Seven Ways to Achieve Bliss: or, How to travel with your baby and still have some sanity when you’re finished

Since John Quincy was born, we’ve traveled to around 8 different countries (England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Germany, the US, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia). I think he may have spent a quarter of his life traveling so far. Perhaps it’s not quite 1000 hours, but I’m starting to think we’re getting pretty proficient at this traveling thing. Here’s what we do:

1.

Baby wear. Babywearing is the best thing for traveling anywhere, at any time. It keeps the baby contained if he’s mobile, is easily portable, and keeps your hands free. Cons of babywearing are that the baby gets heavy after wearing him all day, and if you wear him on your back, it’s tough to sit down, but I find it much less difficult than trying to hold a baby along with all my other stuff.              Travel photos iPhone

2.

Don’t sleep train. There’s nothing wrong with sleep training if you’re a homebody. But if your child can’t sleep anywhere other than their own bed, traveling for several days on end is not for you. You’ll always be worrying about whether you’re ruining a sleep schedule (and you probably will be). Instead, train your kid to sleep anywhere, like on your lap in the train–

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or on the airport floor.

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So far, JQ has slept in trains, planes, taxis, and boats, not to mention napping in his carrier. My motto is “A sleeping baby is a good baby.” Much better than a baby that’s trying to run down the airplane aisles or steal everyone’s earbuds. And much much better than a baby that’s crying because he doesn’t have his own bed to sleep in.

3.

Don’t schedule feedings. I know this might sound like heresy to a lot of you, but seriously, when you’re traveling, would you rather stick like glue to your schedule even though your baby is screaming his head off because he’s hungry, or would you rather suck it up and distract that grumpy baby? I go with distraction and comfort every time. I’d far rather be a human pacifier for my baby than have a grumpy baby who will inevitably make me grumpy.  Like a sleeping baby is a good baby, an eating baby is also a good baby. And the best part is, eating will often make that baby become a sleeping baby.

4.

Pack light: the more you pack, the more you have to carry. That means leave your 30 just-in-case books behind and maybe get a Kindle or something if you fear you’ll be bored. And remember, you’ll be wearing that baby for at least part of the time. And when you’re not wearing him, you’ll probably have to chase him everywhere and won’t have a break to sit down and read anyways. Travel photos iPhone

Or you might only get to sit and read TO the baby. Which is good too.

5.

Don’t be afraid to go slow. Don’t try to see everything all in one day. Of course, I follow this motto even without a baby because sight-seeing can get exhausting and I can’t stand just going to museums all day.

So take a break while you’re at the Louvre looking at the Mona Lisa and let your baby enjoy his version of museum seeing–crawling under benches and crawling out again.Travel photos iPhone

Made his day. And I didn’t mind the chance to sit down for a minute either.

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6.

Find kid-friendly places to stay.

This one’s kind of obvious, but it always helps to stay at places where they don’t mind if your baby has pulled all of their pans out of the cupboard for the 574th time that day and then proceeded to be very loud with said pots and pans. Untitled

Cuteness won’t steal everyone’s  hearts, especially not those who have never had babies and had to try to compensate for their messes.

The most difficult place to stay was in Germany, where we stayed with two college girls who kept their “pantry” in boxes on the floor. JQ was in heaven pulling out boxes of beans and crackers to shake and scatter all over the floor, and I couldn’t keep him away all the time as he hated being shut in our room! We tried our best, but I think they felt we were ruining their tidy house (they were German, after all!).

Now, we mostly try to stay in places where we can have an entire apartment to ourselves. It’s much less stressful than trying to keep someone’s entire house out of the reach of a thoroughly destructive baby.

7.

Walk. A lot.

Not only is walking the best way to see things (in most places–we have visited some VERY unwalkable places recently) but it also helps keep your child occupied. All that movement will often lull him to sleep or at least keep him happy. And it keeps you out of small spaces with a screaming child. What could be better?

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Jared with JQ outside Notre Dame de Paris.  Somehow I failed to get the cathedral in the background, so you can imagine with the below picture:

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7.

Be flexible.

I know that’s easy for me to say–I’m the kind of person who goes with the flow. As long as we’re not totally bored or lost forever, it’s fine with me.

