Exploring the City with Littles

1495044412744Because of where we live, most of our out-of-town visitors want to see the cities near us while they’re here. Daytrips to Boston and NYC used to require no more planning than how to get around on the train and where to eat. But adding a child to that equation changed things quite a bit and we’ve learned a few lessons along the way about tackling cities with a little one in tow.

IMG_20170507_104639_988So far, we’ve walked Kansas City, Boston, Quebec, and NYC with our little guy along for the ride (literally, he has no idea how lucky he is to be carried everywhere lol).

Because we love traveling and also think kids are all right (I’m 7 months into making another one so they must not be too bad) I’m always on the lookout for ways to make trips with children easier and more enjoyable.

img_20170207_091752236.jpgOur little guy has traveled with us by car, plane, train, boat, and in all kinds of carriers as we’ve explored on foot. Here’s what I’ve learned about city adventures with little ones so far; I hope this helps if/when you take on a family adventure of your own :]

Keep in mind that I’m speaking only from my own experience with one child who we’ve traveled with from 1 month up to 3 years. Every child is different so what works for us at a certain stage may just make your kid cranky or angry—hopefully not, but you know, every kid is different ;]

Newborn to One Year: {Baby sling/Carrier}

When our guy was a baby up to about a year old, the easiest, most comfortable way to go anywhere with him was holding him close in a baby sling (I prefer the Moby wrap) or a baby carrier (I prefer the Ergo, Darren the Baby Bjorn). He would snuggle in close and either watch the world contentedly or sleep. Carrying him also saved us the hassle of a bulky stroller in congested spaces like the subway or busy sidewalks.

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Toddlers Stage 1 to 4 Years: {Backpack Carrier}

Once Roman outgrew the baby carriers (sad day) we started looking for another way to carry him with us minus a stroller and without actually having to hold him in our arms all day (that ain’t going to work, trust me). We ended up trying a backpack carrier and fortunately both Darren and Roman love it most of the time (it’s too heavy for me to wear except for short periods). We use a Chicco carrier and it has worked great for us so far.

IMG_20170507_105900_904One lesson learned about this kind of carrier though—after a whole day on your feet in the city, these do still get heavy and uncomfortable. We spent the day in NYC this past weekend and were both regretting not bringing a small umbrella type stroller as a backup plan.

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While carrying Roman on our backs was perfect for navigating the train, busy streets, and ferry, it was totally exhausting. And Roman got tired of being in there after a while and ended up in our arms anyway. So if you’re planning a full day on your feet, I definitely recommend bringing a small stroller as well—something that folds up flat for trains and easily opens with one hand if possible. We use an Urbini and it’s fine (though I wouldn’t say great).

Diaper Bag and Supplies:

Figuring out how to carry your kid is one thing; figuring out how to carry all their stuff is another thing all together :]

I’ve tried all kinds of bags while out walking (sling, shoulder, backpack) and found the most comfortable is definitely a backpack because this distributes the weight across both shoulders instead of just one.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Carry as little with you as possible. While it’s nice to be prepared, it’s not so nice carrying an overly heavy load or jostling through an overstuffed bag when you need something. Bring what you think you’ll use as far as diapers, wipes, change of clothes, drinks, snacks, etc. but try to use travel size when possible and keep in mind that if you run out of something, you can almost certainly buy more where you are.
  • Only bring one bag: Along the same line of not carrying too much, don’t try bringing a separate purse for yourself. Grab your wallet and whatever bare necessities you need with you for the day and combine them into the bag you carry for baby.
  • Bring your own drinks and snacks: You and your littles are going to get thirsty and hungry and buying drinks and snacks in the city adds up fast. Save your money for activities or an actual meal and avoid the $5 bottles of water and bags of chips.
  • Wear comfortable shoes! City walking, especially when you’re carrying a child or backpack all day, is hard work. Your feet are going to hurt. So while it’s nice to be cute, try to be cute and as comfortable as possible. I’ve started throwing an extra pair of shoes/socks in the bag so I have the option to change if my feet really start to hurt.
  • Dress your child comfortably: Again, I know its fun to put your kids in cute outfits, especially when you’re out and about. But keep in mind that your child is going to be bundled into some kind of carrier all day and exposed to whatever weather you’re out in. The softer and more comfortable their clothes, the happier they’ll be. I put Roman in a button under onesie so his shirt doesn’t ride up and a soft pair of pants/shorts. If it’s cold, I put a pair of footie pajamas under his outfit so no skin is exposed where his pants ride up at the ankle. Keep in mind too that you’ll be changing diapers in all kinds of weird places if changing tables aren’t available so the easier the outfit is to get them in and out of, the better.

