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.

Back in the Saddle


Not that I really ever went anywhere, but between jet lag and Maggie’s illness and general grumpitude on the part of the supposed adults in this hotel room, our intrepid exploring spirits were somewhat dampened. But today is sunny, we’ve had fantastic visits with friends, and morale is high once again.

This is just too delicious. Without going into too much information about Past Issues, I got the rundown about some people who once Done Me Wrong today and well, my life is looking downright charmed comparatively (even when you factor in Maggie’s sleepless days of illness). So charmed by comparison, in fact, that I have been singing “Schadenfreude” from Avenue Q all day long. One could argue that I am tempting karma myself by being so happy about their misfortune but I would then counter One by telling One it was a buzzkill.

Tomorrow is more sunshine, tonight there will be draft beer with longtime friends. It’s warm enough for the baby to have jettisoned her pants AND she has taken to pursing her lips and cooing “Oooooh!” whenever something fascinates her. It is so adorable I am overcome with an incredible need to gobble up her tiny neck and cheeks, which she enjoys as well. There will be grandparents and family togetherness on Friday in Florida.

How is your week?


Our first few days in DC have been a disaster.

Oh, everything’s fine during the day–lots of friends to see, things to explore, and so on. The National Building Museum in particular has a lovely play room for kids that Maggie loved, and lots of open space to tumble around when the weather outside is icky.

The jet lag, however, is kicking Maggie’s be-diapered behind all over the Beltway.

Tonight is the third night of Maggie suddenly awakening at 11, screaming blue murder, and not being able to stop despite nursing, bouncing, singing, and other comforting techniques. In desperation, Tom even took her for a drive last night and she was up and screaming the second her head hit the crib. The people in the rooms on either side are pounding on the walls, it’s so bad. Guys, I have been on the listening and now on the in-the-room end of the crying baby at four in the morning and it is SO MUCH WORSE IN HERE. To you wall-pounders out there, let me apologize and then let me tell you to suck it. Be grateful you can just put in earplugs. I’m sorry, truly, but I don’t know how to make it stop and she really isn’t normally like this. If I could make it stop, I WOULD.

Um, I might be feeling a little raw and defensive. My nerves are a mite frayed, as you can imagine.

So does anyone have any advice? I’m guessing that in addition to the jet lag, the room itself is freaking her out. It looks weird to her, the new pop-up crib is noisy and we were given a room with two doubles instead of a king bed by accident, so co-sleeping is just NOT an option. We’ve been getting her into the mid-day sunshine, sticking to the routines…nothing’s helping. We’re going bonkety-bonk-bonkers.


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.