BUT–personality types aside–babies have needs. Sometimes they just need some downtime or need to stop and eat. So sometimes we need to give up whatever plans we have for that day and take the time to help that baby be happy. Because when you’re traveling, a happy baby means everyone else can be happy. Edinburgh

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Go forth and travel!

Linking up at This Ain’t the Lyceum for Quick Takes!

A Quick Trip to Malaysia

A couple weekends ago we took a day off to visit Malaysia. It would have been a quick trip, but it felt like most of our time getting there and back was spent in passport control since we had a baby and couldn’t go through the automated lines. Thankfully, after spending about half an hour in one line that moved maybe two feet, an officer took pity on us (and our screaming baby who definitely feels he has better things to do in life than stand in queue for hours at passport control leaving Singapore) and shunted us through a more quickly moving line. Oddly enough, for being so much more developed than its neighboring countries, Singapore has the slowest moving immigration lines ever. Malaysia got us through much more quickly.

Once we finally got through immigration and got on the bus again and got off the bus in the city, we got some sketchy Malaysian food that surprisingly didn’t make us sick but was extremely spicy, and then got a taxi to go to a palace that had been turned into a museum. Jared had checked it all out beforehand, and on the internet it said that it had been closed for renovation in 2013 but was open to the public in 2016. Well, as soon as we got there we saw a giant sign in front: “Close to Public.”  Apparently, Malaysians are quite bad at updating their websites, as the guard told us it wouldn’t be open until late 2017.

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That plan put on hold, our taxi driver suggested another museum that he knew of. So off we toddled, and found that this one was actually open.

Their main activity was playing some traditional Malaysian game whereby you move marbles around a tray. Whoever still has marbles left at the end wins–although they didn’t mention that fact until Jared had moved all his marbles into the main area.  JQ didn’t care about winning–but he loved moving all the marbles around.

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They also had a really cool skylight shaped like the Malaysian flag.

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The rest of the museum was full of random trinkets and posters about the sultans of Johor Bahru back when it was its own Sultanate. Fascinating stuff if you happen to be a student of Malaysian history and speak the Malay language. Unfortunately, neither of those is on my CV.

JQ, of course, had his fair share of admirers among the guards at the museum. He wasn’t quite sure what to think, though.

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So after that, we took some pictures outside the museum.

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And some more pictures.
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And Abel goofed around a little.

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And looked handsome.

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Then we walked to the bus station and marveled at the lack of sidewalks and the masses of unfinished buildings, stood in line for another two hours at immigration, and made it home happy to be living in a city with sidewalks and crosswalks and all the other amenities of civilization.

How to Eat a Durian

Don’t. Just don’t.

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Why not? Well, reason number one, and possibly you’ve heard of this before, if you’ve even ever heard of a durian before, is the smell.

English needs more words to describe smells. We have so few! Let’s just say that smelling a durian up close and personal is kind of like smelling a flower. It’s a nice fruity mango kind of flower–that’s gone bad. Maybe even mixed with a little onion and a little fish? It’s the kind of smell that was endemic in grocery stores in China, always making you wonder what exactly they kept in the store that had just gone off (Spoiler–it was durians).

But. In spite of the smell, we persevered. This is a favored fruit in all of Asia, and especially popular with Singaporeans, so this was a valuable cultural experience. Aren’t you glad I was experiencing it for you?

The outside of a durian is hard and poky. Very very poky. So poky that the people who cut them up wear gloves. We had a glove-wearing person cut ours up for us.

Actually, Singaporeans love the durian so much they call this building the durian: it’s round and spiky and was apparently supposed to be a microphone. The architect was quite upset they called it a durian because he’d never heard of one!
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But to get back to the edible kind. There is a small amount of edible fruit in each half, and it looks kind of like mango. Not so bad, right? If you can keep from gagging as you approach.

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Those who love durian praise the buttery texture, the smooth melt-in-your-mouth sensation as it slides down your throat.

This was not my experience. Sure, it was kinda buttery…mixed with stringy. Oh, and did I mention the smell?

But to get to what you really want to know–how does it taste?