Anyway, I hope these ideas help and I hope you take lots of adventures with your families. While kids do complicate things, they also add a lot of joy and laughter and it’s so fun watching the world through their eyes. I’ll never forget Roman’s face when we stepped out of the subway and he saw all the lights in Time’s Square for the first time—totally made the craziness of bringing him with us worth it ❤

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A Pea in the Pod

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For a couple months now I’ve had a little secret that only Darren and I knew—our first baby is on the way, due July 9th of this new year. For 13 weeks now this little bud of life has been blossoming in my heart and body and it’s a strange feeling carrying a little life and soul around with you everywhere—how differently you think about everything when such a responsibility is yours.

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{Just me}

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{Just you}

But what a joy it is to anticipate new life, to hear that fluttery little heart beat for the first time and to see the profile of your very own child moving around on the screen during an ultrasound. It is magic if there is any magic in the world.

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{Just us}

Often since I found out I’m expecting a verse has swept through my mind, a line from Hannah when she was promised a child:

“For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him.” 1 Samuel  1:27

For this child I prayed.

I pray.

I will always pray.

And the Lord heard me.

Hears me.

Will always hear me.

I can think of no greater gift.

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{Just the beginnings of our own little family}

Happy New Year everyone!

Love Darren, Kari, and baby :]

The Bee’s Knees

I, like most people probably, sometimes think I need something new, something different, something more to be happy. I was really quite convinced that I needed a newer, better camera to take any photos worth having. I got that new camera a while ago and I do really like it. But a funny thing happened….

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I came across a camera we have had for years and started looking through the pictures on it…pictures I forgot all about when I got my newer, fancier, better camera. I found pictures of days at the beach and walks in the woods and I found a whole collection of pictures I took when Darren was helping his dad with the bees.

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Darren’s dad owns a bee pollination business, so if you ask me, he might as well be a snake charmer…but nobody asked me. I just take the pictures and swat at the angry, furry little bees…that’s all.

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I’m getting sidetracked though because the point of this post is that I like these pictures. I like the colors and texture. I like the sun flair and the little black blurs flying around everywhere. I like these pictures even though they were taken on an old camera and forgotten about for a couple of years after I moved on to newer, better things.

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Which just goes to prove that even though there is nothing wrong with new stuff, there is nothing wrong with old stuff either. Actually, in some ways, I think I used to be more creative when I was taking pictures because I was working with cheap point-and-shoot cameras and I had to be clever about getting artistic shots instead of just depending on all the fancy settings on my new camera.

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So there you go, life lesson #57: New is not always better.

Life lesson #56 was to not swat at the bees.

And life lesson #55 was to never, like ever, fry chicken in flip flops…unrelated, but true.

100_2302{Crates full of jars used to feed the fat cheeky little bees}

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House Remodel Update

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In April we bought an 1860 colonial farmhouse in need of some serious renovations…and by serious I mean light a match and burn the place down…no, just kidding, we didn’t do that…but maybe we should’ve ;]

All summer long we worked on getting building permits and approvals from the town and as soon as we were given the go-ahead, we got busy and watched this shabby little place began to transform right before our eyes. We have two family friends doing most of the work and they have been fantastic. My older brother also drove all the way up from Louisiana to help raise the roof– now that, my friends, is love :] Little by little we watch this dream of ours take shape. Every time I stop by it looks like a different place and just a little bit more like what we imagine it can and will be.

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It would have been easier and more practical to tear the place down and start from scratch, but the bones of this place are too magical to throw away and Darren and I both knew from the beginning that we wanted to preserve as much of the original structure as we could. Everything that’s been torn down was deconstructed by hand, board by board and nail by nail in order to save as much of the original wood as possible for later projects.

This place is built out of hand-hewn timber and wood nails and the bones that hold it together today are just the same as they were 150 years ago. So when we raised the roof to give us a full second story, we left the original timbers and wood nails in place and just jacked the roof up and up instead of taking it off and starting over. Everyone told us we were crazy for taking that approach, and we probably were, but we’re happy with the end result and happy we were able to preserve just that much more of the original construction. We’re hopelessly nostalgic, what can I say :]

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Darren has painstakingly drawn every single sheet of blueprints for this house. We sit down together and talk about what we want this place to be and Darren gets busy measuring and figuring out how to make our vision a reality. We had settled on a plan and figured out where everything should go and then I went upstairs after they raised the roof…and the view! I had no idea how pretty it would be looking across the field and into the woods. We had planned on having our bedroom on the back of the house but once I stood there and saw the view from the front, I knew I would die a little bit if we didn’t have our bedroom on that side of the house. So Darren very patiently redesigned and redrew pretty much every part of the house so we could move the bedroom.

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Darren draws while the cat and I mostly just look at pretty pictures on the internet and say, “Put that there. Move this here. Ándale.”

