Tuesday, November 25, 2014

When You Hate On Your Body, Does It Hurt Your Mother's Heart?

Tonight I was nursing Aubrey before putting her to bed, and like I do every time while she is eating, I silently observed every perfect little feature on her tiny body. As I look at the curves of her ears, her adorable little button nose, and the long lashes that line her eyes, I still have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that every part that makes her, her, was knit to perfection in my belly. Pregnancy is a miracle, that's needless to say. But tonight, I focused in on her super long eyelashes.

They are so long that they end up bent every which way from her sleeping on them. And with her eyes closed , they make her look simply angelic. Admiring her natural beauty, the random thought of her curling those amazing eyelashes popped in my head. I envisioned her as a teenager, struggling to find the self security that for some reason eludes us during that fragile time in our lives, standing in front of a mirror, all but torturing those eyelashes I can't get enough of, trying to curl them to her idea of perfection, before coating them with unnecessary layers of dark goop. In her eyes, enhancing the drab features she is forced to work with...but in mine, covering up something that I will only ever see as beautiful, just the way it is.

It hurt my heart to think about. To think that one day my little girl will look in a mirror, and instead of admiring all the beauty wrapped up in her unique self, she will pick apart all those features I love so much.

Then I wondered if my mother ever felt the same. When I complained about my boring brown eyes, did it sting knowing that when she looked into them, she saw her own? When I fussed over my stick straight hair that would never do what I wanted, did she remember waiting all that time for hair to actually grow on my head (I was pretty much bald until I was two) so she could finally secure it with a tiny bow? When I hated on my body, did it hurt her heart as she thought about carrying me for all those months, and being speechless the day I arrived as love filled her, and she laid eyes on a person she already knew she loved, and who looked like perfection sent from God above?

I hope I am able to teach Aubrey to love herself. From every hair on her head, to the wrinkles on her toes. I hope she hears her Dad when he tells me repeatedly that I don't need makeup, because he truly believes I'm prettiest without it. I hope she focuses on health, on kindness, on compassion, on caring and love, so much so that she never finds one second to hate on the body that I love so much. I hope when she looks in the mirror, she see the reflection of perfection that I do, every time I look at her.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

5 Lessons For Traveling With An Infant

We just got back from a long holiday weekend, and our first real traveling experience with Aubrey now that she is past the initial newborn phase and has developed into a active baby, screaming included.

We traveled a lot in Germany after she was born, but at that point she just needed to nurse every 2-3 hours and happily napped in the Boba wrap the rest of the time. People are not kidding when they tell you traveling with a newborn is the EASIEST time to travel with your child. Going into this weekend I had no real plan, and no expectation for how it would go. In the week leading up to our departure, Aubrey had finally started to let me put her down while she was awake and she would go to sleep on her own (with the help of a paci, swaddle, and some white noise but who's counting), and she was functioning on a pretty predictable schedule. So I was hopeful that keeping that in mind it would be relatively easy to just plan around her needs.

Big mistake.

I wanted to believe that she would be happy napping in the Ergo, or on a bench in a restaurant if needed. I wanted to believe that because I was breastfeeding I could nurse whenever needed, avoiding a screaming hungry baby. I also had an awesome portable changing pad so I could change a dirty diaper no matter the disgusting surroundings we could find ourselves in. And if all else failed, I had a paci (and extras) and her favorite white noise app on my phone that would save the day. 

If no one has said it to you yet, I'll be the one to do it...babies function on their own schedules...and they are unpredictable. Also, no matter how hard you try, you cannot tailor the way you care for your baby to what is easy and convenient to you. 

While Aubrey did nap (on and off) in the Ergo, that kind of nap is not the kind of quality sleep a baby needs in order to maintain a good enough mood to allow you to enjoy your day. And while I have nursed in a number of public situations at this point, doing so in a very small, intimate restaurant, WHILE wearing clothes that I packed without considering their practicality for nursing, did not work out so well. And then there was the case when the small turkish bathroom that only had enough room to stand to wash your hands, or sit to pee, AND happened to be the only bathroom for the entire restaurant, meant there was no way I could bend over (even if I was actually flexible) and somehow contort myself to change Aubrey on that awesome changing pad in the floor...and the only other options were changing her by our table, or somewhere outside in the freezing cold weather. 

Basically we had a couple of disasters. But I learned a lot of valuable lessons. 

Lesson # 1 (this one is number one for a reason - it is probably the MOST important): Make sure that baby gets 1-2 good naps (in a bed or crib) a day. It may not be realistic for them to get all of their normal naps in, and in their ideal location and setting, but guaranteeing that they get at least a couple of hours of quality sleep will make a huge difference in their tolerance for the rest of the activities you have planned. 