Jared put a small bite on his spoon. I put a small bite on my spoon. I offered it to JQ like the good mother I am, and he turned his face away in disgust. He was not going to join us in this adventure.

Then we took deep breaths (turning our noses away), stuffed the bite in our mouths, and chewed.

It was significantly less sweet than expected. In fact, what it most closely resembled, in my opinion, is caramelized onions. Caramelized onions with a healthy topping of rotten mango and black pepper. If this sounds appetizing to you, by all means, you may eat up all the durian you wish. Just not in my house.

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There’s a reason they’re not allowed on public transport or in hotel rooms here!

Always Summer and Never Christmas

I’m sure they do have Christmas here—we arrived just a few days after, and many businesses still had Christmas trees up, though they certainly looked incongruous in the tropical heat.

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The Durian Building and the Marina Bay Sands Hotel

I’m going to confess now: I just can’t love the weather here. I’ve always been a winter lover. Those first cool breezes announcing the arrival of fall after the heat of summer are the best, especially when they’re followed by piles of snow so you don’t have to go out of the house. Yes, I’m as fond of temperate weather as the next person, but the problem is, everyone defines temperate a little differently. I suspect my definition would start around 55 F and keep going down from there. Which is why it’s almost heartwrenching to live here—where the only cool breeze I’ll ever feel comes from my air conditioner at night, where people tell you cheerfully, “Oh yes, nobody here even sweats any more!” as you drag your drowned-rat-sweaty self down the street trying to look cool and collected and failing miserably.

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Parliament Building

I’m just feeling a little robbed of my winter this year. It was just starting to cool off in America by the time we left—we had maybe an entire week of almost winter weather in Oregon where it doesn’t know how to winter—and now we’re plunged here, where “winter” means there’s thunderstorms that drop three inches of water in an hour most afternoons.

It’s so hot here that I immediately start sweating if I even think of going outside, and yet, in the interests of saving on our energy, I try to run the air conditioning only half the day.

And, to a native Coloradoan, the humidity here is nothing short of obscene, generally bringing the heat index up nearly twenty degrees.

I get it—you can’t live on a tropical island without, you know, actually living in the tropics. But I can’t say I’ll be sad when we go back to winter. Let’s just hope I haven’t acclimated by then!

Winter in Oregon

This is winter in Oregon.

Gray skies, patches of green.DSC_0018

Far-off hills wrestling with fog

As the sun says goodbye.
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This is winter in Oregon.

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Tall grasses bend with the weight of the wet

Red-bellied roundness beside them.

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Crystal-fire, of raindrops on rosehips

Clear water comes dripping to earth.
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This is winter in Oregon.
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Tall bearded trees reach into the water

Holding the sunlight prisoner.
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Colors are dying and growing old,

Fading in the wetlands.
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This is winter in Oregon.
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This message was brought to you by a few moments of silence from this cute little face. I’m sure you’re all thankful.
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Fall in Colorado

It’s fall, and it’s gorgeous. I’d forgotten just how gorgeous Colorado falls could be, and I’m definitely enjoying it while I can, because who knows how long it will be until I get to see a proper fall again!

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I may be biased, but I think Colorado scenery is some of the prettiest for fall. Blue mountains, blue sky, and blue lakes contrast so nicely with the yellows and reds of fall.

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So even though I’ve traveled all over recently (it feels like it, at least!), it’s been so nice to come home.

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Sadly, the leaves left quickly when a giant windstorm came up and blew them all away. But we sure enjoyed them while they lasted!

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There’s just something about the mountains that is so beautiful against the sky.

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I hope you’re enjoying fall wherever you’re at, though I’m guessing it’s not as gorgeous as this!  Now if I can just pack in a little snow before I move to the tropics!

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The Life of a Tramp, part 2: Cumbrae Island

Of all the places we visited, Cumbrae Island was definitely one of our favorites. We stayed at an adorable little village in Scotland called West Kilbride, and our hostess recommended we see Cumbrae island.

So we headed off early in the morning on the ferry and hoped it wouldn’t be too chilly since I’d gotten rid of all my jackets. That’s what happens when you put all your stuff in one carry-on sized suitcase.

