Most folks already know, but Dan and I are happy to announce that we will be adding a new member to our family in June. I feel grateful, Dan is nervous, and Theo vacillates between being excited and not quite believing that there is really a baby inside of mama (which, admittedly, is kind of a hard thing to believe). He has slept with his old nursing pillow every night since I mentioned that we would need it for the new baby, which seems like an appropriate reaction.
October 7, 2018
Spot Miller, 15 and a half years old, died peacefully at her home on Sunday surrounded by love and full of cheese, yogurt, tomatoes, brownies, bread, and hamburger.
Spot was born in Aurora, Colorado on April 26, 2003 to her mother, Standard Poodle Hershey Miller. Spot was the first of nine puppies to break out of the puppy pen — foreshadowing more than a decade of high jinks and earning a permanent place in her guardian’s heart.
A precocious pup, her first experience with formal education occurred when she went off to CU Boulder with Erin as a mere puppy. It was at Boulder where she perfected the skills of charming children and stealing food off of plates — those of her guardian and roommates — with a particular fondness for brownies, pie, and cake.
She tested Dan’s suitability for a life partner by moving into his Denver apartment 3-months into his and Erin’s relationship.
She accompanied Erin to graduate school in New York City — and while not a huge fan of cross-country road trips or planes, she understood the importance of accompanying Erin to her new city. While there, she honed her skills at using her nose to knock one’s hand off of a keyboard and onto her head for a pet — a skill she maintained for years. She befriended roommate Max, a 120-pound Great Dane/German Shepherd mix (fondly referred to as a “lab-mix” on rental applications) who she often framed for acts of stealing food from the small city kitchen by leaving the boxes and wrappers on Max’s bed.
She thrived in the young professional life of DC where she became a regular at monuments, a star of tourist photos, and enjoyed finding eager new pet sitters who didn’t know that she wasn’t allowed on the bed.
She was there for all of the successes and tragedies that occur in the transition to adulthood, heart aches, Erin’s miscarriage, and bringing Theo home from the hospital as a postpartum mess — and she was always ready to put a head in a lap for a pet and look up with understanding eyes.
She found her rhythm in a house with a toddler — dutifully cleaning up under the high chair and happily helping with any leftover food. While referred to as Spot or Spoticus during most of her life, Theo’s fascination with her led to new honorific — “Dog Dog” — and was among the very first of Theo’s words. Theo often awoke in the morning talking about Dog Dog — leading to shrieks of glee when Spot came charging into his room. And later, once the stairs proved too much of an obstacle, we would come down in the morning to find Dog Dog so that Theo could practice his “gentle touches.”
Thank you, Spot, for your endless love and devotion. Thank you for stretching my heart. You made a permanent place for yourself inside it.
We are home. Theo was a terrific traveler and now has two stamps in his passport. We loved Amsterdam and walking along the canals, meeting up with old friends who now live in Berlin, seeing the art museums, and Theo mostly loved his first boat ride. Despite arriving home with a teething and jet-lagged infant, the trip was definitely worth it and highly recommended for folks who have a long enough maternity leave for it to be plausible. I think that a lot of the beauty of traveling is the ability to be present and just enjoying your surroundings — whereas at home when I’m holding or feeding Theo, I feel pressure to be managing email or dealing with the yard, while traveling I just enjoyed hanging out with my new baby, so it was a great way to spend the last few weeks of my maternity leave. A few additional tips for those considering travel with their infants:
- We arrived home with a teething (see below) and jet-lagged infant. I definitely underestimated the potential complication of a jet-lagged infant, mostly because Theo has always (knock on wood) been a pretty good sleeper. He adjusted to Paris time quickly (going east) but is really struggling with the return home (going west) — he is WIDE awake at 4AM. The first night I fought this for hours (nursing over and over, swaddling, noise machine…) before giving up and just reading about how Dragons Love Tacos and playing with teething toys. Last night we gave up after about 45 minutes and Dan helpfully got up and just hung out with him through the small morning hours. We are trying ample doses of morning and evening sunshine and hoping that it resolves in a few days — a good friend said to remember that this too will pass, which is true, but hard to remember at 4AM. I thought these blog posts on baby jet-lag were helpful, and it’s apparently common for babies to struggle more traveling west.
- Theo started teething on this trip (a bit early, but he’s such a precocious kid 🙂 so, I definitely recommend bringing infant Tylenol, which was a life-saver on a couple of days (and nights). Also, it probably makes sense to bring your baby’s thermometer — we didn’t do this and before it became obvious that Theo was teething, we wondered briefly whether he was sick; it might have been nice to be able to check his temperature.
