Wednesday, October 31, 2012


We just got back from E's first trick-or-treating experience.  The apartment building decided to host a little kid party in the lobby, and then we all traipsed floor-to-floor, door-to-door begging for candy.  E hasn't quite gotten the hang of saying "trick-or-treat" but he knows knock-knock, so I let it slide.  Close enough, right?  

He was a trooper when it came to wearing his costume, too.  Every now and again he would realize there was a heavy blue monster face sitting atop his head and attempt to yank it off, but for the most part, he was quite agreeable.  And pretty darn cute if I do say so myself.  

A cracker?  Really?  I thought I was getting candy out of this deal...

 Don't let the cracker fool you, he got LOTS of candy.  And he made a few new friends too.

Hey there Mr. Firefighter, what's in the bag?

This was a private monster-dragon meeting, folks.  Chocolate was definitely on the agenda.

His "scary" pose.  Be afraid.  Be very afraid.

All in all it was a fun afternoon. Now it's time to sit back, relax, and polish off all this candy while he's sleeping.  Shhh, he won't even know what happened.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Snapshot Tuesday: The Aftermath

Well, we fared pretty well here in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, but the same can not be said for my beloved New York City.  Sadly, as I type this, 18 lives have been lost in the city alone, nearly 80 homes were destroyed by a fire in Queens, major flooding ravaged lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, and subways near the Battery and Ground Zero are still under several feet of water.  It's so sad to watch the pictures and videos of familiar places nearly unrecognizable now, destroyed or under water. 

Thankfully, we got a call from our tenants this morning saying that they were fine and our condo was not damaged save for a collapsed backyard fence compliments of Sandy's 90+ mile per hour winds.  Nothing a hammer and a few nails can't fix.  Our old neighbors and my cousin were equally lucky, although my cousin is still without power in lower Manhattan having been one of numerous victims of the huge Con Edison plant explosion last night.

My heart goes out to all those who suffered loss and damage during this storm, from North Carolina to Canada.  It's just all so unbelievably sad. But I watched several friends and family members rebuild after Hurricane Katrina, and I know it can and will be done again by those living along the East Coast. Just stay strong! 

That said, in an effort to honor Snapshot Tuesday, I leave you with a few photos of post-Sandy New York.*

This was actually taken in Hoboken, NJ just across the Hudson River
from Manhattan.  The city is still under water.

Jane's Carousel in DUMBO in Brooklyn. 
The Jet Blue tarmac at LaGuardia airport.

Lower East Side in Manhattan.

And the city goes dark.

 * I did not take any of these photographs.  I do not own them.  I gathered them all from public, online sources.*

Friday, October 26, 2012

Preparing for Frankenstorm

Welp, apparently there's a crazy storm barreling toward the East Coast right now.  It could make landfall anywhere from D.C. to New York City, and it's supposed to hit as early as Sunday night.  This storm is predicted to be ugly.  As the weather personalities tell it, a cold front and a hurricane will collide to create a storm so unbelievably insane it will be even more perfect than The Perfect Storm.  Imagine that. All of this just in time for Halloween.  And sadly, I don't think George Clooney or Marky Mark will be making a cameo for this one.

Will this storm pack the punch that everyone is predicting?  Who knows.  I usually try to tune out the hype because let's face it, the media loves to hype a natural disaster.  Just look at the apocalypse that was predicted last summer when Hurricane Irene was set to wipe out lower Manhattan. 

But that doesn't mean we can't be prepared.

I grew up in south Louisiana, so I have lived through my share of hurricanes and tropical storms.  We know how to fill up the bath tub with water, load up on batteries and flashlights, and stock up on ice.  And those long lines at the gas station?  Definitely waited in those before.  So has S.  He lived in south Florida for a short period, so he knows what's up too.  We both know how to prepare.

Sure, in my college days being prepared meant stocking up on beer, wine and Doritos, but these days, now that there's a kid in a picture, we're a little more mature about the situation. 

So, we just got back from Target and CVS where we purchased two cases of bottled water, a few days worth of snacks, and beer.  Because you still always need beer. And we got some new arts and crafts to keep the little guy entertained for the duration.  Because while there's a Frankenstorm brewing outside, we hope to prevent an E-storm from erupting inside.

Here's to hoping this thing decides to head back out to sea!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

One of the 52 Things

While waiting in the airport for my return flight last weekend, I stumbled upon a book titled 52 Things Kids Need from a Mom. Not being one who usually picks up books like these, curiosity got the best of me, and I took a peek anyway.

On the list were familiar things you would expect like "give lots of love and cuddles"and "indulge their silly." But one thing stood out among these tidbits of advice and that was, "keep a family blog." The author explained that it's a great for kids to read and follow as they grow up, but it also provides a family history they can "log into" and read as adults too.

When I first started this blog, it was intended as a means of keeping family and friends involved with what we were doing, where we were going.  It never occurred to me that it would be something E and our future kids would enjoy reading too.  I guess it was silly of me not to think of something so obvious, but it definitely puts blogging in a new light.  I want my kids to look back and be proud of the things we did as a family and happy remembering all our experiences.  I want them to be able to look at pictures of our adventures and read a story that goes with it.