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But even though it started off cold and gray, it became beautifully sunny when we got there. And I have a ton of pictures to prove it.

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When we got there, we thought about being cheapskates and just walking all the way around the island (about 10 miles), but decided to take a bus into the town of Millport and rent bicycles.

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It was an adorable little town (and super cheap housing prices!) and we were almost convinced to buy a beach house there for summer vacations.

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It was so much fun to cycle around the island on the most beautiful day ever and feel the fresh air and see the gorgeous scenery. I might have enjoyed it a little.

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We stopped and ate lunch overlooking this view.

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JQ sat on a rock and supervised.DSC_0907

Then it was off for more cycling and enjoying the view.

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What can I say, except that it was gorgeous and you should go there if you ever get the chance?

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The Life of a Tramp, Part 1: Edinburgh

We’re now officially homeless. Hooray?

Ten months ago, we came to this empty flat with nothing but our hopes and dreams, four large suitcases, and an even larger belly (yes, with a baby in it). We left a week ago with one very wiggly 9-month-old, three small bags, a backpack, and lots of good memories and friendships made. It was a good ten months, London–we’re sad to go!  DSC_0800     All moved out and nowhere to sit.

So now we’re living it up and traveling around. First stop? Edinburgh. We loved this city: so much Old World charm, and in such a gorgeous location. We stayed at a charming AirBnB not far from the city center, and had so much fun walking around and seeing the sights.

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First, we went to the beach. JQ instantly decided the water was much too cold (we dipped his big toe in) and the sand was his jam. He even ate a couple handfuls, to which Jared said: “I feel like a real father now, watching my baby eat dirt!”

What can I say? We have low standards.

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Note to self: make sure the baby has been thoroughly washed after any encounter with sand, especially before going to bed. Otherwise you will be fighting sand for days.

The next day, (which was sunny and warmer, of course), we walked around Edinburgh and saw the castle and some of the other sights. And took about a million pictures, so excuse me while I dump them on you.

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I loved all the buildings–they’re nearly all made out of the same kind of stone, which looks so grand and imposing. There weren’t any skyscrapers either, and no post-industrial blight. You know the sort–dying factories, ancient chimneys, rotting warehouses that should have been torn down decades ago.
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Of course there was the usual assortment of fish-and-chip shops, off-licences, and betting houses. It wouldn’t be Britain without them!

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Once in the castle, we enjoyed some fabulous views looking over the Firth of Forth and the city.

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The castle itself was pretty picturesque too!

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I was very glad I wasn’t one of the brave band of Scots who scaled the rock cliff to attack the castle and retake it from the English. Cliffs are not my cup of tea, to put it mildly.

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JQ agrees.

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Speaking of cliffs, the next day we climbed up Arthur’s Seat, which is a huge hill (or collection of hills? I couldn’t quite figure out which). Besides nearly making me have a heart attack it was so high and steep, it was beautiful.

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I had never really thought of Scotland as being volcanic before, but seeing these massive hills of volcanic rock really emphasized it!

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I also decided I was not cut out to be a Highlander. Running around on steep hills all day gets tiring pretty quickly. Although I’ve got to say it’s much easier to walk up (or down) hills like that without shoes!

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Anyways, ya’ll have probably had about enough of seeing craggy cliff faces and hearing me blither about Edinburgh. If you get a chance to visit, though, you definitely should!

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So long for now!

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Updates and Anniversaries

I decided it was time for an update on what’s been going on over here while I’ve been doing everything but blogging. So here are the things that have been keeping me busy recently.

  1. The first one, of course, is JQ monstering.

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Don’t be fooled by that cute little face and angelic mop of blonde hair. This little man, who is currently eight-and-a-half months old, rarely sits still and always wants to be getting into something. Vying for the spots of top most fascinating things are computer cords, computers, cellphones, and drawers. So far he’s completely destroyed one drawer in the house and taken the contents out of many more. His motto seems to be, “What can I get into next?”

