Friends, I have been granted that elusive pearl, that shining gem of priceless worth and exquisite beauty: a full day and night off to do whatever the hell I want.

Don’t get me wrong, Maggie is more delightful now than ever. I loved the soft, wrinkled newborn stage enormously but talking and crawling Maggie is a scream. It’s a blast to sit and read with her and have her point to photos and yell “Who’s that? What’s that? Ohhhhhhh.” I dig it.

But I have been going on almost eight weeks alone after a year of not having much of a daytime social network in Hawaii, and Mama needs a night out. Fortunately some friends decided to get married next weekend in Baltimore, Tom The Banker opened the purse strings, and my mother agreed to babysit, thus I will be attending. I leave at 9am Saturday morning for a 5:30 wedding and return at 11am the next day, so I will literally only be gone about a day. But oh, dear God, what a day. These are the same friends who convinced Tom that he could drink eleven Irish car bombs on our wedding day on top of the 24oz Redhook he already consumed AND they helped me pour him into the car later.

I’m a little afraid, because I know I have totally lost my edge drinking. The statistical likelihood of me making an arse out of myself is pretty high even under the best of circumstances, let alone after a year forced by motherhood onto the wagon. I plan on drunk-Tweeting the whole affair, which means I should be writing things like abohihosghuewhhos after the toast.

What I’m really excited about is the bag. I am so freakin’ excited to just have a small backpack. My dress is wrinkle-free, I can do my hair before I get on the plane (flat iron and fly, baby), and the bag only needs to be large enough for my in-flight amusements. It won’t have diapers. It won’t have toys. It won’t have those remarkably tasty even though they are soy-, gluten-, and dairy-free teething cookies and a baggie of MaggieCrack (Cheerios).

The only extra shirt in there will be SEXY. And it won’t have ANY access points for a nursing child. And it won’t have milk stains. (I might have just peed a bit.)

I will miss Maggie terribly. She has, of course, been the light and joy of my life and I like hanging with the wee tot. But holy cats, am I excited to have a night off with hard partiers who use their hands to hold beers, not sippy cups.



And now, a brief and disjointed post round-up because it is naptime and whoo boy, I have a lot to do between now and the next irritated howl from the nursery. So lo and behold, the Brief Monkey Travelers’ Guide to Being a Tourist With A Sick Kid, a.k.a. How To Have Fun Or Die Trying.

Traveling with a child redefines where you eat. Sure, we brought Maggie to Brazilian barbecue and to Brasserie Beck, where she happily chowed down on pate and cheeses, but that’s not the norm for baby mealtime. You can do that, but you have to take the earliest reservation and be prepared to be seated in the loudest area of the restaurant so your kid will be drowned out. Sometimes it’s nice to go somewhere that offers crayons and a twisty straw. And balloons.

“Zombies Hate That I Am So Awesome.”
Next, you will probably have a table but not a high chair in your hotel room. We were fortunate enough to stay at a Residence Inn, which had a full kitchen and crib but no high chair (not that they knew of, anyway). So the Chicco Hook-On high chair is your new best friend that allows you to feed your child in your room and not chase him or her down like a banshee wielding applesauce. It also folds flat into a large backpack and can go with you to coffee and lunch dates at restaurants downtown that are not trying to hear about accommodating babies.

Bib: “I’m a McCutie!” Yes, yes you are.
Some of you may feel as I do about travel photography. My least favorite shots of all time are ones composed solely of “Hey! This is Me! Standing in front of Some Famous Thing!” This is all well and good for you if you like that sort of thing, and surely there are several amateur photographers taking these shots. Thanks to falling prices on DSLRs, every ass with a fanny pack and $600 bucks can pop for a Digital Rebel and try to add an artistic component to the Some Famous Thing shot. (I include myself in your numbers, amateur photogs, sans fanny pack. That shit’s just not right.) But I don’t like that shot and I don’t like to take it.
Be that as it may, you have grandparents to satisfy now. They want to see Their Grandbaby in front of Some Famous Thing. And we could not leave DC without a few Famous Shots.

About to fall in.
Next, try to engage the child with things that might interest him or her by tying it back to their life. This may be effective if your child is cognizant of things other than Cheerios, stacking toys, and how much this damn stroller sucks and will you take the picture already, Ma?!

WWII Monument
Failing that, plan for some child friendly activities. The National Building Museum was free and SO AWESOME, OH MY GOD. It was perfect for kids of all ages, including Tom who wanted very badly to find someone to build an arch with him (I was eating my sandwich. You don’t interrupt Mommy’s roast beef). The Baltimore Aquarium is also fantastic, and not even really for the animals, though those are wonderful. No, the Baltimore Aquarium has several clear water-filled columns near the entrance, through which bubbles flow. That’s it. No fishes, jellyfish, krill, nothing. Just bubbles. And if you’re eleven months old…well, what else do you need?

