” sort of thing. But at his 2 month appointment, I mentioned this to the doctor and she didn’t exactly say “no,” but she did mention it being the peak of flu season and how he’s too young for the flu shot and well….so we had to cancel those plans. (Which totally sucks and I’m actually really bummed about not being able to visit family for Christmas, glib tone aside.) But I still really wanted to go home, to see my brothers, to introduce them to their nephew. We had thought JS might be able to come, too, for part of the trip, and we could just be like “screw convention, Christmas in October, yay!” But we don’t have the money for the extra ticket right now, like, THANKS tax return that won’t be here for another month or so.

ANYWAY, so I’m flying with Xander tomorrow. And oh my hell, I never realized how much CRAP you have to travel with! I have two bags to check. TWO. Luckly we’re flying SouthWest so I don’t have to pay that lame baggage fee, but still. It feels a little ridiculous, especially since his clothes are so very small. But there’s the pump, and bottles, and his sleep toy and formula – just in case, and on and on and on. (Yes, I’m bringing some formula. I don’t want to be out with my brothers or friends and leave my parents with a hungry baby and nothing to feed him. It’s not like I can bring my entire supply of frozen milk without it going bad before I can use it.)

I’m not bringing a stroller or a carseat or anything like that – mom’s using the church grandparents network to score the necessary items. I’m packing my mei tai, and using the Rockin Baby Sling for the airport. I’ve gotten lots of tips on how to handle the flight, and all I can do is hope that it’s not full to capacity so that we have at least a chance of an extra seat next to us. I’m not sure how nursing on take off/landing will go in such cramped quarters, but, oh well.

I’m bringing my camera and hoping that fall will give me that kick in the ass I seem to need to start taking more pictures again.

Wish me luck.

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Homeward Bound

Howdy! It’s the last day of my trip and I’m excited to be headed home tomorrow. It’s been fun and relaxing, and I have tons of new baby clothes. YAY!

This is the first time in, oh, a week, maybe, that I’ve logged into my laptop. And the only reason I’m doing it now is that I’m downloading the Digital Copy of Harry Potter 6 to watch on the flight(s) tomorrow.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures, sadly, but when I get home I plan on really starting on Ziggy’s Room, and I’ll post pictures of that!

Hope everyone’s had a great week and a half.

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