2. In June, we celebrated our third anniversary. Of course, like the bad blogger that I am, I’ve been trying to write a post about it for a month. This is me giving up and saying no post shall be written. But at least we got (a very bad) picture of us wandering around London on our anniversary.
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It’s been a great three years in three countries, Jared. I’m looking forward to the next year (and the next country!).
3. The third thing that’s been keeping me busy is. . .I got a job! It’s teaching English online to Chinese people, mostly kids. The transition was a little rough on JQ (since he obviously can’t “help” me and has to go in the other room), but I’ve taught a lot of fun students. And I’ll be able to take it with me when we move. . . which is a plus.

4. Which brings me to: we’re moving, again! We leave our current house on July 25 (sniff, sniff), and are going to travel around for a bit before heading off to Singapore in January. Not looking forward to Singapore’s weather, but kind of excited to know where we’re going next and maybe having a bigger flat there too. What I’m not excited about, though, is packing, a.k.a. getting rid of everything we own (again). I always feel like we’ve done a great job of not accumulating stuff until it’s time to pack it all up–and then it takes five times longer than it should to go through everything. But at least we won’t have much to carry when traveling!

5. But before we leave here for good, we’re doing a bit more traveling around the country. We have Scotland and Ireland booked for the end of the month, but for now, we’ve just made a last-minute trip to Gloucester and a day trip to Cardiff from there. Lots more beautiful scenery (and cute baby pictures, of course).

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We’ve been loving the gorgeous English gardens and all the greenery everywhere.

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We had a great time walking around Cardiff as well and seeing the castle and the bay. It was perfect weather too!

6. Besides going places ourselves, we’ve also had other people visit us. After my friend left, my sister came two weeks later. I haven’t persuaded either of them to write a blog post yet, but perhaps I might still. It’s amazing how much more popular living in London has made us!

7. Other than all the busyness described above, we’re just enjoying what has probably been the coolest summer I’ve ever spent. I don’t think it’s ever gotten past 80 degrees (yes, that is Fahrenheit) yet and it’s July. Feel free to be envious, those of you roasting in America. Have I mentioned we’re going to miss England?!

Well, I think that about covers our summer so far. What have you all been up to?

For more, head over to This Ain’t the Lyceum.

Yorkshire

You guys. Yorkshire is amazing. And I have a few hundred pictures to show for it.DSC_0448

Maybe it helped that we went in spring, so everything could be green and blooming.

 

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But still–the combination of green hills, stone fences, and picturesque cottages made for some great pictures and good memories.

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The clouds cooperated and did their bit for the making of good pictures too.

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I didn’t realize how much I’d been missing the countryside till I left London for a couple days.  It was so nice to get a break from traffic and houses and people and be able to look further than a couple hundred feet in any direction.

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In other news, my adorable sweet immobile baby has suddenly turned into an attack monster. Everything–from doorstops to computer cords–is fair game, and will get grabbed and put into a slimy little mouth.

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In fact, he’s gotten so adept at crawling his way into everything that we’ve decided he gets a verb of his own: monstering.

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“If you’re going to monster,” we’ll say, “you can start in this corner so it’s harder for you to ruin another computer cord.”

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Thankfully, his monstering skills hadn’t quite developed on this trip to Yorkshire, so he was happy to (mostly) stay put in his carrier.

 

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But now he’s grumping at me (yes, that is also a verb here, in case you were wondering) and saying it’s his bedtime.

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He would be attacking my computer, but that’s not very conducive to any actual blogging, so he’s climbing me instead and pulling my hair.

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Unfortunately, I still have quite a few more pictures to show you. It’s kind of a trial of judgment, because I want to include them all. But looking at a million pictures of other people’s travels is kind of boring after the tenth picture or so, so I cut a few out.

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In spite of the terrible problem of having too many pictures, our main regret was not having the time to see more. One day felt kind of short!

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And I’ve run out of things to blither on about, so before your start monstering, now that you know such a thing is possible, I will let you look through the last five hundred pictures on your own.
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And you can envy my self-timer skills on my camera.

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And the sunshine on the river.

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And the stone bridges 

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And peaceful cows.

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And…ok, I’ll stop for good now. Maybe I’ll come back and write another post soon. And maybe I will just decide that I like sleeping better. Who knows?

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DSC_0649Bonus points if you can name the poem this made me think of!