Tom, attempting to engage Maggie’s attention, failing.
As far as the rest goes, I wrote an article for Matador last year that really sums it up. Just assume that the rest periods and knowing where urgent care is (and thank YOU, friend’s iPhone!) go double for long vacations that begin with an illness.
It turned out to be mostly fun–not what we expected, but certainly fun. At the very least, we’ve repressed the bad nights to the point where we can laugh now and color-correct our vacations into revisionist history, and isn’t THAT what memories are made of?
I thought so.


Thanks for the encouraging words! We weren’t actually in DC for the hotel, but in a northern Virginia town called McLean. Last night we had to move up to a hotel near BWI Airport in Columbia and I guess Maggie is just anti-Virginia because she fell asleep at the usual hour and is now, at 7am, sleeping like a stone. This is sort of amusing because some people in the area tend to have strong opinions about living in the DC metro area suburbs–VA vs. MD–and we lived on the Maryland side when we lived here. We never really cared, but Maryland was more convenient for our commutes. I guess Maggie has just thrown her lot in with the Maryland people. 🙂 Columbia isn’t even really in the DC metro area, it’s closer to Baltimore, so maybe she saw more of “The Wire” when she was an infant than we intended.

Before we moved from the Virginia hotel, Maggie spiked a terrible fever and was generally listless. I thought she was warmer than usual when I picked her up and then gasped when I began to nurse her; her little mouth was so hot, it was like nursing a burning ember. Motrin and a long nap knocked the fever out and kept it down, but we stuck close to home and had a quiet day. I took her to Whole Foods for lunch and found a great fruit salad with strawberries, pineapple, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and mango. I fed her as much fresh berries and mango as she could handle and it did wonders for her system. Mine too, since I ate the rest of the fruit salad. We’re living on restaurant food and our bodies just really needed something fresh, I think–Maggie is used to a diet of very fresh Hawaiian fruit. I also bought a bottle of 5000 IU Vitamin D and am making Tom and I take double-doses.

This hasn’t stopped me from picking up a vicious head cold. Blarg, I was constantly sick when we lived in DC and I attributed that to public transportation, stressy work environment, and lack of natural daytime light because I was sick exactly three times in our two years in Hawaii, and only once was it a cold (the other two were jet lag sickness and mild food disagreement). My old friend Sudafed Sinus Headache is there for me and I feel passably good, enough for the three of us to go on a winery road trip today with friends.

In short, we’re recovering from the flight and transition to the new environment ever so slowly, but we are recovering. And our new hotel room is not only a full studio apartment with a kitchen, but it is a corner room so we’re only bothering one person.

Life is better on this side of the Potomac.

Partaking of the West Virginia Panhandle

About seventy miles outside of Washington, DC, there is a little hamlet called Shepherdstown, West Virginia. There’s something for everyone in the West Virginia panhandle: good food, proximity to wineries, and a lot of history. On our longest trip to celebrate Tom’s 27th birthday, we included a little of Column A (western Maryland) and a little of Column B (northern Virginia) as well. I didn’t get the BEST picture of the weekend, which would have been a bar with a sign that read “The Best Little Pub in West BY GOD Virginia!” I screamed for Tom to turn back so I could photograph that sign, but alas.

Shepherdstown is a lovely little town that grew up around Shepherd University. The campus integrates nicely with the main downtown area and draws a friendly and artistic student body. The town has an independent theatre and a thriving arts community. Below, me standing next to the “tiny house” which serves as a community storybook center. There is a notice on the door about the following week’s town tea party. That’s how adorable this town is. For reference on the house size, I am 5’7″.

There’s a pizza joint that makes a great cheesy calzone and Shaharazade’s offers fine Moroccan food and tea. And if you want to just grab a bottle and some appetizers you can hit Grapes and Grains, which has a different themed wine tasting every Saturday evening. All of these are on the main strip. Sunday morning offers a nice farmer’s market, and there are plenty of little shops to browse for fun and funky items.

Shepherdstown is nestled near two major Civil War sites: Antietam in Maryland and Harpers Ferry in West Virginia. If you stay in Shepherdstown, it’s about a 20 minute drive to either site. The idyllic peace of these battlefields contrasts sharply with the history that played out on the land. Below, Burnside’s Bridge at Antietam, MD.

As a nice refresher after that history, Shepherdstown is near some of northern Virginia’s finest wineries. You can go to http://www.virginiawine.org to plan a day of tastings. We hit Breaux, Tarara, Chrysallis, and Hillsborough. These are the vines at Hillsborough Winery, which names their wines after semi-precious stones. The Carnelian is an excellent white that tastes like candy, but is not too sweet. The only drawback I found at Hillsborough was that they mowed during one of their tasting days. With my allergies, the “smelling” portion of the tasting was short-lived.

And this? This was the cutest thing EVER. Shepherdstown shut down their main street for a soapbox derby race. Note the intensity of the little wee drivers piloting their soapbox derby cars to the finish.

Shepherdstown may be only seventy miles away from DC, but it might as well be on a different planet. It’s the perfect quick road trip if you’re tired of the urban scramble in the nation’s capital.