I can't even begin to count the number times my parents and I have questioned certain family events as we rummaged through old photo albums from when my siblings and I were younger.  The photos get mixed up, the memories fade and we lose track of what we lived through, where we were, and what the mood was like in that moment.

I hope this blog helps me avoid that with my own family.  Because now I realize this blog is meant to be more than something for others to follow.  This is more than just a Foreign Service blog.  Ultimately, this is a family blog and exists for my own family to read and follow as well.  It will be there to help recall the best (and worst) parts of their lives. 

Consider at least one thing on that list checked. Although, E is definitely not lacking in the cuddle department, nor is he in need of a parent to indulge his silly!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

One Good Flight

Pleasurable travel experiences don't happen often, so when they do, they must be savored. Last weekend was one such experience for me.

First of all, a lot can be said for living in an apartment building that shares a lobby with a major hotel.  Since my flight was so early, I had decided to take a cab to the airport rather than deal with the Metro. My plan was to hail one in front of the hotel since that's where they're always gathered. But when I walked toward the front entrance, a guy appeared out of nowhere, scooped up my suitcase, handed me a tag and said, "Reagan, right?  What airline?"

I was confused, but I still managed to stammer out a weak, "Delta." 

"Hop on," he said as he pointed out the front door to an idling shuttle bus.  "We'll be there in five minutes."

And thus my good travel karma began.  What was originally supposed to be a $10-$15 cab ride turned into a hotel shuttle bus ride for only the cost of a tip. 

But it got better.  I had planned to take my bag as carry-on to avoid paying the baggage fee, but when I was waiting at the gate, the check-in agent announced that they were offering to check bags for free to any passenger willing to do so.  I guess they were worried about all the carry-ons fitting in the overhead compartments, or something.  So I volunteered.  They checked my bag right there and I retrieved it when I got to Florida. 

The flights themselves were nothing special.  No first class upgrades or anything.  Except I did notice that Delta has been making improvements to their seats.  They were all newly upholstered in clean blue (pleather?) leather. And I swear, maybe I was hallucinating, but it felt like there was more leg room?

The flight home was when the customer service really shined. Let me start by saying that I truly commend Delta for their professionalism and their willingness to not only do their job in a pleasurable manner, but to go above and beyond. 

You see, when I originally booked my return flight, I was given two options: 6:30a.m. or 6:30 p.m.  Since this was to be the end of a bachelorette weekend, I was not inclined to wake up before dawn if I could help it. So I booked the p.m. flight.  Except, I didn't realize check-out from the condo was at 10 a.m and thus, it would mean spending all day at the airport.  Sigh. 

Anyway, I'll spare you all the details and just cut to the chase. When I got to the airport, I requested an earlier flight, and for a mere $50 transfer fee, I was put on a the next flight at 2pm. Not only that, they allowed me to gate check my bag again and I didn't have to pay the baggage fee.  So, instead of arriving home at midnight like I was originally scheduled to, and instead of waiting in a small Florida airport for like, 8 hours, I was able to get home before 7pm (the layover in Atlanta couldn't be avoided) and make it home in time to hug my nugget, give him a bath and put him to bed.  It was a good night.

I've traveled a lot and I have dealt with some snarky and downright mean airline employees from just about every airline, including Delta.  But this experience was bar none, the best I've had.  Everyone was nice.  Everyone was accommodating.  Everyone looked me in the eye, said please and thank you and talked to me like an adult who mattered, not a child.  Color me impressed, Delta.  It's the little things that go a long way.

My next flight will be to attend the wedding in a few weeks, and it's on a different airline.  I only hope that experience will be half as good. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Snapshot Tuesday: Weekend View

I was just going to post this photo without explanation per usual, but then I decided that it might need a bit of context.  

Last Friday I flew to Florida for my best friend's bachelorette party.  M and I have been besties since we were angsty little 15-year old girls, and since I am a bridesmaid in her wedding, there was absolutely no way I was missing the final celebration of her singledom (is that a word?). 

So, seven of us met up in one of our favorite beach towns and spent three days and nights sipping wine, painting our nails, reading trashy gossip magazines and talking about life.  Of course we did go out one night for an evening of debauchery classy celebrating at a local bar, but mostly we just enjoyed each other's company while sinking our toes in the sand.

Despite the fact that I missed E terribly (it was my first time being away from him), it was good to get away and reconnect with my girls...a bit of a recharge, if you will.

But now I am back and I have plenty to blog about, including my amazing Delta experience.  Seriously, I have good things to say.  Stay tuned!