Aubrey was about 5.5 weeks old for this trip and is following a 3 hour schedule (give or take) that includes and hour of eating, diaper change, and wake time, followed by a two hour nap. That two hour nap is ideally taken in her crib or bassinet (or at least a flat, still (as in non-moving) surface, with her being swaddled and blissfully unaware of her overstimulating surroundings thanks to white noise. Trying to make her nap in the Ergo or the car seat meant she would really only doze on and off and never got quality sleep. This compounded into a worse and worse problem as she progressively grew more and more overtired. Eventually we ended up with an angry screaming banshee who was completely OVER everything and just wanted to be back at the hotel in bed. I ended up spending about 90% of a meal running in and out of a restaurant (so her screaming wouldn't disrupt the rest of the patrons), trying to soothe her, and finally had to skip the dessert course and walk back to the hotel alone while Will settled the check, to put her to bed. 

Lesson # 2: Only plan one big outing/event per day. Babies only really have the capacity to accept so much stimulation in a day. And for a small little being who finds a white wall to be very stimulating, going on a three hour tour, or taking a 5 mile hike in the hot sun, or spending an afternoon checking out every shop that lines the street of whatever town you are exploring, is already too much. You can't really expect them to make it through that, take a less than satisfying nap, then accompany you to a second round of exploring, or a loud restaurant filled with lots of sounds and smells. 

We set out to hike the Pigeon Valley in Goreme to see all the fairy chimneys and crazy cave dwellings. However, we got our directions to the trail head mixed up, and no exaggeration, ended up walking a few miles south of Goreme, then over 4 miles north of Goreme to Uchisar, then BACK to Goreme (because a dang taxi was no where to be found!). And even though we had stopped to nurse and change Aubrey, and even though she got in a few winks in the Ergo, over 4 hours of hiking was way beyond what she was capable of happily doing. THEN, being the terrible parents we are, we let her take a short nap, then put her back in there Ergo and went to dinner at our favorite restaurant in Goreme, that also happens to be reservation only and very small and intimate (the one mentioned above). I knew before we left that she was not in a good mood, had not had nearly enough naps, and really just needed to stay in. She basically screamed from the time we left till the time I walked her home a few hours later. And that was in spite of my attempts to nurse her, change her diaper, and give it my best shot to soothe her with my rhythmic bouncing. I knew then we would have to change our way of planning things in the future, which leads me to the next two points.

Lesson # 3: Go to dinner early. It is not a good idea to try to extend your little one's bedtime, or hope that a nap in the baby carrier will be a suitable substitute for actually going to bed. Going to dinner early means you can hopefully eat in the company of a semi-happy baby, and end the night with them sleeping peacefully while you enjoy a glass of wine and wind down, which leads to my final lesson.

Lesson # 4: Splurge a little and get a room with a few creature comforts than you normally would...because you will be spending more time in it than may be your norm. Something like a jacuzzi tub, or a sauna, or a fireplace can double as entertainment when you find yourself stuck in the room while your baby is catching a few much needed zzz's. 

On the night of Aubrey's meltdown, Will and I found ourselves eating our dessert (that the restaurant had so kindly packed in to go containers) in a dark room while she slept. We were SO thankful that we had a room with a fireplace and a huge jacuzzi tub (and a few bottles of some delicious Cappadocian wine). It meant that mom and dad still had the chance to have a nice, romantic night together. I kept thinking how bad it would have sucked if we just had a standard room where the only entertainment would have been the TV, which in Turkey sucks because, well, we don't speak Turkish therefore the shows are not very interesting. 

Lesson # 5: Prioritize your to do list, and make sure to do your most wanted in the first day or so of your trip. In spite of your best efforts, baby may still be done with all the excitement after a few days, which means you may not get to everything you had planned. Make sure you get to do the things you care the most about by tackling them first, so in case little one quits cooperating, the activities that get nixed won't ruin your whole trip. 

Because I was pregnant last time we visited Cappadocia, we didn't get to try any of the local wines. As it turns out, they are REALLY good. We also found out that the winery was just a short detour on our way back from Avanos where we planned to go to buy some pottery. This was day three of our trip though, and Aubrey's meltdown had been the night before, and she was still recovering. Not wanting to make the same mistake we made the day before, we had to postpone the winery visit to our next trip. 

I'm sure there are a million more tips and tricks to be learned, and we are by no means experts at this parenting thing. But we do travel a lot, and plan to continue to do so. There is nothing we want more than to instill some of our wanderlust in our little girl's heart. So maybe consider this our first installment of traveling with an infant :)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

More Pictures of Balloons...Because They are THAT Pretty

On our last morning Will got up to get another look at the balloons floating over the town while I decided to stay in bed.

I'm so glad he did.

The light was perfect.

Illuminating the rainbow of floating carriages.