I would tell you he’s a saint, and probably he is, but last night he coerced me into digging out the basement floor with a shovel and since we were there until 1:00am and almost got eaten by werewolves wolves, I haven’t quite forgiven him yet. He did buy me a pair of steel-toed boots as a peace offering…which actually worries me a little bit…?… :]

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The whole upstairs is framed in and I like walking around up there getting a feel for the size and layout of the rooms and imagining what everything will look and feel like once it’s done.

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This week all kinds of equipment has been rolling around as a foundation for a small addition is dug out and the yard undergoes extensive landscaping. We are working against the clock trying to get the foundation in place before winter takes hold.

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We are a long ways from done, but we’re a long ways from where we started too…and that feels good :]

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NYC in the Fall

DSC_0918When I was growing up in Missouri I always insisted I would move New York City when I left home. Then I married Darren and moved to Massachusetts instead. We had been married for about six months when I finally saw NY for the first time by convincing Darren that we absolutely must go stand in Time Square on New Year’s to watch the ball drop at midnight.

We cooked up a plan to get out of work and took off to see this place I’d been dreaming of. I remember walking around with my head tilted back the whole time trying to take in all the buildings towering over me. It was snowing and we walked all over the place that cold December day trying to see as much of the city as we could.

DSC_0809{The New York skyline, September 2013}

We saw the place where the Twin Towers had been; at that time it was still just a big hole in the ground and the worst feeling washed over me when I saw it. I have been to NYC several times since then and now a memorial fountain sits where the hole once was. A new tower is being built and I have pictures of it at several different stages of construction throughout the years. The fountain and building are beautiful but I still get the same awful feeling every time I walk by.

294430_10150322514431517_283246994_n{The new Tower, September 2011}

DSC_0826{The new Tower today, still under construction, September 2013}

We spent a good part of that first day going through a Jewish Holocaust museum; I don’t know why but we were drawn to it and we stayed there until the building closed and we had to leave. When we walked outside the sun was setting over the Hudson and my first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty was lit by a backdrop of pink and orange. It was a strange contradiction, walking out of a museum that reminded us of how wretched humans can be to each other and immediately seeing the Statue of Liberty standing there reminding us of the freedom and hope we have in this country. And then the hole where the Towers stood reminding us that even though we are free, we are not invincible.

DSC_0802{September 2013}

After all that, we made our way to Time’s Square to bring in the New Year. It was bitterly cold that night…the coldest I’ve ever been actually. And truth be told, we gave up and went back to our hotel room before midnight and watched the ball drop on TV just like any other year. Still though, I will never forget that first trip to NYC.

305715_10150322514561517_265150384_n{Time’s Square September 2011}

My brother and his family were here for the last two weeks visiting. We took them all over New England and of course to NYC. My 5 year old nephew talked endlessly about riding the boat {the ferry to the Statue of Liberty} and the underground train {the subway}. Every day he wanted to know if today was the day when we were going to NYC and after everything we did over those two weeks, he still says NY was his favorite.

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Here he is on the train…he kept his face pressed to the glass throughout the entire ride even though we were going through dark tunnels and couldn’t see a thing :]

DSC_0752I think my very southern brother was the only one on the train wearing cowboy boots ;]

DSC_0805Here’s Gabe holding onto uncle Darren on the ferry ride to the statue.

DSC_0766And here I am…getting blinded by the sun :]

DSC_0655I love seeing the world through a child’s eyes. Kids are so excited about everything and they notice and delight in things grownups push past and overlook.

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DSC_0838We watched street entertainers and got lunch from an outdoor vendor…which by the way, served the best lamb gyro ever.

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We rested our feet in Central Park before taking off to see Time’s Square all lit up in the dark.

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NYC is its own wild place. It’s nothing like the rest of America and feels like a strange little cultural bubble that represents so many different aspects of American culture as a whole. I love it and I hate it and there’s no other way around it.

“Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.” You’ve Got Mail

Then & Now

Sometimes it feels like everything has changed. Sometimes you look back and realize nothing has changed at all.

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This year {above}

Last year {below}

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This year {above}

Last year {below}

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We chase the sun across the waves.

We taste the salt water kisses on our lips.

Summer won’t get away from us, not today.

Memories of Mexico

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I spent a couple different weeks in Mexico when I was a teenager. I was going through a box of photos the other day and came across some of the pictures taken while I was there. Back then I took all my pictures with one of those disposable cameras with film. I was crazy about cameras and pictures and I remember driving my mom crazy when I had film to develop. I would ask her every day if I could take it to the store to develop and then I would ask her every.single.day. if the pictures were ready to pick up. She’s a profoundly patient woman :]

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These first two pictures were taken when I was 16. Though the quality is not very good, these photos bring back a world of memories. Everything from how sweet these kids were—always on our heels wanting to play and have their picture taken, to the way the air smelled up in the humid mountains of Mexico. I remember the meal a group of women made over an open fire in a kitchen with a dirt floor…I was afraid to eat it at first but it tasted so fresh and good. I remember sleeping on a cot on the ground and being woken up by a very loud rooster every morning.