- Theo went on a brief “nursing strike” during our last few days in Paris — he would arch his head back and scream when offered the breast. What caused it? Too much travel and stimulation? The start of teething? No idea. But it was heartbreaking for me. Thankfully, we have been supplementing anyway due to my low milk supply, so we had bottles (another side tip — I found this travel bottle brush set very helpful — probably not necessary, but it saved us having to figure out how to clean the bottles every time we landed, tired, at an AirBnB with a whole bunch of very dirty bottles) and a breast pump with us. We stopped trying to force nursing when out and about for a couple of days and just offered him the bottle at restaurants and I kept up with pumping 3-6 times a day. After really just a couple of days, the issue went away — though I am still a bit nervous every time we go to nurse. No idea whether others have experienced something like this while traveling, but a couple of tips — the Medela Pump in Style Advanced worked great for keeping up my supply, even though I had been using a hospital-grade pump at home. You can’t plug it in abroad (even with an adapter) and it takes 8 double-A batteries so we brought a TON of batteries. But one set of batteries really lasted a week of at least 3 pumping sessions a day. And this page from Kelly Mom was helpful and reassuring, especially the parts about starting with the nursing sessions when he was tired (about to go down or first to get up) and trying to nurse when we were back in the apartment in a calm and familiar-ish place.
- Traveling with grandmas for the win (Thanks Elaine and Mom!). It was great to have their help and it is so much more pleasant to brave restaurant dinners and international flights with an infant if there are three people to do hand-offs.
- All our friends who suggested bringing a nursing pillow were dead-on — great bring. Helpful for naps on the flights and feedings once we got to our apartments. There will definitely be a moment going through security when you wonder why you are carrying this huge pillow, but as soon as you sit down on the plane it will be so worth it. (Bonus tip — this is the best nursing pillow –more functional shape and smaller than the boppy.)
- As I mentioned before, we really liked having our Babybjorn travel crib — it was nice for Theo to have a somewhat-familiar place to lie down. Also, before we left, Theo had gotten really into his baby gym mat and we wanted some way to recreate that while traveling, without, obviously, carting around a baby gym. So, we took a travel drying line (great travel gadget) and strung it across his crib and dangled some of his hanging toys from it — it bought us dozens of minutes of free time several times a day.
- We brought a light-weight travel stroller — and I remain agnostic on whether we needed it. It was definitely helpful for carting around baby gear — especially through the airports, but Theo was happy to spend most of his time in the Babybjorn and probably slept a bit better in the Bjorn anyway. I’m definitely glad that we had the smaller, light-weight stroller rather than a full-size, full-weight American one, since most apartments in Europe are walk-ups. We stayed on the second floor both times, but still, the stairs would have been really tough with a full-size stroller. Paris is not designed well for strollers, especially the metro, so in that city I think folks really don’t need a stroller with a young infant (though it did allow us to skip some of the lines at the Louvre). Amsterdam has good bike and stroller infrastructure, so we used the stroller more in that city, but still, Theo often opted for the Bjorn. Most restaurants, in both cities, did not have space for the stroller inside. But one benefit of a stroller is the European tradition of allowing a sleeping baby to stay in their stroller parked outside the restaurant while the parents enjoy dinner inside, so that’s an option.
- We still have a lot to learn about packing with a kid. Our carry-ons were large because we wanted to be sure to have enough burp clothes, outfits, diapers, and pumped milk/formula for supplemental feeds in case of multiple airport blow-outs or a missed connection that required us to overnight without our bags — that mostly worked out OK thanks to the airline tradition of allowing families with young kids to board first, but required a lot of airport schlepping
Over the last two days, Parisian grandmas have criticized our dressing of Theo twice — once saying that he needed more protection from the sun (he was in a BabyBjorn and had a sun hat) and once saying that he needed socks on his feet (it was 81 degrees out in the park). AND THEN two American exchange students came up to us and started speaking French! We are sooo fitting in with the locals!
Theo can hang in the metro (which is a wonderful way to get around) and his stroller helped us skip part of the line to get into the Louvre. But just so we don’t paint too rosy a picture — he did scream all the way up the crammed elevator to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower.
What we have learned so far:
— We packed more as carry-ons alone for this trip than we did in all our bags for our entire 5-month trip around the world. Had everything we needed, but we will have to work on getting the volume down. It was only possible because we had Gigi’s extra set of hands. +1 infant = +4 pieces of luggage?
— Airplane bassinets for the win — kiddo slept for 5 hours straight across the Atlantic.
— This website is awful, but the service was incredible — TaxiBabySeat picked us up at the airport holding a sign with my name on it and had an infant car seat in the cab to transfer us to our apartment. And when we forgot a piece of luggage at the airport (there were so many to remember!) our driver circled back to help us retrieve it. We reserved our beautiful Paris apartment on AirBnB, which allowed us to search for a place with a washer and dryer.
— Kiddo loves Paris, though he’s always been pretty good at restaurants, and the inside of his babybjorn travel crib looks the same as it does at home.
and of course bebe’s first passport photo is adorable.
We’ve all survived our first month — something that feels like a genuine accomplishment made possible by Dan’s mad fathering skills and the tremendous amount of support we’ve received from family and friends.