The clouds painted the perfect background.

Some of the balloons were just taking off from the hill in the distance.

And as the sun came up, the land lit up really showing off it's natural beauty.

I don't think a view like that ever gets old. (BTW, that is our terrace just up those stairs there)

For those who are curious, the balloon rides last about an hour, but from the time the company picks you up from your hotel, to the time they drop you off, it takes about 3 hours. The baskets can hold up to 20 people, but for a price, you can arrange for more private tours. Many of the balloon companies offer a buffet breakfast prior to the flight, and almost all celebrate a successful flight and landing with champagne at the end.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Cappadocia Balloons

Our second room was a dream. We had a wood burning fireplace, and extra bed that made the perfect place for Aubrey to sleep, tons of space, a great top of the mountain view, and a jacuzzi tub with jets ready to pound our overworked muscles into relaxed jello.

Mithra Cave Hotel is located at one of the highest peaks in Goreme, so the view is excellent.

Especially from the window lined breakfast room (with a spread of Turkish breakfast delights like fresh bread, a variety of spreads and compotes, dried fruit, eggs, cheeses, and beautiful tomatoes and cucumbers).

And if you can get yourself to wake up at the literal crack of dawn...

you can catch the most glorious site of the hot air balloons taking flight. 

Which of course made us even sadder we weren't able to work it out to take a ride this time.

They are just magical dotting the sky.

Avanos is a small town located about 10 minutes past Goreme.

We briefly drove through it on our last trip, and picked up a handmade pot to hold something green once we got back to the house.

The town is situated right on the river, and when we last passed through, seemed to be lined with unique little shops and some interesting restaurants. We had also read that the local potters were more than willing to give you a short lesson on making pottery of your own. So that was our goal for the day, in addition to buying a few more pieces to add to our collection.

We drove back through the town and parked planning to stroll through the shops and find some lunch. And we did do just that, but were a little disappointed to find that it all looked a little more interesting than it actually was. It was a pretty little town, and we did find some decent lunch, but after spending about 10 minutes walking around we hopped back in the car and drove back to the ceramics shop we stopped at the first time and asked if we could try our hand...and they said yes. 

They started by demonstrating how they create one of their most difficult (and popular all around Turkey) pieces. The guy made it look so simple I was sure that he if could manage that, I could easily make some sort of basic pot or vase.

Man was I so wrong.

Check out the nice pants they provided...and ignore the double chin action.
It is no lie when they say pottery is an art. It's sheer talent to be able to control your hands and the wheel (which in this case has to be spun with your feet) to mold the clay to even proportions, and create a beautiful smooth finish.

I had to have a LOT of help.

Many interventions later my masterpiece was finally finished.

And then it was Will's turn. 

I just knew he would be a natural...

but it turned out, his pottery skills are about as good as mine. 

My dreams of having my own wheel and spending my days making beautiful pieces to gift and sell died a painful death that day haha! 

This is what Aubrey thought of her parents' talents. 

On this trip we had the pleasure of finally trying some Cappadocian wine. I'm normally a little skeptical of local wines because in past experience they have been pretty terrible. But to our surprise, the local wine in Cappadocia is incredible! 

The Turasan winery is located in Urgrup, which happened to be just a short detour on our way back from Avanos to Goreme. But, having learned a valuable lesson about our tiny traveler, we decided to postpone that experience until our next visit.

Instead we went back to the hotel and put Miss A down for a nap, while we took our thick plaid wool blanket out to the terrace, along with some of that awesome Cappadocian wine, a pipe for Will, and enjoyed watching the sun set over the town. This was another time we were so thankful the cave hotels are so homey. We could easily leave Aubrey in the room and still be able to keep an easy eye on her and hear her, even though we were up on the terrace enjoying ourselves. 

* Prepare for some mush...

It was also a great moment to share with Will. It's not new news to anyone that when a baby comes into your life, life gets busy, and time together as a couple is hard to come by. I can see how a new addition can easily cause strain in a relationship, and possibly completely tear it apart. I've been so grateful that since day 1 Will has not only been right by my side, but even during the birth he played an active, and in my opinion, equal part in bringing our little girl into this world. We've discussed both how we feel more connected now that we have truly combined ourselves into this one beautiful little being, but we've also acknowledged that we miss each other and have to work a little harder to make sure we are still tending to the love and relationship that started all of this. Before we ever decided to have kids we were very adamant that once we did, we would not let "us" fall to the wayside. And I feel like we are doing a pretty good job of that. I know Aubrey's needs and wants will produce bigger demands on our time and attention as she gets older, but it speaks volumes to me that my husband still makes a point to carve out at least a few minutes here and there to spend as just the two of us, talking and relaxing. 