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The rest of these pictures were taken in a different part of Mexico when I was 18. Again, the kids were the best part of the trip. Darren pointed out to me that all these kids would be in their late teens or early twenties by now, older than I was when I took these…amazing.

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Exploring the streets with my best friend :]

I’m so glad we have photos to capture the present and take us back to the past. I had all but forgotten about these trips and now they are alive in my heart again.

Up In These Parts

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Two crazy boys: Check.

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One light saber

Two swords

One sling shot

One gun that shoots lightning

And a rocket launching airplane

Check.

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The two best babysitters in the whole. entire. world.

Check.

kiss Sneaking a kiss in was loudly protested by the imps in the back

Check ;]

I Fell Asleep Under the Stars

We pack our things and run away to wide open spaces. We zip along from Massachusetts to Vermont. The people grow fewer and the trees multiply in number and variety and I always think it looks like God poured a packet of mixed seeds along the landscape and now trees and wild flowers pop up in colorful abundance.

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We set up camp and sleep outdoors and it feels good to be close to the earth.

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We sit under the trees and the sky and breathe in the outside air. The campfire smoke swirls around in our lungs and we are alive in this wild, outdoor space.

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We gather around campfires and relax in the warmth of the mesmerizing flames.

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We swim in the cold mountain water and tip toe along the river bed filling our pockets with river glass.

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We ride bikes and stretch our legs and souls—shaking off the dust of life lived away from the woods.

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I caught these sneaky little ninjas poking around my tent…

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…And I couldn’t seem to shake the little savages….but as it turns out—I really, really love them.

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God kissed the sky and it blushed pink at his touch.

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And the sun set on our outdoor adventure for one more year and we all fell asleep under the starlit sky that seemed poked through with the light from another world.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Thoreau, Walden Pond

London, England

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Our very last stop in Europe was London. We were excited. Darren had been to London before and wanted to show me around. They speak English {obviously} so we figured it would be easier to know what was going on. We had navigated our way all over Italy by train so we figured England would be easy.

And yet…the minute we walked through customs and stepped into England, we were lost and confused. Let me just say that England English is not always very much like American English and the difference in our accents made understanding each other downright comical sometimes. We still had lots of fun though.

We had to blitz London because we were only there with a few hours between flights so we decided to see all the big sites in central London and took off on the train for Big Ben.

The train ended up being my favorite part because of the people watching. London was so dramatically different from Italy, especially on the trains. Italy was loud and hot and busting at the seams. London was cool and rainy and so, so quiet. Everyone was dressed for work and man did they look sharp. They all wore black like they knew something I didn’t and every one of them looked like James Bond with an umbrella. No kidding. Like James Bond with ear buds and a book. It was impressive.

I felt so underdressed and I’m pretty sure I was the only person in all of England wearing flip-flops that day in the cold rain. People even had coats on. Coats! In June! But I didn’t mind the cold or the rain because it gave me an excuse to get a proper hot English tea and I just don’t think I could have come home satisfied otherwise.

The people at the tea place laughed at me because {a} I probably sounded like a hick {b} I was wearing flip-flops {c} I didn’t know the answer to any of their many questions about what kind of tea I wanted. What do you mean what kind of tea do I want? I want the kind you put in hot water. So they pointed to an elaborate collection of tea varieties and I’m like, errr, Earl Grey, yep that sounds familiar. {d} There was a lot of confusion about how to put milk in my tea…I know that doesn’t sound complicated, but seriously {e} The tea bag went on the fritz and all the loose leaf stuff started getting in the water and I was panicking and Darren was laughing.

It was exhausting.

But yummy :]

Anywayyyyyyy….here’s what we saw.

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London bridges falling down…nah, just kidding, they didn’t fall down.

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Parliament

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Westminster Abbey…which I keep wanting to call Downton Abbey…but it’s not.

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The London Eye

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The Tower of London and some fancy pants building in the background

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Look at the set up for tea in our hotel room! I pocketed all the tea bags as a souvenir and Darren was like, did you steal all of that from the hotel room? And I was like, yes…no…yes…leave me alone, it’s mine.

And that kids, was London and the completion of our little European adventure. Now I want to go back…forever…and live under a lemon tree in Italy…but Darren says I can’t…men, marriage…sigh.

If you missed any of the earlier posts in this series about Europe, you can still read them here:

Barcelona, Spain

Marseilles, France

Florence & Pisa

Rome, Italy

Pompeii & the Amalfi Coast

Taormina, Sicily

Dubrovnik, Croatia {Former Yugoslavia}

Venice, Italy