Monday, October 8, 2012

On Running After Having a Baby

I ran a 10K yesterday.  The PR Run for the Parks started just north of the tidal basin and curved its way down along the Potomac River, and then back up so the race started and finished in the same spot.  I love running along the river, and I think the view would have been spectacular had the weather not been so drizzly, cold and gray. 
Weather aside, it still wasn’t a great race for me.  In fact, it was the slowest 10K I have ever run.  No I’m not that fast to begin with, but still, it was pretty slow.  Couple that with my dreadful showing at the Marine Corps Marathon last October, and I’ve finally reached a conclusion about my body when it comes to running:   it takes a LONG time for the female body to recover after having a baby.  Or at least, it takes MY body a long time to recover, and I’m not sure it ever will.  But I am okay with that.
First, let me back up to that marathon I just mentioned. 
When I signed up to run that race in 2010, I was excited because it was to be my 4th marathon on my admittedly obnoxious quest to run one marathon in every state.  But shortly after registering, I discovered I was pregnant with E and that I would be roughly 4 ½ months along come race day.  Not wanting to risk anything, I deferred until the following year.  Jump forward to race day in October 2011, roughly 6 months after I gave birth to E, and I was having my doubts.  Could I really finish this marathon?  Am I crazy to run 26.2 miles 6 months after having a baby?  The answers to these questions were yes and yes.  
The marathon started as uneventful as any...a steady pace, ear buds in and music blaring.  I was feeling great up until the 12 mile mark when I was suddenly crippled by lower back pain and spasms.  I stopped to stretch, hoping that would do some good, but it didn’t.  I had suffered tremendous lower back pain while pregnant with E, and the spasms I felt during the race were reminiscent of those pains.  So I slowly jogged another mile before whipping out my phone to call S.  That’s when I proceeded to break down into sobs of frustration and explained that I didn’t think I could finish.  My back was killing me, my IT band was tightening up and I was in a lot of pain.  I hadn’t even reached the halfway mark, and I was falling apart.  I was cursing my body for doing this to me, for not “bouncing back” like I expected it to.
S calmly told me that he was at the 16 mile marker (with E in the stroller) and that if I could just make it there, we would go home.  He said there was no shame in quitting if I was hurt.  He said I didn’t have anything to prove to anyone.  So, I pulled it together and walk/ran toward mile 16 with thoughts of a cup of coffee, a heating pad and a hot shower on my mind.
At mile 15 I saw a medic tent and limped in begging for some pain medicine.  I knew I needed something to get me through the next mile.  They were only allowed to give Tylenol, so they gave me the max dose, wrote it down on my bib number (so if something happened to me, the EMTs would know what I had taken) and I continued on.   The Tylenol kicked in rather quickly and between that medic stop and mile 16, I realized something.  I realized that, while S was right, I did not have anything to prove to anyone else, I did have to prove to myself that I could finish this marathon.  And that’s what I was going to do, injured, post-baby body be damned.
By the time I spotted S and E bundled together at mile 16, I took one look at E’s sweet little baby face and thought, I can do this.  I told S I was going to finish and he just smiled and said, “I knew you would change your mind.”
So, 26.2 miles and a total of 5 hours 15 minutes later, I crossed the finish line.   The Tylenol had worn off at that point, but I was so happy to have finished despite the fact that it was my worst marathon ever.  I had proven to myself that I could foolishly run a marathon 6 months after having a baby.  Not only that, I had proven to myself that I wasn’t a quitter and I didn’t let my crazy body get the best of me. And boy did I have a lot of pain in my crazy body.  Clearly, I had a long way to go to full recovery.
It was after that race that I started to wonder, “Would my body ever recover from having a baby?”
So far, 18 months after bringing E into this world, the answer is still no. 
Sure I can proudly say that I got back to my pre-baby weight rather quickly—I met that goal even before I ran the marathon.  And yes, my body looks (sorta) the same as it did before having E, but something has changed.  It can’t do what it used to do.  When it comes to running, I can’t do what I used to do. 
Am I blaming my child for this?  Absolutely not.  Am I blaming anyone for this?  No.  I am not placing blame anywhere at all.  I am simply coming to terms with the fact that the human body is a bizarre and wonderful thing, but that everyone’s body is different and everyone’s ability to do certain things is different as well. 
Some people bounce back and go on to win the New York City Marathon less than 10 months after giving birth.  Just ask one of my favorite runners, Paula Radcliffe.  Simply amazing.
But most people aren’t built that way.  I’m obviously not.  And most people don’t have the time to effectively train either.  I obviously don’t.  Besides, if I prefer to skip a 3-mile run to play with E after work, then so be it.
It may take years for my body to recover and feel “normal” during a run.  And it will probably take years to get my pre-baby running pace back too.
But even if I don’t, I am okay with that.  At this point in my life, I am just running for the fun of it, and with the goal of a finish in mind.  I don’t care about time.  I don’t care about pace.  I just want to know that I can still finish and I can still show my kid(s) that exercise is important and that no matter what, you should never give up. 
Which brings me back to yesterday’s 10K…those 6.2 miles finally opened my eyes to all of this.  I was frustrated and annoyed for the first half because I couldn’t pick up my pace without getting out of breath and feeling pain.  But once I decided that I didn’t care; that pace wasn’t everything; that having fun and just finishing was more important, I relaxed and came to terms with it.  And now I’m in a much better place.
Because all of it: running, life, family--it should always make you happy.  When it stops making you happy, that’s when you’re doing something wrong.  Now, I look forward to my future races, pace and finish time be damned.