Our preacher back in Charlotte talked one Sunday about how our relationships should be prioritized. He said God should come first, your spouse second, and your children third. I think that is a hard concept to wrap your mind around when you feel the need to put your child above everything, but when you really think about it, it makes perfect sense. Without God you have nothing. Without your spouse, your child wouldn't be, and neither would the life you've built and grown to love. Your child is a beautiful reflection and result of all the love God and your spouse have given you, and for that reason absolutely deserves to be celebrated. I want Aubrey to always know just how loved and wanted she is, but I also want that for my husband, and for myself if I'm being honest. 

Back to our day...

After A's nap we walked the short distance a few hotels down the hill to the Seten restaurant we had heard such good things about. This place was probably the nicest restaurant we have seen in Goreme, and thankfully Aubrey fell back asleep on the walk so we got to enjoy dinner in peace. Our food however, was a bit underwhelming. It came out about 2.5 seconds after we ordered it making us question just how fresh it really was. The portions were pretty small compared to other restaurants we have tried, and in general the flavor was pretty lacking. After that we called it a night, excited to get back to our fireplace for one more night.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Cappadocia Part Duex, Day 1

We have held true to making Cappadocia our new Spearfish. Although the 4 hour drive is a bit more of a haul than the measly hour from Rapid City to Spearfish, I have to say the reward is well worth it. 

Will had a long weekend (well it became a long weekend when he took a day of leave to take advantage of the Veteran's Day holiday). So we, along with most of the legal office at Incirlik, took off to the majestically odd little mountains of Cappadocia to relax. 

This time we stayed at the Mithra Cave Hotel, and lucky for us, because it has chilled off in that area significantly since our last visit, it is considered the off season and hotel prices were incredibly reasonable. We splurged on a suite.

We actually ended up staying in two different rooms. I had seen online that some of the suites had huge jacuzzi tubs in them, but our first room was equipped with a sauna instead. Not that I don't appreciate a good sauna, but I am partial to soaking in a tub of hot bubbly water myself, so we requested to move if another room became available. It kind of worked out perfectly because we got to enjoy all of the amenities during our stay.

This visit was SO much more pleasant than the last for the simple reason that the temps were so much cooler. We were able to sleep comfortably wrapped up in the plush comforter, and walk around town with an extra cozy layer on with no need to search for water or shade. 

Even A appreciated partaking in some relaxation.

We desperately wanted to do the hot air balloon tour this time. Last time I was so pregnant I didn't know if they would let me go, nor did I really feel like I would enjoy. Especially since a champagne toast is customary to celebrate a successful flight at the end, and obviously I couldn't participate. However, this time, with a baby in tow, we had the new problem of the tour companies not allowing children under 6 on the flights. They offered for the women in the office to watch Aubrey for us while we went up in the balloon, but at 6 weeks I felt she was a little young to be away from me for that long. So we have had to postpone our balloon ride again. 

Instead, our to do list involved hiking Pigeon Valley to see the fairy chimneys and cave dwellings up close, doing some Christmas shopping, and visiting Avanos to purchase a few more pottery pieces and see if we could find a place that would let us try our hand at throwing some clay as we had heard you could do in that area. 

The first day we devoted to the hike. Which was a good thing, because it took us most of the day to complete...because we got terribly lost. 

Everything we read, and had been told said that the trail was very clearly marked and easy to find. Only, we didn't find that to be true and ended up going in the complete opposite direction trying to find it. We ended up walking miles in the wrong direction, all the way up to the Goreme Open Air Museum from which point we had to take a taxi back into downtown Goreme and start all over again. Luckily we then finally found the trail and embarked on the 4km hike to Uchisar. 

We (or at least I) had planned to catch a taxi back to Goreme once we got there, but there were none to be found. 

So we then had to make the long walk back to Goreme.

Poor Aubrey had been in the Ergo this whole time with the exception of getting out to nurse and get a diaper change a couple of times. 

4ish hours later we finally made it back to our hotel, sweating, smelly, and utterly exhausted. 

But we were really glad we finally got to see the infamous valley. 

We settled at the hotel, put A down for a nap, and promptly took a soak in the jacuzzi tub to soothe our now aching muscles before dinner. 

We went back to Pumpkin to eat since we promised the owner we would be back once Aubrey made her arrival. He actually remembered us and in spite of our screaming, unsettled (WAY overstimulated and tired) baby, he was so courteous and excited to meet our new addition. The food was just as incredible as we remembered, although due to Aubrey's less than pleasant demeanor at the time, I barely got to enjoy mine between running in and out of the restaurant to walk and bounce her up and down the street in hopes she would fall asleep. Eventually I ended up having to go back to the hotel while Will got our dessert to go. 

We ended our second night in front of the fireplace (in our new room) with some Cappadocian wine and a snoozing baby.